Category Archives: quotes

Augustine and Charitable Authority

These are wise words:

Where charity is not present, the command of the authority is bitter. But where charity exists, the one who commands does so with sweetness and the charity makes the very work to be almost no work at all for the one who is commanded, even though in truth the subject is bound to some task.

Augustine, Commentary on the Letter of John to the Parthians, 9.1.

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The Consensus – An Interlude

The last number of posts have dealt with the question of Charles Spurgeon’s old-earth theology, and how he doesn’t break with the Reformed mainstream by holding it, because there was no consensus among the Reformed on the issue. In fact, there has been no consensus on the issue of creation days at all in church history. I have one more post about this, that will account for the rise of young earth creationism in evangelical circles, but before I post it, I wanted to share a number of quotes by noteworthy Reformed and conservative evangelical theologians on this issue. You’ll notice that I include voices from past and present, and across disciplines–so you’ve got historians, biblical theologians (Old and New Testament), and systematicians. You also see the various views represented, like the framework, day age, day of unspecified duration, and analogical days view. It’s not exhaustive, there are a number of theologians who have written major works on this, that I’ve left out. I title this as a consensus, and do so facetiously for obvious reasons. Be warned, this post is very long!

So, here’s the list (I particularly recommend those by James Montgomery Boice, Ernest Kevan, Graeme Goldsworthy, Bob Godfrey, and R. C. Sproul):

T. Desmond Alexander (Union Theological Seminary, Belfast), from his “Introduction to Genesis” in the ESV Study Bible (pp. 43-44): “Faithful interpreters have offered arguments for taking the creation week of Genesis 1 as a regular week with ordinary days (the “calendar day” reading); or as a sequence of geological ages (the “day-age” reading); or as God’s “workdays,” analogous to a human workweek (the “analogical days” view); or as a literary device to portray the creation week as if it were a workweek, but without concern for temporal sequence (the “literary framework” view). Some have suggested that Genesis 1:2, “the earth was without form and void,” describes a condition that resulted from Satan’s primeval rebellion, which preceded the creation week (the “gap theory”). There have been other readings as well, but these five are the most common. None of these views requires denying that Genesis 1 is historical, so long as the discussion in the section on Genesis and History is kept in mind. Each of these readings can be squared with other biblical passages that reflect on creation.”

Oswald T. Allis (former founding OT professor of Westminster Seminary) from his God Spake By Moses (pp. 159): “We may well hesitate to assert that the days of Genesis i must be taken literally as days of twenty-four hours. But we should not hesitate to assert that infinite time and endless process are no adequate substitute for or explanation of that fiat creation by an omnipotent God of which this sublime chapter speaks so clearly and emphatically. It is equally true that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years” and that “a thousand years are as one day.”

Edgar Andrews, is Emeritus Professor of Materials at the University of London, apologist who debated Richard Dawkins, and author of Who Made God? published by Evangelical Press. This quote comes from an interview he did with Tim Challies after the book came out: “I really don’t like terms such as “young earth”, “old earth” and “Intelligent Design” (with ID in capitals!) because when you look more closely they are actually very ill-defined. I therefore don’t apply any of these labels to myself. My own non-negotiable position is that (1) the early chapters of Genesis are historical not mythological; they describe things that actually happened; and (2) the universe and all that it contains was created ex nihilo by God, who continues to sustain it. Beyond that I have my own theories (for example, that ‘Big Bang’ cosmology is consistent with a historical view of Genesis One) but respect the views of those who differ from me.”

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), important medieval theologian, indicates a “framework” pattern in his Summa Theologiae: “The first part, then, is distinguished on the first day, and adorned on the fourth, the middle part distinguished on the middle day, and adorned on the fifth, and the third part distinguished on the third day, and adorned on the sixth. (Q 74, Ar. 1).”

Gleason Archer, professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, from his book Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (p. 59-60): “It would seem to border on sheer irrationality to insist that all of Adam’s experiences in Genesis 2:15-22 could have been crowded into the last hour or two of a literal twenty-four-hour day.”

Bill T. Arnold, Old Testament professor at Asbury and author of numerous books including Encountering the Book of Genesis. This quote comes from p. 22: “Yet as important as creation is theologically, the precise details of the process of creation seem unimportant in the opening chapters of Genesis.” Arnold also says on page 23: “We should not be too concerned with the issue of how long it took God to create the universe. Nor should this debate be used as a litmus test to determine who is really serious about Christ. This is not a faith issue. If it were important to know how long it took God to create the world, the Bible would have made it clear. The important lesson from Genesis 1 is that he did in fact created it, and that he made it orderly and good in every respect.”

Herman Bavinck, Dutch Reformed theologian and author of the influential four-volume Reformed Dogmatics, he taught theology at the Free University of Amsterdam. He held what is now called the “analogical day view.” This comes from Our Reasonable Faith (p. 172-173): “Scripture itself contains data which oblige us to think of these days of Genesis as different from our ordinary units as determined by the revolutions of the earth. In the first place we cannot be sure whether what is told us in Genesis 1:1-2 precedes the first day or is included within that day. In favor of the first supposition is the fact that according to verse 5 the first day begins with the creation of light and that after the evening and the night it ends on the following morning. But even though one reckons the events of Genesis 1:1-2 with the first day, what one gets from that assumption is a very unusual day which for a while consisted in darkness. And the duration of that darkness which preceded the creation of light is nowhere indicated. In the second place, the first three days (Gen. 1:3-13) must have been very unlike ours. For our twenty-four hour days are effected by the revolutions of the earth on its axis, and by the correspondingly different relationship to the sun which accompanies the revolutions. But those first three days could not have been constituted in that way. It is true that the distinction between them was marked by the appearance and disappearance of light. But the book of genesis itself tells us that the sun and moon and stars were not formed until the fourth day.”

