Question: Is it reasonable for non-Christians be believe the creation narrative?
Question: Does believing in or teaching the Calendar-Day Interpretation of creation prevent people from coming to saving faith in Christ?
Question: What is a good definition of science?
Question: Should Christians use who believe in the literal view of creation use secular materials when studying creation?
Question: What is the difference between general revelation and special revelation; how do these two kinds of revelation relate to the creation discussion.
Question: What is a liberty of conscience and how does liberty of conscience enter into the creation discussion?
Short Answer: No, the non-Christian (natural man) does not understand the things of the Spirit of God and in fact, the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to him.
Expanded Answer: Scripture addresses the issue concisely in I Corinthians 2:14: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them for they are spiritually discerned.” A “natural man” is a fallen person and is spiritually dead (Genesis 2:17). A fallen person is unresponsive to the things of the Spirit of God which include creation (Genesis 1:2) and Scripture (II Timothy 3:16). The world view of the natural man is shaped by the world in which he lives. For most Americans that is a worldview of secularism and evolution.
In order for a person to become receptive to the things of the Spirit of God, they must be born of the Spirit of God. The person must be saved (John 3:7). The WCF clearly outlines the process of salvation. The process of salvation has several components. God sovereignly elects those who will be saved (Chapter 3 – Of God’s Eternal Decree). The Holy Spirit effectually calls, to Christ, those who are appointed to salvation (Chapter 10 – Of Effectual Calling). The elect are justified by Christ (Chapter 11 – Of Justification), and adopted into God’s kingdom (Chapter 12 – Of Adoption). The elect are given saving faith (Chapter 13 – Of Saving Faith); they are given repentance (Chapter 15 – Repentance unto Life).
The believer is sensitive to thing of the Spirit of God. However, it may take years for a believer to work through the issue of creation.
A world view based on naturalism is understandable for non-believers. They do not understand spiritual things such as the Biblical account of creation. It is reasonable to expect them to think this account as foolish.
Christians need to be patient and wise in their interactions with non-believers. Christians should not be offended when non-believers do not respond to things of Scripture.
Question: Does believing in or teaching the Calendar-Day Interpretation of creation prevent people from coming to saving faith in Christ?
Short Answer: No, nothing can prevent a person from coming to saving faith in Christ.
Nothing people can do either intentionally or unintentionally can interfere with God’s choice, will, and operation. This is very clear from our understanding of the Bible and the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). The WCF clearly outlines the process of salvation. The process of salvation has several components. God sovereignly elects those who will be saved (Chapter 3 – Of God’s Eternal Decree). The Holy Spirit effectually calls, to Christ, those who are appointed to salvation (Chapter 10 – Of Effectual Calling). The elect are justified by Christ (Chapter 11 – Of Justification), and adopted into God’s kingdom (Chapter 12 – Of Adoption). The elect are given saving faith (Chapter 13 – Of Saving Faith); they are given repentance (Chapter 15 – Repentance unto Life).
The Calendar-Day Interpretation has not prevented any person in the past from coming to Christ. The PCA Report clearly demonstrates that the Calendar-Day Interpretation of Genesis has been the majority view of the Christian church. The Calendar-Day Interpretation was the view of the reformers, the Westminster Assembly, and conservative Christians. The PCA Report demonstrates that the Westminster divines held the Calendar-Day view of creation.
Creation is an important Christian doctrine. This fact was recognized by the Westminster divines and as a result a chapter of Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter 4 “Of Creation”) is devoted to creation. The Calendar-Day Interpretation of creation is the traditional and historic view of the church.
The Calendar-Day Interpretation does not prevent people in current times from coming to Christ. Many of us struggled with the doctrine of creation before coming to Christ. However, our doubts about creation did not prevent us from coming to Christ. God is sovereign even when the prevailing world view does not recognize this. God is sovereign in a Christian community even when some may not know or recognize His sovereignty. After, trusting Christ we studied creation and came to hold the Calendar-Day view of creation.
- The belief that anything can prevent God’s sovereign election, thwart God’s sovereignty and nullify the work of the Holy Spirit to bring a person to Christ displays a lack of understanding of the God of the Bible. Those who are reformed need to graciously communicate this to Christians who oppose the Calendar-Day view of creation.
- The belief that anything can prevent God’s sovereign election, thwart God’s sovereignty and nullify the work of the Holy Spirit to bring a person to Christ has no place is reformed circles. This fact needs to be graciously communicated to those within the reformed community who oppose the Calendar-Day view of creation.
- Creation is an important Christian doctrine. It should be seriously studied by all believers.
- Creationists should never be ashamed of their belief in the Calendar-Day Interpretation of creation. This view is the traditional and historic view of the church.
