Of False Dichotomies, Science, and Progress in Theology

1859-Origin-of-the-species-darwinEdwin Walhout, a retired CRC minister, has published a provocative essay in The Banner, the denominational magazine of the Christian Reformed Church. In this essay he imagines how our orthodoxy will be viewed 1000 years from now. In order to set up the contrast between the backward “now” and the presumably more enlightened “then” he characterizes some positions that he finds backward and then posits what the future should be. He argues that the theory of evolution, which, he argues began as an hypothesis in 1859, became a theory thereafter, is now an established and immutable fact that will necessarily “shake our systematic theology to its foundations when we better understand its implications.” As a consequence, he argues, we will likely find that “some of the doctrines that form the essential structure of our creeds and confessions miss the mark.” These putatively errant formulations will be, he says, replaced by “[n]ew insights and new doctrinal formulations….”

Walhout is so certain that evolution (which version, he does not say) is true that it is axiomatic, i.e., it need not be argued. He writes, “I accept that the findings of modern science are reliable and must be taken as established fact. I also accept that the Bible’s basic teachings are just as definitive as those of science.”

How to resolve the apparent tensions? He posits that the traditional view of Genesis 1, which he describes as the view that “God created the world as we know it today in seven literal 24-hour days” This view must go the way of the flat earth and geocentrism. He cites as proof the fact of the antiquity of the earth. From there he moves, predictably, to Adam and Eve about which he declares “sustaining this doctrine is extremely difficult when we take seriously the human race as we know it today sharing ancestry with other primates such as chimpanzees.” The doctrine of original sin must also go: “if we take the discoveries of historical science seriously, where could we fit that story in?” This leads to a reconsideration of the doctrine of salvation: “if the doctrine of original sin needs to be revisited, theologians need to consider whether our understanding of Jesus also needs to be revised. Does the theory of evolution have any implications for how we understand Jesus’ ministry, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension?….” He even leverages Christian eschatology with the doctrine of evolution: “What does God want the human race to become? What is our future over the long reach of time? Traditionally we have talked about an end of the world. But if we take evolution seriously—that is, the 15 billion years that already have passed—what are we to think about what the world will look like a billion years from now, or even a mere million?…Major changes may well be in store for our eschatological doctrines. ”

Well, it’s clear what has happened here. Having found a place to stand (macro evolution), to shift metaphors, Walhout has taken a hoe to the entire system of the catholic faith, not just distinctively Reformed convictions, and turned them over in the service of “progress.” What should we make of his new garden? First, we might ask, why has he skipped the doctrine of Scripture and the Trinity or the two natures of Christ? Given his account of evolution as an undoubted doctrine, a datum, how can mysteries such as the Trinity stand as they have been received? After all, is it reasonable to expect enlightened people to believe that God is one in three persons and perpetually so? After all, doesn’t nature teach us that things develop? Modern, enlightened theologians have taught us for decades that the natural process of development (evolution) we see in creation mirrors the development that exists within God himself. We can no longer say “God is.” We must now, with the process theologians and Open Theism (in different ways) say that God is “becoming”, that he is in process of realizing his own potential.

It’s easy to imagine the outcome in the doctrine of Christ: the catholic dogma of one person, two natures must give way to a more credible account of Jesus. The Virgin Birth is, of course, impossible. If original sin is gone, then who needs a holy, supernatural conception any way? It will turn out that the two natures formula was a pre-modern, pre-enlightened way to account for Jesus evolved God consciousness, with which we, in the evolutionary process are catching up. Obviously Walhout did not reach these conclusions in his essay but that’s where his logic leads. We don’t need to imagine outrageous conclusions. He offers them freely and willingly.

The feet of clay in this piece is his foundational assumption: that we all know that whatever generic version of evolution he assumes is true, in the way that he assumes it. Ironically, and typically, just as the CRC reaches the end of its own evolution through broad evangelicalism to broad mainline liberalism, this pastor is behind the curve when it comes to the theory of evolution and modern science. Take but one example. Thomas Nagel, an atheist philosopher of science, isn’t nearly as dogmatic about the orthodoxy of evolution as Walhout. Is Nagel a backward fundamentalist? If he is, we should have to redefine those terms. In fact, there are thoughtful philosophers and historians of science (e.g., Michael Polanyi) who paint a much more complicated picture of the nature of science, who would have us think that scientific conclusions are far more tentative than he assumes.

To be sure, Walhout is echoing what many practicing scientists (who typically have little education in the history and philosophy of science) assume: that some form of evolution is unquestionably true but to make his case he has set up a series of false dichotomies, which, had he done a little reading in the recent history of theology, he might have avoided. The Princeton theologians from Hodge to Machen engaged earlier stages of the theory of evolution and they did not accept Walhout’s careless—one might even say lazy— dichotomy between Christian orthodoxy and scientific intelligence. We might not all accept every one one of their conclusions but that they did not end up where he predicts we must and yet engaged modern science more thoughtfully than he has done (at least as evidenced in this article) suggests that his conclusions are hardly inevitable.

Walhout’s argument is not only specious, it’s lazy. For example, who actually teaches 7 twenty-four hour periods of creation? E. J. Young, whose view is probably the best representative of the 6-day view, revised his earlier position to adopt a 6-day view in the early 1960s. He argued that the nature of the first three days is indeterminate because of the absence of the sun. The second three days are solar and thus, he argued, should be accepted as twenty-four hour days. The seventh day, however, is not reported as creation day, per se, in the creation narrative and thus is not in question. If Walhout wants to serve science, he should be a little more, shall we say, scientifically precise in his representation of other views? Further, he seems utterly unaware of alternatives to the 6/7-day model, e.g., the analogical view (Godfrey) or the Framework view (Kline) that start with the premise that God’s Word is inerrant and infallibly true. In those views, the exact nature of the days is said to be indeterminate on the basis that the narrative simply does not answer 19th-century questions but neither is the Genesis account simply jettisoned. We’re talking about God’s Word here. To say the least it is irresponsible for a minister of the Word to set up a straw man and then dismiss it, and in the process, dismiss God’s Word with it. That’s not progress. That’s skepticism.

Walhout sets up another false dichotomy regarding the age of the earth. That has only been an issue since the mid-19th century and more recently since early 1960s, with the publication of the popular Morris and Whitcomb volume on the Genesis flood. So-called “flood geology” and its corollary “Young-Earth Creationism,” however, have little to do with the question of the nature of the creation days. In fact, logically, there Reformed theology has nothing at stake in the age of the earth as far as I can see. It is true that Ussher developed a chronology that has been discredited but it fell not because of “science” but because it was bad exegesis. B. B. Warfield and William Henry Green showed over a century ago that the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 were never meant to be used as a way of dating the age of the earth. Such a use was always misguided because it didn’t follow authorial (both divine and human) intent.

