Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Clarion and Young-Earth Creationism

Clarion, “The Canadian Reformed Magazine,” has apparently chosen for young-earth creationism. Although for years it had published work on both old- and young-earth creationism, in recent months the magazine has refused publication of old-earth articles and devoted itself single-mindedly to attacks on both old-earth creationism and theistic evolution. It began with an article by five Canadian Reformed pastors in the issue of 1 January 2010, entitled “Ten Reasons Why Evolution is Dangerous and Evil.” In addition, four editorials were published in the space of a few months, all of them rejecting theistic evolution and/or old-earth creationism. Since the attacks were obviously directed against Reformed Academic, we posted a series of answers to the “Ten Reasons.” Subsequently we submitted a more general response to Clarion, but the editorial committee, in accordance with its recently adopted policy, vetoed publication. We therefore now post it on the blog. (See “Collected Papers” in the sidebar for J. van der Meer et al. (2010) “Reformed Academic Responds to ‘Ten Reasons’”; direct link here.)

We do this in an attempt not only to respond to erroneous accusations at our address, but also to calm the waters. A good deal of alarm has recently been raised both at home and abroad about the dire threats posed to the CanRC by theistic evolutionists and old-earth creationists. We consider that alarmism unnecessary and regrettable, but realize how it could happen. While leading Reformed theologians have in the past generally accepted old-earth creationism as worthy of defence, and while even the possibility of some sort of theistic evolution appears to have been considered without raising alarm (let alone censorship), times have changed. During the past few decades scientific creationism, an American import, has slain its millions. (On this topic see the essay “Young-Earth Creationism: A History” on this blog, posted on 27 June 2009.)

This scientific creationism spread from North America to other areas, including the Netherlands. There, however, the much older Reformed (or “continental”) tradition on the issue survived. That tradition had of course been inherited by the Canadian Reformed Churches. In the past it was not uncommon for Canadian Reformed professors of theology to admit that they had no problems with old-earth creationism, and as mentioned, Clarion was allowed to write about it as well. Lately, however, American-evangelical influences have been growing among us, and by now it looks as if that position is to replace Reformed-continentalism. Not only Clarion, but the magazine Reformed Perspective also promotes it as the only biblical position, most schools, as well as the Theological College, appear to teach it, and neither pastors nor teachers publicly admit to a different position, no matter what their private opinion.

In short, the Canadian Reformed community is in this respect in tune with what is often called the fundamentalist wing of evangelicalism. As such they differ not only from the Reformed churches in the Netherlands but also from orthodox Presbyterianism in North America – both PCA and OPC. In these churches the issues, although considered sensitive, are openly discussed. We regret that this is no longer possible in the CanRC. In fact, it was this development – and specifically the censorship instituted by Clarion – that led to the establishment of Reformed Academic. In view of the measures taken by the powers that be, our work will have to continue.

Answers to the question why we believe we must address the question of the history of the earth and of life have been given in various entries on our blog. For the benefit of our readers, we will recapitulate them here:

1. We ask for a restoration of a balance in this area that was only recently disturbed. That is, we ask for the freedom of interpretation in the matter of Genesis 1 that has existed in the Reformed churches for well over a 100 years, and that had in both the Netherlands and Canada given little rise to controversy until the inrush and acceptance of American young-earth creationism. The traditional position implied the defence of old-earth creationism, as well as the idea of a regional Flood, the questioning of flood geology, and related issues.

2. We ask for an honest discussion of the effects scientific findings may have (and in the past indeed have had) on biblical exegesis. As one example out of several, we ask the reader to remember the acceptance of the Copernican-Galilean theory of a moving earth. While we realize the difficulties evolutionary theory raises for the understanding of Genesis 1, we are convinced that ostrich policies won’t help, just as they did not help in the past. They tend to be counter-productive. Although we have questions about evolution, we are all convinced that the matter must be discussed. The reasons why, and the manner in which, are outlined in our “Response to ‘Ten Reasons’” (Reformed Academic, 1-6 April 2010) and in other posts on our blog.

