Revisiting the URC Creation Decision

At Bylogos Dr John Byl, Professor of  Mathematics at Trinity Western University and Member of the Advisory Board of Reformation International College comments on a joint letter that Kim Riddlebarger, Mike Horton, and I sent to the Christian Renewal in 2001.  Dr Byl writes,

It is well-known that the Framework Hypothesis (which asserts that the Genesis days are just a literary structure rather than historical days) is promoted by a number of ministers in the United Reformed Church (URC), particularly those associated with Westminster Seminary California, including Drs. Godfrey, Scott Clark, Horton, and Riddlebarger.

In 2001, in response to several overtures objecting to the Framework Hypothesis, URC Synod 2001 dealt with the creation days. A proposal that “God created all things good in six historical days defined as evenings and mornings” was defeated, primarily due to opposition by Dr. Scott Clark and other proponents of the Framework Hypothesis (see Christian Renewal, June 2001:8–9). The proposal was passed only after the word historical was removed, thereby giving room for the Framework Hypothesis.

This is not quite what happened. A few corrections are in order.

First, the phrase, “just a literary structure” is quite unfortunate and the attempt to juxtapose a literary structure with history is equally unfortunate. Scripture is necessarily literature and contains a wide variety of literary styles and types. It is simultaneously historical in character and theological in character. Orthodox Biblical scholars know better than to set these aspects of the divine revelation against one another. For example, the Gospel of John is highly stylized, highly theological, AND historical. The psalms are stylized, theological, AND historical in character. The Book of Job has all three of these characteristics. The notion that we can establish a priori the literary forms that Scripture is allowed to take and then decide on the basis of that a priori that a stylized form is contrary to historical truth is nothing less than rationalism (QIRC) and contrary to the manifest evidence of Scripture itself.

Second, I will not speak for Mike or Kim, since they are quite able to articulate their views themselves, but I am not an advocate of the so-called Framework Hypothesis. I say “so-called” because just about every proposed interpretation of Genesis 1–2 of which I am aware is a hypothesis since none of us was there, none of us really knows what light without the sun looks like and none of us can say with certainty what it means for God to speak creation into existence really means. Whatever Scripture says is true but if people think they can even imagine what happened in creation I suspect they have a deficient doctrine of God. The Framework understanding of the creation narrative is a proposed interpretation of Scripture, just like the 6-day view or the analogical or some other view.

My own view is closer to the view expressed by Bob Godfrey in his book on creation, God’s Pattern for Creation. There are ways that the creation days, especially after the creation of the sun, are like our days but there are ways in which the creation days are not like our days. I do not doubt that Moses and the original hearers of this revelation understood this. The historical and theological point (no need to juxtapose history and theology) of the original text, in its original context, was to teach the Israelites that the same Yahweh who delivered them from Egypt is the same Yahweh who created the heavens and the earth. The original intent was not to answer questions about the length of the creation days. The problem of the discussion since the mid-twentieth century is that it has sought to make the text of Scripture answer questions it is not asking. Further, we should not be cavalier  about the difficulties of asserting that we all know exactly the nature of the creation days. If one insists that ‏י֔וֹם  (Yom) means “24 hours” in Genesis 1 then does it mean that in Gen 2:4 when Scripture says “in the Yom (בְּי֗וֹם) that Yahweh Elohim created the heavens and the earth”? Many advocates of the 6–24 view have argued to me that Yom in Gen 1 = “24 hours” but Yom in Gen 2:4 is figurative. Why is ‏י֔וֹם figurative in Gen 2:4 but not in Gen 1? Why not the reverse? If 6–24 creation is good, perhaps 1–24 creation is better? After all, could not God have created everything in a single day? Certainly he could have done. If you tell me that I do not believe the Bible when it teaches creation in six days then I will say that you do not believe the Bible when it teaches creation in one day. Now who is the skeptic? Of course, the point of this argument is to show the futility of trying to leverage one’s interpretation of Genesis 1 by describing alternative views as skeptical. On such an approach any differing view can be called “skeptical” simply because it differs from one’s own view. That’s the nature of the QIRC. For more on this see Recovering the Reformed Confession.

Here is the text of the letter from 2001. As you can see there is never any question of the historicity of the creation account:

Kudos to the editor for the January 29, issue of Christian Renewal on the days of creation. As Drs. Kloosterman and Godfrey remind those of us in the URCNA, we subscribe without reservation to the Three Forms of Unity. It is when synod adds to these forms, or fails to discipline those who do not teach in accordance with them, that problems arise. We hope that Synod Escondido would take their wise counsel to heart. Let us not make the mistake of adding to our confessions. Nor let us go weak in the knees when someone teaches something contrary to them. As a federation of churches, we must be willing to discipline any such person as church order instructs us to do. To either amend our confessions or fail to discipline when needed, will certainly start us down the path toward the synodical tyranny or theological liberalism we so greatly fear.

We take issue, however, with several points in Rev. Dennis Royall’s essay, “What is the Framework Hypothesis?” We disagree categorically with his claim about the motives of those who hold the Framework Interpretation when he says that they do so out of a “a desire to be accessible to the scientific community.” Not only does such a comment imply that those who hold to the Framework Interpretation have an ulterior motive–to make Christianity compatible with modern science–but this statement is simply not true. We know most, if not all, of the URC pastors who lean toward the Framework or Analogical Interpretation of the creation days. To a man, not one of them has ever expressed the desire to be at peace with modern science. In fact, they have all expressed that they hold to this position, because this is what they think the text of Holy Scripture itself is teaching. We must be very careful not confuse Dr. Kline’s motives with those of Dr. Howard Van Till, as expressed in his infamous book “The Fourth Day.” Kline’s viewpoint, right or wrong, is driven by his redemptive-historical and eschatological method of interpretation, not a desire to placate the arrogance of modern autonomous science. To imply something else borders on slander.