Yes, as I’ve argued in Recovering the Reformed Confession, it is true that, in the 16th and 17th centuries and following Christians revised their their views of astronomy and physics on the basis new discoveries. We realized more clearly than we had before that Scripture is not meant to be used the way we were using it. We realized that Scripture is speaking observationally when it says or implies that the sun rises. We also realized that we had baptized views taught by Ptolemy and Aristotle and simply assumed their truth. Eventually we were able to criticize them on the basis of the new discoveries and on the basis of a renewed examination of Scripture and a revision of our hermeneutic. J. Gresham Machen explained long ago that doctrinal progress is possible and it does not entail abandoning Christian orthodoxy. Indeed, one wonders if our erstwhile futurist has read this article or Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism? What Walhout is advocating is not recognizably Christian. The notion that, after withstanding Pelagius, a millennium of medieval semi-Pelagianism, Romanism, Arminianism, and Modernism, the idea that the Christian doctrines of sin and salvation should simply roll over and play dead for Walhout’s doctrine of evolution is simply ridiculous.

We did not, however, do as Walhout has done. We did not adopt what can only be described as a nakedly rationalist approach to God’s Word and the catholic faith. Concluding that Scripture does not intend to teach geocentrism and criticizing hitherto accepted assumptions is not to displace holy Scripture as the principium (the starting point) of theology and the fons (source) of Christian theology. He has done just this. He is so certain that some version of evolution must be true that he is willing to run roughshod over essential Christian truths, e.g., the existence of our first parents, the fall (original sin), and even Christian eschatology.

There is an alternative to Walhout’s approach and there is an alternative to the QIRC-iness of American fundamentalism and that alternative is to read Scripture with the church as she has confessed her understanding of God’s Word on the essentials of the faith. We do not need to be obscurantist but neither need we be, well, silly. When Thomas Nagel is more critical of neo-Darwinian orthodoxy than a CRC minister, something is out of whack.

If one did not know better, one might think that the calendar said April 1 and that The Banner was having a bit of fun with us but it isn’t April Fools Day and that hasn’t stopped the The Banner from publishing foolishness. If this article is an indicator of the state of the denomination, those conservatives who have a plan to save the the S.S. Ecclesia Christiana Reformata will want to deploy emergency measures immediately.

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  1. I posted this as a response to the actual article as well:

    I wanted to share an insight from the Belgic Confession, Article 2.

    Article 2 speaks of two books that God has written. The first is creation. The second is scripture. Both are God’s word, the means by which God reveals himself. (n.b. only special revelation reveals salvific knowledge, but I don’t think that is all that relevant to this particular conversation)

    The study of creation is called science. The study of scripture is called theology. Both science and theology are tools used to understand the books that God has written. But, neither science nor theology is infallible. It is perfectly fine to question the methodologies and conclusions of each. But those critiques need to be informed. I’m appauled when scientists like Richard Dawkins dismiss theology and philosophy with ridiculous straw-man arguments. I’m similarly appauled when theologians and pastors do the same to scientists in general and evolutionary scientists in particular. I tremble when I try to guess the number of Christian young people who have been frightened away from studying science by religious authorities who seem to think that the Bible is the only source of truth about the fundamental nature of reality. Its the only source of salvific truth. But not the only source of truth. Christians who dismiss science are thoroughly un-Reformed.

    In that light, we need to wrestle with the truths that God has revealed through scripture and through his creation to try to arrive at a degree of harmony between them. An interpretation of Genesis 2 involving a literal Adam and Eve as the sole ancestors of the human race is indeed at odds with an interpretation of creation that concludes that humans evolved from apes. Clearly we need to tweak either science or our interpretation of Genesis 2 (and other passages mentioning Adam and Eve). Christians have spent the last century and a half insisting that science needs to change, not our interpretation of Gensis 2. There isn’t really a principled reason for that. Neither science nor theology are infalible… only scripture and creation. Nevertheless, Christians have resisted tweaking the interpretation of Genesis 2 precisely because of the observations made by Rev. Walhout. If we do read it as allegorical or as a parable or as some other genre, we would have to make major changes to some of our doctrines. I applaud Rev. Walhout for stepping up and being willing ask the tough questions about the effects of tweaking our interpretation of Genesis 2… especially given the fact that he likely knew that he would be the target of much derision.

    In conclusion, I wanted to offer a bit of hope at this impasse.

    Lets imagine this scenario:

    God creates a perfect world, but doesn’t yet make plants and animals. Satan and his followers rebel and are cast down into creation. God begins to create plants and animals through evolution while Satan and his followers create chaos (this accounts for the particularly brutal nature of evolution… how many slow gazelles had to die in order to filter out the slow gazelle genes such that a fast gazelle could be born?) Anyhow, as this happens, God creates apes and early homonids without souls through the process of evolution. God then looks down and decides that he wants to redeem his creation that is under the influence of Satan. He creates a garden that he intends to function as a Normandy beach on D-Day… the point from which order and goodness spread. He then places a literal Adam and Eve there (no belly-buttons). God then tells them to fill the earth and subdue it (make sense of that line if creation doesn’t need to be subdued). But, before Adam and Eve can go out and subdue creation as God’s stewards, they themselves are decieved and fall into sin. They are banished and God sets out to redeem creation through his people, Israel and finally through Jesus. But, now that Adam and Eve are banished, they begin to live. They have children. Cain goes off, kills Abel and then flees, going to Nod where he builds a city(?) and marries(?). Later on, just before the flood, the sons of Adam and the sons of the gods intermarry (Genesis 6:1-4… I have yet to see anyone make any sense of that passage… especially people who insist on taking Genesis 2 literally). In this scenario, we humans would be decended from apes AND from a literal Adam and Eve in a literal garden with a literal snake and a literal piece of fruit complete with all that that implies for original sin, atonement, Christ, etc. One final note: Compare Genesis 1:28 with Genesis 9:1. One gives the command to subdue the creation. The other (post-flood) doesn’t. Why? Could it be that creation in Genesis 1:28 was in need of subduing and that creation after the flood wasn’t… at least not in the same way? Again, this makes more sense if one assumes that there already was chaos of some sort on earth before Adam and Eve fell.

    What I have laid out above is one possible reading of an extremely complex series of passages. It is not the only reading nor is it necessarily the best one. In fact, I would be shocked… shocked… if it turned out to be correct. The scenario is the creation of an imaginative mind looking closely at verses that often get skimmed over. Imagine what sorts of readings would arise if we devoted some real time to re-examining our interpretation of Genesis! It would be a piece of cake to come up with something better than what I suggested! If we devote ourselves to asking serious questions about our interpretation of Genesis, I’m certain that we can come up with interpretations that not only fit better with what science says about creation but also do a better job of explaining those verses that are so easy to ignore. But, these sorts of in-depth studies won’t happen if we don’t take a deep breath and stop disregarding science. We’ve been telling Darwinists that their interpretation of creation must be wrong for the past 150 years. I think that its high time that we asked ourselves whether our interpretation of Genesis 2 might be in need of some tweaking. Scripture is infallible. Our interpretation isn’t. For evidence of that, check out The Belgic Confession Article 7…

    • Micah,

      You’re arguing against a phantom. The only virtue of Walhout’s article is that he’s honest about where his rationalism leads. Otherwise it is an unmitigated disaster.

