Is This What They Meant By "Safe Spaces"?

Wes White is calling attention to the theology of PCA Teaching Elder Ron Choong. He describes his blog as a “theological safe space.” This adds background to some of the concerns leading up to the most recent PCA GA and the language in the proposed strategic plan about “safe spaces.” Was that code for, “may flatly contradict the WCF without taking responsibility for one’s views and challenging the confession in the courts of the church”?

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  1. Just happen to click on his Blogger proflile and it has a list of his favorite, music, and books. Just thought it was kind of ironic that the bible was not listed nor was anything Christian for that matter listed as far as his interests go. In the actual article quoted he is rejecting the WCF view on creation occuring in six days and this seems to be a common tread of retrofitting secular humanism into Christianity instead of being faithful to the bible and our confessions. Very sad…

  2. Check out the stuff at, Choong’s “Academy for Christian Thought.”

    Here’s a sample from the “Theology” section:

    6. Theological Anthropology – Doctrine of the imago Dei

    The doctrine of creation describes us as made in the image of God (imago Dei). What makes us, us? This rests neither in our capacities nor physiology, but in our relationality with God, through our moral minds. It is our biological brains that gave rise to our moral minds. But what drives our drives? In our universal quest for security and significance, our minds lead us to achieve heights of greatness and also inflict unimaginable evil. What then is the origin, the current state and the future of the imago Dei, the image of God? Are human beings (homo sapiens sapiens) unique? We are the only surviving hominids today. Why did the Cro-Magnons survive while the Neanderthals became extinct? Our symbolic species, able to pass on vital information over time, possess insight, and contemplate our future, has become the supreme global predator, able to destroy life as we know it. We shall consider the doctrine of man in relation to community, international economics, labor relations, the dignity of the person, issues concerning medical ethics, animal rights etc. What is mankind? Biological, spiritual, emotional, created good but nor perfect. 1) We Are Made But Not Born Equal; 2) We Are Valued In Relation To God – Relation, not capacity (potential, accomplishments, parasitic or symbiotic connections, power, trickery, dishonesty).

  3. The best thing I can say bout Rev. Choong’s writings I’ve read so far is “pretentious, pseudo-intellectual claptrap.” I really fear, though, that there may something much more dangerous lurking right under the surface. We need to dig into this deeper.

    FWA, PCA Ruling Elder, Hattiesburg, MS

  4. Justin,

    I would caution judging another believer’s maturity or character based only on a list of books that he reads.

    As for Ron’s views on the days of Creation, it is a fact that the PCA does not require subscription to to the literal 24 hour days view and unless I am mistaken, the OPC does not require 6 literal 24 hour days or allows an exception to be taken by its officers.

  5. Kenneth,

    You or correct on both accounts, except for the issue with exceptions in the OPC. It is my understanding (I’m not OP, but was at one time) that the OPC does not allow exception, like the PCA.


  6. In the passages linked to and quoted, the issue goes far beyond acceptance or rejection of literal 24-hour, 6-day creation. No one would be sounding alarm bells if Choong were simply restating the framework hypothesis, for example. The problem may be, rather, the old theistic evolution “God adopted a previous hominid” view. As I said earlier, we must dig deeper and read very, very carefully. There may be less here than meets the eye; I certainly hope so.

  7. Don’t know anything about Choong, but I’m taken aback by Frank A’s comment above about no alarm bells for the Framework Hypothesis. After all, the Westminster divines had the Framework Hypothesis in mind when they penned “in the space of six days.” It appears that we have ourselves quite a “safe space” in the modern Reformed church where one “may flatly contradict the WCF without taking responsibility for one’s views and challenging the confession in the courts of the church.”

    Somehow THAT deviation doesn’t matter.

  8. Justin,

    Let’s agree with what is meant by safe. I think Jesus already pefectly explains how we should relate to one another as Christians, especially as Christians who are struggling with The Truth. We all, each and every one, come to the table with baggage, agendas and presuppositions. It is the natural man that is slowly being put to death, and in this life will never actually be put to death, until Christ returns or calls or calls us home.

    How are we suppose to relate to one another with the this in mind. Does mortification of sin fit well here? I think we should relate to one another with this always in mind. We are sinners saved by grace. We are told to do everything first by Loving our God with our entire being, and then the second being like it, Love our neighbor as ourself. This seems to sum up “safe places.’ to me.

