The Position of the Westminster Standards
The Westminster Standards teach that the world was created in “the space of six days” (Latin: sex dierum spatium).1 Just on the face of it, this language appears to refer to a chronological sequence of six contiguous days of normal length. This instinctive interpretation is strengthened when one considers a previous usage of this identical phrase in a significant passage by John Calvin on the doctrine of creation. In his commentary on Genesis 1:5, Calvin used this very phrase in refuting instantaneous creation and advocating six day creation:
Here the error of those is manifestly refuted, who maintain that the world was made in a moment. For it is too violent a cavil to contend that Moses distributes the work which God perfected at once into six days, for the mere purpose of conveying instruction. Let us rather conclude that God himself took the space of six days [Latin: sex dierum spatium; French: l’espace de sex jours], for the purpose of accommodating his works to the capacity of men. 2
In these comments, Calvin argues that the six days of creation are not merely a literary device designed only to instruct about an event which actually occurred in an instant; the six days refer to a literal space of time, a chronological interval.
Many today have never heard of the theory of instantaneous creation. According to this view, the six days of creation are not a chronological sequence but a literary framework to describe an event that occurred instantly, in the twinkling of an eye. This was the position of St. Augustine of Hippo:
Ernan McMullin confirms that Augustine concurred with the Alexandrine fathers who believed that creation was in a single moment; he clearly did not believe that creation “days” were indefinitely long periods of time: “In fact, he insisted that the creative action whereby all things came to be was instantaneous; the six ‘days’ refer (he suggests) to stages in the angelic knowledge of creation. In properly temporal terms the ‘days’ reduce to an indivisible instant, so that all the kinds of things mentioned in Genesis were really made simultaneously.”3
According to C. John Collins, Augustine
wanted to harmonise his interpretation of Genesis with Sirach 18:1, which he understood to say, ‘he who lives forever created everything at once’ (based on the Greek, which seems to be an improper rendering of the Hebrew …).4
Augustine regarded the Book of Sirach, also called Ecclesiasticus, as canonical, and so he must have thought that he was using Scripture to interpret Scripture. Calvin in his commentary on Genesis 1:5 comments on the mistranslation of Ecclesiasticus 18:1.
The burden is on those who want “the space of six days” to refer to long ages, to show examples of such usage at the time of the writing of the Westminster Standards. The only example ever given to my knowledge is one sentence in the writings of William Ames (1576-1633), one of the mentors of the Westminster divines. Some have argued that Ames believed that there were long ages between the six 24 hour days of creation. This whole contention is based on one sentence in paragraph I.viii.28 in William Ames’ book The Marrow of Theology. John Macpherson in his nineteenth century commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith references this paragraph and mentions Ames as an example of those who “suggest that the active creative periods were six natural days, with indefinite intervals between them.”5 C. John Collins gives the following as the relevant sentence found in the 1634 Latin edition of Ames’ work:
creatio autem harum partium mundi non fuit, simul and uno momento, sed peragebatur per partes, sibi invicem sex dierum interstitiis succendentes.
He then offers the following as a possible translation:
But the creation of these parts of the world was not done at the same time and at one moment, but was carried out in stages, each in its turn succeeding, during six days with intervening spaces.6
Let’s begin by assuming that this is a good translation of the Latin. If so, there is nothing here to tell us if the intervening spaces between the days are long ages or the temporal equivalent of the spaces between teeth.7 “Six days with intervening spaces” could be another way of saying six distinct days. The creation was not merely done over a 144 hour period; it was done through distinct acts of creation during each of the six days. Therefore, even accepting Dr. Collins’ translation, there is nothing here to prove that Ames believed in indefinite intervals between the days of creation.
We need to inquire further and ask whether Dr. Collins’ translation is indeed a good rendering of the Latin. Dr. Collins’ translation should be compared with the published translation by John D. Eusden, which Dr. Collins quotes:
The creation of these parts of the world did not occur at one and the same moment, but was accomplished part by part in the space of six days.”8
The major difference between the translations by Dr. Collins and Mr. Eusden is the translation of the Latin sex dierum interstitiis . Where Dr. Collins has “during six days with intervening spaces,” Mr. Eusden has “in the space of six days.” Interestingly, “in the space of six days” is the language of the Westminster Standards, even though the associated Latin is not identical.
Latinist Wes Baker has evaluated the Eusden translation as “a good, accurate, and not too paraphrastic translation” of the Latin text quoted by Dr. Collins.9 In his translation, Mr. Eusden appears to interpret interstitiis as an ablative of time within which. Even though interstitiis is plural, he appears to view it in a collective sense and thus translates it as singular: “in the space of six days.” Mr. Baker offers the following as a literal translation: “within the intervals [consisting] of the six days.” He comments that the literal English translation with its plural translation of interstitiis is “more awkward in English than it is in Latin. The sentence, all in all, is pretty clear, simple and straightforward.”10 In Mr. Eusden’s translation, there are no intervening spaces, and thus his translation in no way suggests that William Ames held to the intermittent days theory.
Dr. Collins translates sex dierum as “during six days.” This translation is questionable at best because sex dierum is in the genitive case. Duration of time is expressed by the accusative case, time within which is expressed by the ablative case, but there are no such uses of the genitive case. The Latin sex dierum interstitiis literally says “within intervals of six days,” not “during six days with intervening spaces.”11
Allow me to suggest yet another translation which follows Dr. Collins in understanding interstitiis as referring to a plurality of temporal intervals but which properly interprets sex dierum as a genitive and interstitiis as an ablative of time within which:
The creation however of these parts of the world did not occur at one and the same moment, but was accomplished in parts, each one following the other within intervals which belong to the six days.
I wish to show by this translation that even if interstitiis is interpreted here to mean temporal spaces between certain temporal markers, that does not mean that the intervals are between the days of creation. Translated this way, the intervals are the periods of active creation within the six days of Genesis one. This understanding is consistent with Ames’ context of arguing against instantaneous creation. Even though God could have created everything in an instant, God chose to take six days. That does not mean that God was engaged in constant acts of creation for the entire 144 hours. For example, God may have used only a brief interval of time to create light on day one, a brief interval of time to create the firmament on day two, and so on. God took six days not because He needed that much time but because He wanted to establish a pattern of work and rest for humanity.
Even when using Dr. Collins’ translation, this sentence does not state that there are indefinite intervals or long ages between the days of creation. When using Mr. Eusden’s translation, this sentence does not have any references to temporal spaces between certain events. And even if one translates interstitiis as referring to such intervals, that does not mean that the intervals are between the days of the creation week. Furthermore, these interpretations which are compatible with traditional six day creation are more consistent with what Ames later says in paragraphs I.viii.51-56. There he expands upon the days of creation and speaks of each day’s work as a complete accomplishment with no hint of intervals between the days. For example, he says, “On the fourth day were made luminaries of heaven to give light to the earth.” These translations are also more consistent with the opinions of Ames’ own day. If any respected Bible scholar during this period had argued for creation over long ages in any form, it would be a startling historical anomaly.
However one interprets interstitiis in this sentence, I believe it is obvious that this one sentence does not prove that William Ames held to the intermittent days theory, one of the views which allows Genesis one to last for long ages. There is therefore no evidence of any of the long age views of the six days of creation during the general period of the writing of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms.
David Longacre and Gary Englestad researched the libraries of Princeton Theological Seminary and Westminster Theological Seminary in an effort to learn how the phrase “the space of six days” in the Westminster Standards has been understood in the past. They found that some of the older commentaries on the Longer and Shorter Catechisms contain polemics against instantaneous creation but no mention of day ages or gap theories or intermittent days. The first work they found with explanations of the day age and gap theories was An Exposition of the Confession of Faith by Robert Shaw, published in 1845. The work Lectures on the Shorter Catechism by Ashbel Green, published in 1841, has the following in a footnote:
Some recent attempts have been made to show that the days of creation, mentioned in the first chapter of Genesis, should be considered not as days which consist of a single revolution of the earth, but as periods comprehending several centuries. But all such ideas, however learned or ingeniously advocated, I cannot but regard as fanciful in the extreme; and what is worse, as introducing such a method of treating the plain language of Scripture, as is calculated to destroy all confidence in the volume of inspiration.12
Some have argued that the interpretation of the six days in Genesis one as 24 hour days is a naive creation of modern fundamentalists. That appears to be nothing but wishful thinking. The truth is that interpretive schemes which allow for creation over long ages are the modern innovation. These arose with the rise of modern geology and its arguments for an ancient earth.13 Robert Dabney said,
The advocates of the symbolic days … attach much importance to their claim that theirs is not an afterthought, suggested by geologic difficulties, but that the exposition was advanced by many of the ‘Fathers’. After listening to their citations, we are constrained to reply that the vague suggestions of the different Fathers do not yield them any support, because they do not adopt their theory of explanation.14
There is no reason to believe that “the space of six days,” the language found in the Westminster Standards, means anything but the obvious and normal meaning of the words. There are two issues here to consider. First, the interpretation of the days of creation as being long ages or normal days separated by long ages is a position which arose long after the drafting of the Westminster Confession. To allow men who hold such views today to say that they are in full agreement with the Westminster Standards is to stretch the language of the confession beyond the intent of its authors. As if to remove any doubt as to their understanding of the days of creation, the Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 120 states that one of the reason we are to work six days every week but not the seventh is “the example of God, who in six days made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day.”
Second, the language of the confession is a phrase used by John Calvin to oppose Augustine’s teaching of instantaneous creation. The Westminster divines were learned men who were no doubt aware of Calvin’s usage of the phrase when they chose to use it themselves. In Augustine’s position, the six days of creation are a literary device with no literal chronological significance. If the phrase “the space of six days” means anything, it means that the days of creation refer to a literal space of time as opposed to being a non-chronological literary framework. Men who today hold to a literary framework view of Genesis one usually believe in creation over long ages and not in instantaneous creation. Still they agree with Augustine that the days of creation are a non-literal teaching device and not six days in an historical narrative. In this sense, men who today hold to a literary framework view of Genesis one hold to the same general position which Calvin argued against using the very words “the space of six days.” To allow literary framework men to say that they are in full agreement with the confession is to go beyond stretching our confessional language. It is to allow the language of the confession to encompass a form of the very position which that language, as previously used by Calvin, was meant to exclude. If we allow this, then how can we say with any consistency that our doctrinal standards actually define our doctrine? We must not become post-modernists for whom language and standards have no fixed meaning.
