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!



Filed under a w pink, creation, quotes, science, spurgeon


Dischronologization–that’s a word you probably can’t say ten times fast. But it’s an important word, or at least concept, to understand when we read our bibles. I’m not sure if he coined the term or not, but O. T. Allis, founding professor of Old Testament (hence his interesting initials!) at Westminster Seminary, gives us a good explanation of the way scripture will at times take an historical narrative and shape it for another purpose. In his very important The Old Testament: Its Claims and Its Critics, he says, speaking generally about scripture, that “The sequence in which events are recorded may not be strictly chronological.” Why is this the case? Because the author has “the tendency to complete a topic or subject, carrying it forward to conclusion or a logical stopping-place and then to return to the point of departure and resume the main thread of the narrative” (p. 97). An example of his pattern of dischronology is Ezra 4:1-24, where the temple is being built but suffers from opposition. In vv. 1-5 there is opposition to the rebuilding during the reign of Cyrus (late 6th century), in vv. 6-23 the author stops, and moves back in time to the opposition to the building of the temple in the fifth century, and in v. 24, returns again to the sixth century.

This pattern of dischronology is helpful to understand the New Testament text as well, especially when we are confronted with “contradictions” between gospel narratives (the so-called “Synoptic Problem”). If one were to compare two accounts of our Lord’s temptation in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13, it becomes readily apparent that there are differences in the chronological rendering. As New Testament scholar Darrel Bock puts it in the first volume of his commentary on Luke: “It is…clear that one of the Gospel writers has rearranged the order for literary reasons. The event shows that the Gospel writers are not averse to arranging materials for the sake of topical or theological concerns” (p. 365).

Ronald Youngblood, an Old Testament scholar who has taught at TEDS, Wheaton, and Bethel, applies this to Genesis 1 in his JETS article “Moses and the King of Siam“: “Chronology was not always important when relating historical events. Other concerns were sometimes in the forefront. Let us assume, then, for the sake of argument, that the events recorded in the first chapter of Gnesis are not set down in chronological order. This would explain, for example, how light could appear on the first ‘day’ although the light-bearing bodies were not made until the fourth ‘day.'”

Thus dischronologization is a helpful category for us when we are confronted with those who want to disparage the integrity of Scripture and point out so-called “errors.” Sometimes the author is making a theological point when he structures a passage rather than a chronological one. While this might sound odd to twenty-first century ears, who are used to reading rugged historical accounts by experts with PhD’s and lots of footnotes, this was quite a common practice in the ancient Near East and Graeco-Roman times.


Filed under bible, hermeneutics, inerrancy

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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God Is Spirit

The new issue of The Gospel Witness is available, and I have an article in it entitled “God Is Spirit.” You can download it here.

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New Credo Magazine Available

Credo Magazine released its January 2012 issue today entitled, “In Christ Alone.” There are essays in it by scholars like Gerald Bray and Nathan Finn, as well as interviews with David Wells, and Robert Peterson. Among the reviews is my own of Michael Haykin’s very useful Rediscovering the Church Fathers, that I think would make for a good textbook for first year patristics or historiography courses. You can access the PDF of the magazine here or in an open publication format – which means you can “flip” the pages on your screen. Below is the table of contents for the main essays:

Gerald Bray, “Does the Holy Spirit Speak Apart from Christ?” 23

Todd Miles, “The Fate of the Unevangelized and the Need for Faith in Christ,” 29

Todd Borger, “Can Inclusivism Be Supported by the Old Testament?” 39

Ardel B. Caneday, “‘Faith Comes By Hearing’: Some Lessons for Evangelicals?” 45

Timothy Beougher, “Does A Belief in Inclusivism Weaken Movitation and Evangelism?” 52

Nathan Finn, “Responding to Bell on Hell: Some Lessons for Evangelicals,” 58

My review is on page 72.

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New Issue of Mid-America Journal of Theology

The new issue of Mid-America Journal of Theology — vol. 22 (2011) — is out and in my hands. I’m thankful to Dr. J. Mark Beach, the editor, and the reviewers for publishing an essay of mine on the English Reformation. I’m hoping to get a PDF of it to post here at some point.

Here’s the contents:

Charles K. Telfer, “Toward a Historical Reconstruction of Sennacharib’s Invasion of Judah in 701 B.C., with Special Attention to the Hezekiah Narratives of Isaiah 36-39,” 7-18.

