Thursday, October 15, 2009

Genesis One

Recently I began preaching through the book of Genesis.  For a long time I stayed away not quite sure how to navigate its opening chapters.  I've read as much as I can and contemplated the various views concerning the creation account. 

I won't go into a defense of any single position here but for the uninformed there are five major views of the creation account: Days of Ordinary Length, Days of Unspecified Length, Day-Age View, Framework View, and Analogical View.  Some might be surprised to learn that reformed stalwarts like B.B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, Herman Bavinck, Charles Hodge, A.A. Hodge, Herman Ridderbos, and others held positions other than the first one listed above. 

One might be puzzled at this point as we commonly hear that the length of creation days is a test of orthodoxy.  Is it?  Consider that all five views affirm the following tests of orthodoxy:
  • Creation ex nihilo
  • The federal headship of Adam
  • The Covenant of Works
  • The doctrine of the Sabbath
  • The sufficiency and perspicuity of Scripture
  • The historicity of the creation account
For further reading I suggest the following position papers on this topic: 

PCA Position Paper on Creation
OPC Position Paper on Creation
http://opc.org/GA/CreationReport.pdf

Westminster Theological Seminary Statement on Creation http://www.wts.edu/about/beliefs/statements/creation.html

4 comments:

Ken said...

We are currently going through Genesis also at St. Goerges. Mei is also working her way through the old testament attending Bible college through Moore Theological College which is a reformed Anglican out of Sydney which St. Georges host classes.

Dave Sarafolean said...

Ken,

Nice to hear from you.

I hope that you will read the position papers, at least the overview of the various interpretations of Genesis 1.

While I applaud those believers who wish to engage the scientific community most often they get nowhere with the young earth framework. I wish that they would read the various views and approach the text with a lot more humility.

The latest White Horse Inn broadcasts on 'Tactics' has a good discussion of this issue. They assert that it is more important to present the Gospel to the lost than to convince them of a certain interpretation of creation. I agree.

Ken said...

Being a christian for the last 20 years I've heard all of the different ideas on creation, but many forget the implication needs to be played out in the Christian life. In my setting which is not western and even Christianity isn't westernized for the most part. We as believers need to rest and give our servants(maids) rest which is foreign to other religions in my society. Yup, I've been transplanted so to say in Asia as you know. I will be back in Michigan the second week of December and looking forward to worship.

Kaitiaki said...

Dave, I am wondering what you refer to with your comment about humility on this subject. I hope it was with reference to the idea that we should use one of the views you express as a test of orthodoxy.

I guess, in my mind, the humility comes with a willingness to accept that science may not have all the answers we are inclined to assume it does. Then to allow that, though we might be absolutely clear in our own minds about the teaching of the Bible there comes a point at which we have to allow God does not teach us all at the same rate - nor even to the same degree. Which means learning to accept differing interpretations or explanations of doctrinal matters.

I accepted the Westminster Confession's stance that the final arbiter in matters of faith and life is Holy Spirit speaking through the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. And began my evaluations by looking at the text (which presented itself as history) and by trusting those teachers which seemed to take the text most seriously.

The question which finally settled the matter for me was "at what point does Genesis become the plain record of history and why do we believe it begins there?" It finally got through to me that any point we make a switch from legend to history is going to be arbitrary and that the simplest way to deal with the matter was to accept it all as plain history and try to account for the difficulties from that perspective. That I found scientists who supported my view was a bonus.

Do I make this a test of orthodoxy? No. I have learned that the one thing we learn from the past is that godly men also make mistakes (thankfully, I'd hate to be the only one) and that the Holy Spirit is our real teacher. He, it seems to me, is capable of deciding what is orthodox and what is not - his standard doesn't change but mine (as I grow and understand more) does.

True orthodoxy is far too important to be left (therefore) in my feeble hands, on this or on many other subjects. I am willing to use the confessions of the past as a test (remembering that councils also have erred - even that of Westminster) but cautiously and remembering the context in which they were developed.

But, of course, I have absolutely no doubt you already know these things and were asking that we be humble enough to accept that your views may be Biblical even if different from ours. If that's the case, be assured that at least one reader is willing to hear you impartially :)