Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reformed Views On Creation And Flood

In various Reformed churches, including the CanRC, it is widely held that the first chapters of Genesis are best explained by the teachings of Young-Earth Creationism, according to which the earth is 6-10,000 years old, the days of creation were literal 24-hours days, and the layers of the earth's crust with the fossils they contain were deposited by a universal flood.

Although it is by now almost universally accepted among us, the idea that the interpretation of Young-Earth Creationism is the only acceptable one is comparatively recent. It owes much to the influence of North-American Evangelicalism but differs from the view held on the issue by well-known Reformed theologians of the fairly recent past, both in North America and the Netherlands.  I gave a brief description of this Reformed tradition in my two-part series "Klaas Schilder on Creation and Flood" (see sidebar, "collected papers"; a direct link is here). In that series I do not attempt to "prove" the correctness or incorrectness of either interpretation. My concern is, rather, to remind Reformed readers of their history, and to invite them to compare the two views.

As it happens, Schilder himself also refrained from taking a position on the issue. In fact, he relativized it, concluding that it was not really worth fighting over. But in view of the fact that already in his day young-earth advocates accused Reformed scholars promoting an older earth of "assailing the authority of Scripture," he defended the opinion of these scholars. He further marshaled a variety of biblical arguments in defence of Abraham Kuyper's suggestion that the Flood may well have been a regional one.

23 comments:

hjvb said...

I would rather argue that so-called "old-earth explanations" of Genesis are a recent phenomenon because of the influence of secular scientists who, just like the snake in Paradise, can make something that is a lie sound so good.

In the Westminster Confession (written in 1648) the authors wanted to make clear that confessing the Bible meant confessing a 6-day creation (creation scientists didn't come up with this). That's why they wrote: "It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create or make of nothing the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good." That is the Reformed view on creation.

Augustine, can not be used to suggest that alternate explanations are OK. Although, influenced by his peers, he thought that God made the world in an instant, he completely lambasted those who would suggest that the earth was old. "The City of God; book XI I think."

As for Schilder, I would suggest that it is one thing for him to allow others to think certain ideas, but it is another thing to promote these ideas.

Another question must be asked. Could the Jews and Christians up until the 18th century have misunderstood the 10 commandments (for in six day...)completely for all those ages until we were enlightened by some dead bones?

The Reformed view is and always has been the defense of a young earth, perhaps allowing for some leeway because of weakness (I am saying this not to offend anyone but to explain the reason why some people will allow alternate views).

Herman van Barneveld

Frederika Oosterhoff said...

Herman, I am not sure that you are really interacting with what I wrote. What you are doing is voicing some traditional, simplistic young-earth statements which altogether fail to respond to Schilder's arguments, or, for that matter, to Kuyper's. You don't even mention the latter. On the other hand, you do mention Augustine, although his name does not even occur in the articles in question. If you want me to interact with you, please show that you have read the text you say you are responding to and that you are willing to discuss issues at a proper intellectual level. Throwing unfounded and random accusations around is not very productive.

I use this opportunity to ask you the question that I should have asked you earlier: When teaching science at your school, do you then also describe scientists as people who, "just like the snake in Paradise, can make something that is a lie sound so good"? If so, can you still expect your students to take your subject seriously? And do you properly prepare them in this manner for the challenges they will meet at post-secondary institutions of learning, and in a science-dominated culture in general?

Anonymous said...

The following link is to an article that provides an answer to the question of whether or not the flood was universal or regional. It comes from the Answers In Genesis website and is written by Dr. John Whitcomb, a theologian who co-authored The Genesis Flood. I feel he makes some strong points.

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n2/universality-of-flood

Jason Vander Horst

Anonymous said...