Cornelis P. Venema, “‘In This Way All Israel Will Be Saved’: A Study of Romans 11:26,” 19-40.

John C. Peckham, “The Analogy of Scripture Revisited: A Final Form Canonical Approach to Systematic Theology,” 41-54.

J. Mark Beach, “Calvin’s Treatment of the Offer of the Gospel and Divine Grace,” 55-76.

Ian Hugh Clary, “Backgrounds to the English Reformation: Three Views,” 77-88.

Laurence R. O’Donnell III, “Not Subtle Enough: An Assessment of Modern Scholarship on Herman Bavinck’s Reformulation of the Pactum Salutis Contra ‘Scholastic Subtlety,” 89-106.

As well as notes, homiletics, book reviews and notices.


Filed under articles, journals, mid-america journal of theology

Irish Providential Serendipity

Vicky and I did some Christmas shopping yesterday, and ended up at the Toys R Us in Dufferin Mall. So, there I am, standing in line with an arm-full of toys, Vicky’s taken the kids to the car, and I hear an Irish lilt behind me. Ever the sucker for an Irish accent, I make a comment to the couple standing in line after me about the chaos of the store. After the exasperated agreement from the man, I say, “Is that an Irish accent?” That started us on a very serendipitous encounter.

We got on talking about Ireland. The man explained that they are originally from Limerick, and have been in Canada for a couple of years. They ask if I’ve ever been, to which I delightedly answer, “Yes. To Belfast and Dublin, and I toured around the North a bit, saw the Giant’s Causeway and all that.” They asked why I was there, and I reply: “On a research trip…”

Now, only the Irish do this, but they kept asking questions. Most people don’t care about others, what they do, why they do it, whether it was a good time or not. But there must be something about the Irish that makes them actually care about people; so they asked, “What were you researching?”

I often chuckle to myself when I explain that I’m a pastor, or that I’m studying church history. Most times the response from the other person is a glazed over expression that says, “I wish I hadn’t asked.” Not this time. Laughingly I said, “I’m studying church history.” The look on my face was sort’ve of the can you believe it? variety.

“Get out,” says the guy, his wife standing beside him with a wide-eyed expression, “We’re church historians!” I nearly fell over.

It turns out that I was speaking with Patrick and Stephanie Healy (well, Hayes-Healy). Both received PhD’s from Trinity College Dublin in medieval history, and Stephanie is currently at St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto. Both were Mellon Fellows at the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies. They’ve each taught history at Oxford as well. Patrick wrote his dissertation on Hugh of Flavigny and Stephanie wrote hers on pilgrimages in early medieval Ireland. As I’ve done a bit of Googling, I see Stephanie’s also edited some pretty substantial volumes on the medieval period with Palgrave, and I see she’s written on St. Patrick’s Confessio. They knew about James Ussher, the subject of my master’s thesis, and knew or knew of some of the same people I know or know of.

There were so many little things that could have spun us on a different path from one another, so it’s so strange that I should meet two people with interests in Irish church history, as well as medieval and patristic studies. It really was an encouragement and delight to chat with them. I couldn’t believe it. When would I ever meet two historians who are interested in topics somewhat related to my own?

Of course, I told them to go to Crux, as they are so close by. Hopefully they’ll drop in the store when I’m working, and I’ll spring for a free coffee on the house.


Filed under church history, crux books, ireland, medieval

The Local Theological Bookstore

Tim Challies has a post on his blog called “The Local Christian Bookstore,” spurred by an article at Slate on the recent Amazon.com marketing tactic that many decry as being anti-small-business. In the post, Tim talks about not agreeing with those who say there is an ought required in the argument for Christians to support local Christian bookstores. He says this especially because so many Christian bookstores sell junk–whether of the published, or trinket variety–and aren’t worth supporting in the first place. Why not support Westminster Books or even Amazon, when you can cut through the garbage, and get good bargains?

I agree with most of what Tim says on this. I’m hard pressed to find an ought involved in the discussion, and I also agree that so many Christian bookstores aren’t worth the time spent perusing their shelves.

But, I do want to add something to Tim’s post that gives shade of a different perspective; one that comes mostly from my own experience. I’m not writing this at all to force my experience on others, only with the hopes of adding a bit of nuance and perspective.