As far as the Framework Interpretation taking us down the slippery slope toward “those errors which lie waiting at the doorstep of their theory,” we must ask, “to what errors is Rev. Royall referring?” We tend toward the Framework or Analogical view, because we think it reinforces the case for the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. The Framework Interpretation sees Genesis 1 and 2 closely and necessarily tied together with a common author (Moses), something which all critical scholarship rejects. The Framework Interpretation affirms that God created all things from nothing and it affirms every aspect of the historical record in Genesis 1–11, against modern critical scholarship. Just because the days of creation may be arranged topically, rather than chronologically, does not in any sense mean that those things depicted as occurring on each day are not historical, even if Moses communicates this to us by analogy. No one who holds to the Framework Interpretation denies that by his word God created the heavens and the earth as well as all the creatures who fill them. No one we know who holds the Framework Interpretation does so with the agenda of introducing naturalistic evolution into our ranks. In fact, if like us, you hold to the classic Reformed doctrine of a pre-fall covenant of works (another point where not all URC ministers are in agreement), you must hold to an historical Adam. This is a necessary presupposition of the Reformed system. The slope founded upon a covenant of works, is not very slippery. In fact, it doesn’t even slope!

So despite the fears that the Framework Interpretation will lead us down the slippery slope to ruin, we simply point out that those of us who hold this view (or who tend toward it), do so because we think this is what Scripture teaches. We may be wrong, but if we are wrong it is because our exegesis is faulty, and not because we have imbibed from an anti-supernaturalism typical of theological liberalism with which we are erroneously and unfairly associated. We may disagree among ourselves about the length and character of the creation days and yet we all may faithfully subscribe to our confessions. But if any should adopt the anti-supernaturalism of modern theological liberalism, they can only subscribe to our confessions with crossed fingers. They will eventually be exposed, and when they are, such men should be removed from our federation. That, brothers and sisters, is where we think the line in the sand should be drawn.

The Rev. Dr. Kim Riddlebarger

Christ Reformed Church (URC)

Anaheim, CA

The Rev. Dr. R. Scott Clark

Escondido URC

Westminster Theological Seminary, Escondido, CA

The Rev. Dr. Michael Scott Horton

Escondido URC

Westminster Theological Seminary, Escondido, CA

[Ed. note: Dr Horton is now Associate Pastor at Christ Reformed URC in Santee, CA and I am Associate Minister at the Escondido URC]

The reason I joined Mike and Kim in objecting to Rev. Royall’s account is that I believe that the Framework Interpretation is within the boundaries of orthodoxy and I think it is a mistake for the Reformed churches, even if they disagree with it, to view it with suspicion. There are aspects of the Framework Interpretation that are not controversial, such as the parallel structure of the creation days. This has been known and discussed by Biblical scholars since the 13th century, long before evolution was a question. Further, it was clear from the discussion surrounding the overture that many critics simply assumed that the Framework Interpretation was simply an another evasion of the truth of Scripture rather an an attempt to understand Scripture truly. I hope in the intervening years that folk have taken the 9 or so years and read some of the basic texts on these questions, e.g., M. G, Kline, “Because it Had Not Rained,” WTJ 20 (1957/1958): 146-57.

As to what transpired at Synod, I do not recall the question of the use of the word “historical” being debated. I was a delegate to that synod and participated in the discussion on the floor (but not in committee). Here’s the statement itself:

Synod affirms that Scripture teaches, as summarized by the Creeds and the Three Forms of Unity:

• The authority and perspicuity of Scripture (Belgic Confession V; Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day VII).

• Necessity and sufficiency of Scripture (Belgic Confession VII; Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day VII).

• God the Father almighty created the heavens and the earth and all things visible and invisible (Apostles’ and Nicene Creed).

• The Father created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day IX).

• God gave every creature its shape and being (Belgic Confession XII).

• The creation and fall of man. “God made man of the dust of the earth; man gave ear to the
devil.” (Belgic Confession XIV).

• The historicity of Adam (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day VII.20; Canons of Dort III, IV.1).

• Man was created good, in a garden, and tempted by the devil, committed reckless disobedience (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day III and IV).

• God’s words to the serpent in Paradise are noted as the first revelation of the Gospel (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day VI).

• Adam plunged himself and his offspring by his first transgression into perdition (Belgic Confession XVI).

• Adam’s fall into sin and our connection to it (Canons of Dort I.1).

• God came seeking man when he, trembling, fled from Him (Belgic Confession XVII).

• God created all things good in six days defined as evenings and mornings (Genesis 1 & 2 and Exodus 20:11). This means that we reject any evolutionary teaching, including theistic evolution, concerning the origin of the earth and of all creatures (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day IX).

4. Synod affirm our commitment as churches to discipline those who teach anything that stands in conflict with the Bible, as summarized in the Creeds and the Three Forms of Unity.

I am satisfied with the resolution of things at Synod Escondido.

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  1. Excellent! Said well, done well. Thanks for your continued faithfulness to clarity where it counts. Your friend in Christ, Chuck

  2. This is a helpful “inside” story unless made public by Dr. Clark many people like me would not have known. I was taught by Dr. Tipton at WTS Philly and he held “Framework” view (obviously taught and influenced by Dr. MG Kline at WSC) though carefully weighing pros and cons of other positions. And my question was whether Framework view was “widely” held by the Reformed community and tradition before Dr. Kline. Recently Greenville Seminary rejected Day-Age, and Framework, only accepting 6-24days. And the tone was exactly like what Dr Clark is describing. When WTS & WSC hold to and accept all three views within the bounds of confessional Reformed theology, I’m not sure whether Greenville’s strong words and rejection of other views were good move or not. Any words on that Dr Clark?