The Day Age Theory
My experience has been that when one begins discussing this issue, most of the evidence presented against six day creation is scientific evidence, not Biblical evidence. I believe the Biblical evidence should be the foremost concern because Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith and practice.
One argument for the day age theory is based on a comparison of day six in Genesis chapter one and the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter two. Genesis 1:26-28 involves the creation of man male and female. At the end of day six, God proclaimed His creation very good; chapter two makes clear that the situation was not totally good until Eve was created: “It is not good that man should be alone.” Before God created Eve from the rib of Adam, Adam gave names “to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field.” The argument is that all this could not be done in a 24 hour period. The problem with this argument is that one can envision the described activity in different ways to fit different understandings of the length of the sixth day. If one envisions the large variety of animals we see today and if one assumes that Adam had to spend a good bit of time with each animal to discern the name which best fit its characteristics, then this activity could have taken years. One can also assume that a much more limited number of animals was involved. For example, Adam did not have to deal with every type of dog which we know today but only with the original dog from which all the current canine diversity developed. Also, Adam was not by himself when he accomplished this task. God brought the animals to him. It is possible that Adam was able to accomplish this task rather quickly with God’s help. Leupold argues that Adam named only the limited number of animals who inhabited the garden.15
Some also argue that the activity of the third day when the dry land appeared and brought forth vegetation including fruit trees, could not have all occurred in 24 hours. This argument forgets that the entire work of creation was a miracle. God could have accomplished the whole work in an instant if He had so chosen. The fact that God chose to take six days does not mean that He limited Himself to the slower processes which we today observe in God’s more routine providence. As it says in Psalm 148:5, “He commanded, and they were created.”
A second argument for the day age theory relates to the seventh day. Genesis one ends the discussion of each of the first six days with a statement about evening and morning. There is, however, no mention of evening and morning related to the seventh day. On the seventh day, God ceased from His special work of creation, and He has rested from that work ever since. So, it is argued, the seventh day is a long age which still continues. Therefore the first six days must also be long ages. I do not find this argument convincing. The repeated clause which mentions evening and morning and then states each day’s number, is used as a literary device to conclude each paragraph about the work completed on each of the first six days. The seventh day is different in that no work is done on that day. The paragraph about the seventh day ends thus with a different clause:
Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
God’s rest from His work of original creation began on the original seventh day. That divine rest also continues because that work has been completed once and for all. Yet God’s rest which took place during the original seventh day is something in the past, not because God’s rest has ceased, but because the original seventh day is history. The passage states that God rested (past tense) on the seventh day, not that He is resting (present tense) on the seventh day. The original seventh day is not an ongoing age but the original 24 hour day of rest which is remembered in the Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8-11). Israel is commanded to hallow the weekly Sabbath and to do no work each seventh day because God rested on the original seventh day and hallowed the original Sabbath.
Notice the following from Cassuto’s commentary:
It may be asked: In what way is the seventh day different from the succeeding days, since on them, too, God did no additional work? In answer to the question it may be said: (1) that the difference consists in the novel character of the seventh day; after a series of six days on each of which some work of creation was wrought, came a day on which God did not work or add anything to his creation; hence the remembrance of this abstinence from labour remained linked with the day on which this situation arose; (2) that … seven days are considered a period [unit of time]; consequently, the seventh day, following on the six days of creation, completed the first period, and in every subsequent period the first day calls to mind the creation of light, the second the creation of the heavens, and so forth, and the seventh reminds us of the day on which God did no work at all.16
Joey Pipa makes the following comments regarding the seventh day as a type of eternal rest:
In Gen. 2:1-3, the eternal rest is the reality and the Sabbath day is a type and offer of that rest. We must not confuse the reality with the type otherwise the type loses its significance. In order for the day to serve as a type, Moses leaves the record of the end of the day open-ended.
The fact that he leaves out its conclusion does not imply it was not a regular day. Moses uses this same device in Genesis 14, when he introduces Melchizedek. According to Hebrews 5:6-10 and Hebrews 7:1-4, Melchizedek was a type of Christ, signifying how the Christ could serve as priest while not being of the house of Aaron. The writer of Hebrews uses the silence of Genesis 14 to say that Melchizedek had no genealogy, parents, or death, that he might be a type of the eternal priest who received office by God’s appointment and not by lineage. Most commentators agree that Melchizedek was a real person, who had parents and did die. Moses omits these facts from the record so as to lay the foundation of the typology. This is how we are to take the record of the seventh day.17
In other words, there is a parallel between the silence of Genesis on the evening and morning of the seventh day and the silence of Genesis on the birth and death of Melchizedek. The author of Hebrews uses both silences to develop typological fulfillments. Someone who argues from Hebrews 4 that the seventh day of creation must be an ongoing, unending day should also, to be consistent, teach that Hebrews 7 implies that the king of Salem named Melchizedek literally had no parents and never died. Such interpretation improperly reads back into the prefiguring type a fullness of glory which properly belongs only to the antitype.
A third argument is that the word translated day can be a metaphor for an extended period of time or age. It is pointed out that the word is used that very way in the creation account in Genesis 2:4:
This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.
The problem with this argument is that the Hebrew here translated “in the day” is an idiomatic expression which means “when” (cf. Genesis 2:17; 3:5).18 The usage of the word translated day in this idiom does not give evidence on its usage apart from the idiom elsewhere in the passage.
The plural of the Hebrew word translated day is the primary form for expressing an extended temporal sense “in which the focus of the meaning is not on the ‘day’ as such, but on a ‘time’ or situation characterized in a particular way.”19 This metaphorical sense is obvious in phrases such as “days of mourning” (Genesis 27:41) or “days of old” (Amos 9:11), but not in a clause such as “in six days the LORD made heaven and earth.” This extended sense can also be true of the singular, but again it is usually self-evident as in phrases such as “the day of the Lord” or “the day of harvest” (Proverbs 25:13). Genesis one defines its usage in terms of evening and morning and thus points to a more literal day. When evening and morning are used in a figurative context in Psalm 90:6, they represent not long ages but the brevity of life. Also, phraseology such as “second day” and “third day” is nowhere else used in Scripture to refer to an extended age. There is simply no evidence that the six days of Genesis one are metaphors for extended ages.
Some seem attracted to the day age theory because they want to accommodate Scripture to current scientific theory. In reality, the day age theory creates more problems than it solves in this regard. According to the day age theory, trees and vegetation appear upon the earth during day three, but the sun, moon and stars are not created until the next extended age (day four). Fruit trees (day three) are created before fish (day five). Fish and birds (day five) are created before reptiles and insects (creeping things of day six). All of these orders of events contradict modern scientific theory.
These orders of events also cause some simple pragmatic difficulties if the six days of creation were indeed extended ages. For example, there are symbiotic relationships between certain plants and animals. Much of the vegetation created on day three is dependent on creatures created on days five and six for pollination. How did these plants survive all those many years without birds, bats or insects? Also, the six days of creation were days each with one morning and one evening, a situation which would hardly apply to geological ages. How could any life survive a series of geological ages each consisting of one long period of light followed by one long period of darkness?20
There is also the question of when death entered the world. According to Romans 5, death entered the world at the time of Adam’s sin. That is when the curse descended upon creation. The first death found in the Scriptural account of history is the death implied by God’s use of an animal’s skin to clothe the naked sinners Adam and Eve. Genesis implies that all creatures were vegetarians before the fall (Genesis 1:29-30; cf. 9:3). Isaiah 11 gives us a description of paradise restored: the wolf lies down with the lamb and the lion eats straw like an ox. Do those who believe in extended ages believe that the “law of the jungle” and carnivorous behavior did not begin until after the fall? Or do they believe it was present before the fall in the extended age called day 6 contrary to what the Bible reveals about life before the fall?
Some argue that the six days of creation are “anthropomorphic days” and thus are not six days of ordinary length. Jim Jordan gives the following response to this argument as presented by C. John Collins:
First, if these “days” are simply an exercise in anthropomorphism designed to point to something ineffable, then they need have no relationship to “time as we know it” at all. They are nothing more than a literary figure. I don’t understand why Collins wants to retain the idea of a sequence of such “days” as eons or anything else.
Second, “time as we know it” is the only “time” there is, because God is eternal. Genesis 1 describes God’s actions in time, and does so in the plainest language imaginable. Collins has provided no basis for thinking that some other kind of “time” is in view here.
. . .
Let us grant what Dr. Collins wishes: that there are lots of anthropomorphisms in Genesis 1. Indeed, let us grant that the entire passage is anthropomorphic, and that God is presented as working in the same way as a human being works. The question remains: So what?
The passage clearly presents God as working over the course of a week of seven days, days that have regular evenings and mornings. Either this is just a poem, a literary figure, or else it is a description of what God actually did. Collins seems to want to have it both ways, but his position is completely arbitrary. Either Genesis 1 is a merely literary accommodation, or it is a Divine accommodation. If it is the latter, then we need to take it at face value: God made the world in seven days, as a model for His images, human beings. Nothing hints that these days were anything other than days of ordinary length, and the attention called to evenings and mornings proves that they were of ordinary length.21
We must remember that the most important anthropomorphic accommodation of the divine to the human is the Incarnation. Jesus took “the form (morphe) of a bondservant, and [came] in the likeness of men (anthropos)” (Philippians 2:7). This anthropomorphism literally occurred in history. It was no mere literary device.
Let us also take an example from the Old Testament. In Genesis 18, Jehovah God visited Abraham and ate with him in the appearance of a man. Genesis 18:20-21 gives the purpose of the visit:
And the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”
The omniscient, omnipresent God visited earth to investigate an accusation. Truly this is an anthropomorphic accommodation, but that does not take away the literal historicity of the event. This is an historical event which literally happened and not a myth or legend or parable.