I work at Crux Books that is housed at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto. While many may want to call us a Christian bookstore, I don’t look at what we do that way (Note: I am speaking solely for myself, and am not speaking officially for the store or the owners!); rather, I see us as a theological bookstore. It may sounds like semantics, but for me, it makes a world of difference. At Crux, you will find books that cut across a wide spectrum in terms of denominations and theological content. We carry books by John Piper, D. A. Carson, and Wayne Grudem, alongside ones by Pope Benedict, John Meyendorff, and Gerd Thiessen. We have books on Reformed theology, Catholic theology, and eco-theology. You’re as likely to find a book by Daniel Dennett on our shelves as you are books by Alvin Plantinga. What you won’t find, is Jesus Junk, Testamints, or hokey books by the lowest-common denominator evangelicals or otherwise. The difference between Crux and Christian bookstores is that we trade primarily in quality books related to theology that represent the wide swathe of Christianity.

One of the reasons for the variety of theological perspectives at Crux has little to do with the store’s own theological bent. Rather, we sell textbooks to the theological colleges of Toronto School of Theology and the University of Toronto, as well as some other departments in classics and philosophy. So, we do textbooks for the low-Anglican Wycliffe College, the high-Anglican Trinity College, the United Church Emmanuel College, the Department of Religious Studies at U of T, the Roman Catholic St. Michael’s College and Regis College, the Presbyterian Knox College, and interestingly, Toronto Baptist Seminary.

And I think what we do is a great service to the wider theological, and yes, church community. Although I am proudly a Reformed Baptist, I am glad that there is a place that I can go to buy books by theologians who differ vastly from my perspective. It is important for me, as an historical theologian (in training!) to be reading the Orthodox historian John Behr, as much as it is that I be reading Peter Leithart. I need a place to go where the staff are mostly trained in theology, some of whom are working on or have PhD’s, who can recommend all of the latest and most relevant books on whatever subject I’m looking for. I can talk to Ronnie about which Greek/Hebrew grammar to buy, to Heather about standard books on women’s studies, Cindy on spirituality, Alain on classics, etc. We are like a walking annotated bibliography that will only be a help to those wanting to know more about books in their field.

And probably most relevant to the whole Amazon discussion (Amazon is a curse-word in our store!), is that we offer our books at an awesome price! First-time customers come in the store and see our price-tags that have two prices listed on them. They always ask, “Am I paying the higher or lower price?” We delight to explain to them that the higher price on the tag is the regular retail price that they would have to pay at most stores (including Amazon), and that the lower price is our own, discounted price. Typically (though not always), Crux sells their books at a cost of 20% less than the typical retail store. We also will have crazy discounts on certain items, sales that range from 50% to 90% off, and we have a phenomenal used section upstairs where great bargains are found. Most often, we undercut our competition. If a customer needs to order a book, we can typically get it in 3-5 business days. We ship all across the world (sometimes we’ve shipped to missionaries on remote islands), and will do conference book-tables anywhere we’re needed. We also have great coffee, hot chocolate, tea and cappuccino! So if price is an issue, which I think is legitimate (especially for starving theology students), then Crux is still the place to go.

So, with this shameless appeal, I want to make sure that Crux is distinguished from the kitschy bookstores that Tim is talking about. And I want advocate for a differentiation in language between “Christian” bookstores and “theological” bookstores, because the latter has a broad range of subject matter reflecting a broad range of theological orthodoxy, that serves the church as well as the academy.


Filed under books, challies, crux books

January Issue of Credo

Credo Magazine has just released the cover page and table of contents of their upcoming January issue entitled “In Christ Alone,” dealing with inclusivism. It looks to be quite good with articles by Gerald Bray, Ardel Caneday, Nathan Finn; interviews with David Wells, Michael Horton; shorter pieces by Trevin Wax, Michael Reeves; and reviews by Fred Zaspel, Steve Cowan. I’m thankful to have a review in this issue as well; it is on Michael Haykin’s Rediscovering the Church Fathers.


