Theistic Evolution – PCA

by Reed DePace

Some of you already know this, but it may be new to others. Please do not think I am writing against theistic evolution because I want to drive adherents to it out of the PCA. As men formally acknowledged to be called by the Spirit to undershepherd Christ’s Church, the teaching and ruling elders of the PCA are already in agreement that theistic evolution is inconsistent with the gospel that we are to preach and teach.

A number of items demonstrate this:

One, while not as explicit, the PCA Creation Report does provide exceptional nuancing into the issues surrounding this whole topic. It is a must read starting point for discussing this topic within our circles. At the very least this report is unfriendly to theistic evolution.

Two, one of the decisions at this year’s PCA General Assembly makes it clear that at least in regard to a theistic evolution understanding of Adam and Eve, this is already out of bounds for the PCA. In response to a number of overtures to issue an in thesi statement on the historicity of Adam and Eve’s creation, the PCA GA went with an overture that rejected issuing such a statement. Among the reasoning for this was that the Westminster Larger Catechism already provides sufficient clarity to deny a theistic evolutionary model for Adam and Eve’s creation. In other words, the GA decided that there was no reason to issue a statement saying what we already say we believe. The PCA is already on record as saying that any teaching that Adam and Eve were created through evolutionary means is contradictory to what we believe the Bible to teach.

Three, the teaching of theistic evolution in the PCA has already been explicitly denied in a previous judicial case involving this question. This was a matter that eventually found its way into the hands of our Standing Judicial Commission, where the decision to declare theistic evolution out of bounds was upheld. As all such SJC decisions must be accepted or rejected by the GA, and this one was accepted, this is a formal and explicit declaration on the part of the PCA –

The teaching of theistic evolution is contrary to the Bible and not to be taught in our churches.

If someone believes this is wrong there are reasonable biblical-ecclesiological options to address this and see the (supposed) error corrected. Among those options IS NOT to ignore the decision of our fathers. Brothers, let us not be among those who takes vows lightheartedly.

by Reed DePace

POSTSCRIPT: here is a good starting article to consider problems evolution: What Are the Top Ten Problems with Darwinian Evolution? This is a scientific perspective, not a biblical perspective. For those interested in an informed and reasonable critique of evolution from a science perspective, I recommend this site.

Theistic Evolution and the PCA

by Reed DePace, TE, PCA

O.k., I know this is a touchy subject. Yet it is important. I’m not going to name names, as to do that with the respect owed to brothers would take up much more space than I have here. I am however, going to say that I am persuaded that the teaching of theistic evolution is occurring within the PCA.

Some of this is overt; those involved know that this is what they are teaching. Some of this is under layers of rationalizing that hides the connection to theistic evolution (sometimes even from those supporting the rationalizations). Either way, there is support for theistic evolution going in our denomination.

So what! Right? Well, mark me as a trouble maker if you wish, but theistic evolution is deadly. It is a doctrine that presupposes the validity of an origins theory that fundamentally denies the Biblical origins doctrine. And in doing so, it proves a fatal poison to the gospel.

We can spend our time trying to parse out what “death” is, but we doomed to fail up front because evolution in theistic evolution is antithetical to the Bible. Evolution is fundamentally opposed to the Bible’s explanation of death. We may think we can wall off some limited form of death that protects the historic credibility of the Fall into sin and the ensuing curse of all creation. Yet beginning from a position that affirms that in any manner, to any degree, the reign of death now being experienced throughout the created order is actually how God created things in the first place leaves us with no hope.

Evolution calls good everything the Bible says is God’s judgment on Man’s sin. It truly is a matter of darkness denying the light. There is no compromise with it that will succeed. We don’t have a choice if we are to maintain the Bible’s integrity. Whatever the natural processes before the fall (biological, geological, astronomical, et.al.) they cannot partake of what God calls the reign of death. They cannot be a variation of it or a perfected form of it.

To so argue makes biblical interpretation no more than metaphor. If first Adam is nothing more than a metaphor, then last Adam is likewise nothing more than a metaphor. You agree in even a small way that the reign of death IS NOT exclusively a result of the fall and you lose the gospel. No fall, no judgment; no judgment, no atonement; no atonement, no gospel.

It is that simple.

by Reed DePace, TE, PCA

POSTSCRIPT: here is a good starting article to consider problems evolution: What Are the Top Ten Problems with Darwinian Evolution? This is a scientific perspective, not a biblical perspective. For those interested in an informed and reasonable critique of evolution from a science perspective, I recommend this site.