Here’s another one from Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics (Vol. 2, p. 495-496): “It is nevertheless remarkable that not a single confession made a fixed pronouncement about the six-day continuum, and that in theology as well a variety of interpretations were allowed to exist side by side.  Augustine already urged believers not too quickly to consider a theory to be in conflict with Scripture, to enter into discussion on these difficult subjects only after serious study, and not to make themselves ridiculous by their ignorance in the eyes of unbelieving science.  This warning has not always been faithfully taken to heart by theologians.”

John Blanchard, author of the popular Ultimate Questions evangelism booklet says in his Does God Believe in Atheists? (p. 462): “As we might expect, the Bible is more concerned with questions of meaning than mechanism. For example, it does not give us a detailed explanation of how creation took place. Instead, it merely says of the universe and everything in it, ‘The Lord…commanded and they were created.’ Some theists see this as contradicting the Big Bang theory as presently understood, but others see no conflict here between science and Scripture. In Thinking Clearly about God and Science, David Wilkinson, a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, see Big Bang theory as ‘currently the best model we have which describes how God did it,’ and goes on to say, “Genesis 1 complements that description with the fundamental truth that the purpose, the source of order and faithfulness of the Universe can only be found in this Creator God.’ The word I have emphasized is important!”

Later Blanchard says (p. 462), “The massive gap between the positions of those who say that the earth is millions of years old and those who claim that a straightforward reading of Scripture teaches an earth only about ten thousand years old at most is impossible to dissolve, and Ian Taylor notes that each of the popular attempts to reconcile Genesis with science on this issue ‘mixes more or less science with more or less Scripture and produces a result more or less absurd.’ The issue is well discussed elsewhere; here, we need only recognize that the Bible’s specific focus is not on a precise chronology but on the comprehensive fact that ‘God…made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.’ God is the Author of everything (which means, incidentally, that he is the true origin of species).”

James Montgomery Boice, minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church, founder of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and past president of the International Counsel on Biblical Inerrancy, wrote in Foundations of the Christian Faith (p. 163): “Is the sequence of the Genesis days to be compared with the sequence of the so-called geological periods? Do the fossils substantiate this narrative? How long are the ‘days’–twenty-four-hour periods or indefinite ages? And, perhaps most important, does the Genesis account leave room for evolutionary development (guided by God) or does it require divine intervention and instantaneous creation in each case? The chapter does not answer our questions. I noted a moment ago that the Genesis account is theological rather than a scientific statement, and we need to keep that in mind here. It is true that it provides us with grounds for constructive speculation, and at some points it is even rather explicit. But it is not written primarily to answer such questions; we must remember that.”

John Calvin, famous Reformed theologian of the sixteenth century. This is from his Commentary on the Book of the Psalms (p. 5:184): “The Holy Spirit had no intention to teach astronomy, and, in proposing instruction meant to be common to the simplest and most uneducated persons, he made use by Moses and other prophets of popular language, that none might shelter himself under the pretext of obscurity.”

R. Scott Clark, is an historical theologian with a PhD from Oxford, who teaches at Westminster California and is an expert in Reformation and post-Reformation theology. He is also a minister in the URC. In his book Recovering the Reformed Confession (p. 48) Clark argues that 6/24 creation should not be a test-case for Reformed orthodoxy. He says this: “[T]he debate over the days of creation has had little to do with the Reformed confession. Proponents of 6/24 creation as a mark of Reformed orthodoxy have been unable to explain the theological reason for making the 6/24 interpretation a standard for orthodoxy.”

Later Clark says (p. 49), “From the middle of the nineteenth century through the middle of the twentieth century, virtually none of the leading Reformed theologians held or taught that Scripture teaches that God created the world in six twenty-four-hour periods.”

One more from Clark (p. 49): “Most importantly, one’s view of the length of the creation days is an improper boundary marker, because it does not arise from the interests of the Reformed confession itself but has been imported from fundamentalism. The elevation of an extraconfessional, exegetical disagreement to the level of a boundary marker, despite the fact that there is nothing obviously at stake in Reformed theology as confessed by our churches, is a strong indicator of the presence of QIRC [Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty] (an anticonfessional fundamentalism) in our midst.”

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Spurgeon, Pink, and Terrestrial Antiquity

Charles Spurgeon wasn’t one to shy away from the shock-value of things he believed or practiced. The great Victorian preacher was noteworthy for his collection of wine, and his wont for smoking large cigars. When confronted on either of these issues, his quick-witted replies were of Churchillian proportions (for his wit, see here). Even when not intending to shock, some of his actions did so anyway. For instance, he drew his Metropolitan Tabernacle out of the Baptist Union in England over liberalism, a move that surely shocked his friends in the denomination.

In light of the delight I’m sure he took in upending peoples’ sensibilities, I must admit to chuckling a little when I think of the surprise I had when I first read statements on the age of the earth in his sermons. In one called “Election,” found in the  The New Park Street Pulpit 1, p. 13, he said:

“Can any man tell me when the beginning was? Years ago we thought the beginning of this world was when Adam came upon it; but we have discovered that thousands of years before that God was preparing chaotic matter to make it a fit abode for man, putting races of creatures upon it, who might die and leave behind the marks of his handiwork and marvelous skill, before he tried his hand on man.”

He surprisingly—and I use that word intentionally—makes the statement that the relationship between the creation of the earth and subsequently of man was not close, but that “we have discovered” (who is we? The scientific community of his day?) that there was a gap of thousands of years between the two. Does this mean he was a proponent of the “Ruin-Reconstruction” view of creation? This is an Old Earth Creation view, held also by Thomas Chalmers, another great Reformed theologian, that argues for a gap in time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 of billions of years. It was a means for bible-believing Christians to reconcile their reading of Genesis 1 with recent scientific discoveries. It is also surprising to read that he believed that animals “who might die,” who leave things behind–he must mean dinosaurs?–and yet who were on the earth before Adam and his fall.