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Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)

I was saddened this morning when I tuned into Facebook to find out that author, intellectual, journalist, and debater Christopher Hitchens died last night, succumbing to pneumonia as part of complications with esophageal cancer (two obituaries are by his brother Peter, his sparring partner Doug Wilson). I find it strangely providential that yesterday I contributed to The Hitchens Project and sent along a short clip of myself wishing him the best just hours before he died. While a strident and virulent atheist, I found Christopher Hitchens to be a compelling writer, and in many respects I count him as a major influence. I’ve read a good number of his books, countless essays, and watched hours and hours of interviews and debates. Without wanting to slip into sentimentality, I do believe that we have been deprived of one of twenty- and twenty-first centuries greatest writers.

After watching a number of post-diagnosis interviews, I was struck by how touched Hitch was over the care and concern expressed to him in letters, emails, etc. He said that if ever you are tempted to write to someone who is ill to show solidarity and sympathy, you should do it. It will only encourage the recipient, and would never be anything but something positive. So I did just that, and mailed a letter to him through his contact address at Vanity Fair. I’ve heard that Hitchens read all of the fan-mail that he received, so I really do hope that he read my letter and took some encouragement from it. I recall being sickened to hear that “Christians” were gloating over his cancer as a “just desserts” from God, and I wanted, as a Christian, to express my prayerful desire that he would get better. I also wanted to share the ways in which I am thankful to God for Hitchens’ impact on my life.

So, with a bit of fear that I’ll look cheezy for sending this, I post my letter that I mailed, dated May 21, 2011:

Dear Christopher,

I apologise at the outset for addressing you on a first-name basis, but to refer to you as “Mr. Hitchens,” as I no doubt would if we met, seems somehow improper. As a letter of appreciation, I feel as though such formality would put a distance between you and I (at least in my mind) that leaves me uncomfortable. For some time now I have felt the compulsion to write to express my admiration, not only for the handling of your current circumstance, but also for the life that you have lived. It has finally come to that point where if I don’t write now, I may never; so here it is.

Let me pause for a moment before I continue to share briefly a little biographical detail so that you might have some indication of who this groupie is that you are reading (if in fact you are reading this). As you have likely deduced from the envelope, I am Ian Clary and I write from Toronto, Ontario. For the last three or four years I have slowly, but strongly, become an admirer of your writing and ideas. This has come as somewhat of a surprise to me, as I am an evangelical Christian of the Calvinist and Baptist variety. There was a time when I felt a certain odium at the hearing of the name “Christopher Hitchens.” I am glad to say that this has changed into respect, in spite of some of our differences in viewpoint about Jesus, the Bible and Christianity. Of those I won’t bore you as you are most likely aware of what my beliefs are.

My mother was born in Manchester in 1944 and moved to Canada with her immediate family in 1972. As I was, and am, close to that side of my family who are still living, I have always felt that a large part of my identity is bound up with post-war England. I had the typical boyhood fascination with Churchill. My grandad fought with the British Army, and I lived out those days vicariously through the (few) stories he would tell me. We drank tea (from boiling water!), watched Benny Hill and Steptoe & Son, and shopped at Mark’s and Spencer’s when it was still in my hometown of Windsor, Ontario. To add to my feeling of Britishness, I married a Welsh-girl from the town of Newport, and so have married into a family whose traditions and customs are that of my own. Vicky’s grandmother recently made her annual trip to Canada, this time to celebrate her hundredth birthday. So when I read of your life growing up in England and of your new identity as a North American, I feel a certain affinity.

I first came into contact with your writing in the form of your pamphlet (I use that in the best sense of the word) on Mother Teresa, with which, as you might not be surprised, I agreed with whole-heartedly. I later read your exchange on the Christianity Today website with Doug Wilson that I re-read in the subsequent book and watched in the documentary. In the past year alone I have read your letters to a young contrarian; the book on Clinton; your introductions to Waugh’s Scoop, Amis’ Everyday Drinking, Huxley’s Brave New World and the recent collection of the best American essays. I’ve slowly read through voluminous archived articles from a variety of periodicals, as well as your book on religion, and of course the memoir (by far my favourite). On top of the reading, I have listened to and watched hours of interviews and debates on the internet. So, in that strange experience of delving into the work of another, I have come to feel a little like I know you.

While I am quite hopeful that doctors will find a cure for your illness, and I do regularly pray to that end, I believe that I would regret my failure to write if one day I read in the news that you have passed. In these last couple of years you have had an impact on my way of thinking, and interestingly, on how I view myself as a Christian writer (I have two graduate degrees in theology and am in the early stages of drafting a prospectus for a doctoral thesis). If I may, the bottom of what I most want to express to you is a hearty thanks for the number of ways that you have influenced me.

