What’s Your Super Secret Decoder Ring?

The Lure of the QIRC

Recovering the Reformed Confession-FeaturedIn the 1950s, children listened to radio serials, weekly episodes of superman or other heroes. As part of these programs incentives to listen, such as a super-secret decoder ring, were offered. In my childhood the radio serials were replaced by cereal boxes and television cartoons but the principle is the same. The point was to create a sense of inclusion, of community, around shared but closely guarded knowledge that only insiders have. This is the power of the clique. Anyone who attended a public high school knows the social power and influence of being part of the “in” group. This is the stuff of innumerable teen-themed movies and books.

The seductive power of secret, insider knowledge exists everywhere. In the stock market it is illegal to make trades based on “insider” information. The idea that there are conspiracies based on “insider” knowledge about space aliens fuels a popular late-night AM radio program and apparently a great lot of the internet.

The lure of secret, inside knowledge has religious manifestations. One of the most powerful religious movements of the 2nd century and one of the greatest challenges to Christianity was a series of movements called “Gnosticism.” They peddled the idea that they had secret knowledge about the nature of the universe, the heavens, human nature, and salvation that they alone could impart. Their system was a direct competitor to public, open, truth claims made by Christians about the very things.

Within the church, in the history of Christianity this impulse has been with us constantly since the ascension of Christ. Within the Reformed churches and those aspects of the evangelical movements that identify with aspects of the Reformed confession, this idea that there is a secret key to the faith has been found persuasive by more than a few people. I call this phenomenon the Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty (QIRC).

The manifestation of QIRC varies from place to place and time to time:

  • Claims about eschatology (e.g., attempts to calculate the return of Christ)
  • Claims that there can be only one acceptable or authorized translation of Scripture from the original languages into English
  • Claims that God intends that the Mosaic civil law should be enforced by the civil magistrate after the Israelite commonwealth and its civil laws have expired and been abrogated
  • Claims that that the six-twenty-four-hour-day interpretation of Genesis 1–2 is a mark of Reformed orthodoxy
  • Claims that the Decalogue (ten-commandments) are not morally binding upon Christians as moral norm of the Christian life
  • Claims that only Calvin and handful of twentieth-century and twenty-first century theologians have understood the doctrine of union with Christ
  • Claims that we know what God knows, the way he knows it
  • Claims that there is no covenant of redemption or covenant of works

The list could continue but you get my drift. You can read my discussion of some of these manifestations in RRC. The presenting symptoms, however, are less important than the underlying cause, which is the need to be right, to know something that others do not because they do not have the super secret decoder ring. The need to be right must be clearly distinguished from the desire to get it right. Generally, the latter is just intellectual honesty. Neither is this a brief for intellectual sloppiness. Rather, it’s an exhortation to recognize a couple of things: the limits of human knowledge and the (public) community of knowledge. I remember beginning to learn this in my tutor’s office during my doctoral research. He asked me a question. I didn’t know  the answer.  I tried to bluff my way through. He said something like, “Look here, there’s nothing wrong with not knowing. If you don’t know just say so.” That advice has been quite liberating. This is not making a virtue of ignorance but of honesty.  The vice would be to refuse to learn.

In ecclesiastical and theological terms  “getting it right” is what we call orthodoxy. The early church did not emerge from the apostolic period fully formed. It grew in its understanding of Scripture and responded to challenges to the biblical doctrine of Christ and God by articulating the doctrine of the two-natures of Christ and the Trinity. Further, the church grew in community, in councils and regional synods, in public. The acts of redemption were not secret. The Exodus happened in full view of the Egyptian military and Jesus was crucified before Romans and Jews. His empty tomb and resurrected body were public as was his ascension. The Christian understanding of the history of redemption and of the teaching of Scripture was not secret process. It was developed by deliberation in assemblies, in written documents that we still have today.

It’s true that the medieval church, in response to a perceived renewal of Gnosticism made its own appeal to secret traditions, which it attributed to the apostles—which claim Rome continues to make—but the Reformation rightly recognized that to be a mistake. So our churches rejected that claim and returned to the biblical and early Christian pattern of openly confessing our faith without claiming hidden knowledge as a sort of power play. The faith stands or falls with public truth claims.

When people approach you to offer you a secret decoder ring, an invitation to join their secret society of insider knowledge you should reject their offer.

