Two Kinds of Creativity in Theology

I see a war going on right now between two different views of creativity in theology. Quite a bit is at stake in this battle. In fact, nothing less than the confessions are at stake.

The first view is that creativity should not be limited by the confession. Creativity spills over the boundaries of the confession. Thus the confession becomes more and more obsolete as time progresses. It is not merely small points that become clarified. Rather, it is fundamental points of doctrine that must constantly be recreated, maybe in a very different way from the way they have been formulated before. The appeal is obvious. To the person who can “successfully” recreate theology in this manner, an entire school might be named after him. Or, he might be remembered for being edgy, suave, sophisticated, and, worst of all, that tired and stupid cliche, “thinking outside the box.” I’ve always wondered about what people mean by “the box” when they say something like that. It is supposed to be a virtue to “think outside the box.” I have found such people more often than not to be plain and simply confusing.

To be quite frank, this approach does not match church history. The church did not keep on revisiting Christology after the early heresies had been refuted and carefully excluded by the wording of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the formula of Chalcedon. Neither did they keep on revisiting the doctrine of the Trinity. Rather, they progressed in “increasing limitation” (a wonderfully evocative phrase originating with Warfield) to nail down the doctrine of man in the Pelagian heresy controversy, the doctrine of justification in the Reformation, the doctrine of Scripture in the modernist controversy, and so on. This does not mean that fundamental doctrines are never questioned by heretics, and that we may have to clarify further some fundamental doctrine (witness the recent attacks on justification, for instance). However, neither do we have to reinvent the wheel every time. This leads us to the second view of creativity in theology.

The second view of creativity in theology is in a progressive rigidity within the confessional boundaries. Noe one likes the sound of the word “rigid.” However, it is a necessary word to describe this second view. As the church progressively nails down doctrines that are further and further away from the core salvific doctrines, more creativity in relating these nailed-down doctrines is possible. Forever looking at a particular doctrine from the standpoint of unsettled provisionality is debilitating to the theologian. If, however, the church has received a doctrine as what Scripture says, the theologian can then relate doctrines to other doctrines in an ever fresh, illuminating fashion.

I have used this illustration before, but it is certainly appropriate to bring it up again. My music composition teacher in college taught me the most useful lesson about creativity ever. Boundaries are essential to creativity, even tight boundaries. Severe limitations are the greatest spur to creativity that exist. If I set out to write a piece of music, and have no idea what limitations this piece of music will have, I cannot write anything. If, however (as I did in college), I chose to write a piece of music that is solely for organ pedals, the severe limitations of the feet on organ pedals was a tremendous stimulus to creativity. Then I rubbed up against those comfortable boundaries, seeing what I could do with such severe limitations, and the creative sparks flew incessantly. I wrote that piece in a hurry, as fast as I have ever written any piece of music. I would argue that the confessions function like such severe limitations. Within these boundaries creative theologizing has a chance. Stray outside, and you have heresy, not creativity.

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235 Comments

  1. September 30, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Not really disagreeing with what you say, but I think some historical detail may be helpful. You mention that “The church did not keep on revisiting Christology after the early heresies had been refuted and carefully excluded by the wording of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the formula of Chalcedon. Neither did they keep on revisiting the doctrine of the Trinity. Rather, they progressed in ‘increasing limitation'”…
    As you know, it took centuries to come to a creedal formulation of Christology. It took even longer to come to creedal language about the Holy Spirit. Gregory of Nazianzus “The Theologian,” a quarter-century after the Council of Nicea said, “to be only slightly in error (about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit of God) was to be orthodox.”
    Based on this statement, and the centuries that followed (much work on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit) I would say there was change in theological understanding that progressed. The phrase “increasing limitation” may be to broad of brush, literally wiping across many centuries of continual struggle with doctrines.
    J.N.D. Kelly, scholar of early creeds has described this time period (development of the doctrine of the Trinity historically and theologically) as “a highly original theory of doctrinal development”.
    Maybe instead of “increasing limitation” a less linear view needs to be taken when looking at the development of doctrines.
    I recommend Jaraoslav Pelikan’s “Credo” and his chapter on Continuity and Change. He sums up part of his chapter by saying “Thus continuity and change are to be seen not only as noncontradictory: they are to be seen as mutually supportive and as mutually affirming…”

  2. September 30, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Good post Lane. Your illustration is really helpful, cuts through the rhetoric that portrays boundaries in a bad light.

  3. greenbaggins said,

    September 30, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Thank you, Martin. Chris, interesting thoughts. However, the term “change in theological understanding” is ambiguous. A change towards more accuracy fits in perfectly with what I have outlined above. A change in genre, however, might or might not fit. Which do you mean? At the very least, however, in broad strokes, I believe the thesis is accurate.

  4. greenbaggins said,

    September 30, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    And Rey, you are not part of the church, obviously, since your views have been consistently condemned by church councils throughout the ages.

  5. Sam Sutter said,

    September 30, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    I disagree in he premise that you can limit creativity to either a) rebelling against limitations placed on theology by the confessions or b) Severe limitations. I think that a whole lot of good theology being done is expanding he horizons of the confessions in ways that are neither rebelling against them or improvising on them within their sever limitations.

    Maybe an example would be theories of understanding Gen 1 – just to throw out an example. I don’t think (for example) Kline is doing either. He’s doing something different from your two options. (unless I’m misunderstanding something)

  6. Ruben said,

    September 30, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Both Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) and C.S. Lewis have made similar points about creativity in relation to censorship.

    Another illustration is stem cells. At one point, they are capable of developing into a wide variety of different kinds of cells –but once they have become a certain kind of cell they can’t change into another. So you can have statements from Hilary or Athanasius that may be a bit ambiguous: but the church commits to one of the options reflected in the patristic language, and then can’t develop in a different direction.

  7. September 30, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    The sentence is “change in theological understanding” starts with the words, “Based on this statement” – meaning Gregory of Nazianzus’s statement that “to be slightly in error (about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit as God) was to be orthodox.” Gregory was known as “The Theologian” and one of the “Three Hierarchs”. In other words, considered a church father. So my reference to change is from Gregory’s theological understanding (as regarding the The Creed of Nicaea, and the lack of a doctrine of the Holy Spirit as God) to an understanding that progressed to where it stands after the First Council of Constantinople where a statement about the hypostasis of the Holy Spirit is followed by the declaration about the procession of the Spirit from the Father. Now, one does not have to be “slightly in error” (about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit as God) to be orthodox.
    I’m also calling it a creedal “change” (as I read between the lines). We now use this creed to define Christian orthodoxy. But that was not my original intent – it was only meant to refer to change in Gregory’s definition of orthodoxy.
    Hope this clarifies – even if it extends beyond your point and my addition to your point.

  8. Guy Davies said,

    September 30, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Nothing to do with the post, but would you be up for doing a blog interview in the next few weeks? Here’s a link to the last series which included “chats” with Paul Helm, Carl Trueman and Derek Thomas:

    http://exiledpreacher.blogspot.com/search/label/Blogging%20in%20the%20name%20of%20the%20Lord%20series%203

    I think you’ll have my e-mail address as I’ve left this comment.

  9. Vern Crisler said,

    September 30, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    Rey, see R. J. Rushdoony’s *Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church* for a good discussion of the importance of the creeds.

    Vern

  10. ray said,

    September 30, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    re #6

    hey Sam … such theories as Kline’s views on creation would be classified by me as out of bounds both Scripturally and Confessionally from what I have been taught.

    I would consider any view besides 6-24 hour creation to be vain philosophies … some may wish to refer to them as creativity … it is chasing after the wind nonetheless. There is room for no other.

    Some may even wish to consider such doctrines not to be a big deal anyways since they would consider them not salvatic issues. Such folk are either lying or being proudly neglectful to prop themselves up as gods … whose so called creativity is the veil of higher critical hermeneutics.

    This to me is a sad thing about gifted men like Kline … these men should know better then to be toying with such doctrines as if it were some kind of game they were playing.

    I sometimes think such men, gifted as they are …. get bored with the old paths and the ancient landmarks and feel they need to shake things up. Such idleness breeds wickedness.

  11. jared said,

    October 1, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Lane,

    Why set the boundaries with the creeds and confessions rather than with Scripture itself? One could argue that the creeds and confessions are such an exercise in creativity bounded by Scripture; though I’d say the creeds far less so creative than confessions. It seems to me that Christians aren’t united enough to warrant using rigid boundaries. There’s a point at which such boundaries stifle creativity more than have having flexible boundaries does. Moreover, not everyone is like you in needing hard boundaries in order to thrive creatively. And what do you say to those who believe the confessions are in need of an overhaul (like me, at least regarding the WCF; e.g. chapter 2 is neglectfully barren)? Their boundaries can’t be drawn at the confessions because it’s those very documents they are seeking to re-evaluate, and not for the purposes of promulgating heresy in every instance either.

  12. Kyle said,

    October 1, 2008 at 12:40 am

    Rey, re: 12,

    Have you ever heard of the City of God and the City of Man? (Never mind the Confessions – yes, no change from a pagan lifestyle at all!) And how is it you have no problem with the Nicene Creed, which was drafted by an ecumenical council called by Constantine?

  13. Vern Crisler said,

    October 1, 2008 at 1:36 am

    Rey, again, see R. J. Rushdoony’s *Foundations of Social Order* for a good discussion of the importance of the creeds.

    Vern

  14. GLW Johnson said,

    October 1, 2008 at 7:02 am

    rey
    How long did you drop LSD back in you wild days?

  15. rfwhite said,

    October 1, 2008 at 8:28 am

    I appreciate your raising this question of creativity in theology. It seems to me that your comments ask us to consider the role of historical theology, particularly as it is expressed in the church’s confessions, in our ongoing work of seeking to discern and proclaim faithfully the teaching of Scripture.

    As I see it, we accept historical theology as a help, but not as a rule; only Scripture is a rule. The question, then, becomes, how is the history of theology a help to us? To my mind, historical theology is a help to us in several ways. It tells us who, from the standpoint of the past, bears the burden of proof. It tells us where the boundaries of orthodoxy have been historically. The core of the debate about creativity in theology often turns on our answer to the question of whether we have a duty to take seriously the consensus of the confessional teaching of the historical church, particularly as that confessional teaching is conveyed through its pastors and teachers. New (novel) doctrines, which the church (vis-à-vis individuals) has never confessed, over the years, are not necessarily wrong, but they must bear the burden of proof and demonstrate that the weight of the evidence is with them. The novelty of any interpretation, in any area of Bible study, requires that the evidence put forward in its favor must be weightier than usual. This is the case because it is simply not likely that godly and learned scholars or the mass of serious Christians, taught by the Spirit, would for literally centuries have misconstrued the teaching of Scripture in its major, defining shapes, contours, and trajectories.

    All this suggests to me that how we define creativity in theology really tell us what our views of the Spirit, His gifts, and the church in history are. I’m sure more can be said by others.

  16. Stephen Welch said,

    October 1, 2008 at 8:30 am

    At first I thought that Rey sounded like a Campbellite, but then he made the statement that he has no problem with the creeds. He obviously is not affirming the faith once delivered to the saints. Enough of your heresy Rey. We will not stand for it.

  17. greenbaggins said,

    October 1, 2008 at 9:25 am

    Jared, everyone says “Scripture, scripture!” Every heretic who has ever existed has claimed the Scripture as his boundary. Just saying “Scripture” is not enough when one is dealing with issues that Scripture does not explicitly address. Good and necessary consequence must be part of what Scripture means. And it is far better that the church define that than that an individual would define that. Therefore, the creeds and confessions are necessary boundaries. It prevents the height of hubris also in saying that we know so much better than the church before us. I firmly believe that creativity outside these boundaries is not creativity, but heresy.

  18. Clay Johnson said,

    October 1, 2008 at 10:39 am

    “As I see it, we accept historical theology as a help, but not as a rule; only Scripture is a rule. The question, then, becomes, how is the history of theology a help to us? To my mind, historical theology is a help to us in several ways. It tells us who, from the standpoint of the past, bears the burden of proof.” This is very, very wise to set the allocation of the burden of proof here. So much heat rather than light is emitted wrestling over who bears the burden, and this is the place where it should go. OTOH, I wonder about this: “The novelty of any interpretation, in any area of Bible study, requires that the evidence put forward in its favor must be weightier than usual.” As far as the weightiness of the evidence, it seems to me that the crux isn’t mere novelty, but a combination of novelty and the degree of consistency or compatibility with what has come before. Something that is novel but unaddressed doesn’t necessarily need a weighter burden. Having said that, generally I agree that there is nothing new under the sun, though we are speaking of a continuum, not a binary choice. Thanks much!

  19. TJ said,

    October 1, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Or, he might be remembered for being edgy, suave, sophisticated, and, worst of all, that tired and stupid cliche, “thinking outside the box.” I’ve always wondered about what people mean by “the box” when they say something like that. It is supposed to be a virtue to “think outside the box.”

    Very wisely put. I too have winced at people referring to “thinking outside the box.” I think next time someone says this, I’m going to ask, “What exactly do you mean by the box?” I fear some might actually be equating “the box” with the WCF.

  20. rfwhite said,

    October 1, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Re: #21 Clay Johnson: Thanks for your comments. You make a good point by saying explicitly what I only left to implication about novelty and its relation to what preceded. The acceptability of that which is novel increases as advocates for it accept the responsibility (if you will, the burden) of demonstrating a high degree to which the novelty is compatible/consistent with the past. The higher the better.

  21. Clay Johnson said,

    October 1, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Re: #23. The law has an interesting parallell to this that might be somewhat helpful by analogy. In a normal lawsuit, the plaintiff bears both the “burden of production” and the “burden of proof (or persuasion).” The burden of production is the burden to produce enough real evidence supporting each element of the plaintiff’s allegations, so the plaintiff is said to have made a “prima facie” case. Once the plaintiff does this, the burden of production then shifts to the defendant to produce enough real evidence to rebut the plaintiff’s evidence with respect to at least one essential element. Once the defendant meets its burden of production, the plaintiff then bears the burden of persuasion that the disputes (or inconsistencies) between the plaintiff’s evidence and the defendant’s evidence should be resolved in the plaintiff’s favor. That’s the way the common law works in our system of civil courts. I think we would all save a lot of effort in our theological conversations if we addressed and agreed about who bears these burdens and why before getting to the substantive issues in resolving disputes. I am still working out the analogical limitations of this legal construct in the area of theology, so I am pleased to see similar ideas discussed in the context of theological creativity.

  22. jared said,

    October 1, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Lane, you say:

    Jared, everyone says “Scripture, scripture!” Every heretic who has ever existed has claimed the Scripture as his boundary. Just saying “Scripture” is not enough when one is dealing with issues that Scripture does not explicitly address.

    That every heretic has claimed Scripture as his boundary should not exclude using Scripture as your only rigid boundary. You continue:

    Good and necessary consequence must be part of what Scripture means. And it is far better that the church define that than that an individual would define that. Therefore, the creeds and confessions are necessary boundaries. It prevents the height of hubris also in saying that we know so much better than the church before us. I firmly believe that creativity outside these boundaries is not creativity, but heresy.

    I agree that “good and necessary consequence” is a part of the theological process, but that process should be bounded by Scripture, not creeds and/or confessions. I also agree that the Church should determine what “good and necessary consequence” entails over and above what one (or several hundred) individuals think. Creeds and confessions are necessary constructions (or traditions) but they are not necessary boundaries. If you truly believed that creativity outside the established boundaries of the Church is not creativity but heresy, then you should be RC and not Protestant.

    Allow me to limit the scope of “Church” to the PCA for an example. Let’s say that I “uncover” a garish oversight in the WCF, say, the large majority of Chapter 2. Then I propose that it be amended in such a way as to keep it consistent with the rest of the WCF and the Catechisms while at the same time improving upon it for summary and doctrinal clarity purposes. My proposal is, then, confirmed and agreed upon by the session of my local body and they, in turn, submit it to their Presbytery for evaluation. The Presbytery evaluates and summarily agrees to make it all official by proposing the amendment at General Assembly and, given a majority vote of consent, my proposed amendment replaces the current chapter in the WCF.

    Now, obviously I’ve simplified how this process would play out (I’m sure there would need to be committees involved and revisions to the proposed amendment and etc.) but, for the sake of example and argument, let’s say this all has occurred in proper order and procedure. Can such an amendment or procedure take place if we set our boundaries at the creeds and confessions as a fence to Scripture? No, probably not. Is my proposal “creative”? No more “creative” than Luther’s expression of justification and the resulting reformation, I’d say. What were Luther’s boundaries? Scripture and his conscience, if I’m not mistaken.

    I think the real problem with this post is that creativity isn’t defined or instantiated. What does theological creativity even look like? Does it look like a creed or a confession? If so, then creativity must be bounded by Scripture and not by the creeds and confessions which are its byproduct. Maybe a distinction needs to be drawn between “boundary” and “guideline”? In other words, the creeds and confessions can be guidelines for creativity but they are not (or cannot be?) boundaries for it. In any case only Scripture is infallible and only it is the final arbiter of religious controversies; it’s the primary way in which the Church can distinguish between heretics and non-heretics: are they really being biblical or are they only seeming to be biblical. I think the creeds and the confessions can be a “short-cut” way of identifying obvious heresy but I don’t think the final boundaries can be drawn with them.

  23. rfwhite said,

    October 1, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Re: 24–Personally, I think the law analogy works. Also, the analogy from science: Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

    Lane, perhaps R. S. Clark’s new book, Recovering the Reformed Confession, will have some relevant discussion of issues related to your post.

  24. rfwhite said,

    October 1, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Jared, if I may butt in for a moment, I think you make a fair point about the need for defining creativity. I expect Lane is up to telling us what he had in mind! Also, as for whether creeds and confessions are properly designated as boundaries, I think the post presumes a definition of “creed/confession” as that for which a company of believers is willing to impose sanctions in the event of unfaithfulness. In that sense, a creed or confession is, in effect, identical to the Scriptures: on other than a theoretical level, there is real difficulty in distinguishing between the two.

  25. jared said,

    October 1, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    rfwhite,

    Are you the R. F. White from Knox Seminary? Just curious, I’ve recently been looking into starting a masters program there . You say,

    Also, as for whether creeds and confessions are properly designated as boundaries, I think the post presumes a definition of “creed/confession” as that for which a company of believers is willing to impose sanctions in the event of unfaithfulness. In that sense, a creed or confession is, in effect, identical to the Scriptures: on other than a theoretical level, there is real difficulty in distinguishing between the two.

    Isn’t this precisely the problem? I’m not opposed to the use of creeds and confessions in imposing sanctions in the event of unfaithfulness. What I’m opposed to is the equating of unfaithfulness to creeds and confessions with unfaithfulness to Scripture. There’s a difference in being unfaithful to a local body or to a denomination and being unfaithful to God. Though often individuals are often guilty of both, in the latter case it would not be enough to use only creeds/confessions in the disciplinary process (I would hope this is the case in all instances of Church discipline, actually). In other words, I can be opposed (or unfaithful) to a section of the WCF without being opposed (or unfaithful) to God and Scripture.

  26. natrimony said,

    October 1, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    ray,

    “Such idleness breeds wickedness.”

    Do you really believe that any deviation from 6 literal 24 hour days is ‘wicked’ or that Meredith Kline is propping himself up as a god?

  27. rfwhite said,

    October 1, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Jared, yes, I am R. F. White but I am no longer at Knox; I am now at Ligonier. I understand the reticence to equate creedal/confessional unfaithfulness with Scriptural unfaithfulness. My point is that the distinction is without a difference “at that point where we impose sanctions.” Where we impose a sanction (e.g., keep a person from the sacraments or out of office), we are declaring that there is no difference between what we believe and teach and what Scripture requires or forbids.

  28. rfwhite said,

    October 1, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    One additional point: I hasten to add that even the purest churches under heaven do err in their imposition of sanctions and will be chastised by God for their errors, in this age and/or in the age to come.

  29. October 1, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Lane,

    Great post. I argued this on another blog last week. People like to throw around questions concerning the Standards like “How then can we do justice to the immense amount of quality biblical scholarship and theological reflection that has taken place since that time?” It seems to me that the clear implication is that recent scholarship can or should in some way “correct” the Confession.

    In answer to this and some of the assertions made in this thread, I observe that no one has put forward an overture to the General Assembly in accordance with our polity suggesting changes to our standards. No one has stepped up. So where are the “improvements” and their champions? Bring it on! Let’s openly debate the “improvements” and/or “corrections”.

    I don’t see, for instance, Federal Visionists lined up at the door with changes to, oh say, WCF VII as one prominent FV TE offered a while back, in their hands. I don’t see those who would question the nature of inspiration with changes to WCF I in line, either. Apparently it is far easier to write blog posts, publish books, redefine terms, and generally undermine the peace of presbyteries and denominations from the shadows than to stand for what they say they believe at General Assembly.

    I am personally growing weary of endless conferences, theological “novelties”, and empty words. Time to play ‘em if you got ‘em.

  30. ray said,

    October 1, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    re #30 Hello!

    response.

    Yes and yes. It is my hope that Christ washed Kline clean as snow in His righteousness.

    With regards to what he taught concerning creation … that vain philosophy ought not be advocated whatsoever. It is to be disgarded and rejected just as the period and gap theories.

    Myth and hypothesis … or faith? The first … the products of a carnal vain mind … the second … a particular gift of God to his elect alone.

    Our confessions and creeds submitting to Scripture … the Gospel … are clear what we ought to understand concerning the Creation narrative. So clear … even a theologian could understand …by the grace of God.

  31. jared said,

    October 1, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    R.F. White, you say:

    My point is that the distinction is without a difference “at that point where we impose sanctions.” Where we impose a sanction (e.g., keep a person from the sacraments or out of office), we are declaring that there is no difference between what we believe and teach and what Scripture requires or forbids.

    I see your point. Though I’ve always thought, in keeping with your example of excommunication, such discipline is wrought primarily because of Scripture, not because of (or on the basis of) the WCF or the BCO (in the PCA’s case). The WCF and the BCO are supposedly structured in accordance with Scripture and it is Scripture that cannot be questioned or revisited for revision; that was my point. While continuing to develop a systematic theology I do not feel as though the creeds and confessions are boundaries in the same way that Scripture is a boundary. In other words, I could disagree with a creed or confession while remaining faithful to Scripture. Moreover, I could seek to edit and revise a creed or a confession to make it more in line with what Scripture teaches (if possible, of course). It seems to me that in as much as creativity is concerned, Scripture is the final word, not creeds or confessions (though creeds, I’d say, are less susceptible to error than confessions as history has meted them out). Thanks for your interaction.

    reformedmusings, you say:

    n answer to this and some of the assertions made in this thread, I observe that no one has put forward an overture to the General Assembly in accordance with our polity suggesting changes to our standards. No one has stepped up. So where are the “improvements” and their champions? Bring it on! Let’s openly debate the “improvements” and/or “corrections”.

    How, exactly, would a layperson start such a process? I know that as a layperson I can’t just stand up in the middle of GA and put forward an overture. Is there a specific section in the BCO or some other document I can look to for guidance? What course of action would you recommend?

  32. thegreycoats said,

    October 1, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    ray,

    Bringing the Gospel into the debate over the creation days seems rather exaggerated. If you are a member of the PCA (I don’t assume that you are) then you might know that we include three acceptable interpretations of the Genesis creation days. Our confessions and creeds have not been shown to conflict with either the Day-Age, literal 6 day/24 hour view, or the Framework theory. They each affirm that it was God who created and that he did it in 6 days. Meredith G. Kline (although ordained in the OPC) is well within the bounds of a Reformed understanding of orthodoxy. A summary of the 3 views excerpted from the PCA position paper may be found here:

    http://www.christpresnewhaven.org/documents/theology-views_acceptable_in_the_pca.pdf

    My question to you is this: are people who believe in the possibility of an old-earth in danger of hellfire? I don’t know what else to conclude from your unflinching linkage of creation day time periods with soteriology. Interesting that the Apostles Creed mentions nothing about the length of the creation days, nor does Nicea or Chalcedon or the Athanasian or, well, any of them prior to Westminster. The WCF mentions creation days but, analogous to Scripture, is simply not specific as to their length.