3. We ask for an awareness of the predicament in which the official proclamation of scientific creationism as the only acceptable position places many believers, and especially Christian scientists and students. Whatever the theological, philosophical, and even scientific problems associated with evolution, the scientific evidence for such matters as common descent is strong. Teaching that this evidence must be ignored, and even that it is spurious (inspired by the devil, as some believe) is not convincing.

4. We ask that our churches cease distancing themselves from the orthodox Reformed ecumene by their association with evangelical fundamentalism. In this respect we draw attention to the need to engage our culture and to stop raising stumbling stones for outsiders. A literalistic hermeneutic constitutes such a stumbling block. Realizing this, an increasing number of orthodox Christians (theologians and others) who take their cultural and evangelistic tasks seriously have, even in “creationist” America, publicly declared to have accepted either old-earth creationism or theistic evolution. We do not ask our churches to follow the latter example. We do, however, believe that it is high time to devote a serious discussion to the issue. To forbid such a discussion, as is presently done in our churches, and to present an interpretation of Genesis 1 that differs from the young-earth creationist one as unbiblical, is erroneous and dangerous.

We invite your careful reading of, and comments upon, our concluding response to “Ten Reasons” (direct link here).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Response to “Ten Reasons” – 10

This is a continuation of our response to an article entitled “Ten Reasons Why Evolution is Dangerous and Evil” published in Clarion in January. See this introductory response for the context and our approach. In the interest of clarity, and to avoid further unnecessary polarization, we presented these responses in advance to the authors of “Ten Reasons” to provide an opportunity to identify any misunderstanding or misrepresentation. No response was received.

Original from Clarion [numbered for our responses below]

Evolution falls outside the tent of the Reformed confessions

One of the great things about the Three Forms of Unity (TFU) is that they provide a big roomy tent under which Reformed confessors can discuss, even argue, theological points. For example, TFU subscribers can either believe there is such a thing as a covenant of works or that there is not, and have the room under the tent to discuss it. TFU subscribers can hold to either the Puritan or the Calvinian view of the application of the fourth commandment and have room to discuss their differences. This, alone, makes the TFU superior to some other Reformed confessions, which insist–to use the aforesaid examples–that one hold to the covenant of works doctrine and the Puritan understanding of the fourth commandment. The TFU get it right. They exclude Roman Catholic, Anabaptist and Arminian heresies and errors, but do not push fellow Reformed confessors out into the cold and rain. But what about “theistic evolution”? Can that discussion take place under the big tent?

Someone who holds to a teaching of evolution, “theistic” or other, has brought the discussion outside the tent.[37] By way of our confessions, we say that we believe scripture to teach that Adam was a direct creation of God; we reject that Adam had human and/or animal ancestors.[38]

One example from each confession should suffice to demonstrate the truth of this:[39]
  • Article 14 of the Belgic Confession says, “…God created man of dust from the ground and He made and formed him after His own image and likeness….”
  • Lord’s Day 3, referring to “our first parents, Adam and Eve,” says that “God created man good and in His image.”
  • Canons of Dort, III/IV, I says, “In the beginning man was created in the image of God.”
Whether or not we have animal ancestry is not an intramural discussion. (GVP)

Responses by Reformed Academic

37. Many who have been gifted and called to study and serve in the field of biology (or even geology or astronomy), and who are fully committed to the Reformed faith, have difficulty discussing openly in the church community what they are discovering about the way the world is. These brothers and sisters raise challenging questions, but they can be encouraged that there are also answers being given within the broader community of the Reformed faith by those who give careful attention to the interpretation of Scripture and of the scientific evidence. Suggesting instead that entertaining any support for the biological theory of evolution puts them outside of the Reformed community is not serving them, or Christ, well.

38. This argument assumes that God-directed evolution excludes the direct creation of Adam by God. But God-directed evolution does not exclude the direct creation of Adam, because everything that happens is under God’s direct control. Therefore, theistic evolution is not outside the boundaries of the TFU.

39. We at Reformed Academic all affirm all of these points.

Response to “Ten Reasons” – 9

This is a continuation of our response to an article entitled “Ten Reasons Why Evolution is Dangerous and Evil” published in Clarion in January. See this introductory response for the context and our approach. In the interest of clarity, and to avoid further unnecessary polarization, we presented these responses in advance to the authors of “Ten Reasons” to provide an opportunity to identify any misunderstanding or misrepresentation. No response was received.