      Your approach to “science” (as if we all know what that is) seems a little naive after Polanyi (and Kuhn). Persons (to borrow from Polayni) do “science.” They do it from a matrix of assumptions and presuppositions. The test subjects are selected by persons, with biases and assumptions. Test subjects are excluded by persons. Outcomes are interpreted by persons. Those truths make is quite difficult to speak about the assured results of “science” the way Walhout does. Decades ago (1940s) Polanyi essentially blew up most of the major experiments on which the (then) reigning story about how (modern) science works was premised. I guess the lab-coated priests haven’t yet taken account of his critique. Maybe they see him as a traitor, I don’t know.

      At any rate, as Thomas Aquinas noted in the 13th century, every science is premised on a more basic truth. Architecture is premised on geometry, and geometry is premised on math. Those things change but Christian truth doesn’t change. The doctrine of Trinity is still the doctrine of Trinity and how many scientific revolutions have we had since the 4th century?

      What you’ve offered is a classic speculation. You’ve reasoned to a scenario from a premise. Speculation is interesting but it’s just that. Scripture doesn’t answer the questions you’re asking any more than it answers the questions of those on the other side (e.g., the 6-24, YEC folks). A pox on both your hermeneutical houses. Bad biblical exegesis and hermeneutics is JUST as harmful to the faith and young people as bad science.

      It’s foolish for Walhout or anyone else to tie their theological wagon to a scientific conviction that is being questioned by scientists—as is proper. Science, if it really is that is subject to constant revision. It wasn’t that long ago that physics was Newtonian. Then there was Einstein and now there’s string theory. It’s all very interesting but String Theory will be replaced by some other model and that will be hailed as “the truth” by rationalists, materialists, and by naive Christians desperately seeking the approval of the popular culture. I’m old enough to have seen the “assured results” of “science” come and go on a bewildering number of fronts (from diet, to the climate, to who knows what). Sweet Belgian Waffles, “scientists” can’t even agree as to why airfoils (e.g., an airplane wing) work! They work but ask two different physicists why and get out of the way. That debate can get heated.

      So, in a phrase, get over it or get used to disapproval. The “scientists” of the 3rd century mocked us for believing in resurrections. That’s why Paul preached it to the Athenian Philosophical Society, because he knew it would irritate them. He meant to irritate them, to tweak them. He essentially said, “You boys think you’re clever, but you’re not. You’re superstitious.” He was exactly right. Walhout’s naive devotion to a 150- year old theory is close to superstition. It’s almost a shibboleth. The truth is that rationalists and materialists aren’t going to accept the resurrection, the Red Sea or anything else that defies a closed universe. Basic Christian truth, summarized in the catholic creeds isn’t up for negotiation. That’s why it’s catholic. It’s fixed. It’s universal. It’s basic. Without it we don’t have Christianity.

      These criticisms of Walhout won’t keep any intelligent, thoughtful Christian young person from pursuing a life of science. There’s nothing about Christian orthodoxy (as confessed in the Belgic) that will or should keep anyone from rigorously pursuing scientific knowledge. I know believing scientists and they’re not afraid of the tension and they laugh and foolish arguments such as Walhout is offering because they know that the hard-core atheists in their midst won’t be impressed and because Walhout’s account of science is more a caricature than a portrait and that caricature is out of date by decades.

  2. Here is the part of BC 7 that I was referencing:

    Therefore we must not consider human writings—
    no matter how holy their authors may have been—
    equal to the divine writings;
    nor may we put custom,
    nor the majority,
    nor age,
    nor the passage of times or persons,
    nor councils, decrees, or official decisions
    above the truth of God,
    for truth is above everything else.

    Please re-read what you wrote about Christian truth never changing in light of what the Belgic Confession says on that point.
    I stand by my belief that Scripture is inerrant and that our theology isn’t. The Scientific Method is indeed saturated with assumptions, biases and presuppositions. The same is true of hermeneutics.

    As for my scenario, I made quite clear that I wasn’t attempting exegesis. (I’m currently getting a ThM in OT Studies) If I were to exegete Genesis 1 and 2, my conclusions would have very little to do with the precise nature of HOW God created the world and much more to do with stating that it was GOD who created, not Tiamat and Marduk, not random chance, etc.
    That being said, many Christians do want to read the ante-deluvian history as an account of HOW God created the world. I intended to show them an alternative reading that is compatible with scripture and that makes sense of passages that are particularly hard for those who hold to a literal Adam and Eve to interpret.

    • Micah,

      I’m well aware of BC 7. No one holds the creeds equal to Scripture but the church has confessed an interpretation of Holy Scripture. We confess that the Scripture teaches the resurrection of Christ.

      Are you prepared to re-think Christ’s resurrection on the basis proposed by Walhout?

      What else are you prepared to negotiate? You’re not shocked in the least at what Wahout is willing to concede?

      Why on earth should we give up a historic, individual Adam and Eve? What will you do with Romans 5?

      Walhout essentially offered a Pelagian scheme in place of a Pauline scheme. Why on earth should we accept that bargain?

      I quite agree that Moses was arguing against competing cosmologies etc. That was the point of the narrative. Why must we be in such a rush to resolve the tension that we experience between the questions/assumptions held by modernity and what we have always confessed as catholic Christians?

  3. You seem to sense a slippery slope around every corner.
    Tweaking one’s reading of Genesis 2 will lead us to doubt the Resurrection…
    Rethinking the precise nature of original sin equals Pelagianism…