Another quote of Spurgeon’s, from his sermon “The Power of the Holy Spirit,” from the same volume, p. 229, has likewise striking comment about the age of the earth:

“In the 2d verse of the first chapter of Genesis, we read, ‘And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.’ We know not how remote the period of the creation of this globe may be—certainly many millions of years before the time of Adam. Our planet has passed through various stages of existence, and different kinds of creatures have lived on its surface, all of which have been fashioned by God. But before that era came, wherein man should be its principal tenant and monarch, the Creator gave up the world to confusion. He allowed the inward fires to burst up from beneath, and melt all the solid matter, so that all kinds of substances were commingled in one vast mass of disorder.”

Here he says that the creation period of the earth was “certainly” millions of years before the time of Adam.

Both of these statements are surprising because I just assumed that Spurgeon would have held to a young earth. I haven’t read enough of his works to know what his over-all creational theology was–it would be an interesting study. But for a man who was bred on the best of Puritan and Reformed theology from childhood, who likely had a photographic memory, and was probably a genius, coupled with the fact that he was living during the period of unprecedented scientific discovery, these are startling statements indeed. I’m interested to know more about his views on this subject. I’m also interested to know what sources he read that would inform his theology.

On a related note, a quote by Arthur W. Pink, one who has had a lesser, but none-the-less significant, impact for Reformed theology like Spurgeon did, is similarly surprising to me: “Nothing is said which enables us to fix the date of their creation; nothing is revealed concerning their appearance or inhabitants; nothing is told us about the modus operandi of their Divine Architect. We do not know whether the primitive heaven and earth were created a few thousands, or many millions of years ago. We are not informed as to whether they were called into existence in a moment of time, or whether the process of their formation covered an interval of long ages” (Gleanings in Genesis, p. 13). Pink was ultra-conservative, he was well-versed in the best of Puritan and Reformed theology, and was staunchly against liberalism. To read him say that he was agnostic on the age of the earth is interesting (such a bland, and vague word!). While Pink’s quote is worth exploring, I must admit to being more intrigued over what Spurgeon had to say. Hopefully I’ll have more on here that will shed some light on the subject–let there be light!

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Calvin on the Lord’s Supper

This is a quote from Bob Letham’s book The Lord’s Supper where he summarizes Calvin’s view of the spiritual presence of Christ in the elements of the bread and wine:

Christ does not come down to us in his body and blood. Instead, we are lifted up to him by the Holy Spirit. Christ, being the eternal Son of God, is of course, everywhere. Moreover, he has permanently united himself to the human nature assumed in the incarnation. In that sense, the person of Christ is present with us as we eat and drink. Yet, on earth, the Son of God was not restricted or confined to the humanity he assumed, but was simultaneously filling all things, directing the universe even as (according to the flesh) he walked the dusty roads of Palestine. So, at the right hand of God, the Son fills and directs the universe (Col. 1:15-20), now unbreakably united to his assumed humanity, while in terms of that same humanity he is limited and in one place. Yet that humanity is never separate or apart from the divinity, the eternal Son of God with whom and in whom it is one undivided person. Thus, in the sacrament the Holy Spirit unites the faithful to the person of Christ as they eat and drink the signs, the physical elements of bread and wine. There is an inseparable conjunction of sign and reality. As truly as we eat the bread and drink the wine, so we feed on Christ by faith.

Robert Letham, The Lord’s Supper: Eternal Word in Broken Bread (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2001), 28-29.

In Calvin’s own words from The Institutes of the Christian Religion 4.17.32:

Now if anyone should ask me how this takes place, I shall not be ashamed to confess that it is a secret too lofty for either my mind to comprehend or my words to declare. And, to speak more plainly, I rather experience than understand it. Therefore, I here embrace without controversy the truth of God in which I may safely rest. He declares his flesh the food of my soul, his blood its drink [John 6:53ff.]. I offer my soul to him to be fed with such food. In his Sacred Supper he bids me take, eat, and drink his body and blood under the symbols of bread and wine. I do not doubt that he himself truly presents them, and that I receive them.

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Resources on Creation and the Framework View

“By a simple reading of Genesis, these days must be described as days in the life of God, but how his days relate to human days is more difficult to determine” (ESV Study Bible note for Genesis 1:3-5).

History

Robert Letham: “In the Space of Six Days”: The Days of Creation from Origen to the Westminster Assembly – Reformed theologian Robert Letham’s, who currently teaches at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology, article for the Westminster Theological Journal that deals with the history of interpretation of the creation days in Genesis from the church fathers to the Westminster Assembly. Letham concludes there there is no consensus in church history as to what the days mean. This is must reading for anyone studying the issue of creation days.

William S. Barker: “The Westminster Assembly On the Days of Creation: A Reply to David W. Hall.” Barker is a published expert on the Westminster Assembly and taught church history at Westminster Seminary (PA) until his retirement. This essay was published in the Westminster Theological Journal in 2000 and is an historical response to young earth creationist David Hall. Barker argues that there was no uniform view of the creation days among the Westminster Divines and thus the statement about “in the space of six days” was primarily a refutation of the Augustinian view of instantaneous creation held in the middle ages. Ministerial candidates should not have to declare an exception to the Standards’ teaching on six days because of the ambiguity of the language. Unfortunately a subscription is required to view this essay, but I have it in its entirety as a PDF.