Flood geology in fact makes numerous predictions about the sort of thing one expects to find in the geologic column / fossil record: but these predictions have all together failed to be supported by evidence. To pick just one example, why is pollen restricted to the top layers of the geologic column? Surely a global flood responsible for that much sediment in one year would have mixed pollen everywhere - yet we find it only near the top, where we also first find the remains of flowering plants. Now, I've seen it suggested that there was sorting of animals as they avoided the advancing floodwaters, but I can't conceive of a mechanism to sort pollen or plants! Flood geology might have a certain theological appeal to some, but it doesn't work as an explanatory framework for geology unless you are willing to tack on numerous, very ad hoc explanations for why things appear the way they do.

To tie this kind of thinking to the faith and state that they stand or fall together is, in my view, a very dangerous thing to suggest.

Dennis Venema

Frederika Oosterhoff said...

Thanks, Jason, for your reference and comments. Whitcomb writes that questions about the size of the Flood were raised only in the last 200 years. This is not quite correct. As I wrote, Schilder mentions that ancient Jewish theologians already raised the question and he further refers to the fact that both the Septuagint (about 200 B.C.) and the notes of the official Dutch Bible translation (17th century) left openings for an alternative interpretation. A careful reading of my summary of Schilder’s arguments should make clear that a regional Flood is exegetically quite possible. Keep also in mind that Genesis describes the Flood as taking place before the Tower of Babel, and therefore before the dispersion of the human race beyond Mesopotamia. But of course, the articles are still on the blog and can be read, so there is no need for me to recapitulate the arguments.

I do owe you an explanation as to why I wrote the articles. The reason is that in my opinion Schilder’s work on the issue deserves to be remembered. His study removes unnecessary restrictions. In my work in teaching and evangelism, for example, I encounter remarks about the “impossibility” of a universal flood and also of a young earth. How can I possibly believe, people ask me, that all the animals of the entire world – from Australia and the Americas and so on, and including millions of species of insects as well as giant specimens like dinosaurs and “behemoths” – could have come to Mesopotamia and been accommodated in Noah’s ark? I am always happy to be able to answer by referring to the arguments of men like Kuyper and Schilder, just as I am always happy to answer questions about a literalist reading of Genesis 1 with reference to counter-arguments by trustworthy, Bible-believing scholars - theologians, scientists, and others. The thing that we must avoid (as both Kuyper and Schilder did) is to promote our interpretations of the days of creation and the nature of the flood as gospel truths, as cut in stone. If alternatives are exegetically possible, as is true in these cases, we ought to admit at the very least that we don’t know everything. A profession of agnosticism is not always wrong. I hope this explanation helps. Don’t hesitate to write again if you wish to continue the discussion.

EHB said...

Thank you very much for your comments on this subject. When I taught at Guido de Bres High School (about 20 years ago), we had this large periodic table that could be hung on the backboard. It showed all the elements and much information on their physical properties. It was all beautifully colour coded. Gases were one colour, liquids another etc. There was one group of elements that particularly interested me one day (I was probably teaching something about radioactive decay). This is the group of elements that are not naturally occurring. All elements to the right of Uranium (atomic number 92) are included in this group. But, strangely enough so is Technetium (43) and Promethium (61). These two were staring out at me like two holes in the periodic table. Upon closer examination, I learned that most stable isotope of Technetium is 4 million years (hmmm interesting). Plutonium has a half-life of 80 million years. In fact anything with a half-life of less than a billion years does not occur naturally. This was easy to see just by observing this periodic table. Up to that point in my life, I was firmly grounded in the young earth camp. I had bought into the arguments like; when God created trees they would have had rings in them already (reflecting a certain apparent age). However, it struck me as rather odd that God would create a world 6000 years ago and leave out elements with half-lives of less than a billion years. Well, you could say that at that moment I had a conversion. However, I generally kept quiet about it (after all “Dr. O.” was my boss at the time – if I only knew …). So, I very much appreciate the creation of this forum that allows for the discussion of these important matters.
Ed Baartman

hjvb said...