There are anthropomorphisms in Scripture that are literary devices. For example, Exodus 14 gives an historical account of God’s intervention in history at the Red Sea crossing, and then the Song of Moses in Exodus 15 poetically describes the event using anthropomorphic literary devices such as “the blast of Your nostrils” (15:8). Another example is the 18th Psalm which describes God’s divine intervention to deliver His people in terms which are not to be confused with literal historical descriptions: “Smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth” (v. 8). These are not in the same category with the Incarnation or God’s visit with Abraham or the Genesis one creation account. We must not confuse the anthropomorphisms in Scripture which are literary devices in poetry with those which are literal events in historical narratives.
The Framework Hypothesis
Some who deny six day creation nevertheless acknowledge that the days of Genesis one are normal 24 hour days. They argue that the entire passage is an extended metaphor. This is Hebrew poetry, and the details are not meant to teach anything about either science or history. This poem merely expresses God’s creation of the world ex nihilo, and there is no literal significance to the particular order or chronology of events.
Although Genesis one may contain poetic elements, it is not Hebrew poetry. As E.J. Young expressed it,
Hebrew poetry had certain characteristics, and they are not found in the first chapter of Genesis. So the claim that Genesis one is poetry is no solution to the question. The man who says, “I believe that Genesis purports to be a historical account, but I do not believe that account”, is a far better interpreter of the Bible than the man who says, “I believe that Genesis is profoundly true, but it is poetry.” That latter has nothing to commend it at all. I disagree with the first man, but he is a better exegete, he is a better interpreter, because he is facing up to the facts.22
The parallel construction that is the most evident characteristic of Hebrew poetry is largely absent. The Old Testament does contain poetry about creation (cf. Job 38:4-15; Psalm 104; Isaiah 40:21-31), and its literary form is quite distinct from that in Genesis one. Genesis one is an historical narrative.
Regarding Genesis 1:1-2:3, Cassuto says, “The structure of our section is based on a system of numerical harmony.”23 He then goes on to give a detailed discussion of the importance of the number seven in this passage. There is the creation period of seven consecutive days, the division into seven paragraphs and the occurrence of key terms in multiples of seven. Is this an adequate justification to proclaim the passage poetry and thus rid ourselves of the literal significance of the embarrassing details? If we quickly say yes, we will be embarrassed when we get to Cassuto’s commentary on the second creation account (Genesis 2:4-3:24):
… a clear indication of the unity of the section (and at the same time of the connection between it and the preceding section) is to be seen in the numerical symmetry based on the number seven that we find in this section just as we encountered it in the story of creation. Here, too, the words that express the fundamental concepts of the passage recur a given number of times – seven times, or a multiple of seven.”24
Once one has “de-mythologized” Genesis one, where and how does one stop? Must one also de-mythologize Genesis two and three? Did God literally mold Adam’s body out of the earth and breath into his nostrils the breath of life? Did God literally take a rib from Adam’s side and make it into Eve? Did God literally walk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day? Was there a literal tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a literal talking serpent? Can one limit this de-mythologizing to the creation account? Was there really a flood so universal that an ark was required to preserve all species of land animals? Once this process begins, I don’t know a logical stopping point. The book of Esther is patterned on the Genesis Joseph story and is filled with duplicate events as a literary device. The books of both Ruth and Jonah have symmetrical structures and play upon contrasts. Must we reject the historical details of every historical narrative that contains some literary devices?
Genesis 1:6 says,
Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.”
Cassuto contrasts this with the following:
[Mesopotamian mythology] relates that after the god Marduk … had vanquished Tiamat, the goddess of the world-ocean, depicted as a great and mighty sea-monster, as well as the other monsters and monstrosities that she had created to aid her in her combat, and after he had slain his chief enemy with his weapons, he cut her carcass horizontally, dividing it into two halves, which he lay one on top of the other, and out of the upper he formed the heavens and of the lower half he made the earth (which includes, of course, the sea, the ‘Deep’).25
Some would argue that Genesis one is a poetic account of creation which uses de-mythologized pagan epics as a polemic against polytheism. For that reason, its details have nothing to do with actual science or history. I do not doubt that Genesis one is a polemic against the paganism of the ancient near east. That, however, does not mean that the Genesis one account is not a true historical narrative. Rather than it being a de-mythologized myth, I would think that the pagan epics are mythologized versions of actual history orally transmitted from the time of Adam.
I wish to comment on one final argument used by those who regard Genesis one as a poetic account in contrast to an historical narrative. The argument says that the details of the Genesis one contradict the details of Genesis two. The only possible way to avoid this conflict is allegedly to interpret Genesis one as poetry and Genesis two as history even though both use the literary form of an historical narrative.
This argument is reminiscent of the controversies over the various accounts of events found in the Synoptic Gospels. These accounts often contain different terminology and diverse details. Those who view these as fallible writings often interpret these differences in ways that cause the differing accounts to contradict. Those who view these as infallibly inspired writings interpret the same differences in ways that complement each other and thus harmonize the accounts. Similarly, the details of Genesis two can be interpreted in a way to complement, not contradict, the details of Genesis one.
The argument for contradiction is based on two passages in Genesis two: Genesis 2:4-6:
This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.
and Genesis 2:19-20:
Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.
It is argued that God created the whole vegetable and animal kingdoms before the creation of Adam according to Genesis one and after the creation of Adam according to Genesis two. Such an interpretation, however, is not necessary. These two accounts can be interpreted to complement each other and not to contradict.
Here, for example, is the interpretation suggested by Cassuto. The herb and plant mentioned in Genesis 2:5-6 do not refer to the whole vegetable kingdom but to vegetable species which relate to the state of the earth after the fall into sin and the initiation of the curse.
Thus the term `esebh of the field comprises wheat and barley and the other kinds of grains from which bread is made; and it is obvious that fields of wheat and barley and the like did not exist in the world until man began to till the ground. In the areas, however, that were not tilled, the earth brought forth of its own accord, as a punishment to man, thorns and thistles — that siah of the field that we see growing profusely to this day in the Land of Israel after the rains. … the world of vegetation, as it was formed on the third day, was composed of those trees and plants and herbs, that naturally reproduce themselves by seed alone. Those plants that needed something else, in addition to seed, were excluded: to this category belonged, on the one hand, all species of corn, which, even though isolated specimens might have existed here and there from the very beginning, were not found in the form of fields of grain until man began to till the ground, and on the other hand, thorns and thistles, or siah of the field, whose seeds are unable to propagate and grow fresh plants until it rains. After man’s fall and expulsion from the garden of Eden, when he was compelled to till the ground and the rain began to come down, there spread through the earth thorns and thistles and fields of wheat — the siah of the field and the `esebh of the field.26
I believe Cassuto’s interpretation of Genesis 2:5 is very plausible. Genesis 2:5-6 explains how the earth’s original ecology differed from the post-fall ecology, which is the only ecology the readers of these verses had ever experienced. The pre-fall ecology was not dependent on either rainfall or human irrigation (v. 5) because “streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground” (Genesis 2:6 NIV).27 Genesis 13:10 confirms that Eden was a well watered place like unto the best land in Egypt in the post-fall world.
The Genesis 2:5 phrase “herb (`esebh) of the field” is found in God’s post-fall curse upon Adam:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17b-19
Here “the herb of the field” refers to the cultivated grains from which bread can be made. Moses later uses this phrase “`esebh of the field” to refer to the cultivated crops of Egypt which were destroyed by the plagues of hail (Exodus 9:22-25) and locusts (10:12-15). Specific examples of “`esebh of the field” are barley, flax, wheat and spelt (9:31-32). Moses also uses the phrase to refer to pastureland for cattle (Deuteronomy 11:15).
After God created Adam and Eve, He gave them “every herb (`esebh) that yields seed on the face of the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed” for food (Genesis 1:29). Before the fall, God provided Adam and Eve with fruit from the trees in the garden of Eden for their food supply (Genesis 2:9). After the fall, Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden and bread became their staff of life. Adam then had to cultivate the “`esebh of the field” by the sweat of his brow in order to have adequate food. Genesis 2:5 does appear to be referring to this contrast between life before and after the fall.
The other contrast is the post-fall existence of “thorns and thistles.” Is this what Genesis 2:5 is referring to when it says “before any plant (siah) of the field was in the earth”? Every other usage of this word here translated plant refers to a wilderness bush or shrub (Genesis 21:15; Job 30:4,7). In Genesis 21:15, Hagar laid Ishmael under a siah in the harsh wilderness when their water was gone. In Job 30, the siah is in “the wilderness, desolate and waste” (NKJ) or “desolate wastelands” (NIV). It is associated in Job 30:4 with the mallow or salt herb, a plant which grows in salt marshes. In Job 30:7, the siah is associated with nettles. When there is no one to cultivate the land, it naturally becomes a desolation because of the Genesis 3:18 curse. It is taken over by thorns and thistles, by the siah and nettles. Thus the Biblical usages of and associations with siah are consistent with Cassuto’s interpretation of Genesis 2:5.
Regarding Genesis 2:19-20, Leupold argues that the reference is simply to the animals created earlier; the verb yatsar should be translated as a pluperfect: God had formed.28 Thus the creation of birds and animals mentioned in Genesis two is the same event referred to in Genesis one.
Cassuto offers a more complicated interpretation. He points out that Genesis 2:19 does not refer to the entire animal kingdom. This verse refers only to God’s forming the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Yet in the next verse, Adam gives names to the cattle as well. Cassuto suggests an analogy here with another event. All species of fruit trees may have been created on day three, but certain specimens of these species were planted at the establishment of the garden after the creation of Adam (Genesis 2:9). This planting which produced that very day a mature garden bearing an abundance of fruit was a miracle of creation. Perhaps God, also at the establishment of the garden, formed out of the ground specimens of certain wild beasts and birds specifically for inhabiting the garden; the cattle specimens in the garden apparently were formed earlier at the time of the creation of their species.29 God brought the wild specimens to Adam; Adam did not need such help with the domesticated cattle.
There may be other suggested interpretations which harmonize the details of Genesis one and two. There are not contradictions between the details of the Genesis one and two such that the only possible solution is to assume that one of the accounts is poetry and the other is history.