    Please, Please, Please, don’t turn your position on this topic into a hardline doctrinal fortification. The gospel neither stands nor falls over exactly how much time God chose to set aside for creation. Pick your view, defend it well, and be attentive to its blind spots. Each of the theories has inconsistencies, that is why there are several which are acceptably orthodox. I urge you to be willing to agree to disagree on this topic. You’ll just be a nicer person. There are better hills to die on man.

  33. thegreycoats said,

    October 1, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    To all,

    I apologize for jumping down the creation day rabbit hole. I won’t hijack the thread any further. But, comments which stem from ray’s kind of thinking unnecessarily hinder Christian and denominational unity. I just get fired up about it.

  34. Vern Crisler said,

    October 2, 2008 at 12:27 am

    #37
    But how long can one uphold the creeds if something so plain as Genesis 1-3 is allowed wildly contradictory interpretations? IMO if six literal days and a young earth are not true, then God is either a liar or an ignoramus for telling us so plainly that it’s true.

    IOW, my Christian faith is so linked to a literal interpretation of Gen 1-3 that to give up the latter would entail a rejection of the former. (Retransmission of falsity.)

    Others may not have such a strong link. Their orthodoxy may not require such an interpretation, but I think it’s because they’re able to compartmentalize Gen 1-3. They’ve placed it under an epoche, so to speak, so they don’t really have to deal with it. But I wonder how long that can last….

    Vern

  35. Darryl Hart said,

    October 2, 2008 at 7:50 am

    Vern, just out of curiosity, do you think God is a liar if the speed of light is such a rate to suggest that stars in our galaxy existed millions of years ago? I’m not concerned whether you agree or disagree with the science. I’m wondering how you handle general revelation, and whether it reveals truth. From where I sit, it looks like young earthers think old earthers ignore the Bible. And it looks like old earthers think young earthers ignore creation. The young earthers would appear to have God on their side since they have the Bible. But if God reveals truth through his creation, do old earthers really lack God on theirs? So perhaps, reconciling what God says about creation is more complicated than simply appealing to Gen. 1-3.

  36. October 2, 2008 at 8:07 am

    Does the WCF explicitly tie one in to a specific interpretation of its own wording? e.g. a literal six days view.

    Or, does the WCF implicitly tie one in to a specific interpretation of its own wording? e.g. a literal six days view. By implicitly I mean that the writings of the divines who formulated the Confession understood six days to mean a literal six day period and not any other view. I assume we would want to understand the wording at any point to be in sympathy with the views of the assembly in general, and in line with what we know of their debates and deliberations as recorded in the minutes.

  37. natrimony said,

    October 2, 2008 at 8:49 am

    In this debate the obvious boundary is the language of our Confession. 6 days may be affirmed but understood differently due to both Concordist and literary concerns. The language of the confession, which simply repeats the Biblical text, is the rigid marker which creativity may not deviate from. The PCA has at least determined that it is possible to both agree upon 6 days language and disagree on how long/figurative those 6 days were.

  38. October 2, 2008 at 9:13 am

    jared,

    How, exactly, would a layperson start such a process? I know that as a layperson I can’t just stand up in the middle of GA and put forward an overture. Is there a specific section in the BCO or some other document I can look to for guidance? What course of action would you recommend?

    The process starts with your Session. Get together with your elders, either formally on the Session agenda or informally over beers, and discuss your desires with them. If they agree, then they will formalize the language and propose it at Presbytery. If not, they may lovingly counsel you on that aspect of the Reformed faith.

  39. jared said,

    October 2, 2008 at 9:53 am

    reformedmusings,

    Thanks for the suggestion. My church is currently looking for a new senior pastor and is also in the process of reevaluating her vision through small church-wide listening groups and surveys (among other things). I’m not certain it would be prudent of me to bog down that process with a desire to reform the WCF, but at least I can start writing down what I think needs changing. I’ve already informally started doing so on my blog (to a certain degree) but I haven’t been able to keep up with that recently because of other more important circumstances. Maybe in the next couple of years, though, you’ll see something on the floor of GA with my name attached to it (though hopefully not only my name). ;-)

  40. rfwhite said,

    October 2, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    Jared, re: #35: Allow me to follow up. You said, “While continuing to develop a systematic theology I do not feel as though the creeds and confessions are boundaries in the same way that Scripture is a boundary.” I agree with you; I had said, “As I see it, we accept historical theology as a help, but not as a rule; only Scripture is a rule.” You then raise the prospect of disagreeing with and improving the creeds and confessions of the church. Fair enough; implicit in your comments is, to my mind, the issue of Lane’s post, namely, what obligations, if any, do creeds and confessions, which have only derived authority, place on us in our attempts to improve our interpretation of Scripture, which alone has original and final authority? From the start of that discussion, let’s stipulate that, since the church’s authority to exclude from fellowship extends only as far as her consensus on matters of faith and practice, therefore interpreters have liberty of conscience in those matters on which the church has reached no consensus or on which she has explicitly defined the boundaries of liberty. Let’s also stipulate the truth that there is no invitation to interpretive anarchy in Scripture. The question of defining our obligations relative to creeds and confessions remains. Here are some thoughts.

    Can we say that interpreters are obliged to be accountable to the church, as authoritative under God, in all matters relating to the establishment and amendment of the terms of her communion? Can we say also that interpreters are obliged to yield to the church’s corporate judgment or, if constrained by conscience to do otherwise, they are obliged to do at least the following three things: to attempt peacefully and honorably to guide her to a new consensus regarding the terms of her communion, or to leave her fellowship in peace, or to receive her correction? Perhaps you and others can think of other obligations.

  41. ray said,

    October 2, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    # 36 -37 Hello Mr. Greycoat!

    response:

    The Creation narrative is found within the Gospel … you seem to find this idea unpleasant … I find that disconcerting.

    I consider any other view besides the 6-24 literal creation narrative to be an assault upon God’s Word – the Gospel. As such it ought to be avoided and those advocating the doctrine – sharply rebuked and admonished to stand shoulder to shoulder for the truth of the Gospel in the church militant. I covet the opportunities I have had to stand shoulder to shoulder with others from different denominations for other Gospel truths. Sad to say we cannot agree fully … but I count it a blessing to do so when it arises.

    These others are myths and hypothesis … they have no right to compete with what the Lord has to say … the truth … the Gospel.

    The unity of the church is not the work of man … but Christ. Man will deny the truth for the sake of unity. That is what has happened with respect to the creation narrative. The truth of the 6-24 literal creation narrative is adulterated upon the altar of man’s vanity. It is sickening to me … it is sad to me.

    I am not a member of the PCA. I am a thankful member and presently an elder in the PRCNA. Before that… a member in the OCRC … and before that … baptised and a member in the CRC. I grew up during the time when this and other doctrines came on the chopping block in the CRC.

    Hellfire will be the judgment of God … and I will trade the nice guy status for the Gospel truth by the grace of God.

    “and the evening and the morning were the first day” … this is what God says, that is what our confessions submit to (eg. Belgic Confession article 3,5,7) and that is what I am instructed as a parent to teach my family, and as an elder/servant… the sound doctrine and Gospel truth I am to exhort,comfort, and instruct the members of Christ’s flock in the place where the Lord has put me.

  42. greenbaggins said,

    October 2, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Jared, I think you are misunderstanding what I mean when I say “rigid.” I do not mean “incapable of being altered.” The Presbyterian Church has changed the WS in at least two places, one of which is the Pope being antichrist, and the other about marriage to another member of the dead person’s family. There is and has always been (to my knowledge) a way to change the confession. That isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m rather aiming at people who think that we should have a somewhat “Barthian” view of the confessions (loose subscription), where I believe those parts of the confession that I want to believe in. This, by the way, is NOT good faith subscription, where people have to declare their exceptions, and then, if those are accepted, it is taken on good faith that the candidate holds to the rest of the confession. I also have in my sights those who claim to hold to the confession but don’t. These take a “reader response” approach to the confession, where the confession means what it means “to me.” With these qualifications on my position, I hold that the confession is a rigid boundary. Not an unalterable one, but a rigid one, nevertheless. If I believe that the WS faithfully sum up the doctrine of Scripture, then I cannot put a great wedge between the WS and Scripture, as many seem to want to do.

  43. natrimony said,

    October 2, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    ray,

    Sounds like fundamentalism to me.

  44. Benjamin P. Glaser said,

    October 2, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    What is wrong with Fundamentalism? Should we let the Fundamentalists win?

  45. jared said,

    October 2, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    R.F. White,

    Thanks for the follow-up, I think you’re asking the right questions given your stipulations. What I am curious about is how willing is the church to accept change? I suppose that willingness will vary with each session, but what about within the denomination as a whole? I don’t suppose that a session can adopt changes to the WCF on a local basis (e.g. my church uses this version of the WCF while another church uses that version, and so on) so any proposed changes are going to affect every church in some manner. I would definitely say interpreters are obligated to be held accountable by the church, and the church is obligated to hold them accountable (it’s a two-way street). I am more than willing to submit to the authority of the church in as much as her judgment does not conflict with Scripture and my conscience, a la Luther. When such conflict does arise I believe I am obligated in at least the ways you’ve suggested.

    But we need a way to even get to that point in the first place. If the church is, from the outset, unwilling to appropriately and properly examine and evaluate proposed changes then there is a whole different set of problems which need to be addressed. Has the WCF reached such an untouchable place within the PCA? Some would probably say so and I may even be leaning in that direction myself. What can one do in such an environment where one’s faith is questioned simply because you have doubts as to the accuracy or clarity of some chapter (or chapters) in the church’s adopted confession? If there really are accuracy and clarity issues, how could they be brought into the circumstances of reform? It is problematic when the confession is held on the same level of Scripture because then the confession becomes an unquestionable fence and interpretive lens to understanding Scripture. Is this a legitimate concern or am I simply a heretic-in-training?

    Lane,

    Thanks for the clarifications. Do you know where I could review the process(es) involved in getting those two changes adopted? I agree with you that we shouldn’t have a “Barthian” view of the confession where we pick and choose which parts we like and leave out the rest. As I understand it, the confession is a systematic whole where picking and choosing damages the overall system itself. I agree with your desire to filter out those who say they adhere to the confession but really don’t. But in these cases, what standard do you use? Not the confession, but Scripture in as much as you believe the confession mirrors what Scripture actually says, right?. For example, if I say I agree with what the WS say about union with Christ and I also agree with what some FV proponents say about such union then there are potential problems. In this case you would be unable to show how I really differ with the WS without appealing to what Scripture says and demonstrating that Scripture and the Confession are in complete (i.e. total) agreement. So this raises a question.

    You say, “If I believe that the WS faithfully sum up the doctrine of Scripture, then I cannot put a great wedge between the WS and Scripture” but there must exist a wedge of some sort because they are not (and cannot be) on equal authoritative grounds. Suppose my theological creativity conflicts with the WS but does not conflict with Scripture? Suppose further that a large majority of the PCA “unofficially” agrees with me? What should happen? I don’t want to place a great wedge between the WS and Scripture either, but it seems to me that this requires at least two things: (1) the existence of a small wedge (if only for for final appeal and authority issues) and (2) an official and regular review/re-evaluating of the WS to ensure they are Scripturally accurate and that they are clear (i.e. easy for the layperson to understand). Most in the PCA are willing to at least pay lip service to the former but when does the latter ever occur except for controversies? And during controversies it becomes clear that a large majority are only paying lip service to the former and really want nothing to do with the latter. I think it will be difficult for the PCA to mature theologically in the future without at least these two elements being put into practice. I think the WS could be much better formulated than they currently are, but will I see it happen in my lifetime? I’d like to take reformedmusings’s challenge and play my cards but the house isn’t exactly known for being open to change when it comes to the Standards.

  46. D G Hart said,

    October 2, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Jared, you seem to assume that some kind of wedge needs to be kept around to keep the Standards honest. You don’t indicate that you think a similar wedge is needed for you and your interpretation of the Bible. My point is that why wouldn’t the deck be stacked against you instead of the Westminster Divines? Simply on sociological terms, the Standards are the church’s confession; your interpretation is (no offense) just one person’s view. If we don’t put Hodge or Calvin on a par with the WCF, again no offense, why would we put Jared there?

    I don’t think that the folks who suggest that we always need to be on guard against venerating our Reformed creeds (in favor of venerating the Bible) understand the incoherence that results. It’s not as if the Bible would rule but a host of different interpretations would vie for authority. Nor do I thnk the cautious-subscriptionists understand the importance of standing in a tradition and receiving what has been handed down. Plus, let’s not forget that no one ordained in the PCA or OPC is forced to join. They have plenty of time to study the Standards and see if they are biblical.

    Once ordained, there are simple procedures for revising (Lane forgot to mention the 1788 revision of the WCF on the civil magistrate). Persuading other presbyters to agree is not so easy. That’s the built in equanimity of presbyterian polity.

  47. greenbaggins said,

    October 2, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Jared, Darryl said it far better than I ever could, especially the first paragraph. Anyone who wants to distance the Bible from the confessions is instead inserting their own views of what Scripture says in place of the confessions. People such as Darryl and myself who hold these views have never said that the confessions are infallible. But we do believe them to summarize what Scripture teaches. As to changing the standards, the procedure is outlined in the PCA BCO 26-3. Maybe Darryl can tell you where it is in the OPC BCO.

    Darryl, I did say “at least two places.” I remembered that there was at least one other place where they had been modified, but couldn’t remember where. I did remember the ones I mentioned.

  48. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    October 2, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Lane and Darryl, what do you think of this article from Mike Horton?

    http://www.wscal.edu/faculty/wscwritings/08.05.php

    He states baldly that “Systematic theology can never stand still…new discoveries must be consolidated and incorporated into theological systems.” So, is he abandoning confessionalism?

    And Darryl, why did the church privilege its own contemporary understanding in, say, 1788, to the Westminster Divines? How did the process of altering the standards begin? With a sudden group movement of the entire GA? Or with several individuals exegeting Scripture and studying history in a way that led them to question the 1647 view of the civil magistrate? If the latter, then wouldn’t you have said to them at the time: “Why should we listen to your individual interpretation of the Bible over the Westminster Divines?” If any individual exegesis that disagrees with the standards should not be given a hearing, how is it even possible for the standards to be adjusted? On you premises, if Jared were to follow the BCO as reformedmusings lays out, Jared’s elders should say: “I’m sorry, but your individual exegesis is just not on a par with the WCF, so we have no reason to listen to you.” But, then, if Jared seeks to spread his view through church conferences and books, so that his exegesis is not simply individual, but rather communal, then he is labeled as a rebel.

    Lane, my concern with rigidity is that some do in fact make the WCF (or some other standard–like the pastor who got all five points of Calvinism out of 1 John 4:19) a straightjacket for *every* text they come to. Not every text that uses the dikaio* word-group must be talking about justification in the Westminster sense (nor does it necessarily need to be used to interpret the Westminster doctrine of justification). Not every text that uses the hag* word-group is talking about progressive, transformative sanctification. But many commentaries and many pastors seem to think that that must be the case, and so instead of the text of Scripture speaking to us in a way that challenges and transforms, we tame it by making it say the same old familiar things.

  49. October 2, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    jared,

    I believe that you would benefit from reading this book. Lane mentioned it Monday. I’m reading it now and it addresses many of the issues that you raise.

    If you don’t have time to read the book, though, I heartily agree with and recommend Dr. Hart’s post #50.

  50. greenbaggins said,

    October 2, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Joshua, several points. First of all, the greater danger by far is a looseness with regard to the confession, especially given the fact that we are dealing here with an age where nothing is truth. Culture is assaulting confessionalism with a vengeance. I for one would rather not see it attacked also within the church. Secondly, if Jared sees something in the confession he would like altered, then he should write an overture to that effect to his Presbytery, which would then vote on it, and, if it passes, the Presbytery would bring it before the GA. If it gets shot down, he should keep on trying, if he wants to stay in the PCA (I am currently assuming he’s PCA, but I cannot remember for sure what denom he is in). Otherwise, there are a myriad of denoms out there that hate confessions and will allow any old thing to be present in their denom. Why are we attacked for wanting to be confessional? Your examples about justification and sanctification are beside the point, because I know of no one who claims a monolithic interpretation of dikaioo, and furthermore, the number of commentaries which assume this are actually minuscule compared with the vast majority which assume that almost every instance of dikaioo has NOTHING to do with justification. You have a warped view of what is the case in the PCA, Joshua. It is hardly the case that the few oligarchic TR’s have a strangle hold on the denomination, and are abusing their power in order to suppress all dissent. It seems to me that you would not be able to say that we have a faith once for all delivered to the saints.

  51. jared said,

    October 2, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    D.G. Hart, you say:

    Jared, you seem to assume that some kind of wedge needs to be kept around to keep the Standards honest. You don’t indicate that you think a similar wedge is needed for you and your interpretation of the Bible. My point is that why wouldn’t the deck be stacked against you instead of the Westminster Divines? Simply on sociological terms, the Standards are the church’s confession; your interpretation is (no offense) just one person’s view. If we don’t put Hodge or Calvin on a par with the WCF, again no offense, why would we put Jared there?

    It is not I (or only I, at least) that assumes a wedge needs to exist in order to keep the Standards honest, the WCF is explicit about the place creeds, councils and confessions have in comparison with Scripture. All the more so, then, should a wedge exist between my own individual interpretation and Scripture in as much as people are willing to agree with my interpretation(s). This is one of the reasons why Christians should read the Word, pray every day and attend church, is it not? I want to ensure that my understanding of theology conforms to Scripture and if it also conforms to a large portion of several confessions (and I think it does) then I take that as a good sign. But like my individual interpretations the confessional interpretations are not perfect. However, unlike my individual interpretations the confessional interpretations are not flexible. They can’t change because of the content of a series of sermons. This is why I believe it is imperative that confessions be revisited on a regular basis. Do we still think the WCF is faithful to the Scriptures in all its aspects this year? Is it as clear as it could be? Is every member of the PCA able to comprehend its content with little confusion? These are just questions in general, of course, I’d expect a true revisiting to be a bit more rigorous; maybe take several chapters a year over the course of a few years or something. I do not desire to be put on par with the WCF on an individual basis but neither should I be ignored simply because I am an individual. Would Hodge or Calvin be afforded an audience should they have differed on some point(s) with the WCF? I do not presume to stand on level ground with those two men, but neither should I be ignored simply because I am not a “giant” of the faith. You continue,

    I don’t think that the folks who suggest that we always need to be on guard against venerating our Reformed creeds (in favor of venerating the Bible) understand the incoherence that results. It’s not as if the Bible would rule but a host of different interpretations would vie for authority. Nor do I thnk the cautious-subscriptionists understand the importance of standing in a tradition and receiving what has been handed down. Plus, let’s not forget that no one ordained in the PCA or OPC is forced to join. They have plenty of time to study the Standards and see if they are biblical.

    I’m not suggesting that we need to guard against venerating the WS in favor of venerating Scripture only. We should venerate both, Scripture especially (and primarily). I am suggesting that we always need to be on guard against error and the only error-free document we have is Scripture. That is what necessitates the (small) wedge, for me personally, for the PCA as a denomination and for the Church at large. Naturally no one is forced to be ordained in the PCA or the OPC and I should hope that those who are do study the Standards continually but not simply or merely to supplement their theology. If only Scripture is infallible then there are errors in the Standards. When was the last time the OPC or the PCA sat down to seriously look at the Standards and examine whether they are as accurate as they could be or as clearly written as they could be (even given that they are summaries)? Moreover, what would be so wrong about having or conducting such an examination even if only once every century? It seems to me that as the Church matures and moves forward through redemptive history, change will inevitably come to her confessions and books of order. Am I to be faulted for thinking that my generation could be that generation in the PCA’s history? In any case, I shouldn’t be discredited out of hand.

    Lane,

    I don’t want to distance the Bible from the WCF, I want to bring them closer together. The wedge I spoke of is not because I want them separate but because they are separate; the WCF and Scripture will never be equals. Thanks for the continued interaction and pointing me in the right direction with the BCO, you assume correctly that I am a member of a PCA church.

    reformedmusings,

    If Dr. Hart’s post is supposed to be addressing the issues I’m raising then I don’t think the book is going to be as helpful as you suggest (I mean no offense to you or Dr. Hart). It does look like a good read, though, so thanks for the recommendation.

  52. Darryl Hart said,

    October 3, 2008 at 6:13 am

    Jared: the point that you do not see in the WCF is not only that the Confession attests to sola scriptura but it also explains what the Bible also teaches about the church “as an ordinance of God” in her deliberations in synods and councils (31.4). This means that we are to give the Standards the benefit of the doubt, not simply because of age or tradition, or Anglophilia but because real churches of Jesus Christ have adopted this confession and catechism as their own confession of faith. It is akin to the way we are to listen to the preaching of the word. We don’t sit there — all the appeals to the Bereans to the contrary — in church listening to the pastor to see if he gets it right. We actually go in thinking he does get it right and that Christ is speaking to us through him as he ministers the word inscripturated.

    The Standards are a collective sermon, not a reference work. I really do think, because of a low view of the church, we have missed what a confession of faith is. The Standards are alive and binding not because the Puritans were swell, but because the OPC and PCA have declared that this is what the Bible teaches. If we question the standards, we question the church, which is an ordinance of God. (No, this doesn’t mean churches are infallible. Nor is my pastor or yours. But it does change the way we think of the standards if we regard them more like a sermon than a scholarly enterprise.)

    Josh: This bears also on the way we think about systematic theology. ST is different from the standards, just as ST is different from dogmatic theology. I like Mike Horton and I’m impressed with his writing. But his writings are not an ordinance of God the way his preaching is. So ST as an academic enterprise may need to incorporate new material. But that logic isn’t the same for creeds or confessions. (Again, this doesn’t mean creeds or confessions can’t be revised. The WS have been. It simply means that you don’t use the analogy of ST to argue for revision of “ordinances of God.”)

    Finally, Josh, you ask what I would have done with the revisions to WCF in 1788. I would have listened, seen that the arguments were persuasive, recognized that the rest of the presbyters were also convinced of the arguments, and signed on. Obviously, this is what happened. It wasn’t a few rump fellows who strode into GA with guns and ammunition and threatened to blow up the place unless the commissioners went along. No, someone wrote a report, presbyters read the report, motions were made, discussion ensued, votes were taken. Decency and order prevailed, as it always does in a good Presbyterian world.