  • Reformed Christians have held various views on eschatology but the Reformed churches agree that Jesus brought his kingdom, reigns now, and his one return will not be secret.
  • The Reformation brought us a number of excellent translations of Holy Scripture from the original languages. We need not go back to our biblia vulgata.
  • The Reformed confession about the status of the Mosaic civil law is very clear: “expired” and “abrogated.”
  • Six-day-twenty-four-hour creation may be correct but it is poor standard for orthodoxy as it excludes Machen and Warfield and includes many who have not a lick of sympathy for the Reformed confession.
  • The lure of antinomianism goes back to strains of Gnosticism at least but the Christian doctrine of the abiding validity of the moral law is well grounded in Scripture and explicit in the Reformed confessions and catechisms.
  • The doctrine of mystical union with Christ through faith by the work of the Holy Spirit is common to the Reformed churches. It’s not difficult and certainly not a secret known only to the illuminati.
  • The temptation to know what God knows, the way he knows it, is as old as the serpent. It’s not the doctrine of the Reformed churches because it violates a fundamental three-word doctrine: Creator-creature distinction.
  • The teaching of the Reformed churches and classical Reformed tradition on covenant theology is very strong. The denial of the covenants of works and redemption is a modern idiosyncrasy.

What we really need to reject, however, isn’t particular manifestations of QIRC but its spirit: the desire to know something that others don’t or can’t in order to be in control, to be the ones who are right as distinct from “the others over there.” The real animus behind the QIRC is the desire to exclude and the desire to be in control rather than to be a servant of the truth. That’s why Reformed folk need to reject the QIRC and embrace the Reformed confession once again.

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    • Hey Brad,

      Interesting question.

      1. The question seems to assume that the burden of proof is to show that theonomy is rejected. Historically the shoe is on the other foot.

      2. I think Art 25 does the trick:

      We believe that the ceremonies and figures of the law ceased at the coming of Christ, and that all the shadows are accomplished; so that the use of them must be abolished among Christians: yet the truth and substance of them remain with us in Jesus Christ, in whom they have their completion. In the mean time we still use the testimonies taken out of the law and the prophets, to confirm us in the doctrine of the gospel, and to regulate our life in all honesty to the glory of God, according to his will.

      3. The universal Reformed position at the time of the writing and adoption of the Belgic by the churches in the 1560s through 1619 at Dort was (and remains) that the civil law was essentially typological. It was fulfilled and abrogated and expired with the advent and death of Christ. The “testimonies taken out of the law and prophets” is identical in intention to the language of the Westminster Divines when they confessed “any more than the general equity thereof.”

      In 1561 Bullinger wrote the Second Helvetic Confession (published in 1566) in Art. 12:

      …We believe that the ceremonies and figures of the law ceased at the coming of Christ, and that all the shadows are accomplished; so that the use of them must be abolished among Christians: yet the truth and substance of them remain with us in Jesus Christ, in whom they have their completion. In the mean time we still use the testimonies taken out of the law and the prophets, to confirm us in the doctrine of the gospel, and to regulate our life in all honesty to the glory of God, according to his will.

      … Moreover, Christ has fulfilled all the figures of the law. Hence, with the coming of the body, the shadows ceased, so that in Christ we now have the truth and all fulness.

      Art. 13 continues to explain how Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic types and shadows.

      When the Westminster Divines said “abrogated” and “expired” they were only repeating the common teaching of all the Reformed churches to that point.

  1. Hi Scott,

    It has been several years since I read your book, so please forgive me if the answer to my question is to be found on a specific page number…

    I agree that we should be wary of any QIRC. But it seems to me that it gets a bit trickier when we have to make the call about what propositions for which we are seeking “religious certainty” are in fact illegitimate.

    What guidance do you offer?

    • Hey Ben,

      That question has come up. My main concern is less with the propositions themselves than the function they play in theology, piety, and practice. E.g., take the KJV only controversy. Let’s say one held to KJVO. Where should it be in a hierarchy of convictions? That’s where the confessions come in. The church has confessed her understanding of the most important issues in public, ecclesiastical documents. Do we confess KJVO? No. So, on any reasonable hierarchy of views it comes after the articles of the confession and the Qs and As of the catechism(s).

      What typically happens, however, is that a view like KJVO (or whatever, it doesn’t matter for the purposes of this discussion) becomes “the” defining view. Why does this happen? I tried to explain why in the book. See the chapter on QIRC.