Allow me to suggest a possible complementary relationship between Genesis one and two. Genesis 1:1-2:3 is a general account of the creation of the universe. Genesis 2:4f. is a detailed account of the creation of man, woman and the garden and the historical developments which immediately followed. This relationship between Genesis 1:1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4-25 is implied by the word translated history or generations (toledoth) in Genesis 2:4a. This word “never tells how things or persons came into being. It tells what happened after such things or persons had appeared on the scene.”30 In Genesis 2:4a, the statement “These are the toledoth of the heavens and the earth” means “not the coming of heaven and earth into existence, but the events that followed the establishment of heaven and earth.”31
Just as the tholedoth of Noah, for example, do not mention his birth, but contain his history and the birth of his sons; so the tholedoth of the heavens and the earth do not describe the origin of the universe, but what happened to the heavens and the earth after their creation.32
Creation and Science
Other alternatives to six day creation have been suggested since the rise of modern geology. There is the gap theory and the intermittent day theory. All of these appear to have arisen as attempts to accommodate the interpretation of Scripture to the dogmas of science.
Those who argue that we should use modern science as a guide in our interpretation of certain Scriptures point to general revelation. It is true that God has revealed Himself in nature as well as in Scripture, but here is where we need to stop and clearly define our terms. We too easily confuse science with general revelation.33 We too easily confuse scientific theories with scientific observations.34 General revelation is the infallible manifestation of God’s goodness, wisdom and power in His works of creation and providence (WCF 1.1). The object of general revelation (that which general revelation reveals) is not the age of the earth but God’s glory (Psalm 19), His invisible attributes, eternal power and deity (Romans 1:20). A right interpretation of general revelation is not possible apart from God’s special revelation in Scripture, which Calvin compared to spectacles (Institutes 1.6.1.). Scientific observation is the fallible examination of God’s fingerwork using the five senses and the reasoning ability which God has given to us. Scientific theory is the hypothetical explanation of or extrapolation from the observed data based on philosophical assumptions.
Scientific theories cannot be formulated in a religious and philosophical vacuum.35 In Colossians 2:8, Paul warned,
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
To the extent that secular science rejects the infallible foundation provided by Scripture, it threatens to cheat Christians out of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge which are hidden in Christ (2:3). The Christian should not expect science that is founded on anti-Christian philosophical premises to be a reliable guide to truth about reality or a reliable aid in interpreting Scripture. Louis Berkhof makes the following comment about the science of geology in his Systematic Theology:
The science of geology is not only young, but it is still in bondage to speculative thought. It cannot be considered as an inductive science, since it is largely the fruit of a priori or deductive reasoning. Spencer called it “Illogical Geology” and ridiculed its methods, and Huxley spoke of its grand hypotheses as “not proven and not provable.”36
I believe the temptation to accommodate Scripture to the dogmas of science is strongest when we are overly optimistic about the abilities of science. According to J.P. Moreland,
… the view popular among many today [is] that science is true and rational and theology is a matter of belief and meaning, not of facts and rationality …37
Mr. Moreland also explains what can happen when people assume that currently held scientific views are the most reliable and true insights into reality that are now available to humanity:
A realist understanding of science can contribute to an approach to the theology / science dialogue by implying that if science says something is true and rational and Christian theology seems to conflict with it, then Christianity needs to be adjusted in some way. The result of this has been the idea that since science always defeats religion in battle — itself a suspect claim — then perhaps religion was never intended to be a factual, rational way of understanding the world of nature, but is merely a private guide for practical life or a guide to truth in “spiritual” matters.38
Too many today are afflicted with scientism, the belief that science is the only infallible rule and the ultimate guide to the true and the rational.39 Many today are unaware of the many scientific opinions which were once considered true and were even used to make accurate scientific predictions, but which are today considered false.40 Many today would be surprised to learn that some scientific theories which are today considered true, were once rejected as false, sometimes for centuries.41 Science, ever changing and redefining itself, is certainly not infallible.
Science can do much to discover the consistent workings of God’s providential upholding of creation and then use this knowledge for the subduing of the earth. Science should not, however, be accepted as our ultimate standard of truth. To the degree that science denies the teachings of Scripture, science will fail both in its predictions of the distant future and in its readings of the distant past. According to the empirical predictions of secular science, the physically dead will never experience a physical resurrection. Secular science’s readings of the distant past can be just as flawed as is this presumptuous denial of universal physical resurrections in the distant future.
In John chapter two, Jesus created wine from water. Let us say that secular scientists immediately examined that wine. This miraculously produced wine would have had every appearance of wine produced by the normal processes both of grape development upon vines and fermentation. If the scientists applied to the wine their empirical knowledge and abilities combined with a rejection of the supernatural, they would be dogmatic that the wine was months if not years old. Yet the reality was that the wine was then only minutes old.
In Genesis one and two, we read that God created the mature bodies of Adam and Eve. There was a point in time when special revelation indicated that these mature bodies were but hours old. At that point in time, scientific observation could have correctly verified that these were the bodies of mature adults. Scientific theory, however, with its ignorance or rejection of these bodies’ miraculous creation, would have incorrectly asserted that their time of origin was decades, not hours, in the past.
Have you ever meditated on the significance of Adam’s navel? If Adam had a navel, then God created him not only with a mature body but with the apparent scar of an historical event which never occurred but which would from then on be a natural and regularly occurring phenomenon. Adam’s son, who was begotten in Adam’s image (Genesis 5:3), would obtain through natural processes over time certain characteristics which Adam received instantaneously through creation.
In the name of honesty, was God required to create an Adam with no hair growth, no signs of bone development, no navel? Or was God free to create a mature Adam who appeared to be the product of the processes of human growth and development which God was then initiating? I believe the answer is obvious.
Could God have created the first trees with rings beneath the bark and fruit upon the branches? Could God have created the first stars with their light already reaching earth? Could God have created the seas with mature coral reefs and with sandy beaches? Could God have created the world with rocks formed in such a way that their structure is consistent with the rocks that began to be formed through slow processes beginning at the moment of creation? Again, I believe the answers are obvious. The creation which God proclaimed good included a mature planet earth with no obvious disjunction marking where the work of creation stopped and the work of providence began.
Creation was a great miracle. A miracle will completely throw off track the extrapolations of secular science into the distant past. Science can correctly observe that the earth exhibits evidence of geological maturity. Does that mean that scientific theory based on naturalistic assumptions can correctly extrapolate the date of the earth’s origin from these observations? Not at all. Secular science does not take the supernatural and miraculous nature of that origin into account, and therefore its extrapolations are erroneous. It assumes the earth has attained its current state totally through natural processes apart from any divine intervention. In contrast, science which submits to Scripture’s infallible revelation will acknowledge that such an extrapolation simply is not possible with any certainty because of the miraculous nature of the creation of a mature earth through divine action in “the space of six days.”
One must also take into account whatever changes miraculously occurred when God judged the whole creation with a curse because of the sin of our first parents. God then miraculously changed the nature of animals. Some insect, a part of the creation God had pronounced good, became the first mosquito at the time of the curse. Some animal became the first scorpion. Such changes are profound. When Adam sinned and the principle of death invaded his body, perhaps the physiological transformation reached even to the cellular level. When the curse descended upon creation in general, perhaps a creation originally created to conform with an ecology of life was thoroughly transformed into a creation in conformity with an ecology of death. Perhaps God miraculously changed even the nature of rocks to conform to the new fallen status of creation.
The present as observed and interpreted by secular science is not an infallible guide to the distant past. We find a fossil embedded in an ancient rock. Was the rock formed at the original creation? Was the rock transformed in any way when God judged the original creation with a curse at the time of the fall? Was the rock formed in a pre-Deluge ecology of which we know little? Is the rock a relic of a cataclysmic event such as the Deluge of Genesis 6? Is the rock a result of God’s more routine work of providence which we now daily observe? Who can say with certainly? This we can say:
“… let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, and may overcome when You are judged” (Romans 3:4).
Some once abandoned the Bible as a guide to ancient history because the Bible mentioned the ancient Hittites, and there was no other evidence of the existence of such an ancient people. Since then, archaeology has confirmed that the Bible is correct on this point. Should we accept as true and reliable only the details of the Bible which have been confirmed by some other authority such as archaeology or science? Or do we accept the whole Bible as our only infallible rule of faith and practice?
Sometimes we have to accept what God has told us in spite of apparent evidence to the contrary. Our knowledge of God’s creation is partial. As that knowledge grows, apparent contradictions will be resolved and the reliability of the Bible will be demonstrated. Our knowledge is also creaturely. For that reason, we will never solve all mysteries (Romans 11:33). Some apparent contradictions can be resolved only by the eternal mind which God alone possesses.
We shouldn’t be surprised when God on occasion tests our faith. God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat the forbidden fruit. God did not, however, make the tree of the knowledge of good and evil an ugly tree with unattractive fruit that looked green and bitter. The fruit was attractive, pleasant and desirable. God also allowed our first parents to be tempted by the most cunning of the creatures. The temptation to abandon God’s Word as their ultimate standard was real. The opportunity to exercise faith was genuine.
Empirical evidence should not be our ultimate standard of truth. The Bible tells us that even if a prophet works genuine miracles before our very eyes, we are still to test his message by God’s Word. “God is testing you to know to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 13:1-3). I would say analogously that even if scientific evidence appears to be genuine, we are to test its message (alleged implications) by God’s Word. The Bible is our only infallible rule of faith and practice.
Calvin correctly observed that we must use the Bible as spectacles in order to correctly read God’s revelation of Himself in creation (Institutes 1.6.1.). We must reject, however, the modern notion that we need the spectacles of secular scientific theories in order to correctly read God’s revelation in Scripture.
What About Hodge and Warfield?