  3. Hi Sam,

    I don’t know to what degree that the FI was held before MGK. He certainly did not invent the view, however.

    I haven’t read the Greenville paper so I can’t comment on it. I did see a paper that Dr Pipa wrote when he taught here and I did not find it persuasive. It was interesting but I appreciated Mark Futato’s paper, “Because it Had Rained,” a bit more for its exegetical arguments.

    GPTS is certainly entitled to stake out its position on this issue. Other schools have done the same (e.g.. MARS). My argument is that it’s not a confessional matter and there should be liberty within certain boundaries.

    Take a look at the chapter in RRC that addresses this.

  4. As a WSC graduate (MDiv. 2007), I’d like to add an anecdotal note:

    Most of the URCNA graduates from WSC that I know well do not even hold to the Framework Hypothesis. They may not dismiss it as unorthodox but that doesn’t mean that they have made it their own view.

    It is unfair when people associate every graduate of WSC with the Framework interpretation. Often times, we’re not granted the opportunity to speak for ourselves on the matter simply because of our association with a particular institution.

    The amount of angry judgment pronounced by some over this issue is mournful because it unnecessarily divides the Body of Christ.

    • “It is unfair when people associate every graduate of WSC with the Framework interpretation. Often times, we’re not granted the opportunity to speak for ourselves on the matter simply because of our association with a particular institution.”

      Hi Brad,

      I’m often asked what my view is because I went to WTS/CA (now WSC) and was a student of M. G. Kline. When I tell them I am a meat and potatoes “ordinary” view guy, people are kind of shocked but the conversation moves on. I’ve never really sensed the guilt-by-association phenomenon. Have you?

  5. The whole concept of “evening” and “morning” are a local notions, not a global one. The days of the week (Mon, Tue, Wed, etc.) are also local concepts and cannot be defined globally. Thanks to Einstein, we now know that the concept of time is also a local one. Thus, technically speaking, we don’t even know what “literal 24 hours” mean since that depends on the observer.

    Genesis is not a myth; but the theology of “6 literal 24 hours creation” is very likely to be a myth. (More on this at

  6. Of course, no one denies that God could have created in one day. The question is not over his power, but over his truthfulness. One can allow for all relevant Middle East literary conventions in interpreting Genesis, but I still suspect that Darwinism is at the root of this fear of taking the biblical text of Genesis seriously.

      • I agree with Dr. Clark’s comment here. It’s not that folks are not taking it seriously – from my readings, Drs. Futato and Kline are very serious about the early chapters of Genesis. I think Vern means that there are ulterior or underlying motives that propel an exegete one direction or another. For example, I remember reading a footnote in one of Dr. Kline’s essays that said he had disdain for the literal, 24-hour interpretation and that he wanted to open up the interpretation to make room for more modern scientific views. I think that is what Vern is after with his comment. I don’t think that Kline was intending to play fast and loose with the text. I think he was taking it very seriously, but (on all sides) seriousness oughtn’t be confused with truth.

        Dr. Clark, as to your comments in your original post regarding yom in the six days of Gen 1 and beyom in Gen 2:4 – they seem inadequate to establish your point. The prepositional phrase beyom is not equivalent to the word yom defined by ordinal numbers. Beyom is equivalent to “in the time” or “during the time” (cf. Gen 31:40; 35:3; Ex 10:28 and many more). Yom modified by ordinal numbers in the OT refers to literal days – universally, as I’m told. Of course there are conjoining arguments to shore up this one, in addition to other lines of argumentation for the literal 6-day view, but my point in this comment isn’t to argue for the literal interp, but to show that in order to sideswipe the 6-day position (or at least one of it’s arguments), you’ve left necessary components out of the 24-hour argument and blurred the meaning of beyom. This tactic seems unfortunate at absolute best and dishonest at worst, and it certainly doesn’t establish your point.

        • Timmo,

          Of course it doesn’t establish my point but neither does the ordinal number + Yom make them 24 hours. The point is that the use of Yom, even in a prepositional phrase, introduces significant ambiguity. The prep phrase doesn’t ipso facto make it figurative, at least not necessarily and certainly not so that 6-24 creation can become de facto orthodoxy.

          Yes, MGK was too dismissive of the 6-24 view. I think that was a mistake. I think it has to be taken seriously as an exegetical option but it cannot be made the rule of orthodoxy for the reasons I gave in RRC.

          • I love that you all me Timmo… my mom did, too. I think we could be friends, but it’d take a lot of work! 🙂

    • I agree Vern, if it was 200 years ago, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. I thought a major principle of hermeneutics was to take the text at face value first. Then if it doesn’t make sense, use other verses to come to an understanding of the text. What is it about six 24-hour days that is hard to comprehend?

      • Two things:

        1. Before Copernicus we were all geocentrists. All you a geocentrist or are you a liberal compromiser?

        2. Your assumption that no one was asking about the nature of the creation days before Darwin et al is false. This has been a matter of discussion since Augustine. See RRC.

        • 1. The Bible don’t say “the earth is the center of the universe,” but it does enumerate the days of creation, evening and morning. On the other hand, unbelievers and their observations can certainly help us read the Bible better. We must guard against having extra-biblical view, which are currently in vogue, exercise undue influence in our exegetical work.

          2. The nature of the debate today is vastly different that it was from Augustine to Darwin. That there’s been some fairly minor ecclesiastical debate because of Augustine’s thought is true. That biblical cosmogony’s been under a full-scale attack since Darwin is also true. That these two things are vastly different is manifest. The former is a scant justification of the latter.