    From what I remember of my reading of his article, Walhout express himself very humbly. Granted, he makes assumptions (like the belief that humans evolved from apes). But, moving on from there, he proceeds to work mainly by means of questions.
    Now, you and I know that questions aren’t neutral. They often lead somewhere. Questions can be manipulative in the hands of a Socratic teacher. But, I didn’t really get the sense that Walhout was doing that here. His questions seemed quite thoughtful and genuine. In short, while Walhout admits to having thought about possible answers to his questions, he doesn’t actually assert much of anything in terms of solutions. There aren’t any quick fixes to these sorts of questions. I think that he is trying to get people to think hard about these issues… returning to scripture again and again asking, “Did we get that part right?”
    When he says that we might need to alter the Augustinian understanding of original sin, you see him pushing us towards Pelagianism. You’re assuming that there are only those two interpretations of how original sin works and than anything less than absolute Augustinianism is tainted with Pelaginism. Frankly, that exhibits a lack of imagination. Plenty of Christians reject both Augustine and Pelagius.
    I’m convinced that there are trillions of possible understandings of Adam’s sin and our subsequent corruption. Most such understandings fail to do justice to scripture. Such understandings should be set aside in much the manner that Pelagianism was.
    But there may be others out there that we may not have imagined yet… understandings that can do justice to Genesis 2, Romans 5 and perhaps even what scientific consensus says about human evolution.
    We don’t know if such understandings are out there and we certainly won’t find out if we don’t search for them.
    I have a great deal of respect for the early church and the way that it dealt with heresy. They would be wondering about things, thinking, arguing, questioning, coming up with new possible interpretations, etc.. Eventually, the controversy would get to the point that they would need to sit down and settle the controversy once and for all. They’d have a council and come up with an answer. Note the sequence of events.
    It would start with a question. What is the precise nature of the trinity?
    It would proceed with a tremendous number of imaginative solutions.
    Later, at a council, they would weed through the solutions and discard the ones that were obviously wrong, keeping the ones that had merit.

    I think you’re putting the cart before the horse. You’re accusing him of heresy before he’s even proposed solutions to his questions. He thinks that the church needs to think critically about the way that we try to reconcile prevailing interpretations of the book of scripture with prevailing interpretations of the book of creation. That’s all.

    He’s not being naieve about the implications of this. He goes into some detail about the possible doctrines that could be impacted by a small shift in how we read Genesis 2. He might even be overly anxious. A sufficiently creative interpretation of original sin might succeed in doing justice to Genesis 2, Romans 5 and the belief that humans evolved from apes without forcing us to make any changes at all to our soteriology. We have a hard time imagining that, but why let that stop us from exploring?

    Now, creativity isn’t everything. The new interpretations need to be subjected to intense scrutiny. This stuff matters! That is why people like Walhout and myself need people like you. The whole body of Christ needs to be thinking about these things and wrestling, imagining, critiquing, questioning…
    But, that won’t happen if you cut off the conversation before it has even begun. If you denounce people like Walhout as a heretic before he has even begun proposing possible solutions, you do him a terrible disservice. Not only that, you do a disservice to the very quest for truth itself.

    • Micah,

      I’m not hypothesizing anything! This cat is giving up basic Christian dogma. We’re not on a slope. We’re at the bottom of the hill.

    • “bottom of the hill” Exactly, or in free fall off the cliff.
      “but why let that stop us from exploring?” The same reason I don’t let my kids jump off the roof to test their theories on the law of gravity.

    • This isn’t a conversation. Its an exercise in coming up with bigger and better hyperbolic analogies with which to smear opponents.
      Please, either address my actual arguments or admit that you simply don’t care enough about the pursuit of truth to take them seriously.

      Also, I think that the decision to tag this post with the tag, “Semper Reformanda” is a very strange choice.

      • Micah,

        As far as I can see, you haven’t made any arguments. You’ve offered speculation that is contrary to the Word of God. An argument has premises, evidence, and logic which seek to demonstrate the truth of the conclusion. So far I don’t see it.

        I can’t believe that an intelligent person could possibly take this essay by Walhout seriously. I’m almost persuaded that it’s a joke and I’m not kidding. Give up the Christian doctrines of original sin, salvation, and eschatology because of a 150-year old theory? Really? These are catholic doctrines, taught by the church in all times and places. These aren’t mere theories. The historic Christian faith is a little more robust than that.

        Just for fun, however, as I recall, it wasn’t very many years ago that geneticists declared that two humans probably were the source of our DNA. If so, then why must we give up our first parents, the doctrine of federal headship (Romans 5), the doctrine of Christ’s federal headship, imputed sin and imputed righteousness? (not to mention the older views of the realistic connection between humans).

        You haven’t addressed a single one of my objections.

        The truth is that we have two religions. I believe the Christian faith and you do not. We’re having a classic religious argument. You have a faith commitment to Darwin. I have a faith commitment to God’s Word. My commitment is reasonable but it is a priori. I can show how the conclusions follow from the premises, but the premises must be accepted by faith. They are a presupposition. You accept a priori the truth of Darwin’s hypothesis and you use that commitment as the lever by which to move all other authorities.

        Our differences are fundamental and irreconcilable. Have you read Christianity and Liberalism?

    • RSC

      your blog so your prerogative – but I do think you have treated Micah harshly.

      He is not necessarily upholding everything said by Walhout (and I am happy to accept your word on the latter without reading him). His point about the inerrancy of scripture but the fallibility of (our) theology is surely valid otherwise we would never change our understanding of scripture.

      Sincere believers understood scripture to stand on all fours with their natural geocentric perceptions. Science has now ‘proved’ heliocentricity. So we simply say (while confessing it to God): ‘silly us – we did not understand scripture aright’. We do not stop being believers; we do not lose our commitment to God’s Word

      Isn’t it ‘literalism’ that is at issue here?

      • Richard,

        Micah, following that stupid piece by Walhout, is calling into question fundamental Christian truth: the fall, redemption, and the whole faith really and I’m treating him harshly? Where I was raised, punching someone who is attacking a woman is not considered over the top. I guess I really am out of touch with the spirit of age but when someone attacks basic Christian truths and calls it Christian, then I respond with Machen: Christianity is one thing, liberalism is another.

        Yes, I think that not everything is of equal importance, there is a hierarchy. That’s why I wrote RRC. 6-24 is one thing, the historicity of Adam is another. Here I am defending Warfield and Green against neo-fundamentalism (and not the good, Machen sort) and on the other hand and criticized as too harsh for defending catholic truth (the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, Chalcedon) against silly and ignorant dismissals by Walhout.

        I can live with that.

    • RSC – thank you

      I can feel the intensity of your stance against Walhout, and not having read him, I am happy to trust your judgment there

      But the only time Micah identifies with Walhout is when he says “I applaud Rev. Walhout for stepping up and being willing ask the tough questions about the effects of tweaking our interpretation of Genesis 2…”

      Micah does not applaud anything about the resurrection etc, nor even Walhout conclusions (which Micah notes are based on assumptions), nor does he even advocate his suggested view of the Garden and beyond

      Are you not throwing out the baby (Micah) with the bathwater (Walhout)? Tarring with the same brush?

      What would be your definition of liberalism that would include Micah?

      • Richard,

        Read the Walhout piece and then get back to me. Until someone can show me that Walhout’s essay even approaches reason, I remain indignant.

  4. Having read the Warfield and Green articles, I don’t see how any one can characterise that as exegesis. Warfield’s is a classic example in recasting the plain reading of scripture to accommodate the “science” of his day (or his youth). As he states on page 11 “The question of the antiquity of man his accordingly a purely scientific one.”, one is compelled to ask why would he want to build an exegetical argument that the scriptures don’t speak to the age of the earth or the antiquity of the human race. What Warfield failed to understand in that quote is that science can’t measure that which it can’t observe. That would then drive the subject of the antiquity of man to the one of the secret things of God and then necessarily his speculation on human antiquity that follows is a violation of Deut 29:29.