Contending for Creation

by Reed DePace

I’ve both enjoyed and been frustrated at the various origins discussions we’ve had here at GB. I’ve enjoyed them because I’ve found my own understanding and confidence in a straightforward reading of Genesis 1-2 strengthened and deepened. I’ve been frustrated because I’ve not seen that result shared across the board by all those commenting on these origins posts.

I want to ask those of us who do find our confidence in the straightforward reading of Gn 1-2 (from 6/24 YEC to those who essentially buy this is what the Bible requires but don’t want to make any positive scientific affirmations) to think about the nature of this debate. I agree we get how serious it is. I may be saying something that you already get, yet just in case not, I’m asking you to take a moment to consider again what is going on in this debate for the “other side”.

Begin by focusing on this question: what does it mean to assert the authority of special revelation (Bible) over general revelation (Science)? I’d argue that those posting here from the (supposed) other side do not disagree with this way of answering this question: the Bible RULES Science. In other words, I don’t see anything in what they’re saying which leads me to conclude that they are not sincerely affirming this necessary truth.

This being said, then how do we explain those areas, those comments from the other side where we believe they’re concluding things that require exactly the opposite belief? What do we do with those areas in which we’re convinced that they’ve just said something that is based on the Science RULES Bible perspective?

I’m not admonishing us, as if I think we’re doing something wrong. Instead I hope you hear me encouraging, even exhorting us to take our own explanations and make them better. Sympathetic with their concerns and patient in our explanation, yes, but we owe them even more!! We must pursue active, even graciously aggressive efforts to winsomely demonstrate how the Bible RULES Science.

I suspect that those commenting on blogs like this one who are pushing for an expanded understanding of Gn 1-2 (and then 3-11) are the brave ones, the confident-in-their-faith ones. While I do find some sympathy for them, even such as the “high priest” of the effort, Dr. Pete Enns (a former professor of mine), I am GREATLY more concerned for the potential legion of young professing believers for whom this debate is critical.

We tend not to recognize how true one of Ken Ham’s insights really is – every issue in some manner or form does come back to an origins question. Consequently, while not saying it is the only issue, I am saying that we must keep before us this point: the argument over origins is vital to all the other THREATS to the Church in our land.

Take for example the issue of the normalization of sexual fornication in the American Church. Let’s not be wheenies with our words here. Not believing in 6/24 creation might not mean you’re a heretic going to hell, but believing you’re a born-again, Holy-Spirit baptized, justified-adopted-sanctified, persevering-to-glory child of God who rejoices in the freedom of his sexual fornication IS a damning conviction. (Read 1Co 6:9-10, deal with what “no one who is a fornicator of any type” (vs. 9) and “such were some of you” must mean.)

What we believe about origins directly applies to this subject. If we agree that “being born this way” is true this means in the end that a propensity for what the Bible calls sexual perversion is actually a part of God’s original perfect creation. From this perspective perversion is a wicked label for these various fornication practices (i.e., those things we euphemistically label “lifestyles” to make them appear innocent and holy). I.O.W., a failure in our origins apologetic will support a state of atrocity, one that will do more than anything else to remove the Church in America’s lampstand from before the Spirit whose holiness will not allow Him to gaze with love on any wickedness.

All this to urge those of us for whom this all seems so much clearer: let’s double down on our patience, our love, AND our zeal. There is a Church to see restored and a Nation to see saved. The “other side” may exasperate us at times (as I’m sure we do them). Yet they are actually a gift from God in that they can help us proclaim the glory of our God clearer.

by Reed DePace

Hebrews and Real Warnings

by Reed DePace

This evening a friend sent me a link to an excellent article on the warning passages of Hebrews (found here). In the article Colin Hansen of the Gospel Coalition Q&A’s Dr. Peter O’Brien (Professor Emeritus, Moore College, Sydney, Australia). Dr. O’Brien provides an exceptional explanation, demonstrating that the key issue is between real faith and spurious faith.

Real faith is described at that which perseveres in adherence to and reliance on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Spurious faith is described as that which knowingly rejects sole reliance on Christ and returns to some form of self-reliance (in the case of Hebrews, expressed via the Mosaic system).

O’Brien’s description of spurious faith is consistent with the idea of temporary faith discussed here in the past at length.

This article deserves your attention.

Posted by Reed DePace (H/T: Dr. R. Fowler White)

It Comes Down to This

by Reed DePace

It seems to me that the results of the Meyers, Lawrence and Leithart matters have the effect of focusing the issues involved. In all three situations Presbyteries have concluded that teachings which appear consistent with FV teachings denounced by the PCA Study Report are in fact not out of accord with our doctrinal standards.

