PCA Creation Committee report

PCA Creation Committee report

Table of Contents
I. Introductory Statement
II. Background to the Current Discussion of the Creation Days
III. Brief Definitions
IV. Description of the Main Interpretations of Genesis 1-3 and the Creation Days
A The Calendar Day Interpretation
B. The Day-Age Interpretation
C. The Framework Interpretation
D. The Analogical Days Interpretation
E. Other Interpretations of the Creation Days
V. Original Intent of the Westminster Assembly
VI. Advice and Counsel of the Committee
A. Proposal for Reporting to the 28th General Assembly
B. Recommendations
VII Appendices
A. Definitions (fuller version)
B. The New Testament’s View of the Historicity of Genesis 1-3
C. General Revelation


I. Introductory Statement
We thank our God for the blessings of the last two years. We have
profited personally and together by the study of God’s Word, discussion
and hard work together.

We have found a profound unity among ourselves on the issues of
vital importance to our Reformed testimony. We believe that the
Scriptures, and hence Genesis 1-3, are the inerrant word of God. We
affirm that Genesis 1-3 is a coherent account from the hand of Moses. We
believe that history, not myth, is the proper category for describing
these chapters; and furthermore that their history is true. In these
chapters we find the record of God’s creation of the heavens and the
earth ex nihilo; of the special creation of Adam and Eve as actual human
beings, the parents of all humanity (hence they are not the products of
evolution from lower forms of life). We further find the account of an
historical fall, that brought all humanity into an estate of sin and
misery, and of God’s sure promise of a Redeemer. Because the Bible is
the word of the Creator and Governor of all there is, it is right for us
to find it speaking authoritatively to matters studied by historical and
scientific research. We also believe that acceptance of, say,
non-geocentric astronomy is consistent with full submission to Biblical
authority. We recognize that a naturalistic worldview and true Christian
faith are impossible to reconcile, and gladly take our stand with
Biblical supernaturalism.

The Committee has been unable to come to unanimity over the nature
and duration of the creation days. Nevertheless, our goal has been to
enhance the unity, integrity, faithfulness and proclamation of the
Church. Therefore we are presenting a unanimous report with the
understanding that the members hold to different exegetical viewpoints.
As to the rest we are at one. It is our hope and prayer that the Church
at large can join us in a principled, Biblical recognition of both the
unity and diversity we have regarding this doctrine, and that all are
seeking properly to understand biblical revelation. It is our earnest
desire not to see our beloved church divide over this issue.

II. Background to the Current Discussion of the Creation Days

The debate over the nature of the creation days is, theologically
speaking, a humble one. It cannot rank with the significant theological
debates of our time (within Protestant and evangelical circles) such as
whether there can be such a thing as legitimate, biblical Systematic
Theology, whether human language is capable of conveying absolute truth,
whether truth is propositional, what ought to be the church’s doctrine
of scripture, can the church’s traditional doctrine of divine
impassibility be biblically sustained, is it time to jettison the
historic Christian formulation of the doctrine of God, does the church
need to modify its commitment to the Reformation doctrine of
justification by faith, and more.

Nevertheless, behind this matter of the Genesis days, and connected
with it, are issues of some significance to the Bible-believing
Christian community. Most obviously, the discussion of the nature of the
creation days is a part of what has been one of the most important
sustained theological issues in the Western world over the last century
or so: the resolution of the conflicting truth claims of historic
Christianity and modern secularism which uses a naturalistic view of
evolution as its prop. The doctrine of creation undergirds all truth.
Creation and providence are a constant revelation of God, rendering all
men inexcusable before him. The issues among us are more specific than
the doctrine of creation as such. Among the vast number of biblical
texts about creation, we are primarily discussing the exegesis of
Genesis 1. For these reasons a sane and restrained discussion of the
creation days is warranted, and may prove to be helpful to the whole
Christian community as we seek to take every thought captive and make
ourselves ready to give an apologia for the hope that is in us.

In this light, it seems wise to offer an historical assessment of
the church’s views on the creation days, in order to provide a helpful
framework for the current debate. We do not appeal to this history as
finally authoritative; the Bible alone must have the final word. But a
recounting of history may provide for us some helpful boundaries in this
debate and give us a sense of what the best theological minds of the
ages have done with this issue.

In the fourteen centuries prior to the Westminster Assembly numerous
commentaries on the days of creation in Genesis 1-2 were produced. Frank
Egleston Robbins in his The Hexaemeral Literature: A Study of the Greek
and Latin Commentaries on Genesis (Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1912)
lists more than 130 authors of works on the six days of creation from
Origen in the 3rd century to John Milton in the 17th century. Robert
Letham in his more recent article ‘In the Space of Six Days’: The Days
of Creation from Origen to the Westminster Assembly,
Theological Journal 61:2 (Fall 1999), adds several more to the list,
including many whose writings the Westminster Divines would have known.

Out of all of this literature it is possible to distinguish two
general schools of thought on the nature of the six days. One class of
interpreters tends to interpret the days figuratively or allegorically
(e.g., Origen and Augustine), while another class interprets the days as
normal calendar days (e.g., Basil, Ambrose, Bede and Calvin). From the
early church, however, the views of Origen, Basil, Augustine and Bede
seem to have had the greatest influence on later thinking. While they
vary in their interpretation of the days, all recognize the difficulty
presented by the creation of the sun on the fourth day.

Origen (c. 185-254), in answering Celsus’ complaint that Genesis has
some days before the creation of the sun, moon, and stars, and some days
after, replies that Genesis 2:4 refers to the day in which God made the
heaven and the earth
and that God can have days without the sun
providing the light (Contra Celsum, VI: 50-51). Referring to his earlier
Commentary on Genesis (now lost), Origen says, In what we said earlier
we criticized those who follow the superficial interpretation and say
that the creation of the world happened during a period of time six days
(Contra Celsum, VI: 60). In his De Principiis IV, 3, 1 he says,
What person of any intelligence would think that there existed a first,
second, and third day, and evening and morning, without sun, moon, and

Basil (330-379) opposes the allegorical tendencies of Origen and
takes a more straightforward approach to the days of creation. He
regards them as 24-hour days, but he acknowledges the problem of the sun
being created only on the fourth day. His solution: Before the
luminaries were created as its vehicles the light caused day and night
by being drawn back and sent forth.
This explanation drew some
criticism, with the result that Basil’s brother, Gregory of Nyssa, later
wrote a treatise defending his brother against those critics who
alleged obscurity in the explanation of the making of the light and the
later creation of the luminaries.

Although Ambrose (c. 339-397) largely followed Basil’s treatment of
the six days as 24-hour days, Augustine (354-430) found Basil’s
explanation of the light and darkness on the first three days before the
creation of the sun too difficult to accept. It is partly for this
reason that Augustine says in The City of God XI, 6, What kind of days
these were it is extremely difficult, or perhaps impossible for us to
Puzzled as to when God created time, with the sun (by which
our normal days are measured) created only on the fourth day, Augustine
opted for instantaneous creation, with the days of Genesis 1 being
treated as six repetitions of a single day or days of angelic knowledge
or some other symbolic representation. Augustine’s view, with its
emphasis on instantaneous creation, would have an influence through the
Middle Ages and still be held by some, such as Sir Thomas Browne, at the
time of the Westminster Assembly.

With the Venerable Bede (c. 673-735) there begins a
trend in which commentators preferred to understand the six days to be
real days, explaining Gen 2:4 by asserting that in the latter passage
dies means space of time, not day, and that all things were created
at once in the sense that the first heaven and earth contained the
substance of all things, i.e., matter, which with Augustine they would
not admit was made wholly without form, and which was formed in six days
into this world.

Bede does hold to 24-hour days, but realizes that an explanation is
needed for the alternation of light and darkness in the first three days
before the creation of the sun. He says that the light was divided so
as to shine in the upper and not the lower parts of the earth, and that
it passed under the earth, making a day of twenty-four hours with
morning and evening, precisely as the sun does.
In the western or
Latin church some commentators, such as John Scotus Erigena, followed
Augustine’s views, but most followed Bede’s approach, sometimes
combining various elements from both views as in the case of Robert
Grossteste (c. 1168-1253), who also emphasized the literary structure of
Genesis 1 with three days of ordering and three days of parallel

On the question of the nature of the light before the creation of
the sun, the Greek church, following Basil, tended to have a different
explanation from the Latin church:

One school, which Bonaventure [13th century] . . .had
suggested was that of the Greeks rather than the Latins, maintained that
light originally came into the world in an ebb-and-flow-like manner. Day
was made when light flowed into the world, night, when the light was
drawn back . . .The more common opinion of the Latins was that the first
light, when it came into being, had diurnal or twenty-four-hour
rotation; it moved around the universe in twenty-four hours, just as the
sun will when it comes into being three days hence. . .

Although the first three days might be 24-hour days, in either view
they were not solar days. The eastern or Greek church also entertained a
variety of views on the days of creation, Theodore of Mopsuestia,
Diodore of Tarsus, and Theodoret teaching more fanciful versions than
that of Basil.

In the 16th century the Protestant Reformers mainly wanted to
distance themselves from fanciful allegorizations of the days of
creation-which is how they regarded Augustine’s solution to the problem
of the nature of the days. Martin Luther acknowledged some of the
difficulties in Genesis 1, alluding to Jerome’s comment that the Rabbis
prohibited anyone under thirty from expounding this chapter, but he
clearly held to six 24-hour days. The issue of the sun being created on
the fourth day lingered in the interpretation of the Reformers and
Puritans. John Calvin in his Commentary on Genesis 1:14 says of the
fourth day:

God had before created the light, but he now institutes
a new order in nature, that the sun should be dispenser of diurnal
light, and the moon and stars should shine by night. And he assigns them
this office, to teach us that all creatures are subject to his will, and
execute what he enjoins upon them.

Commenting on the creation of light on the first day in Genesis 1:3,
Calvin pursues the same theme of God’s sovereignty:

It did not, however, happen from inconsideration or by
accident, that the light preceded the sun and the moon. To nothing are
we more prone than to tie down the power of God to those instruments,
the agency of which he employs. The sun and moon supply us with light:
and, according to our notions, we so include this power to give light in
them, that if they were taken away from the world, it would seem
impossible for any light to remain. Therefore the Lord, by the very
order of the creation, bears witness that he holds in his hand the
light, which he is able to impart to us without the sun and the moon.

Then he goes on to say:

Further, it is certain, from the context, that the light
was so created as to be interchanged with darkness. But it may be asked,
whether light and darkness succeeded each other in turn through the
whole circuit of the world; or whether the darkness occupied one half of
the circle, while light shone in the other. There is, however, no doubt
that the order of their succession was alternate, but whether it was
everywhere day at the same time, and everywhere night also, I would
rather leave undecided; nor is it very necessary to be known.

Calvin does not directly address the issue of the exact nature of the
days of creation in the 1559 edition of his Institutes but rather,
discouraging speculation, refers his readers in a straightforward manner
to the text of Genesis and to the help of such earlier commentaries as
Basil’s Hexaemeron and the Hexaemeron of Ambrose. It should be noted
that these commentators are explicit in their endorsement of a 24-hour
view of the Genesis days.

Calvin, along with the other Reformers, rejected the Augustinian
approach to the Genesis days. For Calvin, God did not merely accommodate
himself to his people in the way he explained his creative work, God
actually accommodated himself in the way he performed his creative work:
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, for the purpose of accommodating his works to the
capacity of men.