No one seems to be able to provide a clear quotation from an early church father which clearly supports creation through long ages. Such, however, is not the case with the theological giants of Reformed theology from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The record clearly shows that Charles Hodge and Benjamin Warfield accepted if not championed alternate interpretations of Genesis one. Could these intellectual and spiritual giants have been mistaken? Dare we suggest such a possibility? It is possible because we must consider not only the men but also the times in which they lived. A fish never sees the water. Similarly, nothing is so hard for us to see as the subtle cultural givens which surround us and permeate our thinking. Perhaps we can look back to earlier days and from our vantage point recognize cultural distortions which were practically invisible to even the more astute thinkers of that day.
In his book The Counterfeiters, Hugh Kenner gives an example of the invisibility of our common sea: A museum’s “Etruscan” horse had been revealed as a nineteenth-century fake. “The faker had worked into that horse every Etruscan mannerism he knew about, and every nineteenth-century mannerism he didn’t. The style of his own time, it seems, is always invisible. The time passed… [until] the stylistic marks of the time in which it was made had, so to speak, worked their way up to visibility; in a few more centuries, presumably, they will have quite overwhelmed all the detail that once looked Etruscan.”42
The key issue here is the old Princeton understanding of the relationship between Scripture and science. Before examining the philosophical root, let’s look at the historical fruit, which is well described in the book Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders: The Encounter Between Evangelical Theology and Evolutionary Thought by David N. Livingstone:
It is clear that the advocates of the old Princeton theology, scientists as well as theologians, had by the middle of the first decade of the twentieth century achieved a tolerably comfortable accommodation of organic evolution. Via the reinterpretation impetus of idealistic and holistic natural theology, Princetonians were prepared in varying degrees to concede to science a long earth history, the transmutation of species by Darwinian, Lamarchkian, or Medelian means, and an evolutionary past for the human physical form. Again and again the compatibility of science and Scripture were affirmed in the Warfield-controlled Princeton Theological Review.43
Science challenged the church first with a new geology which dictated that the events in Genesis one had to occur over long ages. Then science challenged the church with a new biology which proclaimed that all species of life evolved from a common origin over long ages. There were various responses. Robert Dabney, the foremost southern Presbyterian theologian of the late nineteenth century, refused to reinterpret Scripture to conform to either the new geology or the new biology.44 Charles Hodge of Princeton Seminary, Dabney’s contemporary in the northern Presbyterian Church, reinterpreted Genesis one in terms of the new geology but refused to do so in terms of the new biology.
… [Hodge] was prepared to concede in his 1859 defense of the unity of the human species … that if the idea of a long earth history were to be established, then the early chapters of Genesis should be interpreted accordingly. In the 1870s he suggested that the term “day” could be understood as referring to the great geological epochs and went on to remark on the marvelous coincidence between the account of Genesis and the assumed facts of geology. … Hodge was quite understandably delighted, his son Archibald Alexander Hodge recalled, when his younger colleague W.H. Green finally demolished the long-established practice of dating the origin of humanity from the Old Testament chronological records.
Hodge’s rehearsal of the various scientific equivocations over Darwinism make it plain that he was much less willing to make the same concessions to the new biology that he was to the new geology.45
Those who had accommodated Scripture to the new geology were more characteristically willing to make a similar accommodation to the new biology when it arrived.46 For example, Warfield went a step further than Hodge47 and was at least open to reinterpreting Scripture to conform to the new biology:
If Hodge’s … endorsement of evolution was ultimately tentative, B.B. Warfield was decidedly more partisan. … It goes without saying that Warfield’s endorsement of Darwin was not unqualified, however. He held that any scientific theory that in principle subverted providence or occasional supernatural interference must ultimately prove unacceptable. But within those limits, Warfield, in pointed contrast to both of the Hodges, said he would “raise no question as to the compatibility of the Darwinian form of the hypothesis of evolution with Christianity.”48
In the article on Calvin’s doctrine of the creation, [Warfield] makes a point of noting that while Calvin naturally understood the six days of creation in a literal sense, he himself believed that Moses, “writing to meet the needs of men at large, accommodated himself to their grade of intellectual preparation” and that the Mosaic record was nothing like an exhaustive account of the whole process. To retain the spirit of Calvin’s doctrine, he suggested, “it was requisite that these six days should be lengthened out into six periods — six ages of the growth of the world. Had that been done,” he continued, “Calvin would have been a precursor of the modern evolutionary theorists … for he teaches, as they teach, the modification of the original world-stuff into the varied forms which constitute the ordered world, by the instrumentality of secondary causes, — or as a modern would put it, of its intrinsic forces.”49
In 1903, James Orr delivered the Stone Lectures at Princeton Seminary and argued that both Adam’s body and mind were formed by a special supernatural act of creation.
[Orr] was convinced that any theory of humanity’s gradual evolution from animal forms was “fatal” to the belief that humanity possessed a spiritual nature and immortality. … [Warfield] disagreed … with the Scottish professor’s contention that it was inconsistent to postulate a special divine origin for man’s mind while denying it for his body. Warfield suggested that an evolutionary development of the human body was possible, with the gulf between the physical aspects of man and those of his brutish parents bridged by “providential guidance apart from a divine intervention.” Still, man became man only when God directly and supernaturally created his soul. Warfield admitted that “the very detailed account of the creation of Eve” presented a serious problem in attempting to harmonize the Bible and evolution. Except for that passage, however, Warfield told his students that he did not think there was “any general statement in the Bible or any part of the account of creation, either as given in Genesis 1 and 2 or elsewhere alluded to, that need to be opposed to evolution.”50
As Warfield matured, he became more skeptical of Darwinianism and came closer to the position of Charles Hodge on evolution. In the Princeton Alumni Weekly of April 1916, Warfield states:
No, he [Princeton College President James McCosh] did not make me a Darwinian, as it was his pride to believe he ordinarily made his pupils. But that was doubtless because I was already a Darwinian of the purest water before I came into his hands, and I knew my Origin of Species and Animals and Plants under Domestication, almost from A to Izard. In later years I fell away from this, his orthodoxy. He was a little nettled about it and used to inform me with some vigor — I am speaking of a time thirty years agone! — that all biologists under thirty years of age were Darwinians. I was never quite sure that he understood what I was driving at when I replied that I was the last man in the world to wonder at that, since I was about that old myself before I outgrew it.51
A generation after Warfield, the southern Presbyterian church was still largely orthodox, but liberalism had taken over Princeton Seminary and the northern Presbyterian Church. Perhaps it would be fair to express this that the northern Presbyterian church had begun to interpret Scripture not only to conform to the new geology and the new biology but also to the new psychology and the new sociology. Was this coincidence? Or was there a cause / effect relationship?
We’ve looked at the historical fruit; now we need to look at the philosophical root. Old Princeton had a very high estimation of the value of science in the pursuit of truth:
In 1863 the editor of the New York Observer attacked the Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review for maintaining that scientists must be free in their investigations and that Christians must remain open to the possibility that Scripture might have to be reinterpreted in the light of scientific evidence. Charles Hodge’s reply, which was printed in the March 26 issue of the Observer, repeated his view of the harmony between Scripture and science. “Nature is as truly a revelation of God as the Bible,” Hodge wrote, “and we only interpret the Word of God by the Word of God when we interpret the Bible by science.” According to Hodge, Christians must avoid “a twofold evil” — neither formulating scientific theories that ignore scriptural truth, nor persisting in scriptural interpretations that conflict with well-established scientific findings — although he made it abundantly clear that the theologian had every right to demand that alleged “facts” be verified beyond the possibility of doubt in view of the fluctuations in scientific theory from age to age and place to place.52
This position ignores the traditional Protestant arguments against a natural theology. God has revealed Himself in nature, but God’s special revelation includes a clearer republication combined with the divine interpretation. According to Calvin, Scripture, which he compared to spectacles, is needed for man to rightly see and correctly understand God’s self-revelation in the creation (Institutes 1.6.1.). In addition, the noetic effects of sin blind fallen man to God’s self-revelation in creation. The message of Romans one is not that fallen man can know God rightly from a study of the facts of the universe. On the contrary, its teaching is that God holds fallen man accountable when he takes God’s self-revelation in creation and distorts it into a basis for pagan idolatry.
Hodge’s position caused no easily perceived problems when science was both widely respected and largely sympathetic with a Christian world view. Yet this naive faith in the ability of science to discern God’s truth as revealed in nature planted the seeds of a future disaster. G.C. Berkouwer gives this warning:
We may, and must, emphatically protest against any two-sources-theory, which places Scripture and tradition, or Scripture and nature, or Scripture and history, on one line, as sources of knowledge of equal import. Any such equalization has always resulted in a devaluation of Holy Scripture.53
In this situation, which is historical, we understand something of the disturbed history of theology in the church insofar as it pertains to general revelation and natural theology. For one thing, there was the assumption of general revelation as an independent source of knowledge, equal in value with special revelation. The result was always — there are no exceptions! — a leveling and supplanting of special revelation. The process here was the same as that in the juxtaposition of revelation and tradition, or of revelation and reason.54
A similar phenomenon has occurred in recent years regarding the interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15. According to Harold O.J. Brown,
For about eighteen centuries, 1 Timothy 2:12, as well as 1 Corinthians 14:34 and related texts, was assumed to have a clear and self-evident meaning. Then, rather abruptly, some, hardly a quarter century ago, began to “discover” a different meaning in the apostle’s words.55
Progressive interpretations began being pushed in theological writings in 1969.56 Was it mere coincidence that the rise of new interpretations followed so closely the rise of the modern feminist movement? These progressive interpretations were also based on a two-source view of truth, a hermeneutic which
… applies the text in the modern situation within the cognitive framework of modern thought instead of seeking from the text the means to construct a cognitive framework that might well clash with presumed modern certainties.57
One advocate of this progressive hermeneutic has associated “the present debate about the status and role of women” with the reliability of the Bible on matters of science:
We have learnt that Scripture can endorse social structures no longer acceptable just as we have learnt that the Bible can endorse scientific ideas no longer tenable. The Bible is authoritative in matters of faith and conduct but not necessarily in science, or on how to order social relations.58
The Copernican Revolution
Some would argue that if one rejects this scientific version of natural theology, then one is forced to believe in a static earth and a geocentric universe because that is what the Bible infallibly teaches. No, the Bible does not teach this because the Bible is silent on this scientific issue. Some Bible verses in poetic contexts do state that the earth cannot be moved (1 Chronicles 16:30; Psalm 93:1; 96:10; 104:5; contrast Job 9:6, a poetic verse which refers to the earth and motion). These verses can refer to the general stability of the world as opposed to the absolute motionlessness of the physical earth. Psalm 19’s description of the sun’s daily race from one end of heaven to the other is obviously poetic. Other verses refer to the sun’s rising or setting (Ecclesiastes 1:5) or to the miracle of the sun’s standing still (Joshua 10:12-14). This language, of course, can refer to how an event appears from the human perspective. We today still use terms such as “sunrise” and “sunset.” We have invented the modern term “outer space.” We do not mean to imply by these terms that we today believe in a physically geocentric universe. Neither should we assume such implications from the use of “sunrise” and “sunset” in Scripture. Their use is incidental rather than the substance of some teaching about the nature of creation.