The common threads seem to be that each of these men:

1. Affirms the Westminster Standards (WS), and
2. Their teachings in question do not contradict the WS, and
3. [Therefore] their teachings do not conflict with the PCA FV Study Report.

The rationale that seems to logically support these conclusions centers is the claim that the teachings in question are only about the benefits of salvation which the reprobate church member receives. As this is not (supposedly) something addressed by the WS (which only addresses the benefits received by the decretally elect), therefore these teachings do not conflict with our standards. E.g., this is usually heard in the FV claim to be speaking about salvation (or any other ordo salutis benefit) in different way than the WS, but in a way that the Bible also speaks.

I’m thinking that this is pretty much the heart of the rationale rested upon by the presbyters in three presbyteries when they decided to find these men “not guilty” (in the case of Lawrence and Leithart explicitly, Meyers implicitly). That is, this argument for the defense sounds both reasonable and biblical to the men tasked with determining whether or not these men’s teachings are out of accord with the WS.

If I’m right, then it comes down to this,

Does the Bible teach a secondary way of salvation, a way of salvation that is experienced by the reprobate church member that is parallel but different in terms of duration than the way of salvation experienced by the decretally elect?

If yes, then the FV is not out of accord with the WS? If no, then it is.

It would seem to me that future efforts to demonstrate the biblical errors of these teachings must deal with this dual salvation scheme. It must deal with demonstrating that this is not the biblical teaching. It will not suffice to argue exclusively from the WS, as men teaching these things can simply respond, “amen, and also …” It must be shown that the Bible does not support the FV’ers parallel secondary way of salvation for the reprobate church member.

If this can be shown then the elders having to make the judgments in these matters will be greatly supported.

Well?

By Reed DePace

GRACE – A Definition?

by Reed DePace

Recently preaching through Romans (yes, I’m old enough), I’ve had multiple opportunities to “define” grace for our congregation. As some of you will know, this is not as straightforward as it seems. I was wondering what y’all think. Here is the working definition I’ve used with our congregation:

Grace is God’s presence that brings God’s power so that God’s provision for redemption is made the believer’s possession.

Thoughts?

by Reed DePace

Inerrancy – A WTS Reminder

by Reed DePace

This past week I received a mailing from my alma mater, Westminster Theological Seminary. Sent to all teaching elders in the PCA, it included a cover letter from Dr. David B. Garner (asc. prof., syst. theo.) and a DVD on the subject of inerrancy.

The DVD provides a summary WTS’s defense of the doctrine of inerrancy. It includes three parts: 1) Dr. Garner’s introduction and then narration of the subject matter on the DVD, 2) WTS board-member Dr. Harry Reeder’s explanation of the seriousness of the need to defend inerrancy yet again in our current era, and 3) Dr. Vern Poythress’s explanation of WTS’ document, Affirmations and Denials on the Doctrine of Scripture.

This document was adopted by the Board of WTS in December, 2008. Since then it has been adopted by some PCA Presbyteries as a helpful clarification of chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith in relation to the recent attacks on the doctrine of inerrancy.

If you are a TE in the PCA, I urge you to consider taking two actions: 1) watching and listening to the DVD you’ve received from WTS, and 2) taking action to have your presbytery adopt this statement as a response to the current attacks on inerrancy. If you are not a PCA TE, I urge you to recommend these actions to any PCA TE’s you know.

We need to stand up now and defend this most vital doctrine of our faith. A whole new generation is in jeopardy. Let it not be said that our faith was faithless in response to this threat against God’s veracity.

by Reed DePace

Inerrancy – Is God a False Prophet?

by Reed DePace

I recently finished reading the most recent issue of the Westminster Theological Journal. In it Gregory K. Beale has an excellent article in which he offers an exegetical defense of the necessity of inerrancy. I won’t offer a review of that article here, but rather encourage y’all to get a hold of it. It is pretty good.

In the article Beale uses God’s standards for prophets speaking His word to make the case that inerrancy is indeed an essential and necessary characteristic of the Bible. Centered mostly in an excursive in Revelation, Beale offers a pretty convincing argument. (But, of course, I’m already a kool-aide drinker, so what do I know?)

As I read the argument I was reminded of a passage pressed upon me in my early days of discipleship, Deut. 18:20-22:

20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’ – 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

So, is not God’s word written by men called under the standards of prophetic ministry? Yes, of course. And do these standards not require that their words be true? Yes, of course. Specifically, is not the characteristic of truth in the above passage specifically historical truthfulness, that is accuracy in terms of what actually does happen in time? The passage certainly does say that.