  53. jared said,

    October 3, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    D.G. Hart,

    Thanks for the continued discussion. I do not believe I have missed or neglected the point you have made. WCF 31.4 says that all councils or synods may err and states that many have erred. It is because of this that they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, rather they are to be used as a help in both (as this section goes on to say); this is part of the point I’ve been making. I think you meant to reference section 3, not 4. In any case, I agree that we should give the Standards the benefit of the doubt but that benefit should not be used as an excuse to refrain from regularly examining them for error, ambiguity or opaqueness. I can also agree that the Standards should be treated as a collective sermon rather than as a reference work. Does a preacher preach the same sermon in the same way throughout the years or does he seek to make it better each time he preaches it? Even if we do treat the Standards as a reference work, what reference work needs no updating or revising? Why would this not hold true for the Standards regardless of how we view it? I agree that the Standards are binding because the PCA (in my case) has adopted them as setting forth, in summary, what is taught in Scripture. I even agree that to question them is tantamount to questioning the church, but that does not mean it can’t or shouldn’t be done. The church is held accountable by God and by herself; the Reformation is a great example of this truth. Is it time for the Standards to be given “the once over”? I think it is past time. Does this mean I esteem them any less? Certainly not, rather it is because I hold them dear that I seek to draw them closer to Scripture, that I desire them to be more clearly written, and so on. Could I be mistaken in what I would like to see changed and/or expanded? Yes, and I am not above admitting my mistakes. So let’s get to it and find out! The worst that could happen is I am corrected in those certain areas I seek change and the best that could happen is a revised confession which is more true to what Scripture teaches; where’s the downside?

  54. D G Hart said,

    October 3, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Jared: actually, it was 31.2: “It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in his Word.”

    The words here often overlooked is that such determinations are to be received reverently not only for their agreement with the Word, “but also for the power whereby they are made.” Not even Calvin, Hodge or Berkhof as a systematic theologian can claim that power. And if presbyterian government is the biblical rule — which it is — then synods and councils always outweight an individual.

    But what I don’t get is that the constant pleading for the Standards needing to be revised because of course new ways of thinking have emerged, whether in bib studies, Ancient Near Eastern lit, or even historical theology. What seems to be missing is that the Bible hasn’t changed in 2000 years. It’s closed. And a confession of faith is an effort to summarize the entire sweep of biblical teaching for the sake of communion and fellowship within a church. It’s not designed to get a particular passage just right, or to be up to date in Pauline studies. So the Standards embody the teaching of the Reformed tradition. The Reformed tradition came into being at a particular moment in Western Christianity. It’s theology, worship and church polity were coherent and clear. People who argue for subjecting that tradition to a critical reading are usually people who do not care for the tradition’s theology, worship or forms of church governance. They are free to question the tradition. But the bearers of the tradition are also free to determine whether such questioning is legitimate for remaining in the tradition.

    I know, sounds heavy handed, authoritarian, and even Roman Catholic. But it need not be so. It’s like saying a Pentecostal is someone who believes in speaking in tongues as the evidence of the second blessing. Someone who questions either the theology of the second blessing or speaking in tongues is likely not a Pentecostal. Does this make Pentecostalism Roman Catholic? No, it means that words have meanings — to be Reformed is one thing, to be Pentecostal another, and Roman Catholic still another. All claim to be biblical. It’s the word “biblical” that is the hardest to define.

  55. jared said,

    October 4, 2008 at 2:00 am

    D.G. Hart,

    Thank you for the thoughtful response. You say,

    The words here often overlooked is that such determinations are to be received reverently not only for their agreement with the Word, “but also for the power whereby they are made.” Not even Calvin, Hodge or Berkhof as a systematic theologian can claim that power. And if presbyterian government is the biblical rule — which it is — then synods and councils always outweight an individual.

    I am in full agreement with you on this point. Synods and councils always outweigh an individual. Does this make them inherently right or less erroneous? No. Does this make them impervious to re-examination? I should hope not and this is what I am getting at. Should it be an individual who does the examining? No, I don’t think it should. Could the examining be sparked by an individual? Sure, and there’s nothing wrong or impertinent about that (assuming proper motives and methodologies). Will my session be amiable to discussion about my proposed changes? I hope so. Will my proposals go any further than my session? Maybe, only God knows, but again I hope so. You continue,

    But what I don’t get is that the constant pleading for the Standards needing to be revised because of course new ways of thinking have emerged, whether in bib studies, Ancient Near Eastern lit, or even historical theology. What seems to be missing is that the Bible hasn’t changed in 2000 years. It’s closed. And a confession of faith is an effort to summarize the entire sweep of biblical teaching for the sake of communion and fellowship within a church.

    So nothing I’ve said in this thread has been helpful? Pointing out that the Bible hasn’t changed in 2000 years is a red herring; the Bible is infallible, it won’t (and can’t) change. This is simply not true of the Standards. They are fallible and they have already changed (even if only so slightly). If a confession of faith is an effort to summarize the entire sweep of biblical teaching then what is the problem with desiring to re-examine and revise it if it needs to be done? The Bible doesn’t change but how and what we think about it does (and will continue to) change. The maturity of the Church (and her individual parts) is a process and that truth alone should be enough to warrant a doctrinal self check-up every once in a while. What if the Standards are unclear in this area or are wrong in that area and no one has the “guff” to say or do something about it? So, we’ll take an exception here or there, but change? May it never be! You might as well be changing Scripture itself in questioning the Standards (yes, I’m being a bit facetious but you get my point)! If the confession is for the sake of communion and fellowship within the church then shouldn’t we be seeking to bring it as close to the Scriptures as we possibly can in all the areas it addresses? Do you think the Standards are at that point? Can no better (more accurate, more clear) summary of Scripture ever be written? If all I could accomplish by my efforts was a “simple” rewording of the confession so that it reads like a modern document (you know, kind of like what we do with Scripture), then I feel like I will have done a great service to the PCA and other confessional denominations. Why? Because if we were to attempt such a project then many of the changes I think need to happen are more likely to happen. Have you ever tried writing the WCF in your own words? Talk about eye-opening. I’m only up to 5.4 but I see so much potential for this confession that it pains me see such stubborn resistance even to just the idea that it could be a better confession. You continue,

    The Reformed tradition came into being at a particular moment in Western Christianity. It’s theology, worship and church polity were coherent and clear. People who argue for subjecting that tradition to a critical reading are usually people who do not care for the tradition’s theology, worship or forms of church governance. They are free to question the tradition. But the bearers of the tradition are also free to determine whether such questioning is legitimate for remaining in the tradition.

    I won’t take this as you making a stab at me personally. It is just as likely that people who argue for subjecting the tradition to a critical reading are people who desire better things for that tradition. That they are people who love the tradition’s theology, worship and forms of church governance (as I do) and who want to continue that tradition’s strive towards a Christ-centered everything. But that’s just it, it’s a striving. The Church doesn’t “arrive” until her Husband comes back to retrieve her and even that might not be the end (who knows, we have all eternity!). Maturity didn’t stop at the Reformation. In fact, one could perhaps argue (and maybe one day will) that the Reformation was the Church’s “coming of age,” that transition from childhood into early adulthood. But life doesn’t stop there, so why should the confessions? By standing on the shoulders of the Westminster Divines we are (or should be) able to see more clearly than they, that’s part of what it means to be growing up. Why shouldn’t our confessions grow up with us? You conclude,

    I know, sounds heavy handed, authoritarian, and even Roman Catholic. But it need not be so. It’s like saying a Pentecostal is someone who believes in speaking in tongues as the evidence of the second blessing. Someone who questions either the theology of the second blessing or speaking in tongues is likely not a Pentecostal. Does this make Pentecostalism Roman Catholic? No, it means that words have meanings — to be Reformed is one thing, to be Pentecostal another, and Roman Catholic still another. All claim to be biblical. It’s the word “biblical” that is the hardest to define.

    I’m not sure your comparison with Pentecostalism works the way you need it to work. If we were two Pentecostals talking about tongues and second blessings, then maybe. But we aren’t. We are two Presbyterians with two different views about the Standards. I think they should mature with us as a denomination and, it seems, you don’t. I think it could be a better confession and, it seems, you don’t. What could cause such distinct views between us? It isn’t that you value the concept of tradition more than I do. I think it is because I view tradition as being open and you view it as being closed. It is, in a sense, ironic because your view of tradition is very similar to your view of Scripture, whereas mine is not. Scripture is closed, and we both agree on that point, but where you come of as “Roman Catholic” is in your view of tradition also being closed. The problem with the RCC was not primarily her closed view of her traditions but her unwillingness to be corrected; her unwillingness to be held accountable by those who loved her the most. I don’t want to see the PCA (or any denomination) fall in such manner and I think that largely this is one of the unconscious reasons the PCA hasn’t adopted a strict subscription position on the Standards (in addition to consciously and historically having a good faith subscription position). I agree that the word “biblical” is the hardest to define and I dare not attempt so on my own. It is here, perhaps, that the Standards are most helpful and I pray that they remain so but not if it means they, like Scripture, are above reproach.

    I am encouraged greatly that, at least on paper (and in history), the WCF is demonstrably able to be changed. It means the PCA is not above being held accountable and it means she has an open view of her tradition(s); it means she’s still a healthy church even if there are those within who would oppose change if only for fear of making her sick. Thanks again for your time, Dr. Hart, as I am sure you have a busy schedule.

  56. Darryl Hart said,

    October 4, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Jared, thanks for your explanation. Both of us have expended a lot of words and mental energy — over what? Whether in abstract the confession should be revised. Why is this such a contentious point? One reason is that you won’t put all of your cards on the table. What specifically would you like to revise? I have had similar discussions like this on line with lots of people in the context of the Enns controversy, with most of Enns’ defenders saying how the standards need revision. When I asked for which doctrines, all I heard were the chirps of crickets.

    Now, Jared, I’m not saying you are guilty of this. But we do live in a context, and have been since the frigging Auburn Affirmation (1923) where the affirmation of the need for revision cloaks a desire to have the standard of the standards lightened up, so that its application won’t be so exact or exclusive. Again, you may not be guilty of this, but I am tipping my hand to show my worry-about-liberalism card.

    Furthermore, the mention of the times in which we live suggests precisely why revision would not be such a good idea. You seem to suggest that we live in a mature time of church history, compared to the coming out period of the 16th century. (What his misses is that the Standards were produced at likely the most advanced time of doctrinal development, after 150 years of Protestantism and in the context of the intellectual maturity yielded by Protestant scholasticism.) No offense to my PCA colleagues here, but after reading the forum on Denominational Renewal I’m not sure I’d want to hand over the keys to the Standards over to some of our Presbyterian officers.

    So Jared, what do you want to revise? And from what intellectual/theological/biblical source does your desire come? I’m not trying to out you. You may take the fifth. But so far we have been talking about shadows of revision.

  57. Vern Crisler said,

    October 4, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Re: #39,

    Darryl said, “Vern, just out of curiosity, do you think God is a liar if the speed of light is such a rate to suggest that stars in our galaxy existed millions of years ago?”

    Vern: Yes, obviously. Assuming the current speed of light was the same speed it was in the past.

    Darryl: I’m not concerned whether you agree or disagree with the science. I’m wondering how you handle general revelation, and whether it reveals truth. From where I sit, it looks like young earthers think old earthers ignore the Bible.

    Vern: OE’rs do ignore the Bible.

    Darryl: And it looks like old earthers think young earthers ignore creation. The young earthers would appear to have God on their side since they have the Bible. But if God reveals truth through his creation, do old earthers really lack God on theirs? So perhaps, reconciling what God says about creation is more complicated than simply appealing to Gen. 1-3.

    Vern: Yes, old earthers really lack God on their side. And Gen 1-3 is very simple.

    Vern

  58. Darryl Hart said,

    October 4, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Vern: wow!

  59. Richard said,

    October 4, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Vern, perhaps you could explain in greater detail why Gen 1-3 is very simple in that I find it highly complex. Treating Gen 1-3 as one text is problematic for a number of reasons, not least because Gen1-2:4a is a distinct unit dating in its current form from the exile, in terms of its oral history it’s most likely a festal liturgy from the feast of Tabernacles from the New Year Festival. Simply put, Gen 1-3 is made up from two sources, P and JE. If you wish to interpret it literalistically then so be it, I for one cannot.

  60. Vern Crisler said,

    October 4, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Richard,

    I don’t take pastiche theories of biblical composition seriously. I think there’s evidence in the text of glosses or editorial edification (made either by Moses or anothe sacred writer), but that’s different from saying Genesis is stitched together from post-exilic stories.

    The simplicity is that Genesis teaches 6 days of creation, one day of rest, and biblical chronology limits the age of the earth rather drastically.

    Wow, I’m appalled that this is even up for debate among REFORMED people, especially Sabbatarian and RPW types.

    Vern

  61. Roy said,

    October 4, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    re #s 39, 61, Vern, Darryl, Richard

    Suppose Adam looked for the nearest star (other than the sun) the first night of his existence. We know from Gen 1 (I assume 6×24 correct) that star “was” but a few days old. Yet it is over 4 light years away. How could Adam see it?

    Suppose Adam went to one of the rivers in Eden. Could he find water? Water that had not yet had time to evaporate from oceans, blow in winds, condense into rain, run down hills, collect into tributaries and then into the river flowing past Adam?

    How about oxygen in the blood flowing in Adam’s left big toe 4.7 microseconds after God created Adam? Adam had not yet had time to breath much less his blood to aborb oxygen from his lungs much less time for that blood to flow to the toe. So Adam came into existence nearly dead, gasping for breath?

    Nope. God don’t make junk. He crossed every t, dotted every i, such that everything had the properties innate to what it was when created. (He could have brought the universe instantly into existence. We know he did not because Gen 1 tells us of a sequential process. That process, btw, means we have no surprise about light and even plants without the sun. God’s providential oversight took care of all the situations which now demand the whole fo the creation to exist, everything from a mist coming up to symbiotic relationships.)

    In Eden, only days after their creation, just-then-created Adam (a man, not a baby much less a zygote) could pick fruit, drink water, walk on soil, and see stars thousands of light years away. He lived on a planet which, in harmony with what people later understood about physics, geology, chemistry, biology, etc, *had to be* billions of years old in order to be *just right* for people.

  62. jared said,

    October 5, 2008 at 12:46 am

    D.G. Hart,

    I appreciate and respect your concern for the rampant spread of liberalism even within the Reformed community; it is not something to which I wish to contribute in my efforts or in my suggestions. My saying so may not be convincing enough to you, but I assure you that I’ve no secret liberal agenda. Perhaps what follows can help assuage any remaining doubts.

    While I agree that the “keys to the Standards” should not be placed in the hands of some of our (PCA) officers, I don’t believe such is the case for a majority of them (say, the two-thirds it would take to have the Standards amended). As for what I’d like to see revised, first and foremost I’d like to see the WCF written in modern English (not unlike the BCO which is currently in its sixth edition, if I’m not mistaken). This is what I’ve started doing, in a manner, over on my own blog though progress is slow going the past few months. As an example, this is how I’ve rewritten the first, third and forth sections of the first chapter:

    I. We hold it to be true that the majesty of creation, the vibrancy of life, and the coherency of experience reveal God’s goodness, wisdom, and power so that no man has an excuse.(1) Yet this general revelation in the created order cannot impart that knowledge of God, or of His will, which is necessary for salvation.(2) In addition to this general revelation, God has seen fit to reveal Himself, and His will, to His Church in a more personal manner; this He has done in time and by various means.(3) For the preservation and protection of the truth, and of the Church, from Satan in all his guises, God did inspire certain authors to put into writing His personal revelation.(4) This Holy Scripture is most necessary,(5) for God no longer reveals Himself in those former ways but now through His written word, through the presence of the Holy Spirit and through the activity of the Church.(6)

    III.The books commonly called the “Apocrypha,” or the “deuterocanonicals,” are not divinely inspired like the Holy Scriptures. As such they bear no binding authority on the Church, cannot be approved of in the same manner as Holy Scripture and cannot be considered as more than human writings.(8)

    IV. The authority of the Holy Scripture, which obligates belief and obedience, does not depend on the testimony of men or the Church; rather it depends wholly upon God (who is truth Himself), the author of Holy Scripture. Therefore it should be received because it is the Word of God.(9)

    Now this is a very basic rewriting and I’ve added or taken away very little to the original content of the WCF. I think that where I have added or taken away there is no substantial change in meaning and I think the end result of what little I have done makes the Confession easier to read and easier to understand without sacrificing (i.e. “dumbing down”) the original content. The numbers in parentheses represent the Scripture proof footnotes in my copy of the WCF; they have not been altered for these sections, in case you were curious. Of course this isn’t all I would like to see done to the WCF, but I believe it would be an immensely helpful starting place. As I mentioned earlier, I think this task would (or could) evoke some of the other changes I’d like to see, but I understand how slow and careful of a process it would need to be in order to succeed. Does this help to give you a more clear picture of where I am coming from? What do you (or anyone else still reading this thread) think of how I’ve rewritten these few sections? Any suggestions or concerns? Thanks again for your continued interaction.

  63. Richard said,

    October 5, 2008 at 9:38 am

    The simplicity is that Genesis teaches 6 days of creation, one day of rest, and biblical chronology limits the age of the earth rather drastically.

    The problem, as I see it, is that your starting point is founded upon assumptions that do not arise from the text itself. The question of authorship is rather moot, there is no biblical evidence that Moses wrote Genesis 1-3. Whilst I wouldn’t affirm everything contained in this I would point out to you How the Bible Became a Book: The Textualization of Ancient Israel by William M. Schniedewind.

    More important is to get into the analysis of the form of the text. As I noted above Gen1-2:4a is a distinct unit marked off by the following inclusio:

    1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
    2:4a This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

    There are now four questions we need to ask:
    1. Structure – We have already discovered the individual unit by means of noting the inclusio but we can go deeper and look at its structure of which there is a distinctive pattern of “And God said”, “And God saw that it was good”, “And there was evening, and there was morning—the…day”. We needn’t note them all now.

    2. Genre – As I noted above, it is a Priestly adaption of a festal liturgy.

    3. Setting – As I noted above the Sitz im Leben is the Autumnal New Year Festival at the feast of Tabernacles.

    4. Intention – It functioned as a cosmogony.

    Now, whilst this is exceptionally brief, we are in a position to at least see the weakness of your case. You are taking it as an historical record of actual events where in fact there is no evidence of that from the text itself.

  64. October 5, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Sorry, but Exodus 20 does not support the above view.

  65. natrimony said,

    October 5, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    When examining rhetoric I would personally have to say that the young earth enthusiasts have brought forward some of the nastiest toned argumentation of any of the views I’ve heard defended, both in the blogosphere and on paper. It is nice to see a (mostly) polite discussion on this topic on green baggins. For some reason the young earth crowd (oftentimes promoters of the Christian alternative to science–“Creation Science”) tends to project its position with a bible and a snarl. They are certain that anything other than a “plain reading” is liberalism. I am not convinced that examining genre, chiastic structure, and maybe even…alternate understandings of יום (yom) are slippery slopes to liberalism and our denomination doesn’t either.

    Maybe the young earthers are right. The PCA position says that they could be. But what if they are wrong? Is the power of saving faith which the Scriptures bear witness to supplanted? No. Positions which uphold innerancy, infallibility, AND the possibility of an old earth, may subtract one less obstacle when witnessing to a thinking non-believer.

  66. its.reed said,

    October 5, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    Natrimony:

    Not to imply my own convictions, but this kind of jab,

    “Christian alternative to science,”

    is itself a bit unkind, don’t you think?

    I understand you are giving your opinion about the quality if the scientific method used by young earthers. Surely though, you can find a qay of expressing such a conviction in a less disparaging way.

    As to whether or not an old-earth position makes one’s witness more palatable suggests convictions about witnessing that I’m not sure are consistent with a reformed understanding.

  67. natrimony said,

    October 5, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    I’m just being honest. I’m not a Reformation history professor. But, I am a member of the PCA studying at RTS Charlotte. Maybe you could expound upon how an old-earth position is inconsistent with the reformed understanding of witnessing.

  68. Vern Crisler said,

    October 5, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    #67
    Hi Richard,

    I’m not sure what you are basing 2 & 3 on, but even if true, it wouldn’t make Genesis unhistorical. Even a slight reading of the Bible shows that history is the basis for liturgy, not the other way around.

    Vern

  69. Jason Schuiling said,

    October 6, 2008 at 2:41 am

    I would really like to humbly challenge any opponents of a 24-7 reading of Gen. 1&2 who take solace in the physical sciences to take a course in the Philosophy of Science from a secular university and a professor without biases in the biological, geological, etc. sciences. At the very least read Thomas Kuhn’s -The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. On this point more than a few secular philosopher’s have gotten more right than the average seminary prof. We greatly misrepresent the scope and limitations of the Scientific Method and its outcomes when we blithely accept the urban legend that the present reigning scientific theories were acquired by a cold and carefully calculated handshake with General Revelation.

  70. Darryl Hart said,

    October 6, 2008 at 6:00 am

    Jared, you completely surprised me. I would have thought you were going to say something about revising the Regulative Principle, the Standards’ teaching on the Law, maybe the active obedience of Christ. But instead you’ve exerted all this energy to register concerns about Lane’s view of theological creativity to come up with — what? — the WCF in modern English. I don’t mean to diminish your efforts of arguments. But I hardly think Lane would object to what you propose (nor do I). Still, I don’t think that a modern translation of the Standards is what people think of when it comes to theological creativity. For what it’s worth, how is Scripture, the norm to which you have kept appealing throughout this discussion in contrast to the norms of creeds, the basis for your modern English version of the Standards? I would have thought it is Webster’s Dictionary, with help from the OED.

    Mr. Schuiling, I’d also encourage you and other advocates of a young earth to think of which physicians and engineers, not to mention agricultural scientists and pharmacologists, you would need to find if a young earth was a test for good science. I’m not pretending to know how all the pieces fit, but I suspect that a lot of modern physics and the life sciences, which take an old earth for granted, have a lot to do with the medicine, modern gadgets, and bridges and buildings we take for granted in the course of daily life. If we don’t believe some scientists, how do we know which ones to believe?

    It might also surprise young earthers how recent this view is. Even fundamentalists like William Jennings Bryan and William Bell Riley (I believe) were day-age men and comfortable with an old earth. The folks who promoted young earth science or creationists like George McGready Price were Seventh Day Adventists and their views did not become popular until the 1950s and 1960s. As Ronald Numbers has well shown in The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism (1992), the links between adventist eschatology and adventist teaching on creation are direct and striking.

  71. Kyle said,

    October 6, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Dr. Hart, re: 74,

    All due respect, but the “young earth” view is not as recent as you imply. Amongst others, we know that Bishop Ussher, John Lightfoot, Johannes Kepler, Sir Isaac Newton, and the Venerable Bede held to a “young earth.” The earth being relatively “young” was not much contested in Christian circles until the scientific uniformitarianism of the 18th C. demanded that the earth must be very, very old on the basis of current observable phenomena & various geological findings. Thereafter the “young earth” view declined, and has since experienced greater revival in part because of Morris & Whitcomb’s The Genesis Flood, which was based on Price’s work.

  72. jared said,

    October 6, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    D.G. Hart,

    A modern English revision of the Standards would be a huge leap forward in bringing the WCF closer to Scripture, in my opinion. The sections I’ve given as an example above are not in need of any substantial change, that is why it seems dull and uncreative. But this is only three sections of one chapter in a confession that has 33 chapters and over 100 sections. I used this first chapter to show you that I am not hostile towards the WCF, that I am not someone who wants to see it go away or have a lesser place in Presbyterian polity. Rather, I want to make it better. Here is an example of the critical process I’d like to see occur if this task of rewriting the Confession is taken up:

    Chapter 3.1

    I. Before creation, God unchangeably ordained, in accordance with the counsel of his most wise and holy will, everything that happens.(1) This was done in such a manner as to ensure that God is not the author of sin,(2) nor is the will of the creature impugned. Furthermore, the contingency of second causes is not taken away in this act, rather it is established.(3)

    “I changed “from all eternity” to “before creation” because that is the important point; there’s no reason to involve the concept of eternity at this juncture. I also removed “liberty” from the last sentence on second causes because I think it is superfluous within the context of today’s culture. On a more personal note, I’m not sure it’s ontologically necessary (or even possible) to maintain the notion of God ordaining all things that happen while at the same time maintaining the notion that He is not the author of sin. The relationship between “ordain” and “author” is not clearly defined and I don’t think discussions about the definitions and parameters of “cause-and-effect” are going to bring any conclusive answers. Also, I’m not entirely sold on the importance of preserving the “will of the creature” in this ordaining act of God either. At the very least we find in Scripture that man is either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness; so what does it mean to refrain from impugning the will of the creature given this setting?”