  7. Dr. Clark, sorry if this is an old or ‘dumb’ question, but how do we decide whether something is a ‘confessional matter’ or not ?

    Something like ‘women in office’ is not dealt with explicitly in the confession, is it therefore not a confessional issue ?

    • Slabbert,

      How’s life in Grand Rapids?

      To your post, the Belgic Confession, article 30, in fact, does address the issue of “women in office.” Here is what I wrote in my book, “With Heart and Mouth: An Exposition of the Belgic Confession” (
      Before moving on in our exposition, it should be noted well that the Confession speaks of the offices of pastor, elder, and deacon as being filled by “faithful men.” Not only is the noun in the French text, personnage, masculine, but also the noun in the Latin text is even more explicit, viri, which is the word for a man.

      This is the confessional position, which the Form for the Ordination of Elders and Deacons clearly states in the exposition of the office of deacon. The Form says because the apostles were overburdened, “certain men were chosen,” as the text of Acts 6 makes clear. The Confession and the Form follow the basic biblical texts. In Acts 6:3 the word that is used for the men who were chosen to serve focuses on the idea of male, rather than the generic man. Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:12 that the deacon “must be the husband of but one wife” and also refers to “their wives” in verse 11. Further, 1 Timothy 2:12 teaches that a woman cannot be an office bearer since she cannot teach or have authority over a man.

      There were, of course, many women in the New Testament churches that served the Lord in the setting of the church. Phoebe is one of these. She is called “our sister . . . a servant (diakonos) of the church in Cenchrea” (Romans 16:1). Tabitha, also called Dorcas, is called “a disciple . . . who was always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36). In Ephesus, and perhaps in other churches, there was a “list of widows” of those who were over sixty years old and devoted themselves “to all kind of good deeds” (I Timothy 5:9–10).

      • Hallo Danny,

        Thank you very much for that quote from your book !

        I totally agree with it. I have your book, and will look it up, and will also use it, because ‘women in office’ is a major issue in our church denomination (Synod 2009 decided for women deacons, but against women as elders/pastors, but I think the battle is not over), and many pro- advocates uses the argument, “it is not a confessional issue’, and therefore we could tolerate different views.

        ps. I am not in Grand Rapids, although I would not mind to go and visit there one day ! I am pastor in a reformed church, in a small town called Carletonville, in South Africa. Maybe you confused me with a good friend and brother of mine, currently studying at PRTS, who is also from my denomination ?

  8. Slabbert,

    if the confessions speak to something directly, then that’s a confessional doctrine. If the churches apply the confessions to a question, then, arguably, that might be called a confessional view. I don’t know if that answers your good question.

  9. Dr. Clark,

    Would you mind providing a brief summary of how Dr. Godfrey’s approach differs from the Framework Interpretation as explained by Meredith Kline and Lee Irons?


    • Aaron,

      I can’t right now do more than I’ve done on this post. My advice is to get his book and read it for yourself and read the FI lit and compare the two.

  10. I think it’s unfair that only Framework is associated with “Hypothesis” when 24hr view also must hypothesis (not from exegesis) when they try to reconcile Day1-4 relationship: God “could have” but modus operandi of God was “natural” not “supernatural” (Kline’s main point).

    My question regarding Framework is: Could Moses have “intended” two-triad framework? If so, whatever views notable orthodox theologians may have held up until now would not be so important (24hr usually lines up church fathers and Reformed orthodoxy in support of its view) because what’s more important is what the Bible says and whether the argument is exegetically supported or not.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I have read (in this blog) Dr. Clark’s verdict on John Murray’s Definitive Sanctification as theological novelty (though this may not be Dr Clark’s exact words). If Murray’s notion of Definitive Sanctification could be established by exegesis (even by one verse; just as Gen.2:4 is used by Dr. Clark to point out inconsistency of 24hr view), then shouldn’t tradition submit to exegesis?

    Dr. Clark, if you (hypothetically) held on to 24hr view, would you have lined up church history and Reformed Orthodoxy’s traditions of interpretation against Framework view (that’s Dr Duncan’s main point in The Genesis Debate the book)?

    I’m sorry this is not the issue here. But as I was taught by Drs. Gaffin & Tipton, any objections against their views (I’m thinking about what you and Dr Fesko have said about Gaffin’s Union with Christ) must be (will be) critically assessed by me (as you know while in seminary it’s hard to forge your own view because of time limits and other obligations). I’m in that stage where I am re-reading what I’ve learned during seminary examining/establishing/re-establishing my teachers’ views.

    Thanks Dr. Clark for interacting with people on your website (when you don’t have to and when none of the scholars that I know have time to do so).

    • Sam,

      Quickly, yes, judging by what I’ve seen in the psalms and elsewhere (in large sections of narrative), i.e., the use of complex chiastic structures, it’s quite possible that Moses intentionally structured the narrative thus.

      I don’t think Mr Murray’s view of definitive sanctification has been established. It was an experiment but I think it was, barring future improved argumentation, a mistake, a rabbit trail. I don’t think the same is true of the reconsiderations of creation. The theological cost of definitive sanctification has been much higher than the non- existent cost of re-considering the exegesis of Gen 1-2. No one has shown me how FI or Analogical or some other view affects our theology whereas Definitive Sanctification has had a definite affect on Reformed systematics.

      No, HT and ST are distinct disciplines. My job as a historian is to tell the truth about the past as best I can. The job of ST is to make a case of what ought be believed. There’s no question that many interpreters (but not all) held to 6-24 creation (or 3-24) before the modern period. See RRC on this. That doesn’t make it right any more than the historic approach to progressive sanctification makes it right (vis-a-via Murray). Murray could be right. That he differs with the tradition doesn’t make him wrong. Only systematics and symbolics can resolve that question.