So, if it be maintained that God’s word does indeed contain historical inaccuracies (e.g., no real Adam), does this not mean, at the very least, that Moses (and any inspired editor of the Pentateuch), fails the Deuteronomical test for a prophet speaking for God?

At the very least, we should not “be afraid” of Moses. Let’s throw out any book he had a hand in writing, and of course any book dependent upon his writings. (Uhh, wait a minute, that includes the whole Bible.)

Wait, here is a worse thought! Suppose you want to maintain inspiration, but deny inerrancy. That would mean that Moses really was speaking for God. So, if there are errors in the Bible, that would mean God Himself is guilty of being a false prophet. Now we’re facing a real dilemma. If false prophets should die, God should die for authoring error in His own name.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sure not going to start throwing stones at God. Instead, I’m going to stick with my conviction about inerrancy. It is much simpler to believe the Bible is what is says it is, God’s own inspired, infallible, AND inerrant word, than to spend the time trying to figure a way out of the mental knots one ties himself in when he denies inerrancy.

God’s word is inerrant. Stay away from the stones.

Reed DePace

Inerrancy and Justification

by Reed DePace

I recently finished reading the most recent issue of the Westminster Theological Journal. In it Gregory K. Beale has an excellent article in which he offers an exegetical defense of the necessity of inerrancy. I won’t offer a review of that article here, but rather encourage y’all to get a hold of it. It is pretty good.

In the article Beale uses God’s standards for prophets speaking His word to make the case that inerrancy is indeed an essential and necessary characteristic of the Bible. Centered mostly in an excursive in Revelation, Beale offers a pretty convincing argument. (But, of course, I’m already a kool-aide drinker, so what do I know?)

As I read the argument I was reminded of a passage pressed upon me in my early days of discipleship, Deut. 18:20-22:

20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’ – 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

So, is not God’s word written by men called under the standards of prophetic ministry? Yes, of course. And do these standards not require that their words be true? Yes, of course. Specifically, is not the characteristic of truth in the above passage specifically historical truthfulness, that is accuracy in terms of what actually does happen in time? The passage certainly does say that.
So, if it be maintained that God’s word does indeed contain historical inaccuracies (e.g., no real Adam), does this not mean, at the very least, that Moses (and any inspired editor of the Pentateuch), fails the Deuteronomical test for a prophet speaking for God?

At the very least, we should not “be afraid” of Moses. Let’s throw out any book he had a hand in writing, and of course any book dependent upon his writings. (Uhh, wait a minute, that includes the whole Bible.)

Wait, here is a worse thought! Suppose you want to maintain inspiration, but deny inerrancy. That would mean that Moses really was speaking for God. So, if there are errors in the Bible, that would mean God Himself is guilty of being a false prophet. Now we’re facing a real dilemma. If false prophets should die, God should die for authoring error in His own name.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sure not going to start throwing stones at God. Instead, I’m going to stick with my conviction about inerrancy. It is much simpler to believe the Bible is what is says it is, God’s own inspired, infallible, AND inerrant word, than to spend the time trying to figure a way out of the mental knots one ties himself in when he denies inerrancy.

God’s word is inerrant. Stay away from the stones.

Reed DePace

Twin Lakes and Inerrancy

Here at the Twin Lakes Fellowship, listening to Dr. Ligon Duncan speak on the seriousness of the resurgence of the denial of inerrancy among young evangelicals, and in particular young reformed evangelicals. Some highlights:

“If God is a Spirit, then the only way we can know him is if he speaks to us. And if he does not speak truth to us, we have no way of knowing him truly.”

His advice to pastors on how to be of help to our younger brothers and sisters:

  1. Re-read the classics on the doctrine of inerrancy.
  2. Walk with seminarians and others through the arguments of the current critics of inerrancy.
  3. Don’t assume Young Evangelicals own this tradition. Instead, persuade them into it by boht your understanding of the arguments from the critics and the biblical defense against those arguments.

This year the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) will be re-constitued and re-begin its work. Dr. R. Albert Mohler will be the convening president, with Dr. Duncan Rankin serving as the Executive Director of the re-constituted ICBI. The make up of the members will be more multi-national than the previous generation of the ICBI.

First up for the ICBI’s work: re-affirmation of the original ICBI statements. Second: affirmation of the total authority of the Bible.

(Reed DePace)

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