The implication of the sun’s being created on the fourth day
apparently was lurking in the mind of the great Puritan theologian of
the late Elizabethan period, William Perkins, who wrote in his
Exposition of …the Creede:

some may aske in what space of time did God make the
world? I answer, God could have made the world, and all things in it in
one moment: but hee beganne and finished the whole worke in sixe
distinct daies. In the first day hee made the matter of all things and
the light: …in the fourth day hee made the Sunne, the Moone, and the
Starres in heaven: …and in the ende of the sixth day hee made man. Thus
in sixe distinct spaces of time, the Lord did make all things…

Some have seen in Perkins’ paraphrasing of six distinct days
with six distinct spaces of time an acknowledgment that the
nature of at least the first three days may not be clear, while others
view him as holding the view of the Genesis days as normal calendar

With that background for the Westminster Assembly, whose members
were well acquainted with the works of Calvin and of Perkins as well as
of William Ames and their respected contemporary Anglican Archbishop of
Ireland James Ussher, what are we to make of their incorporation of the
phrase in the space of six days in The Confession of Faith and
Catechisms? Clearly the use of in the space of six days, and not
simply in six days, is intended at least to differ with the view
of instantaneous creation as advocated by Augustine and those like him.
The specific language appears to be picked up from the Irish Articles of
Ussher, who like Perkins and Ames may have derived the terminology from

Brief commentaries on Genesis 1 or on creation have come down to us
from only a few of the Westminster Divines. John White, John Ley, John
Lightfoot, George Walker, and William Twisse-all prominent members of
the Westminster Assembly-held to six 24-hour days of creation. Lightfoot
and Walker also expressed even more specific views on the days of
creation; they wrote that creation must have occurred on the equinox,
but Lightfoot claimed on the autumnal equinox, while Walker said on the
vernal equinox. Lightfoot also asserted that the first day was 36 hours
long and that the fall of Adam and Eve occurred on the sixth day, Adam
having been created around 9 a.m. and Eve having been tempted around 12
noon. Such specific speculation was not incorporated into the
confessional documents. Nor was the expression in the space of six
24-hour days,
a specific qualifier that was proposed with regard to
the Sabbath, but rejected by the Assembly.

Two differing interpretations of the Assembly’s meaning are
currently being articulated by historians of Westminster. One view says
that the Assembly shows the same reticence as Calvin and the caution of
Perkins with his use of six distinct days or six distinct
spaces of time
and that, therefore, the Confession supports an
understanding of the creative days of Genesis as representing a real
ordered sequence, over against instantaneous creation, but the question
remains whether the phrase in the space of six days is
necessarily to be understood as six 24-hour days. The other view is that
the Confession’s phrase in the space of six days actually means
six normal calendar days. This view grants that the Assembly meant to
rule out the Augustinian instantaneous view, but not merely to do that.
Those who hold this position note that there is no evidence that any
member of the Assembly held to a view other than the 24-hour view of the
Genesis days and that the only primary evidence that we currently
possess from the writings of the Divines or from the Irish Articles
indicates that the phrase was an affirmation of the Calendar Day view.

Before we move on to review the history of the interpretation of the
Genesis days to the present, it seems appropriate to draw some
conclusions from the first half of our study. First, it is apparent that
there existed in the church prior to the Reformation two broad
tendencies in the interpretation of the Genesis days: one more
figurative, the other more literal-the Calendar Day view. Second, the
Calendar Day view was advocated in both the eastern and western parts of
the church (Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose and Bede), as was the
figurative view (Origen, John Scotus Erigena and Augustine). Third, the
Calendar Day view appears to be the majority view amongst influential
commentators. Certainly, it is the only view held by contemporary
Reformed theologians that is explicitly articulated in early
Christianity. Fourth, the issue of the length of the creation days was
apparently not taken up in any ecclesiastical council and never became a
part of any of the early ecumenical creedal statements. Fifth, the
Reformers explicitly rejected the Augustinian figurative or allegorical
approach to the Genesis days on hermeneutical grounds. Sixth, the
Westminster Assembly codified this rejection, following Calvin, Perkins
and Ussher, in the Westminster Confession. Seventh, there is no primary
evidence of diversity within the Westminster Assembly on the specific
issue of whether the creation days are to be interpreted as calendar
days or figurative days. Such primary witnesses as we have either say
nothing (the majority) or else specify that the days are calendar days.

As we look at views of the creation days after Westminster, we find
little if any difference over the matter within the Reformed community
until the nineteenth century. The earliest commentators on the
Confession and Catechisms (Watson, Vincent, Ridgeley, Henry, Fisher,
Doolittle, Willison, Boston, Brown and others) affirm six days
without the kind of specificity that John Lightfoot provides, reject the
Augustinian view, and generally concentrate more on the assertion of
creation ex nihilo. This suggests that there was no significant
diversity on the matter of the nature of the creation days in the
Reformed community between 1650 and 1800. Indeed, it would be 1845
before a commentary on the Confession or Catechisms would explicitly
discuss varying views of the Genesis days.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, prior to Darwin and in the
wake of the new geology, Reformed Christians began to take a different
look at the Genesis days. It was during this time that the two oldest
alternatives to the Calendar Day view were developed: the Gap Theory and
the Day-Age view. The Gap Theory was held by Thomas Chalmers and for a
time by Charles Hodge. It is found in the original Scofield Bible. The
Day-Age view, in varying forms and with varying emphases was adopted by
orthodox Reformed divines on both sides of the Atlantic: Charles and A.
A. Hodge, Warfield, Shedd and others in America, Shaw, Miller, James
Orr, and Donald MacDonald in Britain. Kuyper and Bavinck in the
Netherlands did not hold to the Calendar Day view, but are difficult to
categorize in our terms. Meanwhile, the Calendar Day view continued to
be articulated alongside these newer views by significant theologians
and educators in Britain and America: Hugh Martin in Scotland, Ashbel
Green, Robert L. Dabney, John L. Girardeau in the United States.

Several things ought to be noted about this transition. First, the
propounding of these newer views apparently did not provoke
ecclesiastical sanctions by the various Presbyterian bodies in which
these men held membership. Second, the most famous nineteenth-century
commentators on the Confession (Shaw, Hodge, Beattie and Warfield) all
held day-age views and asserted that the Confession was unspecific on
the matter. Beattie succinctly articulates their view:

It is not necessary to discuss at length the meaning of
the term days here used. The term found in the Standards is precisely
that which occurs in Scripture. Hence, if the word used in Scripture is
not inconsistent with the idea of twenty-four hours, or that of a long
period of time, the language of the Standards cannot be out of harmony
with either idea. There is little doubt that the framers of the
Standards meant a literal day of twenty-four hours, but the caution of
the teaching on this point in simply reproducing Scripture is worthy of
all praise. The door is open in the Standards for either interpretation,
and the utmost care should be taken not to shut that door at the bidding
of a scientific theory against either view.

Third, there were however a number of voices of concern raised by
nineteenth-century Calvinists about these newer views. Ashbel Green, for
instance, could say in his Lectures on the Shorter Catechism (1841):

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.

Dabney added his own expressions of concern in his Lectures on
Systematic Theology (1871). Fourth, while Hodge, Shaw, Mitchell,
Warfield, Samuel Baird and Beattie held that the Confession is
non-committal on the issue of the nature of the creation days, James
Woodrow and Edward Morris (neither of whom held to a Calendar Day view)
both held that the Confession did teach a Calendar Day view, and Woodrow
declared his view to be an exception to the Confession. Woodrow
continued to teach his view until he became an advocate of theistic
evolution-a position which led to his removal from his teaching post.

In the latter part of the nineteenth-century, there were vigorous
theological discussions about evolution and the Genesis account, but
none of them was primarily focused on the nature of the creation days.
General assemblies of the Southern Presbyterian church declared theistic
evolution to be out of accord with Scripture and the Confession on four
occasions (1886, 1888, 1889, 1924). This position was renounced by the
PCUS in 1969. Meanwhile, in the Northern Presbyterian church, most
notably old school Princeton, there was a greater openness to
integration of dominant biological theories of the day. During the
twentieth century, there has generally been an allowed diversity, if not
without controversy, among the various conservative Presbyterian
churches on the matter of the creation days. Many Reformed stalwarts
have held to some form of the Day-Age view (Machen, Allis, Buswell,
Harris and Schaeffer among them). Additionally, by the 1960s the
Framework view was growing in popularity in the Reformed community. The
following declaration of the Presbytery of Central Mississippi (PCUS
1970) is representative of some conservative Presbyterians that founded
the PCA:

God performed his creative work in six days. (We
recognize different interpretations of the word day and do not
feel that one interpretation is to be insisted upon to the exclusion of
all others.)

At the same time the Calendar Day view was likely the most widely
held view in the church.

What then accounts for the current state of controversy? There was a
diversity of opinion on the nature of the creation days at the inception
of the PCA in 1973, and when Joining and Receiving was accomplished with
the RPCES in 1982 an even greater diversity existed amongst the teaching
eldership, without its being a controversial issue. Why then are we now
experiencing serious tensions over the issue of the creation days?

That is a difficult question to answer, but we offer the
following surmises:

First, the four most prominent views of the creation days in
the PCA are (in no particular order) the 24-hour view, the Day-Age view,
the Framework view and the Analogical Day view. The Framework view was
not widely held at the founding of the PCA, although it does not seem to
have become controversial until recently. The Analogical Day view in its
most recent expression was not circulated broadly until the 1990s.
Presbyterians do not like to be surprised and that probably accounts for
some of the unfriendly reactions to these views.

Second, the Christian Reconstructionist community has heavily
emphasized the doctrine of creation in general and the 24-hour Day view
in particular as a test of orthodoxy. Their arguments have been widely
read and are influential in PCA circles.

Third, the home-schooling curricula used by many in the PCA
often come from a young-earth creationist perspective, with its
attendant polemic against non-literal views. This has been
influential in PCA homes and congregations.

Fourth, there is a conviction among many that Christians are
engaged in culture wars for the very survival of the Christian
heritage and worldview. Reformed Christians rightly agree that the
doctrine of creation lies at the basis of the Christian worldview.
Criticisms or questions about the calendar-day exegesis may be perceived
as questioning the doctrine of creation itself. Calendar-day proponents
are used to this coming from outside the church, but not from within and
therefore have labeled the non-Calendar Day proponents as accommodating
the secular culture. The mutual trading of accusations has certainly
raised the temperature of the debate.

Fifth, there have always been men in the PCA who held similar
sentiments to Ashbel Green, Dabney, Girardeau and others, that is, they
feared that non-literal approaches to the Genesis days undercut the
inspiration and authority of Scripture. As these men and their disciples
have become aware of the increasing numbers of men in the PCA who hold
non-Calendar Day views of the Genesis days, they have-not
surprisingly-become more concerned.

Sixth, the advent of the Intelligent Design Movement
has put the matter of the Bible and Science back on the front pages of
theological discussion. The leadership of the Intelligent Design
Movement makes it a point to be non-committal on the age of the earth or
the nature of the Genesis days. Thus, Calendar Day proponents are taking
pains to reassert their view.

Seventh, the proponents of the newer non-Calendar Day views
of the creation days (Kline, Futato, Irons, Collins and others) believe
that they have significant hermeneutical insights into Genesis 1 that
have not been sufficiently addressed by those who hold to a Calendar Day
view. This may be so. However, as has been the case with other issues
some of their students and disciples have gone before presbyteries
without sufficient knowledge or humility and sought to criticize the
Calendar Day view. Thus these licensure and ordination examinations have
provoked adverse reactions. On the other hand the motives of those
holding the non-Calendar Day views have sometimes been uncharitably

Eighth and finally, it is probably fair to say that the PCA
is more self-consciously, consistently and thoroughly committed to
Reformed theology now than it was at its inception. The major
contributing factor to this is that most PCA ordinands are now educated
in theological seminaries that are explicitly evangelical and Reformed
in apologetic approach, biblical studies, and theology whereas the
ministry of the PCA in the early 1970’s had been largely educated in
neo-orthodox denominational institutions where they had to struggle just
to keep their evangelical convictions intact. Hence, there are higher
expectations in examinations and more wide-ranging questioning in
presbyteries-including the area of creation. Rather than being a sign of
theological downgrade, the tension is an indicator of greater
theological awareness.


A survey of recent PCA history and practice yields the following.
First, it has been assumed in the conservative Reformed community for
more than 150 years (on the strength of the witness of Shaw, Hodge,
Mitchell and Warfield) that the Confession articulates no particular
position on the nature and duration of the creation days and that one’s
position on the subject is a matter of indifference. Second, and in that
light, many of the founding fathers of the PCA took their ordination
vows in good conscience while holding to non-literal views of the
creation days or while holding to that issue as a matter of
indifference. It would be less than charitable for any of us to view
them as unprincipled. Third, recent primary evidence uncovered by David
Hall and others has convinced many that what the Westminster Assembly
meant by its phrase in the space of six days was six calendar
days. Fourth, one hears from some the complaint that the PCA has
‘broadened’ and from others that it has ‘narrowed’ in its tolerance of
positions on the days of creation. There is, perhaps, something to be
said for both these perceptions since there appears to be advocacy for
change in the PCA in both broader and narrower directions.