    Warfield’s article is really much more about that fact that the Scriptures demand the unity of the Human race, than about its antiquity. The first part is a capitulation to demonstrate that he is reasonable on the subject, and since he has shown reasonableness in compromising on the antiquity of the Human race, can’t his opponents compromise on their insistence that there is no unity of the Human race. Warfield’s conclusion is that Christianity is impossible if there is no unity of the human race.

    Dr. Warfield’s underlying thesis vis-a-vis genealogies is that all genealogies must serve the same purpose, and that must be the purpose the those in Matthew and Luke (and Chronicles) is hardly established in his article, asserted, but very much taken for granted.

    Even Green basically admits he is accommodating science.

    But if these recently discovered indications of the antiquity of man, over which scientific circles are now so excited, shall, when carefully inspected and thoroughly weighed, demonstrate all that any have imagined they might demonstrate, what then? They will simply show that the popular chronology is based upon a wrong interpretation, and that, a select and partial register of ante-Abrahamic names has been mistaken for a complete one.

    emphasis mine.

    Green admits his purpose. Genealogies in Gen 5, and 11 must be incomplete, because science says the earth is older than that. Our reading of scripture must not contradict science.

    In both Green and Warfield is much more like they took the uniformitarian theory of geology and applied the same idea to all the genealogies in scripture, as the way to plaster over the necessary cognitive dissonance they embraced having at least two epistemologically incompatible hermeneutics. That makes for great exegesis? They certainly don’t prove that the historic reformed exegisis of Gen 1-11 was in error. Green admits the the science (geology) of his day was the driving force behind his reading of Genesis 5 and 11, and Warfield bases his argument on Green.

    • Andrew,

      Do you add up the genealogies to arrive at the age of the earth? In other words, is your critique of BBW and WHG motivated by a desire to vindicate YEC?

    • Scott,

      No, I don’t add up the ages of the ante-deluvian and immediate post-deluvian patriarchs in Gen 5 and 11 to support YEC, and therefore that is not the point of my critique of Green or Warfield. It is pretty evident in my comment that my critique is based on the fact that good exegesis cannot not arise when the exegete’s admitted purpose is to make reading of Scripture conform to the teaching of what they thought was science, (which in their case was uniformitarian geology).

      Because others foolishly try to build a science called YEC, doesn’t meant that is any more properly science than any other inquiry to the age of the earth. Just because Green and Warfield read scripture to support the science (so called) they liked, doesn’t mean everyone does it. My point is that no one should.

      The number of years from Creation to Abraham is a consequence of what is revealed in Gen 5 and 11. Considering the way that Gen 5 and 11 are written with lived a specific number of years then begat a specifically named person, who the next link in the genealogy, it is actually a pretty good consequence. The only space you have is arguing that is is not a necessary consequence. The burden of Green and Warfield in your linked articles was specifically to attempt to demonstration that the number of years from C to A is not a necessary consequence of Gen 5 and 11. They poisoned their attempt by admitting their capitulation to the science (so called) of their day, and thus they failed at that task. (N.B. I sad number of years, not age of the earth)

      If God has said that Adam lived 130 years and begat a son, called his name Seth then lived another 800 years, then I believe him. Same for the rest of Gen 5 and 11.

      Here’s the challenge, Scott, which patriarch was not the age stated in Gen 5 or 11 when he “begat” the next identified in the genealogy? Do you think any of them were? Once that is cleared up we have a basis for conversation on the exegesis of Gen 5 and 11.

    • Hi Scott,

      I actually already answered your question. (See above) The problem you are likely having is you have so long substituted the eisegesis of Green and Warfield on Genesis that you think that a consequence of a passage is instead an illegitimate preconception forced on the text.

      So my challenge remains: does Genesis 5 or 11 contain error in any of statements of the age of a patriarch at which he begat the next patriarch named?

      Was Adam 130 years of age when he begat Seth? Yes or no?
      Was Seth 105 years of age when he begat Enos? Yes or no?
      Was Enos 90 years of age when he begat Cainan? Yes or no?
      and so on down to Lamech was he 182 years of age when he begat a son he called Noah, and was Noah 500 years old when he begat the eldest (as a collection) of Shem, Ham and Japheth?

      Second time, Scott, with all due respect can you answer?

      • Andrew,

        I don’t doubt for a second what Scripture says. What I doubt is the value of ad hominem arguments and whether the genealogies of Gen 5 and 11 were ever intended to be added up to reach a chronology.

        Green and Warfield were only early attempts to work through the issues presented by Genesis. I’ve been influenced by Ridderbos’ commentary on Matthew, who argues that, in his selective genealogy, he was following the OT pattern.

        It’s not the case that anyone who disagrees with you is a liberal Andrew. It may well be the case that you, in fact, are the rationalist here, who knows a priori what the text must mean before he has examined all the data, in its original context, according to authorial intent.


        Nolland, John. “Genealogical Annotation in Genesis as Background for the Matthean Genealogy of Jesus.” Tyndale Bulletin 47, no. 1 (May 1, 1996): 115-122.

        There is a lot of other lit examining this.

        You still haven’t answered my question unequivocally.

    • Thank you, Andrew, for your careful explanation here – as paradoxically I have thanked Micah too elsewhere

      I think you are both saying that (i) scripture is inerrant, (ii) when science shows that we have misunderstood scripture, we change; (iii) when science wants us to abandon the clear meaning of scripture, we don’t change. I’m sure RSC joins us

      I agree that the genealogies of Gen 5 and 11 are pretty clear; arguments that they simply match grandiose babylonian genealogies are insufficiently well made – they are a studied contrast

      My initial ‘faith’ inclination is also 6-24 but I don’t know enough Hebrew to be sure, and I am mindful of those who defended geocentricity too long. I think the issue of 7-24 is left open by the text

      Whether over-zealous or not, I am happy to accept (unlike RSC?) that YEC science is a well-intentioned desire to know the mind of God (science) on the basis of a ‘close’ reading of scripture – though this ‘close’ reading might in fact turn out to be too literal.

      If science says that man was ‘made’ from an ape, then I am open to the idea that this might be a valid interpretation of ‘from the dust of the earth’.

      If science wants to tell me that there was cancer, pain and wanton destruction before the arrival of man and his sin, then I will not accept that. When people tell me that man’s sin brought ‘spiritual’ death (not physical death) into the world, I believe that is a serious under-estimate of the loveliness of God; I see more in the words ‘the lion will lie down with the lamb’

      RSC – I would ask you – do you add up the genealogies or not, and with what result?