"Dr. Oosterhoff wrote: "When teaching science at your school, do you then also describe scientists as people who, "just like the snake in Paradise, can make something that is a lie sound so good"?"
Let me explain in more detail what I meant with that statement. Satan is called "the father of lies" and his way to loosen Christians from the firm anchor of the Bible is by lying. And the lie often sounds very convincing. Many scientists have accepted a theory because they were sold to the idea of uniformitarianism. I'm absolutely convinced that Satan is behind this concept. So I will tell my class that a theory in Science, especially when many assumptions are thrown into the mix, and definitely when it contradicts clear statements in the Bible, is the work of Satan to attack the truth. Why wouldn't he? And the amazing thing is that the geological column shows exactly the opposite. There is nothing uniform about the layers. I will ask the question again: Where today do you see the formation of coal? Fossils are ONLY formed during a landslide or other cataclysm. So I teach my students to carefully distinguish between theories that are supported by facts or those that are supported by pre-conceived notions and numerous assumptions. Please check out how often the evolutionary stories are changed to somehow fit their model.

In my response to sister Oosterhoff's post I tried to show that in our Reformed past the old earth theory was not tolerated. This in response to her statement that the Reformed scholars have tolerated alternate views. In my humble opinion I really thought I was reacting to your statement, using examples of different scholars perhaps. I will have a closer look at your Schilder article in the future.

Herman van Barneveld

Anonymous said...

"a profession of agnosticism is not always wrong" . . . For quite some time I have come to the same conclusion. This is assuming, of course, that one does not go over board in their agnostic leanings and disregard the importance of having "childlike" faith.

Jesus prayed to the Father, thanking him for "hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike." Matthew 11:25 (NLT)

Food for thought, no?

Maybe somebody can help me out with a question I have:
What, if any, is the Reformed position on "professions of agnosticism"? That is to say, would a Reformed pastor discourage a layperson from making these sorts of professions (based on principle)?

Jason Vander Horst

Frederika Oosterhoff said...

Thanks very much, Dennis, for your note. That is my fear also: Officially presenting the young-earth-creationist view as the only biblically acceptable one can become a serious spiritual stumbling block for Christians. Sadly, our community no longer enjoys the flexibility in discussing these matters that characterized our tradition before the young-earth onslaught and that is so necessary for a free and honest exchange of ideas. Let’s hope it is not gone forever. The best!

Frederika Oosterhoff said...

Hello Ed. I can’t believe it is already 20 years ago that you taught at Guido. Interesting, that story of your “conversion,” and too bad you kept it hidden at the time. It might have started a great discussion, although you may be right, I would probably have been rather cautious... Thanks for sharing the memory and for your very encouraging words. It was great to hear from you after all these years! All the best to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

To fine-tune what Ed just said: actually there are radionuclides that, like 14-Carbon, occur naturally, but these are continuously produced by another natural process. Of those that are not continuously produced, the shortest half-life that is naturally occurring is 244-Plutonium, with a half-life of 82 million years. 146-Samarium at 70 million years cannot be found, 205-Lead at 30 million cannot be found, etc. Keep in mind that exceedingly small quantities can be detected.

An interesting example is potassium, which has an isotope (40) with a half-life of 1.25 billion years, or about 1/11 times the claimed age of the universe. So one would expect 2^11 or a few thousand times less 40-potassium than the dominant 39-potassium. And the ratio turns out to be 8,000.

Of course there are much more refined ways of calculating ages e.g. http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/age.html The remarkable thing is that they give answers that quite closely agree with each other.

--Rick Baartman

Tony Jelsma said...

I am really troubled by and feel I need to respond to Herman van Barneveld's assertion that Satan is behind the concept of uniformitarianism. Uniformitarianism is simply the principle that what we see happening in the present is also what happened in the past. The reason why we can hold to this principle is because our God is a faithful God who upholds his creation in a consistent way. This does not deny the existence of catastrophes but we may not invent events in the earth's past history for which there is no evidence, simply because they agree with our interpretation of Scripture. The canopy theory and catastrophic plate tectonics are two such models put forward by Flood Geology.