For instance, in light of the discovery and/or interpretation of new
historical evidence regarding the Confession’s teaching on creation,
some who hold to an exclusive Calendar Day view have been
encouraged to press vigorously for the whole denomination to adhere to
that view and that view only. This would be, irrefutably, a change in
the practice of the PCA. But those who hold this view justify the change
on constitutional and biblical grounds. Their argument goes like this:
we now know that the constitution explicitly expounds a 24-hour day
view and thus any deviation from that is a contradiction of it, no
matter what our past practice has been. Furthermore,
they say,
the acceptance of the Calendar Day view is an indication of one’s
commitment to Scriptural authority.
Hence, when this or like views
are advanced, some rightly perceive a move to bring about a narrowing
in the PCA.

On the other hand, others advocate that the PCA now make explicit
what they consider to have been its implicit allowance of latitude on
this issue. That is, they believe that because the PCA has had a limited
but broadly practiced implicit latitude on the matter of the nature and
length of the creation days we should now make that latitude explicit
and more uniform and comprehensive. This, too, entails an advocacy for
change. For instance, the only widely held alternative to the Calendar
Day view held at the beginnings of the PCA was the Day-Age view. The
Framework view was not widely embraced or understood by the PCA ministry
in 1973, and the Analogical view of the Genesis days, as it is now
promulgated, was unknown. Thus, those who advocate that we make explicit
our implicit latitude intend that we acknowledge as legitimate and
consistent with the Confession views that were either generally unknown
or non-extant at the time of the PCA’s formation. Furthermore, they do
not want presbyteries to note such views or consider them exceptions or
restrict their being taught. Hence, when this or like views are
expressed, some rightly perceive a move to bring about a broadening
in the PCA.

There is a third way to avoid such potentially provocative changes
from our earlier practice in 1973, declining the more extreme wishes of
both the exclusive 24-hour side and the totally inclusivist side.
Retaining our practice of 1973 would be to retain the original
boundaries of that widely held earlier understanding of the PCA’s
constitution, receiving both the Six Calendar Day and the Day-Age
interpretations without constitutional objection, as was the habit in
1973, but noting that any other views were different and ought to be
considered carefully by the Presbyteries in light of their historic
patterns. This is the only way to both protect the rights of
Presbyteries to set the terms of licensure and ordination and at the
same time preclude either a narrowing or a broadening of our historic
1973 practice. It should be acknowledged, however, that there are
presbyteries that do in fact receive men holding other views without
requiring an exception, provided the men can affirm the historicity of
Gen 1-3 and do reject evolution.

III. Brief Definitions

The CSC recognizes that definition of terms has been a significant
problem in this particular debate. Often those asking questions and
those giving answers have misunderstood one another because they did not
share a common understanding of the specialized terminology connected
with the interpretation of Genesis 1-3 and the issue of origins. We are
far from claiming that the debate is only a matter of semantics and that
it would be diffused if we merely clarified our usages. Nevertheless, we
unanimously agree that a better grasp of the nuances of meanings of
certain terms could greatly help our current discussion of this matter.
Thus, the CSC has developed the following working definitions to help
sharpen the denotation and connotation of those who engage in debate
upon these matters.

We here summarize the definitions of key terms in our own
discussions: literal, historical, creationism, evolution, science, and
harmonization. We also define some key linguistic and philosophical
terms that clarify some of the issues. For more detailed treatment of
these matters, please see the Appendices.

1. Literal

Hermeneutical sense: the meaning the author intended (focuses on
communication from author to original audience). Does not exclude
beforehand figurative descriptions, anthropomorphisms, hyperbole.

Literalistic sense: take the text in its most physical terms, without
allowance for figures of speech (focuses on surface meaning). This tends
to equate surface meaning with intended meaning.

When we pursue a properly literal interpretation, only the
hermeneutical sense of literal has priority for us.

2. Historical

A record of something the author wants us to believe actually
happened in the space-time world.

This does not decide ahead of time such things as whether the manner
of description is free from figurative elements, or whether the account
is complete in detail, or whether things must be narrated in the order
in which they occurred (unless the author himself claims it).

3. Linguistic terms

a. Poetical.

Popular definition: poetical language does not require an historical
referent for its power.

Linguistic/literary definition: the focus is on the kind of language
and literary style-there may be rhythm; but especially there will be
imaginative descriptions and attempts to enable the reader to feel what
it was like to be there. Does not of itself oppose historicity.

Those who would employ the term poetical for the creation
account should clarify the sense in which they are using the term and
the conclusions they wish to draw from it.

b. Analogy.

Similarity in some respects between things otherwise unlike.
The key to understanding an analogy is therefore discerning the points
of similarity and of difference.

Two kinds of analogy that are important for theology are:
Metaphor: an implicit analogy, that is, we do not find the words
like or as in the statement, we infer them (e.g. you
are the salt of the earth;
the tongue is a fire).

Anthropomorphism: speaking about God as if he had human form or
attributes (e.g., let your ears be attentive and your eyes be open to
hear the prayer of your servant
[Neh 1:6]; in six days the Lord
made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he ceased from labor and
was refreshed
[Exod 31:17]).

We must carefully resist any notion that a statement containing a
metaphor or anthropomorphism is only a metaphor, as if this sort
of language is unsuited to God, or as if such figures are contrary to

4. Philosophical terms Equivocation (technical sense): a
fallacy committed if we use words in different senses without
distinction; or if we assume that what is true for one sense is true of
the other senses.

Equivocation (popular usage): the use of a word in a different sense
than the hearer is likely to understand it, or to be deliberately

Metaphysics: one’s convictions as to what the world is like, how its
parts interact with one another, and what role God has in it all.

Naturalism: a metaphysical position that the world exists on its
own, and that God exerts no influence on any object or event in the

Deism: the view that God made the world, but that he no longer
involves himself in its workings.

Catastrophism: the view that geological phenomena were caused by
catastrophic disturbances of nature, rather than by continuous and
uniform processes. Flood geology is a form of catastrophism,
which explains many features of the world by the catastrophic flood of
Noah’s time. Although geological catastrophism is generally connected
with young earth geology, the connection is not a necessary one.

Uniformitarianism: the view that, since natural laws do not change,
the processes now operating are sufficient to explain the geological
history of the earth. There are two forms of uniformitarianism:

Methodological uniformitarianism: the view that, though the
processes have always been the same, nevertheless their rates and
intensities may have varied over the earth’s history (and therefore the
earth’s history may in fact include catastrophic upheavals). This is a
very common position in modern geology. This position of itself does not
deny the possibility of an historical flood in Noah’s day, or of

Substantive uniformitarianism: the view that, over the course of the
earth’s history, the intensities and rates of the geological processes
have remained the same. This position, associated with Charles Lyell’s
1830 Principles of Geology, is not widely held by modern geologists.

5. Creationism.

General meaning: affirms that the universe is a creation of God, and
hence that a world-view such as naturalism is untrue.

Young earth creationism: the belief that the earth and universe are
less than about 15,000 years old. This is commonly connected with the
calendar day interpretation of Genesis 1. Some adherents of the Calendar
Day view, however, do not take a position on the age of the earth; and
some adherents of the other views do not require that the earth be

Old earth creationism: creationism that allows that the natural
sciences accurately conclude that the universe is old (i.e.
millions or even billions of years).

Two sub-categories of old-earth creationism:

– theistic evolution: belief that natural processes
sustained by God’s ordinary providence are God’s means of bringing about
life and humanity.

– progressive creationism: belief that second causes sustained by
God’s providence are not the whole story, but that instead God has added
supernatural, creative actions to the process, corresponding to the
fiats of Genesis 1.

Some confusion can arise because progressive creationists vary in the
degree of biological change they are willing to countenance in between
the creative events.

The progressive creationists and the young earth creationists agree
on a key point: namely that natural processes and ordinary providence
are not adequate to explain the world. They both fall into the category
of supernatural creationists or special creationists.

6. Evolution

Basic meaning: change over time. (Simply a descriptive claim, with no
comment on how the change took place.)

Biological evolution (neutral sense): genetic change over time.
(This makes no comment on where those changes came from, or on how
extensive they can be.)

Naturalistic evolution (neo-Darwinism): The diversity of
life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unpredictable and natural
process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected
by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing
(National Association of Biology Teachers). This rules
out any supernatural activity of God in the origin and development of
life and of humans, and hence makes a naturalistic metaphysic the basis
of science.

Theistic evolution:

– precise sense: God designed a world which has within
itself all the capacities to develop life and its diversity.

– broader senses: some apply the term to all brands of old-earth
creationism; some apply it to versions of old-earth creationism that
allow large-scale biological development (e.g. all mammals share a
common ancestor); some apply it to any view that allows common ancestry
for all living things.

– Woodrow/Warfield theistic evolution: Adam’s body was the product
of evolutionary development (second causes working alone), and his
special creation involved the imparting of a rational soul to a
highly-developed hominid.

We employ the precise sense of theistic evolution because of
its clarity and its relation to Darwinism.

Micro-evolution: genetic variations over time (or evolution) within
certain limits (i.e. within a type or kind).

Macro-evolution: evolution that crosses the boundary of

7. Science

Loaded definition: science is limited to explaining the natural
world by means of natural processes
(National Science Teachers

Proposed replacement: The sciences are disciplines that study
features of the world around us, looking for regularities as well as
attempting to account for causal relations. In the causal chains we
allow all relevant factors (including supernatural ones) to be

8. Harmonization

When we speak of finding a harmonization of two accounts, we mean
that though they have the appearance of being at odds, we want to find a
way of adjusting our understanding of one or both of them so as to allow
them to agree. At its heart, this enterprise assumes that the data from
the two sources are true, but our interpretations of the data may need

This revision of interpretations works both ways: a theological
conviction may properly be used to reject a natural science position.
However, we do not seriously consider core Christian doctrines as open
to revision on the basis of natural science.

Harmonization of our interpretation of the Bible and our
interpretation of the natural world is proper when:

  • the scientific result in question does not require a world-view
    antithetical to the Biblical one;

  • the concerns of the scientific result are the same as those of the
    Biblical passage;

  • the scientific interpretation will stand the test of time.

The result of all this is that we cannot make a blanket statement
about harmonizations, other than be careful! We should be
cautious about trumpeting our harmonization as proving the Bible
is right, in view of the factors mentioned here; on the other hand,
under certain circumstances we can show that a harmonization is
plausible so the disputer cannot say that he has proved the Bible
wrong. Nor should we reject out of hand efforts to integrate the results
of exegesis with the tentative conclusions of the sciences.

9. General Revelation

Definition of General Revelation

In its very first sentence, the Westminster Confession of Faith
recognizes a source of revelation from the light of nature and the
works of creation and providence.
Numerous Reformed theologians have
discussed this revelation using the term general revelation, to
distinguish it from the special revelation of Holy Scripture. This
revelation is general because it comes to all men everywhere, and is
sufficient, as the Confession states, to leave men inexcusable
because of its testimony to the goodness, wisdom and power of God.

Berkhof in his well-known Systematic Theology comments:

The Bible testifies to a twofold revelation of God: a
revelation in nature round about us, in human consciousness, and in the
providential government of the world; and a revelation embodied in the
Bible as the Word of God.

With regard to the former he references the following passages of
Scripture: Ps. 19:1,2; Acts 14:17; Rom 1: 19,20. He goes on to quote
Benjamin Warfield, who distinguishes between general and special
revelation in these words:

The one is addressed generally to all intelligent
creatures, and is therefore accessible to all men; the other is
addressed to a special class of sinners, to whom God would make known
His salvation. The one has in view to meet and supply the natural need
of creatures for knowledge of their God; the other to rescue broken and
deformed sinners from their sin and its consequences.

With this foundation, Berkhof then defines general revelation in the
following words:

General revelation is rooted in creation, is addressed
to man as man, and more particularly to human reason, and finds its
purpose in the realization of the end of his creation, to know God and
thus enjoy communion with Him.

IV. Description of the main interpretations of Genesis 1-3 and
the Creation Days

One of the difficulties in the current discussion regarding the
proper interpretation of the Genesis account of creation is
understanding the various views. With the exception of the Calendar Day
view and the Day-Age view, other views are often misunderstood. Friend
and foe alike struggle to describe and explain the nuances of some of
these views. Consequently, confusion and suspicion often result. In
order to address this problem, the CSC has determined to provide a brief
description of the main views represented in the PCA, as well as a few
other lesser known views. We have attempted to state the views in such a
way that its proponents would approve, while at the same time avoiding a
polemical tone. The Objections section gathered objections from
opposing positions, and in some cases offers responses to them. Such an
objective presentation of the various views or interpretations may thus
prove useful to the church in bringing a satisfactory resolution to the
current controversy.