  11. Dr Clark –

    I’m thankful to you for raising this matter which happened to come up for me only yesterday. I was browsing the websites of some of what I would regard as the most prominent “orthodox” presbyterian seminaries in the USA (RTC, Covenant, WSC, WTS and Greenville, when an advertisement on the Greenville homepage for a conference on “The Sufficiency of Scripture” caught my eye and set me thinking. A little more research confirmed for me what Sam Chung mentions above – that GPTS identifies itself as a 24hours x6 creation and young earth school. In fact this is well know enough for them to make this list – .

    Now I have heard of GPTS as a self-consciously “Old School” seminary, which was sounding attractive to me – but if they have decided to pursue the QIRC in this particular way, it could be a deal-breaker as far as I am concerned.

    • Hi Ben,

      The fellows at GPTS are friends and colleagues and we stand shoulder to shoulder on the gospel and justification and many other things (e.g., the importance of the confession) so I don’t want this thread to turn negative but I also think it’s a mistake to make “young earth” a part of Reformed orthodoxy. I can’t for the life of me see what is at stake there. The old Princeton fellows showed more than a century ago that the old calculations, from Scripture, about the age of the earth, were based on poor biblical exegesis. The point of the chronologies is not to teach us the age of the earth. If one doesn’t appeal to them then one has to appeal to flood geology or some other extra-biblical standard. This seems like a mistake. How, in principle, is this different from geocentrism? I may be missing something and I’ve not read the position paper for myself (other than the paper Joey distributed in the 90s here) so I might be missing something.

      • Prof, what I think we could be missing, is,

        a. what does the Text say and mean itself, and then the second question, what is the theology of the Text ? It seems to me, we tend to want to go directly to the theology of the text, while both is important (history and theology, and the latter are dependent on the later, see 1 Cor.15).

        When you write, “The historical and theological point (no need to juxtapose history and theology) of the original text, in its original context, was to teach the Israelites that the same Yahweh who delivered them from Egypt is the same Yahweh who created the heavens and the earth.”, then the ‘original text and context’, is Gen.1:1, it is all about origins, and answering ‘questions of origins’. Yes, of course Scripture interpret Scripture, but one (not the only one) of the purposes of Gen.1 is to answer what, when and how everything were created by our Covenant Lord.

        Ex.20:11 points to creation in six days as motive for our sabbath keeping.
        Dt.5:15 points to redemption as motive for our sabbath keeping.
        Both, not only the one motive.

        I do not know about you, but many in this debate would say: Gen.1 teach us ‘that’ God created everything, not ‘how’ He did it. But, why just the one, and not both ?

        Ps.33 tells us ‘that’ God created and ‘how’ he created (v.6-9 esp, etc.)

        b. and, one must also ask the question, why would someone want to understand the days non-historical ? Why (and especially as historians!) WHEN did the non-historical view of days, old earth theory, local flood idea, etc came on the scene and start to dominate ?

        Is it mere co-incidence that the dominant view of Genesis (6/24 days/young earth/global flood, etc.), were replaced by long ages/old earth/local flood, etc., at the end of the 19th century ? What happened in the 19th century, which influenced both scientists and theologians/churches, even today ?

        Yes, I believe that many FH advocates would say, we believe it ‘because of Scripture’, but we all are incluenced by the times we live in.

        Three helpful sources in this regard, is:
        1. Getting to Grips with Genesis, Terry Mortenson (ed.)
        2. The Great Turning Point – The Church’s Catastrophic Mistake on Geology – before Darwin, T. Mortenson
        3. Creation without Compromise, DD Crowe

  12. Thanks Scott for your reply.

    I agree that it would be a shame if this small fault line between the more and less pietistic groups within the “confessional reformed” became a cause of serious division, when there is so much to be gained from standing together on the more important truths that you mention. I hope that both sides will be wary of it.

  13. To what degree, if any, should interpretations of Scripture concerning creation influence how we go about when studying the universe? Should they not have any bearing on our conclusions and should the study of our natural world be done without reference to Scripture? What if we are convinced by scientific evidence for a certain view which seems to not be in accordance, and even contradicts, what Scripture seems to say? It seems to me that Christians have at times placed to much confidence in their interpretations (what they considered to be the truth as given in the Bible) only to be found completely wrong; which leaves unbelievers quite content in their unbelief.

    Michael Horton once said something that has stuck with me and with which I strongly agree; sometimes the theologians are right, and sometimes the scientists are right.

    • Michael Horton once said something that has stuck with me and with which I strongly agree; sometimes the theologians are right, and sometimes the scientists are right.

      Thank you, for admitting that. The only trouble is that when it it comes to science, the actual process or days of creation are not under scientific purview. In order for it to be properly science, the empirical method must be used. If one cannot design and execute an experiment to test his hypothesis, then it is not properly science. Being creatures bound by time, we cannot design or execute such an experiment, so any so called science that attempts to deal the origins of creation is not science, but fantasy expressed in scientific language in order to deceive the unwary.

      Again thanks for admitting that the reasoning behind the Framework is so that some contemporary theologians can feel like they are at least as smart as their fellow academics in science.

      Bottom Line: If one can’t do an experiment, it is not science, it’s fantasy.

      • “The only trouble is that when it it comes to science, the actual process or days of creation are not under scientific purview. In order for it to be properly science, the empirical method must be used. If one cannot design and execute an experiment to test his hypothesis, then it is not properly science.”

        Permit me as a scientist to jump in here. There is more than one kind of science and the experimental kind as described above is certainly preferred. However, in many cases that’s obviously impossible, and a historical approach to science is used. The conclusions of historical science are necessarily more tentative but they are certainly often used e.g. in origins, but also archeology and forensics.