    I had a very frustrating “committee” meeting discussing space planning. Present were, our pastor, elder, elders wife, and staff maintenace man. This was frustrating due to the difficulty of letting our own agendas go long enough to hear everyone elses agenda. This may seem rediculous to mention on this sight, however this is theology in action. I think what was needed first was prayer. Prayer seems to be the only thing that directs this sinners’ thoughts to other’s ahead of myself. I was frustrated becuase I think that elders should be expected to act better than the rest of us. Is that wrong? probably, yet it is what it is, and I am called to love all the brethren in certain and explicit ways. I am a wholehearted believer in “love with the truth” not being able to be devided.

    I too am tired of re-labeling God’s commandments and calling them new strategies. However the problems are still the same problems we face, day in and day out in this fallen world since the fall. Relating to other sinners.

  9. Justin,

    Sorry this one was meant for Justin, not the first one.


    Do you have an example of what a Christian’s profile should look like? I looked into his Timothy Plan project and it does seem like he is very interested in the Bible. He has entire blog dedicated to rightly reading the bible.

  10. The framework hypothesis is based on an exegesis of scripture — whether you agree with it or not — and could actually involve creation in less than 6 days. The views in question here are based on modern scientific theory and require millions of years of evolution, calling into question the historicity of much if not most of the Genesis narratives. Seriously, is there no difference here?

  11. Tim,

    I don’t hold to the Framework Hypothesis, nor do I believe it represents accurate exegesis. Personally, I am committed to a young earth and to six 24-hour creation days. I’m speaking from the perspective of the PCA, however, which has decided that the framework view, among some others, is acceptable as long as Elders affirm the physical, literal, special, unique creation at a specific time and place of Adam and Eve as the first humans, as presented in Genesis 1 and2. You can find the Creation Study Committee Report at

    We’ve had the discussion about the length of creation days several times at Heidelblog. I don’t want to get thrown off balance in the discussion of Choong, whose problems may go much deeper than a particular view of the creation days. I’m trying to “major on the majors,” as I see it in this instance.

  12. Looks like another para-church org run by a guy with a lot of IQ and not much common sense.

    His schtick will probably appeal to (and lead astray) Manhattanites of similar background and intelligence levels. The “redeeming the city/culture” meme found at Redeemer Pres and Harbor PCA etc is really “attempting to appeal to high IQ desirables so that we can say they go to our church.” In other words, redeeming the culture is about declaring victory when enough of the right people have been attracted to your church through gimmicks.

    Unfortunately, that’s not what the Bible and the Confessions are about. They are written for the simplest amongst us so that with “due use of the ordinary means” we can come to an understanding of the truths contained therein.

    BTW, the mainline Presbyterian church went down largely because it tried to win approval from non-Christian academics. Can’t these guys just be encouraged to leave the PCA and join the PCUSA?

  13. The problem with theological “safe spaces” is that ideas have consequences. Discourse in violation of Scripture or our confession takes on its own life. To foster or enable forums where one can willfully dispute established confessional truths is to play with fire.

    Harvest Reformed Presbyterian Church

  14. I’ve just sent an email to Pastor Keller asking if he will clarify whether he and the other elders at Redeemer NYC are aware of Ron Choong’s views on Adam. I’ve also asked if I can make that answer public.

  15. Several months ago, I predicted that the PCA would face the Historicity of Adam question big-time within five years. I may have been, like, really, really wrong.

  16. Thank you, Pastor Webb, for your courage to go to Keller and call him out on this. To be honest, though, I don’t think Tim Keller cares a lick about the Confessions and Standards of the Reformed faith. He’s shown himself to be anti-confessional time and time again. We’ve seen that now with his protection of many Federal Visionists in his presbytery and now with liberals in his presbytery. I’m not suprised.

    • Ken,

      I have my disagreements with Tim but this sort of rhetoric seems over the top. Yes, I agree that there seems to be an FV presence in that presbytery (I’ve written about it here) and I’ve complained loudly about his decision to invite Tom Wright to lecture under the auspices of the church. It would be better to find out what the facts are in this case before we conclude that he doesn’t “care a lick about” the Standards. He, like all ministers, should be asked to give an account of his relationship to the standards. The Presbytery needs to demonstrate that it has more oversight than seems to be the case (at least from this distance).

  17. Well, it is so refreshing to read an intelligent theologian, though I’m probably not as impressed with him as he is with himself. I’m so weary of knuckle-dragging creationists who bitterly cling to their quaint little ideas.