A. The Calendar-Day Interpretation

Definition of the Position

The Bible teaches that God created of nothing all things in six
days, by which Moses meant six calendar days. The view is often called
the literal view, the traditional view, or the twenty-four-hour view.

Description of the Position

Those holding the Calendar-Day view are fully committed to Bavinck’s
affirmation regarding the importance of the doctrine of creation.
There is no existence apart from God, and the Creator can only be
known truly through revelation.
Elsewhere he says, The doctrine
of creation, affirming the distinction between the Creator and His
creatures, is the starting point of true religion.
Creation is
thus more than just about the age of the earth and the evolutionary
origins of humanity, important as these questions are.

It is often suggested that the important thing to learn from Genesis
1 is that God is the creator, but not the details about creation. It is
the conviction of those holding the Calendar-Day view that the length of
the days is a detail that is ‘truthful and exact’ and is thus an
essential part of the creation account.

The Lutheran scholar H. C. Leupold speaks very pointedly to this
subject. It is not a case of either – or, but of both –

The details are truthful, exact and essential, being in
all their parts truth itself. Only since this is the case, are the
broad, basic truths conveyed by the account also of infinite moment and
in themselves divinely revealed truth. Faith in inspiration, as taught
by the Scriptures, allows for no other possibility.

The words of Dr. Sid Dyer speak of the importance of accepting
Genesis 1 in a literal sense:

Forsaking the literal interpretation of Genesis 1
reduces its revelatory significance. The literary framework hypothesis
reduces the entire chapter to a general statement that God created
everything in an orderly fashion. How God actually did create is left
unanswered. We end up with too much saying too little. The literal
interpretation, on the other hand, takes the entire chapter in its full
revelatory significance. Rather than seeing Genesis 1 as presenting God
as a creative author, it sees God as the author of creation, who brought
it into being by His spoken word.

We thus look upon the Church’s shrinking from acceptance of the
plain meaning of the creation account, no matter how innocent the
intent, as opening the door to the undermining of the credibility of her
gospel message

The Calendar-Day view may be described very simply. It accepts the
first chapter of Genesis as historical and chronological in character,
and views the creation week as consisting of six twenty-four hour days,
followed by a twenty-four hour Sabbath. Since Adam and Eve were created
as mature adults, so the rest of creation came forth from its maker. The
Garden included full-grown trees and animals, which Adam named. Those
holding this view believe this is the normal understanding of the
creation account, and that this has been the most commonly held
understanding of this account both in Jewish and Christian history.

This view accepts the Genesis account of creation as historical
narrative. In answer to the claims of some evangelicals that Genesis 1
is poetical in character, the late Dr. Edward J. Young of Westminster
Seminary says:

To escape from the plain factual statements of Genesis
some Evangelicals are saying that the early chapters of Genesis are
poetry or myth, by which they mean that they are not to be taken as
straightforward accounts, and that the acceptance of such a view removes
the difficulties…To adopt such a view, they say, removes all troubles
with modern science…Genesis is not poetry. There are poetical accounts
of creation in the Bible-Psalm 104, and certain chapters in Job-and they
differ completely from the first chapter of Genesis. 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

The literary structure of Genesis 1-3 favors the calendar-day
understanding of the text. Typical of Hebrew narrative one finds in
Genesis 1:1, In the beginning, God created the heavens and the
a general introductory statement regarding all of creation.
As Douglas Kelly says,

The writer of Genesis could not have made a broader
statement than that. ‘Heavens and the earth’ is a way of saying
‘everything that exists’, whether galaxies, nebulae or solar systems,
all things from the farthest reaches of outer space to the smallest
grain of sand or bacterial microbe on planet earth; absolutely
everything was created by God.

Having thus introduced the subject of creation the
remainder of the chapter speaks more particularly of how God created the
heavens and the earth, with particular reference to the earth. This
whole account stands as an introduction to the rest of the Book of
Genesis and of the whole Bible. The very next verse, Genesis 2:4, is
important for the structure of Genesis, it stands in the Hebrew text
like a great signpost on a major highway, pointing the way forward into
the rest of the book. Its words ‘These are the generations’ (in Hebrew
toledoth) offers a clue that this is where the second part of Genesis
begins, with a great narrowing down of emphasis from the whole creation
to one selected area, namely, the story of mankind.

Genesis 2 is thus not seen as a second account of creation, but
rather as a detailing of the particulars regarding man, his creation,
the Garden of Eden, the creation of woman, the probation and fall. In
chapter 3 we are brought to the purpose of the rest of the Bible,
namely, the account of God’s redemption of sinners.

The Calendar-Day view takes at face value the words of the text of
Genesis 1. There is a three-fold usage of the word day (yôm ) in
the Genesis account. In each case the context is so clear that there is
no question as to which meaning is intended. For example, the light is
called day (verse 5) and the darkness is called night, and in the same
verse the phrase there was evening and there was morning, one
Also the whole week of creation is called the day in which
the Lord created
(Genesis 2:4). The meaning of the word day
in each case is clear from the context.

The length of the creation days is the same as the length of any
other day (yôm) found elsewhere in Scripture. That this is the proper
understanding of the length of the day is to be seen in the fact that
everywhere that the Bible uses the word day (yôm) as modified by an
ordinal (as ‘Day One’ and ‘Day Two’) it always means normal solar day.
Having created light and separated the day and night, God had
completed His first day’s work. The evening and the morning were the
first day.
This same formula is used at the conclusion of each of
the six days of creation. It is thus obvious that the duration of each
of the days, including the first, was the same. Beginning with the first
day and continuing through the sixth day, there was established a
cyclical succession of days and nights-periods of light and periods of
darkness. The formula there was evening and there was morning is
used as a connective between the days of the creation week, and thus
does not occur following the seventh day, because a description of the
eighth day does not follow. That obviously does not mean there was not
an eighth day, or that the seventh day continues indefinitely. Adam and
Eve in the Garden observed their first full day as a Sabbath of rest and
communion with God.

Henry Morris says:

In the first chapter of Genesis, the termination of each
day’s work is noted by the formula: ‘And the evening and the morning
were the first [or second, etc.] day.’ Thus each ‘day’ had
distinct boundaries and was one in a series of days, both of which
criteria are never present in the Old Testament writings unless literal
days are intended. The writer of Genesis was trying to guard in every
way possible against any of his readers deriving the notion of
non-literal days from his record.

Though the creation of the sun and moon did not occur until the
fourth day, this is not a problem for the Calendar-Day view. The Book of
Revelation indicates that there will not be sun or moon, but God will be
the light of the new heavens and the new earth. Thus, for God, the sun
and moon are not necessary as light bearers. The first three days were
not technically solar days (not governed by the position of the earth in
relation to the sun), but the Bible indicates that their lengths are
measured in the same way as the last three, which are true solar days.

The New Testament in its various citations of and allusions to
Genesis 1-11 clearly assumes the plain, historical/chronological
understanding of the creation, the establishment of the family, the
fall, the curse and the unfolding of the coming redemption. This favors
the Calendar-Day view of Genesis 1. Douglas Kelly cites Hubert Thomas,
who has examined the New Testament allusions to the creation as follows:

In effect three main points are demonstrated by reading
the list we provide. These three points confirm that the New Testament
can in no case whatsoever be appealed to in order to sustain any sort of
evolutionary theory. First, without exception, references to creation
and especially the citations of Genesis 1 to 11 point to historical
events. It is no different than the historical death of the Lord Jesus
Christ on Golgotha. As far as the New Testament is concerned, creation
ex-nihilo and the creation of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the
Flood, there is no legend and no parable; all deal with persons and
events of historical and universal significance.

Second, without exception creation is always mentioned as a unique
event which took place at a particular moment in past time. Creation
took place; it was accomplished. Events occurred which corrupted the
world, and now it awaits a new creation which will take place in the
future at a given moment. Third, the details and recitations of the
creation given in Genesis 1 to 3 are considered to be literally true,
historical and also of surpassing importance. The New Testament doctrine
based upon these citations would be without validity and even erroneous
if the primeval events were not historically true. For instance:
consider the entry of sin into the world. If Adam were not the head of
the whole human race, then Jesus Christ [the last Adam] is not head of
the new creation.

Documentation of the Position

David G. Hagopian, ed., The Genesis Debate (Crux Press, forthcoming
in May). This work includes a defense of the Calendar-Day View by Ligon
Duncan and David Hall, in addition to presentations of the Day-Age
Interpretation (by Hugh Ross and Gleason Archer) and of the Framework
Theory (by Lee Irons and Meredith Kline).

Joseph A. Pipa and David W. Hall, Eds., Did God Create in Six Days?
(Greenville, SC: Southern Presbyterian Press and Kuyper Institute,
1999). This work is the proceedings of Greenville Presbyterian
Theological Seminary’s 1999 Spring Theology Conference and includes
articles defining the Calendar-Day View by Morton Smith, Joey Pipa, Ben
Shaw, Sid Dyer, Stuart Patterson, David Hall, and Duncan Rankin and
Steve Berry. In addition, alternative positions are defended by Jack
Collins, Mark Ross, and R. Laird Harris.

Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith
(Nashville: Nelson, 1998), 392-398.

Douglas F. Kelly, Creation and Change: Genesis 1.1-2.4 in the Light
of Changing Scientific Paradigms (Fearn-Tain: Mentor, 1997).

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical
Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: IVP/Zondervan, 1994), 262-314.

Ken Gentry, Reformed Theology and Six Day Creationism (private,

Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Evolution and the Authority of the Bible
(London: Paternoster, 1983,), 46-98.

E. J. Young, The Days of Genesis, Westminster Theological
Journal 25 (1962-63): 1-34, 143-171.

R. L. Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology (Richmond, VA:
Committee of Publication, 1871), 247-256.


1. The Calendar-Day view is the obvious, first-impression reading
of Genesis 1-3, in which each of the words is given its most common,
plain meaning. This is the meaning that the author has gone to great
lengths to convey. It is undoubtedly the meaning that the
unsophisticated (by today’s standards) initial audience would have
understood the account to have. The view is neither difficult to explain
nor to justify because of its simple and straightforward relationship to
the text. This fact is vitally important, for it means that the average
believer today can read the Word of God and understand it without the
benefit of some higher level of learning reserved only to the scholars.
Thus this view best preserves the perspicuity of Scripture (WCF I.7;
Psalm 119:130).

2. The Calendar-Day view raises no questions and leaves no doubt as
to the historicity of Genesis 1-3.

3. The Calendar-Day view provides the basis for the theological
logic of and is confirmed by the Fourth Commandment as recorded in
Exodus 20:11, in which the seven-day cycle of work and rest is affirmed.
The Sabbath was made for man, said our Lord Jesus (Mark 2:27).

4. The Calendar-Day view comports with the concept that Adam was
the peak of God’s creation, the covenantal head and steward over all
creation. It affirms that death is penal, entering the created order
upon the fall (Romans 5:12). Thus, before man’s sin and the resulting
curse of God, there was no death among Adam’s animal kingdom (Genesis
1:28, Genesis 2:21). Cursed are you more than all cattle, and more
than every beast of the field
(Genesis 3:14). For the
, which God had announced to be very good, was
subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who
subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered
from bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children
of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in
pain together until now.
(Romans 8:20-22).

5. The Calendar-Day view was that of the earliest post-canonical
commentaries (e.g., Basil, Ambrose), of the medieval Scholastics (e.g.,
Aquinas, Lombard), of the magisterial Reformers (e.g., Luther, Calvin,
Beza), and of the Puritans (e.g., Ainsworth, Ussher, Ames, Perkins,
Owen, Edwards). It is the only view known to be espoused by any of the
Westminster divines, which the Assembly affirmed over against the
instantaneous view (e.g., Augustine, Anselm, and Colet).

6. The Calendar-Day view stands on the basis of special revelation,
rather than being indebted to or dependent upon any particular ancient
or modern scientific worldview, whether it be that of uniformitarian
geology, Darwinian evolution, Big Bang cosmology, or even creation
science. A theology wed to the science of one age is a widow in the

7. The Genesis 1 account builds in a logical manner from the
inanimate to the animate, finally climaxing with man as the focus of
creation. The use of ordinals with yôm, which is always an indication of
sequence, reinforces this development. Elsewhere in the Bible, every use
of the ordinal with yôm correlates with its normal-day meaning, nor has
any contrary example been found in extra-biblical writings.