On to your question of coal formation. I am not a paleontologist but one of my biology colleagues is (his doctoral dissertation was on coal) and I have spoken to him about this.
Fossilization occurs wherever you have anaerobic conditions which prevent oxygen from decomposing the organisms in question. Certainly a catastrophic flood would cause fossilization but there are gradual examples as well. In swamps you have a continual deposition of organic material, which piles up over the years and eventually turns to coal. Peat bogs are the likely precursor to coal. So yes, coal formation does occur today but it takes a long time.

Further, the general pattern that you find with coal is of many alternating coal seams and rock layers. These are not haphazard pockets but long seams which can be followed for long distances. Coal mines are dangerous because miners cannot remove all the coal or else the rock layers would collapse on each other.
This alternating pattern of rocks and coal is very difficult to reconcile with Flood Geology.

Fritz said...

I just wanted to point out an example of an ancient Jew who didn't interpret Genesis 1-3 "literally": Philo of Alexandria. And, he's a part of the Christian Tradition. He lived at the same time as Jesus. Early Christians thought highly of him: Eusebius & Jerome both claimed he was a Christian. Eusebius even recounts a legendary meeting between Philo and Peter in Rome.

Eusebius's "Church History" is at:
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2501.htm
The stuff about Philo is in book 2

An easy-to-read article at:
http://www.earlychurch.org.uk/philo.php
has this interesting excerpt:
--- begin excerpt ---
...
For example, the Trees of Life and of the Knowledge of Good and Evil are seen as being intended symbolically because no such plant have ever existed on earth.[11]
For Philo a "literal or better, a literalistic interpretation is to be rejected when it is either blasphemous or ridiculous. The kind of literal interpretation that was rejected by Philo is the kind of interpretation that was rejected by Jewish interpreters as far back as Aristobulus."[12]

[11] Philo, Creation, 154 (Yonge, 22).
[12] Tobin, 159.
--- end excerpt ---
There's a more thorough article at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
http://www.iep.utm.edu/p/philo.htm
It makes for interesting reading.

And, there's an excerpt from "The Literal Meaning of Genesis" by Augustine I love:
"It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation"
(The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20 [A.D. 408]).

Fritz Dewit

Fritz said...

Here's some Catholic views on Genesis 1-3:
--- Creation & Genesis ---
Fundamentalists often make it a test of Christian orthodoxy to believe that the world was created in six 24-hour days and that no other interpretations of Genesis 1 are possible. They claim that until recently this view of Genesis was the only acceptable one—indeed, the only one there was.

The writings of the Fathers, who were much closer than we are in time and culture to the original audience of Genesis, show that this was not the case. There was wide variation of opinion on how long creation took. Some said only a few days; others argued for a much longer, indefinite period. Those who took the latter view appealed to the fact "that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Pet. 3:8; cf. Ps. 90:4), that light was created on the first day, but the sun was not created till the fourth day (Gen. 1:3, 16), and that Adam was told he would die the same "day" as he ate of the tree, yet he lived to be 930 years old (Gen. 2:17, 5:5).

The following quotations from the Fathers show how widely divergent early Christian views were.
...
--- end ---
You can read these views at:
http://www.catholic.com/library/Creation_and_Genesis.asp

In the above article, 2 paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church(CCC) are referenced. You can find them at:
http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p1s2c1p4.htm#I

Pope Benedict XVI wrote a small commentary on Genesis 1-3 called "In the Beginning."
--- In the Beginning ___
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...."
These words, with which Holy Scripture begins, always have the effect on me of the solemn tolling of a great old bell, which stirs the heart from afar with its beauty and dignity and gives it an inkling of the mystery of eternity. For many of us, moreover, these words recall the memory of our first encounter with God's holy book, the Bible, which was opened for us at this spot. It at once brought us out of our small child's world, captivated us with its poetry, and gave us a feeling for the immeasurability of creation and its Creator.