    • Alberto,

      This is, of course, a difficult matter because we always read Scripture in a time and in a place and we can’t get a “god’s-eye-view” of our own experience at every moment about to the degree to which we’re being influenced by our surroundings.

      That said, as I noted in RRC, before Copernicus we were all geocentrists. There were staunch, orthodox Reformed defenses of geocentrism in the late 16th century and geocentrism was the dominant view among the Reformed through the 17th century.

      Today, none but the nutty are geocentrists and not one of us gave up our geocentrist views because of biblical exegesis.

      • Of course, geocentricism is not “taught” by the Bible, as if it were a scientific theory. It is merely a descriptive assumption of the biblical writers, who spoke from a terrestrial viewpoint (i.e. phenomenal language).

        But the comparison of YE creationism with geocentrism is not apt. The YE view is based on more than just phenomenal language, or a terrestrial outlook.

        • Vern,

          I don’t think we’re communicating. Geocentrism was considered Christian orthodoxy for a long time and defended vigorously by orthodox Reformed pastors. Some of our better theologians mocked heliocentrism as a passing fad. Today none but the nutty are geocentrists and no presbytery requires candidates to be geocentrist and would probably go into executive session if a candidate was a geocentrist. No one changed their view on this because of biblical exegesis. They changed their view because the science changed and that forced a change in our understanding of Scripture.

          You say “of course,” but for CENTURIES it wasn’t “of course.” that the Bible doesn’t teach geocentrism. Now it is “of course.” We have to honestly account for how that state of affairs came to be.

  14. I see that John Byl over at his ByLogos blog has weighted in urging the Canadian Reformed Church to hold off any talks about joining hands with the URC as long as the Framework Hypothesis is espoused by ministers like Godfrey

  15. Question: How many 6×24 hour guys deny the historicity of a single pair of original (without ancestor) human beings? How many Framework guys? Anybody know if Tremper Longman was a 6×24 guy, a day-age guy or a Framework guy? I wonder if Wikipedia is right in having Longman’s book How To Read Genesis in the bibliography for their article on the Framework.

  16. I’m a Frameworker from whenever it was I first read Blocher’s Genesis commentary: over here, the position is not so uncommon. We have 6×24 guys: my own church takes no formal position, but the position with the loudest shouters is 6×24. Occasionally we get ‘Creation’ talks, which are, naturally, guaranteed to be 6×24.

    Those of us who demur keep our heads down and get on with preaching the gospel, I think. 🙂 But it seems somehow less controversial than over there. I only hope that it’s *not* because of the slow death of confessionalism among evangelicals.

  17. “The Framework Interpretation sees Genesis 1 and 2 closely and necessarily tied together with a common author (Moses), something which all critical scholarship rejects. The Framework Interpretation affirms that God created all things from nothing and it affirms every aspect of the historical record in Genesis 1-11, against modern critical scholarship.”

    Suggested reading: the book Before Abraham Was and its various reviews and scholarly discussions about it (found in half a dozen books or so).

    Two University of California at Berkeley faculty (Isaac M. Kikawada and Arthur Quinn) wrote this book back in 1985. This effort is a respected piece of critical scholarship. It challenges the documentary hypothesis, asserting that literary and rhetorical analysis of Genesis 1-11 posits a single author.

  18. I guess what bothers us about OE advocates is not over their orthodoxy, but whether they can be trusted. How long will it be before other parts of the Bible are denied? A little liberalism leavens the whole hermeneutical lump. (Apologies for alliteration.)

    IMO, the issue of trust is key on this issue.

    • Vern,

      Who is denying ANY part of Scripture?

      You cannot simply ASSUME that one who disagrees with your understanding of a passage is denying Scripture. That’s a huge non sequitur.

      Did the Old Princeton scholars (W H Green and B B Warfield) deny Scripture when they re-considered the geneologies and realized that they’re not intended to be added up to get the age of the earth?

      My pre-mil disp friends think I’m denying Scripture when I deny the “rapture,” but I do so because Scripture doesn’t teach a rapture!

      There’s a significant difference between a disagreement over the proper interpretation of a passage and denying Scripture.

      • Amen, Dr Clark. So long as interpreters are honest with the text and subject to it, “liberalism” isn’t an issue. The issues swirl around what’s inducing certain men to approach the text in this way or that. If modern scientific notions are overly influential in the thinking of an exegete, I lose trust in his exegesis, but I can’t (simply on that basis) accuse him of denying the truth of the Scriptures (at least not the way that early 20th-century liberals did).

  19. “Some of our better theologians mocked heliocentrism as a passing fad. Today none but the nutty are geocentrists and no presbytery requires candidates to be geocentrist and would probably go into executive session if a candidate was a geocentrist.”

    And, who knows, maybe in a 100 years time someone will write:

    “Some of our better theologians mocked geocentrism as a passing fad in the 2010’s. Today none but the nutty are heliocentrists and no presbytery requires candidates to be heliocentrist and would probably go into executive session if a candidate was a heliocentrist.”

    The case is not clear (Scripturally or scientifically), esp. since Einstein, for either geo or helio, and excepting the one and calling only the one ‘nutty’, and not also the other one, maybe reveals something more of how we are influenced by modern (infallible for some?) secular science.

    So, be careful not be called the ‘nutty professor’, by chosing for helio only, today ! 😉

    Science change.

    ps. I am a theocentrist !

    • No, geocentricism is not compatible with the current speed of light, as Karl Popper once pointed out. The stars would have to be travelling way faster than that to go around our earth in a day.