Max Rogland, “Ad Litteram: Some Dutch Reformed Theologians on the Creation Days.” This essay, from Westminster Theological Journal (Fall 2001), written by a presbyterian minister, and professor of OT at Erskine College, and who has a PhD in OT from Leiden, argues that it is erroneous to say that late-twentieth century and early twenty-first century Dutch Reformed theologians held to the 24 hour, six day creation. He evaluates Kuyper, Bavinck, Honig, Aalders, Schilder, and some synods to demonstrate this. The only Dutch theologian who possibly held the 24 hour view was Vos, but it is hard to tell from his writings. This link requires a subscription, but I have it in PDF if anyone wants it.

Confessional Subscription

None of the sixteenth-century Reformed confessions mention the days of creation, because to this point in church history there was no consensus on them, thus it was not a confessional issue.

Westminster Seminary and the Days of Creation – Westminster Theological Seminary’s (PA) statement on the days of creation and how their faculty have historically understood them in light of inerrancy. WTS upholds inerrancy and allows for various young-earth and old-earth interpretations. They argue that “in the space of” as a qualifier for the “six days” is a refutation of Augustine’s view of instantaneous creation, not a reflection of the Standards’ view of the creation days themselves. Westminster Confession subscriptionists such as Hodge, Warfield, Machen, Young did not see their “day age” views as contradictory of the Standards.

Creation Report of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church – Study Committee on Creation’s report to the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The report concludes that the major evangelical views (days of ordinary length, day age, days of unspecified length, the framework view, the analogical day view) square with the statements about creation in the Westminster Standards. Subscription to “six days” can be preserved through different permissible understandings of the word “day.” Note: The OPC is a conservative and Reformed denomination in the US and Canada that was founded by Machen and requires subscription to the Westminster Standards by their ministers.

Creation Report of the Presbyterian Church in America – This is a report that is similar to the OPC’s noted above, and came out before the OPC’s. Like the OPC, the PCA requires their ministers to subscribe to the Westminster Standards. The report concludes with the recommendation (that was accepted by the General Assembly): “That since historically in Reformed theology there has been a diversity of views of the creation days among highly resected (sic) theologicans, and, since the PCA has from its inception allowed a diversity, that the Assembly affirm that such diversity as covered in this report is acceptable as long as the full historicity of the creation account is accepted.”

Hermeneutics and the Creation Wars by R. Scott Clark. This essay is written to relate the hermeneutical principles of the Reformation, including the principle of sola scriptura, to the recent “creation wars.” Clark is a historical theologian who specializes in the Reformation and post-Reformation periods; he teaches at Westminster in California. Clark is concerned with showing that to hold a Framework reading of Genesis is in line with a Reformed hermeneutic.

Perspicuity, Exegetical Populism, and Tolerance by William B. Evans. This is a response to G. I. Williamson who argued that a plain reading of Genesis 1, read as if a non-trained Christian were reading it, will lead one to a young earth, six day creation view. Evans is an Associate Reformed Presbyterian minister, a professor at Erskine College, was an editor of the New Geneva Study Bible, has written for Banner of Truth, and is a member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals where he blogs at Reformation 21 (edited by Derek Thomas). This essay argues against “exegetical populism,” and in favour of tolerance for all evangelical views of creation including the Framework, Day Age and Analogical Day views.

Framework View

The Framework Interpretation: An Exegetical Summary by Lee Irons. A very readable introduction to the framework view. This was originally published in the Ordained Servant, a magazine for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Irons co-wrote a chapter with Meredith Kline in The Genesis Debate book that I read and found very convincing, and this essay (though more popular) has the same exegetical rigour. Especially good is the discussion of “temporal recapitulation.” This is a great place to start for an understanding of this view.

Framework Interpretation by various authors. This article is a combination of lengthy selections from other written material on the framework view. It is quite introductory and easy to read; the charts give a visual picture of what is going on in Genesis 1. The second excerpt is quite helpful in its discussion of how the “formless and void” is being filled by the two triads of days.

Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony by Meredith Kline – This was written for the journal Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith journal in 1996. At the time of writing, Kline taught at Westminster Seminary in California, before that he taught at Westminster in PA, Reformed Theological Seminary and Gordon Conwell. Kline was a major Old Testament scholar and was one of the principal teachers of the framework view. This essay is very influential.

Because It Had Not Rained by Meredith Kline. From the Westminster Theological Journal written in 1958. This was Kline’s earlier contribution to the development of the “framework” view. He argues for the use of “ordinary providence” in the creation narrative, based upon Gen. 2:5.

Because It Had Rained: A Study of Genesis 2:5-7 With Implications for Gen. 2:4-25 and Gen. 1:1-2:3 by Mark Futato – This was written for Westminster Theological Journal as a compliment to the previously linked article by Kline. Futato is currently Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, though at the time of writing he taught at Westminster Seminary (California).

Origins by Justin Taylor. This is a blogpost that summarizes the Futato article linked above, written from the “analogical day” perspective. Taylor is the editor of the ESV Stuby Bible and is VP of the editorial board of Crossway Publishers. Before going to Crossway, he worked for John Piper’s Desiring God Ministries. Taylor’s blog, Between Two Worlds, is one of the most widely read evangelical blogs.

God Created the Heavens and the Earth by Kim Riddlebarger. This is a sermon preached by Riddlebarger at Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, of which he is pastor with Mike Horton. This sermon is from a Framework perspective and shows how naturally this view springs from the text of scripture. Riddlebarger is one of the hosts of the White Horse Inn radio program.

Thoughts on Those Genesis Days by Rowland S. Ward. The author is a very conservative Australian Presbyterian minister who is an expert in Reformed theology. This article defends the Framework Interpretation from a biblical, theological, and historical position, and shows that it does not break with the “Three Forms of Unity” (Dort, Belgic, Heidelberg). He also deals with criticisms that a non-24hr 6-day view is not in keeping with a plain reading of the text and is on a slippery slope.