      I think we could take different approaches to these laundry list I gave. Some are more likely to be true and some are less. In the case of union, for example, I think the Reformed churches have actually addressed this with some clarity so I’m less tolerant. I’m similarly impatient about theonomy because WCF 19 speaks directly to the main issue. The status of the length of the creation days is different. One might have strong exegetical convictions about 6/24 creation and that’s fine but those convictions must be balanced by the role creation plays in the confessions and the ways the confessions have been received by the churches. Hold a view firmly but don’t let it become the defining view because it doesn’t play that role in the confessions.

      One of the main reasons I wrote the book was to help us set priorities. That’s why I wrote chapters on the Sabbath and worship because those are issues that receive relatively little attention and yet, from the pov of the confessions, they’re pretty important. I’m worried that we might gain the “truth” about the length of the creation days and forget that the Sabbath is also taught in the creation narrative. I’ve seen that very phenomenon.

  2. Thanks, that helps, I hadn’t considered article 25. Also, I think this gives me a way to use Ursinus’ commentary on the catechism (especially the section on question 92) to explain the orthodox position in light of the confessions.

  3. Dr. Clark,
    You wrote:
    “Six-day-twenty-four-hour creation may be correct but it is poor standard for orthodoxy as it excludes Machen and Warfield and includes many who have not a lick of sympathy for the Reformed confession”

    I see at least two issues there: (in reverse order)

    6×24 creation is not the *only* identifying doctrine of Reformed Orthodoxy. As you elsewhere write, being Reformed requires adherence to the entirety of the teaching of the Reformed Confessions. No 6×24 Reformed person claims that holding to 6×24 creation by itself makes one Reformed. Therefore your “includes many who have not a lick of sympathy for the Reformed…” does not follow.

    Secondly, you take Machen and Warfield out of their historical context with the doctrine of creation. Neither Machen nor Warfield invented non 6×24 doctrines of creation. The church had already failed to maintain a Reformed Scriptural hermeneutic, with the necessary consequence regarding creation prior to Warfield and Machen. Neither was perfect, and neither was unscathed by the unbelief of the period in which they lived. However, they both by God’s grace held to the Reformed Scriptural hermeneutic, but inconsistently, much after the same way in which following Manassah’s repentance the people of Judah still sacrificed on the high places, but the the LORD their God only. (2 Chron 33:17) In general Warfield and Machen got it right, but due to the remnant of sin they failed to consistently apply it. Should we follow them in inconsistency or follow the plain meaning of the Reformed confessions teaching on creation?

    Additionally, it implies that “Reformed” is not defined by the Reformed confessions, but rather by Warfield and/or Machen.

    Neither Warfield or Machen were reformed on worship either. Both taught and practiced the normative principle of worship rather than regulative principle of worship as taught in the WCF LC and SC (while nevertheless claiming the RPW) That doesn’t mean though that God did not use them for His purpose or that the credibility of their personal profession of faith in Christ is in doubt.

    Further, there is a fundamental problem your initial phrase, “Six-day-twenty-four-hour creation may be correct…” While I appreciate your attempt at being irenic, 6×24 creation is either correct or not, and the veracity of it is either knowable from scripture or not. Per Deut 29:29 if it is knowable (revealed) then it belongs to men to believe and because of Matt 28:20 we are required to teach it. If it is not knowable, (which is what it seems you believe based on volume of what I have read of you) then Deut 29:29 enjoins everyone from speculation since that makes the timing and order of the process of creation a secret thing belonging to God only.

    Your term QIRC is really just a short hand for leveling the charge of violating Deut 29:29 — right? But Deut 29:29 doesn’t just forbid illegitimate certainty, but also speculation. If it forbids speculation, is it lawful to speculate “… may be correct…” when your main theme is that is unrevealed in Scripture, and therefore a secret thing of God?

    I understand your desire to defend your historical heroes but we need to evaluate them based on orthodoxy as taught in the Reformed Confessions with all its ramifications and not be seduced into redefining orthodoxy in light of what our historical Reformed heroes personally believed or taught.