The reason there was controversy over the heliocentric versus the geocentric universe was not because of the Bible but because of the philosophy of Aristotle. “Aristotle conceived of the universe as a set of concentric spheres, with the earth stationary at the center.”59 “The Aristotelian world view was the single most important source and support for the pre-Copernican tradition of astronomical practice.” “During the last centuries of the Middle Ages the setting of Christian life, both terrestrial and celestial, was a fully Aristotelian universe.”60 Thomas Kuhn gives the following description of the Aristotelian astronomy:
For Aristotle the entire universe was contained within the sphere of the stars…. The largest part of the interior is filled with a single element, the aether, which aggregates in a homocentric set of nesting shells to form a gigantic hollow sphere whose surfaces are the outside of the sphere of the stars and the inner surface of the homocentric sphere carrying the lowest planet, the moon. Aether is the celestial element — a crystalline solid in Aristotle’s writings, though its solidity was frequently questioned by his successors. Unlike substances known on earth, it is pure and unalterable, transparent and weightless. From it are made the planets and stars as well as the nest of concentric spherical shells whose rotations account for the celestial motions.61
According to Aristotle, the underside of the sphere of the moon divides the universe into two totally disparate regions, filled with different sorts of matter and subject to different laws. The terrestrial region in which man lives is the region of variety, change, birth and death, generation and corruption. The celestial region is, in contrast, eternal and changeless. Only aether, of all the elements, is pure and incorruptible. Only the interlocked celestial spheres move naturally and eternally in circles, never varying their rate, always occupying exactly the same region of space, forever turning back upon themselves. The substance and motion of the celestial spheres are the only ones compatible with the immutability and majesty of the heavens, and it is the heavens that produce and control all variety and change on earth.62
It is instructive to note exactly how the heliocentric Copernican system defeated the geocentric Ptolemaic system:
Because the Ptolemaic and the Copernican systems are mathematically equivalent, there was no conceivable observational test that could distinguish between them, at least so far as the solar system was concerned. And in any case Copernicus was no great observer.
If it was impossible to refute Ptolemy directly, it was much easier to dispose of Aristotle and his crystalline spheres. The astronomers, who did not care for such things, might shrug their shoulders and accept Copernicanism as merely an alternative philosophical scheme to Ptolemy. The common man still thought in Aristotelian terms and his universe was certainly in for some shocks. When they came it was in a series of most remarkable coincidences.
In 1572 an omen appeared in the European skies that proved to be a new star — an exceedingly rare supernova. What was remarkable was not just its brightness (visible even at midday), but the observation made by the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe that it was in the region of no-parallax, i.e., very far away and far beyond the orbit of the moon. But its location way out in space was in flat contradiction with the teachings of Aristotle and the schoolmen. According to them changes (like new stars) simply did not occur so far from the earth. Nor were matters improved when Tycho discovered a similar remoteness for another celestial novelty, a new comet, five years later. That posed the additional problem of having to make its way through the crystalline spheres to which the planets were attached. Then, when Galileo became the first man to peer at the skies through a telescope (in 1610), he found the planet Jupiter had its own retinue of four attendant moons, the ‘perfect’ sun had spots on its face, Venus had phases like the moon, and much else that shook ancient cosmology to its foundations. Finally we may record that a meticulous examination of Tycho’s matchless observational data by his heir-apparent, Kepler, led the latter to conclude that there was an 8-minute discrepancy between the observed orbit of Jupiter and the best prediction based on circular motion. His proposal that the planet moved in an ellipse not merely paved the way for the Newtonian synthesis. It was the final blow to Aristotelian astronomy.63
The Christian church had not immediately adopted an Aristotelian universe:
In the early centuries of the Christian era the Church Fathers were crusaders and proselytizers for a new faith, fighting for its very existence. Their calling itself demanded that they deprecate the pagan learning of their predecessors … In the writings of Augustine’s less liberal contemporaries and successors, his deprecation of pagan science was usually coupled with an outright rejection of its content. Astronomy, because of its ties to astrology, was particularly scorned …
By the time that Christian Europe reestablished commercial and cultural ties with the Eastern Church in Byzantium and with the Moslems of Spain, Syria, and Africa, the Church’s attitude toward pagan wisdom had changed. The main areas of continental Europe had been converted; the Church’s intellectual and spiritual authority was complete; the hierarchy of ecclesiastical administration was fixed. Pagan and secular learning were no longer a threat, provided that the Church could maintain intellectual leadership by absorbing them. …
We have been calling the process by which Christians discovered that they lived in an Aristotelian universe a recovery of ancient learning, but ‘recovery’ is clearly an inadequate word. What occurred was far more nearly a revolution in both Christian thought and the ancient scientific tradition. From the fourth century on, Aristotle, Ptolemy, and other Greek writers had been attacked by Churchmen because of the conflict between their cosmological opinions and Scripture. Those conflicts still existed in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and they were recognized. In 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council issued a similar, though more restricted, anti-Aristotelian edict. Other interdictions issued from the papacy throughout the century. There were unsuccessful, winning lip service alone, but they are not insignificant. The edicts testify to the impossibility of simply adding ancient secular learning to the existing body of medieval theology. Both ancient texts and Scripture required modification in the creation of a new fabric of coherent Christian doctrine. When the new fabric was completed, theology had become an important bulwark for the ancient concept of a central stationary earth.
The physical and cosmological structure of the new Christian universe was predominately Aristotelian. St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) [was] the scholastic who contributed most to the final pattern of the fabric …64
Thomas Kuhn comments on Aquinas’ efforts to bend Scripture to fit the Aristotelian mold:
For example, in discussing the scriptural text, ‘Let there be a firmament made amidst the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters’ (Genesis 1:6), Aquinas first outlined a cosmological theory that would preserve the literal sense of the passage and then said:
As, however, this theory can be shown to be false by solid reasons, it cannot be held to be the sense of Holy Scripture. It should rather be considered that Moses was speaking to ignorant people, and that out of condescension to their weakness he put before them only such things as are apparent to sense. Now even the most educated can perceive by their senses that earth and water are corporeal, whereas it is not evident to all that air also is corporeal. … Moses, then, while he expressly mentions water and earth, makes no express mention of air by name, to avoid setting before ignorant persons something beyond their knowledge.65
By reading ‘water’ as ‘air’ or ‘transparent substance’ the integrity of Scripture is preserved. But in the process the Bible becomes, in some sense, a propaganda instrument, composed for an ignorant audience. The device is typical; the scholastics employed it again and again.
The painstaking thoroughness with which Aquinas and his contemporaries attacked the task of reconciliation is illustrated by the difficulties they discovered in the Biblical account of the Ascension. According to Scripture Christ “ascended up far beyond all heavens, that he might fill all things” (Ephesians 4:10). Aquinas succeeded in fitting this bit of Christian history into a universe of spheres, but to do so he had to resolve many varied problems …66
Scripture was distorted when interpreted in the light of Aristotle67, just as Scripture is distorted when interpreted in the light of science. Scripture should be accepted as the shining light compared to which all other lights are flickering candles. Rather than teaching us the need to interpret Scripture in light of infallible science, the Copernican revolution teaches us the danger of any two-source theory of truth which compromises the status of Scripture as the only infallible rule of faith and practice.
1 WCF IV.1, LC 15, SC 9. I wish to thank latinist Wes Baker for informing me that the Westminster Assembly Latin translation of the confession and catechisms uses inter sex dierum spatium, which is literally “within the space of six days.”
2 John Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses called Genesis translated from the original Latin and compared with the French edition by the Rev. John King, M.A. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1979 reprint), page 78.
The Latin is taken from Ioannis Calvin, Opera Exegetica et Homeletica, Vol. I (Brunsvigae apud C.A. Schwetschke et filium. (M. Bruhn), 1882), page 18. The French is taken from Commentaire de Jean Calvin sur L’Ancien Testament (Aix-en-Provence: Editions Kerygma, 1978), page 28.
3 David W. Hall, The Arrogance of the Modern: Historical Theology Held in Comtemp (Oak Ridge, TN: The Calvin Institute, 1997), page 170. The quotation is citing Ernan McMullin, Evolution and Creation (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985), pp. 11-12. Also, consider the following:
“If, however, we take these days to denote merely sequence in the natural order, as Augustine holds (Gen. ad lit. iv, 22,24), and not succession in time, …” (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Book 1, Question 68).
4 C. John Collins, “How Old Is the Earth? Anthropomorphic Days in Genesis 1.1-2.3”, Presbyterion (Fall, 1994), vol. xx, no. 2, page 125.
5 John Macpherson, The Westminster Confession of Faith with Introduction and Notes (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1881), page 53.
6 C. John Collins, Ibid., page 114, footnote 21. Dr. Collins introduces his translation with the words “which may be rendered.” For further critique of the Collins translation, see David W. Hall, Ibid., pages 174-175, footnote 70.
7 The idea for the “spaces between teeth” analogy was taken from a statement by Dr. Steve Westcott.
8 William Ames, The Marrow of Theology (Boston: Pilgrim Press, 1968), page 102.
9 E-mail dated February 14, 1998 from Wes Baker. According to Mr. Baker, the Eusden translation uses the definitive 1629 third Latin edition, the last edition before Ames’ death in 1633. Mr. Baker stresses that the Eusden translation based on the 1629 Latin edition is also a good translation of the text Dr. Collins quotes from the 1634 Latin edition, and that he knows no reason why the 1634 edition “is a more accurate text, or represents changes on Ames’ part from the previous edition.”