Original from Clarion [numbered for our responses below]

Evolution is incompatible with the biblical doctrine of marriage and family

According to Scripture (Gen 2:18-23), God created a wife for Adam and then officiated at the first wedding ceremony. The Bible teaches that marriage and family have their origin with God’s creation in Genesis. Evolutionary theory[33] teaches, however, that marriage and family are social conventions that developed among evolving animals. This theory would suggest that family and marriage relationships are not written in stone, and therefore we can expect them to continue to evolve. It is not a significant step from accepting evolutionary dogma to embracing the validity of homosexual relationships, polygamy, or even bestiality. If there is no essential difference[34] between man and the animals, then man may certainly behave like an animal. The Bible teaches one thing and evolution[35] something completely different – this is the antithesis established between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. If we are to maintain the Biblical doctrine of marriage and family, we do well to see evolution[36] for what it is: an attack on the truth of God’s Word. (WB)

Responses by Reformed Academic

33. It is true that the biological theory of evolution has been used to account for social, moral, and religious behaviour. However, both Christians and non-Christians have shown that such use does not follow from that theory; instead, it is the teaching of evolutionism. We certainly do not hold the views attributed to philosophical evolutionists in this section. There is a revival of the so-called “nature-nurture” debates of the past. Materialists reduce social behavior including marriage and religiosity to phenomena determined by biological causes. Others, claiming to be anti-reductionists, reduce the same to socio-cultural factors. There are some, including Christians, who try to acknowledge the biological as well as the social and the religious aspects of, say, marriage. In these fields there is a crying need to develop a Christian interpretation of the biological facts. It is difficult to separate theory and ideology in this case, and this calls for careful thought. Dr. Jitse van der Meer has contributed to this Christian perspective by arguing that materialism shapes sociobiological theory in his article, “The engagement of religion and biology: A case study in the mediating role of metaphor in the sociobiology of Lumsden & Wilson”, Biology and Philosophy v. 15 (2000) pp. 669-698.

34. The biological theory of evolution does not make any ontological claims regarding the status of human vis-à-vis animals. Evolutionism indeed claims there is no essential difference. Christians, including us, certainly affirm the uniqueness of humanity (see previous remark).

35. Evolutionism, not evolution.

36. Evolutionism, not evolution.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Response to “Ten Reasons” – 8

This is a continuation of our response to an article entitled “Ten Reasons Why Evolution is Dangerous and Evil” published in Clarion in January. See this introductory response for the context and our approach. In the interest of clarity, and to avoid further unnecessary polarization, we presented these responses in advance to the authors of “Ten Reasons” to provide an opportunity to identify any misunderstanding or misrepresentation. No response was received.

Original from Clarion [numbered for our responses below]

Evolution cannot account for the uniformity of nature

The fact that the universe is orderly and regular makes science possible – this is the “uniformity of nature.” Evolutionists believe in the uniformity of nature, but it is inconsistent with the foundations of the theory of evolution. Those foundations cannot account for the world in which we live. Therefore, evolution and its associated worldviews cannot provide an adequate answer to the question of why we should believe that the future will reflect the present or the past. If all that exists is only matter (as most evolutionary worldviews claim), there is no basis for the uniformity of nature, and therefore no basis for science.[30]

Appealing to some form of theistic evolution does not help. The Bible teaches that the uniformity of nature has its basis in God and his decrees. The same Bible also teaches that God created the universe in six normal[31] days. It is inconsistent to accept one while denying the other. It is inconsistent to regard Genesis 1 and 2 as mythical or poetic while regarding Genesis 8:22 as literal.[32] Like his secular counterparts, a theistic evolutionist has no credible way to account for the uniformity of nature and the foundations of science. (WB)

Responses by Reformed Academic

30. Certainly, the only solid foundation for science is the covenant faithfulness of God toward His good creation, as discussed by Dr. Arnold Sikkema in his “Laws of Nature and God’s Word for Creation”, Fideles v. 2 (2007) pp. 27-43 (see remark 18).

If God had a plan for the Israelites in the Old Testament that included a history of redemption, so God can have a plan for his creation that includes historical development.