    • Andrew,

      It’s not hero worship, it’s that I don’t want to trade Warfield and Machen for Answers in Genesis and the Creation Research Institute. That’s not theory. It’s happening on an individual level. I’ve had that conversation with officers in congregations. There are denominations that use 6/24 creation is a boundary marker for Reformed orthodoxy. I haven’t argued that anyone is using 6/24 creation as the only measure but there are denominations using it as a necessary, if not sufficient boundary marker. I’m arguing that, considered confessionally (taking into account how the churches have received the confessions) it’s not even a necessary condition let alone sufficient.

      No, Warfield and Machen were not perfect but neither am I. You may be right about Machen but I don’t know what Warfield’s views on worship were. I’ve argued as strenuously as anyone for a recovery of the RPW (and its practice) as confessed by the Reformed churches but I’m not willing to write out of the Reformed faith Machen and Warfield (if you’re correct about him) because they didn’t understand/apply the RPW correctly. On that ground we would have to write off about 97% of NAPARC and that’s self-defeating.

      Yes, QIRC is an application of Deut 29:29 but it’s also, as I tried to explain, an attempt to get people to set priorities.

      We quite disagree about how the creation issue must be decided. There are issues that are accidental to the faith that simply don’t need to be decided. I claim that no one has thus far shown any cost to our system of doctrine to holding one of the widely accepted views. Whether one holds 6/24 or framework or analogical or the day/age view has no effect on our prolegomena, God, man, Christ, salvation, church, or doctrine of last things. So long as one affirms that God created the world through the power of his Word the rest of the system, including the Christian life, is unchanged.

      The Fathers, Medievals, and Reformers defended creation in six-days, though not without ambiguity as to the nature of the days, to repudiate pagan notions of eternal matter and in defense of the goodness of creation against the Gnostics. They didn’t make 6/24 creation a virtue in itself, for its own sake.

      The reality is that the creation narrative is simply ambiguous. In Gen 1-2 one of the key terms, Yom, is used in two distinct ways. The 6/24 reading takes its use in Gen 2:4 as figurative, i.e., as not 24 hours and at least 3 of the days of Gen 1 as 24 hours but there’s a case to be made that 2:4 is clearer than chapter 1 and that, using good Reformed hermeneutics and letting the later and clearer interpret the earlier and less clear, and therefore we should understand the use of Yom in chapter 1 in light of its use in chapter 2.

      Further, it is not good Reformed hermeneutics to ask Gen 1-2 to answer questions that did not exist, at least not in the way that we’ve been asking them, until the 19th century AD. Asking Moses to answer 19th-century geology is anachronism plain and simple. We learned our lesson on this front in the 17th century when we were eventually embarrassed by our abuse of Scripture in order to justify the old Aristotelian (et al) astronomy. After a century of the new astronomy we stopped claiming that the sun revolves around the earth. We were guilty of using a bad hermeneutic: “The bible says that the sun rises, ergo the sun must revolve around the earth.” I don’t know of a single Reformed denomination that uses geocentrism as a boundary marker of orthodoxy nor do I know of a single, responsible Reformed proponent of the 6/24 view of creation who uses geocentrism as a boundary marker of orthodoxy. There are wingnuts advocating for geocentrism but they are not credible nor are they regarded as responsible interpreters of Scripture.

      E J Young is a excellent example of the ambiguity of the case. In the 1940s, in his introduction to the OT, he took a version of the Framework approach arguing for a rulers/realms structure to Gen 1. In the early 1960s, however, in response to Meredith Kline, he took a 24-hour view of the second three days. Even at his most “conservative” Young said that we cannot think days 1-3 as 24 hours since those are solar days and there was no sun. Was Young not Reformed in the 40s? Was he not Reformed in the 1960s when he denies that the first three says cannot be said to be 24 hours? Yet, there are Reformed denominations in which Young could not be admitted as a minister because he would be regarded as a “liberal.” That’s exactly what I’m trying to challenge. Young’s theology didn’t change. He wasn’t less Reformed in either case. This is why 6/24 creation is a poor boundary marker. It’s accidental rather than to our theology, piety, and practice.

  4. Dr. Clark,

    I appreciate your irenic tone with reference to the young earth, “6 X 24” creation view. I hold to that view, which I do consider the Biblical and the confessional view. It’s not called the “traditional” view for no reason. I will not vote against a man coming into our PCA Presbytery, however, if he holds another view, as long as he’s firmly opposed to theistic evolution in any form. The historicity of Adam and Eve by special creation, as historically understood, is a “deal-breaker” for me.