8. The Calendar-Day view is that of the Southern Presbyterian tap
root of the PCA (e.g., Dabney, Thornwell, Girardeau), which strongly
resisted attempts from abroad (e.g., Chalmers, Miller), from her
Northern cousins (e.g., Hodge, Warfield), and even from within (e.g.,
Adger) to broaden the church on this point, as is documented in the
Woodrow Evolution Controversy last century and the Continuing Church
movement’s resistance to the action of the 1969 PCUS General Assembly.

Calendar-Day proponents welcome structural and linguistic analyses
of the Genesis account, as long as these new tools are used in the light
of analogy of Scripture and the rule of faith. Critical care, informed
by a full appreciation for the exegetical and theological complexities
involved, is required in order not to cast doubt on the truth,
historicity, chronology, and ultimately on the meaning of the text. Far
from demanding some alternative meaning, the context and markers all
support the plain reading. Indeed, the author seems to have gone to
great lengths to make it clear that it is this and no other meaning that
he is trying to convey. Therefore, unfolding the theological and
apologetical richness of the passage is not at odds with, nor does it
raise any necessary objections to, the Calendar-Day view.


1. Because of the prevailing spirit of this scientific age,
the traditional view is easily caricatured as anti-intellectual and
classed along with those of geo-centrists and flat-earthers. An
objective study of contemporary works by scholars such as Walt Brown and
Henry Morris and numerous papers in journals such as the Creation
Research Society Quarterly
will readily demonstrate the fallacy of
this characterization.

2. Some argue that creation of the sun and moon on the fourth day
provides a decisive case against the calendar-day meaning of the first
through third days. The argument is that whatever the nature of the
first three days, they could not have been ordinary solar days since
there was no sun
. This argument-first made by the ancient pagan
Celsus-fails to recognize the anti-mythological polemic of Moses. Since
the sun and moon were worshiped by both the Egyptians and Mesopotamians,
Moses reports that God did not even create them until the fourth day,
clearly demonstrating that they were therefore not necessary for the
establishment of day and night, thus strongly asserting their
creatureliness and the utter contingency of the created order. God
Himself determines the nature of a day on the first (and every other)
day, not celestial bodies or pagan objects of worship. [He also made
the stars.
Gen 1:16] God alone rules all of His creation, including
time, which is ultimately contingent upon Him alone.

This argument against ordinary days usually focuses on the absence
of solar illumination on those days, and various proposals have been put
forward for alternative sources of light that could mimic solar
illumination. The argument and its rebuttals are exercises in futility
for a number of reasons. The first and most fundamental is that there
was no observer of the light on those days except God Himself, and
Scripture tells us that light and darkness are alike to Him (Psalm
139:12). Therefore, besides the irrelevance of the sun’s presence or
absence, we can know nothing of the nature of those days except what God
has chosen to reveal to us. And He has done that in this account in
Genesis 1. Far from calling God’s veracity into question (to
quote another objection lodged against the Calendar-Day view), this view
simply takes God at His word. It is attempts to devise alternatives to
the days He describes that question what He is able to do and what He
has told us He has done. [Hath God really said?] Origen is quoted
in the history section of this paper as asking the question: What
person of any intelligence would think that there existed a first,
second, and third day, and evening and morning, without sun, moon, and
The obvious answer is that the author of Genesis did, and we
have no hesitation in accepting his account. After all, we all believe
he wrote under the direct inspiration of the only Witness of these
momentous events.

The argument concerning light before the sun was created suffers
exactly the failing that the calendar-day proponents are often accused
of, namely, insistence on understanding the creation account in
technical, mechanistic terms. [Some attempts to rebut the objection err
similarly.] Those pursuing these arguments fret over an alternative
source of light, while the absence of the sun on the first three
days would pose much more serious problems for any naturalistic
explanation than merely the absence of its illumination would. For
example, absent the gravitational potential of the sun, what determined
the disposition of the earth in space? The answer is obvious: God,
through the working of His supernatural providence, must have sustained
the components of His as-yet-incomplete creation however He wished and
set them in their natural orbits as each took its place in the
incomplete creation. He is free to work without, above, or
second causes. Obviously, He chose to sustain this portion
of His creation without the intermediary of secondary causes or agents.

The light issue seems to be superficial in yet another respect. What
we call light, and what the early readers of this account no
doubt would have understood it to mean, is visible light, which we know
is but a minute fraction of the entire electromagnetic spectrum. When
God created light (Gen 1:3), we surely are to understand that He
created the entire panoply of wave phenomena that make possible all of
the interactions that hold the components of the universe together and
serve as the vehicle for all nuclear, chemical, and gravitational

There have been various attempts to resolve the dilemma of solar
without the sun. One suggestion is that perhaps the light
bearers were actually created on the first day and only appointed
to their respective roles on the fourth day. Those who pursue this line
of argument usually propose that these heavenly bodies were hidden (from
whom?) by some sort of cloud cover until the fourth day. Except for the
fact that this assumption contradicts the clear statement in verses
14-19, such a scenario would pose no difficulty to the Calendar-Day
view, as it clearly does to those who posit days of eons in
length. An alternative view (dating back at least as far as Basil), that
is much more consistent with that proposed above, is that the light of
the first three days was light emanating from God Himself, just as the
description of the final state indicates that God will be the light, not
the sun or moon. And the city hath no need of the sun, neither of the
moon, to shine upon it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the
lamp thereof is the Lamb.
(Rev 21:22) Thus the Bible opens with God
shedding His light upon the creation and closes with the same.

3. Some have asserted that this view seems not to take science
seriously and impugns the veracity of God because, on the one hand, it
dismisses central conclusions of the current scientific consensus on
cosmogony and, on the other hand, it supposedly requires one to view the
general-revelation evidence as to the age of the earth as
This criticism is based on the assumption that man is
able to interpret general revelation correctly without the light of
special revelation. That assumption reverses the proper principle of
Biblical interpretation, which is, that special revelation must govern
our understanding of general revelation. Those of us who hold the
Calendar-Day view make no apology for arriving, after careful
consideration of the facts, at conclusions that differ from this
so-called consensus. It is not the veracity of God which is impugned but
the evolutionary presuppositions of the majority (not consensus) of the
scientific community whose assumptions are regularly passed off as
facts. Furthermore, it seems disingenuous to fault the Calendar-Day view
for differing with current scientific dogma when creationists of all
stripes claim to reject the most dominant aspect of that dogma, namely,
evolutionary origins of the species. One unique strength of the
Calendar-Day view is that it leaves no room to accommodate any version
of evolutionism, Theistic or otherwise, while some other theories seem
bent on finding some common ground with it.

4. The view tends to read the text only against the background
of a modern world and life view, with its interest in timing and
mechanisms. This obscures the fact that the precise form as well as the
content of Genesis 1 was predestined by God to be a means of grace first
to Israel (and, of course, no less to us), which had a very different
world view. If we are rightly to interpret the text, we must take full
account of the historical process of revelation.

In answer, we contend that, if this account is historical, then it
had timing and mechanisms. The only question of interest to us is
whether God has chosen to reveal anything of that timing to us. We
believe He went to great lengths to do so. And the only mechanism
we propose is God’s speaking all things into existence and then
sustaining them by means known only to Himself. As explained in section
2 above, this had to involve the exercise of supernatural providence.

As to Israel’s different world view, it would seem to us that the
world view of a technically primitive people would have far more in
common with our plain reading of the record than with views requiring
20th century scientific and linguistic tools. And, of course, it is
views such as Day-Age that rely on mechanistic details (such as
overlapping long days) that have far more in common with the
prevailing scientific paradigm than with the simple picture unfolded in

5. God created the luminaries on the fourth day ‘to serve as
signs to mark seasons and days and years’ (Genesis1:14). These bodies
are a kind of standard so that human beings can identify days and years.
Trying to give a timing for the first three days ignores this role which
Genesis 1 gives to the sun in governing the day (Genesis 1:16). This
should make us hesitate to offer a timing for the first three days.

This seems to be in the character of a straw-man issue in that the
sun could not have served in this assigned role during the first three
days, even if it were already there, since there were no human beings
present to be concerned with identifying days and years. We too would
hesitate to invent or impose a timing for the first three or any other
days. But we have no hesitation about accepting, at face value, what God
says about them. Doing so in no way diminishes the significance of the
roles for which these bodies were created nor our affirmation of those

6. Several similar objections have been expressed. They all have to
do with the relationship between the account in Genesis 1 and that in
the early verses of chapter 2. It is claimed that the Calendar-Day view
presents a difficulty in harmonizing the accounts of Genesis 1:1-2:3 and
2:4-25 because Genesis 2:5 offers an ordinary-providence based reason
for there being no shrub or herb, namely that there was no rain. The
Calendar-Day view offers no explanation
for the different order of
narration found in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. And, In creating the
garden of Eden, God caused trees to grow up (Genesis 2:9). The specific
language indicates not creation in a moment, but rather a process of
growth. The text gives no indication that an extraordinarily quick
growth of trees is intended. The Israelite would understand the words in
terms of his experience of the growth of trees. The Calendar-Day view
does not explain this timing in relation to Genesis 1.

Genesis 2:9 refers to God’s causing trees to grow out of the ground
while the preceding verse refers to the garden He had planted and
the man He had created (NIV). While the tenses of the verbs in
chapter 1 are unambiguous, those here in chapter 2 can be understood as
either past or past perfect. The principle of interpretation that says
one should interpret obscure passages in terms of clearer ones would
suggest that it is the past perfect tense that is indicated here.
Assuming the simple past tense unnecessarily introduces an apparent
conflict with the timing and sequence of the account in chapter 1. This
seems to be what Bavinck had in mind when he said, In the first
chapter, therefore, the story of the creation of all other things (i.e.,
other than humanity) is told at some length and in a regular order, but
the creation of humanity is reported succinctly; the second chapter
presupposes the creation of heaven and earth, follows no chronological
but only a topical order, and does not say when the plants and animals
are created but only describes the relation in which they basically
stand to human beings.

As for what the first audience would have understood, they surely
would have known that Genesis 1 was an account of God’s supernatural
creation of all things and would have had no difficulty in accepting
this account in chapter 2 of His equally miraculous preparation of a
special place for the crown of His creation. Genesis 2:4b-9 does not
imply that the plants were formed after human creation, but only that
the garden of Eden was planted after that event.
And they surely
understood that He initially created trees and not merely seeds that
eventually grew into trees. If Genesis 2:4-25 is complementary to
Genesis 1:1-2:3, the creation week should be longer than six
calendar-days. It is only on insisting that all of the developments
taking place in this extraordinary time had to have occurred via natural
processes that a timing problem arises that needs to be explained. In
our view there is no timing problem and we don’t feel obligated to try
to explain problems inherent in others’ views.

B. The Day-Age Interpretation

In attempting to produce a template document about the Day-Age
interpretation of creation for the Committee to discuss, edit, append
and adopt, we divided the discussion into eight sections which we
introduce with the following eight questions, the answers to which are,
for us, fundamental to a fuller understanding of this view.

1. What is the ‘Day-Age’ interpretation?
2. What is the meaning of the Hebrew word Yôm?
3. Who has held a view that allows for creative days of unspecified length?
4. Is the Day-Age interpretation just a reaction to Darwinism?
5. How do you deal with the issue of death within this view?
6. How do you deal with the issue of time within this view?
7. What are the strengths of the Day-Age interpretation?
8. What are the difficulties for the Day-Age interpretation?

1. What is the ‘Day-Age’ interpretation?

The ‘Day-Age’ interpretation of the creative days in Genesis 1 has
taken various forms in its contemporary expressions, and those which
have been held within conservative Reformed circles are outlined below
and contain certain common features. This view has been held by such
conservative Reformed theologians as those from the Old Princeton
Seminary tradition of the Hodges and Warfield and more recently as
expressed by J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. and R. Laird Harris, both of whom
were on the original faculty of Covenant Theological Seminary and taught
there for many years.