The author of this section does not explain what he means by uniformity and this makes it hard to respond. Uniformity may apply to process, law, causes, or rates, or any combination of them depending on the requirements of the circumstances. He seems to assume that the order of creation is static, which is (of course) inconsistent with a changing creation. We see sociological, meteorological, ecological, geological, astronomical processes occurring every day. If God has created the world such that it can change on these scales, and on those depicted in the theory of biological evolution, then change is consistent with God’s faithfulness. Change can be orderly and lawful.

31. We believe there was nothing normal or ordinary about the days of creation; they were extraordinary; after all we are talking about the creation of the universe! Furthermore, there is no consensus even among Reformed theologians regarding the precise interpretation of the days of Genesis 1.

32. There need not be a dichotomy between poetry and truth. Many authors have recognized the poetic and truthful character of both Genesis 1 and Genesis 8:22. It’s not clear what the point is here.

Response to “Ten Reasons” – 6 and 7

This is a continuation of our response to an article entitled “Ten Reasons Why Evolution is Dangerous and Evil” published in Clarion in January. See this introductory response for the context and our approach. In the interest of clarity, and to avoid further unnecessary polarization, we presented these responses in advance to the authors of “Ten Reasons” to provide an opportunity to identify any misunderstanding or misrepresentation. No response was received.

Original from Clarion [numbered for our responses below]

Evolution devalues human life

In the early part of the twentieth century the province of Alberta and other Canadian jurisdictions enacted eugenics laws on the basis of evolutionary theory.[24] Those with congenital disabilities were regularly sterilized to promote the development of the human race – in Nazi Germany, they were euthanized. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, built her pro-abortion ideology upon an evolutionary foundation. Even in the history of the Christian Reformed Church, an embrace of evolutionary dogma has often been associated with a denial of what the Bible teaches about the value of the unborn. Evolution[25] teaches a materialistic view of humanity in which we are essentially bags of chemicals.[26] Such a view, consistently held, results in the devaluation of human life from conception onward. (WB)

Evolution requires death before the Fall

The process of natural selection within the theory of evolution requires thousands, if not millions, of generations of our ancestors, many who were not quite human. They all lived, reproduced and then died. In this process, dominant characteristics developed only by chance[27] and others disappeared. It all led to progressively higher forms of life until human beings finally appeared on earth.

What the Bible teaches us is that not only did God create man, He created him very good. Then, in Genesis 2:17, He warned the first man and woman that if they disobeyed him and sinned, this would lead to their death. The testimony of Romans 5:12 is that since sin entered the world through the one man Adam, death came to all men after him.

If death has no basis in sin (as the theory of evolution says[28]), then what is the role of Jesus Christ as our Redeemer? Romans 5:17 tells us that He came to bring righteousness and life to those who die because they are descendants of the one man Adam.

When those who believe in the theory of evolution reject what the Bible teaches us about the origin of death as the consequence of sin, it’s not just a matter of whether to take the first three chapters of Genesis literally.[29] This actually throws into doubt the truthfulness of the rest of God’s Word, including what he did for us through Christ as our Mediator. (WG)

Responses by Reformed Academic

24. That some distort the biological theory of evolution and claim it as a foundation for their godless philosophies does indeed call for discernment, as discussed in earlier remarks.

25. The biological theory of evolution says nothing of this sort; this again is the naturalistic philosophy of evolutionism.

26. We join WB in opposing reductionism in all forms (see remark 19).

27. The nature of “chance” was discussed in previous remarks (15 & 16) as well.

28. The biological theory of evolution cannot account for the special character of humanity. Christians who support the theory generally acknowledge that human death is a consequence of human sin. Scripture nowhere claims that animal death is a consequence of human sin, or that animal death is evil. Life was promised for obedience, and this was rejected by man. Some of these matters are discussed at length by Dr. Jitse van der Meer in his paper, “God, Natural Evil, and Biological Evolution” (Reformed Academic, 6 October 2009; see this blog posting).