    • Depends what you mean by heliocentrism. With isolated regard to the Earth-Sun system, the centre of mass lies within, and very close to the centre of, the Sun. So in that regard we are more nearly heliocentric than anything else. If you mean the universe as a whole, which sometimes people do, then you’re right, there is no such thing as a ‘centre’.

      Geocentrism cannot be right because of the consideration of the Earth-Sun system, as well as what Vern said.

  20. As any good physicist would agree, whether one chooses the earth, the sun, the black hole at the center of the Milky-way, or the initial point of the Big Bang (the ultimate ground zero apparently), it is all a matter of convenience.

    As matter of practical fact, everyone is in truth geocentric. Just as a line (any trajectory) requires that some origin (i.e., center) be chose in order to be placed on an x-y or x-y-z temporal and/or spacial grid, our minds need some center to form the models that they use to think about the sun, moon, and stars. Our calendar’s division in 12 months is due to the moon orbiting the earth 12 times a year (the word month is obviously derived from the word moon). The constellations in the sky are unique to our planet earth. As far as medical science currently knows, we have no inner pendulums that can allow us to sense daily revolutions. All our daily experiences and common thoughts rest on assumptions that the world is a vast, flat, and stationary realm.

    • Improvements:
      1. *…be chosen in order for placementon an x- or x-y-z…
      2. *…that they use to think about the relationships amongst the sun, moon, and stars.
      3. *Our calendar’s division into12 months…

      • Vern,

        How is what I have written “all-is-relative”? How is it instrumentalist? What do you mean by physical observation? Please try to define these terms that you are using. Some definitions of physical observation, relative, and instrumentalist would place one within the QIRC/QIRE. Also there are secular fundamentalists who are kissing cousins of members of the QIRC/QIRE .

        • Hi Eric, not sure what QIRC is, or its relevance. However, I would recommend reading Karl Popper’s “The Science of Galileo and its Most Recent Betrayal,” in *Conjectures and Refutations*, 1963, 2002, pp. 130 ff., where Popper criticises the all-is-a-matter-of-convenience interpretation of science.

          There is a fundamental difference (as Planck pointed out vis-a-vis Mach) between human-independent, universal, physical constants and particularist units of human convenience, such as centimeters, or calendars.

          Perhaps you are making some other point, and I’m criticising the wrong thing, and if so, apologies in advance. I was just criticising a common tactic in the debate between geocentricity and heliocentrism — an above it all argument.

          This view says, “Look there’s no truth of the matter here, because everyone’s right from a certain perspective” (shades of Frame). “We can all be geocentrists, or we can all be heliocentrists. It just depends upon one’s reference frame.”

          But this is little more than Machian phenomenalism.

          Again, if this was not what you were saying, my apologies for misunderstanding.

          • Hi Vern,

            How can you not know what QIRC is?

            As for my comment, I think what you’ve written about it is even weirder than you not knowing what QIRC is. You talk about physical observation, but then seem lack an appreciation for physical aesthetics, butchering together some sort of philosophical sausage and saying it has something to do with what I wrote. Sorry, your comment has caused me to loose my appetite.

            I don’t think you know what you talking about at all. Maybe I’m wrong, but how in the world can you not know what QIRC is? It’s been used on this site at least 154 times. If you don’t believe me, look here:


            • Well, Eric, it’s obvious you are not interested in serious discussion, so I’ll leave you to others.

              I don’t usually spend time tracking down everyone’s abbreviations, as time is limited….

  21. Answers to “Old Princeton scholars (W H Green and B B Warfield) …..’who’….. re-considered the geneologies and realized that they’re not intended to be added up to get the age of the earth?”

    I haven’t seen it mentioned, yet, but

    FROM CREATION TO SOLOMON: Studies in Biblical Chronology No. 2; James B Jordan 10/2001

    COMING TO GRIPS WITH GENESIS: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth; Chapter 10: Do the Genesis 5 and 11 Genealogies Contain Gaps?

    • James,

      At the risk of being accused (and guilty of snobbery) I doubt (a priori) that anything coming from Jordan or ICR is up to dismantling the serious scholarship of the Princetonians. I’ve never seen anything useful come from his overheated keyboard (MGK’s description of Bahnsen) and I was paying attention to the ICR years ago but they gave me no reason to think that they were interested in Scripture in its original context. They struck me as “defend young earth at all costs” types.

      Does this mean they’re wrong? No, but it does seriously decrease my willingness to invest time and energy to see what they have to say. I don’t need incentive to read Green and Warfield. They’ve earned my trust by doing consistently outstanding, thoughtful, careful work. That cannot be said for the likes of the fellows you cite.

      • Hmm, while I agree there may be gaps in the genealogies, I don’t think one can making them so open ended as to encompass thousands of years.

        Linguists have studied how language changes over the years. The more time, the more change.

        If the time between Noah and the Tower of Babel was more than about 800 years or so, it’s doubtful whether the statement that they were all of one language could be true. Beyond a certain period of time (as with the Latin languages), speakers cannot understand each other anymore.

        There are more than just genealogical constraints on how old the earth can be.

        • Vern,

          The point in re-considering the genealogies is not to wedge great lots of time therein but to find out whether we’ve even been asking them appropriate questions. The asking of bad questions of texts leads to bad answers, i.e., artificial answers that the text doesn’t intend to give. It’s called eisogesis. The work of Green and Warfield was to say that the genealogies don’t intend to be added up. Adding them up is an abuse of the text — it’s the very thing for which conservatives excoriate liberals for doing.

      • Dr Clark, have you even seen the book “Getting to Grips with Genesis” ?

        We could disagree with them on certain aspects, but if you have a look at that work, you will get “consistently outstanding, thoughtful, careful work”, not some ‘over hyped fundamentalism’.

