Theistic Evolution and the PCA – Part 3

Theistic evolution (aka Evolutionary Creation) was not discussed in the PCA Report.  This is due to the fact that theistic evolution was not a view that was held (at least publically) in the PCA at the time the report was published (2001).  Supporters of theistic evolution do not identify with any particular interpretation.  However, they favor various discordant views such as the Framework Interpretation and others.

Since theistic evolution is present in the PCA, it is important to compare this view with the Calendar-Day view of creation.  The Calendar-Day view is also known as the Literal view, Traditional view, Twenty-Four-Hour view, and the Days of Ordinary Length view.  In the PCA Report, proponents of the Calendar-Day view listed what they considered to be eighth (8) strengths of their view.   These strengths, as listed in the PCA Report, did not have titles.  This website added titles to describe the strengths as follows:

  1. Language
  2. Historicity
  3. Fourth Commandment
  4. View of Humankind
  5. Church Acceptance
  6. Special Revelation Based
  7. Use of the Word “Day”
  8. PCA Tradition

These strengths of the Calendar-Day view are contrasted with Theistic Evolution in the following sections:

  1. Language

The first strength of the Calendar-Day view is titled “Language”, in the words of the PCA Report:

“The Calendar-Day view is the obvious, first-impression reading of Genesis 1-3, in which each of the words is given its most common, plain meaning.  This is the meaning that the author has gone to great lengths to convey.[38]  It is undoubtedly the meaning that the unsophisticated (by today’s standards) initial audience would have understood the account to have.  The view is neither difficult to explain nor to justify because of its simple and straightforward relationship to the text.  This fact is vitally important, for it means that the average believer today can read the Word of God and understand it without the benefit of some higher level of learning reserved only to the scholars.  Thus this view best preserves the perspicuity of Scripture (WCF I.7; Psalm 119:130).

The Calendar-Day view holds to a literal or plain reading of scripture and to the perspicuity of Scripture.  Both of these terms are important to a reformed understanding of the Bible.  Both terms are important to the role of the individual in understanding the Bible.  These terms mean that the language of Scripture is clear and understandable to the average believer.   These terms mean that Scripture is not dependent on the culture of the time.

In contrast, supporters of theistic evolution reference various discordant views of scripture. The trust of discordism is to remove the Bible from scientific and historical discussion by using various literary interpretations and devices.   Discordant views require elaborate reinterpretations various passages of scripture.  Discordant views are in conflict plain reading of scripture and the perspicuity of Scripture.  Those who hold discordant views claim that the meaning of Scripture is dependent on culture and time.

Historicity

The second strength of the Calendar-Day view is titled “Historicity”, in the words of the PCA Report:

 “The Calendar-Day view raises no questions and leaves no doubt as to the historicity of Genesis 1-3.”

In contrast, Theistic Evolution required that Biblical timelines be ignored in order to adopt the timeline of the scientific consensus.  The Framework Interpretation accommodates theistic evolution by removing historicity from the creation discussion; topics replace actual events and Biblical timeline in the creation narrative.

  1. Fourth Commandment

The third strength of the Calendar-Day view is titled “Fourth Commandment”, in the words of the PCA Report:

“The Calendar-Day view provides the basis for the theological logic of and is confirmed by the Fourth Commandment as recorded in Exodus 20:11, in which the seven-day cycle of work and rest is affirmed.  “The Sabbath was made for man,” said our Lord Jesus (Mark 2:27).”

In contrast, Theistic Evolution relies on various discordant views of creation to obscure the plain meaning of Scripture.  The Framework Interpretation accommodates theistic evolution by stating that the Fourth Commandment has nothing to do with creation or a seven-day cycle of work and rest.

  1. View of Humankind

The fourth strength of the Calendar-Day view is titled “View of Humankind.”   This point ties in closely with the historicity of Scripture.  Adam created by God from the dust of the earth and Eve was created out of Adam’s rib.  Both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image.  The fall of humankind was also a historic event.  The account of fall of man is a key element in the history of redemption.  This account is strongly linked with the Gospel in the New Testament.  The following is this point as excerpted from the PCA Report:

“The Calendar-Day view comports with the concept that Adam was the peak of God’s creation, the covenantal head and steward over all creation.  It affirms that death is penal, entering the created order upon the fall (Romans 5:12).  Thus, before man’s sin and the resulting curse of God, there was no death among Adam’s animal kingdom (Genesis 1:28, Genesis 2:21).  “Cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field” (Genesis 3:14).  “For the creation”, which God had announced to be “very good,” “was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” (Romans 8:20-22).”

In contrast, theistic evolution, there is no consensus as to the origin of humankind.   Theistic Evolution generally teaches that humans evolved from primates or humanoids.    Dr. Lee Irons (a PCA ruling elder) lists five (5) possible views of humankind on his website, The Upper Register (www.upper-register.com).  Dr. Irons considers evolution a possibility.   However, he expresses concern that some variations of theistic evolution could disconnect humankind from scripture.  Some current thinking within the Theistic Evolution community is that Adam was a representative of a larger group of sub-humans rather than a unique individual.  This view appears to be that of Dr.” Jack” Collins a professor at Covenant Theological Seminary at St. Louis, the PCA’s denominational seminary.

  1. Church Acceptance

The fifth strength of the Calendar-Day view is titled “Church Acceptance.”    The following is this point as excerpted from the PCA Report.