29. Again, we at Reformed Academic affirm the historical character of Genesis.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Response to “Ten Reasons” – 4 and 5

This is a continuation of our response to an article entitled “Ten Reasons Why Evolution is Dangerous and Evil” published in Clarion in January. See this introductory response for the context and our approach. In the interest of clarity, and to avoid further unnecessary polarization, we presented these responses in advance to the authors of “Ten Reasons” to provide an opportunity to identify any misunderstanding or misrepresentation. No response was received.

Original from Clarion [numbered for our responses below]

Evolution surrenders the historicity of Adam and Eve

Many people who hold to the theory of evolution don’t believe in a literal Adam and Eve. For them we today are simply[19] the result of millions of years of evolving from lower forms.

However, God’s Word in Genesis 2:7 tells that He created the first man out of the dust of the ground and the first woman from a part taken out of the man. They were made specifically by God and in his image.

If there was no literal Adam and Eve,[20] then what about the fall? Where did sin come from? Without a fall into sin, do we still need a redeemer? Without Adam and Eve, then who is Jesus Christ?

What we learn from 1 Corinthians 15:22 is that not only was there a first Adam but that because of his sin, the sin that affected not only him but all his descendants too, there had to be a second Adam.

If we start with God’s Word and if we believe the testimony that it gives us about what He did in creation and in redemption, then there couldn’t have been development from pre-human ancestors. If we begin with God’s Word, common ancestry with modern primates is out of the question.[21] (WG)

Evolution eliminates the antithesis

Our first parents’ tragic fall in Paradise destroyed the unity of humanity. When man fell, the united, God-honouring human race was permanently divided into two groups – the “seed of the woman” and the “seed of the serpent.” “I will put enmity between you and the woman,” the Lord told the serpent in Genesis 3:15, “and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

In subsequent history, that antithesis became clear, as the history of the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent is recounted on the pages of God’s Word. At many points in the history of God’s people, this antithesis has come under attack, as God’s people have attempted to make peace with the enemy, or have simply forgotten about the importance of this “great divide.”

“What does all of this have to do with the issue of Darwinian evolution[22] as it relates to the Christian faith?” you ask. And the answer is, “Everything!” In Romans 1:18-25, the Apostle Paul informs us in no uncertain terms about the nature of those who reject the one, true God: “For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”

We must never forget the antithesis, the vast chasm that God has placed between his people and unbelievers for our own benefit, and for his glory. Scientists who begin by denying God and his role in the creation and preservation of the universe are, to use the words of Scripture, “the seed of the serpent.” Claiming to be wise, they are actually fools. Beginning with the presupposition that there is no God, they become futile in their thinking. There is no middle ground; we must maintain the antithesis in every area of our lives, for the sake of God’s people, and ultimately to the glory of the Almighty Himself.[23] (JW)

Responses by Reformed Academic

19. The “simply” which WG cites is an example of reductionism, and reductionism is part of the overarching worldview of evolutionism, not part of the biological theory of evolution. We fully oppose all reductionistic forms of anthropology, which make such claims. For more on reductionism, see this blog posting. Certainly the human person is far more than whatever processes or materials were used by God in his/her development, and that is true for Adam as well as for us today.

20. We at Reformed Academic accept Adam and Eve as historical. See this blog posting (comment dated 4 June 2009).

21. Better put, as Calvin would have it: one who wishes to investigate questions of common ancestry, not addressed by Scripture, “let him look elsewhere.”

22. At the risk of being somewhat repetitive, it is not Darwinian evolution which is “the enemy,” opposed to Christianity, but evolutionism. The issues raised in the section are otherwise exactly on the mark.

23. We glorify God also by exploring the works of His hands, as He has revealed Himself in the “creation, preservation, and government of the universe” (Belgic Confession, Article 2). We deny Him glory if we care not one whit for the evidence of processes which He has ordained and overseen. We are perplexed by the enormity of the accusations (“Scientists…denying God…the seed of the serpent”) among people who confess the same faith, but we will take them as well-intended. It is clear, though, that there is a significant degree of misunderstanding, and hence misrepresentation, of what has been posted on Reformed Academic.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Response to “Ten Reasons” – 2 and 3

This is a continuation of our response to an article entitled “Ten Reasons Why Evolution is Dangerous and Evil” published in Clarion in January. See this introductory response for the context and our approach. In the interest of clarity, and to avoid further unnecessary polarization, we presented these responses in advance to the authors of “Ten Reasons” to provide an opportunity to identify any misunderstanding or misrepresentation. No response was received.