Review of Douglas Kelly’s Creation and Change by Lee Irons. Douglas Kelly wrote a defense of young-earth creation that is critical of old earth views. He devotes a chapter to critiquing the Framework view. Lee Irons writes a pretty thorough response.

Sermon on Genesis 1:1 by J. V. Fesko. This sermon was preached by Fesko, prof. of systematic and historical theology at Westminster California, at Geneva OPC in Woodstock, GA. He makes the interesting point that the creationist movement has its roots in Seventh Day Adventism and dispensationalism.

Animal Death Before the Fall by Lee Irons. Evaluates the four key texts used to argue that there was no animal death before the Fall, and two texts that support the idea.

Books 

Bill T. Arnold, Encountering the Book of Genesis: A Study of Its Content and Issues (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 24, argues for the framework view of creation days (see Table 1.1).

Henri Blocher, In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVaristy Press, 1984). When I first read this book I was deeply impressed by how well-rounded it was in terms of exegesis, theology and philosophy. Blocher taught at Wheaton, and his other book Original Sin is the lead book in Don Carson’s “New Studies in Biblical Theology” series.

David Hagopian (ed.) The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation (Mission Viejo: Crux Press, 2001). Contributors: Ligon Duncan and David Hall (24 hour view); Hugh Ross and Gleason Archer (day age); Lee Irons and Meredith Kline (Framework). I believe this was the first book I read on the subject, rather innocently. I was surprised by how poorly the 24 hour perspective was argued, because I highly respect Duncan and Hall and love their work. Their chapter was full of generalizations and dismissals, and I didn’t feel that it really had much of an argument. The Ross and Archer chapter seemed to be too influenced by science and had little in the way of exegesis. The Framework view by Irons and Kline is strong exegetically, very well argued, and deals decisively with criticisms. It’s worth the price of the book just for their chapter.

James M. Houston, I Believe in the Creator (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, ). Houston is the founder and first chancellor of Regent College in Vancouver. Before that he taught engineering at Oxford University, where he also did his PhD. He has written a number of books on theology and spirituality, including a reprint of John Owen’s work on sin. In I Believe in the Creator, he argues for the framework reading of Genesis 1, based on the “forming and filling” triad.

Meredith G. Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2006). This is the reprint of his important book on Genesis that became a standard exposition of the Framework interpretation. Here is a PDF of the first forty pages.

Peter Leithart, A House for My Name: A Survey of the Old Testament (Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, ). Leithart, a noted Reformed theologian who did his PhD at Cambridge and teaches at New St. Andrews College, argues for the framework reading of Genesis 1 on page 45 of this book.

Ronald L. Numbers, The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2006). Numbers, is a former Seventh Day Adventist; he is also an historian of Adventism and an expert on the history of science. He teaches at the University of Wisconsin, and in this book demonstrates that the young earth creationist movement has its roots in the Seventh Day Adventist tradition,  American fundamentalism, and is a recent view in the history of the church. The book is endorsed by George Marsden.

Ronald L. Numbers, “The Creationists” in Zygon 22.2 (June 1987): 133-164. This article contains the substance of his arguments in the book noted above. I have it as a PDF if anyone wants it.

John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2009). This entire book is an exegesis of Genesis 1, and demonstrates in detail the framework structure of the chapter. John Walton is a respected OT scholar who teaches at Wheaton, before that he taught for 20 years at Moody.

John H. Walton, Genesis The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001).  He argues for the framework pattern in his comments on Genesis 1.

Gordon Wenham, Genesis 1-15 Word Biblical Commentary 1 (Waco, TX: Word, ). In the section dealing with the days of creation, Wenham argues for the framework pattern of two triads of filling.

The article in the New Bible Dictionary (co-edited by Packer) by Gordon Wenham speaks of the poetic nature and the literary framework of Genesis 1-2. So does the article in The Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theoloby (ed. by Walter Elwell).

Age of the Earth

PCA Geologists on the Antiquity of the Earth in Modern Reformation magazine. The authors are geologists who are also members of PCA churches. They give evidence from their field that the earth is old.

Apparent Age & Theology: Appearance of Age in a False History? by Craig Rusbult. This article gives helpful distinctions between categories (like essential and non-essential apparent age). He argues that non-essential apparent age, like the left-over light from a super-nova, has no intrinsic need or value for creation, and would make God out to be open to creating falsehoods if a young earth with “mature creation.”


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Newton on Luke 14:12-14

As you can tell, I’ve been doing some study on Christianity and “social justice.” Tim Keller’s Generous Justice is very helpful. What I find really great are the quotes from some of my Reformed heroes like Edwards on helping the poor etc. This one is from John Newton (1725-1807),* the great Calvinist hymn-writer who gave us Amazing Grace. Newton is commenting on Luke 14:12-14 (click here to read), about inviting the poor and not your friends to a banquet:

One would almost think that Luke 14:12-14 was not considered part of God’s word, nor has any part of Jesus’s teaching been more neglected by his own people. I do not think it is unlawful to entertain our friends; but if these words do not teach us that it is in some respects or duty to give a preference to the poor, I am at a loss to understand them (John Newton, The Works of John Newton [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1985], 1:136.).

Those are some pretty strong words.

 

* For more on John Newton check out Michael Haykin’s lecture.

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Edwards on the Poor

I’m reading Tim Keller’s convicting book Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just and am learning a lot about a balanced view of what is today called “social justice.” I’m finding that my experience with this book is a little similar to when I first became a Calvinist; now I can see helping the poor “on every page” of the bible, just like how I first saw (and still see) election. It’s amazing to see how consistently both testaments are equally concerned with issues of poverty.