First of all, your prose has been a tremendous encouragement to me as a writer (surely not evident in this letter—for this reason alone I am mortified at the thought of you reading it). Lucidity, vocabulary, sublimity, punch, these are all traits of yours that I long to develop and use. Sometimes as I read your works, I stop and re-read sentences only for the sheer pleasure of how they sound in my ears. Thank-you for failing to neglect that gift! Second, I would like to thank-you for the power in which you express your moral convictions. While I do not believe that the Triune God is the god of a tribunal, I do think that the rigour with which you express your opinions is nothing but helpful. You draw lines in the sand, put up your fists and are willing to take blows as well as give them. That, I believe, is a trait sadly lacking in this relativistic world. When you debated George Galloway at Baruch College—which I have watched and re-watched just for the entertainment value of it—I found a certain delight in your eagerness to drop the gloves and scrap. There is a time and a place for niceties, but more-often-than-not, we need to punch with our full weight behind us. Third, you introduced me to Johnny Walker Black. ‘Nuff said. Fourth, and probably most importantly, your memoir especially introduced me to the world of twentieth-century British literature. In the last ten years I have been consumed with reading theology, philosophy and history to such a degree that I have rarely taken the time to slow down and appreciate literature. I am thirty-two, and while I feel like I am becoming interested in literature much too late (I shall not neglect my son Jack in this manner!), I do hope that I have some time left in which to enrich myself with the greats like Waugh, Eliot, Auden, Wodehouse, Orwell (especially) and the others whom you so easily reference and quote in your writings. Of course, I have read the standard works forced upon hapless students in highschool, but now as I turn to these luminaries, I do so in a very different frame of mind. That is in the largest part thanks to you. I recently finished A Clergyman’s Daughter, which gave me much food for thought as a would-be minister who is about to have a daughter (my wife is due in August). I have pillaged my aunt’s library which is full of the classics both of general and radical literature; she was a highschool teacher and should have gone to get a doctorate in Yeats, which she never did, so I am not at a loss for resources. Your memoirs function as a reading-list of sorts for me, and I hope one day for my children as well.

It would be disingenuous of me to say that I not only pray for your physical healing, whether by miracle of creation or providence (there is a distinction), but I also pray that you would come to love Jesus your Messiah and Lord; a thought that I know repulses you, so I won’t go on. Suffice it to say, you have done much in a short time for this young Canuck that I hope in some way you will meet with a happy return. On the day that you finally pass, whether in the near or (Deus vult) distant future, I will raise a glass of the water of life in your name, as a thanks to God for a life well-lived and a lasting legacy.


Ian Clary


Filed under christopher hitchens

Ron Paul’s Foreign Policy

Ron Paul - Air Force Veteran

I’ve been fairly attentive to the Republican primaries this year. My interest mainly has to do with Ron Paul, the Texas congressman who espouses a libertarian political philosophy. While in the last primary Ron Paul was looked on as more of a fringe candidate whose views were extreme, this time around the language of the debate shows that he’s had a very positive impact. Now other candidates are talking about auditing the Federal Reserve, which is a big part of Paul’s economic agenda.

If there is one area where Republicans and conservatives continue to think that Ron Paul is extreme is his foreign policy. As a constitutional expert, Ron Paul knows that US foreign policy is non-interventionist (note: not isolationist). This means that the US are not to be the world’s policeman, nor are they to occupy other countries with their military bases, nor are they to intervene in sovereign states. Since the close of the Second World War this non-interventionist policy has not been followed, often to disastrous effects. Take for instance the ongoing situation in the Middle East, specifically with Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq. Ron Paul has taken a lot of heat from within his own party for being staunchly against the Middle East wars and his calling for troop pullouts in Iraq. What people don’t realise is that Ron Paul has history, the CIA, and academics all on his side.

The Ron Paul campaign has produced some excellent videos, but the following dealing with his foreign policy is the best so far. If you want to find out about Paul’s view, and more broadly, if you want to learn about US foreign policy, and consequences like “blowback,” you really should spend the 10 minutes or so and watch this video. There’s a reason why veterans of the recent wars are so supportive of Ron Paul. It’s also a good reason why, if you’re American, that you should vote for Ron Paul both in the GOP primary and for president.