Yet these words give rise to a certain conflict. They are beautiful and familiar, but are they also true? Everything seems to speak against it, for science ...
--- end ---
You can read an excerpt at:
http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p81.htm

Pope John Paul II wrote an encyclical letter called "Faith and Reason". It's at:
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_15101998_fides-et-ratio_en.html

Fritz Dewit

Frederika Oosterhoff said...

Jason Vander Horst comments on my suggestion that “a profession of agnosticism is not always wrong” and asks if there is a Reformed position on agnosticism. Frankly, I don’t know of any official Reformed position on the matter. Perhaps a theologian can help us here. I do know that the Bible teaches us to recognize the limitations of human knowing and understanding. Think, for example, of God’s answer to Job, and also of the well-known text in 1 Corinthians 13, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully…” (RSV).

Whatever the official Reformed position on agnosticism (if any) may be, I expect that today’s theologians will be more modest in their claims than has often been the case in the past. If so, they are in tune with the “spirit” of our postmodern age. Under modernism there was great trust in the scope of human understanding. Even theologians would confidentially assert that it is our duty “to think God’s thoughts after him.” The events and philosophies that gave rise to postmodernism, however, have led to a spirit of greater humility in the area of epistemology (theory of knowledge). We now know that there is much that we do not know. In my opinion this insight is one of the most positive aspects of postmodernism.

I agree that there is a danger as well - namely that we go overboard and adopt the radical position of postmodernist subjective relativism. But that is not inevitable. Among the philosophers I have found most helpful in showing us how to avoid the extremes of both modernism and postmodernism in the field of epistemology is Michael Polanyi, whose name has been mentioned recently on this blog. I look forward to a good discussion on the work of this philosopher.

Frederika Oosterhoff said...

I thank Fritz DeWit for the resources he quotes on patristic views on Genesis 1 and on the Roman Catholic position. I thank him also for reminding us of Augustine’s warning not to give unbelievers reason to ridicule Christianity by the promotion of our own preferred views on science - no matter how far-fetched and ill-supported - as demanded by the Bible. In this connection it is also good to remember John Calvin’s writing about the respect we owe to unbelieving scholars in the arts and sciences, since “Human competence in art and science also derives from the Spirit of God” (Institutes, Book II, Ch. II, #14-16). Calvin’s followers have long kept this warning in mind and refused, for example, to reject the scientific theory of a sun-centred system on biblical grounds. I have often wondered if we could not have avoided many of the conflicts between faith and science in our days if we had paid closer attention to the advice of both Augustine and Calvin. Or do we still adhere to the modernist position that scientific theories are engraved in stone and proclaim ultimate truth?

Arnold Sikkema said...

Speaking of Augustine, today we received the May 2009 issue of Christianity Today. Alister McGrath, whom I regard as a theologian in the Reformed tradition, has a nice brief article which concludes that Augustine “helps us see that the real issue here is not the authority of the Bible, but its right interpretation [and] offers a classic way of thinking about the Creation that might illuminate some contemporary debates.” Unfortunately, the article is not available online, but it is adapted from McGrath’s brand new A Fine-Tuned Universe (Westminster John Knox, 2009), which I look forward to reading soon.

The article considers “Augustine’s The Literal Meaning of Genesis, which [he] intended…to be a ‘literal’ commentary (meaning ‘in the sense intended by the author’).” I heard a great lecture by Robert Godfrey (15 September 2006, in Lynden, WA) in which he explained how we cannot let the Fundamentalists define “literal” for us, instead advocating for it to mean “according to the meaning of the words themselves”. (Does anyone know of a good published source discussing the meaning of “literal”?) That is, we do have to consider the words chosen by the original author and find out carefully what was meant to be communicated by those words, especially to the original audience.

Frederika Oosterhoff said...

Here is a similar definition of the word “literal” in theology. It’s taken from C. John Collins, Science and Faith: Friends or Foes?, p. 79. Collins is professor of OT at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis.