    Again, this is brief and simple and I’d expect a lot deeper interaction given an official endeavor to rewrite the Confession. Part of what makes this task difficult is that as you make changes to the early chapters those changes will affect the later chapters as well. In this chapter I wonder what substantial difference there is between “foreordain” and “predestine” because the Divines seemed to think that they could (or should) be distinguished. Here’s my brief evaluation of the second section in this chapter:

    II. Even though God is omniscient,(4) He has not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future or because particular conditions were going to be met.(5)

    “All I have done here is shortened and modernized. I’m really sort of at a loss as to the function of this section. It seems quite illogical that God could foresee something that was not, beforehand, decreed. Thus, how could any decree be based on something foreseen? I’m not sure why this needs to be explicitly stated. An unnecessary confusion between foreknowledge and foresight can be avoided by rewording and simplifying this section even more: ‘The ordaining of all things that happen is not based on God’s foreseeing what will happen, rather it is grounded in His perfect righteousness and in accordance with His will.’ On the other hand, I do not think this chapter, or the confession as a whole, would suffer any great loss if this section were removed completely.”

    So this is an example of a section that, in my opinion, isn’t even necessary given the context of the chapter and within the Confession as a consistent whole. One last example from Chapter 4 (which seems relevant to the other topic being discussed in this thread):

    I. In the beginning, God(1) was pleased, for the manifestation of His eternal power, wisdom and goodness,(2) to create all things visible and invisible from nothing. This He did in the space of six days and declared it all very good.(3)

    “A little rearranging and shortening. I removed “the Father, Son and Holy Ghost” because the footnote makes it clear all three were present. The Confession has already established the truth of the Trinity so I don’t see a need to bog this first sentence down by mentioning them explicitly. I think this section could benefit from including a bit about how God created from nothing rather than leaving it simply at that He has created from nothing e.g. noting that God spoke creation into being). I’m also not sure about the benefit of keeping “in the space of six days” given the current debates about the subject. Two spring immediately to mind for me: (1) the semantic range of the Hebrew word for “day” and (2) the literary genre/style of the creation account itself. There are other ontic and linguistic issues involved but these two generally seem to stand out above the rest. I might render the last sentence in this section this way: ‘This He did according to His will and declared it all very good.’ Such a rendering preserves the truth of the section without favoring a particular stance on the ontic and linguistic issues.”

    I hope these few other examples aren’t too boring for you, Dr. Hart, and I hope they are enough to show that the task of rewriting the WCF would involve much more than just a couple of English dictionaries. The creeds are a different beast from the Standards because they aren’t an attempt at systematic theology. The Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Definition of Chalcedon are all simple enough as to be relatively uncontroversial in comparison to the various confessions and catechisms. I would view the creeds as more rigid than the confessions as boundaries to creative theology. I can hardly imagine what change one might impose on, say, the Apostle’s Creed that would not strike at the vitals of the faith. Contrast this with the changes I have exampled above where suggesting the complete removal of a section does not significantly alter the content of the chapter or of the confession as a whole.

    Oh, and as a matter of clarification, my initial response to Lane about the boundaries of creativity is a separate issue from revising the WCF itself. I’m not sure exactly how we segued into discussion of actual changes I’d like to see, but here we are. I am still quite of the opinion that the Confession should not be a rigid boundary in creative theological exertion compared to Scripture as an absolute boundary. The Confession should be a guideline, sure, but the thing about creativity is that often it involves coloring outside the lines. Whereas the Confession is concerned I think, in some instances, this wouldn’t necessarily be a heretical travesty (or is it tragedy?). But if you color outside the lines of Scripture then there is no other place you can be but in heresy. In this vein the Confession can help ensure that you don’t color outside the lines of Scripture and, in that sense, it can be a boundary to creative theology. You can approach Scripture creatively and stretch the Confession but you cannot approach Scripture creatively and stretch Scripture. Does that make sense?

  73. Richard said,

    October 6, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Hi Daniel, good to hear from you.

    Sorry, but Exodus 20 does not support the above view

    I would think it would be best to say that in your opinion Exodus 20 does not support my view, but then of course we need to sit down and so some form critical analysis and traditio-historical work of Exod. 20 and Deut. 5.. If you are interested email me and I will post you a photocopy of how Klaus Koch deals with the decalogue.

    Hi Vern,

    I’m not sure what you are basing 2 & 3 on, but even if true, it wouldn’t make Genesis unhistorical.

    I am basing 2 & 3 on form critical analysis. In terms of “it wouldn’t make Genesis unhistorical”, I can read that sentence in three different ways so could you possibly expand, esp defining what you mean by “historical”.

    Even a slight reading of the Bible shows that history is the basis for liturgy, not the other way around.

    Could you sketch this out a bit for me, so I can see from where you are coming.

    God bless!

  74. Vern Crisler said,

    October 6, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Hi Richard,

    Example of history as basis for liturgy: passover.

    Vern

  75. Vern Crisler said,

    October 6, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    #74
    Darryl,

    What precisely is it about oh, say the resurrection of Jesus, that fits in with what modern medicine and science say?

    Vern

  76. October 6, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Hello Richard, nice to hear from you to. But Exodus 20 is crystal clear that the days of creation were six ordinary days followed by one day of rest. I don’t need to read ANE accounts to understand the clear teaching of God’s word.

  77. Richard said,

    October 6, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Vern, it may be that I am tired, daft or both…but I am not getting your point.

  78. Richard said,

    October 6, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    Daniel, I was just about to sign off so I will come back to your point later. I will be in Carlisle tomorrow so it may not be until Wednesday. God bless!

  79. October 6, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Sorry, Richard but I’m done on this one.

  80. Darryl Hart said,

    October 6, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Vern, #79: I think the resurrection actually proves my point. I don’t know of anyone who would base science on it. Science is predicated on order and predictability. God apparently gives us plenty of that in creation and providence. In the sphere of redemption, though, he constantly plays against expectations.

  81. its.reed said,

    October 6, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    Ref. 71:

    Natrimony:

    It’s not the old-earth position per se, but as I said, the notion that this position w\is necessary to make one’s witness more “palatable.”

    The notion of palatability, depending on how one see’s its role in witnessing, is potentially inimical to the reformed understanding of witnessing. This flows from the notion that the gospel is foolishness to the ears of the lost unless/until the Spirit opens their eyes-ears-hearts to understand and believe.

    The notion of palatability usually fits into the scheme of witnessing which understands the persuasiveness of the argument to be in some sense essential to the effectiveness of the witness. This is just not the case according to Scripture.

    If, however, all you mean is that one not give unnesessary offense while giving necessary offense in witnessing, then old-earth vs. young-earth is relatively immaterial.

    No one is going be won or lost because they find a young-earth (or old-earth) belief offensive. All reject the gospel unless/until the Spirit removes the fundamental and necessary offense of the cross.

    I’m not earguing for either position. Rather I’m challenging your point that the position is necessary for palatability (effectiveness?) in one’s witness.

  82. vernerable said,

    October 6, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    #84
    Darryl

    I guess I just don’t understand your theology. Your view is that the creation of the universe is somehow less miraculous than the resurrection of Jesus. Is this theology Reformed? Evangelical? Anabaptist?

    Vern

  83. natrimony said,

    October 6, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Can’t part of the Spirit’s method of removing the offense of the cross include a process of pre-Evangelism? Maybe I am not Reformed in how I see persuasiveness fitting into apologetics. I’m still learning. Even so, it seems that the persuasiveness of the argument may be what God uses to draw someone to the truth (Acts 18.4, 26.28). A scientist who has studied cosmology for 30 years may have one less obstacle when considering Christianity if they aren’t REQUIRED to completely chuck their professional life’s work. Many young-earthers have so closely tied the literal 24 hour 6 day interpretation to Christianity that it can appear to outsiders as having a direct bearing on salvation. Ultimately, yes the Spirit is the one who regenerates. But, doesn’t he work to accomplish this through mental process to some degree? Faith, for one steeped in scientism, might feel like checking one’s brain at the front door. The inclusion of old-earth possibilities could be a stepping stone towards faith for some thoughtful individuals (not to say that proponents of a young earth can’t be thoughtful too). I think that cosmology is one instance where the unbeliever’s presumption of Christianity can be challenged.

  84. Darryl Hart said,

    October 7, 2008 at 8:10 am

    Vern: I don’t think putting a premium on miraculousness makes one’s theology more or less Reformed. I mean, wouldn’t it have been even more miraculous if God had created all things on one day instead of six?

    The point I was trying to draw was one between creation and redemption. You may think creation miraculous, as I do when it comes to God’s power to create ex nihilo. But I suspect, given you are using a computer, that you are selective in your appropriation of science. I mean, when you are having trouble connecting to the Internet I suspect you call your ISP at least soon after saying a prayer. But if your internet service were inherently miraculous, you’d likely end up with an odd view of science, not to mention redemption.

  85. vernerable said,

    October 7, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Darryl, your argument is strangely reminiscent of R. Bultmann’s view, who said in 1941: “We cannot use electric lights and radios and, in the event of illness, avail ourselves of modern medical and clinical means and at the same time believe in the spirit and wonder world of the New Testament. And if we suppose that we can do so ourselves, we must be clear that we can represent this as the attitude of Christian faith only by making the Christian proclamation unitelligible and impossible for our contemporaries.”

    Vern

  86. Richard said,

    October 7, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Daniel,

    Sorry, Richard but I’m done on this one.

    At least you are open about having a closed mind. I won’t waste my time posting my reply. God bless!

  87. Darryl Hart said,

    October 7, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Come on Vern, do you really mean to imply that you pray over your car when it doesn’t start instead of calling a mechanic? I suspect that if you weren’t intent on scoring points here you’d be willing to acknowledge that reconcliing faith and science is complicated and never easy. At the same time, one of the great breakthroughs of the Reformation was to give room for an unsacramental universe, where rain falls, plants grow, and engines start independent of signs of God’s blessing or cursing. If we couldn’t distinguish between the mechanisms of nature and the means of redemption, we would when ill be going to our pastors instead of physicians.

  88. October 7, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Richard

    You are spot on; I have a closed mind on this issue. The same of course is true about JbFA and much else. If I can’t understand Genesis 1, I don’t think I can understand anything.

  89. Vern Crisler said,

    October 7, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    Darryl, it’s not a matter of “scoring points”; it’s a matter of consistency. You invoke a positivist argument when it comes to the miracle of creation, but refuse to see that the same argument would apply to New Testament miracles as well, especially to the Resurrection. IOW, your argument is a two-edged sword.

    Vern

  90. Darryl Hart said,

    October 8, 2008 at 8:52 am

    Vern: I did not make a positivist argument. That is your short hand for everyone who disagrees with you. By your argument, anyone who is not young earth is a positivist. This means that William Jennings Bryan, the guy who has gone to his grave with egg on his face as the man who opposed Darwin, is really not opposed to Darwin because he believed in an old earth. Your argument is needlessly narrow; it cuts off people opposed to Darwinism because they don’t agree with Vern’s unique reading of Genesis 1-3 and his pecuiliar theological extrapolation.

  91. Richard said,

    October 8, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Daniel,

    You lost me with JbFA. What’s that when it’s at home?

    If I can’t understand Genesis 1, I don’t think I can understand anything.

    No-one is saying that we can’t understand Genesis 1, I am merely questioning your understanding. To turn a blind eye to the ANE parallels, to ignore historical-criticial methods is intellectual dishonesty as far as I am concerned, ’tis an approach best typified by the proverbial ostrich.

  92. Vern Crisler said,

    October 8, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Richard, I believe you are way out of line. Both you and Darryl are offering ad hominem arguments — the idea that believing Genesis 1-3 is somehow intellectually sub par — but I haven’t really heard anything in this thread that supports such a negative characterization.

    If it’s intellectual honesty we’re talking about, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of atheists or Darwinists who believe that spiritualizing or symbolizing Genesis 1-3 is a way out for Christian believers. They would simply say that such reinterpretations are intellectually dishonest. They’d say, why not face up to the facts? Genesis teaches a young universe, and our theory of evolution — which we identify with science — teaches an old one. Why can’t you Christians be honest? Genesis is just plain false and therefore your religion is false.

    For the atheists, you old earthers are just useful idiots — to be tossed aside when your job of undermining Christians’ belief in the truth of the Bible has been accomplished.

    Vern
    Vern

  93. natrimony said,

    October 8, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Vern,

    I don’t know you at all. But, I know nastiness when I read it. Maybe old earther’s are useful idiots to entrenched atheists. But, they might just be beacons of light to people who have a vague sense of naturalism mixed with cultural values. I think that there are a lot more of these types than well-thought out atheists.

  94. Vern Crisler said,

    October 9, 2008 at 1:49 am

    natrimony, the nastiness started with the old earthers. I’m simply pointing out that if old earther Christians think they are gaining respect from Darwinists by challenging the intellectual competence of Bible believers, it is only a pyrrhic victory on their part.

    Vern

  95. D G Hart said,

    October 9, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Vern, Do you think William Jennings Bryan was a useful idiot who won respect from Darwinists and atheists? Do you really think this? But Bryan was an old earther. You don’t seem to understand how recent (no pun intended) the young earth view is, or that it comes from Seventh-Day Adventism. There were and are plenty of people who oppose Darwin who are not young earth. Why do you want to excommunicate us?

  96. Richard said,

    October 9, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Vern,

    the idea that believing Genesis 1-3 is somehow intellectually sub par

    I believe Genesis 1-3 I just don’t accept your understanding of it. In terms of my charge of being intellectual dishonest, that stems from Daniel’s comment “I don’t need to read ANE accounts to understand the clear teaching of God’s word.”

    The whole point is that Genesis does not teach a young universe, it does not teach an old universe, it is completely silent upon the issue. I simply wish to let the text speak for itself.

    In regards to my “gaining respect from Darwinists”, pull the other one.

    It’s somewhat ironic that you begin your comment charging me with being way out of line for calling your position “intellectually sub par” which I didn’t, and you end your comment calling me an “useful idiot”.

    Looking at Reformed theology (and WTS’ statement on creation), neither Charles Hodge, nor his son, A. A. Hodge, nor B. B. Warfield regarded the six 24 hour day view of creation as exegetically required by a careful reading of Genesis 1. Dr. J. Gresham Machen stated in connection with the days of Genesis 1: “It is certainly not necessary to think that the six days spoken of in that first chapter of the Bible are intended to be six days of twenty four hours each. We may think of them rather as very long periods of time.” Professor Edward J. Young, while holding that a chronological sequence is taught by Genesis 1, nevertheless made abundantly clear that chronological sequence should not be equated with or confused with chronological duration: “But then there arises the question as to the length of these days. That is a question which is difficult to answer. Indications are not lacking that they may have been longer than the days we now know, but the Scripture itself does not speak as clearly as one might like.”

    Personally I quite like Gordon Wenham’s take:

    “Extrabiblical creation stories from the ancient Near East are usually poetic, but Gen 1 is not typical Hebrew poetry. Indeed, some writers endeavoring to underline that Gen 1 is pure priestly theology insist that it is not poetry at all….On the other hand, Gen 1 is not normal Hebrew prose either; its syntax is distinctively different from narrative prose. Cassuto, Loretz and Kselman have all pointed to poetic bicola or tricola in Gen 1, while admitting that most of the material is prose. It is possible that these poetic fragments go back to an earlier form of the creation account, though, as Cassuto observes, ‘it is simpler to suppose…the special importance of the subject led to an exaltation of style approaching the level of poetry’. Gen 1 is unique in the Old Testament…it is elevated prose, not pure poetry…in its present form it is a careful literary composition introducing the succeding narratives.”

  97. Vern Crisler said,

    October 9, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Summary of thread on creation:

    This started with #36 & 37, where “thegreycoats” argued that Reformed orthodoxy did not require a belief in 6 literal days of creation. In my response, I said that MY belief is dependent upon a literal interpretation of Gen 1-3. I also asked, “But how long can one uphold the creeds if something as plain as Genesis 1-3 is allowed wildly contradictory interpretations?” I also said that “Others may not have such a strong link. Their orthodoxy may not require such an interpretation, but I think it’s because they’re able to compartmentalize Gen 1-3. They’ve placed it under an epoche, so to speak, so they don’t really have to deal with it. But I wonder how long that can last….”

    My statement does not question anyone’s Reformed orthodoxy, nor did I claim that belief in a literal 6 days of creation was a requirement for salvation, much less for orthodoxy. The Internal Council on Biblical Inerrancy did not even make it a requirement for belief in the truthfulness of the Bible. Thus, both the Reformed and Evangelical world do not place Gen 1-3 in the alethic space of concepts but in the hermeneutical space of concepts.

    Then Darryl raised the question of the speed of light and general revelation, implying that there was a contradiction between these and a literal interpretation of Gen 1-3. In my response I said that if the current speed of light applies to the past (i.e., the uniformitarian view), then God would be a liar. This follows inevitably for anyone who believes Gen 1-3 is meant to convey real history, not just myth or symbol or poetry. It was also my opinion that OE Christians ignore the Bible, a corollary of my position that they compartmentalize Gen 1-3. I ended by saying OE Christians did not have God on their side. I meant this in the sense that God is on the side of truth, not falsehood, hence on the side of true interpretation rather than false. It was not meant to convey the idea that God was not on their side with respect to salvation.

    Richard piped in with form-critical speculation, and I then pointed to the irony of Sabbatarian and RPW types arguing for a loose meaning for Gen 1-3. Roy brought up the reasonable point that everything was created with the appearance of age. Indeed, the appearance of age is almost a synonym for the idea of creation. My own view is that the speed of light was not an absolute or a constant in the past, even though it is at present. God simply had everything go FASTER in the past (which in itself is nearly synonymous with the idea of creation).

    Then “natrimony” popped up and started criticizing the tone of “young earth enthusiasts” calling it the “nastiest toned argumentation of any of the views I’ve heard defended.” He allowed, however, that it was mostly polite at Greenbaggins. Of course, one could easily say that some of the nastiest stuff comes from old earth advocates, who work in ad hominen the way sculptors work in clay. “Its.reed” even gently rebuked “Natrimony” for this. In any case, since the discussion here was “mostly” polite, why bring up the nasty tones elsewhere other than as an attempt to smear YE Christians on Greenbaggins through bad associations.

    Darrly did not improve the quality of the discussion by offering up a positivist argument against the young earth view. In response to Jason, he said, “I’d also encourage you and other advocates of a young earth to think of which physicians and engineers, not to mention agricultural scientists and pharmacologists, you would need to find if a young earth was a test for good science.”

    The implication is that those who advocate a young earth view are basically irrational, intellectually sub par, or performatively inconsistent with modern science or modern medicine: “I’m not pretending to know how all the pieces fit, but I suspect that a lot of modern physics and the life sciences, which take an old earth for granted, have a lot to do with the medicine, modern gadgets, and bridges and buildings we take for granted in the course of daily life. If we don’t believe some scientists, how do we know which ones to believe?”

    Darryl erroneously claimed that the young earth position was “recent” and brought up GM Price and Seventh Day Adventists, citing the patronizing book by Numbers. Clearly this was an attempt at guilt by association: “[T]he links between adventist eschatology and adventist teaching on creation are direct and striking.” So what? YE Christians are really Adventists at heart? Or have been hoodwinked by sectarians?

    In response to Darryl’s positivist argument, I asked why it didn’t apply to the resurrection of Jesus. Darryl responded that the resurrection actually proved his point! “Science is predicated on order and predictability. God apparently gives us plenty of that in creation and providence. In the sphere of redemption, though, he constantly plays against expectations.”

    I was somewhat taken aback by this in that it presupposed that the creation of the universe was somehow not miraculous. When I asked about this Darryl come up with an irrelevant point about one day or six days. I certainly agree that God could have created everything in one day, but since he said he did it in six, why should I say it was in one day? It’s not a question of God’s power, but of his truthfulness.

    Darryl conceded the point that creation was miraculous, thus undermining the relevance of his distinction between creation and resurrection, but then he dragged in the old positivist argument again: “But I suspect, given you are using a computer, that you are selective in your appropriation of science. I mean, when you are having trouble connecting to the Internet I suspect you call your ISP at least soon after saying a prayer. But if your internet service were inherently miraculous, you’d likely end up with an odd view of science, not to mention redemption.”

    I pointed out that this argument resembled Bultmann’s positivist argument against the truth of New Testament miracles. Darryl reiterated the argument, “Come on Vern, do you really mean to imply that you pray over your car when it doesn’t start instead of calling a mechanic? I suspect that if you weren’t intent on scoring points here you’d be willing to acknowledge that reconcliing faith and science is complicated and never easy. At the same time, one of the great breakthroughs of the Reformation was to give room for an unsacramental universe, where rain falls, plants grow, and engines start independent of signs of God’s blessing or cursing. If we couldn’t distinguish between the mechanisms of nature and the means of redemption, we would when ill be going to our pastors instead of physicians.”

    Obviously, this involves a confusion of creation and providence, but let it go. Darryl denied he was making a positivist argument, and claimed I thought that anyone who disagreed with me was a positivist. But this is a straw man argument; I affirm no such thing. Darryl also keeps bringing up WJ Bryan for some reason, and claims that my interpretation of Gen 1-3 is “unique” and “peculiar.”

    Richard joined the fray by saying anyone who disagrees with his destructive biblical method is intellectually dishonest. I repudiated this and said that atheists and Darwinists would not regard OE Christians as intellectually honest, would in fact regard them as “useful idiots”, a term attributed to Lenin to describe supporters of Communism in the west. The Communists used these naive individuals but actually despised them.

    Darryl wound up with another ad hominem, trying to link YE Christians to Seventh-Day Adventism, and claiming that YE Christians want to “excommunicate” OE Christians like Darryl. This latter was just another straw man. And cross of gold Democrat WJ Bryan was trotted out again as somehow dispositive on this issue. Richard then laughably claimed that Gen 1-3 does not teach either an old or a young universe, but is “silent upon the issue.” I’m also well aware of the fact that Warfield compromised with the theory of evolution. And it’s sad that EJ Young should have felt so bullied by the evolutionists that he would deny what’s plain as day. Moreover, Wenham’s interpretive gymnastics is embarrassing. Even his “authorities” admit that most of the material is prose, though Wenham’s “poetic fragments” somehow manage to rob the whole thing of historicity.

    In any case, for Old Earth Christians a non-literal interpretation of Genesis may be a way out of the contradiction between evolutionary theory and the Bible, but for me symbolic or poetic interpretations don’t cut it. The choice for me is either to deny the Bible or to deny the theory of evolution (and its temporal presuppositions). I could not be intellectually honest if I entertained any other alternatives.

    Cordially,

    Vern

  98. jared said,

    October 9, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    How did this thread degenerate so? Lane?

  99. kjsulli said,

    October 10, 2008 at 12:32 am

    Dr. Hart, re: 99,

    You don’t seem to understand how recent (no pun intended) the young earth view is, or that it comes from Seventh-Day Adventism.