    However, having entered this safe place for conversation and having read his post and savoring every last word, I must thank him for clarifying my notions of Biblical Anthropology: “Help, I’m a rising beast, I’m falling upwards, and I can’t get up.”

    Somebody please tell me this what this guy has written is a parody.

  18. Frank A. and Louis – I agree that the creation issues are distractions from this thread, so I don’t intend to pursue them. However, part of the thread is a discussion of faithfulness to the Standards. The Framework Hypothesis may be based upon perfect exegesis, but it is NOT confessional. There’s more at stake in these creation-day debates than just exegesis.

    My point is that some confessional deviations don’t raise flags and make bells chime. That indicates that we have our own “safe spaces” in which it’s okay to disagree with the Standards.

  19. For better or worse (maybe much worse-time will tell), the PCA as a whole seems to be comfortable with affirming “in the space of six days” of WCF IV.1 in a way that allows for the framework hypothesis. To many PCA Ruling and Teaching Elders, this is stretching the Big Tent way too tight, up to or beyond the breaking point.

    If the moment ever comes when it’s clear that the PCA will not effectively discipline men who advocate the Federal Vision, or men who deny the historicity of Adam, I’m outta there.

  20. I just finished a quick reading of Tim Keller’s “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople” at BioLogos,

    My first reaction is, “If this is a friend of the historicity of Adam, who needs enemies?” I need to print out this essay and read more carefully, with highlighter and red pencil at hand.

    I may have been inexcusably naive to assume that most Reformed “conservatives “who reject literal, six-day creation are still rock-solid concerning the special creation of Adam and Eve.

    Methinks I hear creaking of the poles and see splits in the fabric of the Big Tent.

  21. Frank,

    What are your concerns with Keller’s essay? Is it over the fact that he is making room for those who want to hold to both Evolution as a process and the historicity of Adam? Keller is clearly speaking AGAINST the idea of Adam and Eve as mere symbols.

    I am not trying to defend Keller’s position but trying to get clarification about your concerns.


  22. Kenneth,

    You’ve expressed my concerns accurately. Equally disturbing to me is Keller’s rather feeble insistence of the historicity of Adam, although his exegetical points are excellent and clearly argued. (I’m using “historicity of Adam” as a shortcut for the classic, orthodox view of Adam and Even as specially created by God at a definite point in space-time described in Genesis 1 and 2.) To me at least, Keller’s tone is far too collegial, too bow-tie, elbow-patch tweed jacket and chardonnay in defense of a non-negotiable point of orthodoxy. To speak as we do in the deep South, this matter calls for “fightin’ words.” This isn’t the Inklings in the pub, c. 1945, after all, discussing the finer points of literature and criticism. I have immense respect for C. S. Lewis too, but Lewis’ views of the Old Testament in general and Adam & Even in particular are abominable, atrocious, and harmful to the church.

    Perhaps Keller can influence more people for the good with the approach he takes in this essay. I’m just a Mississippi hick, so what do I know. I cannot breathe the rarefied atmosphere of the elites in Metro New York. To change the metaphor, publishing at BioLogos reminds me of the proverb, “Lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas.”

    –FWA, PCA Ruling Elder, Hattiesburg, MS

  23. Keller’s impulse is that of an evangelist and as he states in the essay you mentioned, he is attempting to remove what he believes are barriers for unbelievers who are considering the Christian Faith but believe it to be anti-science.

    I dont think he is pushing a Theistic Evolution agenda. However, i think it is fair to say that his broadly Calvinistic impulses often trumps his confessional Reformed impulses.

  24. or men who deny the historicity of Adam, I’m outta there.

    The entire framework view is dependent upon the historicity of Adam. It affirms that Adam was an actual person living in history whom God created and with whom God ratified a covenant of works.

    One final issue. What do proponents of the framework interpretation teach concerning evolution? Before answering this question, it should be pointed out that the framework interpretation itself is limited to the exegetical question of whether the picture of God’s performing His creative work in a week of days is literal or figurative. So evolution is logically a separate issue. However, in today’s climate of debate, it is best to be clear on this point to avoid misunderstanding.

    Kline states explicitly that he understands Gen. 2:7 to exclude an evolutionary scenario for the origin of man’s body, since that text makes clear that the same act of divine inbreathing that constituted Adam in his specific identity as the image of God, also constituted him a living creature. Divine revelation therefore rules out the possibility that God impressed the divine image on a pre-existing biological organism.