The ‘six days’ are understood in the same sense as in that
of Isaiah 11:10-11 -that is, as periods of indefinite length and
not necessarily of 24 hours duration. There are other similar uses of
the Hebrew word for day (yôm) in Scripture to support this view
of periods longer than 24 hours including that in the very context of
Genesis 2:4. Another argument for this approach is that the seventh day
in Genesis 1 is not concluded with the boundary phrase, and there was
evening, and there was morning
as with the other days, and therefore
it continues, as indicated by Hebrews 4:1-11’s quotation of Psalm 95:11.

The six days are taken as sequential, but as overlapping and merging
into one another, much as an expression like the day of the
Protestant Reformation
might have only a proximate meaning and might
overlap with the day of the Renaissance. While exponents of this
view might be willing to concede a rough parallel between day one and
day four, day two and day five, day three and day six, they would tend
to deny that this is an intended parallel by Moses as author, as is
commonly claimed in the Framework interpretation.

The Day-Age interpretation claims that the narrative of Genesis 1 is
from the point of view of the earth as being prepared for the habitation
of man. In this context, the explanation of day four is often that the
sun only became visible on that day, as atmospheric conditions allowed
the previous alternation of light and darkness to be perceived from the
earth to have its source from the position of the previously created sun
and other heavenly bodies. However day four is understood, the point is
made that only on that day is the diurnal cycle of days governed by the
sun begun, so that it is difficult to know the nature of the first three

2. What is the meaning of the Hebrew word Yôm?

The Hebrew word yôm, day, is obviously used in the Bible,
like our English word ‘day,’ to mean a period of 24 hours, however, also
like its English counterpart, it may be used to distinguish from the
night and therefore represent a period less than 24 hours, such as in
the cool of the day,
and it is capable of meaning a period of
unspecified length, as in the prophetic references to the day of the
In fact, in Genesis 2:4 the word yôm is used in the singular
to describe all that transpired in God’s creation as described as a
period of six days in Genesis 1. As linguist Dr. Robert B. Longacre has
communicated to the committee concerning the range of meaning of yôm:

As for the Hebrew words, yôm in the immediate vicinity
of Gen 1 there occurs an obviously figurative use of the term: And
these are the generations of the heavens and the earth in the day when
the Lord God made the heavens and the earth
(Gen 2:4). Here it is
evident that all six days of creation-however conceived-are summarized
as the day when the Lord God made the heavens and the earth-where
the NIV simply translates the day as when.

The time of the taking of Jerusalem, sacking the City, burning its
palaces, breaking up and salvaging the massive bronzeware of the temple,
destroying the walls of the City, and taking people exile is referred to
in Lamentations 1:20 and 2:21 as the day of God’s anger.
Obviously, the events described in II Kings 25 and Jeremiah 39 took
place over a period of time; and, in fact, the actual capture of the
City may have spread over a month because the City then and in Roman
times was cleft by the Tyropoeon valley. The taking of the newer part of
the City with the wall built in Hezekiah’s time evidently occurred
first. Then the Babylonian army, after catching its breath, advanced to
the rest of the city where the temple mount and public buildings were
located and reduced that. Pillage, burning, and consolidation of the
conquest probably took even longer. The Romans in their later reduction
of the City attacked first the older part and then the Western hill-in
opposite order from the Babylonians. But the sacking and pillaging, as
we have said above, is all referred to as the day of God’s anger
in Lamentations (Lam 1:2 1)-even as those same nations rejoiced saying
This is the day we have waited for (Lam 2:16).

It would be laboring the point to argue that the eschatological
day of the Lord likewise most probably indicates a period of
God’s judgement not a single calendar day.

It is interesting to note that two of the five Westminster Divines
who are known to explicitly support 24-hour days of creation acknowledge
this range of interpretation for yôm. John White in his commentary says
about Genesis 2:4 in the day: That is, in that Time that it
pleased God to take up in forming them, which we know was in Six days,
and not in One. But we find the Word, Day, in Scripture is used commonly
to signifie Time Indefinitely.
John Ley in the 1645 Westminster
Annotations on Genesis 2:4 in the day: The day is not here
taken (as in the first Chapter and in the beginning of this) for the
seventh part of the week, but with more latitude for time in general
wherein a thing is done, or to be done; as verse 17 & Luke 19.42. 2 Cor
6.2. Ruth 4.5.

The interpretation of the creative days as 24-hour days is not to be
determined merely by the use of the word yôm in Genesis 1.

3. Who has held a view that allows for creative days of
unspecified length?

The Day-Age approach is not merely of 19th-century origin as a
response to Charles Darwin and evolutionary science. From ancient times
there was a recognition that the word day could mean an extended
period of time, although there is no formal evidence of a ‘Day-Age’ view
in orthodox Reformed circles before the time of such figures as Hugh
Miller and Robert Shaw in the Free Church of Scotland. There may have
been other fragmentary antecedent views that treated the creative days
as longer periods, but not a thoroughly formulated Day-Age system of

The Jewish apocalyptic Book of Jubilees, written most likely
in the 2nd century B.C., says in 4:29-30: At the end of the
nineteenth jubilee, during the seventh week-in its sixth year
[930.]-Adam died. All his children buried him in the land where he had
been created. He was the first to be buried in the ground. He lacked 70
years from 1000 years because 1000 years are one day in the testimony of
heaven. For this reason it was written regarding the tree of knowledge:
‘On the day that you eat from it you will die.’ Therefore he did not
complete the years of this day because he died during it.

Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430) discussed creation in five or six
different places, speculating in various ways as to the meaning of the
six days, but advocating mainly a position of instantaneous creation
taking place in Genesis 1:1. In the City of God he said, What kind of
days these were it is extremely difficult, or perhaps impossible for us
to conceive.

John Calvin used the expression in the space of six days in
his Commentary on Genesis 1:5, evidently to distance himself from
Augustine’s speculations and position of instantaneous creation. In the
Institutes I. xiv.20, Calvin avoids recounting the history of the
creation of the universe, but refers favorably to the works of Basil and
Ambrose. Basil in his Hexaemeron clearly regards the sun as being
created only on the Fourth Day. Likewise in Ambrose’s Hexaemeron the sun
did not exist until the Fourth Day. Calvin’s Commentary on Genesis 1:14
indicates his belief that the stars, sun, and moon were made only on the
Fourth Day.

William Perkins (1558-1602), like Calvin, distanced himself from a view
of creation in one moment and spoke of creation in six
distinct days
or six distinct spaces of time, with the sun,
moon, and stars not created before the fourth day.

The Westminster Divines, deriving the language of in the space of
six days
from Calvin, Perkins, and the Irish Articles (1615) of
Archbishop James Ussher, left the duration of the days of creation
unspecified in the Confession and Catechisms, perhaps out of awareness
that the days before Day Four were not normal solar days. Although some
members of the Westminster Assembly, particularly the great biblical
scholar John Lightfoot, were explicit about 24-hour days, the main
concern seems to have been to differ from instantaneous creation, a view
held by such contemporaries as Sir Thomas Browne and John Milton.

Soon after the Westminster Divines, explicit evidence for the
Day-Age approach appears, although among less than fully orthodox
sources. Thomas Burnet (1635-1715), a chaplain to King William III until
dismissed for some of his views on Genesis, argued that the six days
might represent periods of undetermined length, in a work praised by his
friend Sir Isaac Newton. Burnet’s view stemmed partly from his
understanding that the sun was created only on the fourth day. In 1698,
William Whiston, an English Baptist known to modern readers for his
edition of Josephus’ works, regarded the days as years. The Dutch
theologian Hermann Venema (1697-1787) opposed the view that Moses
speaks not of ordinary days but of years and of centuries,
that such a view was held by some in his circles in the 18th century.

In the 19th century, before Darwin’s 1859 Origin of Species and in
the midst of much discussion of a geological basis for an old
Robert Shaw described favorably the possibility of
interpreting the days of creation as ages. Professor Tayler Lewis of the
Reformed Church of America advocated long ages in his The Six Days of
Creation, as did Donald MacDonald, a minister of the Free Church of
Scotland, in his Creation and the Fall: A Defence and Exposition of the
First Three Chapters of Genesis. Of the Old Princeton theologians,
Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge, and Benjamin Warfield supported a Day-Age
approach, as did also J. Gresham Machen, O. T. Allis, and E. J. Young of
Westminster Seminary.

J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. also took this position. In the Reformed
Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod and Covenant Seminary tradition,
so also did R. Laird Harris and Francis Schaeffer.

In his three-volume Commentary on Genesis, James Montgomery Boice
considers evolution, theistic evolution, the gap theory, six-day
creationism, and progressive creationism in chapters 5 through 9 of
Volume 1 and concludes by favoring a Day-Age view.

4. Is the Day-Age interpretation just a reaction to Darwinism?

Much of the negative sentiment brought against the Day-Age theory of
creation within the reformed church has been engendered by a strong
reaction against the teachings which grew out of Charles Darwin’s
seminal work on the Origin of Species. In its so-called
neo-Darwinian form, this teaching holds that random mutations, which are
continually occurring within the population gene pool of any species,
can confer a survival advantage on individuals within the species, and
that gradually over long periods of time, this increased biological
fitness leads to the emergence of new species with more complex
biological systems, through an unguided process termed ‘Darwinian
Evolution.’ Extension of this concept back in time to an initial
primordial elemental soup (which arose some time after the ‘Big Bang’)
that gave rise to the first ‘life’, has substituted for the Biblical
account of creation in the proud minds of men. This view has been so
aggressively taught within our schools and colleges that it is the
predominant view of the origins and diversity of life. Consequently, we
in the church today find ourselves in such a reactionary stance against
this incessant tide of unsubstantiated indoctrination of our children,
that we ‘blame’ Darwinian evolution as the evil that gave rise to such
interpretations of the Genesis account of creation as the Day-Age
theory. This is not so, however, as we can clearly appreciate from the
discussion under question 3) above where we see that a view open to the
possibility of creative days of unspecified length was held by prominent
and influential church fathers, some of whom lived long before Charles
Darwin. We must remember this in our new examination of the theory and
remain clear-headed in our evaluation of how these early, as well as
contemporary, church fathers adopted the view as their belief. We must
also deal with Darwinian evolution rationally and provide a cogent case
for its deception and the complete lack of physical evidence to
substantiate it.

5. How do you deal with the issue of death within this view?

The specific point for consideration here is whether death within
the animal kingdom is linked to the death of Adam. Some hold the view
that prior to the fall and the resultant curses by God, the perfect
state of the world and everything in it left no place for death of any
kind. The proponents of this view understand Romans 5:12 (Therefore,
just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through
) to be speaking of all death, both that of man and all under
man’s dominion, entering God’s perfect creation through the one sin of
Adam. It is clear that death at least in the plant kingdom was to be a
natural process since God gave every green plant as food to all that had
the breath of life in it including man, the beasts of the earth, the
birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground (Gen
1:29-30). Others, including John Murray in his commentary, understand
Paul here to be speaking of the death of man only. Such proponents see
in the very contrast made by Paul in Romans 5:12-21, of death through
Adam being subjugated by life through Christ, that the righteousness and
eternal life brought by Christ to man alone indicates through its very
antithesis that death through Adam is to man alone.

Those who fall into this latter category suppose that the
carnivorous fish of the ocean, which were created on the fifth day (a
day before man and therefore the earliest opportunity for the fall), ate
other fish and/or birds between their creation and the fall, just as
they do today. The alternatives are that either they did not eat during
this period or that they ate only plant material before the fall (which
would require a completely different digestive system and tooth
structure, for example). In addition, proponents of this view believe
the carnivorous animals, created on day six prior to man, fed in the way
they are expertly designed to do on other animals, in the manner we
observe them doing today between their creation and the fall, which (if,
as some believe, the fall occurred on day six) must have been at the
very least several hours in duration to allow time for Adam to work and
take care of the garden, name the kinds, sleep while God created Eve,
interact with the serpent, eat the forbidden fruit, hide from God, speak
with God, and receive the judgements and curses.

A Biblical text associated with the account of the fall has also
caused some to ponder the timing of death in the animal kingdom.
Immediately after the fall, God graciously made garments of
skin-probably animal hides (Gen 3:21)-to clothe Adam and his wife to
cover their shame. While the exact timing of the sequence of events
leading up to God’s gift of clothes to Adam and Eve is not given, it
seems certain that the dialogue between God and Adam was on the same day
as God was walking in the garden. Furthermore, it seems most likely that
God’s judgements and curses were uttered immediately upon Adam’s
admission of guilt, and that God clothed them with the animal hides at
the same time to complete His dealings with them. The question then
arises as to the time that the skin was taken from the animals and
processed into leather hides that the Lord God used to make the
garments. Could it be that animals had already been killed by other
animals or man for food, or slaughtered for hides that may have been
used for bedding and baskets for carrying things, for example?