    I already corrected you in #75. The “young earth” view is NOT recent, and it did NOT originate from Adventism. There are many who have held it; note these words:

    Profane men, I admit, in the matter of predestination abruptly seize upon something to carp, rail, bark, or scoff at. But if their shamelessness deters us, we shall have to keep secret the chief doctrines of the faith, almost non of which they or their like leave untouched by blasphemy. An obstinate person would be no less insolently puffed up on hearing that within the essence of God there are three Persons than if he were told that God foresaw what would happen to man when he created him. And they will not refrain from guffaws when they are informed that but little more than five thousand years have passed since the creation of the universe, for they ask why God’s power was idle and asleep for so long. Nothing, in short, can be brought forth that they do not assail with their mockery. Should we, to silence these blasphemies, forbear to speakof the deity of the Son and Spirit? Must we pass over in silence the creation of the universe? No! God’s truth is so powerful, both in this respect and in every other, that it has nothing to fear from the evilspeaking of wicked men. (Institutes 3:31:4, trans. Battles)

    Or are these the words of a 20th Century Adventist?

    Especially for a professor of church history, you ought to be ashamed and embarrassed of this gross distortion of the facts.

  100. Darryl Hart said,

    October 10, 2008 at 6:07 am

    Wow! People are touchy. First, Vern thinks I engage in ad hominem attacks simply by asking if he prays over his computer? But Vern does not think his is an attack to brand my argument positivist. Then Richard calls down shame on my head because I am a church historian who doesn’t know Calvin on the antiquity of the earth. From my tally, the old earthers here are much less prone to take personal offense or to heap despite upon their opponents.

    I have not tried to offend anyone. I am simply trying to get young earthers to recognize that harmonizing science and the Bible is not as easy as they think. In theory they might prefer Genesis over physicists or biologists, but negotiating the day-to-day world of an industrial society rarely lets us be so indifferent to science even if we don’t know how the machines and drugs around or in us operate. Conversely, old earthers have their own problems in trying to reconcile Genesis and science. I don’t think any of us have suggested otherwise. I would like the young earthers to admit that theirs is not such an open and shut case as to heap scorn upon those who disagree.

    Vern: I am still surprised that you don’t see any relevance of Bryan, the man who is known to be the greatest opponent of Darwin in American history. This man was old earth. I think a lot of young earth folks would be surprised by that. Obviously, you are not. But if the man lampooned still (in novels and films) for being anti-Darwin was an old earth man, maybe you could see some room for regarding old earthers as not simply being doormats for evolution but having other reasons (than yours) for taking issue with Darwin’s reductionism.

    kjsulli: Let me recover enough honor to suggest that Calvin’s statements were based on the best science of his day (as you attest in #75). So something has changed for you. The best (I know in this setting a loaded term but please, please do not rebuke me or call my session) science today does not indicate a young earth. The greater question then as Warfield argued is whether Calvin’s exegesis of Gen. was intended to teach biology or astro physics. Warfield didn’t think so and so he called Calvin an evolutionist because of Calvin’s understanding of the miraculous and providential power of God (Vern, it really is an important distinction for understanding the difference between creation and redemption). Now of course maybe Warfield should be ashamed. In that case, I don’t mind standing in the shame line.

  101. Kyle said,

    October 10, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Dr. Hart, re: 104,

    I’m not sure how you got the idea that my name is Richard, but anyone reading the quote I offered up from Calvin can see quite clearly that his opinion of the earth’s age is founded, not upon “the best science of his day,” but upon “God’s truth” which “wicked men” “assail with mockery.” You are quite right to point out that in #75 among the “young earthers” mentioned are two scientists, Kepler & Newton. However, I don’t recall that Ussher or Lightfoot had specifically scientific backgrounds, much less Bede. Furthermore, the change in “the best science of the day” is because 18th Century geology adopted uniformitarianism, the principle that “the present is the key to the past,” specifically, the idea that the rates by which geologic phenomena occurr have been uniform & unchanging, so that whatever the current observable rates are, this they have always been. This made it necessary to postulate an extremely old earth. But uniformitarianism is itself problematic (and actually, Vern has an essay on his website about this), just as is the naturalism which undergirds “the best science” of our day.

    But let’s get back to what I said before, Dr. Hart: You’ve misrepresented the history & origins of the “young earth” view. I really don’t care to debate with you whether it is the correct view, and I’m not saying you should be ashamed to hold an “old earth” view – that’s another matter from your misrepresentation, and you do Warfield a disservice to bring him to the defense of your misrepresentation. You need to acknowledge your mistake, rather than repeat it over again in a vain attempt to paint this view as somehow lacking precedent outside of Seventh-Day Adventism.

  102. natrimony said,

    October 10, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Vern,

    O.K. you’ve missed the point of my comments altogether. I’m not trying to smear anyone. its.reed didn’t get it either. I’m just being honest with my perception. I guess you’ve been exposed to nasty evangelical old-earthers. Well, I haven’t. I’ve personally experienced old-earth Christians using their understanding to challenge secularist presuppositions concerning the backwardness of Christians. I’ve seen and read on several occasions where young earth positions call old-earth believer’s faith into question. To me that is just sad. I’m glad that you don’t do that. At any rate, I’m going to have to jump out of this one because like I said before you, I don’t know you. But, I’m starting to feel animosity toward you because of a silly blog conversation.

  103. Richard said,

    October 10, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Richard then laughably claimed that Gen 1-3 does not teach either an old or a young universe, but is “silent upon the issue.”

    Perhaps you could demonstrate that Gen 1-3 teaches a young universe. Bear in mind that I agree that yom means a day in normal usage.

  104. its.reed said,

    October 10, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    106:

    Natrimony (your name please), I did too get your point. I just chose to object to your name calling of young earthers. Your point did not make any hay with me. But your unkind mischaracterization of young earthers did.

  105. D G Hart said,

    October 10, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Kyle: I’m not sure how you could type your last comment with your chest so far extended on behalf of the young earthers. But you are correct to say that I did not read the quote from Calvin carefully in #103. You are incorrect to think that Calvin was making a point about creation. The whole context is about predestination.

    This is why Warfield may actually be relevant to you. I don’t know how I have dishonored Warfield since he claimed to be an evolutionist of the purest water. Now I know friends like Gary Johnson will interpret that line differently from me or explain it away. So I concede that Warfield and evolution is contested. But he did write several pieces on Calvin’s view of creation in which he tried to reconcile Reformed theology with modern science. You can look it up.

    You may also have a point about young earthism going back beyond 1930. What I meant to say was that after the geological discoveries of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Reformed theologians almost to the man embraced an old earth view. That includes Hodge who said Darwinism is atheism, who also believed in an old earth. So after those discoveries, the rise of young earth creationism comes with Price and from Seventh Day Adventist sources.

    The larger point is that Reformed theologians have always tried to reconcile the Bible and science. They may not have been successful, and we may wish they had done it differently. But the insistence now from some Reformed folk that science be damned — I’m clinging to my Bible — is out of character with the Reformed tradition. I really don’t know why those of who try honor what God reveals in nature and what he has revealed in Scripture should be discreditted as theological neanderthals.

  106. its.reed said,

    October 10, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Darryl:

    I for one am now lost as to why you brought up the Adventist observation. I’m not used to you making meaningless comments. Why did you bring it up? And why isn’t Kyle’s challenge to your bringing it up accurately.

    More, if Calvin’s “young earth” position is not evidence of “antiquity” for this position because of the infancy of the science with which he worked, how in the world is an old-earth position based on evolution (whose birth came in the 19th century) any different?

    Aside, what value does the “my position’s older than your’s” bring to the subject at hand?

  107. its.reed said,

    October 10, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Darryl:

    Well, it seems you were answering some of my questions while I was typing them. I’ll suffice with those answers.

    reed

  108. natrimony said,

    October 10, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    My name is Nathaniel Ruland. I found out about this blog from my pastor Jeff Hutchinson. Perhaps my view of young-earthers is unkind, I probably need to repent of that. But, I don’t feel like I’ve misrepresented or mischaracterized my experiences with young-earth creationists. I now see that old-earth creationists are perceived as having bad track record of lashing out at the young-earthers. I’ve only been seriously interested in the creation day debate for the past 6 months. I will stop contributing to this thread if I’ve caused a problem.

  109. its.reed said,

    October 10, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Nathaniel:

    You’ve got a great pastor.

    Thanks for understanding my point. Yes, there is plenty of acrimony on both sides of such conversations. My only challenge to you was that you were falling (ever so slightly, mind you) into the same failing with comments painting things a little too broadly.

    Please, consider mine the gentlest of admonishments. And further, do not stop commenting and interacting. Your input is valuable and appreciated.

    reed depace

  110. kjsulli said,

    October 10, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Dr. Hart, re: 109,

    I’m not sure how you could type your last comment with your chest so far extended on behalf of the young earthers.

    I really don’t know what you mean by this.

    But you are correct to say that I did not read the quote from Calvin carefully in #103. You are incorrect to think that Calvin was making a point about creation. The whole context is about predestination.

    I didn’t say Calvin’s point was about creation. In fact, I quoted it in context to show what the primary topic of discussion was. But Calvin’s point, to put aside the useless contention that predestination is a dangerous doctrine, IS about the truth of God being mocked by wicked men. His argument is structured thusly:

    1) Wicked men mock the doctrine of predestination.
    2) Wicked men also mock the a) doctrine of the Trinity and of God’s foreknowledge; and b) [the doctrine of creation by which we understand] the relative youth of the universe.
    3) From this we see there is nothing which they do not mock.
    4) We should not think to silence their blasphemies by a) passing over the doctrine of the Trinity, or b) passing over the doctrine of creation, for:
    5) God’s truth is powerful; it has nothing to fear from their mockery.

    So I feel quite confident that this is sufficient evidence that Calvin was committed to a “young earth” on the basis of God’s word, rather than on the basis of “the best science of his day.”

    This is why Warfield may actually be relevant to you. I don’t know how I have dishonored Warfield since he claimed to be an evolutionist of the purest water.

    Warfield is not relevant to the matter of your misrepresentation of the “young earth” view’s historical pedigree. His interpretation of Calvin simply doesn’t matter for your defense, for even if Warfield was correct, Calvin was not the only “young earther.”

    You may also have a point about young earthism going back beyond 1930. What I meant to say was that after the geological discoveries of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Reformed theologians almost to the man embraced an old earth view. That includes Hodge who said Darwinism is atheism, who also believed in an old earth. So after those discoveries, the rise of young earth creationism comes with Price and from Seventh Day Adventist sources.

    So the Hodges and Warfield took up the “old earth” view (too, Bavinck). Fine. As I said above in #75, the scientific uniformitarianism of the 18th Century led to a decline in the “young earth” view. Although it was never simply relegated to the fringes, it was, in part, revived by the adaptation of elements of Price’s work in Morris & Whitcomb’s The Genesis Flood. (Morris was a Baptist and Whitcomb was a member of a branch of the Brethren.)

    You’re still mischaracterizing the modern “rise” of young earth creationism as somehow fundamentally tied to Seventh-Day Adventism. That may score you some scare points, but it’s either misinformed or dishonest. Furthermore, Reformed theologians did not “almost to a man” embrace the “old earth” view. What of the Southerners, Thornwell, Dabney, Girardeau? Or more recently, Berkhof! The testimony of church history, including the history of the Reformed churches, is quite solidly against the old earth view, and even those who were of Augustine’s opinion never adopted the idea that the earth is millions of years old. It is the old earth view that is recent, not the young earth view, the exegetical and scientific merits and demerits of either notwithstanding. So, in short, you were wrong & continue to be wrong in characterizing the young earth view in the manner in which you do.

    The larger point is that Reformed theologians have always tried to reconcile the Bible and science. They may not have been successful, and we may wish they had done it differently. But the insistence now from some Reformed folk that science be damned — I’m clinging to my Bible — is out of character with the Reformed tradition. I really don’t know why those of who try honor what God reveals in nature and what he has revealed in Scripture should be discreditted as theological neanderthals.

    Presuming you understand the problems with the naturalism which undergirds evolutionary theory, Dr. Hart, do you understand that problems with the uniformitarianism which undergirds much of modern geology? Ought we side, against the clear testimony of Scripture, with the ever-shifting sands of modern scientific theory? Granted you do not accept the premise that Genesis creation account is as straightforward as young earthers think; yet against all modern, mainstream scientific thought, do you reject evolution because of God’s word in Scripture?

    I admit of the need to reconcile scientific date with Scripture, and there are certainly more or less successful attempts to do so. But we must always give Scripture the primary place where it speaks to scientific issues.

  111. Darryl Hart said,

    October 10, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    kjsulli, I am not sure how you can say the the witness of the Reformed churches is against an old earth. The Reformed confessions only imply assertions that both old and young earth may claim. But no condemnation of an old earth view has been produced in the Reformed creeds I’ve read. What is more, the OPC and the PCA have recently adopted reports that admit a variety of interpretations of Genesis as legitimate. Some of those interpretations allow for an old earth. (I will concede Berkhof, and I’ll need to follow up with the Southerners, but Berkhof is hardly as condemning of old earth views as you appear to be.)

    At the same time, what I am trying to fathom is the disbelief in uniformitarianism and what that means for God’s revelation in creation. If nature is not uniform, do you seriously wonder if the son will rise tomorrow, that oxygen will not be necessary for our lungs, or that gravity will lighten up? Most of us live our lives — unless we are deranged — on the basis of uniformitarianism. So when you reject it in geology or some other science it sure does seem arbitrary.

  112. Kyle said,

    October 10, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    Dr. Hart, re: 115,

    I have to say I’m really growing weary of interacting with you, and it’s a shame, because I do respect you as a churchman and consider you a brother. But it’s getting a bit ridiculous constantly to correct your misapprehensions of my argument while you continue to evade the very basic, direct, and well-established charge I’ve put to you of your misrepresentation of the historical pedigree of the “young earth” view. Blogs are hardly the best means of communication, to say the least, but it is inexplicable to me why you should evidently do so poorly in the medium.

    I am not sure how you can say the the witness of the Reformed churches is against an old earth. The Reformed confessions only imply assertions that both old and young earth may claim. But no condemnation of an old earth view has been produced in the Reformed creeds I’ve read.

    I said nothing about any Reformed creeds or confessions explicitly condemning the old earth view. Here is what I wrote:

    The testimony of church history, including the history of the Reformed churches, is quite solidly against the old earth view

    And this is well established by church history. Tell me, if you will, which theologians, nevermind Reformed theologians, prior to the 19th Century held to the old earth view adopted by Warfield, Hodge, etc.? As for the idea that the historic Reformed confessions somehow admit of the possibility of a millions-of-years-old earth, this is simply grasping at straws (and it always has been grasping at straws, in spite of denominational reports). The old earth view did not come into existence until after the 18th C. triumph of uniformitarianism in geology. As a view it was, is, and always has been a self-conscious adaptation to prevailing scientific theory, and not an exegetically-founded view (although exegetically defended).

    At the same time, what I am trying to fathom is the disbelief in uniformitarianism and what that means for God’s revelation in creation. If nature is not uniform, do you seriously wonder if the son will rise tomorrow, that oxygen will not be necessary for our lungs, or that gravity will lighten up? Most of us live our lives — unless we are deranged — on the basis of uniformitarianism. So when you reject it in geology or some other science it sure does seem arbitrary.

    Your definition of “uniformitarianism” is idiosyncratic. Here’s a standard definition:

    [blockquote]uniformitarianism, in geology, doctrine holding that changes in the earth’s surface that occurred in past geologic time are referable to the same causes as changes now being produced upon the earth’s surface. This doctrine, the basic concept of which was first advanced by the Scottish geologist James Hutton in his Theory of the Earth (1785, 1795), was further expounded by another Scotsman, John Playfair, in his Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory (1802). It made little progress, however, against the teachings of the school of Abraham Gottlob Werner, a German geologist, and as a theory of dynamic geology it was overshadowed by the doctrine of catastrophism, of which the major supporter was the French naturalist G. L. Cuvier. This was in large measure because uniformitarianism seemed in several ways to be contrary to religious beliefs. It required an immensely long period of time for the consummation of geological processes (thus disturbing the accepted biblical chronology) and set aside all remarkable catastrophies (thus, it would seem, denying the Flood). Uniformitarianism had its day in the 19th cent., when it was widely accepted as a result of the efforts of the English geologist Sir Charles Lyell. The more recent tendency has been to effect somewhat of a synthesis of the two theories, based mainly upon Lyell’s conception of the slow operation, over extremely long periods of time, of forces at work in historic time, but admitting the existence in earth history of periods when such activity was accelerated and intensified.
    (from the Columbia Encyclopedia, http://www.reference.com/search?q=Uniformitarianism)%5B/blockquote%5D

    Frankly, Dr. Hart, if uniformitarianism (so defined) is correct, then creation ex nihilo is philosophically impossible.

  113. Kyle said,

    October 10, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Sorry about the bad blockquote, as you see I used square brackets instead of angled brackets…

  114. Vern Crisler said,

    October 11, 2008 at 12:17 am

    Re #104

    Darryl said: “Vern thinks I engage in ad hominem attacks simply by asking if he prays over his computer? But Vern does not think his is an attack to brand my argument positivist.”

    Sigh….the atheist could ask you the same thing with respect to your belief in the Resurrection. “So you believe in the Resurrection? Let me ask you, do you pray over your computer?”

    Vern

  115. Darryl Hart said,

    October 11, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Kyle, if the Reformed creeds are not part of the history of the witness of the Reformed churches, I don’t know what they are.

    Also, I don’t see how we understand miracles except in relation to uniformitarianism. Miracles by definition violate the order and expectations of the created order. For that reason I see nothing incompatible between saying God created a uniform natural world ex nihilo, over which he rules providentially through secondary means, and into which he acts (i.e. miracles) through his creative power to accomplish the redemption of his people.

    BTW, I’m not sure what measurements of your exasperation with me have to do with this. Didn’t God give us wives and friends for venting?

  116. Darryl Hart said,

    October 11, 2008 at 8:39 am

    And Vern, what would your answer to the atheist be? Maybe I could preview of your answer to me.

  117. Richard said,

    October 11, 2008 at 9:06 am

    Dr. / Prof. / Revd. Hart,

    Apologies, I am not sure of your title; you mentioned earlier that one of the great breakthroughs of the Reformation was to give room for an unsacramental universe. I have to confess that I quite like the idea of a sacramental universe, especially as found in the work of Alexander Schmemann.

  118. Darryl Hart said,

    October 11, 2008 at 9:53 am

    Richard, I work with a lot of Roman Catholics and I understand the appeal. I also believe that a sacramental view of the universe seems to do a lot of the heavy lifting that we who believe in the sufficiency of Scripture seem to lack when it comes to cultural analysis. So while I read RC’s and Orthodox for profit (maybe not edification), I still think a non-sacramental view of the universe was pretty important for the Reformation and the paradoxical view that none of our works can merit salvation and that our works through vocation may be done to the glory of God.

  119. Richard said,

    October 11, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Darryl, you may well be right that a non-sacramental view of the universe was pretty important for the Reformation, but I do think a sacramental view of the universe is better. It feeds well into the biblical idea that our hope is a renewed earth. Autumn has always been my favourite season. :-)

    You care for the land and water it;
    you enrich it abundantly.
    The streams of God are filled with water
    to provide the people with grain,
    for so you have ordained it.
    You drench its furrows
    and level its ridges;
    you soften it with showers
    and bless its crops.
    You crown the year with your bounty,
    and your carts overflow with abundance.
    The grasslands of the desert overflow;
    the hills are clothed with gladness.
    The meadows are covered with flocks
    and the valleys are mantled with grain;
    they shout for joy and sing.

  120. Andrew Duggan said,

    October 11, 2008 at 11:21 am


    Praise waits for you, O God, in Zion:
    And unto you shall the vow be performed.
    O You that hears prayer,
    To you shall all flesh come.
    Iniquities prevail against me:
    As for our transgressions,
    You shall purge them away.
    Blessed is the man whom you choose,
    And cause to approach unto you,
    That he may dwell in your courts:
    We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    Even of your holy temple.
    By terrible things in righteousness will you answer us,
    O God of our salvation;
    Who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth,
    And of them that are afar off upon the sea:
    Which by his strength sets fast the mountains;
    Being girded with power:
    Which stills the noise of the seas,
    The noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people.

    Which is the first part of Psalm 65, of which the second half was used in comment 123. It is important to recall the blessing of the substitutionary atonement and the taking away of sin, and that praise belongs to God. as the first part of Psalm 65 shows. The providential care of universe and the blessing we receive thereby as seen in Psalm 65 is hardly supportive of the idea of a sacramental view of the universe.

  121. Vern Crisler said,

    October 11, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Darryl, I’d say to the atheist that he needs to repent and believe the gospel. In doing so I would not throw Genesis 1-3 under the bus.

    Vern

  122. Richard said,

    October 11, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    The providential care of universe and the blessing we receive thereby as seen in Psalm 65 is hardly supportive of the idea of a sacramental view of the universe.

    Would you mind explaining this?

  123. Darryl Hart said,

    October 12, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    Vern: any chance you’re a fan of the Dodgers?

  124. Vern Crisler said,

    October 13, 2008 at 12:08 am

    Darryl, I don’t understand the cultural reference. But if you mean something negative by it, as in say being on the losing side too much, should it really be asked by a strict confessionalist type? ;-)

  125. Darryl Hart said,

    October 13, 2008 at 5:02 am

    Vern: I thought you dodged the question, the way the certain residents of Brooklyn dodged trolleys and gained a reputation that would name a baseball team — The Dodgers.

  126. Vern Crisler said,

    October 13, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    #129
    Hmm, while I don’t know exactly what question I dodged, thanks for clearing up the cultural reference. Sorry for missing something so obvious.

    Vern
    ;-)

  127. Kyle said,

    October 14, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Dr. Hart, re: 119,

    Kyle, if the Reformed creeds are not part of the history of the witness of the Reformed churches, I don’t know what they are.

    I did not say that the Reformed creeds are not “part of the history of the witness of the Reformed churches.” This is simply your misconstrual. Why not answer my questions?

    Also, I don’t see how we understand miracles except in relation to uniformitarianism. Miracles by definition violate the order and expectations of the created order.

    Again, you need to read the standard definition of uniformitarianism I provided. God’s “uniform” government of the world by providence IS NOT uniformitarianism.

    BTW, I’m not sure what measurements of your exasperation with me have to do with this. Didn’t God give us wives and friends for venting?

    I have a perhaps misplaced hope that by considering what I say, you might think more carefully about how you present yourself in this environment.

  128. Darryl Hart said,

    October 15, 2008 at 6:06 am

    Kyle: do you want answers to your questions or do you want me to say simply that you are right and I am wrong?

    You and I disagree about the implications of uniformitarianism both for understanding nature and for reading Scripture. I don’t know how I could get you to change your mind. Nothing that you have written and caused me to think about changing mine.

    Regarding the witness of the Reformed churches, somewhere in this string you asserted the testimony of the churches was against old earth. I countered with silence of the Reformed creeds. You now say you never said the creeds were NOT part of the Reformed churches’ witness. Fine. You agree that the creeds are part of the Reformed churches’ witness. Which then raises the question about your assertion of the churches’ condemnation of old earth. If they are silent in their creeds, their official witness, where is this testimony from the churches corporately against an old earth?

    Sorry to exasperate you, Kyle. If it’s any consolation, you do so for me as well. Thankfully, I have the Phillies to raise my anxiety even higher.

  129. Kyle said,

    October 15, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Dr. Hart, re: 132,

    Kyle: do you want answers to your questions or do you want me to say simply that you are right and I am wrong?

    I want you to admit that you were wrong in presenting the historical pedigree of the young earth view as you have (which was contrasted by implication with the historical pedigree of the old earth view). So far you’ve only admitted that I “may have a point” in that regard. You should also admit that you have misunderstood “uniformitarianism.” Although I presented you with the standard definition, you have continued to operate with the assumption of your idiosyncratic definition of the term.