A key source that Keller uses is not Dorothy Day or Gustavo Gutierrez, but the eighteenth-century pastor-theologian Jonathan Edwards. In particular, Keller quotes from Edwards’ 1703 sermon “The Duty of Charity to the Poor” (you can find it here, at Yale’s Edwards Center site). I’m amazed at how strong Edwards is on helping the poor, in almost any circumstance. Many of the arguments and justifications I’ve had for not helping the poor have been soundly challenged by Keller and Edwards–I’m quite thankful for this.

Here’s a sample quote from Edwards, that Keller cites:

Speaking against the argument that we shouldn’t help those who continually “bite the hand that feeds them” (my words), Edwards says,

If they are come to want by a vicious idleness or prodigality, yet we ben’t thereby excused from all obligation to relieve ’em unless they continue in it. If they don’t continue in it, the rules of the gospel direct us to forgive ’em; and if their fault be forgiven ’em, then it won’t remain to be any bar in the way of our charitably relieving of ’em. If we do otherwise, we shall act very contrary to that rule of loving {one another} as Christ hath {loved us}: as we observed, not in degree, but [in the] manner of our expressing {love}. Now, Christ has loved us, pitied us, and greatly laid out himself to relieve us from that want and misery that we brought on ourselves by our own folly and wickedness. We foolishly and perversely threw away those riches that we were provided with, upon which we might have lived and been happy to all eternity. (Jonathan Edwards, “The Duty of Charity to the Poor” in Mark Valeri ed., Works of Jonathan Edwards Volume 17: Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733 [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999], 401-402.)

Note how gospel centered this is, and how personally it is directed to the hearer (or reader) of the sermon. It really leaves Christians with no excuse. Here we have one of the greatest minds in Christian and American history, whose writings on the Trinity, the Freedom of the Will and Original Sin explode all our categories, and yet he is profoundly concerned to make sure that his theology “comes out the tips of his fingers” (to paraphrase Doug Wilson). This is a great example of how theology in all its depth is also deeply practical, and how God is concerned for the poor.

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A Sheep-Cropped Knoll

I began Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited last night and am now in the second chapter. I’ve only read Waugh’s Scoop, but enjoyed it and am looking forward to becoming ensconced in this one. Also, a friend whose literary tastes I trust said Brideshead is his favourite novel–that’s weighty coming from him.

I came across a striking sentence that I read a number of times for the sheer joy of it’s imagery and the smooth glide of its words–what a long sentence too! It comes from the scene where Charles and Sebastian travel to Brideshead for the first time and take a rest near a “clump” trees to enjoy a glass of wine and strawberries. Here it is, Charles is the narrator:

On a sheep-cropped knoll under a clump of elms we ate the strawberries and drank the wine – as Sebastian promised, they were delicious together – and we lit fat, Turkish cigarettes and lay on our backs, Sebastian’s eyes on the`leaves above him, mine on his profile, while the blue-grey smoke rose, untroubled by any wind, to the blue-green shadows of foliage, and the sweet scent of the tobacco merged with the sweet summer scents around us and the fumes of the sweet, golden wine seemed to lift us a finger’s breadth above the turf and hold us suspended.

Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981), 32-33.

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Pelikan on the Pedigree of Baptism

At a time when Baptists were contending for immersion as the only authentic form of baptism which “has its origin from God,” Eastern theologians also insisted on it, in opposition to the Latins, who were obliged to admit that immersion had been standard practice throughout most of the history of the church.

Jaroslav Pelikan, Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture (since 1700) The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine 5 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1989), 46.

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Baptists and Reformed Orthodoxy

Continuity between Baptist theologians and the Reformed confessional tradition is clear in the use of the Westminster Confession and the Savoy Declaration of the Congregationalists as the basis for large portions of their Second London Confession of 1677 and 1688. The point can also easily be illustrated from the thought of major English Particular Baptist theologians, whose thought apart from the question of baptism, remained in continuity with Reformed orthodoxy. The internal Baptism debates over open or closed communion and over the singing of hymns in worship also had clear parallels among the Reformed.

Richard A. Muller, “Diversity in the Reformed Tradition: A Historical Introduction” in Michael A. G. Haykin and Mark Jones eds., Drawn into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates Within Seventeenth-Century British Puritanism RHT 17 (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Reprecht, 2011), 28.

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More Whitefield on Slavery

I finished Mark Noll’s fabulous The Rise of Evangelicalism about a week ago. For a book that deals in “boring” historical details like facts, figures and dates, it was quite an enjoyable read. Anyone hoping to learn about the early days of evangelicalism should begin with it.

In a couple of earlier posts I quoted Noll on the subject of the revivalist George Whitefield and his purchase of slaves to work in his Georgian orphanage. I compared Whitefield with the Southern theologian R. L. Dabney and noted that Whitefield’s foray into slavery was pragmatic and not based on a view of ethnic superiority as Dabney’s was. As Noll explains, “First generation evangelicals either held slaves themselves (Edwards, Whitefield, Samuel Davies) or simply accepted the slave system as a given in the British empire” (p. 247). Noll points out that Whitefield was an “effective preacher to slaves” and early-on attacked the slave-system (though Noll does not reference any primary sources). John Wesley, one of the c0-founders of Methodism with Whitefield, wrote scathingly against the trade and dutifully evangelized slaves. Noll says of John and his brother Charles: “The Wesleys’ eagerness to preach to blacks, their disregard for questions of social standing and their open welcome for fellowship in Christ to all who believed also marked the Methodism that emerged strongly in Antigua” (174). By the end of the book, Noll rounds out the picture of early evangelicals and slavery by highlighting the strong reaction against it by Samuel Hopkins (mentored by Edwards) and of course William Wilberforce.