6. How do you deal with the issue of time within this view?

Much could be said in response to this question since it is inherent in
the title of the theory under discussion (Day-Age) and at the very heart
of the reason why the committee is meeting. First we are told that God
is from eternity past, from everlasting to everlasting, an eternal God.
Time itself was a part of His creation. Time, as Herman Bavinck
expressed it, is the measure of creaturely existence. What he
terms ‘intrinsic time’ is a mode of existence of all created and
finite beings.
By ‘extrinsic time’ he means the standard employed
to measure motion… We derive it from the motion of the heavenly
bodies, which is constantly and universally known, Gen 1:14ff.
It is
this ‘extrinsic time,’ time as we know and measure it, which has its
beginning only on the fourth day when we are told:

And God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of
the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs
to mark seasons and days and years
(Gen 1:14).

On the other hand, ‘intrinsic time,’ the possibility for beginning,
end, and sequence of events, comes into existence with the beginning of
creation. The Lord is sovereign and not part of His creation; He is
outside of it and therefore outside of our perception of time (and
space). Inasmuch as God created the space we know (the heavens and the
earth on day 1) before He constituted our natural measure and knowledge
of time (on day 4), it seems logical to conclude that He at least began
His creation in His own sense of time. Perhaps the Lord is trying
to communicate this to us through the psalmist in the Old Testament (Ps
90:4) and Peter in the New Testament (2 Peter 3:8) when we are told that
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years
are like a day.
In other words, our perception of time is not the

If this is the case, are we being presumptuous, or even arrogant
imposing the time we know on the Lord for His creative work? For our
sake, so that we might know that He undertook His creative work in six
discrete steps of time, He gives the refrain And there was
evening, and there was morning-the nth day.
Even the order of the
two times of day in the refrain is peculiar from our perception of time
and work; they bracket the nighttime. We characteristically work during
the daytime, and so if we were writing such a refrain describing our
creative work it would be far more logical to write, And there was
morning and there was evening-the nth day.
So even this refrain
hints at something unusual about the time of creation, that may have
been designed for us to notice.

7. What are the strengths of the Day-Age interpretation?

a. This view is not concerned with the absolute period of time God
used in each of His six days of creation. It recognizes this period in
earth’s ‘history’ as special when time, as it has been given to us (and
space), was created. In as much as this creative event appeared to have
occurred on the fourth ‘day,’ this view prefers not to stipulate periods
of man’s perception of time for the first three days, since the
Sovereign Creator of them is Himself outside of them. It also
acknowledges that the Creator may have used the process of growth for
example, as we now perceive growth, a time-consuming activity, to
bring forth vegetation. In addition, the ‘days’ (ages) within the
Day-Age model, can be overlapping to allow insects and birds to be
created in time to facilitate plant reproduction, when plants had grown
to reproductive age.

b. This view does not need to consider the so-called ‘appearance of
age’ problem; that God might have created things differently from how we
perceive the order of nature (general revelation) today from the present
interpretations of the findings of science. e.g. that the speed of light
has changed; that carnivorous animals and fish were once herbivorous;
that stars were created with strings of light attached; that rocks were
created with isotope ratios suggesting age; that fossils were created
with the appearance of age; that fossils, have apparently different ages
with some of them being very old.

c. The Day-Age construct preserves the general sequence of events
as portrayed in the text.

d. The position can, and has been, arrived at through exegesis of
the text, particularly what is said about the sun on the fourth day and
what is said about growth and development in Genesis 2 and does not
require the influence of Darwinian evolutionists, or any of the natural

e. The position accounts for the description of the events on the
fourth day, including the beginning of solar days, and no non-literal
explanation of the text dealing with this creation is called for.
Neither do we have to impose solar days on days 1-3 of creation before
the sun was in existence.

f. This viewpoint readily accommodates the preponderance of
inference from present day scientific interpretation from general
revelation, in particular with data from astrophysics, geology and the
fossil record.

g. The time that might be envisioned for the accomplishment of the
extensive list of events that occur on the sixth day of creation present
no problem to this view. On this day the wild animals, the livestock and
all the creatures that move along the ground were created. Then Adam was
created and put in the Garden of Eden to take care of it with the single
proviso that he was not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good
and evil. Then the Lord brought all the beasts of the field and all the
birds of the air before Adam for the man to name them, but from amongst
them no suitable helper was found. So the Lord caused Adam to fall into
a deep sleep, took a rib from him and created Eve to be his wife and
helper. Some would also include in the events of this day, the dealings
of Eve with the serpent, the eating by Adam and Eve of the forbidden
fruit, their sewing of fig leaves to make coverings for themselves after
the realization of their nakedness, their hiding from the Lord and then
accounting to Him of their sin, the Lord’s cursing of the serpent, the
man and woman and the ground, the Lord’s fashioning garments of skin for
the man and the woman to clothe them, and then banishing them from the
Garden of Eden.

8. What are the difficulties for the Day-Age interpretation?

a. Without the concept of ‘age overlap,’ it allows that the
universe as we know it could have existed in intermediate states for
long periods of time, e.g. vegetation requiring insects/birds for
propagation to be in existence without insects/birds.

b. Overlapping ‘days’ (ages) are hard to propose from a reading of
the text which more speaks of consecutive times (days).

c. Green plants were created on day 3. Although light had been
created on day 1, we know nothing about the nature of this light and its
ability to substitute for sunlight (not available until day 4) as the
energy source for the plant life. Thus, it could be argued that the
green plants could not exist for a very long period without the sun.

d. Need to accept that at least the initial creatures of every
species were created by God with some appearance of age (since this view
affirms that there was a primary creation event of all species of
plants, animals and man each according to its kind [Gen 1:24]).

C. The Framework Interpretation


There are a number of versions of the Framework interpretation. Here
we discuss the position which has arguably influenced the PCA most, that
of Meredith G. Kline and Mark D. Futato. In Genesis 1:1-2:3:

Exegesis indicates that the scheme of the creation week
itself is a poetic figure and that the several pictures of creation
history are set within the six work-day frames not chronologically but
topically. In distinguishing simple description and poetic figure from
what is definitively conceptual the only ultimate guide, here as always,
is comparison with the rest of Scripture.

In other words, the distinctive feature of the Framework
interpretation is its understanding of the week (not the days as such)
as a metaphor. Moses used the metaphor of a week to narrate God’s acts
of creation. Thus God’s supernatural creative words or fiats are real
and historical, but the exact timing is left unspecified.

Why the week then? Moses intended to show Israel God’s call to Adam
to imitate Him in work, with the promise of entering His Sabbath rest.
God’s week is a model, analogous to Israel’s week. The events are
grouped in two triads of days. Days 1-3 (creation’s kingdoms) are
paralleled by Days 4-6 (creation’s kings). Adam is king of the earth and
God is King of Creation.

Two major arguments support the position:

1. The order of Gen 1 is difficult to square with Gen 2:5-6: and
no plant of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had
yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth,
and there was no man to till the ground.
These verses presuppose
that God’s preservation of the plants during the six days was by normal,
secondary causes (water), not by miracle. What Scripture presupposes is
part of its inspired meaning. Without rain or a human cultivator, God
would not create plants. Verse 5’s explanation for this assumes that the
mode of preservation during the creation period was ordinary
preservation (the same as the Israelite knows, what is currently

But normal preservation can not be easily harmonized with a week of
144 hours. If Gen 1 is strictly sequential, Gen 2:5 must have occurred
on Day 3, because dry land did not exist before Day 3, and rich
vegetation existed by the end of Day 3. But when Gen 2:5 occurred, it
was too dry for plants. Land inundated with water only yesterday (Day 2)
does not dry out in a few hours, especially without the sun, which was
not created until Day 4. God could have preserved plants without rain,
man, or the sun. But that is not the way Gen 2:5 explains the delay of
the creation of plants. Rather it was because of the lack of water, or
secondary means of preservation. Therefore the six days in Gen 1 must be
topical, not sequential. The framework view does not state how long the
week was, but affirms that it must have been longer than one hundred
forty-four hours. 2. Second, since God’s mode of operation
was ordinary providence, and since light (Day one) without luminaries
(Day four) is not ordinary providence, the six days of creation in Gen 1
must be topical, not sequential.

Futato’s version of the Framework view argues that both Gen 1 and 2
are arranged topically. Moses wrote in the second millennium B.C. for
the edification of the Israelites on the outskirts of the land of
Canaan. The basic message of Gen 1 is that Yahweh, the God of the
Exodus, not Baal, is the Creator of heaven and earth. He brought them
into being by his Sovereign Word. They depend on him completely. Yahweh
is God over rain and sun, moon and stars; hence they are not to be

As mentioned above, there are variations on the framework theme.
Kline has recently added a two-register cosmology, in further
development of his earlier framework conclusions. Bruce Waltke
summarizes his own reflections on the literary genre of the passage:

. . .it is a literary-artistic representation of the
creation. To this we add the purpose, namely, to ground the covenant
people’s worship and life in the Creator, who transformed chaos into
cosmos, and their ethics in his creative order.

Henri Blocher basically follows Kline. Gordon J. Wenham seems less
clear about the historical claim of the text. We move into a different
realm with Claus Westermann, who is driven by higher-critical

Comparison of the Framework Interpretation with Other

The Framework position as taught by Kline and Futato shares a number
of conclusions with the Calendar-Day, Day-Age, and Analogical-Day

1. It teaches that Gen 1 is inspired verbal revelation. It teaches
creation from nothing, the special creation of Adam and Eve, Adam as the
covenant head of the race, and death and curse as the result of sin.

2. It affirms the historicity of Adam, his uniqueness as the image
of God, and his covenant headship of the human race.

3. Along with the Calendar-Day view, it understands yôm, day, to
refer to a regular day.

4. With the Analogical-Day view, it says the days are structured to
give a pattern for our own work and rest. Also with the Analogical-Day
view, it says that Gen 1 does not intend to communicate the length of
the creation week.

5. With the Day-Age view, but differing from the Calendar-Day view,
it holds that the length of the creation period is figurative. The
Framework view differs from the Day-Age view in that it does not
understand yôm, day, as a long period of time. It differs with the
Calendar Day, Analogical-Day, and Day-Age views by denying that Moses
intended to relate the creation history sequentially.



1. The Framework view interprets Gen 1 in the light of its
immediate context in Gen 2. It harmonizes Gen 1 and 2 concretely and
contextually. It tries to attend to the Bible’s actual meaning within
the ancient Near Eastern readership. This is particularly true of
Futato’s stress on the literary features of the text. Moses’ audience in
Genesis was ancient Israel. To whatever extent he wrote to challenge
paganism, his arrows were aimed at ancient Baal religion, not at modern
naturalistic astronomy, biology, or geology. He wrote to strengthen the
covenant people as they entered Canaan. However much we may diverge in
exegetical conclusions, and granting that metaphor is less descriptively
precise than prose, we may agree that for Israel, a technical scientific
description of the timing and mechanisms of creation was not the primary
focus of Gen 1. Nevertheless, the Creator’s week is not window dressing,
but a call to covenant obedience.

2. The view is fully compatible with the New Testament which
emphasizes God’s Word of power and the created order, not the timing or
length of creation. Specifically, it is compatible with Heb 4:4-6, which
presents Gen 2:2, the 7th day, God’s creation rest, as the consummation
hope of the church. (See the Appendix, The New Testament’s View of
the Historicity of Genesis 1-3.

3. The Framework view is theologically rich, highlighting Moses’
presentation of biblical-theological themes such as covenant, image of
God, and Sabbath. The literary schema of days illumines the glorious
wisdom of God as the Sovereign architect of creation, and the goal of
all things.

4. With respect to the relation of scientific theory and theology
it is open to the study of general revelation regarding the age of the
earth and the cosmos, within biblical constraints. Some of those are:
creation ex nihilo, that Adam and Eve were the genetically unique,
specially created parents of the human race, and that the fall of Adam
introduced the curse into God’s good creation. It denies all
evolutionary origins, and evolutionary philosophy as contradictory to
the teaching of scripture.