- Believing in the Calendar-Day view or any other view of creation is not a requirement for salvation. Having a well-developed view of creation is not a prerequisite for salvation.
- All Christians need to realize that working through any doctrinal issue can be difficult, time consuming and stressful. However, God brings trials into our lives to test us and these trials are for our good (James 1:2-4). Many of us came to Christ believing in evolution. Later we seriously studied creation and came to hold the Calendar-Day view.
Short Answer: The PCA Report contains a good definition for science as follows: “The sciences are disciplines that study features of the world around us, looking for regularities as well as attempting to account for causal relations. In the causal chains we allow all relevant factors (including supernatural ones) to be considered.”
Expanded Answer: Many speak of science without defining the term. The definitions of words reflect the views of those who write the definitions. The secular world defines the term “science” very differently than the PCA Report definition. The PCA Report, (III. Brief Definitions, 7.), presents the loaded definition of the science of secularists. The PCA report also presents a proposed definition of science which should appeal to all Christians. Here is the section:
“Loaded definition: science is limited to explaining the natural world by means of natural processes” (National Science Teachers Association). “
“Proposed replacement: The sciences are disciplines that study features of the world around us, looking for regularities as well as attempting to account for causal relations. In the causal chains we allow all relevant factors (including supernatural ones) to be considered.”
The loaded definition of science as explaining the natural world through natural processes is narrow and restrictive in that it gives God no credit for past actions.
- The loaded definition limits the explanation of the natural world to natural processes.
- The loaded definition restricts the scientist to considering only natural processes.
In contrast the proposed replacement definition allows the actions of God to be considered. Most Christians should be able to support the proposed replacement definition. The replacement definition allows God to:
- Operate supernaturally through providence, answered prayer, miracles, and any other supernatural event described in the Bible.
- Operate supernaturally to bring people to salvation.
- Operate supernaturally in one-time events such as Creation and the Flood.
- Definitions are critical to the study of anything. The definition of science given in the PCA report allows is a good definition of science. This definition should be acceptable to all Christians.
- Christians need to be aware of the fact that mainstream science is based on naturalism and this naturalism leaves no place for the God of the Bible.
- The PCA Report replacement definition welcomes the scientific study of the world from a Biblical perspective.
Short Answer: Secular materials are typically fine for acquiring information based on history and observations. However, Christians need to be able to distinguish between observations and interpretations. In addition, secular scientific materials are based on a presupposition that there is no creator.
Expanded Answer: Secular materials are a good for acquiring basic information on any subject. A good example is Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. Wikipedia provides definitions of words, biographical information, historical articles, and articles on science. Wikipedia is easily accessible and is particularly useful in the initial research stage on any study. Wikipedia attempts to handle religion in an even handed manor.
Secular sources are fine for geologic observations. A good example is a secular college textbook on historical geology. The observations concerning type and location of rock formations will be very accurate. However, the conclusions of the authors will be within the limits of the accepted scientific consensus. Elements of this scientific consensus include naturalism, uniformitarianism, long geologic ages, evolution as well as no acknowledgement of the God of the Bible.
- Christians who believe in the literal view of creation should use secular materials carefully and be aware of the perspective of the authors and publishers of the materials.
- Appreciate the academic qualifications of authors and the effort required to produce the materials. Some authors are Christians who accept and operate within the scientific consensus. Some authors are non-Christians yet their writings display elements of common grace.
- Christians who believe in the literal view of creation will need to take the correct observations from secular geology materials and then look for Biblically acceptable interpretation for these observations.
- Studying secular materials allows Christians to understand the secular viewpoint and on what that viewpoint is based.
Short Answer: Both general revelation and special revelation are important. General revelation is for all people. As a people looks at creation and providence they become aware that there is a creator. However, this knowledge is not enough to save a person. Special revelation is God speaking to human kind through His written word. This word, when believed results in salvation of those who call upon His name to be saved. This word also is directions for believers on how to live a godly life. God’s special revelation tells humankind how and when He created the heavens and the earth.
The differences between general revelation and special revelation are clearly stated in Chapter 1, Article 1. Of the Westminster Confession of Faith (excerpted from the OPC website on 12/23/15 as follows):
“Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.”
General revelation is one of the most misunderstood terms in the contemporary creation discussion. Those who do not agree with the Calendar-Day view of creation often equate the conclusions of mainstream science with general revelation. To them, general revelation and special revelation are considered equal truths. As a result, they feel called to harmonize differences between the conclusions of mainstream science and the Bible.
General revelation for those who hold to the Calendar-Day view of creation is reflected in the language of the Westminster Confession of Faith. The conclusions of mainstream science are not considered to be general revelation.
