Messiah University Origins Statement

Biological origins image 1At Messiah University we affirm a Christian world-view as we guide our students in the difficult process of forming their own beliefs. We hope students will thoughtfully reflect on various ways in which our faith interacts with other aspects of our lives, including science. Indeed, we believe that this is the mission of a Christian university of the liberal and applied arts and sciences: to intentionally expose students to multiple Christian perspectives, in an atmosphere supportive of faith, in order to help them learn to discern what is true, just, and worthy of belief.  
Messiah recognizes the preeminence of Christ and the authority of the Bible over our lives and our beliefs. Central to the recognition of biblical authority is the task of seeking the intended meaning of any given passage of Scripture. We understand this to be the meaning intended by the author, at the time a particular passage was written to a particular audience. Although the meaning of a passage (understood in this way) is often the literal sense — what the bare words signify — this is not always the case, as students of the scripture have long recognized. For example, when John the Baptist called Jesus the "lamb of God," he spoke a profound truth that, if taken literally, would actually be false! The varied types of literature found in the Bible call for different modes of interpretation. This approach does not undermine the inspiration of scripture; quite the contrary, it underscores the importance of knowing the true sense of scripture, that we might rightly discern the word of truth and live accordingly.  
Questions of interpretation come to the foreground when we read the opening chapters of Genesis, especially the passages about the creation of the heavens and the earth. Many different interpretations have been held on good grounds by theologically orthodox believers since the early church, such that there has never been a consensus on how to interpret this part of scripture. However, Christians in all ages have affirmed that the world had its origin in a purposeful act of God, who continues now faithfully to uphold the creation. All members of the Biological Sciences Department believe this and seek to help students understand what this crucial doctrine means for our lives. Messiah University does not go beyond this core belief by requiring faculty to agree with any particular interpretation of Genesis. Messiah University expects faculty to form their own positions on Christianity and science carefully and thoughtfully, and to teach students about this issue in helpful ways that reflect genuine diversity of opinion among Christians and the need for students to draw their own conclusions in light of that diversity. We explain multiple models for relating science and faith, including young-earth creation, old-earth creation, evolutionary creation, the framework view, and intelligent design. 

For greater understanding of our overall approach, we recommend the following books, each of them used in one or more courses at Messiah: 
1. Joshua M. Moritz, Science and Religion: Beyond Warfare and Toward Understanding. Anselm Academic, 2016. 2. Alister E. McGrath, Science & Religion, 2nd edition. Blackwell, 2010. 3. Deborah B. Haarsma and Loren D. Haarsma, Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design. Revised edition. Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2011. 4. Francis Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. The Free Press, 2006. 5. Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design, ed. J. B. Stump. Zondervan, 2017. 

Anyone seeking additional information is invited to write directly to: Chair, Biological Sciences Department, Messiah University, One University Avenue, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055. 

Image: "Duria Antiquior" (1830), watercolor by geologist Henry de la Beche depicting life in ancient Dorset based on fossils.