Filed under libertarianism, politics, republican, ron paul, war

Christians and Literature Interview

Mark Nenadov, who blogs at All Things Expounded, asked me and some other people ten questions about literature and reading habits. You can see my answers here: Christians and Literature – 10 Questions for Ian Clary.

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Filed under interviews, literature, mark nenadov

Rex Murphy and Tolerance

Rex Murphy is one of my favourite Canadians. Since I was a teenager I’ve always appreciated his wit, his insight, and his rhetoric; I use the latter in the best sense of the word. While I didn’t always have the categories to understand what he was saying, I knew I loved his commentaries that closed The National news program on CBC. Canadians everywhere felt their rage channeled after he so worthily vilified the rioters in Vancouver after the playoffs last season. I dare say that Canadian Christians now love him even more for this piece in the National Post: “What the Tolerant Must Tolerate.” This is, to put it plainly, awesome.

Here’s just one snippet, it’s the opening paragraph:

To be a serious Christian in modern Western culture is to be the favoured easy target of every progressive thinker and every half-witted comedian. It is to have your sensibilities and your deepest beliefs on perpetual call for taunts, mockery and desecration. At a time when all progressives preach full volume for inclusivity and sensitivity, for the utmost care in speech when speaking of others with differing views or hues, Christians, as Christians, are under a constant hail of abuse and disregard. There is nothing too low or too vulgar.

Someone, please, shake this man’s hand.

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Presuppositionalism Resources

Tomorrow I have the privilege of giving a talk on presuppositional apologetics at the People’s Christian Academy; Tim Challies is speaking at their chapel tomorrow as well, so I have big shoes to follow! For those students who want to delve deeper into the subject, this post gives a collection of resources that I think are very helpful.

Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987)

– An audio interview done by the “Office Hours” online radio program of Westminster California with John Van Til, a nephew of Cornelius: “Cornelius Van Til: Father, Friend and Pastor

– A good, and short biographical piece is by Van Til’s friend Robert Den Dulk, who helped published a number of Van Til’s works: “Cornelius Van Til

– The guys from the Reformed Forum online radio show talk to John Muether [click here], author of this excellent biography of Van Til–it’s very informative (check out my review of Muether’s biography)

– By far the most helpful internet resource on all things Van Til is the Van Til Info website, run by James Anderson (a noteworthy Van Tilian himself!)


– Michael Butler was a student of Greg Bahnsen, he wrote this recently for Faith For All of Life magazine; it is a good intro to presuppositionalism: “The Pulling Down of Strongholds

– I wrote an essay for an apologetics course at Toronto Baptist Seminary taught by Stephen Wellum, I then morphed it into an article for the journal Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics (of which I am the review editor). The title isn’t very creative: “An Introduction to Presuppositionalism

– Greg Bahnsen, author of this excellent book on Van Til, was one of the most well-known Van Tilians. These are some audio lectures he did on “Van Tilian Apologetics

– S. Joel Garver wrote this “A Primer on Presuppositionalism” where, at the end, he gives some potential objections to the method and his replies

Transcendental Argument for God’s Existence (TAG)

– After Bahnsen died, a number of theologians came together and honoured his memory with a book. This article from the book is by Michael Butler, and is on TAG: “The Transcendental Argument for God’s Existence

– John Frame, a former student of Van Til, and author of an important book on Van Til’s thought, wrote this: “Transcendental Arguments: An Essay


– By far the most enjoyable debate I’ve ever listened to, this is between Greg Bahnsen and atheist Gordon Stein, held at the University of California (Irvine) in 1985. Bahnsen uses presuppositionalism to utterly demolish Stein (wait for the moment when the whole audience realizes that Stein has been obliterated–they all laugh). Here’s the MP3 (free) and here’s the transcript PDF

– John Frame used his brand of presuppositionalism in an online debate with the atheist philosopher Michael Martin

– Bahnsen also debated atheist Edward Tabash where again he used TAG to devastating effect (you can buy the DVD here, and actually watch them debate, instead of just having the audio):

– Finally, Bahnsen also did a radio debate with atheist George Smith:


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Van Til at Vos’ Funeral

Here is quite an intense picture of Cornelius Van Til (middle) at the funeral of his mentor, the great Reformed scholar Geerhardus Vos:

[Pic Credit]