    Regarding the witness of the Reformed churches, somewhere in this string you asserted the testimony of the churches was against old earth. I countered with silence of the Reformed creeds. You now say you never said the creeds were NOT part of the Reformed churches’ witness. Fine. You agree that the creeds are part of the Reformed churches’ witness. Which then raises the question about your assertion of the churches’ condemnation of old earth. If they are silent in their creeds, their official witness, where is this testimony from the churches corporately against an old earth?

    Do you think that, in the absence of the Nicene Creed, the testimony of the church’s first three centuries was NOT solidly against Arianism? The lack of a specific condemnation of the old earth view is because the view had not even come into existence in the Christian church until the 19th Century. Prior to that, the only two views of creation with any currency were Augustine’s and the basic young earth view; and even those who followed Augustine in the matter did not believe in an old earth. Thus, the testimony of church history is solidly against the old earth view as this view did not arrive on the scene until the 19th C. and contradicted all views previously held.

    So, to come full circle, the initial contention of yours that I addressed – the idea that the young earth view is novel & derives from Seventh-Day Adventism – is historically incorrect, and the implication that the old earth view is older & more legitimately Reformed is exactly wrong.

  130. ReformedSinner said,

    October 15, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    #133 Kyle,

    I don’t want to get into a debate between you and Dr. Hart. But I just want to point out that 1st century Jews and early Christians do hold something different than young-earth view. It might not be “old-earth view” but they sure don’t believe 24-hour days. So while it might not be accurate to say Church history supports old earth, but it also isn’t exactly accurate to say Church history supports young earth. In the book “Creation and Time” by Dr. Hugh Ross he documented some early Church Father’s view on creationism (especially ch. 2, pages 16-24.)

    Also, from my own familiarity of the church fathers I know that Origen (the non literalist), Justin Martyr (a thousand years per day), Irenaeus (also thousand year day guy), Cyprian (same, thousand years), Clement (infinite and dayless), so it’s not just Augustine.

    There are more but I think these will suffice. I think the best we can say about the Church Fathers is that they are generally not literal 24-hour day people, and most of them realize this is more mystery than accuracy and are satisfy with that. I would rather argue that the rise of 24-hour day is a reaction against Evolution. Not saying it doesn’t exist before, but Church History shows this topic was generally not something of major interest until the rise of Darwinism. So it’s hard to argue backwards as theologians of the past generally are not bother by the mystery of Genesis 1.

    Reformed Sinner

  131. Kyle said,

    October 15, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    ReformedSinner, re: 134,

    I’m aware of what you advise. I have included these fathers under the “Augustinian view” (admittedly this is perhaps somewhat confusing, but he seems to be the best known proponent of the ancient “non-literal” reading). But as you say, and I have already pointed out, none of these men held to an “old earth.”

    Now, as to whether church history supports the young earth view – this simply cannot be disputed. It may be that many fathers did not believe the 6 days of Genesis 1 were actual 24-hour periods, but none held anything other than that the earth was relatively young. The only other view with any currency in church history was that the 6 days were 24-hour periods & the earth was young, and this was the view upheld by the majority of the Reformers in contrast to the Augustinian view.

  132. Vern Crisler said,

    October 15, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Kyle, RS, Darryl,

    Query: With reference to the church fathers and St. Augustine. Did these teachers know Hebrew? Did they base their reading of Genesis 1-3 on a normal, everyday reading of it, or did they bring philosophical assumptions to the text? Just curious.

    Vern

  133. ReformedSinner said,

    October 15, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Each do careful exegesis of their day. Now, as in any exegesis it’s hard to separate preconceptions as there are no “brute exegesis”, however, they are just as trying to be faithful to the Word as we are today with our cherish grammatical-historical and redemptive-historical exegesis.

    As for knowing Hebrew, well, I’m sure Origen knows the Hebrew version of the OT. But if you are asking whether they consider studying OT in Hebrew to be the supreme way to go, then the answer is no, and in this case I don’t think it affects the exegesis much.

  134. Kyle said,

    October 15, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Vern,

    Most of these men did not know Hebrew. Among the most prominent churchmen up until Augustine, Jerome & Theodore of Mopsuestia knew Hebrew, but none of the men whom ReformedSinner mentioned were fluent in it.

    Whether their teaching on the days of creation is heavily influenced by their own philosophical assumptions is, I suspect, largely judged by one’s own philosophical assumptions. From what I am able to track down, however, we know of more early church fathers who promulgated the ordinary day view than we know who believed the days were allegorical.

    You may find this paper helpful: http://www.robibrad.demon.co.uk/Contents.htm

  135. ReformedSinner said,

    October 16, 2008 at 11:14 am

    “From what I am able to track down, however, we know of more early church fathers who promulgated the ordinary day view than we know who believed the days were allegorical.”

    I sincerely doubt this statement, but I promised to check out your link and read up on it. But I really doubt at the end of the day majority early Church Fathers support “ordinary day view”, but just to want to make it clear this does not settle your debate with Dr. Hart either, which is my original thesis. They simply are not interested in young or old earth theories, and are mostly happy with Creation being a wonderful majesty mystery of God.

  136. Darryl Hart said,

    October 16, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Kyle: I actually tried to explain what I meant. I’m not sure which number. But Its.Reed found that my explanation was clear.

    But you continue to assert that church history teaches the Reformed churches were solidly young earth. Well, what does that make of the OPC and the PCA? Are they not historical? Are they not Reformed (no jokes please)? So when science changed, the Reformed adapted or tried to adapt the new science. So it is possible to hold interpretations of Genesis now in both the PCA and the OPC that allow for an old earth.

    Yes, yes, yes, and again I say yes, no Reformed theologian before say John Witherspoon thought the earth was any older than 5-6,000 years old. But when the science changed, theologians did as well. (Funny how no one seems to comment on the significance of Bryan being an old earther even though he’s the lone figure on the Anti-Darwin Mt. Rushmore.) So now those who hold to a young earth view have generally given up trying to reconcile theology and science. And the science to which they cling is generally scientific creationism which puts a whole lot of weight on the flood to up end some notion of uniformity in nature and its record. Rare would be the theologian before Morris and Whitcomb who would actually go to Gen. 1-3 to teach science.

  137. Vern Crisler said,

    October 16, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Darryl, I have to say I’m pretty shocked at your views on this subject. You, a Reformed strict confessionalist, sabbatarian, RPW guy, sounding like a liberal. Is this what things have come to in Reformed churches?

    Vern

  138. Kyle said,

    October 16, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    ReformedSinner, re: 139,

    But I really doubt at the end of the day majority early Church Fathers support “ordinary day view”,

    And that isn’t what I claimed.

    Dr. Hart, re: 140,

    Kyle: I actually tried to explain what I meant. I’m not sure which number. But Its.Reed found that my explanation was clear.

    I’m not sure why you think I’ve found your explanations unclear. Frequently off-point, irrelevant, red herrings, yes; but not unclear.

    But you continue to assert that church history teaches the Reformed churches were solidly young earth. Well, what does that make of the OPC and the PCA? Are they not historical? Are they not Reformed (no jokes please)? So when science changed, the Reformed adapted or tried to adapt the new science. So it is possible to hold interpretations of Genesis now in both the PCA and the OPC that allow for an old earth.

    Is Old Princeton the definition of Reformedom? Go back & read # 119, please.

    Yes, yes, yes, and again I say yes, no Reformed theologian before say John Witherspoon thought the earth was any older than 5-6,000 years old.

    Do you agree then that you have misrepresented the historical pedigree of the young earth view?

  139. Kyle said,

    October 16, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Dr. Hart,

    In # 142 I referred you back to # 119. I meant to refer you back to # 114. You’ll please pardon the error.

  140. Darryl Hart said,

    October 17, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Kyle: exactly. No one is Reformed outside of Old Princeton. That’s exactly why I appealed to the recent reports of the PCA and the OPC on the days of creation.

    Vern: so do you think Warfield was a liberal? And because Bryan believed in an old earth, do you think he was a liberal? H. L. Mencken surely would find that funny.

  141. Kyle said,

    October 17, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Dr. Hart, re: 144,

    The reason I mention Old Princeton is because you’ve kept bringing them up. You said above, “So when science changed, the Reformed adapted or tried to adapt the new science.” Well, who was it that did so by adopting old earth views? The Old Princeton theologians (the Hodges, Warfield, Young, etc.). The PCA & OPC (the OPC in particular) are their general theological heirs, if you’ll admit that much. But let’s stick with the PCA & the OPC. Are they the definition of Reformedom? You keep speaking as if the move to old earth views was monolithic in the Reformed world. It wasn’t.

    And even though you still won’t admit it, you’ve misrepresented the historical pedigree of the young earth view.

  142. Darryl Hart said,

    October 18, 2008 at 9:45 am

    Kyle: If the OPC and the PCA do not make up a large chunk of the conservative Presbyterian world, I’m not sure what does. There are other Presbyterian and Reformed bodies. I don’t think you want to appeal to the PCUSA. I also doubt that the RPCNA or the ARP would think the OP’s or PCA’s toleration of old earth hermeneutics beyond the pale. So that might leave the CREC. Is that where you’re coming from?

    And just to be clear about whether I’ve misrepresented the pedigree of the young earth view, are you opposed to Whitcomb, Morris, and Price, that is, the leading lights of creation science?

  143. Kyle said,

    October 18, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Dr. Hart, re: 146,

    As to where I’m coming from, I’m an OPC member by transfer from a PCA. I am not, and probably never will be, a CREC member or sympathizer.

    And let’s do be clear about your misrepresentation of the young earth view’s pedigree, Dr. Hart. It is true, as I said in # 75, that Morris & Whitcomb were influential in the general renewal of the young earth view in evangelicalism. It is NOT true, as you said in # 99, that the young earth view is “recent” and “comes from Seventh-Day Adventism.” THAT is the heart of your misrepresentation, and you still have not admitted that you were in error to so present the history of the young earth view.

  144. Darryl Hart said,

    October 18, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Kyle: I understand what the HEART of your objection is. It is not necessarily the HEART of my assertion that a young earth is of recent vintage or associated with Seventh-Day Adventism. I did actually qualify old young earth (Calvin and those divines before 19thc. geology) and the recent young earth views that go under the name scientific creationism. But you are an unforgiving interlocuter and seem to want to take blog comments as contractual commitments.

    So I’ll be careful in what I say around you if we ever serve at GA together. I am glad to know though that you are in a church that is one of the “theological heirs” of the old earthers at PTS.

  145. Vern Crisler said,

    October 18, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Re: #144
    Darryl had said:
    “So now those who hold to a young earth view have generally given up trying to reconcile theology and science. And the science to which they cling is generally scientific creationism which puts a whole lot of weight on the flood to up end some notion of uniformity in nature and its record. Rare would be the theologian before Morris and Whitcomb who would actually go to Gen. 1-3 to teach science.”

    What is liberal here is the equation of evolutionism with science. Now we know apparently that Darryl doesn’t believe in the Flood. What else is going to be jettisoned? The Exodus and Conquest? How about the Resurrection of Jesus?

    It comes down to this for me: if Darryl is right, then Christianity is based on a lie.

    Vern

  146. Kyle said,

    October 18, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Dr. Hart, re: 148,

    I did actually qualify old young earth (Calvin and those divines before 19thc. geology) and the recent young earth views that go under the name scientific creationism.

    The only people in this long series of comments who have brought up creation science have been the ones opposed to the young earth view. None of the young earthers in this thread have appealed Price, Morris, or Whitcomb that I’ve seen. They’ve appealed to the biblical text, they’ve appealed to the confessional text, they’ve appealed to church history, and they’ve pointed to the weaknesses of scientific theories, e.g., uniformitarianism.

    You’re more than welcome to point out Price, Morris, & Whitcomb’s influence in promoting the young earth view in general evangelicalism. But it is again your misrepresentation that their views are the origins of the young earth view today, as though the young earth view had simply been gathering dust on Princeton bookshelves. Do you really wish to contend that in faithful Reformed churches, the folks in the pews, the deacons, the elders, and even the majority of pastors were proponents of the old earth view? Are you going to ignore completely that there were & are prominent Reformed theologians since the advent of uniformitarianism who have held to the young earth view without being Seventh-Day Adventists & (apparently wild-eyed) creation scientists?

    But you are an unforgiving interlocuter and seem to want to take blog comments as contractual commitments.

    I do expect people to say what the mean & mean what they say, and to admit when they have made an error or misspoken.

  147. D G Hart said,

    October 18, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Kyle: I didn’t realize you were talking about all the church members, deacons, elders, and majority of pastors in faithful Reforme churches. Why didn’t you say so?

  148. D G Hart said,

    October 18, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Vern: let me if I get this right. It’s okay for you to abandon the second commandment, which is the clear basis for the Regulative Principle of Worship in the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards, but you still stand squarely as the only secure proponent of orthodoxy. But if I point out that Reformed churches have allowed for an old earth view, I am a liberal who is likely on the way to denying the Resurrection.

    Our Lord, I seem to recall, said something about swinging bats at others before taking out the lumber from our own eye. (Sorry, for the sport analogy but I’m a little pre-occupied with baseball right now — not on the Lord’s Day, of course.)

  149. Vern Crisler said,

    October 18, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Darryl,
    You’re claim that I reject the 2nd commandment is ridiculous, and is unworthy of you. The issue is over whether a strict RPW is a proper interpretation of the commandment, not whether the commandment still applies.

    I also pointed out that the interpretation of Gen 1-3 has never been seen as necessary for orthodoxy or salvation, or even inerrancy. Why do you continue to caricature my views? As I said the “liberal” accusation had reference to your equating evolution with science, not with orthodoxy in theology.

    I’m just saying that I cannot reconcile an old earth view with the Bible. In terms of what I believe, Christianity is a lie if the earth is as old as evolutionists claim that it is. In other words, I can’t compartmentalize Gen 1-3 in the way OE advocates do. So I have to attack the theory of evolution and uniformitarianism.

    It’s just that liberalism with respect to creation, or the Flood, or inerrancy, or the Exodus & Conquest won’t be satisfied with such small-fry matters. No it wants everything, even up to and including the Resurrection of Jesus. I’m a little surprised that I would have to be pointing these things out to someone purporting to advocate the strictest version of the Reformed faith.

    Maybe that’s why OE Reformed & Presbyterian churches remain underpopulated these days, and why YE evangelical churches are growing by leaps and bounds. One can’t mock God’s word in one area and expect His blessings in other areas.

    In any case, I’m working on some other things at this time, so will have to sign off for now,

    Vern

  150. Kyle said,

    October 18, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Dr. Hart, re: 151,

    Kyle: I didn’t realize you were talking about all the church members, deacons, elders, and majority of pastors in faithful Reforme churches. Why didn’t you say so?

    You want to talked about the Reformed tradition and about the Reformed churches, and it doesn’t cross your mind that more than preeminent theologians and denominational reports might be involved? You don’t seem to realize a lot of things. Good night.

  151. D G Hart said,

    October 18, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Vern: Right. Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Brian McLaren and Tim Keller are pastoring large congregations and influencing lots of pastors because they are YE.

  152. Todd said,

    October 18, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    Kyle,

    While you ar correct that the young earth view is not a new kid on the block, what is new, and this I believe is what Darryl is pointing out, is that the exclusive young earth view is a new kid on the block; the view that says not agreeing with ye view is a denial of Scripture and the faith. Remember, it was Machen who wrote

    “The meaning of “day” in Gen 1 has been debated in the church at least since the days of Augustine. The literary form of the passage in its relation to other scriptures is important for its interpretation. Responsible Reformed theologians have differed as to whether Gen 1 teaches a young earth or allows for an old earth. While one of these interpretations must be mistaken, we believe that either position can be held by faithful Reformed people.”
    (J. Gresham Machen “The Christian View of Man,” pg. 115)

    Todd

  153. Richard said,

    October 19, 2008 at 4:59 am

    Christianity is a lie if the earth is as old as evolutionists claim that it is

    Perhaps the problem is that you accept the antithesis that the “liberals” invented whereas Hart, I as well as many others reject this antithesis as false?

    May I suggest that you start “Reading the Bible as Literature”

  154. Vern Crisler said,

    October 19, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Sorry Richard, but the old Bible-as-literature routine is just another form of compartmentalization.

    Vern

  155. Kyle said,

    October 20, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Todd, re: 156,

    I’m sorry, but that’s not what Dr. Hart has been pointing out; and if that’s what he’s been intending to point out, he’s evidently a very poor communicator.

  156. Darryl Hart said,

    October 20, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    Kyle: so you’d accept an old earth view from Machen?

  157. Kyle said,

    October 20, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    Dr. Hart, re: 160,

    Are you going to acknowledge that your misrepresented the history of the young earth view, or not?

  158. October 21, 2008 at 3:20 am

    Once you deny 6/24 you are on the road to autonomy – I dread to think where this has/is going to lead some people.

  159. Darryl Hart said,

    October 21, 2008 at 5:56 am

    Kyle: I will if you will acknowledge you misrepresented the witness of the Reformed churches on YE. On the count of three, drop we both drop our misrepresentations — one, two, three . . .

    Did you drop it?

  160. Todd said,

    October 21, 2008 at 11:12 am

    “Once you deny 6/24 you are on the road to autonomy – I dread to think where this has/is going to lead some people.”

    Daniel,

    So Machen, Warfield, Hodge, etc… were all guilty of autonomy?

    Todd

  161. October 21, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Todd

    Yes they were. And Princeton/Westminster have/will reap bitter fruit because of it.

  162. October 21, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Todd

    Yes they were. And Princeton/Westminster has/will reap bitter fruit because of it.

  163. Richard said,

    October 21, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Once you deny 6/24 you are on the road to autonomy

    In your opinion of course, and what on earth is “autonomy” when it’s at home?

  164. Richard said,

    October 21, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    the old Bible-as-literature routine is just another form of compartmentalization

    I’ve no idea what you mean by “compartmentalization”.

  165. October 21, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Autonomy is man’s desire to be “as God” determining what constitutes good and evil for himself – see Gen. 3:5

    Once we stop taking God at His word in Genesis 1, then where do we stop. Should the historical gospels be considered as accurate? Was Adam a historical person?

  166. October 21, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    “In your opinion of course”

    Richard, do you still believe that there is any such thing as objective truth or is everything “in your opinion”.

    How God created the world is an extremely serious matter; I will not flatter the intellectual pride of those who cannot accept the plain historical reading of the Biblical text.

  167. Kyle said,

    October 21, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Dr. Hart, re: 163,

    I didn’t misrepresent anything, and I answered your charge directly regarding the historical witness of the church & of the Reformed churches. Still, even if I had, that should not prevent you from acknowledging your own error. But since the entire endeavor has been fruitless thus far, and evidently will continue to be fruitless, I see no point in pressing you any further.

  168. ReformedSinner said,

    October 21, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    #170 Ritchie,

    Creation account has been debated since the Early Church Fathers, and 6/24 has not found favor along so much noted theologians, past and present. It takes much guts to write that all non 6/24 folks are autonomous and by inference borderline heretics.

    Also, making association of non-6/24 reading = anti-historical (i.e. liberal) does not help the argument. All of us here seek to be faithful to the Bible, and calling people that disagree with your views liberals and autonomous biggots don’t help.

  169. D G Hart said,

    October 21, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Kyle: I’m not sure if its misrepresentation, but you made it seem as if I only had Old Princeton on my side, that Warfield is irrelevant to this discussion (#114), and that the OPC and PCA were simply perpetuating that position in tolerating exegesis of Gen. 1 that is compatible with OD. The rest of the church tesifies to young earth your wrote, (#133), and you suggested that the OPC and PCA hardly constituted “Reformedom” (#145).

    And then it turns out that you are in the OPC, and so are a theological descendent (formally) of the theology that you equate with contradicting the clear testimony of Scripture (#114).

    That is certainly an odd switcheroo for someone who is so adamant about correcting misrepresentations.

  170. Richard said,

    October 21, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Daniel,

    Yes there is objective truth but you will have to forgive me if I don’t take your opinion as objective truth.

    So ultimately your statement should read: “Once you deny 6/24 you are on the road to be “as God” determining what constitutes good and evil for oneself.” Pull the other one!

    I would have to echo ReformedSinner; All of us here seek to be faithful to the Bible, and calling people that disagree with your views liberals and autonomous biggots don’t help.

    My advice: drop the polemic, it’s unbecoming of you.

  171. October 21, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    I am afraid I will not be dropping the polemic here, this is an extremely serious error.

    You say you are trying to be faithful to the Bible, so why can’t you take God at his word?

  172. October 21, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    “Yes there is objective truth but you will have to forgive me if I don’t take your opinion as objective truth.”

    That’s fair enough (up to a point), but in our post-modern age we need to be wary of “that’s just your opinion” – if we believe something is the truth of God, we can’t say this.

  173. ReformedSinner said,

    October 21, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    #175,

    I do take God at His Word, and that is why I want to make sure I read Him right. You claim reading it “literal-historical” is faithful, fair, make an argument. Many others do not, fair as well, listen to their arguments. At the end, personally, I don’t think the answer can come down to either side. As I survey all the arguments I believed they each hold merit (the major ones at least), both exegetically and theologically.

    It is a serious matter, but unfortunately in our current state of Church History there is no knock-down solution. At best, Mr. Ritchie, with all due respect, we have to come down on our “faith” on each view. That is fine, we all do that, but at the same time have enough intellectual honesty to recognize the merits of the other arguments, and why 6/24 is, at the end of the day, like all the other competing views, is also inadequate exegetically and theologically to resolve all the honest inquiries into Gen. 1.

    But unfortunately too often we get into this: “If you don’t believe in my view you’re an autonomistic liberal a-historical and whatever ______ you want to fill in.” Well… if you want to argue that way I guess there’s really not much else to say.

  174. October 21, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    “I do take God at His Word, and that is why I want to make sure I read Him right. You claim reading it “literal-historical” is faithful, fair, make an argument.”

    Does the Decalogue (4th commandment) teach the literal historical account or framework hypothesis?

    Why play loose with this aspect of Biblical history and not the gospel accounts?

  175. Kyle said,

    October 21, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Dr. Hart, re: 173,

    First, whether you have only Old Princeton “on your side”: no, not only, and I didn’t claim so. But you have referred on numerous occasions to Old Princetonians & to denominational reports from two communions theologically descended from them in defense of the old earth view.

    Second, on Warfield’s relevance – Warfield’s interpretation of Calvin was, and still is, irrelevant to the matter of whether you misrepresented the young earth view’s pedigree. That’s what I said in # 114.

    Third, it is true the OPC & PCA, theological descendents of Old Princeton, allow the old earth view. As I said in #145, you had been speaking as if there had been a monolithic embrace of the old earth view in the Reformed world. While the OPC & PCA allow this view, these two communions aren’t the definition of “Reformed” (they are only part of the Reformed church), and I’ll add now that neither of these communions has formally embraced the old earth view as the correct interpretation of Gen. 1-3.

    Fourth, yes, I am an OPC member, which means I am part of a communion theologically descended from Old Princeton which allows the old earth view. For what it’s worth, my pastor is a young earther. If there’s a “switcheroo” somewhere in there on my part, I’m not aware of it.

  176. ReformedSinner said,

    October 21, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    #178,

    Framework hypothesis is not the only competing exegetical viewpoint other than 6/24

    I don’t know why do you think your counter “Gospel” argument is such a got-cha moment. Reading Gen. 1 as non-6/24 does not mean Gen. 1 is non-historical. It’s history, real history, but just not 6/24. Denying 6/24 does not deny the historicity of Gen. 1. There’s a difference there than saying it’s non-historical.