- Definitions are important. The best definitions are developed from the Bible and confessional documents such as the Westminster Confession of faith. A glossary of definitions is critical to a self-directed study of creation.
- General revelation is important and a delight to see in action. In general revelation God revels himself to unbelievers through the light of nature and acts of providence. As a result of general revelation, unbelievers become aware that there is a God and this can be the start of a road that will eventually lead to saving faith.
- Those who believe the Calendar-Day view of creation understand that special revelation is God’s word, the Bible. When the elect hear God’s word and understand they will call upon the LORD and be saved.
- General revelation is not the conclusions of mainstream science.
Short Answer: Liberty of conscience basically means that Christians have liberty to hold their own views on thing that are not necessary for salvation. Thus, Christians may hold any view of creation. Liberty of conscience is an important element of Presbyterian polity. Members of a Presbyterian church are not required to hold to the Westminster Standards. However, elders are required to subscribe to the Westminster Standards unless they are granted an exception from a particular standard. Liberty of conscience is an important Christian doctrine and covered by Chapter 20 of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF).
Expanded Answer: The liberty of conscience has always been a significant issue within the Christian church. In the early church, one liberty of conscience issues revolved around the eating of meat that had been sacrificed to idols. In United States, one liberty of conscience issue has revolved around the drinking of alcoholic beverages. Today, creation is becoming a liberty of conscience issue. In Chapter 20, “Of Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience”, the WCF provides a good summary of the Biblical teaching on liberty of conscience. The following was excerpted from the OPC website (www.opc.org) on 3/19/16:
- The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the gospel consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemning wrath of God, the curse of the moral law; and, in their being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin; from the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grave, and everlasting damnation; as also, in their free access to God, and their yielding obedience unto him, not out of slavish fear, but a childlike love and willing mind. All which were common also to believers under the law. But, under the new testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish church was subjected; and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace, and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of.
- God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.
- They who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, do practice any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
- And because the powers which God hath ordained, and the liberty which Christ hath purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God. And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity (whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation), or to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ hath established in the church, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against, by the censures of the church.”
Liberty of conscience allows Christians to hold any view of creation provided that they are able to hold it in good conscience before the Lord; in the wording of the WCF, “God alone is Lord of the conscience…” A Christian’s view of creation may change with time. Many Christians start there Christian life believing in theistic evolution and hold this view with a good conscience. Later, they look more deeply into the creation issue and changed their view. Their new view is also held in good conscience.
Liberty of conscience has applications in church membership. Joining a particular Presbyterian church typically involves taking membership vows. These membership vows are to be taken with good conscience. Within Presbyterian churches there is significant freedom for members to hold differing views on subjects not covered in the membership vows. For example a member does not have to hold reformed views or subscribe to the Westminster Standards.
Liberty of conscience has applications in church leadership. In conservative Presbyterian denominations such as the OPC and PCA, elders are required to subscribe to the Westminster Standards unless they are granted an exception for a particular standard. The eldership vows and subscription to the Westminster Standards are to be made with a good conscience.
Within the PCA a number of interpretations of the nature of the six creation days have been accepted. These accepted views of creation days are found in the PCA Report. These accepted views include the Calendar-Day view (termed the Days of Ordinary Length view in the OPC Report), the Day-Age view, the Analogical Day view and the Framework view.
Theistic evolution is firmly rejected in the OPC Report. Theistic evolution is implicitly rejected in the PCA Report. The reasons for this implicit rejection are that none of the proponents of various views support theistic evolution. Specifically, proponents of the Framework view state that Strength Number Four of their view is that it denies evolution. The following is taken from the PCA Report:
“4. With respect to the relation of scientific theory and theology it is open to the study of general revelation regarding the age of the earth and the cosmos, within biblical constraints. Some of those are: creation ex nihilo, that Adam and Eve were the genetically unique, specially created parents of the human race, and that the fall of Adam introduced the curse into God’s good creation. It denies all evolutionary origins, and evolutionary philosophy as contradictory to the teaching of scripture.”
Applications: There are a number of applications related to liberty of conscience within the creation discussion. Some are as follows:
- Christians have liberty of conscience to believe any view of creation. God alone is the Lord of the conscience.
- Christians should respect other believers who, with a clear conscience, hold another view of creation.
- Participants in the creation discussion need to be careful not to attempt to bind the conscience of others.
- Attempts to silence or marginalize differing view could bind the conscience and, therefore, have no place in the creation discussion.
- Churches and denominations hold differing views of all manner of doctrine including the doctrine of creation. Christians should join and serve only where they can do so in good conscience.
- A self-directed study approach to creation honors the liberty of conscience of the student.