    • RSC – yours of May 12 11.40

      1. I have read the Alexander link and he supports Duggan’s view with the exception of weak footnote saying

      ‘It is possible, however, that in these genealogies, not every generation is included. R.R. Wilson notes that even in written genealogies there is a tendency to limit the maximum length of the lineage to ten generations. Thus it is not uncommon to find Near Eastern genealogies being modified by the addition and omission of names’.

      Since his controlling statement is ‘Throughout Genesis great care is taken to establish accurately the line of descent. Ancestry is reckoned through the father, and descendants are always clearly named’ I think it fair to say that the footnote is simply acknowledging a different point of view.

      2. What other cultures do or did (grandiose – by being selective – babylonian genealogies) should not influence our reading of scripture. Similarly the discovery of bilateral Hittite covenants between greater king and lesser vassal should not influence (as some wish to do) our reading of God’s covenant with Abraham which is gloriously and graciously unilateral (Gen 15 v 17)

      3. The fact that Matthew’s genealogy is selective does not mean that Genesis is likewise. That – given the clear ages in Genesis – is eisgesis. Possibly Matthew could afford to make a different point knowing that the ‘ages’ point had been firmly tied down in Genesis – in the same way that I could make a point by saying ‘Queen Elizabeth II, daughter of James I and of Henry VIII and 17th daughter of William the Conqueror, Lord of all Britain and territories in 1066’.

      • On the genealogies, from the notes of the New Geneva Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995):

        5:3-32 these verses contain 10 paragraphs, each written in the same form, which one paragraph for each generation in Adam’s line through Seth. There are some similarities, as well as significant differences, between this material and the Sumerian king list (written see. 2000 BC), which mentions eight antediluvian (pre-flood) Kings who reigned for exceptionally long periods (up to 72,000 years). Following the Sumerian flood account (cf. chs. 6-9), there is another list of shorter-lived postdiluvians (cf ch. 11).

        More significant are the formal similarities and material differences between this set site genealogy and the Cainite genealogy in ch. 4. Both are initially linear, focusing on one individual in each generation, and both conclude by dividing the line along through among three sons (4:20-22; 5:32, the same is true in 11:10-26). But the central themes of these genealogies contrast sharply. Cain’s line dies in the flood; Seth’s lives through it. Whereas the former presents the curse-laden line of Cain that concludes with murderer begetting murderer (4:17-24), the latter links the founder of humanity, Adam, with its re-founder, Noah (4:25, 26 note). The Enoch and Lamech in Seth’s line cannot be confused with the first and last descendants bearing these names in Cain’s line. Enoch, the seventh in the line of Seth, “walked with God” and “God took him” (the. 24); and the Sethite Lamech names his son Noah, hoping the Lord will “comfort us” (cf. v. 29).

        Because the Hebrew word translated “begot” often means “became the ancestor of,” and because some of the numbers appear to be symbolic, many scholars argue that there are gaps in these genealogies, and that they therefore cannot be used to compute a precise chronology. The significant seventh generation of each genealogy marks a high point—the height of wickedness in the Cainite Lamech (4:18-24) and the height of godliness in the Sethite Enoch (vv. 18-24; cf. vv. 21-24 note). The figure of 10 generations from Seth to Noah (VV. 3-32) matches the 10 generations from Shannon to Abram in 11:10-26 (this latter genealogy appears to contain gaps, 11:10-26 note; cf. and Matt 1:17 note). Also, the ages of some antediluvian’s may be symbolic, and are perhaps related to astronomical periods known to the agent near Eastern peoples (e.g., The 365 years of Enoch’s life, vv. 21-24 note).

        11:10-20 See note on 5:3-32. This genealogy of the elect, like 5:3-32, is first linear and at the end segmented into three sons (8:1 note). It overlaps with 10:21-31 and forms a transition from prime evil history to the account of Abraham…

        As is common in ancient genealogies, it is apparent that this genealogy contains gaps. If it were precisely sequential the events of chapters 9-11 would cover less than three centuries, all of Abraham’s ancestors would have been still living when he was born, and Shem would outlive Abraham by 14 years. The purpose of this genealogy is to record the advances of the messianic line…

        These are stylized, representative genealogies that, like the creation days, weren’t written to anticipate 19th-century higher criticism but to speak apologetically (in the case of the creation narrative) against the surrounding pagan myths and theologically (in the case of the creation narrative and the genealogies) to the Israelites about the history of redemption and the coming Messiah. It is anachronism to read back into these snap shots of history the sorts of questions that arose in the 18th and 19th centuries.

        In his notes on 5:1-32, in the ESV Study Bible (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), Desmond writes,

        5:1-32 The family line from Adam to Noah. After a brief introduction, which echoes elements of chapter 1, this passage follows a particular line of descendants from Adam to Noah. The chapter’s layout is dominated by a distinctive literary structure that is repeated for each of those specifically mentioned in each generation. The pattern may be set out as follows, when a had lived X years, he fathered B. They lived Y years after he fathered B and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of A were Z (= X plus Y) years, after which he died (see chart, p. 60). Since the word “father” in a genealogy can mean “fathered an ancestor of,” it is possible that this genealogy skips any number of generations; certainly the literary conventions allow for this. That omissions do actually occur appears from comparing, for example, the genealogy of Moses in Exodus 6,: 16-20 with that of Joshua in 1 Chronicles 7:23-27; undoubtedly the genealogy for Moses has been compressed (cf. Also Ezra 7:1-5 with 1 Chronicles 6:4-14). At three points in Genesis 5:3-31, the pattern is briefly broken to introduce additional information involving Adam-Seth, Enoch, and Lamech-Noah. One of the most striking aspects of the passage is the great age of the first people in Genesis. (Other Ancient Near Eastern texts attribute even longer lives to earlier generations; e.g., The Sumerian King List mentions King’s who reign—interestingly, before a flood—for periods of 28,800, 36,000, and 43,200 years.) Given that the lifespan of people today (and at least since the flood) is much shorter than the lifespan of those listed from Adam to Noah, the question is often raised as to whether the remarkable longevity of these patriarchs as given in 5:1-32 should be taken at face value or whether their longevity has some other explanation. Some have suggested that these figures should be understood as symbolic (e.g., that they may be related to various astronomical periods); or that the numbers are encoded with some unknown honorary significance; or that the figures were calculated by a different numeric method (e.g., that they should be divided by a factor of five, plus, in some cases, the addition of the number seven or 14). No writer, however, has offered a convincing alternative explanation, and none of the proposed alternatives can be substantiated with any certainty. The traditional understanding is that the number should be taken at face value, often assuming that something changed in the cosmology of the earth or in the physiology of humans (or in both) after the flood, resulting in a rapid decline in longevity, finally stabilizing at a “normal” lifespan in the range of 70 years or 80 years (See Psalm 90:10). In any case, one clear implication of these genealogies is that people actually lived (regardless of how long), and that they actually died.