“The Calendar-Day view was that of the earliest post-canonical commentaries (e.g., Basil, Ambrose), of the medieval Scholastics (e.g., Aquinas, Lombard), of the magisterial Reformers (e.g., Luther, Calvin, Beza), and of the Puritans (e.g., Ainsworth, Ussher, Ames, Perkins, Owen, Edwards)[39].  It is the only view known to be espoused by any of the Westminster divines, which the Assembly affirmed over against the instantaneous view (e.g., Augustine, Anselm, and Colet).[40]

In contrast, Theistic Evolution (Evolutionary Creation) is a very recent addition to church history.  It followed the publication of the theory of evolution (1859).  Various discordant views of Genesis entered the church after the theory of evolution was published.  The Analogical Day view dates from the 1890’s and the Framework view dates from the 1920’s.  Discordant views did not become well known until 1958.

  1. Special Revelation Based

The sixth strength of the Calendar-Day view is titled “Special Revelation Based.”    The following is this point as excerpted from the PCA Report:

“The Calendar-Day view stands on the basis of special revelation, rather than being indebted to or dependent upon any particular ancient or modern scientific worldview, whether it be that of uniformitarian geology, Darwinian evolution, Big Bang cosmology, or even creation science.  A theology wed to the science of one age is a widow in the next.[41]

Due to the fact that the Calendar-Day view of creation is based on special revelation, there is no necessity for those who hold this view to reconcile the Bible to the scientific consensus.   This Biblical supernaturalism allows God to act outside the realm of the commonly observed.  However, supporter of the Calendar-Day view are typically interested in science and will seek answers to the opinions of the scientific consensus.

In contrast, supporters of theistic evolution give only lip service to special revelation.  However, when there is a conflict between special revelation conflicts and scientific consensus, the scientific consensus always wins. Supporters of Theistic Evolution continually need to develop new “correct interpretations” of the Bible to avoid conflict with the scientific consensus.  This requirement necessitates a discordant view Scripture.

  1. Use of the Word Day

The seventh strength of the Calendar-Day view is titled “Use of the word Day.”    The following is this point as excerpted from the PCA Report:

“The Genesis 1 account builds in a logical manner from the inanimate to the animate, finally climaxing with man as the focus of creation.  The use of ordinals with yôm, which is always an indication of sequence, reinforces this development.  Elsewhere in the Bible, every use of the ordinal with yôm correlates with its normal-day meaning, nor has any contrary example been found in extra-biblical writings.”

In contrast, supporters of Theistic Evolution (Evolutionary Creation) reject the context of (yôm) as clearly presented in Genesis 1.

  1. PCA Tradition

The eighth strength of the Calendar-Day view is titled “PCA Tradition.”    The following is this point as excerpted from the PCA Report:

“The Calendar-Day view is that of the Southern Presbyterian tap root of the PCA (e.g., Dabney, Thornwell, Girardeau), which strongly resisted attempts from abroad (e.g., Chalmers, Miller), from her Northern cousins (e.g., Hodge, Warfield), and even from within (e.g., Adger) to broaden the church on this point, as is documented in the Woodrow Evolution Controversy[42] last century and the Continuing Church movement’s resistance to the action of the 1969 PCUS General Assembly.[43]

“Calendar-Day proponents welcome structural and linguistic analyses of the Genesis account, as long as these new tools are used in the light of analogy of Scripture and the rule of faith.  Critical care, informed by a full appreciation for the exegetical and theological complexities involved, is required in order not to cast doubt on the truth, historicity, chronology, and ultimately on the meaning of the text.  Far from demanding some alternative meaning, the context and markers all support the plain reading.  Indeed, the author seems to have gone to great lengths to make it clear that it is this and no other meaning that he is trying to convey.  Therefore, unfolding the theological and apologetical richness of the passage is not at odds with, nor does it raise any necessary objections to, the Calendar-Day view.”

The PCA has its roots in Southern Presbyterianism.  This branch of the Presbyterian Church was very conservative until recently.  The Southern Presbyterian Church held to the Calendar-Day view of creation.  As documented by the PCA Report, the Calendar-Day view was the view of the reformers including Presbyterians.  In addition, the Southern Presbyterian Church produced statements against evolution.  The following was excerpted from the Background section of the PCA Report:

“In the latter part of the nineteenth-century, there were vigorous theological discussions about evolution and the Genesis account, but none of them was primarily focused on the nature of the creation days.  General assemblies of the Southern Presbyterian church declared theistic evolution to be out of accord with Scripture and the Confession on four occasions (1886, 1888, 1889, 1924).[20]  This position was renounced by the PCUS in 1969.” 

In contrast, supporters of Theistic Evolution reject the PCA tradition of support for the Calendar-Day view of creation.   Supporters of Theistic Evolution in the PCA also reject the implied conclusion of the PCA Report that theistic evolution has no place in the PCA.

Summary

Theistic Evolution has nothing in common with the church’s traditional view (the Calendar-Day view) of creation.  The eight (8) strengths of the Calendar-Day view are rejected by the supporters of theistic evolution.

The driving force of theistic evolution is a rejection of special revelation in favor of equating scripture with the opinions of the scientific consensus. When this is done, it is necessary to utilize discordant views of scripture to change the meaning of scripture.  When discordant views of scripture are used, the historicity of scripture are replaced with a secular time line, the Sabbath day reference is reinterpreted, the term day may be assigned a new meaning.  Followers of theistic evolution ignore the church’s traditional view of creation and PCA history.