10 E-mails dated February 13 and 14, 1998 from Wes Baker.
11 I wish to thank former Latin teacher Robert Baily and latinist Wes Baker for advising me on Latin grammar. Mr. Baker said the following regarding sex dierum in an e-mail dated February 13, 1998: “I think it’s fairly certain that this genitive construction would not indicate duration of time. The ‘accusative of duration’ [Wheelock 257], or the ‘ablative or time within which’ [Wheelock 99] would be used instead.” He also says, “I can’t see any support for saying that there were intervals of time between each of the days. Ames has nothing in the context to suggest that, and I don’t think this passage can be translated to support that position.”
12 Ashbel Green, Lectures on the Shorter Catechism… (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publications, 1841), page 195, footnote. Quoted in Byron Snapp, editor, The Presbyterian Witness, Volume XI, Number 1, Winter 1997, page 24.
13 “The prevailing view has always been that the days of Genesis 1 are to be understood as literal days. Some of the early Church Fathers did not regard them as real indicators of the time in which the work of creation was completed, but rather as literary forms in which the writer of Genesis cast the narrative of creation, in order to picture the work of creation — which was really completed in a moment of time — in an orderly fashion for human intelligence. It was only after the comparatively new sciences of geology and palaeontology came forward with their theories of the enormous age of the earth, that theologians began to show an inclination to identify the days of creation with the long geological ages.”
Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939,1941), pages 153-154.
14 Robert Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1878), page 255.
15 H.C. Leupold, A Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1942), pages 130-131.
16 U. Cassuto, A Commenatary on the Book of Genesis: Part I, From Adam to Noah (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1961), page 64.
17 Joseph A. Pipa, Jr., From Chaos to Cosmos: A Critique of the Framework Hypothesis (unpublished paper, January 13, 1998 draft).
18 U. Cassuto, Ibid., page 99; Collins, Ibid., page 110; cf. G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, editors, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Volume VI (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), pages 15 (II.3.c.), 25 (III.2.).
19 G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, editors, Ibid., page 25; cf. pages 21-22.
20 Louis Berkhof, Ibid., pages 154-155.
21 Jim Jordan, Biblical Chronology, Volume 9, Number 8, August 1997.
22 E.J. Young, IN THE BEGINNING: Genesis Chapters 1 to 3 and the Authority of Scripture (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1976), pages 18-19.
23 U. Cassuto, Ibid., page 12.
24 U. Cassuto, Ibid., page 94.
25 U. Cassuto, Ibid., page 32.
26 U. Cassuto, Ibid., pages 102-103.
“According to Genesis 2:6 and 3:17-18, … cultivated grains and the bread from them did not originate until after the fall of man.” Dr. Bruce K. Waltke, Creation and Chaos: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Biblical Cosmogony (Portland, Oregon: Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, 1974), page 67.
27 “The meaning of the Hebrew word ‘ed is uncertain. It probably denotes subterranean waters which rise to the surface and thence as gushing springs or flooding rivers inundate the land. The watering of the Garden of Eden by a river in the immediate sequel (v.10) may be intended as a specific localized instance of the ‘ed phenomena.”
Meredith G. Kline, “Because It Had Not Rained,” The Westminster Theological Journal 20 (1958): footnote 9.
28 H.C. Leupold, Ibid., page 130; cf. Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Conner, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1990), page 552 (33.2.3).
29 “… the usual explanation given in modern commentaries, to wit, that we have here two contradictory accounts — according to the one the creatures were created before man, and according to the other they were formed after man — is not so simple as it appears at first glance. Not only must the redactor have noticed so glaring a contradiction, but there is also another problem, namely, that here in v. 19 only the beasts of the field and the flying creatures of the air are referred to, and no mention whatsoever is made of the cattle. If the term beasts only had been used here, or beasts of the earth, one might have assumed that it included the cattle as well; but the expression beasts of the field is actually an antonym of cattle. And another point: it is just the cattle … that would in particular have had a claim to consideration. Had the meaning, therefore, been that the Lord God created them then, they should have been referred to in unmistakable terms. Now in v. 20, the first category of creatures to be named by man is precisely the cattle. From this it may be inferred that the cattle were already to be found with man in the garden of Eden, and there was no need to create them and bring them before him. This was not the case, however, with the beasts of the field and the flying creatures of the air; undoubtedly, they were not staying with man. Also, in Lev. xvii 13, the kinds known as beasts and flying creatures are mentioned, in contradistinction to cattle, as two classes of creatures that man can catch only by hunting. Hence it seems that in the passage … we must understand the creation of the beasts and the flying creatures in a similar sense to that of the growing of the trees in v. 9, to wit, that of all the species of beasts and flying creatures that had already been created and had spread over the face of the earth and the firmament of the heavens, the Lord God now formed particular specimens for the purpose of presenting them all before man in the midst of the Garden. If we approach the text without preconceived ideas concerning the existence of two cosmogonic accounts, this exposition will appear simple and clear; and this means to me the Torah intended the words to be understood.”
U. Cassuto, Ibid., pages 128-129.
30 H.C. Leupold, Ibid., page 110.
31 R. Laird Harris, Editor; Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Associate Editor; Bruce K. Waltke, Associate Editor, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Volume 1 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), page 868.
32 C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes: Volume I: The Pentateuch, Three Volumes in One (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973), page 71.
33 “This view of general revelation as being ‘nature revelation’ often played an important role in the discussions about the relationship between theology and science. On this view the Holy Scriptures were regarded as the book of the special revelation of God and nature … as the book of general revelation. It was thought that both theology and natural science were concerned with the revelation of God, theology dealing with special revelation and natural science with general revelation. … From this it follows that in the main we owe our knowledge of the revelation of God in nature to the natural sciences. And the distinction between general and special revelation is then interpreted as follows: On the one hand, special revelation governs our life and world view (wereldbeschouwing), but it does not present us with a complete picture of reality; on the other hand general revelation affords us a cosmic picture (wereldbeeld), but leaves us without a life and world view. Our picture of the world is, we are told, our knowledge of general revelation, given by God in nature. Thus we have two revelations (existing side by side) and both of these possess absolute authority, since they are two independent sources of God’s revelation. This point of view creates the impression that our knowledge of nature is as it were automatically also a knowledge of God’s revelation. Thus Schouten writes that the study of God’s general revelation in nature has led to important discoveries concerning the age of the earth and that ‘in his general revelation’ God acquaints us with the form and measurement which he gave to the universe. However, this view ignores the fact that it will not do simply to equate the knowledge of nature with the knowledge of God’s general revelation, for this revelation deals with the knowledge of God himself. In our opinion, therefore, it is wrong to say, as is sometimes done, that the natural sciences ‘investigate’ God’s general revelation; and surely it is just as wrong to state that we owe our knowledge of God’s revelation in nature to the natural sciences. This, it seems to us, is a toning down of the idea and the reality of revelation, although that certainly is not intended. And we, of course, acknowledge wholeheartedly that it is our calling to investigate respectfully God’s handiwork. But the revelation of God in his works is a matter of God’s self-revelation, and that is not apprehended first of all by scientific investigation, but through faith as is evident already in the Psalms of Israel. These psalms of praise are not based on scientific investigation; rather the God of salvation is praised in these hymns in all his greatness and glory. In general revelation we are not dealing with an independent source of knowledge; on the contrary, by faith we understand the act of divine revelation in created reality. The so-called nature psalms are not concerned with the concept ‘nature’ of the natural sciences; but they reveal the insight of faith into the works of God’s hands. Consequently, the nature-psalms never deal with abstract aspects of cosmic reality, but rather with naive (in the good sense of the word) reality. That also accounts for the fact that in this outlook nature is never divorced from living history, in dynamic movement, as is especially evident in Psalm 33, but even in Psalm 104, that nature-psalm par excellence.”
G.C. Berkouwer, Studies in Dogmatics: General Revelation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), pages 287-289 (italics in original).
34 “In science we must always be very careful to distinguish between observations and theories that are devised to explain or extend these observations. The actual empirical geological data (e.g. fossils, geological formations, isotope ratios, etc.) yield direct information only about the present state of affairs. To infer from these what has occurred in the past we must rely upon various theoretical assumptions regarding the relative completeness of our present knowledge or natural processes, the constancy and applicability of these in the past; the absence of miracles; etc.”
John Byl, “Scripture and Geologists” in Spring 1989 edition of Westminster Theological Journal, page 145.
“Since Genesis deals with the distant past, it can conflict not with our present geological data but only with certain theoretical extrapolations of that data.”
John Byl, Ibid., page 145.
“Given the subjective nature of scientific theorizing, it is possible to construct an infinite number of theories to accommodate a given set of empirical data. How, then, can we ever hope to find the correct theory? Since we can’t go back into the past we can neither prove nor disprove any particular theory. We may wish to prefer those theories that explain the data in, say, the simplest manner. But how do we know that simpler theories are more likely to be true? Ultimately the choice between competing theories must be made on the basis of prior conceptions as to what the world should be like. Thus it is heavily dependent upon our philosophical and religious commitments.”
John Byl, Ibid., page 145.
“Philosophy operates underneath science in a foundational way. Philosophy is foundational to science in at least three ways.
“First, attempts to put limits on science are philosophical in nature. …
“Second, philosophy undergirds science by providing its presuppositions. Science (at least as most scientists and philosophers understand it) assumes that the universe is intelligible and not capricious, that the mind and senses inform us about reality, that mathematics and language can be applied to the world, that knowledge is possible, that there is a uniformity in nature that justifies inductive inferences from the past to the future and from examined cases of, say, electrons, to unexamined cases, and so forth. …
“Third, philosophy undergirds science by focusing on what constitutes good theories, good cases of scientific explanation, confirmation, and so on. What makes a theory worthy of belief? How do theoretical values — simplicity, empirical accuracy, scope of application, clarity of concepts, and predictive success — figure into the evaluation of theories? What is a good explanation and how should science explain things? Should a scientist construct models … or should she [sic] merely subsume facts under general laws …? Should a scientist use only efficient causes … or should she [sic] also use functional or teleological explanations … that refer to future states … ? How many positive instances of a law are needed to confirm it, or do positive instances offer no positive confirmation but merely show that the law has not been falsified yet? Do they really describe unseen entities, structures, and processes, or do they merely summarize and codify sensory experience and provide pragmatic guides in our attempt to control nature?”