        Desmond concedes that the genealogies are selective. He does use them to compute the age of the earth and he omits some of the data mentioned in in the note in the RSB above.

        That this approach appears in popular study Bibles suggests that this is not arcana or without warrant in the text. This is mainstream, conservative Bible scholarship that is being mediated in these notes. Walhout seems completely unaware of stuff that has been known to scholars for a century and that any layman, with access to the most basic study materials, could know.

    • Scott,

      You wrote:

      You still haven’t answered my question unequivocally.

      But I had already answered your question above in which I quote here,

      The number of years from Creation to Abraham is a consequence of what is revealed in Gen 5 and 11.

      which was and still is an unequivocal answer to your question. If you are referring for your demand of to “what purpose”, that’s pretty evident too. My purpose is to demonstrate how otherwise orthodox theologians allow extra-biblical data to not only influence their hermeneutic, but allow them to drive it.

      Or more fully my purpose in adding those ages up is to show that the scriptures are 100% inerrant and infallible in every thing they state or assert.

      Scott you earlier said in that comment to me

      Green and Warfield were only early attempts to work through the issues presented by Genesis.

      It doesn’t matter if Green and Warfield are early attempts, the point is that you cited them, Warfield is based on Green and Green admits his eisegesis.

      I was being too kind to Green in my critique. He of course did know that Gen 5 and 11 have a good and necessary consequence that there is only a very limited number of years from Creation to Abraham. It didn’t jive with his acceptance of uniformitarian geology, so he had find a “solution”. He admits it. The whole exercise is corrupt, and admittedly so.

      Then you continue

      I’ve been influenced by Ridderbos’ commentary on Matthew, who argues that, in his selective genealogy, he was following the OT pattern.

      But the OT is way too big to say the “OT pattern” for genealogies.

      Examine this quote from the Green piece

      So far as the biblical records go, we are left not only without adequate data, but without any data whatever, which can be brought into comparison with these genealogies for the sake of testing their continuity and completeness.

      So that’s the big issue, as Green admits above there is nothing in scripture itself that requires us to read Gen 5 or 11 and assume it is a selective genealogy and not an unbroken chain. The language of Gen 5 and 11 does require it to be complete unbroken chain.

      The “issues presented by Genesis” as you wrote (from the previous blockquote), is a telling phrase. Green says there is no biblical data for there being an issue with Genesis 5 or 11. So how exactly is it that you are using him to address issues he says are not based on any biblical data? Therefore your “issues presented by Genesis” are really issues with Genesis presented by extra biblical concerns.

      So Ridderbos contradicts Green, and taken together I’m supposed to be impressed?

      If Adam was 130 years old and begat Seth, then there was 130 years from day 6 of creation (or at least to be kind you Adam’s creation) to the begetting of Seth. Even if you do allow for multiple generations between Adam and Seth (or any of the others) allowing for the broad range in the word translated beget, the inescapable truth is that Adam was 130 years old when Seth was begotten. That is a good and necessary consequence of the statement of the scriptures.

      If Seth was 105 years old and begat Enos, then there was 235 between the creation day 6 and the birth of Enos. It’s a good and necessary consequence of Gen 5 that that is the case. That follows through for the rest of them.

      If there were more than 237 years between creation day 6 and the birth of Enos, then either Adam was older 130 years old when he begat Seth and/or Seth was older than 105 years old when he begat Enos.

      You don’t see any value in that, fine. But you can’t eat your genealogies and have them too. Your cosmology requires that Gen 5 and 11 must have gaps, mine doesn’t. The thing is, nothing in scripture requires Gen 5 or 11 to have gaps, (as Green admits) so why go looking for them?

      God didn’t have to tell us those ages of those men at which they begot their named descendant in Gen 5 and 11) but He did. What I find interesting is that it is such an uncomfortable subject for you, almost like an inconvenient truth.

      Pete Enns knows how this all ends. So does Longman. Do they agree with your lit on the subject? They are consistent. I am consistent.

      I don’t define liberal as those who disagree with me. I define liberal as those who take science (so called) or anything extra scriptural and use it to determine what Scripture may or may not mean, or what Scripture can or cannot say. The fact of the matter is that the leaven of modernism was much more worked into the life of the church before Machen came on the scene. Warfield and Machen rejected NT modernism, but because their teachers had already allowed modernism (*cough* uniformitarian geology *cough*) to replace OT orthodoxy, they Warfield and Machen mistook that for orthodoxy.

      Let me rephrase my question to you this way:

      Where is there a gap in the genealogies of either Gen 5 or 11? Pick any two names and give me the gap and the scriptural evidence for such a gap? It’s a simple question. It should be a simple answer.

      Funny how you suggest I am a rationalist, and also accuse me of ad hominem for suggesting that you’ve been influenced by the admitted eisegisis of Green (who you cite favorably). Why did you cite him otherwise? How ironic.

  5. “God means what he says in Nature, and it is sure, if we can find it; but it is not surer…than what He says in the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” George Clark Hutton, quoted by BB Warfield in an essay on the interaction of science and Christianity.

    On the issue of Adam and Eve, and the question of our first parents, the principle of the above quote is the proper place to begin. This chap you’ve discussed in this post has a reverse position, namely that scientific dogma is the controlling principle for reading Scripture – ‘in light of what Science X tells me, I know that whatever the Bible says on Y, it cannot mean Z.’ So, as one scholar recently held, Paul seems to rely heavily on the existence of Adam as the first man, transgressing a works covenant, plunging humanity under God’s curse; but, as a man of his time, who didn’t know what we now know, his argument must be rejected in light of the fact of macro-evolution. Whatever Romans 5 means, it cannot mean that Adam really was the father of the human race, in whom we all fell.

    It’s interesting to see how professing Christians who wholeheartedly accept modern theories that reject the existence of Adam and Eve as progenitors of humankind (Francis Collins and Peter Enns, for example) refer to the story of Galileo (the popular account, anyway) in an attempt to silence orthodoxy. In essence, they object to an overbearing institution trying to stifle questions of the status quo, and argue that the same prohibits proper discussion. Boo to the church, these modern Galileos say, in continuing to hold that we descend from Adam.

    I think that this account of Galileo is relevant. But, in light of the way in which the scientific establishment clings dogmatically, fundamentalistically (not-a-real-word) to the theory of macro-evolution, and shouts down any scientist who wishes to raises questions, perhaps the non-Adamists should locate themselves in different characters of the story.

  6. For example, who actually teaches 7 twenty-four hour periods of creation?
    You should ask WSCAL graduates over the past 20 years who have stood before the OPC ordination committee. See also Strimple:

    But now — again I’m no prophet; if anybody had told me when I was at Westminster Seminary in the late 50′s that in the year 2000 this would be the big issue (certainly in the state of California, in the two OPC presbyteries in our state)I would tell them that they certainly weren’t prophets, because that is ridiculous — but that’s where we are, and we’re now faced with an issue that could tear the OPC apart. Certainly raising big problems in this state. And likewise with regard to the United Reformed Churches.