Original from Clarion [numbered for our responses below]

Evolution requires pre-Adamite human beings - Luke 3:38 disallows it

The genealogy of the Lord Jesus, as Luke gives it, ends with saying that Seth was the son of Adam, and that Adam was the son of God (Luke 3:38). In the Greek, the word “son” occurs only in v. 23 (“[Jesus] was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, of Heli, of Matthat, etc.”). But “son” is clearly implied every time. Our English translation, supplying the word “son” in every instance, is not incorrect.

To be a son of someone is to have your existence from that person. Seth had his existence from Adam. To use an old expression, he was the fruit of Adam’s loins. Adam had his existence from God–of course, in a way different from how Seth was of Adam. The point of comparison is that as Seth was directly of Adam, so Adam was directly of God.

The context of this verse is very instructive. The genealogy of Jesus is preceded by the account of his baptism. There the Father calls Jesus “my Son.” Context is king. As the eternal Son of God has his existence directly from the God the Father, so Adam had his existence directly from God.

Those who believe that man and chimpanzees have a common (animal) ancestor will have difficulty with the position that Adam was the direct creation of God. They will suppose that Adam had ancestors, possibly human, assuredly animal. Luke 3:38 would contradict that supposition.

The only way to get around the conclusion that Luke 3:38 teaches that Adam was the direct creation of God (and not the offspring of another creature) is to take the position that Luke 3:38 is mythological.[12] (GvP)

Evolution challenges God’s self-revelation in Scripture

The scriptural doctrine of creation is not an issue that can be pushed to the side as a “non-essential” of the Christian faith. Many will claim that Darwinian evolution and the Christian faith can co-exist as partners, or at the very least as peaceful neighbours, that the matter of “how” God created is not as important as the fact that He created. However, Scripture repeatedly reveals that God’s act of creation by the awesome power of his Word is intimately related to, and indeed one with, the central doctrines of our faith.

Why is our Lord and God worthy to receive glory and honour and power? Because He created all things, and by His will they existed and were created” (Rev 4:11).

How can the Lord have the power to call his people, and to redeem us? He is the One who created us; He is the one who formed us (Isa 43:1).

What is the true nature of the Son of God? Through Him the Father created the world and He upholds the universe by the word of his power (Heb 1:2,3).

In Isaiah 40, the Lord speaks through his prophet, detailing the close relationship between his creative power and his personal work of redemption. His power in creating the world and sustaining it, an infinite power and authority that had no need[13] for millions, or billions, of years of evolutionary development, is intimately connected to his power to know his people personally, to save us, and to give us all that we need. The God who created the world in an instant,[14] who arranged and filled the universe in an unimaginable, awesome show of power and might, is also our Redeemer (Isa 40:25-29).

The Darwinian doctrine of evolution takes[15] the awe-inspiring creative power of God Almighty and places it in the hands of genetic mutations, chance,[16] and aeons of natural selection and development. It creates a distance[17] between God and his creation; it detracts from the power of God’s creative Word; it subtracts from God’s glory, and it paints a picture of the one true God that does not at all line up with his self-revelation in Scripture.

Who is our God? How should we live in the presence of such a God? “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Ps 33:8,9). This is the God who has revealed Himself. This is the God we worship and adore.[18] (JW)

Responses by Reformed Academic

12. The assumption in this “Reason” is that, in the case of humans, animal ancestry and direct creation by God are mutually exclusive. No reasons are given why God could not have created Adam from animal ancestors. The Bible characterizes all things as the result of God’s creative activity irrespective of whether the things created come about supernaturally or naturally. In both cases God creates. Therefore, the conclusion that Luke 3:38 must be mythological does not follow. We understand the concern about a possible denial that Adam was the son of God. We certainly do not take that position because we take Luke 3:38 to be true.

In the case of Adam, this section seems to posit a dichotomy between being a son of God and having any other ancestors, but in the case of Jesus, it acknowledges both “opposites.” But we are all sons of God (Galatians 3:26), as well as sons of our parents. Jesus was the son of David, David the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1), etc. There is thus no need for the dichotomy, and so this section seems irrelevant.