J.P. Moreland, Christianity and the Nature of Science (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989), pages 44-45.
36 Louis Berkhof, Ibid., page 159.
37 J.P. Moreland, Ibid., page 142, footnote 2.
38 J.P. Moreland, Ibid., page 141.
39 J.P. Moreland, Ibid., pages 103-104.
40 “Larry Laudan has offered a list of past successful theories that later turned out to be false (on a realist interpretation of current theories): Ptolemaic astronomy, chemical affinity theory, subtle fluids chemistry and physics, various aether theories (electrical, caloric, optical, gravitations, and so on), Newtonian mechanics, classical thermodynamics, wave optics, humoral theory of medicine, catastrophist geology committed to a universal deluge, phlogiston theory of chemistry, caloric theories of heat, vibratory theory of heat, vital force theories of physiology, the theory of circular inertia, theories of spontaneous generation, all geological theories prior to the 1960s (which denied lateral motion to the continents) and chemical theories of the 1920s that assumed a structurally homogeneous nucleus. Laudan’s list could be extended considerably. According to him, these theories are now regarded as false, but they were very successful, often for a long time. They explained facts, made accurate predictions, and so on.”
J.P. Moreland, Ibid., page 155.
“Just as successful theories sometimes turned out to be false, theories now believed to be approximately true or to refer to real entities and processes in the world were often highly unsuccessful for a long time in solving problems and embodying epistemic virtues. Often they were less successful than rival theories that have now been abandoned. So the truth of a theory is no guarantee that it will be successful for some time, and it could easily turn out that the features of a theory that are true do not lend themselves to good scientific testing, and the false features may, in fact, pass several tests …
“Laudan lists the following examples of theories of this type: chemical atomic theory of the eighteenth century, Proutian atomic theory, Wegenerian continental drift theory, wave theories of light before 1820, kinetic theories of heat in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and developmental theories of embryology before the late nineteenth century.”
J.P. Moreland, Ibid., pages 156-157.
42 “Spooking the zeitgeist: nothing frightens us more than questioning premises” by Frederica Mathewes-Green, in World, March 18, 1995, page 30.
43 David N. Livingstone, Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders: The Encounter Between Evangelical Theology and Evolutionary Thought (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; and Edinburgh, Scotland: Scottish Academic Press, 1987), pages 121-122.
44 See Dabney, “Geology and the Bible.” Southern Presbyterian Review, July 1861; reprinted in vol. 3 of Discussions (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, n.d.), p. 145.
45 David N. Livingstone, Ibid. page 103.
“In the early days of the Darwinian controversy some evangelicals did oppose evolution on the grounds of its incompatibility with a literal rendering of Genesis. Thus the Rev. T.R. Birks (a co-founder of the Evangelical Alliance) assailed evolutionists precisely for this failure to take into account biblical evidence. In America the Princeton theologian Charles Hodge inclined to the same opinion, holding that the biblical view of man as created in the image of God was irreconcilable with the Darwinian concept of a developed ape. However, he recognized that ‘science has in many things taught the Church how to understand Scripture’, and accepted (for example) that each ‘day of Genesis may represent a far longer period than 24 hours’. This was a much more characteristic attitude for nineteenth-century evangelicals than a point-by-point refutation of Darwinism simply by treating Genesis as though it were a scientific textbook. Concerted opposition to evolution on those grounds had to wait until the ‘fundamentalist’ movement after the First World War. The acceptance of Darwinism by many of the Princeton School of Theology has been recently stressed.
“For the comparative silence from evangelicals there must surely be an explanation. Indeed there is, and it is a simple one. So far as a literal interpretation of Genesis was concerned Darwin raised no new issues in principle. The evolution controversy promised to be a re-run of the arguments over the age of the earth and the demise of ‘flood geology’.” [italics mine]
Colin A. Russell, Cross-currents: Interactions between Science and Faith (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985), pages 38-39.
47 The transition figure between the views of Charles Hodge and those of Warfield was Dr. James McCosh, president of Princeton College from 1868 to 1888.
“James McCosh accepted evolutionary ideas — attempting, though, to surround them with Christian presuppositions. He ‘did not disagree with Hodge so much in principle as in emphasis. Whereas Hodge judged Darwin’s scientific theory by the philosophy that undergirded it, McCosh argued that Darwin’s plausible theories about natural mechanisms of development could be separated from his bad philosophy.’ It was a mistake, McCosh maintained, to regard the theory of evolution as atheistic or hostile to the Bible. He said, ‘I have regretted for years that certain defenders of religion have been injuring the cause … by indiscriminately attacking development, instead of seeking to ascertain what the process is and turning it to a religious use. They have acted as injudiciously as those who in Newton’s day described the law of gravitation as atheistic.’ To McCosh, evolution was simply ‘the method by which God works.’ If Charles Hodge held that Darwin had ‘subverted’ the idea of design, McCosh ‘felt that he had expounded it.'”
David B. Calhoun, Princeton Seminary, Volume 2: The Majestic Testimony 1869-1929 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1996), page 19.
48 David N. Livingstone, Ibid. page 115.
49 David N. Livingstone, Ibid. page 120.
50 David B. Calhoun, Ibid., page 258.
51 Benjamin B. Warfield, “Personal Reflections of Princeton Undergraduate Life,” The Princeton Alumni Weekly, 6 April 1916, 652. Quoted in “Hodge and Warfield on Evolution” by W. Brian Aucker, Presbyterion (Fall, 1994), vol. xx, no. 2, page 137.
52 David B. Calhoun, Ibid., page 13.
53 G.C. Berkouwer, Ibid., page 280.
54 G.C. Berkouwer, Ibid., page 314.
55 Harold O.J. Brown, “The New Testament Against Itself: 1 Timothy 2:9-15 and the ‘Breakthrough’ of Galatians 3:28” in Andreas J. Kostenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner, and H. Scott Baldwin, editors, Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995), page 197.
56 Robert W. Yarbrough, “The Hermeneutics of 1 Timothy 2:9-15” in Andreas J. Kostenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner, and H. Scott Baldwin, editors, Ibid., page 169.
57 Robert W. Yarbrough, Ibid., page 172.
58 K. Giles, “The Biblical Case for Slavery: Can the Bible Mislead? A Case Study in Hermeneutics,” Evangelical Quarterly 66, no. 1 (1994):4, in Robert W. Yarbrough, Ibid., page 185.
59 W.T. Jones, The Classical Mind: A History of Western Philosophy, Second Edition (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1970), page 232.
60 Thomas S. Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1957), pages 94, 108.
61 Thomas S. Kuhn, Ibid., page 78.
62 Thomas S. Kuhn, Ibid., page 90.
63 Colin A. Russell, Cross-currents: Interactions between Science and Faith (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985), pages 38-39. Cf. chapter 6: “The Assimilation of Copernican Astronomy” in Thomas S. Kuhn, Ibid., pages 185 – 228. The mathematical inaccuracy of Copernicus’ theory was due to his belief that the planets traveled in circular orbits at uniform speeds.
64 Thomas S. Kuhn, Ibid., pages 106 – 108.
65 In this section of Question 68 in Book 1 of Summa Theologica, Aquinas is addressing the question, Whether the firmament divides waters from waters? He begins with the following observation:
“It would seem that the firmament does not divide waters from waters. For bodies that are of one and the same species have naturally one and the same place. But the Philosopher says (Topic. i, 6): ‘All water is the same species.’ Water therefore cannot be distinct from water by place.”
The “Philosopher”, of course, is Aristotle. According to Aristotle, the four elements of the sublunary region each have their natural place.
“According to the Aristotelian laws of motion …, the elements would, in the absence of any external pushes and pulls upon them, settle into a series of four concentric shells like the aetherial spheres of the fifth element surrounding them. Earth, the heaviest element, would move naturally into a sphere at the geometric center of the universe. Water, also heavy but not so heavy as earth, would settle in the spherical shell about the central region of earth. Fire, the lightest element, would rise spontaneously to form a shell of its own immediately below the moon’s sphere. And air, also a light element, would complete the structure by filling the remaining shell between fire and water.”
Thomas S. Kuhn, Ibid., page 81.
66 Thomas S. Kuhn, Ibid., pages 109 – 110. For a study on Calvin and Copernicus, see “Calvin and the Astronomical Revolution” by Matthew F. Dowd at http://www.goshen.net/LibraryOfGod/calvin.html.
67 Thomas Aquinas in Question 68 of Book 1 of his Summa Theologica deals with the question, “Whether the firmament divides waters from waters?” In his discussion, he says the following, which reveals his two-source view of truth:
“Further, all that was made in the six days was formed out of matter created before days began. But the firmament cannot have been formed out of pre-existing matter, for if so it would be liable to generation and corruption. Therefore the firmament was not made on the second day.
“On the contrary, It is written (Gn. 1:6): ‘God said: let there be a firmament,’ and further on (verse 8); ‘And the evening and morning were the second day.’
“I answer that, In discussing questions of this kind two rules are to observed, as Augustine teaches (Gen. ad lit. i, 18). The first is, to hold the truth of Scripture without wavering. The second is that since Holy Scripture can be explained in a multiplicity of senses, one should adhere to a particular explanation, only in such measure as to be ready to abandon it, if it be proved with certainty to be false; lest Holy Scripture be exposed to the ridicule of unbelievers, and obstacles be placed to their believing.
“Still less compatible with the belief that the substance of the firmament was produced on the second day is the opinion of Aristotle, seeing that the mention of days denotes succession of time, whereas the firmament, being naturally incorruptible, is of a matter not susceptible of change of form; wherefore it could not be made out of matter existing antecedently in time.”