  177. Andrew Duggan said,

    October 21, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    Re: 180,

    It’s a good thing that Mr. ReformedSinner is not in the OPC, since referring the the Framework as the “H” word he used in #180, on the floor of presbytery at least in the PoP, will garner load and immediate calls for the moderator to censure it. It is not permitted in the OPC to refer to the Framework in any way other than by the word interpretation. In deference to the brothers in the OPC, could we please remember that?

  178. Jerry said,

    October 21, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Mr ReformedSinner,

    #180 Just for a clarification

    1) Is the earth older than the sun, moon and stars?

    2) Was there a worldwide flood?

  179. Richard said,

    October 22, 2008 at 2:29 am

    You say you are trying to be faithful to the Bible, so why can’t you take God at his word?

    I do take God at his word, I want to make sure that I understand his word correctly hence the importance of seeking to engage with the text.

    To say that the Creation account is a literal historical account of the beginning of the world is to fundamentally mis-read the text.

    Does the Decalogue (4th commandment) teach the literal historical account or framework hypothesis?

    The Decalogue is a complex unit as I have noted above (comments 82) and the offer still stands. The original form of the 4th commandment looked more like “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: in it thou shalt not do any work”. The point to remember however is that this reflects the common beliefs of Israel, i.e. it does not prove the historicity of the creation account.

    Why play loose with this aspect of Biblical history and not the gospel accounts?

    What I see in your polemic is the fear that if someone rejects 6/24 then they will reject the gospel. That is a legitimate fear in that many scholars in the past have used the same method which denies 6/24 to deny the historicity of Jesus. What I want to point out is that such an outcome rested on the presuppositions of those scholars rather than the method itself.

    Fitzmyer notes of the historical-critical method that “we have learned through this method that not everything narrated in the past tense necessarily corresponds to ancient reality, and that not everything put on the lips of Jesus of Nazareth by evangelists was necessarily so uttered by him. In regard to the historical criticism of the Synoptic Gospels, we have learned through this method to distinguish three stages of the gospel tradition: (I) what Jesus of Nazareth did and said (corresponding roughly to A.D. 1-33); (II) what apostles of Jesus preached about him, his words, and his deeds (corresponding roughly to A.D. 33-65); and (III) what evangelists wrote about him, having culled, synthesized, and explicated the tradition that preceded them, each in his own way (corresponding to A.D. 65-95).”

  180. October 22, 2008 at 3:05 am

    “To say that the Creation account is a literal historical account of the beginning of the world is to fundamentally mis-read the text.”

    That is utter rubbish. The text clearly states that the days of the week were “evenings and mornings” You need to repent of this opinion. I am seriously worried about where your love of human autonomy is going to lead you.

    “The point to remember however is that this reflects the common beliefs of Israel, i.e. it does not prove the historicity of the creation account.”

    Oh right, the original audience could not understand the text – nor could the rest of us – until someone dug up pagan ANE accounts.

    “What I see in your polemic is the fear that if someone rejects 6/24 then they will reject the gospel. That is a legitimate fear in that many scholars in the past have used the same method which denies 6/24 to deny the historicity of Jesus.”

    Enough said.

  181. ReformedSinner said,

    October 22, 2008 at 7:06 am

    #182,

    I believed the Moses was inspired to wrote the Genesis, and Genesis account is historical, but not in a way to satisfy our scientific precisionness and accuracy. Thus any questions such as “how old”, no matter what view you’re in, requires a “leap of faith”, which of course everyone is free to do, but once again to claim one view is the knock-down orthodox view of the Bible and all others are on a slippery slope to heresy is ignorant of church history on this topic, ignorant of Reformed Tradition’s dicussion of this topic, and ignorant of exegesis in general.

  182. October 22, 2008 at 8:11 am

    “I believed the Moses was inspired to wrote the Genesis, and Genesis account is historical, but not in a way to satisfy our scientific precisionness and accuracy.”

    And here human wisdom is placed above the word of God. This is why I believe the rejection of the plain historical account will lead to autonomy and heresy. This is clear from the history of Princeton Seminary – once this autonomous camel got its nose in the tent (by the permission of very godly and learned men), then it eventually pushed orthodoxy out.

  183. Richard said,

    October 22, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    The text clearly states that the days of the week were “evenings and mornings”

    Yes, and I believe that yom is being used in its normal usage. But that does not determine the form of literature that Gen. 1-2 is.

    the original audience could not understand the text…until someone dug up pagan ANE accounts

    I never said nor implied that the original audience could not understand the text. What I am saying is that the big difference between the original audience and you is that they are Hebrews living in an ANE culture whilst you are not.

    Enough said.

    Not at all, the method works well, the problem has been with some people who have used the method.

    I am not placing my wisdom above the word of God, I am merely using the brain that God has given me to seek to understand his word.

    You can make bold statements along the form of “the plain historical account will lead to autonomy and heresy” but where are the facts?

    I guess we will both be awaiting John N. Oswalt’s The Bible among Other Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? with much anticipation.

  184. ReformedSinner said,

    October 22, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    #186,

    Your reasoning is mind-boggling. Just because the Bible doesn’t satisfy your scientific inquiry it is human wisdom place above God’s? Once again I did not reject the plain historical account, but I reject YOUR definition of plain historical account. There is a difference.

    Your assessment for Princeton’s downfall is also mind-boggling.

    I feel like you’re preaching here instead of trying to make an argument. If that is the case like I said before there really isn’t much to talk about.

    Thanks for the sharing.

  185. ReformedSinner said,

    October 22, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    #184,

    Please interpret my sentence:

    “I have recently found a 9-5 job, and as a result I have to work all day long.”

    How would a non-English speaker translate, understand, and interpret this sentence? Let me tell you what some non-American/English speaker would understand this.

    Strict literal reading means:

    1) ReformedSinner found a job that works from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. He said it himself, 9-5 job, how much more plain do you want him to express himself? It’s 9-5, he said it, it’s plainly there, and any other way to understand him will be autonomous.

    2) Yes it is strange that he also said he had to work “all day long”, but that’s not important, and also not possible. No human being can work “all day long” without rest, so that’s impossible and we won’t even entertain that interpretation or any other. Clearly he indicated he works from 9-5 and so there’s no other interpretation allowed unless you want to place your own autonomous words over that of ReformedSinner, the ultimate author of this sentence, which you cannot since he plainly indicated it’s 9-5, so he works only 8 hours a day, 9-5. That’s the truth and the only truth way of understanding his sentence.

    Now: as American/English speaking audience we know “9-5 job” is most of time not taken literally 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but indicates someone that works “full-time”. In reality I might have found a job as a guard for a company, and in real hours I work from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. everyday, hence I said “I work all day long.” And also “work all day long” is not a literal expression (working 24 hours a day), but a metaphor that I work very hard for very long hours.

    Now back to Genesis:

    Can it be possible that Moses (Godly inspired) is also using similar way of metaphor when he writes the 6-day creation account? That “morning and evening” could be a semantic way that might somehow be equivalent to our “9-5″ analogy? May this also be why the sun is created later and that doesn’t seem to bother the readers of OT for so long (and apparently also doesn’t bother the Church until recent history.)

    Once again Mr. Ritchie these are good exegetical questions that demands a good exegetical answer, and not simply “if you don’t agree with 6/24 you’re a bad autonomous liberal” dismissal.

  186. Richard said,

    October 22, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Of course ReformedSinner there is another question; in what genre is the statement “I have recently found a 9-5 job, and as a result I have to work all day long” found? i.e. Is it Mr Bloggs writing a letter to his mother and thereby factual? Is it the statement of someone in a novel and thereby fictional?

  187. October 22, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    I will not dignify this humanistic error by arguing with it any longer. The bottom line is you have far too much confidence in your own wisdom. I only hope you will repent speedily before you have to learn the hard way. The views expressed here are a sinful denial of Scripture’s perpescuity; those who justify such sin (because that is what it is) only increase their guilt.

  188. Richard said,

    October 22, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    I am happy to engage in dialogue, you can’t be bothered; fine, your perogative. It should be pointed out, Daniel, that you have failed to make an argument, all you have spouted is a nasty and intolerant polemic with no real substance and you wonder why I, and others, are not drawn to your point of view. Strange that eh?

  189. greenbaggins said,

    October 22, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    You know, I’ve watched this discussion with quite a bit of interest as it has completely derailed from talking about creativity in theology to talking about the creation days. Of course, the creation days can be used as an example of what I’m talking about. Nevertheless I do find that interesting.

    Here is my take on the whole matter. I am a literal 24 hour guy when it comes to the creation days. This is not due to some kind of knee-jerk reaction against science (I actually think the young earth scientists deserve quite a bit more respect than they typically get), but it is rather based on what I see Genesis 1 as actually saying. While other readings of the text can make the evidence fit, it does seem to me more like coming with preconceived notions to the text.

    I always draw the line on evolution when it comes to other views of the creation days. If the view in question is evolutionary, then it is heretical. To me, that is a far greater issue than the length of the creation days, and the two issues should be kept distinct, as there are plenty of non-literal views that are, at the same time, anti-evolutionary.

    When I think of the issue of the creation days proper, however, I am hard pressed to find a reason as to why the other views lead to such terrible liberalism as Daniel indicates, for instance. I suppose one could argue that “giving up” the literal interpretation of Genesis 1 is a denial of Scripture (the scare quotations reflect the fact that the non-literal folk don’t see things as “giving up”). However, I’m not sure that this point has been proven. The doctrine of the perspecuity of Scripture does not mean that all texts of Scripture are crystal clear. It means that everything necessary for salvation is clear. Is a 24-hour view of the creation days necessary for salvation? Is it impossible for, say, Meredith Kline, a Framework Hypothesis advocate, to be saved? To ask this question is to answer it. The question of the length of the creation days in Genesis 1 is not pre-answered by the perspecuity of Scripture.

    On the other hand, the argument that the Old Testament Israelites would never have understood Genesis in a non-literal way has significant weight, especially when one considers the fourth commandment in Exodus. To my mind that alone is enough to kabosh the Framework view. The analogical days view, however, can still make it fit by saying that the six days of work/one day of rest is still the pattern for the Sabbath. However, again I feel that the evidence is being made to fit.

    The difficulty with our interpretation of Scripture being influenced by our view of science is that science changes constantly. Even now as we speak, Einsteinian relativity is being dethroned by some significant problems with the system. All the evidence for an old earth is ambiguous, and hasn’t bothered the young earth scientists, since such evidence of an old earth is still quite easy to explain within a young earth take on things. The natural reading of the text is still the literal 24-hour view, especially since the sun and the moon start governing the days on day 4 of creation, which, when you add that to the fact that there is no significant reason for believing that the word “day” means anything different in days 1-3 as it does in days 4-6, gives a quite convincing case that the 24-hour literal view is the best exegetical case.

  190. ReformedSinner said,

    October 22, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    #191,

    “I will not dignify this humanistic error by arguing with it any longer”

    You have never made an argument but have been preaching. You keep repeating the same tune: “6/24 is orthodox, non-6/24 is autonomously liberal.” That is not argument but as Greg Banhsen would say it’s mere degenerated remarks masked as an argument. You have not dignify anybody here by even attempting to make an argument, which includes listening to what others have to say, why you disagree with them point by point, and why at the end of the day you are right point by point. Instead you just keep copy and paste the word “autonomous” and calling people non-faithful. Sorry if I don’t consider that dignifying nor making an argument.

    “The bottom line is you have far too much confidence in your own wisdom.”

    No, in-spite of your accusations (baseless I might add) I believe it is preciously because I’m humbled by God’s Word that I seek to understand Him correctly, and not bluntly take any interpretation as is especially when there are so many noted theologians that differ in their opinions. We have seen too often in Church History that taking the “easy interpretation” serves no one any good at the end of the day.

    “I only hope you will repent speedily before you have to learn the hard way.”

    So now God punishes people for not getting theology 100% right? And I though Christ did something about that already… Now all of us have to enroll to Greenville Seminary and be indoctrinated to 6/24 view before we can enter heaven?

    “The views expressed here are a sinful denial of Scripture’s perpescuity; those who justify such sin (because that is what it is) only increase their guilt.”

    So do you believe in Universal salvation (Unlimited Atonement)? Clearly the NT repeatedly says Jesus died for “the world” and “for all.” The world means everybody and not just the elect then right? We must take the “perspicuity” and “literal, and plain” reading then huh? Guess all of us should repent from our sinful predestination doctrine, because such doctrine reads too much into the word “world” and “all” and not take the perspicuity and plain meaning of these words.

  191. greenbaggins said,

    October 22, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Reformed Sinner and Daniel, I think the temp needs to come down a bit.

  192. ReformedSinner said,

    October 22, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Hmmm, I did not think my temp was up but I will take it as advice anyway and lower my temp.

    Thanks

    RS

  193. greenbaggins said,

    October 22, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    RS, thanks. I was primarily referring to how someone might interpret the post itself, not necessarily what temp your temper itself had.

  194. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    October 22, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Lane, is there any way you can re-route the part of the thread that is actually about theological innovation somewhere else, so that we can continue that discussion without wading through 150 acrimonious posts on Gen. 1-3?

    As to your comment #54, I was not trying to give that characterization of the PCA. I’m not actually even in the PCA, but the OPC. I suppose I was overbroad in my comments. As usual, what we see as the problem depends upon our experience. I have not been in any churches that are moving away from the confession. What I have seen are churches where being Reformed means teaching on justification by faith alone all the time, and then being self-congratulatory on that: “well, we certainly aren’t relativists like all those bad liberals and Evangelicals.” What I have seen–and this is only in one person’s limited experience–is an appeal to the confessions (often not well understood, like a recent letter to New Horizons in which Jim Dennison’s–a radical FVer, don’t you know!–summary of the confessional teaching on baptism was decried as “baptismal regeneration”) that limits all theological discourse.

    I should add that often this is because they don’t view the confession as an object of study or a partner in the study of Scripture, but rather as some kind of monument that simply symbolizes being Reformed. Again, this is generalization and should not be taken to characterize all of any denomination. Confession-thumping (not to be confused with confessional study) is not a replacement for being truly reformed.

    I didn’t mean to attack you for being confessional. But confessional means all of the WCF, which includes chapter 1 on the Scriptures. I doubt Darryl remembers, but I was very critical of Frame for his shrugging off of the confessions and his celebration of theological novelty, back when we read that stuff in the senior seminar at WSC. So, I would consider myself confessional…but not a confessionalist, since ‘isms’ are problematic.

    I withdraw my comments about commentaries: I probably haven’t read enough of them to make such a statement. And, again, my statements about pastors were probably overbroad and thus not particularly accurate. I would still be interested in your take on Mike Horton’s article, though, since he seems to argue for a kind of theological development that you reject. Is that the case? If not, how does MH frame theological development in a way that is acceptably confessional, versus, say, the PCA Pres. of the NW?

    Darryl: I don’t agree with your view of the confessions as sermons, and I’ve never heard that view before. In fact, that is not particularly coherent, even on the face of it: the confession is what the church says, while the sermon is what God says through his minister, etc. The pastor does not get up and confess his faith, rather, he acts as a messenger for the covenant Lord. Furthermore, the confession itself says that councils and synods “are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.” That sounds to me like ST: summarizing doctrines in a helpful form, that should be taken seriously and considered helpful (and I do–I don’t know why Lane thought I was attacking confessional study), but is nevertheless a summary, in systematic form. The address “To the Christian Reader” refers to the standards as one of the “compendiary systems,” not as a divine message. The ordination vows refer to the confession as” containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scripture.” That sounds like ST to me–and, indeed, the confession is organized in the common topics of ST. So, no, I don’t think that the confessions have authority of the preached word. I’m no expert in the history of the confessions, so you may know something I don’t, but this interpretation sounds totally novel to me.

    Also, Darryl, you say that you would have “listened” to the overture and “seen that the arguments were persuasive.” But my point is this: no one bringing the overture could possibly have the kind of authority that the church has–this is exactly your point about Horton, Calvin, whomever. For you to even listen to the proposed change of an “ordinance of God” would be to question the church. Why should you listen to this individual’s proposal? How could a solitary, private interpreter of the Word possibly be “persuasive,” when the confession is an ordinance of God? So, honestly, on your view of confessional authority, there is no way to change the confession, since no private individual could ever have sufficient authority or standing to even call the “ordinance of God” into question. You insist that the church is not infallible, but I don’t see that your view ever makes it possible to correct the church, since the weight of authority is always on the church’s side over against any individual interpreter, and that is how any proposal to change must begin.

  195. D G Hart said,

    October 22, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    Josh: if a confession is the witness of the church, how is that different from a minister’s sermon not also the witness of the church? In a Presbyterian system, the witness of committees always matters more than individuals. The idea of the corporate witness of the church is not novel but has been articulated for some time by Presbyterians.

    And the reason why I’d take the individual minister’s proposed revision seriously is because he is a member in good standing. Why wouldn’t I take that request seriously?

  196. October 23, 2008 at 6:56 am

    “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7)

    For that reason I give heretical views of creation a short-shrift. The idea that we need to have read the “silly myths” of ANE accounts of creation to understand how God has created the earth is absurd.

  197. ReformedSinner said,

    October 23, 2008 at 7:13 am

    #200,

    Once again Mr. Ritchie you are preaching and not engaging. If you want to call all other views “silly myths” then I guess others will just call you “silly myth” and we can all go home.

    I find nothing silly in serious exegetical questions. Many part of the Bible we don’t read on face value, or at least we need to quantify them carefully. I highlighted a few in the NT and the dangers of reading them at face value.

    But let me just say this will be my last reply to your preaching unless you are actually engaging.

  198. October 23, 2008 at 7:49 am

    The comparison between a historical account and the use of terms like “the world” is a comparison between apples and oranges. There are other things in Scripture which indicate “world” does not mean all men (though I believe it means most), yet there is nothing in the rest of Scripture to indicate Gen. 1-3 is not literal history.

  199. ReformedSinner said,

    October 23, 2008 at 9:10 am

    #202,

    Good, we are getting somewhere.

    So you do admit that in the Bible sometimes the precise meaning of an individual word also needs interpretation. That’s good, that’s the argument.

    Which brings up the following question: what is Moses really trying to express? That God created the world in 6 consecutive days and rested on the 7th?

    By literal reading the answer is yes. And Genesis 1-3 invites the reader to read it literally. I also don’t agree that somehow Genesis 1 should be treated differently, because grammatically and contents it invites literal historical read. That part I assume we have no argument.

    What I do want to challenge is to the “precise meaning” of such literal read. Yes, I agree the word “yom” (or day) is 6/24 day, but the true argument (at least for me) is what is Moses trying to express. Or to say it another way: what is he teaching.

    For me (and here is where I will show my cards), I am most convinced by the analogous view of Creation. 6 days work and one day rest is God’s revealed teaching to Moses, and therefore the Israelites should follow God’s work pattern, because that’s how God worked when He created the world.

    The Hebrew semantic “there was morning, there was evening” has been argue that it might be their way of saying “a full working day” (hence my 9-5 analogy). And some parts of Psalm has used the same language of morning-evening to denote a full working day.

    It is certainly not uncharacteristic of the Pentateuch to pattern after heavenly patterns. The Ark is patterned after heaven, etc.

    My big dissatisfaction (not the only one, but this will suffice for now to keep the conversation going) of 6/24 view is that the method won’t fit on the Sabbath day rest of God. So did God only rested 24 hours? What else did God do on the 8th day then when He’s not in Sabbath? If the 7th day is eternal rest then that “day” isn’t 6/24 anymore is it? So does 6/24 only apply to the first 6 “day” and not the 7th “day”, if so doesn’t that defeat the whole argument of 6/24 that “yom” should be taken literally as 6/24 throughout?

    So in short here are my points:

    1) Yes I agree day = 6/24 (grammar and content invites literal historical read.)

    2) However, I think Moses is using Hebrew semantics to express a heavenly patterned work habits, i.e. – what can we learn from Creation besides the obvious that God created the world so powerfully and easily? Answer: God’s heavenly work pattern and therefore this is how we should work. Pentateuch is a work that helps Israelites how to live like in heaven on earth. Not to satisfy our chronological inquiries of the universe.

    I look forward to critiques and counter arguments. Thanks,

  200. Richard said,

    October 23, 2008 at 10:42 am

    Daniel,

    a historical account

    That is the whole issue that is debateable, the point I have beem arguing is that Gen 1-2 is not an historical account in any strict sense. You say that it is, fine, well prove your point.

    Lane,

    Have you read Coat’s FOTL volume of Genesis?

    the argument that the Old Testament Israelites would never have understood Genesis in a non-literal way has significant weight

    I agree that the Old Testament Israelites would never have understood Genesis in a non-literal way yet we cannot assume what framework the Israelite would have placed it. John Walton has noted that the Hebew word for create bara’, “a large percentage of the biblical contexts require a functional understanding. If the Israelites understood the word bara’ to convey creation in functional terms, then that would be the most “literal” understanding that we could achieve. The truest meaning of a text is found in what the author and hearers would have thought. Incidentally, analysis of ancient Near Eastern creation literature confirms that ancient priorities were focused on the functional rather than the material.” Gordon Wenham makes a similar point in his WBC commentary.

    There is the issue of course that God spoke to the ancient Israelites in a manner that they could understand, i.e. in the genre of a cosmogony. Surely you would accept that the form of literature that Gen 1 is, it’s authorship and redaction and tradition-history is still open for exploration, (cf. comment 67)

  201. Richard said,

    October 23, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Lane, I would be interested in your thoughts on what I wrote here.

  202. greenbaggins said,

    October 23, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Richard, I read all of Coats’s volume, as well as about forty other commentaries on Genesis 1-3 (during my preaching through the book of Genesis, on which see my index of Genesis sermons here: http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2006/12/30/index-for-genesis-sermons/ ). I have read Walton as well. I’m fine with functional over material as an explanation of what the Israelites were interested in. That has absolutely nothing to do with the creation days debate, or even whether the earth is old or young. On your post, I am curious as to what relevance that has for this thread?

  203. Richard said,

    October 23, 2008 at 11:07 am

    The relationship it (functional over material) has to the creation days debate is pretty fundamental because the issue shifts from a surface level reading of the text to the underlying concerns and beliefs. So we can affirm that the whole argument over whether a day is a day or a period of time is seen to be starting off on the wrong foot, why? Because we begin to see that Gen 1-2 is not an historical account in any strict sense. That is is not historical but functional is massively important, especially when we consider the Babylonian context it was written in and their astrological beliefs. The emphasis on the Sabbath is also highly Priestly, the sabbath being far more significant in the exilic and post-exilic Israelite faith.

  204. greenbaggins said,

    October 23, 2008 at 11:13 am

    This doesn’t follow in the slightest, Richard. First of all, the discussion of the length of creation days has to do with the *function* of the word yom in the text. Secondly, to say “functional” simply does not amount to “non-historical.” That is simply a false dichotomy. It is more than possible to use a word that is used to describe something’s function and at the same time to be describing history. By your argument, Adam didn’t even exist, because how then is chapters 2-3 historical? Paul would ream such a theology hollow from Romans 5.

  205. Richard said,

    October 23, 2008 at 11:21 am

    the discussion of the length of creation days has to do with the *function* of the word yom in the text

    I don’t disagree with you there, but what I would want to note is that firstly we need to determine the structure, genre, setting and intention.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, it is possible to tell a fictional story using historical language (e.g. fairytales).

    to say “functional” simply does not amount to “non-historical”

    True, but when we have a text that has functional concerns and is set forth by means of poetic prose then it is less likely the concern is historical.