    A disturbing problem at present as I see it (from a PCA perspective), is a sort of “reverse QIRC” which takes the form of marginalizing and even mocking those who hold to young-earth, literal six-day creation. I have actually been sneered at for being so backward as not to accept the “assured results of modern science.” I have been told that even to state the “traditional” view is a barrier to others believing in Christ.

    We shouldn’t think for a moment that we see narrow-mindedness and an uncharitable spirit only on one side of the creation days debate. Perhaps you could add to the “manifestation of QIRC” list “Claims that one must reject literal, six-day creation to be faithful and Reformed in our day.” Believe me, it’s out there.

    • Hi Frank,

      I understand this. It’s unfortunate. I don’t think that anyone, on any side of this issue, can afford to be arrogant. There are just too many uncertainties.

      That said, as much as I deplore the sort of arrogance you’ve experienced, I’m not aware of Reformed denominations or presbyteries that have said that if one does NOT hold the day/age or 6/24 view that one is unwelcome or ineligible for ordination. There are cases where men have been rejected for ordination (and even licensure) because they do not hold the 6/24 view.

      As to 6/24 being the “traditional” view, it depends on how one defines “traditional.” Augustine did not hold it (at least not consistently) and that was known through the medieval church. I’m not sure that the 6/24 view was universally held in the medieval period or before. Thomas clearly taught that the days were stylistically arranged as a framework of rulers and realms. Kline did not invent that approach. As I indicated, the Fathers (pre-medieval) tended to emphasize the reality of the days not to anchor down the length of the days but to oppose the Gnostics. The Reformers tended to think of the days as 24 hours in reaction to perceived (and real) abuses of the figurative senses of Scripture. The divines reacted to Augustine’s doctrine of instantaneous creation by affirming “in the space of six days” without confessing the exact length of the days, about which there was some discussion. The 6/24 view as we know it only assumed the role it has quite recently. That’s not to say that, as David Hall has shown, that many writers in the classical period cannot be shown to have held to a 6/24 view (with the caveat that they were aware that there was ambiguity re the sun).

      I agree, however, that if it is a poor priority to use the 6/24 view as a boundary marker it’s just inappropriate to use the framework or analogical or day-age view as such a boundary marker.

      Given the inherent ambiguity in the text, and the evident (at least to me) fact that Genesis was not intended to answer the questions we’ve been asking since the 19th century, we should all be patient with each other.

  5. I agree completely that we must be patient with each other on the issue of the length of the creation days. And I concur that there’s been no “official” rejection of those who hold the 6 x 24 view. That much is encouraging, at least.

    In my opinion, what’s most important for now is that everyone take a clear and public stand to affirm the special creation of Adam and, correspondingly, to reject theistic evolution in all its forms. Those who hold to the 6 x 24, young earth view are not under as much pressure here. Let’s be honest about this. Everyone who holds to the 6 x 24, young-earth position will by definition be firm on the historic, orthodox view of the special creation of Adam and Eve. As far as I can tell, however, every “evangelical” (for want of a better term) who espouses theistic evolution in some form also rejects the literal 6-day view. The opposite is not true, of course, and I would never suggest otherwise. But the fact remains that old-earth creationism is, for all practical purposes, a “safe harbor” for the theistic evolutionists. I’m not claiming that there’s a necessary connection between the two, only that you regularly see the two views taught together. Thus it’s incumbent on everyone who subscribes to the Reformed confessions to distance himself from theistic evolution in all its forms. In other words, men who reject 6 x 24, literal six-day young earth creation need to make it clear that they are not birds of a feather who flock together with the theistic evolutionists. This is not meant to charge guilt by association. It is, however, a fact that needs to be addressed.

  6. Permit me to sum up in another way: The historic view of the creation of Adam and Eve IS a test of orthodoxy. Anyone who holds to an old-earth position needs to affirm the special creation of man and clearly reject theistic evolution in all its forms. This is necessary because men who are flirting with theistic evolution have poisoned the atmosphere and are upsetting the faith of many. To change the metaphor, all of us must draw this line in the sand today. It may not have been necessary even a decade ago, but it is now.

  7. This is one of those areas where I believe the Christian can avoid. I mean, why go there if we don’t have to?

    I guess if one holds to an inerrant text, then you have to go there.

    However old the earth is, or isn’t, does not affect the fact that we are sinners in need of a Savior. We can’t argue somebody into believing that or convince them scientifically…we just announce it, proclaim it, and let the chips fall where they may.