A…faulty argument for the ordinary day reading of the days is the claim that this is in fact the “literal” reading of the text. The trouble with that is nailing down just what we mean by “literal.” In ordinary speech, to “take something literally” usually means to read it in its most physical terms, without appealing to figures of speech. For example, we say that it can’t “literally” rain cats and dogs. From this it is only a step to saying that if the days are not “literal,” then they’re poetic or metaphorical - which, to many, means they didn’t happen. But in theology, the word “literal” has a special meaning: namely it refers to interpreting a Bible text in the sense that the author intended, as opposed to, say, the allegorical sense. That is the only meaning of the word “literal” that should carry any weight with us - “the sense the author intended.” That of course puts no limits beforehand on whether the passage has in it any metaphors or other figures of speech.

(Collins then lists features of Genesis 1 and 2 that in his opinion demand an interpretation of the days as non-ordinary ones.)

hjvb said...

In all the above posts I do not see anybody using the proper hermeneutics, interpreting scripture with scripture. No one is using the scriptures to explain why the obvious reading of Genesis 1 should be changed. Perhaps some hard-to-understand passages from Genesis are used to question the obvious reading and I keep scratching my head and go, "The only reason you come up with such a strange interpretation is if you have bought into the ideas of secular scientists." And Hebrews 11 tells us plainly that it is 'by faith (!)we understand that the universe was formed at God's command (God's commands are obeyed at once!!!), so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.' The creation account is a litmus test. Believe it the way it is written. I don't care if some ancient guy thinks differently, or scientists, or uncle Bob. That does not give anyone the right to undermine the Bible. Show me from the Bible that Genesis 1 incorporates long periods.

As for mr. Tony Jelsma's assertion that coal takes a long time to form and that fish can get fossilized in oxygen-poor environments, I say that I can show you more convincing arguments that that is not the case (e.g. http://www.icr.org/article/did-modern-coal-seams-form-peat-swamp/ AND http://www.lewisdt.com/research/fossil1.html but doing so defeats the drift of my argument. And why are we so greatly respecting secular scientists' studies but we want to ignore the thorough studies being undertaken by Bible-believing creation scientists with PhD's? They have much to offer.

In 2002, Frederika Oosterhoff wrote in Clarion (vol.51; p. 62; the 4-part series on Faith and Science) that 'Christian believers... in many different ways can and do profit from the work done by creationists.' She added very valuable resources and viewpoints from Schilder and Bavinck. And I do think that we have to use our discretion when using creation scientists' materials and we have to be careful not to use it to support our faith. So I appreciate many of her contributions. But I am left wondering, have they in the last 6 years changed or have you changed your opinion about them, Frederika? And if so, what changed?

Herman van Barneveld

Fritz said...

I just think there's something a little ironic in all this discussion:
people often argue passionately that Genesis 1-3 must be interpreted as "real history". Probably, they do this in order to safeguard the doctrine of "Sola Scriptura", which they understand to mean the "absolute", "infallible", "inerrent" "authority" of Scripture. But, if you start reading the writings of the early Church Fathers, you don't find this understanding of Scripture anywhere (except among some heretical sects). What does real Church history count for? Does That "great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us" count for nothing? I don't get it.
Fritz Dewit

Frederika Oosterhoff said...

Herman, I have written about these things many a time before, and I do not relish repeating myself, but neither do I want to ignore your questions. So here goes:

(1) Christians have already for centuries believed that the earth is spherical and revolves around the sun, such in spite of the fact that the Bible speaks of a four-cornered and unmoving earth and of a sun that had to stand still for the day to become longer. I am mentioning this to show that hermeneutics is a more complex science than you suggest. Proper hermeneutics gives attention also to extra-biblical factors, including well-attested scientific findings. It further keeps in mind that the Bible uses phenomenological language. (It seems to me that you admit the latter to the extent that you hold to a non-literal view of the firmament – on scientific grounds. If so, why can’t you consider the possibility of non-literal days – also on scientific grounds?)