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Adam According to Alister

I have tremendous respect for Prof. Alister McGrath. He is surely one of Christianity’s foremost apologists, and is a brilliant scholar of the Reformation. A couple of years ago I had the privilege of driving him to and from a conference and enjoyed the short time spent together. He has PhD’s in both the sciences and theology from Oxford and taught there for a long while, before going to London. He has authored a large number of scholarly books on the Reformation, the history of atheism, theology, spirituality and the sciences. He has also debated famous atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

In this video (yes, that’s spittle dribbling down my chin–look at that library!!), Dr. McGrath discusses the significance of Adam and Eve for theology and takes a more Barthian approach to seeing Adam as theologically significant, but not necessarily historical. This isn’t surprising as Dr. McGrath also holds to theistic evolution, and is an admirer of Thomas Torrance, a well-known Barthian who wrote much on science and theology.

Without wanting to sound presumptuous–who am I to take issue with Alister McGrath???–it strikes me that when he draws the parallel between Adam and Christ there is an incongruity. If Christ is an historical person, as McGrath would affirm, and he undoes the work of Adam, as McGrath said, how can it be that Adam didn’t exist? Everything in the story of redemption is historical but Adam, which hardly seems to make sense. John Piper, at the end of this video, makes the same point. An historical Christ, an historical redemption, requires an historical Adam and an historical Fall.

For a more thorough exegetical treatment that supports Piper’s view, see Don Carson’s essay “Adam in the Epistles of Paul.”


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Bryan College Conference and Adam

Bryan College and the Bryan Institute recently hosted a conference called “Reading Genesis 1-2,” dealing with the doctrine of creation and its entailments. The keynote speakers were John Walton of Wheaton, Jack Collins of Covenant, Tremper Longman of Westmont, Victor Hamilton (moderator) of Asbury, Richard Averbeck of TEDS, and Ted Beall of Capital. Break-out sessions included various evangelical scholars dealing with a whole range of topics, such as David Powlison on the nature/nurture debate; T. M. Moore on culture; J. Budzieszewski on Niebuhr’s view of culture; Kelly Kapic on rendering to Caesar; and a whole lot more (see here for audio from all of the sessions).

There were a number of panel discussions between the main speakers. This one is a discussion of the historical Adam issue, and is particularly relevant because one of the key-note speakers, Longmann, holds to a theistic evolution view of creation and argues that Adam was likely not an historical person. I haven’t listened to this yet, but I thought it might be helpful for those of us going to the talk on Adam next week.

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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).


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.


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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Strimple, Theology and Adam

Robert Strimple is Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary in California. Interestingly, he did his doctoral studies at Trinity College, University of Toronto and taught for a time at what is now called Tyndale University College in Toronto.

Strimple recently wrote a piece for the Westminster website called “Was Adam Historical?” where he takes a more theological look at the question. He pays particular attention to the neo-orthodox understanding of Adam as non-historical but theologically significant, as in Karl Barth or Emil Brunner. This is quite useful. His final paragraph says:

To conclude: Our understanding of the reality of Adam affects our understanding of sin, of redemption, and of the Redeemer. The one who rejects the Biblical teaching regarding the historical Adam and the historical Fall will find no firm basis for accepting the Biblical teaching regarding the historical, Incarnate Redeemer.

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ESV Study Bible on Adam

The ESV Study Bible (in my opinion, the best study bible on the market) has a statement about Adam and Eve that I thought would be worth sharing in light of this series I’m doing on the subject. This comes from the essay written by Old Testament scholar T. Desmond Alexander, who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in Belfast. It not only affirms that Adam and Eve were “real people” but also explains the theological significance of believing this:

It is clear that Adam and Eve are presented as real people. Their role in the story, as the channel by which sin came into the world, implies that they are seen as the headwaters of the human race. The image of God distinguishes them from all the animals, and is a special bestowal of God (i.e., not a purely “natural” development). It is no wonder that all human beings share capacities for language, moral judgment, rationality, and appreciation for beauty, unlike and beyond the powers observed in the animals; any science that ignores this fact does not faithfully describe reality. The biblical worldview leads one to expect as well that all humans now share a need for God and a bent toward sin, as well as a possibility for faith in the true God.

T. Desmond Alexander, “Introduction to Genesis” in ESV Study Bible (Wheaton: Crossway), 44.

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