Upon finishing Noll’s book, I have turned to Arnold Dallimore’s “mini-Whitefield”; the single-volume condensing of his magnum opus double-volume biography of the great preacher. Dallimore gives more detail, even in this shorter work, to Whitefield’s view of African slaves that I think is helpful:

Whitefield’s inherent kindness is manifest also in an action he now undertook to assist the black men and women in America. Having witnessed the cruelty practiced on many slaves, he now wrote and published A Letter to the Inhabitants of Maryland, Virginia, and North and South Carolina Concerning Their Negroes.  It read, in part,

“Your dogs are caressed and fondled at your tables, but your slaves, who are frequently styled dogs or beasts, have not an equal privilege. They are scarce permitted to pick up the crumbs that fall from their masters’ tables. Nay, some…have been, upon the most trifling provocation, cut with knives, and have had forks thrown into their flesh; not to mention what numbers have been given up to the inhuman usage of cruel task-masters, who, by their unrelenting scourges, have ploughed upon their backs, and made long furrows, and at length brought them even to death itself. I hope there are few such monsters of barbarity suffered to subsist among you.

Is it not the highest ingratitude as well as cruelty, not to let your poor slaves enjoy some fruits of their labour? Whilst I have viewed your plantations cleared and cultivated, and have seen many spacious houses, and the owners of them faring sumptuously every day, my blood has almost run cold within me, when I have considered how many of your slaves have neither convenient food to eat, nor proper raiment to put on, notwithstanding most of the comforts you enjoy were solely owing to their indefatigable labours…’Go to, ye rich men, weep and how, for your miseries shall come upon you!’ Behold the provision of the poor negroes, which have reaped your fields, which is by you denied them, crieth, and the cries of them which have reaped have come into the ears of the Lord of Saboth!”

This letter, which sounded as though it were a declaration by an Old Testament prophet, received a speedy circulation. Whitefield gave it to [Benjamin] Franklin to be published in pamphlet form, but it was also reprinted in newspapers in almost all the Colonies (Dallimore, George Whitefield, 78-79).

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Grudem on Christ’s Impending Return

Wayne Grudem, in his well-used Systematic Theology, writes on the question of whether Christ could return at any moment. Grudem, an historic premillennialist, argues that the signs that must precede the coming of Christ may have already been fulfilled, although it is unlikely. Because of this possibility, the passages that warn Christians to be ready in light of the Parousia can be taken seriously. I have sympathies for Grudem’s view, as a lot of the signs—especially apostasy and persecution—might be evident in the world today. However, because of the unlikeliness that these events have all happened, I don’t ultimately buy this view. Instead, I prefer that of Ladd and Hoekema that I posted previously. They, and many like them of all eschatological stripes, argue that we must hold the signs and the need for readiness in tension.

For interest’s sake, it is worth quoting Grudem’s conclusion (for the whole section dealing with the signs in more detail, go here):

Conclusion: Except for the spectacular signs in the heavens, it is unlikely but possible that these signs have already been fulfilled. Moreover, the only sign that seems certainly not to have occurred, the darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of the stars, could occur within the space of a few minutes, and therefore it seems appropriate to say that Christ could now return at any hour of the day or night. It is therefore unlikely but certainly possible that Christ could return at any time.

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Impending, not Imminent

It is quite common, particularly in dispensationalist circles, to say that the Second Coming of Christ is “imminent.” If by “imminence” it is meant that no predicted event needs to occur before Christ comes again, this view gives us difficulties—since, as we have seen, the New Testament teaches that certain things must indeed happen before the Parousia occurs…

[ T]here is no sound biblical basis for dividing the Second Coming of Christ into these two phases. Although the signs of the times are indeed present throughout the entire history of the Christian church, it would appear that before Christ returns some of these signs will assume a more intense form than they have had in the past. The signs will become clearer, and will move on to a certain climax. Apostasy will become far more widespread, persecution and suffering will become “the great tribulation,” and antichristian forces will culminate in “the man of lawlessness.” As we shall see when we look at the individual signs more closely, the Bible does indeed point to such a final culmination of the signs of the times. To say therefore that no predicted events need to happen before Christ returns is to say too much. We must be prepared for the possibility that the Parousia may yet be a long way off, and the New Testament data leave room for that possibility. On the other hand, to affirm with certainty that the Parousia is still a long way off is also to say too much. The exact time of the Parousia is unknown to us. Neither do we know exactly how the signs of the times will intensify. This uncertainty means that we must always be prepared. Instead of saying that the Parousia is imminent, therefore, let us say that it is impending. It is certain to come, but we do not know exactly when it will come. We must therefore live in constant expectation of and readiness for the Lord’s return. The words of the following motto put it well: “Live as though Christ died yesterday, arose this morning, and is coming again tomorrow.

Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 135, 136.   

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Imminent Tension

The predominating emphasis is upon the uncertainty of the time, in the light of which people must always be ready. This is the characteristic perspective of the Old Testament prophets. The Day of the Lord is near (Isa. 56:1; Zeph. 1:14; Joel 3:14; Obad. 15); yet the prophets have a future perspective. They are able to hold the present and the future together in an unresolved tension. “The tension between imminence and delay in the expectation of the end is characteristic of the entire biblical eschatology.”[1] “One word can sound as though the end was near, another as though it only beckoned from a distance.”[2] This may not be the thought pattern of the modern scientifically trained mind, and the dissection of the prophetic perspective by a severe analytic criticism may serve only to destroy it. A proper historical methodology must try to understand  ancient thought patterns in terms of themselves, rather than forcing them into modern analytical categories. The overall impression of the Synoptics is clear. They leave readers in a situation where they cannot date the time of the end; they cannot say that it will surely come tomorrow, or next week, or next year; neither can they say that it will not come for a long time. They keynote is: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 210-211.