  8. To come full circle to the original purpose of this post: Avoid QIRC.

    To insist on one view only of the length of the days of creation is QIRC, according to Dr. Clark. I wouldn’t state it that way, but I will agree that it shouldn’t be a test for orthodoxy, “catholic” or Reformed. But a belief in the special creation in space and time of a historical Adam and Eve, in accordance with the plain meaning of the Biblical text, is orthodox Christianity, pure and simple. To insist upon such a belief is our duty, and to affirm it should be a joy.

  9. Hi Scott,

    Thanks for the reply. Just a few things. In your reply you seem to have changed from your argumentation in RRC (as I thought I understood it) with regard to subscription to the idea of “system subscription” “taking into account how the churches have received the confessions”. I thought that was the best part of the book.

    Secondly, I don’t think you’ve taken the prohibition of speculation about things unrevealed in Deut 29:29 into proper account. You say that Gen 1 is ambiguous about God’s work of creation other than God did create all things. If Gen 1 really is ambiguous on the length of time that God spent in creating all things, then holding to ANY view whether it be Framework, Analogical, or 6×24 is a sinful violation of Deut 29:29 regardless of whether one makes any particular view a boundary marker for orthodoxy or not.

    Thirdly, vis-a-vis Gen 2:4. E. J. Young is helpful here when he writes “In the first place Genesis two is not, nor does it profess to be, a second account of creation”(1) So the use of the word yom or more fully b’yom in Gen 2:4 does not directly impact the use of word yom in Gen 1. Gen 2:4’s use of b’yom would have impact on its use on Gen 1 if it were a second account of creation, but as E. J. Young helpfully points out, Gen 2 is not a second account of creation. In his discussion of the structure of Genesis following, he puts Gen 2 with the rest of Genesis, distinct from the account of creation in Gen 1.

    “Although it does mention creative acts, it is a sequel to the creation narrative of Genesis one and a preparation for the history of the fall contained in chapter 3. This is proved by the phrase ‘These are the generations of the heavens and the earth'”

    Conversely, Exodus 20:8-11 does speak directly to the use of the word yom in Gen 1. It is Exodus 20:8-11 that requires a 6×24 creation, The seventh day is inexorably tied to the six work days. Therefore for it to make any sense, the six days we are to work must be the same kinds of days as the day we are to rest. Why work six and rest one, because God did. God didn’t need to put a reason annexed to the 4th commandment. He could have omitted Ex 20:11. God doesn’t owe us a reason for his commands. There are no reasons annexed to the first and sixth through tenth commandments. Nevertheless he gave us one in the fourth commandment. If the six days of creation (Ex 20:11) are not normal days then neither are the six days referenced in the Ex 20:9 and by extension neither is the sabbath day in Ex 20:8 a normal day. In such a case the 4th commandment is reduced to pious advice to regularly take a break from your labor, work some then rest some. Perhaps work six decades then retire seems to fit as well as six work says then a sabbath day, maybe even better, but that’s not how WLC and WSC present the 4th commandment.

    How do you think that the Israelites would have understood the use of the word yom in the 4th commandment? If they were unsure, do you think the six-days-on one-day-off pattern for the availability of manna might have helped? How about the man picking up sticks in Numbers 15? How do you think they understood the word yom in the 4th commandment (and Gen 1 by consequence) after that? Now I grant they were pretty creative with their understanding of God’s law, e.g. the golden calf. Perhaps they are not so much to be blamed, because if the 6 days of Ex 20:11 are not the same sort of days as are the 6 days of Ex 20:9, then maybe the kind of graven image that came out of the fire was not the same sort of graven image that God had proscribed in Ex: 20:4. I don’t think that Num 15 really permits the idea that yom in Ex 20:8-11 and in Gen 1 by necessity, is ambiguous.

    But as the contemporary churches receive the confessions, the Moral Law is no longer part of the system of doctrine… but that’s not what the confessions actually say. Or as it is in many parts of NAPARC churches, the 4th commandment is no longer part of the Moral Law.

    That’s why you tend to see a strong correlation between anti-sabbatarianism and non-6×24, especially in later generations. Just like any decline, the effects and consequences follow.