    • Rube,

      The point I was trying to make is that most 6-24 advocates don’t teach 7-24 creation. They teach 6-24 periods of creation. Am I wrong about that?

      I get your point re the ecclesiastical consequences of setting the wrong tests for orthodoxy. Someone I know wrote a book about that.

  7. I see the insistence of literal 6-24 hr days approximately 6000 years ago as a reaction to those like Walhout (and others who are more scholarly) who have abused things like those the professor laid out from the New Geneva to argue for evolution and other things that eviscerate the gospel. While I personally think that requiring ministerial candidates to affirm 6-24 is extrabiblical, this type of reaction is not without precedent in the Reformed community. I see the insistence on exclusive psalmody as something in the same category. The churches took extreme action in response to the abuses of the medieval church. It was a Biblical solution that eliminated the abuses, but it also eliminates some who truly believe in the RPW, and edifying praise of God. In the same way, 6-24 requirements eliminate the abuses in a Biblical way, but also eliminate those who have a desire for proper Biblical analysis and truly believe the gospel. (I know this correlation will be a minority view here here).

    • Mark,

      But BC 7, 32, HC 96-98, WCF 21 all say the same thing, the same way, in the same context. They all over-reacted to Romanism? What about the 1st 11 centuries of the church? No instruments. Did we overreact for a millennium? Against what?

      Could you be underestimating the rationale for eliminating extra-canonical songs and musical instruments? I’m wondering if you’ve considered how they understood sola scriptura and the 2nd commandment and Christian liberty?

      It is hard to let a little bit of Moses into the service without letting a lot of Moses into the service. That’s what the medieval church illustrated. First they began to bring back the priesthood (9th century) in transubstantiation and later the eucharistic sacrifice. Then, by the 11th century musical instruments. There’s a connection. By then we had re-instituted a sort of theocratic King, a priesthood, and a sacrifice on the ground that it occurred in the OT. That’s one of the grounds invoked today for the reinstitution of instruments.

      If we do the same thing that the medieval church did, for the same reason, how can we avoid the same outcome?

    • Dr Clark
      If you could recommend a good resource (well referenced to original sources) on music in the church for the first millennium after Christ, I would be most interested.
      Many who firmly believe in the RPW just assume instruments are a part of music, not having them is like a jelly sandwich without the peanut butter. They don’t see a need to justify them. They don’t see it as letting any Moses into the service, or having anything to do with Moses. Singing praise just by definition includes instruments. If you sing acapela you are singing to an uninspired tune, how is singing to an uninspired tune any different than singing to instruments? Even if there never were any instruments used in the church in the first eleven hundred years after Christ, and then instruments were introduced as part of a deliberate plan to reinstitute a form of temple worship, it still doesn’t necessarily follow that instruments are wrong. I suspect about now I might be told that I’m a closet Lutheran, but I’m not trying to make an argument that we may do whatever isn’t forbidden, my point is more basic, that music by definition includes instruments, even if the only instrument is a human voice singing an uninspired tune (or even just chanting to a meter).

    • Yes, it’s been a few years. I am familiar with the arguments you make. I would be very interested on a scholarly work on musicin the church in the first millennium if you could recommend something?

      • Look at the footnotes in the chapter on worship.

        There’s no doubt about the Fathers. They were quite opposed to musical instruments.

        Do you think that the rise of Anglo-Catholicism in the 19th century is accidental?

    • From what I’ve read in the Fathers, I’d tend to agree with you. However (this is a quick reflection, I’ve not really considered it before) from what I recall, wasn’t a lot of the reason for their opposition because they saw them as pagan? That sort of reasoning strikes me as ‘meat sacrificed to idols’..

      • Yes, as I noted in RRC, but they also understood the progress of revelation and redemption. The Protestants were clearer on this. There was strong opposition to instruments well into the middle ages.

        When the Reformers removed them from the churches, they regarded them as novelties.

        When we re-introduced them in the 18th and 19th centuries, we did so on pragmatic grounds.

  8. RSC, – May 12 1.56, you write

    “In his notes on 5:1-32, in the ESV Study Bible (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), Desmond writes,

    5:1-32 The family line from Adam to Noah. After a brief introduction, which echoes elements of chapter 1, this passage follows a particular line of descendants from Adam to Noah. ………Since the word “father” in a genealogy can mean “fathered an ancestor of,” it is possible that this genealogy skips any number of generations; certainly the literary conventions allow for this.

    …………….One of the most striking aspects of the passage is the great age of the first people in Genesis, ………….the question is often raised as to whether the remarkable longevity of these patriarchs as given in 5:1-32 should be taken at face value or whether their longevity has some other explanation. Some have suggested that these figures should be understood as symbolic ………No writer, however, has offered a convincing alternative explanation, ……The traditional understanding is that the number should be taken at face value, ……….In any case, one clear implication of these genealogies is that people actually lived (regardless of how long), and that they actually died”.

    You then write

    “Desmond concedes that the genealogies are selective” and

    “That this approach appears in popular study Bibles suggests that this is not arcana or without warrant in the text. This is mainstream, conservative Bible scholarship that is being mediated in these notes”.

    1. Would it not be more accurate to write “Desmond concedes that the genealogies MIGHT BE selective” ?

    2. Desmond does not offer any alternative to the great ages of the Gen 5 patriarchs

    3. It is surely possible that God Himself chose to grant Enoch 365 years of life on earth, rather than that this is a symbolism introduced by the writer of Genesis – as some (not necessarily you) would say. Incidentally nobody seems to object to Enoch being assumed rather than dying, even though this is arguably more contrary to ‘science’ than a young Adam.

    4. Nobody would disagree that selective genealogies are mainstream thought but that does not make it correct – I think that is Duggan’s point

    5. If I may, I will offer other questions/comments on your new post at

  9. What an excellent piece on this subject! As someone who is very much appreciative of Warfield, Machen, Kline, and Nagel, I couldn’t have asked for a better statement of the fruitful integrity of classical and Reformed Orthodoxy with regard to science.

    • Presumably you also read RSC’s later post where he quotes with approval the New Geneva Study Bible

      “As is common in ancient genealogies, it is apparent that this genealogy contains gaps. If it were precisely sequential the events of chapters 9-11 would cover less than three centuries, all of Abraham’s ancestors would have been still living when he was born, and Shem would outlive Abraham by 14 years”

      This suggests to me, in the absence of any other adduced evidence, that the NGSB view of ‘selective genealogy’ is based on a purely 300 year gap, which is presumably abhorrent to a scientific standpoint – exactly the compromise that the Reformed tradition wants to take against Walhout.

      Would you be kind enough to spell out what W, M, K and N have, taken together, convinced you of?

      with thanks in anticipation

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