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Swindles and Perversions

This post by Gerald Hiestand is so good that I have to repost it in its entirety and add a quick comment at the end:

There are few things that frustrate me more than theologically sophisticated prose that is nearly impossible to decipher. For instance,

“Since culture refers to the whole social practice of meaningful action, then Christian theology has to do with the meaning dimension of Christian practices . . . . The cultural dynamics of an active view of God and discipleship as a way of life have at their core this issue of the meaning-making of Christian practices” (194, The Missional Church and Leadership Formation.)

This sounds, of course, especially significant. But what it actually means—in concrete terms—is nearly impossible to say. Don’t write like that.

This reminds me of the comparison Orwell made between what he called “good English” and “modern English”—the latter of which he cites as an example of “swindles and perversions”—in his essay “Politics and the English Language.” Never trust someone who feels obliged to write or speak in such convoluted gobbledy-gook.

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Whitefield’s Flaws

In the name of historical honesty, evangelicals must be willing to face the flaws of those we hold up as heroes. George Whitefield, the spark of the Evangelical Revival, was no doubt an incredible person. In many respects, he was what today we would call a celebrity. He counted Benjamin Franklin as a friend, crowds in the thousands thronged to hear him preach, he co-founded the Methodist movement and has left a legacy that evangelicals can look back on with pride.

However, there are some significant stains on his memory. Probably the worst was the purchase of slaves for personal use while in Georgia (1740). Mark Noll explains:

Whitefield’s all-or-nothing commitment to evangelism at the expense of well-considered Christian social ethics left an ambiguous legacy as well. His stance toward the institution of slavery is an instance. During 1740, he criticized Southern slave owners for mistreating slaves and took special pains on several occasions to preach to slaves. But he also decided on the spur of the moment that, since Europeans were unable or unwilling to work the land supporting his orphanage, it would be “impracticable” to survive in Georgia without purchasing “a few Negroes” as slaves. Whitefield, who preached so willingly to slaves, hardly gave a thought when he became a slaveowner himself.

Mark Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys A History of Evangelicalism (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 2003), 108.

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Defining Evangelicalism

Evangelicalism is hard to define. Is it a movement? An institution? Can it be described by a set of necessary beliefs? Historians are of many opinions; some even going so far as to deny that evangelical, as it is commonly used, is a valid term. Mark Noll of Notre Dame, in his The Rise of Evangelicalism, has some helpful thoughts:

“Evangelicalism” is too loose a designation ever to have produced a tidy historical record. To be sure, some thoroughly evangelical denominations possess well-organized and conveniently available archives. But many evangelicals have been active in mixed denominations where evangelical emphases exist alongside other convictions. Evangelicals have also established many stand-alone churches of the sort that are always difficult to document. And still more evangelicals have devoted much of their energy to multidenominational voluntary societies. Difficulties in controlling the subject notwithstanding, it is still possible to present a coherent history of evangelicalism as defined by genealogy and by principle.

By the same token, however, it is important to realize that the emphases of evangelicalism have shifted as they came to expression in different times and places. The late Canadian historian, George Rawlyk, who did so much to promote study of evangelical churches and movements in his native land, shrewdly observed on several occasions that evangelicalism has constituted a fluid subject.

The four main principles identified by David Bebbington do not exist in the same proportions or exert the same effects in all times and places. Sometimes the experience of conversion takes precedence, at others the concentration on Scripture as ultimate religious authority and at still others the importance of missionary or social action. The evangelical traditions consistently maintain the major evangelical traits, but they have done so with a tremendously diverse array of emphases, relationships and special concerns.

Mark Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys A History of Evangelicalism (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 2003), 20.


			

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Haykin on Spurgeon’s Conversion

I’ve just begun reading through Arnold Dallimore’s biography of Charles Spurgeon and am in the second chapter and the glorious telling of Spurgeon’s conversion. I love this story. One of the reasons for my love of it is the voice I hear in my head as my eyes traverse the page. Many times have I heard Michael Haykin lecture on Spurgeon; when he gets to this part of the story, I believe, he’s at his story-telling best. The tone, the volume, the accent can’t be put to paper (or pixel), but it’s in my head. Especially when Haykin bellows out, in a put-on slur (it’s the only word I can think of) the words of the working-class Primitive Methodist preacher whom Spurgeon heard yell, “Look unto me!” All my days I’ll read these words and have that voice in my head. And for that I’m glad.

***UPDATE***

A commenter asked for the story of the conversion, so here it is in his own words from his Autobiography {HT: Spurgeon Archive}

I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm, one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist Chapel. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of the Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly that they made people’s heads ache; but that did not matter to me. I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they could tell me that, I did not care how much they made my head ache. The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last, a very thin-looking man,* a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. Now, it is well that preachers should be instructed; but this man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was,—

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Enlightenment and Romanticism

Enlightenment: “The demand to produce strictly rational explanations of the human and scientific worlds.”

Romanticism: “A mode of rationality that sought to acknowledge fully the dimensions of unknowability and contingency within human experience.”

Quotes taken from Richard Crouter, Friedrich Schleiermacher: Between Enlightenment and Romanticism (Cambridge: 2005), 8.

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Etcetera

Peter Hitchens, in his book The Rage Against God, tells us what he thought he knew about the Christian faith before he believed it:

I was convinced that a grown-up person had no need of Santa Claus fantasies or pies in the sky. I knew all the standard arguments (who does not?) about how Christianity had stolen its myths and feast days from pagan faiths, and was another in a long line of fairy stories about gods who die and rise again. Since all the great faiths disagreed, they couldn’t all be right. Jesus was curiously similar to Mithras, or was it Horus? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, easy as pie, not in the sky, and made still more facile by the way such youthful epiphanies are applauded by many teachers and other influential adults, and endorsed by the general culture of my country, which views God as a nuisance and religion as an embarrassment or worse.

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