    Then there is the issue that there is no theological or exegetical controversy that requires any thing other a simple plain understanding of the Gen 1 account. The only reason to adopt a stance of the details of creation being ambiguous (unrevealed) is to appease anti-christian science.

    Your tangent about geocentricism is a tell. Unfortunately, you don’t take into consideration that the “Principle of Relativity” requires “eliminating any obvious ‘center’ of the universe as a natural origin of coordinates”. The idea of a center of the universe is so 19th century (scientifically speaking)

    Where in scripture do you read anything that requires us to question God’s use of yom in Gen 1? Conversely an ambiguous yom in Gen 1 renders Ex 20:8-11 ambiguous as well. Too bad for the man in Numbers 15 that 33 centuries had to go by before the church finally understood that yom is ambiguous after all.

    The flip side of Deut 29:29 is that the things revealed are ours to know and believe, and that is not optional. Regardless of whether it is Reformed or not, Deut 29:29 requires us to believe everything that God has revealed, and failing to do so is sinful. We are all guilty of this including me.

    I also disagree regarding the importance. The creation debate is a proxy for the debate about the doctrine of Scripture. The Pete Enns controversy is demonstrative of that. The history of the PCUSA and other mainline churches vis-a-vis Modernism is also demonstrative of that. It was easy to jettison NT supernaturalism having disposed of OT supernaturalism 60 to 100 years prior.

    Finally, it doesn’t matter how many Reformed theologians you bring up, because I still think it improper to define Reformed they way you have in this article. Reformed should be defined by the Reformed confessions as written and originally received, not by the how the declined contemporary churches claiming to be Reformed receive those confessions, nor the doctrinal or theological failings of 19th, 20th and 21st century “Reformed” theologians.

    (1) Page identified as “17” at http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/01-Genesis/Text/Articles-Books/Young_Days1a-WTJ.htm

    • Andrew,

      I’m not sure how not to go round the pole here.

      Deut 29:29 means that we should hold what we can know and not seek what we cannot know. I don’t think we should follow your application of Deut 29:29—you seem to have turned it, paradoxically, into a form of QIRC. The fact is that we cannot know with metaphysical certitude the length of the creation days. The very fact that E J Young was, at different times in his career, on both sides of the exegetical debate illustrates the problem.

      What we can know with certainty from Gen 1-2 is that God created “in the space of 6 days” defined as a succession of mornings and evenings or an indeterminate sort at least for the non-solar days. We can know that God instituted a sabbath in creation. We can know that there was when there was God and nothing and that he spoke into nothing and made all that is. We can know that God created our first parents from the earth and breathed life into them and that Adam was our federal head. We should confess those things.

      Yom? It’s right there in Gen 2:4. Everyone that I have read has to take either the Yom of Gen 1 as figurative or the Yom of Gen 2:4 as figurative. One cannot say that 2:4 was a literal 24-hour period without affirming a 1-day view of creation. That’s not typically what the 6/24 view does. Thus, they tend the Yom in 2:4 as figurative. Thus, within the same creation narrative, on the 6/24 view, in Gen 1-2 we have both a literal use of a word and a figurative use. That’s sufficient reason to ask questions. It is intellectually unsatisfactory to say “Yom can only mean x” when Yom, clearly has more than 1 sense in the same passage.

      The issue is not who is right or wrong exegetically, especially on difficult texts, but what should be the proper boundary markers for orthodoxy in the church. The debate about the days is not necessarily a proxy for other debates. That really is a slippery slope since there’s no connection between, e.g., the framework, which has existed since the 13th century (!) and theistic evolution. MGK taught the framework and stoutly denied TE. I don’t know of any instance where the Framework has led to TE. For their to be a connection, TE has to be logically entailed in the Framework and that’s not possible to show, because it’s not there.

  10. Your last paragraph about QIRC and the motive of QIRC-ers to control and exclude others reminded me of a quote about coolness from Chuck Klosterman.

    “The desire to be cool is – ultimately – the desire to be rescued. Its the desire to be pulled from the unwashed masses of society. Its the desire to be advanced beyond the faceless humanoid robots who will die unheralded deaths, and never truly matter, mostly because they all lived the same pedestrian life. Without the spoils of exclusionary coolness, we’re just cogs in the struggle.” – Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

    Theonomists, (some) home-schoolers, (some) “missional” churches, (some) “confessional” churches – all grasping for the same “set-above-it-all-ness,” that makes them a cut above in the kingdom.

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