The Journey of a Skeptic, Step 5, The Framework interpretation of Creation

As previously mentioned, a pastor suggested that I examine the writings of Dr. Hugh Ross.  He also suggested that I examine the Framework Interpretation of creation.  This post will cover the Framework Interpretation as well as more recent non-concordant (1) views of Scripture.

The Framework view of creation is fairly new to the creation discussion; it originated in Holland in the 1920’s. It became accepted in reformed circles largely through the influence of Dr. Meredith G. Kline (1922 – 2007).  Dr. Kline was an OPC ordained academic who had a long teaching career that included teaching positions at several seminaries.  Dr. Kline was an outspoken, and forceful advocate for the Framework Interpretation who influenced several generations of seminary students.  Framework Interpretation papers by Dr. Kline include: 

  • “Because It Had Not Rained”  Westminster Theological Journal (1958)
  • “Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (1996)

In “Because it had Not Rained”, Dr. Kline argues that the creation account of creation in Genesis 1 is not a historical narrative. Reasons for this argument include: 1) Genesis 2:5 is the proof text that God used “natural means” in creation; 2) Genesis 1 is conflicts with Genesis 2; 3) Genesis 1 is structured prose and therefor it cannot be a historical narrative; 4) the seventh day of the creation week has not ended; 5) the element of Genesis 1 reflect themes rather than chronology; and 6) Christians need to use science to obtain a correct interpretation of Scripture.  In “Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony”, Dr. Kline restates arguments found in his previous paper and adds a new element, the “Upper Register/Lower Register” time scale.

The Framework Interpretation became accepted in the PCA and is listed as such in the PCA Report (2).  In the section of the PCA Report that deals with Framework Interpretation, supporters of this view state that: 1)The Framework Interpretation harmonizes Genesis 1 & 2; 2)The Framework Interpretation is compatible with other Scripture; 3)The Framework Interpretation is theologically rich; and 4)The Framework Interpretation “… denies all evolutionary origins and evolutionary philosophy as contradictory to the teaching of scripture.”

Dr. Kline also seemed to deny evolution in “Because it had not Rained”.  However, in his second paper, “Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony” he states in Footnote #47 “: “In this article I have advocated an interpretation of biblical cosmogony in which scripture is open to the current scientific view of a very old universe and, in that respect, does not discountenance the theory of an evolutionary origin of man. ”

Dr. Kline uses complex language to express complex arguments.  He also introduces his own Hebrew when he feels that the language of the Bible is deficient. Dr. Kline’s papers do not address the Genesis Flood. However, it may conclude that he would postulate a local event within the Tigress-Euphrates drainage basin; anything greater could require “unnecessary supernaturalism.” 

I had issues with the content, language, and tone of both of Dr. Kline’s papers.  However, I will not comment on these here. Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry has done that very well in his excellent book, “As it is Written – Dismantling the Framework Hypothesis.”

Conservative evangelicals continue to consider the Framework Interpretation, and Dr. Kline to be controversial. For conservative evangelicals, the Framework Interpretation is contrary to historical reformed understanding of the plain reading of Scripture and perspicuity of Scripture. In contrast, liberal evangelicals appreciate Dr. Kline’s contributions to popularizing non-concordant views of Scripture and his support of theistic evolution. However, liberal evangelicals have moved far beyond the Framework Interpretation to find new tools to undermine perspicuity and the plain reading of scripture.

The most effective of these new tools has been new hermeneutics based east Ancient Near East (ANE) texts. References to these hermeneutics appear in the PCA Report:   “… the proponents of the newer non-Calendar Day views of the creation days (Kline, Futato, Irons, Collins and others) believe that they have significant hermeneutical insights into Genesis 1 that have not been sufficiently addressed by those who hold to a Calendar Day view…”     (excerpted from the PCA Report, II., Background to the Current Discussion of Creation Days).

These new hermeneutics are termed Ancient Near East Text Hermeneutics (ANEH) because they are developed from the study of Ancient Near East (ANE) texts.  ANEH is the most recent addition to the creation discussion. Enthusiasm for ANEH comes primarily from the Old Earth Creation (OEC) community and particularly from the theistic evolution (Evolutionary Creation) community.

The traditional view of the church is that ANE texts are the writings of heathen nations and they are not inspired by God. Examples of ANE texts include the Babylonian flood story and other flood stories. The flood stories of heathen nations include some elements of the Biblical flood narrative to one degree or another such as:

  • God’s anger at sin
  • A flood
  • A boat
  • Destruction of most people and animals
  • God’s mercy on a few

A good example of an ANEH based interpretation of the Bible is found in the writing of Denis Lamoureux in an article Was Adam a Real Person?” (3) In the article, Lamoureux uses the “Message – Incident Principal.”  The basic idea is that Scripture has a double meaning consisting of the “Message” and the “Incident”.  The “message” – considered inerrant truth is that humankind has sinned.  The “incident” is the “Story” of creation and the fall.  See the following illustration:

One result of ANEH has been that “objectionable” portions of the Bible are turned into “stories” intended for ancient peoples rather than people living in present times. Only ANEH trained scholars can find the “inerrant spiritual truth” within these “stories.”  Obvious targets ANEH are the creation narrative, the historicity of Adam, and the Flood narrative.  However, ANEH can be used to change any Bible doctrine.

A second result of ANEH has been the remove the Bible from believers. Since the reformation, evangelicals have believed that the Bible is for all people and that God communicates in plain language and with perspicuity; this makes the Bible understandable to all believers.   

 I am thankful for the opportunity to examine both the concordant and non-concordant views of the Flood.   Dr. Ross’ concordant view makes determined effort to present the Genesis Flood as an event that could be explained scientifically.  The Framework Interpretation never advances far beyond Dr. Kline’s theory concerning Genesis 2:5. Today, liberal evangelicals prefer the ANE text hermeneutics that are expressed in the “Message Incident Principal.”  This principal allows any passage of Scripture to be assigned a new meaning.   With respect to the Flood, the “real message” is that God judges’ sin.  The incident is that ancient people made up the “flood stories” to illustrate this.

After my studies I began to develop a few conclusions about concordant and non-concordant views of the Flood:  

  • Concordant views the Flood exemplified by Dr. Ross fail in terms of both science and scripture.
  • The non-concordant Framework Interpretation has a limited scope and does not address the Flood.
  • Non-concordant views of creation use literary techniques to dismiss creation and the Flood as myths.
  • Non-concordant views of creation and the Flood are contrary to the Bibles witness concerning plain language and perspicuity.
  • Non-concordant views of the creation and the Flood have been developed with great effort by liberal evangelicals are like the views that mainline protestant churches have held for years.

Next, we will look at look at the question of Science vs. Faith.

  1. Non-concordant (Discordant) is a term used to describe interpretations of Genesis gives lip service to preserving Genesis as history.   The result of discordism is to remove the Bible from scientific and historical discussion by using various literary interpretations and devices.  This requires elaborate reinterpreting certain passages. The Framework Interpretation is an example of discordism. The Analogical-Day Interpretation and ANEH are other examples of discordism.
  2. The Report of the Creation Study Committee (PCA Report) was presented to the 28th General Assembly (2001) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
  3. Viewed on the BioLogos website on 4/17/19.

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