13. Certainly God did not need millions or billions of years to create the world. He could have created the universe yesterday, with all memories and historical records in place. But since scripture does not speak about the age of the earth (or of the universe), then, as Calvin says, “He who would learn astronomy, and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere...Astronomers investigate with great labour whatever the sagacity of the human mind can comprehend. Nevertheless, this study is not to be reprobated, nor this science to be condemned, because some frantic persons are wont boldly to reject whatever is unknown to them. For as astronomy is not only pleasant, but also very useful to be known: it cannot be denied that this art unfolds the admirable wisdom of God” (Commentary on Genesis 1:6 & 16). Taking time to make something does not detract from God’s glory either; it is a false dichotomy between fiat and process. After all, why did God let the Israelites suffer through a history of redemption if He could have redeemed them in an instant? Because it was in God’s plan. If that history can be in God’s plan, why would that not apply to the history of the Earth as studied in geology?

14. The claim that creation was instantaneous cannot be supported from Scripture. Even those who affirm a literalistic interpretation of Genesis 1 see God working through processes over time.

15. No explanation – scientific or otherwise – ever takes away the power of God and replaces it with natural causes. That view would be the position of an atheist or a materialist such as Dawkins. As Reformed Christians, we believe that God is involved in everything including what are called “chance” events. The notion of “chance” is often misunderstood as referring to fate, but no Christian is bound to that atheistic interpretation. The scientist who is a Christian acknowledges the God of creation and providence while also investigating the lawful patterns of regularity by which the Trinitarian God speaks the world into being and behaviour.

16. A Reformed doctrine of creation and providence acknowledges a place for “chance,” as seen from the human perspective, without implying this is hands-off for God (Proverbs 16:33). In all things, God’s decree is sovereign.

17. The Reformed doctrine of creation and providence holds to both the transcendence and immanence of God. God forming and filling creation is an intimate personal process.

18. In case there is any doubt, we at Reformed Academic fully accept all of Scripture, including (especially) the texts cited here. In fact, Dr. Arnold Sikkema has written a paper entitled “Laws of Nature and God’s Word for Creation”, Fideles v. 2 (2007) pp. 27-43 (accessible at our “collected papers” in the sidebar; direct link here), which cites many of these same passages in support of a Reformed Christian understanding of the character of natural laws.

Response to “Ten Reasons” - 1

This is a continuation of our response to an article entitled “Ten Reasons Why Evolution is Dangerous and Evil” published in Clarion in January. See this introductory response for the context and our approach. In the interest of clarity, and to avoid further unnecessary polarization, we presented these responses in advance to the authors of “Ten Reasons” to provide an opportunity to identify any misunderstanding or misrepresentation. No response was received.

Original from Clarion [numbered for our responses below]

Evolution must regard Genesis 2:8 as mythical

In Genesis 2:4-7 we read that God formed man from the dust of the ground and then He breathed the breath of life into his nostrils and man became a living soul.

God created man (in Hebrew:
Adam) from the dust[6] of the ground (in Hebrew: adamah) and he became a living soul. This account of the creation of man resounds with the special character of this creative act of God.[7] On the previous creation days, God said, “Let there be…!” And it was so. And it was all very good. But now in Genesis 2:7 we read of the Lord God, the covenant God, who in a special creative act, gives the breath of life to Adam formed from adamah.[8]

Now, if evolutionists are right, then this is figurative language.[9] Some biblical scholars have rejected a literal “potter” interpretation because they see this as close to disrespect of God: “Did God fashion the liver, the lungs of clay?” they might ask. “God was not concerned with creating a scientific text when he told us of his creative work; He just wanted to communicate that man did not descend from the gods, but that He was part of this creation,” they would say.