        BTW, I think the same could be said of Bahnsen, there could disagreement, but to tell students not to even bother about his writings, is IMO, what I would call ‘academic immaturity’ Was Bahnsen not the guy Van Til saw as his ‘Elisa’, or is that an ‘urban legend’ ?

  22. Dr Clark,

    With all respect to you, sir.

    Your adhom dismissal doesn’t mean that others might not read and find credible arguments.

    In the end, you still have to deal with their exegesis.

    & respectfully, you are above this kind of an argument, I hope.

  23. Dr Clark,

    I noticed from the time of my response that your previous comment was edited

    Specifically regarding your use of ‘adhom’

    and comments concerning James Jordan

  24. You know, these are the arguments that make me insane in my denomination (the PCA). Dr. Clark’s point, as I understand it, is that the framework view of Genesis is within the boundaries of the Reformed Confessions and Scripture. This drives many “young earth” types nuts who insist theirs is the sole Scriptural view. And now we are critiquing whether those who don’t hold to young-earth creation are “trustworthy,” (I guess this includes people such as Warfield and the Hodges and CVT). There is a distinct lack of charity among many who are part of AIG and ICR. Just an observation by me, for what it’s worth.

    • Richard, I agree we as sinners must all be aware of a ‘lack of charity’, but both/all camps are in some sense guilty of this, as prof. Clark’s ranting against anyone disagreeing with him on this topic, so clearly testifies: calling those of other camps ‘nutty’, not even bothering to read and understand their views, saying that certain books/theologians work’s are not even worthy to consult, etc. and I not thing we could call that ‘charity’.

      Someone mentioned that prof. Horton said: theologians are sometimes wrong, and sometimes scientists are wrong (more or less). Well, I think we all can agree on that.

      Warfield and Hodge were great theologians, but on “geology and evolution” as lenses through which we understand origins and Scripture, they were (dead) wrong. See the book by DD Crowe (not a baptist, but a presbyterian): Creation without Compromise.

  25. The young earth view was one that I grew up with, and in the past I have vehemently defended it. However, as I have spent countless hours meditating on the creation texts, I have come to a place where I am comfortable with its ability to confound, and look longingly into the mysteries of God’s creative prerogatives. As a result, I can no longer hold fast to a young earth creation view in good conscience since I see this view as an imposition on the text and dismissive of some of the valid (albeit forensic) theories of modern science. A few lines in Tennyson’s In Memoriam have been instructive as I approach the text:

    We have but faith, we cannot know
    For knowledge is of things we see
    And yet we trust it comes from Thee
    A beam in darkness let it grow.

    While I don’t think it is true that we can’t know anything about what Genesis means for the material origins of the universe, I am not so sure certainty is in order. As of now I lean towards a theistic evolution model of life’s origins, along with the big-bang theory. I do not see this as an assault on orthodoxy. John Walton and Bruce Waltke’s valuable research in Genesis have been very helpful for me in this respect. I do take Gen. 1 to be a prologue of sorts that stands separate from Gen. 2. In Gen. 1 the Lord creates his cosmic temple and makes man as his image-bearing priest-kings to care for the earthly domain. I also take Gen.2 as real history, where Adam is a special creation who stands apart from the evolutionary process. He is the elected federal head of humainty, who could have expanded the garden temple to bring God’s templing presence to the utter ends of the earth. Where he failed, Christ has succeeded as the second Adam and has taken His place as our Federal Head who remains faithful to God’s original purposes for humanity and will bring God’s ultimate purposes for creation to their consummation.

    I am neither a theologian in the proper sense, nor am I a scientist. But I am fine with the validity of both Reformed orthodoxy and science, even if the answers of how the two come together lie beyond what we currently know. I realize my hypothesis here could be wrong, but I am with Dr. Clark that certainty lies beyond our grasp with respect to a complete knowledge of creation.

  26. Eric, I remember, yes it is me.

    Now friend, you must remember not all of us in the reformed world has the RRC as our unofficial ‘fourth confession’, and therefore not all of us are so familiar with all it’s abbreviations, marks of a true reformer today, etc. 😉

    BTW, I have not read RRC but did listen to the lectures/talks (on sermonaudio) which I think formed the backbone of the book. But, if prof Clark sends me a free signed copy, I would be most glad to read it !

    • Slabbert,

      Since we barely know each other, we can’t possibly be friends.

      As for the Recovering the Reformed Confession, no one in their right mind would treat the RRC as a fourth confession. The book reads like a current topic piece, a sort of literary expose analogous to a popular news story/reality check found on TV shows like 60 minutes.

  27. It is obvious from these posts that there is much ignorance and confusion about geocentrism. For one thing it does not mean that the stars travel through space around the earth. It means that space itself (the firmament) revolves once a day around the earth carrying all of the heavenly bodies with it. So with respect to the firmament, the heavenly bodies would not move at hyper-light speeds as is often alleged. It should also be noted that there is no empirical proof one way or the other whether or not the firmament revolves daily around the earth or the earth spins at 1000 mph and whirls about the sun at 100,000 kph. The physical effects are the same. Therefore, a cosmic model similar to Tycho Brahe’s cannot be dismissed as unscientific nor unscriptural. The question that should concern believers is: what do the scriptures teach? There are many scriptures which speak about the sun’s movement (and the moon’s) but which scriptures teach the earth’s cosmological movement?

    It is the same with regard to origins: What do the scriptures teach? Did God create the world in six days with day and night, morning and evening? Is there a specific reason why the creation days should not be understood as regular days which God then patterned man’s time measurements with? If Genesis 1-2 are to be understood as a literary framework then what other parts of Genesis are to be understood in that way?

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