(2) The theories of Copernicus c.s. were based on enough evidence to convince Christian believers, including Reformed ones. The evidence against a young earth and flood geology is also strong enough to have convinced many Christians. You can find that out by reading, in addition to the work of young-earth creationists, that of old-earth creationists. I gave examples by quoting Kuyper and Schilder, but there is of course much more, also far more recent. In this connection I refer you to the annotated bibliography I have prepared (see website of Covenant Teachers College or click here). Mind you, the fact that modern science is often the work of unbelieving scientists does not mean that it has to be rejected. Nor do you reject it in practice. Most of the technology you use was made possible because of the work of secular scientists. Have you never felt uncomfortable demonizing modern science and at the same time making an eager use of the technology it made possible? How do we explain this to our students? And how do we teach them to give thanks for the gift of science?

(3) You fear that a non-literal view of the days will affect our trust in the Bible as God’s Word. Believe me, I understand that fear. But I do not believe that we can remove it by promoting pseudo-science. This will create a stumbling block, firstly, for our own people who know something about modern scholarship, and secondly, for those to whom we want to bring the gospel. How many victims do you think have been made, and how many opportunities lost, by the promotion of young-earth creationism as the biblical position? Consider also that acceptance of the sun-centred theory has not caused a mass exodus from the church. And remember the well-known saying of B.B. Warfied, one of the most learned biblical inerrantists (who nevertheless was willing to consider the possibility not just of an old earth, but even of theistic evolution): “The really pressing question with regard to the doctrine of evolution is not…whether the old faith can live with this new doctrine… We may be sure that the old faith will be able not merely to live with, but to assimilate to itself all facts…” The relevant question, Warfield added, was whether the theory was acceptable from a scientific point of view. It would be illuminating, by the way, to find out why since Warfield (and Kuyper c.s.) so many Christians began to fear science to the extent of demonizing it, rather than really engaging it. That of course would mean a study of the history of the controversy, a possible topic for later. For the rest, I hope that I have clarified my position somewhat. If not, write again.

Arnold Sikkema said...

I was reading my Sep/Oct 2008 issue of Modern Reformation today, and came across an article which is relevant to the question of agnosticism, which Jason and Freda earlier discussed in this thread. We are faced, sometimes, with particular views which some wish to made a test of orthodoxy. Dr. T. David Gordon, a PCA minister and associate professor of religion at Grove City College, writes that the church should resist attempts to add to the classic definition of orthodoxy, by which he means the historic creeds and confessions, instead understanding that certain issues will have to remain unsettled.

Here follow some quotes from the article which you can read in its entirety here. [T. David Gordon, “Distractions from Orthodoxy”, Modern Reformation 17:5 (Sep/Oct 2008), pp. 21-25.]

He writes, “Things that are legitimate to address in their own right need not occupy an undue amount of the church’s resources, and some such issues need never be resolved…Several matters have recently consumed inordinate amounts of the church’s attention and distracted her from her life as a worshiping and discipling community. Matters perfectly worthy of our attention and conversation were regarded as matters that needed.” Then he goes on to give several examples, the first being “The Length of Creation Days”, suggesting that “utterly nothing impinges upon the resolution of the question.” He goes on to say, “The only thing at stake in the matter is a populist hermeneutic, and such a hermeneutic, precious though it may be to some…has never been affirmed by any of the church’s creeds nor by any of its major representative theologians. In the discussion of solar days, I often heard the plaintive cry of the populists: ‘But don’t you think the average layman reading his Bible concludes that these are solar days of twenty-four hours’ duration?’ I’m perfectly willing to concede that perhaps the average layman does conclude so, but I feel no obligation to conform my opinions to his. If I did, I would not have taken a Ph.D. in biblical studies.”

Rightly said.

Arnold Sikkema said...

Herman says, “God’s commands are obeyed at once!!!”

I have responded to this in another thread.