However, if this creation story is figurative, allegorical, mythical or some other kind of story, other than history, then at Genesis 2:8 we have a problem. For God put that man he had
formed into a garden. There, together with the woman, he was tempted to rebel against his Creator and fell into sin. Any literary approach to the narrative would make no distinction between the forming of the man in verse 7, and the formed man in verse 8. So if this is an allegorical myth, it must continue into the following verses. It would seem disingenuous to claim verse 7 to be myth, and verse 8 to be history.[10]

Of course the story of the fall, and the record of historical Adam are foundational to the New Testament doctrine of redemption and atonement. Paul and the Lord Jesus accept the historical reality of Adam. Paul, in Romans, works out the doctrine of substitutionary atonement based on the historical Adam. The doctrine of the covenant also is tied into a historical Adam.

Evolutionists, who claim that the human race descended from pre-adamite primates need to be clear and honest: the Reformed doctrine of atonement and covenant would need to rewritten, for there can be no real Adam formed from
adamah.[11] (JvP)

Responses by Reformed Academic

6. In this context, thought must be given as to what “dust” means. Considering Psalm 103:14, we know that even we today are created from dust. (See also Genesis 18:27; I Kings 16:2; Job 10:9; Job 34:15; Psalm 90:3.) Thus, comparing Scripture with Scripture, we see that Adam’s creation from “dust” does not necessarily mean that God pushed around some mud and formed a humanoid shape. Instead, “dust” has a range of acceptable interpretations including “the material Adam is made of,” “the humble status of Adam,” and “the clay used by the divine potter to fashion Adam.” Contrary to this, many other religions assume humanity was formed out of divine substance.

7. Christians who lend credence to the theory of common ancestry fully affirm that the creation of man is a special creative act of God; they also affirm the clear Biblical teaching of the soul, and that the human person is made uniquely and specially in the image of God. (Among others, these include Denis Alexander, Denis Lamoureux, Francis Collins, Jitse van der Meer.)

8. We fully affirm the main point of this paragraph, namely that man is a special creation. This point, though, is grounded in the fact that God breathes the breath of life into Adam. The precise meaning of “dust” in this context does not affect the clear fact of the special creation of man.

9. This assertion is correct for adherents to evolutionism as a worldview, but not for those who work with the theory of biological evolution while rejecting the worldview. The latter are not forced to accept a figurative or mythical interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. Instead, just like each of the Gospels offers history written from different perspectives, so they can take Genesis as offering history with a religious perspective. While a religious perspective does not remove the historical reality referred to in a text, it also does not conform to modern scholarly standards for history writing. In the words of C. John Collins [Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2006) p. 13, n. 17]: “…if we say that an account makes a historical truth claim, that does not settle every question we might ask about whether, for example, things are narrated in the order in which they occurred; or whether the description is complete; or whether we must interpret the account without reference to metaphor, hyperbole, literary devices, etc.” Christians who take the Bible seriously can take Gen. 1 & 2 as history while not taking it as a “photographic report” as the five authors appear to suggest. Their view that evolution forces a figurative, allegorical, or mythical interpretation on the text of Gen. 1 & 2 is overly simplistic and does not stand up to criticism.

10. From what we just wrote it will be clear that a straw man is being set up. This strategy is constantly repeated against our protests and does not promote the neighbour’s good name. Instead, it carelessly identifies us as evolutionists and then raises all the concerns that they think apply to evolutionists. Only they do not apply to us. We at Reformed Academic affirm the historicity of the Genesis account, while many seem to think that we seek to deny it, consider it a myth, or force upon it a new interpretation to fit modern science. Instead, we wish to use sound Reformed hermeneutical principles, including letting Scripture interpret Scripture, emphasizing the redemptive-historical approach, and considering the cultural, literary, and textual, historical context, especially seeking to recognize how modernist and enlightenment thinking has in recent centuries clouded our interpretation of what the original author(s) and readers and hearers meant and received. An important aspect of this is to recognize that our understanding of the world does and indeed cannot but influence our understanding of the Word (and vice versa of course). After Galileo, most Reformed believers had no difficulty in correcting interpretations of passages such as Psalm 93:1 and Joshua 10:12,13 which had earlier been taken, on a so-called “plain sense reading,” to oppose the developing sun-centred model. However, note carefully that it is not science which brings an interpretation to Scripture, but new scientific understandings can be the occasion for more careful hermeneutics and exegesis in cases where even a long-standing traditional interpretation, though likely not an original understanding, of a passage is called into question.

11. Neither do we join with those who regard Adam as a-historical.