  206. greenbaggins said,

    October 23, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Couple of points. Of course it’s possible to tell a fictional story using historical language. You have by no means proven that Genesis 1 is doing so. You also have to answer the question about Adam and Eve and Romans 5 (or does the NT have absolutely no say on how we should interpret the OT?). Genesis 1 is not in any sense of the word poetry. There is no parallelism at all. Instead, there is vav consecutive imperfect, with occasional disjunctive vav-perfects. This is standard narrative procedure, and reads just the same as the rest of Genesis. And yes, I am aware of the continuum arguments of people like Kugel and Berlin. I would simply argue that there is no evidence of poetic elements in this narrative. Heightened rhetoric, yes. But not poetry.

  207. October 23, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Lane has pretty much said everything that I was going to say. Genesis 1-3 is a historical account in a historical book featuring historical people. Period.

  208. Richard said,

    October 23, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Lane,

    As ever it’s a pleasure to have dialogue with you. My previous question regarding Coats was not to imply that you are ignorant and therefore YEC but to find out what you made of his points.

    Of course it’s possible to tell a fictional story using historical language. You have by no means proven that Genesis 1 is doing so.

    That’s more to do with my not having attempted to prove that Gen. 1 is a fictional story using historical language. My point has been to get those who disagree with me to admit that it’s possible to tell a fictional story using historical language because it then raises questions over the legitimacy of your point that “there is vav consecutive imperfect, with occasional disjunctive vav-perfects. This is standard narrative procedure”. i.e. accepting that the Hebrew of Gen. 1 is standard narrative does not logically imply that what is being narrated is historically true for it’s possible to tell a fictional story using historical language. If historical language does not demand factual history your point is rather null and void.

    Hence my point that firstly we need to determine the structure, genre, setting and intention of Gen. 1. This I did briefly in comment 67 above.

    You also have to answer the question about Adam and Eve and Romans 5

    It is certainly an important question but, if I may be so bold, you are arguing for an interpretation of Gen 2-3 based upon comments made by St. Paul, i.e. a Second Temple Judaism interpretation of a Yahwist text (see here).

    I believe that St. Paul’s interpretation of Gen. 1 is not relevant to the discussion at hand. As J. D. G. Dunn notes in his commentary, and others elsewhere, that Paul’s argument does not demand an historical Adam, English culture has historically contained many Legends, e.g. King Arthur.

    Now I will quickly note that I would not like to say whether ‘adam was an historical human being, but then that belongs to Gen. 2:4b-3 not how we understand Gen. 1-2:4a.

    Genesis 1 is not in any sense of the word poetry.

    Correct and this is why we need to be careful, I did not say, and historical-critics (even Gunkel himself), do not say that Gen. 1 is Poetry, but I do say, as they do, that it is poetic. As Gene Tucker in Form Criticism of the Old Testament notes “The main narrative genres to be considered as one examines the Old Testament are the following: the myth, the folktale (fairytales and fables), the saga, the legend, the novelette, and historical narratives in the strict sense. Gunkel designated all of these except history as ‘poetic narratives’. He did not mean to imply, of course, that the poetic narratives employ meter or rhyme. The distinction was drawn not only on the basis of structure (form) but also in terms of different intentions and settings: ‘History, which claims to inform us of what has actually happened, is in its very nature prose, while legend [better, 'saga' for the German Sage] is by nature poetry, its aim is to please, to elevate, to inspire, and to move.’ Such narratives, then, are not poetry in the narrow sense; they are poetic.”

    God bless!

  209. its.reed said,

    October 23, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Richard:

    Am I reading you correctly? Are you saying that in the same way Arthur is non-historical, a figure used in a mythical manner to teach principles, Paul’s Adam is a non-historical figure?

    Please tell me I am reading you wrong.

    reed

  210. greenbaggins said,

    October 23, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Okay. Let’s look at OT narrative in general then to determine what the default is and therefore which side would have the burden of proof. As one looks at OT narrative, do you think the intention is to record something factual or not? I realize that some may label this a modernist question, but I am NOT asking what kind of history, or how it is presented. I am asking whether or not the OT writers wrote in order to have something that corresponded with what happened. In other words, is there an ugly ditch in between theology and history? I actually do not advocate reading Gen 1 as if it were a scientific description, since it is certainly phenomenological (witness the description of the dome of heaven). I am arguing that it is theological history that corresponds to what actually happened. I think the burden of proof is on anyone who wishes to show that an OT narrative is not historical.

    We obviously have different views of Scripture when you say that Paul’s interpretation of Gen 1-3 is not normative for what we should understand Gen 1-3 to be. I argue that Scripture is ultimately the Word of God, and that it is an organically unfolding revelation of God’s character and deeds, culminating in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and that therefore, later parts of Scripture can help us understand earlier parts, and vice versa. Paul is not part of 2TJ, ideologically speaking, by the way, even if he fits into that time period.

    Dunn is therefore off his rocker when he claims that Gen 1-3 as Paul interprets it does not have to be historically factual. Look at 1 Corinthians with its Adam-Christ typology. If what you say is true, then the lack of historical facticity can be extended to Christ’s resurrection, for if the type is a myth, then so is the antitype, and we are still in our sins with no redemption. Nothing less than the Gospel is at stake on this one, Richard, and it is a hill upon which I will die. Adam was a real person, the real, federal head of the entire human race, and the guilt of his sin was imputed to all his posterity, as Paul says in Romans 5, where the condemnation of all people is the DIRECT result of the sin of the one.

  211. ReformedSinner said,

    October 23, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    #212

    “It is certainly an important question but, if I may be so bold, you are arguing for an interpretation of Gen 2-3 based upon comments made by St. Paul, i.e. a Second Temple Judaism interpretation of a Yahwist text (see here).”

    Or put it simply, Holy Spirit inspired interpretation of the Old Testament. I might not trust St. Paul the man but I trust Holy Spirit the God, and last I check the Bible is God’s Word and that’s why it has final authority in interpretion of itself.

    Also, many theologians have argued successfully that while Paul is a product of his day (Second Temple Judism interpretation), but there are many of his exegetical or theological comments that don’t fit well with this paradigm, i.e. there’s more to Paul than simply Second Temple Judaism interpretation. Regardless, it is the inspired Word of God and God’s own interpretation of His own Word.

    Didn’t we have this debate forever awhile ago… :)

    “I believe that St. Paul’s interpretation of Gen. 1 is not relevant to the discussion at hand. As J. D. G. Dunn notes in his commentary, and others elsewhere, that Paul’s argument does not demand an historical Adam, English culture has historically contained many Legends, e.g. King Arthur.”

    The problem is Paul’s writings leaves no about the historicity of Adam. Luke’s geneaology took care of that no? Or do you think Luke’s geneaology is a legend?

    “Now I will quickly note that I would not like to say whether ‘adam was an historical human being, but then that belongs to Gen. 2:4b-3 not how we understand Gen. 1-2:4a.”

    But I am curious, do you or do you not believe in a real historical Adam?

  212. Richard said,

    October 23, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Reed,

    I am saying that cultures can use non-historical figures in a manner to teach principles and this being the case there is no logical demand for St. Paul’s Adam to be an historical figure.

    Lane,

    I will respond tomorrow as yours needs a longer response and I need my sleep.

  213. its.reed said,

    October 23, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Richard:

    You ignored answering my question (it was too blunt to assume you did not get it).

    A. Do you or do you not believe Adam was a real, a historical figure?

    or

    B. Do you believe that Adam was a non-historical figure?

    Please, for the sake of clarity here, asnwer plainly, with no equivocation. I fully recognize that if you answer “B”, you will want to argue the next point, to wit that Paul’s point can stand if Adam is non-historical.

    But for all our sake’s here, a straightforward answer from you at this point is in keeping with the kind of integrity one can expect from a sincere follower of Christ. I’m not trying to imply anything here. Rather I’m being quite straightforward – equivocation on such a fundamental question is not a sign of your good intentions in this conversation.

  214. its.reed said,

    October 23, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    E.g.,

    If Adam is non-historic, then the Fall is non-historic.

    If the Fall is non-historic, then the whole doctrine of harmatology is essentially based on a myth.

    If … the end of this chain can only be a denial of the gospel.

    Please, answer the question, A or B.

  215. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    October 23, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Darryl, I don’t deny the corporate confession of church, but that doesn’t mean that everything said by any officer or body of the church–all of which is part of that corporate confession–is identical in authority or role. In our order of service, we confess our faith using the Nicene or Apostles’ Creed. So, is the congressional recitation of the creed the same as the sermon? Is the minister primarily stating what he believes when he preaches a sermon? Certainly not, but bringing a message from God. Confession is what God’s people do in response, not what God does. So the role is very different, although sermons certainly fit into the historic witness of the church considered broadly.

    Committees don’t have the same function as individual pastors–check what the confession actually says the councils and synods are supposed to do, and you won’t find “proclaim the Word and administer the sacraments.” To put it simply, committees don’t preach sermons.

    So, I still don’t find your “confession are sermons, not ST” at all persuasive–and I did present some quotes that seem to show that the Westminster assembly viewed its production as systematic theology, not as a divine message.

    It seems to me that you’re still presenting a catch-22: the confession can be changed based on a proposal by an individual, but the confession always has more weight than any individual interpretation. You ask why you wouldn’t you take the minister’s proposal seriously, but you just said that “the witness of committees always matters more than the witness of individuals.” So, on the one hand you have the “witness of the committee”–i.e., the Westminster Assembly–and on the other the “witness of an individual.” If committees always matter more than individuals, then why should you listen to the latter when he is challenging or correcting the former? The committee “always” matters more than the individual, so no matter how “persuasive” the arguments of the individual are, it is still the witness of the individual, which never can matter more than the committee. So, how does the fact that the individual proposing the change is a member in good standing give him the right to place his own individual witness against that of the committee? The witness of the committee always matters more.

  216. Vern Crisler said,

    October 23, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Re: #212

    Richard said, “My previous question regarding Coats was not to imply that you are ignorant and therefore YEC but to find out what you made of his points.”

    Lane, Richard regards YE Christians as ignorant, so why even bother interacting with him? His horrendous view of the Bible plus his bigotry against YE Christians are themselves a form of willful and invincible ignorance.

    Richard’s real problem is not with creation, but rather with Scripture itself.

    Vern

  217. ReformedSinner said,

    October 23, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    #220,

    I see what you mean. I can’t believe it when he says (paraphrase) Apostle Paul is using Second Temple Judaism Interpretation (so far so good) but Richard’s implication is therefore it can be ignore because Paul’s exegesis is inferior (or at best irrelevant) to our day.

    I really almost fallen out of my chair when I read that…

  218. Darryl Hart said,

    October 24, 2008 at 5:20 am

    Josh: the WCF calls what synods and councils do an ordinance of God. It also calls preaching an ordinance of God. That’s not airtight. But it carries the weight that the likes of Godfrey and Muller attribute to creeds. They aren’t reference works. They are the corporate confession of the church. And if you read Machen, even in his day he expected that preaching conform to the corporate witness.

    Also, Godfrey is very clear and good on the idea that a confession is not ST. ST is what an individual does. A confession is more on the order of dogma. (He makes this point about the non-ST nature of creeds in the festschrift for Wayne Spear.)

    But anyway, if creeds can’t be revised, as if the revision process is rigged from the outset, if you’re right Josh, then what? What’s your point? We give up the creeds? That wouldn’t make you much of a confessional or confessionalist. Or is it that you want to argue with the confession and don’t want to hold what it teaches? Well, in recent history some folks held views that others thought were outside the standards. Churches established study committees, committees wrote reports, grades on contested views were given. It was far from a rigged system, and far more open than the recent process that yielded the bailout package.

    You seem to think that the confessions are too binding, and that churches use them to rule out contrary views. Well, you’re right. And that is exactly what creeds and churches do.

  219. Richard said,

    October 24, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Reed, my answer is fairly straightforward; I don’t know if Adam was historical or not, but even if he were not I reject outright the idea that such a view implies or logically necessitates a denial of the gospel.

    Vern, I certainly don’t regard YE Christians as ignorant, some of my theological heros were YEC! My basic working hypothesis is “All things are possible with God, but what does Scripture say?” You level the charge of “bigotry” at me, I will let those who are that bothered about what has been said to read my comments and to see if a spirit of bigotry is present.

    RS, I am not saying we are to ignore St. Paul’s argument but we should locate his work in context, and he is writing in the context of 2TJ.

    Gordon Wenham wrote an interesting article “Original Sin in Genesis 1-11″

    The following is how Campbell and O’Brien summed up the Yahwist text:

    The Yahwist narrative is thought of as a selection from the storehouse of Israel’s stories and traditions, arranged and interpreted to express a particular communication concerning Israel in the Yahwist’s time. In Martin Noth’s identification, it streches from creation (Gen 2:4b-3:24) to the prophesies of Balaam and beyond. It includes stories of the whole human race (Genesis 2-11), stories of Israel’s ancestors (Genesis 12-50), and stories of Israel’s constitutive generation, led by Moses (Exodus and Numbers). The Yahwist’s purpose in assembling this rich and varied material was to proclaim that Israel was the LORD’s chosen mediator to bring salvation and blessing to the troubled humanity described in Genesis 2-11. Genesis 12:1-3, in which this divine purpose is first proclaimed as blessing for Abraham and for “all the families of the earth,” is a pivotal text in the Yahwist narrative. It looks forward to the story of Israel as the blessed nation and source of blessing. At the same time, it looks back to the story of humanity in need of blessing.

    I am not too sure what you find reprehensible in that.

  220. Richard said,

    October 24, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Lane,

    I am working from the basic principle that each text has an original Sitz im Leben and that the Pentateuchal traditions are overwhelmingly cultic in origin and use.

    Looking at the ANE context we find that an Autumnal New Year Festival celebrated, amongst other things, the creation of the world or more specifically the recreation of the earth and the belief was that Yahweh visited the earth and what had hapened at the first happened again. Hence we find the 2TJ belief that the waters or rain of the year ahead was decided by Yahweh at the feast of Tabernacles (cf. John Gill’s commentary on Jn. 7).

    This is a huge area, see pp. 139-149 of He that Cometh.

    So what about Gen. 1-2:4a? I would argue that, as an original form, it functioned as a festal liturgy (hence it’s prose) and this actually coincides well with the Priestly preoccupation of the New Year. Note when the flood recided in the Noah narrative: “the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year” and there are other examples, e.g. Moses, Chronicles and others noted by Noth and Joseph Blenkinsopp.

    Furthermore, Wenham argues that

    “Extrabiblical creation stories from the ancient Near East are usually poetic, but Gen 1 is not typical Hebrew poetry. Indeed, some writers endeavoring to underline that Gen 1 is pure priestly theology insist that it is not poetry at all….On the other hand, Gen 1 is not normal Hebrew prose either; its syntax is distinctively different from narrative prose. Cassuto, Loretz and Kselman have all pointed to poetic bicola or tricola in Gen 1, while admitting that most of the material is prose. It is possible that these poetic fragments go back to an earlier form of the creation account, though, as Cassuto observes, ‘it is simpler to suppose…the special importance of the subject led to an exaltation of style approaching the level of poetry’. Gen 1 is unique in the Old Testament…it is elevated prose, not pure poetry…in its present form it is a careful literary composition introducing the succeding narratives.

    Now it being elevated prose fits in well with the Sitz im Leben I advocate.

  221. its.reed said,

    October 24, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Richard:

    Aside from the observation that I find your hermeneutic effectively foolish (professing to be wise, He gave them over …), your readinng of Scripture effectively removes it from the hands of even the average pastor, let alone layman.

    Using the approach(es) I see you espousing, nothing in Scripture is straightforward, and therefore cannot be trusted. I accept that this is neither your intention, nor do you agree with my conclusion. Nevertheless, that is what you have done.

    How, for one simple example, can you maintain the necessity of the atonement from Romans 5, if it is immaterial if Adam is historical or not? Id the original sin historical or not, is the Fall historical or not, etc.? And if, in your opinion, the issue of historicity of these events does not matter, then how can yhou avoid the conclusion that the historicity of the actual Atonement does not matter?

    Or have you already reached such a conclusion?

    P.S. in defense of Vern (moderately, sorry Vern), my reading of your comments is that you do communicate with a condescending, “I’m smarter and know better than you, so why don’t you calm down and be reasonable and you might learn something new,” attitude.

  222. October 24, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Richard

    When you first started spouting this heresy on the Puritan Board I knew where this was going to take you. Sadly, my predictions have come true. If you are not sure that Adam was a historical person, then you cannot be sure that the Second Adam was either.

  223. Richard said,

    October 24, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    If you are not sure that Adam was a historical person, then you cannot be sure that the Second Adam was either

    This may make sense to you Daniel, but the problem is that the logic is just not there. Now of course one could argue that Jesus was not historical but then such a person has overlooked that there is a clear historical witness for Jesus having existed. The same is not the case for ‘adam. Furthermore, Paul is engaged in a typological argument, the point he is making does not depend upon an historical ‘adam. Whether ‘adam existed is not determined by Paul in Rom. 5. You may disagree, that is fine, but ultimately we end up in the same place, “what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3, 4).

  224. its.reed said,

    October 24, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Richard:

    Defend sinfulness. That is, defend the doctrine of (total) depravity using your hermeneutic.

    How can rhetoric masquerading as history be a sufficient support for a doctrine rooted in history?

    Richard, consider Lane’s initial comments here,

    “It is supposed to be a virtue to “think outside the box.” I have found such people more often than not to be plain and simply confusing.”

    “Within these boundaries creative theologizing has a chance. Stray outside, and you have heresy, not creativity.”

    In this last response to Daniel I sense tones of a post-modern redefining of terms. Your argument implies that there is not a clear historical witness to Adam. How so, as the very book that presents Jesus as a historical person presents Adam as a historical person? On what basis do you deny the latter while affirming the former? What in the text of Scripture necessitates this?

    Further on what Biblical basis do you juxtapose typology with history? “Adam is merely typological, his historicity does not matter” is expressly contrary to the Bible’s own witness that God has written his Word not just in rhetoric but also in history.

    Or do you discount the historicity that the books of Hebrews claims for the OT? (Hebrews expressly defending the typology of the OT). You want to remove the necessity of history from a document that presents itself as a record of the history of God’s work to bring about the redemption of His people.

    I expect you may want to suggest it is more nuanced than my flattening of your argument makes it seem. Then you face another challenge – show me in the Scriptures themselves the hermeneutical principles you use to ignore whether or not Adam was historical, while maintaining that Jesus was necessarily historical.

    I doubt you can. I expect your recourse will be to reference yet more works by supposed experts who contradict each other more than they do the Scriptures.

    I understand I am coming off strong in my questions and challenges here Rrichard. I mean to do so. The more specific you get the more blatant you become in asserting positions that deny the teaching of Scripture. That is a recipe for heresy.

  225. October 24, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Richard, take Reed’s counsel seriously. I am extremely concerned at the road you are walking down. Your quotation of 1 Cor. 15:3-4 can’t rescue you, as your logic could lead you to think that “Christ” does not refer to a historical person, but to some force or spirit.

  226. ReformedSinner said,

    October 24, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Since this has morph away from creation and into hermeneutics, and Reed has taken the lead in the discussion which I fully agree, I will just revert back to an observer for now.

  227. Vern Crisler said,

    October 24, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Richard is being untruthful when he says he doesn’t think YE Christians are ignorant. But see #212: “My previous question regarding Coats was not to imply that you are ignorant and therefore YEC but to find out what you made of his points.”

    Notice the “therefore” coming after “ignorant” and followed by “YEC.” That about says it all about Richard’s view of YE Christians.

    Reed: It’s not so much Richard’s tone that bothers me. It’s his naive assumption that he’s presenting something that none of us has ever heard before. As if none of us have ever studied OE arguments, or studied destructive higher critical views before.

    Anyway, as I said, it’s not really creation that Richard denies, but rather Scripture. He prefers the Bible as literature over the Bible as truth. I cannot follow him down that broad path.

    Vern

  228. ReformedSinner said,

    October 24, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    #231,

    His comment on Paul pretty much exposed who he is, and like I said we have already spent a gazillion posts on that topic before…

  229. Vern Crisler said,

    October 25, 2008 at 12:22 am

    I see that I may have misinterpreted Richard. He may have meant that he was not implying the IDEA that someone is ignorant and therefore YEC, but to find out, etc. So, if I’ve read your comments wrong Richard, my apologies. It’s just that your words are ambiguous in the above formulation, so if you wish to clarify, it would be very helpful.

    Vern

  230. Richard said,

    October 25, 2008 at 4:46 am

    Vern, my point was fairly straight forward, in asking Lane whether he had read Coats’ volume I was not meaning to imply that Lane’s advocacy of YEC was grounded on his not being aware (ignorance) of that volume.

    Furthermore, my comments have been trying to challenge the assumption that historical-critical methods are destructive of the Gospel. I would also note that my comments have been overwhelmingly directed toward Daniel whose tone has been anything from pleasant as RS can easily attest to.

    Reed, I am not juxtaposing typology with history, I am simply pointing out that Paul’s argument is not an historical argument but a typological one. That is, whether Adam was historical or not has no relevance to the argument that Paul is making, cf. Brevard Childs’ Biblical Theology.

    Sinfulness is easily demonstrated, Gen. 6: 5 “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” As I noted above:

    The Yahwist’s purpose in assembling this rich and varied material was to proclaim that Israel was the LORD’s chosen mediator to bring salvation and blessing to the troubled humanity described in Genesis 2-11. Genesis 12:1-3, in which this divine purpose is first proclaimed as blessing for Abraham and for “all the families of the earth,” is a pivotal text in the Yahwist narrative. It looks forward to the story of Israel as the blessed nation and source of blessing. At the same time, it looks back to the story of humanity in need of blessing.

    To go beyong your challenge, show me in the Scriptures themselves that I must base the hermeneutical principles I use on Scripture? If that’s not clear, demonstrate from Scripture your assumption underlying your challenge to me.

  231. Richard said,

    October 25, 2008 at 7:32 am

    FWIW, Phil Sumpter has a good series on his blog entitled “Faithful and Critical Scholarship”

  232. Jeremy said,

    October 25, 2008 at 8:59 am

    As per your last paragraph, there is a good section in a book called “Made to Stick” concerning how creativity is best done within boundaries. It talks about how the best ad campaigns ever have can all be placed into 6 basic templates. Anything outside of those templates only gets about a 2.5% approval rating. At any rate, perhaps an interesting analogy from another field.

  233. ReformedSinner said,

    October 25, 2008 at 9:43 am

    #235,

    Just so I can follow you clearly. I see you keep typing “Yahwist”, so you’re a firm believer in DH (Documentary Hypothesis) and the 4 sources?

    Thanks,

  234. Richard said,

    October 25, 2008 at 10:36 am

    RS, I would broadly accept the existence of different sources within the Pentateuch as well as later documents. Over on Reformed Reader Andrew posted a very good quote from Stephen B. Chapman:

    A canonically oriented view of inspiration, one that is suggested and even warranted by the historical study of canon formation, retains room for the transcendent but sees the divine-human encounter as occurring over a lengthier period of time and as including more people than just one author alone. In this view, inspiration would extend throughout the entirety of the process of the Bible’s formation and focus as much on the community that transmitted the text as on the role of the text’s putative author.

    That is, the discovery of JEDP does not demand a repudiation of evangelical views, the evangelical position ought to hold that the redaction and transmission history was guided by divine providence.

    If you read Childs you will find him advocating different sources. The discovery of sources shouldn’t be controversial, some ideas advocated by those who discered them are daft and rightly rejected.

  235. January 29, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    [...] not less. These boundaries are not hurtful things, but helpful things. See here, here, here, and here for some other thoughts related to [...]


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