  25. Walt,

    Thanks for further details. I agree completely that” in today’s climate of debate, it is best to be clear on this point to avoid misunderstanding.”

    When I teach on creation in my local church, or hear an examination in Presbytery, I’m going to highlight the “historicity of Adam” question, given “today’s climate of debate.” We must not assume anything these days. I intend to probe very carefully when I hear someone affirm the framework hypothesis or some variant of progressive creation. It seems to me that this is essentially where the 2000 PCA Creation Study Committee Report was leading, in trying to draw the boundaries carefully. Seems that it’s more timely and relevant today than ever.

  26. The intention of the framework view was never to reconcile it with science, but to examine the theological truths contained in Genesis 1-2 using the “Scripture interprets Scripture” hermeneutic. In so doing, frameworkers (for lack of a better term) concluded that Genesis 1-2 was giving us a figurative picture of creation to illustrate God’s position as a Great King, Adam’s position as a vassal ruling over various created kingdoms, and

    creation is not an end in itself but was created with the built-in eschatological goal of entering the eternal Sabbath rest of God Himself in incorruptible glory.

    Irons and Kline did a book together on this subject so you can definitely say that the above link is an accurate description of the framework interpretation.

    I can’t vouch for anything else and would be suspicious of anything else.

  27. “he is attempting to remove what he believes are barriers for unbelievers who are considering the Christian Faith but believe it to be anti-science.”

    Isn’t this exactly the problem? If people are reserving faith until they can reconcile it with their previous worldview, then they’re not really headed for a conversion anyway, are they? Why encourage this sort of thing? It may remove barriers to church membership, but actually confuses issues of faith.

  28. ‘The intention of the framework view was never to reconcile it with science, but to examine the theological truths contained in Genesis 1-2 using the “Scripture interprets Scripture” hermeneutic.”‘

    I’m not so sure I buy that. The Scripture-interprets-Scripture hermeneutic has been around a long time. The drive to reinterpret Gen 1 finds its origin in modern “scientific” cosmogonies. Further, I remember reading an essay from Kline (back when I was in college [ca. 1998] and the URC and OCRC were thinking about confederating) in which Kline specifically stated that he had disdain for the narrow views of the 6-day creationists and that we needed to make more room for science in our interpretation of the creation account. There’s a chance I still have that essay. I’ll see if I can find it.

  29. I am not supporting what Tim Keller is doing per se, but merely trying to explain why he may be allowing room for Theistic Evolution regardless of whether he holds to that view himself or not. I think he’s doing this not because he thinks the creation/evolution debate is a barrier for people to come to faith, but for them to even give the gospel a hearing.

    What Tim is also saying is that the historicity of Adam is a non-negotiable for a an accurate understanding of Scripture; but even there, he would say that you can be a believer without holding to Adam’s historicity.

  30. Wes White has new info which is building on the information given in the previous post here:

    Johannes Weslianus: MNY Presbytery Missionary Ron Choong on Why the WCF’s View of Adam Must be Revised

    TE White has followed up on his post on Ron Choong, an MNY Presbytery missonary sponsored by Reddeemer NYC.

    Daniel Mann, a Bible teacher in NY, has written a response to Choong’s view:

    “In February 2010, my wife and attended a Ron Choong (Academy for Christian Thought) seminar at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NYC, on the doctrine of humanity. Choong concluded, ‘Adam and Eve were probably collective names describing a community of hominids [pre-humans] selected by God for
    moral cognition.’ As innocuous to the Christian faith as this statement might sound, it contradicts NT teaching and consequently, the credibility of the entire Bible.”

    You can read the rest here:

    Johannes Weslianus: Helpful Response to Ron Choong by Bible Teacher Daniel Mann

    Choong has also responded to Mann. He writes:

    “If by copying Tim Keller and Terry Gyger, you hope to draw their attention to my views, I can save you a lot of trouble. All my views about Adam and Eve have been published for more than 10 years and Redeemer as a church as well as Dr Keller as a minister have never had any objections to my non-doctrinal interpretations. This means that while I hold to a certain view of who Adam might mean, no church doctrine in the history of the church has ever made this a litmus test of faith.”

    Johannes Weslianus: Ron Choong’s Reply to Daniel Mann’s Criticism of Choong’s Theistic Evolution

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