1. The position has been severely criticized for rendering Gen 1
non-historical. For example:

Evangelical framework theologians tell us that the
Genesis account is not a factual and historical account. Rather, it is
an artistic expression, a divine metaphor, affirming that God is the
Creator; it does not inform us either of the mechanism or time frame of
the creative process.

The criticism is a serious one, because Christianity rests on the
historicity of Gen 1-3. However, Framework proponent Meredith Kline
explicitly affirms the opposite. He writes,

. . .Gen 1-11 is not mythological but a genuine record
of history. . .The material in these chapters is unquestionably
interpreted by inspired writers elsewhere in Scripture as historical in
the same sense that they understand Gen 12-50 or Kings or the Gospels to
be historical.

This avowal of historicity may be highlighted by contrasting it with
the comment of Roman Catholic scholar J. A. Fitzmyer on Rom 5:12: . .
.Paul has historicized the symbolic Adam of Genesis.
So the position
should not be confused with the claim that Gen 1:1-2:3 is myth or
parable or allegory. The Framework position asserts unequivocally that
the passage teaches acts of supernatural origination by God’s commands
and the special creation of Adam and Eve. It is an exegesis, not an
attempt to balance prior philosophical or scientific commitments with
Scripture. (Those who hold the Framework interpretation agree that God
could create the world in one hundred forty-four hours, for instance.)
Because we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, no one should be
considered orthodox who holds to the Framework view if he is motivated
by naturalistic, higher-critical, or evolutionisitic assumptions. Those
assumptions would be an abuse rather than a proper use of the Framework

Affirming historicity while denying sequence is difficult. The most
prominent aspect of narrative as we write it may be the appearance of
chronology. The marker of history in our thinking tends to be when
and how did it happen?
On the surface it seems contradictory to
suggest that history is being narrated in a semi-figurative form, when
time markers are said to be figurative. This opens the interpretation to
the abuse of those who wish to deny the historicity of the events, or
embrace naturalistic theories of origins, a serious abuse indeed.

2. The position depends on the exegesis of Gen 2:5-6 that denies all
miraculous preservation during the creation week. If there were also
supernatural preservation, Gen 2:5-6 would not require a non-sequential
interpretation of chapter 1. Is mere natural preservation so clearly
assumed in Gen 2:5-6 as to require the affirmation that the week of Gen
1 is a metaphor? Could God not have dried the land supernaturally before
the situation described in Gen 2:5? If so, would that render the reason
given in Gen 2:5b irrelevant, as Kline claims?

3. The relation of Exodus 20:11 to Genesis 1:1-2:3 raises another
problem. Verse 11, for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh,
employs an
accusative of duration. In other words, critics argue, Ex 20:11
gives an inspired interpretation of the length of the work of creation.
This is decisive for many. Those who hold the Framework position answer
by noting that the revealed pattern of six and one is a sufficient basis
for man’s imitation of God in ordering his time. That is, the rest God
requires in the fourth commandment (including physical rest) is an
analogy of God’s seventh-day rest. God’s divine refreshment on the
seventh day (cf. Ex 31:17) is the theological basis of Israel’s physical

4. The Framework interpretation raises the question of what literary
genre we may understand Gen 1 to be. It seems to present a mixed form,
which is difficult to interpret. How does one discern metaphor from
straightforward prose? Proponents answer that this is no more difficult
in Gen 1 than anywhere else Scripture uses metaphor. Is 48:13 says for
example, My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right
hand spread out the heavens. . .

The metaphors (hand, foundations, spread out)
offer no difficulty. They do not threaten the historical claim of the
text, or the clarity of Scripture. In Gen 1 as elsewhere, the analogy of
Scripture, in its narrower and broader contexts, is determinative.

5. The view is complex and has been poorly, perhaps sometimes
provocatively expressed. It may legitimately be asked whether the
Israelite reader could have understood the week as a metaphor without
denying its real historicity.

6. The Framework view is the most easily misunderstood of the
options. Proponents should recognize that it is complex, it has
sometimes been poorly expressed, and it does not answer every exegetical
question. It should be handled with great pastoral tact and sensitivity
in today’s charged atmosphere.

D. The Analogical Days Interpretation

Definition of the position

The days are God’s work-days, which are analogous, and not
necessarily identical, to our work days, structured for the purpose of
setting a pattern for our own rhythm of rest and work.

The six days represent periods of God’s historical
supernatural activity in preparing and populating the earth as a place
for humans to live, love, work, and worship.

These days are broadly consecutive: that is, they are taken
as successive periods of unspecified length, but one allows for the
possibility that parts of the days may overlap, or that there might be
logical rather than chronological criteria for grouping some events in a
particular day.

Genesis 1:1-2 are background, representing an unknown length of time
prior to the beginning of the first day: verse 1 is the creatio
ex nihilo event, while verse 2 describes the conditions of the earth as
the first day commenced.

Length of time, either for the creation week, or before it or since
it, is irrelevant to the communicative purpose of the account.

Historical background

In the modern period, this view arose from perceived problems in the
Day-Age view, though it employs what were felt to be valuable
observations by the proponents of that view. William G.T. Shedd’s
Dogmatic Theology (1888), i:474-477, drew on these insights, as well as
statements from Augustine and Anselm, to the effect that the days of
Genesis 1 are God-divided days, with the result that the seven
days of the human week are copies of the seven days of the Divine
Franz Delitzsch’s New Commentary on Genesis appeared in
English translation in 1899 (German original, 1887), and argued the same

The prominent Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck published the first
edition of his Gereformeerde Dogmatiek in 1895-1901, and the second
edition in 1906-1911. The section on creation has just appeared in
English translation (Baker, 1999). There he advocates a version of the
Analogical Days interpretation:

It is probable, in the first place, that the creation of
heaven and earth in Genesis 1:1 preceded the work of the six days in
verses 3ff. by a shorter or longer period. . .

So, although. . .the days of Genesis 1 are to be considered days and
not to be identified with the periods of geology, they nevertheless-like
the work of creation as a whole-have an extraordinary character. . .The
first three days, however much they may resemble our days, also differ
significantly from them and hence were extraordinary cosmic days. . .It
is not impossible that the second triduum still shared in this
extraordinary character as well. . .It is very difficult to find room on
the sixth day for everything Genesis 1-2 has occur in it if that day was
in all respects like our days. . .Much more took place on each day of
creation than the sober words of Genesis would lead us to suspect.

For all these reasons, day in the first chapter of the Bible
denotes the time in which God was at work creating. . .The creation days
are the workdays of God.

More recently, C. John Collins has argued for this position: first
in an article in 1994, and then a more developed version in 1999. This
latter article in particular employs the tools of discourse and literary
analysis. Discourse analysis approaches texts under the assumption that
they are acts of communication, and studies the patterns of linguistic
usage as they relate to communicative intent. Linguist and PCA ruling
elder Robert Longacre summarizes the issues studied:

. . .contemporary discourse analysis is interested in
questions of genre classification. . .; the articulation of parts of a
discourse such as formulaic beginnings and endings, episodes, and high
points in the story (called peaks); the status of discourse constituents
such as sentences, paragraphs, and embedded discourses; the cast of
participants in a given discourse. . .; author viewpoint and author
sympathy as indicated in the text; the main line development of a
discourse. . .; the role of tense, aspect, particles, affixes,
pronominalization chains, paraphrase, and conjunctions in providing
cohesion and prominence in a discourse; ways of marking peak in a
narrative; and the function of dialogue in discourse.

Conservative literary approaches share some of these concerns, and add some of their own. These methods stem from the observation that the Biblical narratives are stories, and hence involve characters, events (plot), and scenes. To call them stories is not to downplay their historical claims (indeed, to do so would be a mis-reading of them); instead, it directs our attention to the narrator’s ways of portraying characters’ good and bad traits, and of displaying or hiding his own point of view.

Description of the position

The specific features of the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:1-2:3 (and of
passages that reflect on it) for which this interpretation (in its
developed form) seeks to account include:

1. The verb tenses in Gen 1:1-2 mark those verses as background to
the narrative: further analysis indicates that verse 1 designates an
event as an unspecified time prior to the conditions of verse 2, while
verse 2 describes the conditions as the first day begins in verse 3
(which uses the narrative tense for the first time).

2. The absence of the refrain in the seventh day is most easily
explained as indicating that the day did not end (and John 5:17; Hebrews
4:3-11 seem to take that for granted), hence this is not an
ordinary day.

3. The refrain of the six days (and there was evening, and there
was morning, the nth day
), when seen from within the culture of
Moses, marks the end-points of the night-time (cf. Numbers 9:15-16),
which is the daily rest for the worker (Psalm 104:22-23; cf. Genesis
30:16; Exodus 18:13) and looks forward to the weekly Sabbath rest.

4. When the Pentateuch reflects on this account to enjoin Sabbath
observance, it draws on the analogy (and not identity) between our work
and rest and God’s (Exodus 20:8-11; 31:17).

5. The use of the Hebrew narrative tense and the march of the
numbered days in Genesis 1, along with the accusative of duration in
Exodus 20:11 (over the course of six days) all favor the
conclusion that the creative events were accomplished over some stretch
of time (i.e. not instantaneously), and that the days are (at least
broadly) sequential.

6. The indivisibility of Genesis 2:4, as well as its content, points
to the traditional conclusion that Genesis 2:5-25 are an amplification
only of the sixth day of the creation week.

Similarities to and differences from the other positions

Conservative adherents of the Calendar Day view, the Day-Age view,
and the Framework view, share a number of points in common with the
Analogical Days view. These include the propriety of attributing
historicity to Genesis 1-3 (see discussion of that word in the
Definitions section of this report); the rejection of source-critical
theories of these chapters as originally disparate, and ultimately
incompatible; and adherence to the authority of the New Testament as
interpreter of these chapters.

The Calendar Day, Day-Age, and Analogical Day views all see the days
as sequential, while the Framework view sees sequentiality as optional
at best. The Calendar Day and Day-Age views take the strongest position
on sequence, while the Analogical Days view is more reserved about
strict sequentiality (and hence cautious about harmonization with

With the Day-Age view, the Analogical Days view sees the days as
potentially long periods; unlike that view, it does not arrive at that
position by appeal to day in its sense period of undefined
Instead it finds an analogical application of the ordinary
sense of the word day.

Finally, the Day-Age, Analogical Days, and Framework interpretations
do not involve rejection of conventional cosmology and geology. (The
stance taken toward evolutionary biology, a different science, is
different; see the discussion of evolution in the Definitions
section.) Although some adherents of the Calendar Days view do not
insist on young-earth cosmology and geology, most do.

Strengths of the position

This position claims the following factors in its favor, which
commend it to others’ acceptance:

It derives from a discourse-oriented study of the text of Scripture
in the original languages. Although it is in principle responsible to
re-evaluate our interpretation of the Bible in the light of widely
accepted scientific theories, it is dangerous to set out with the
purpose of harmonization. This interpretation does not fall foul of such
a warning. As an exegetical position it is compatible with old-earth
creationism as well as with young-earth creationism, but requires

The toolkit of discourse and literary methods, when applied to the
rest of Genesis 2-3, yield such results as: rejection of source-critical
theories of the passages’ origin; affirmation that we do not have here
two creation accounts; resolution of alleged contradictions
between Genesis 1 and 2 (e.g. at 2:5-6, 19); vindication of the Pauline
reading of Genesis 3, including Adam’s role as first human and covenant
head of humanity, and different role relationships for men and women
within the context of their equal bearing of God’s image. Application of
these tools does not in any way question the historicity of the
events narrated in these chapters, but in fact supports it. These
methods attempt to systematize what good grammarians and exegetes
through the ages have felt.

Though the interpretive scheme itself, as well as some of the
arguments employed for it, may sound novel to some, it does not actually
involve any grammatical or semantic innovations.

The developed arguments for the view claim to account for all the
details of the text.

This view is explicitly built on the desire to be ruled by
Scriptural reflections on the account, especially those regarding work
and the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11; John 5:17; Hebrews 4:3-11). In
particular, it is strongly Sabbatarian in its orientation, and explains
how our Sabbath can be grounded in God’s by the principle of analogy.

The stress on the principle of analogy between God’s work and ours
means that it has special creative events built into it, and hence while
it favors some sort of intelligent design model for biology it is
incompatible with theistic evolutionary schemes.

Objections to the position

The following objections may be raised to this interpretation, which
advocates must be sure to answer:

1. The discourse and literary methods to which it appeals are new,
and not unanimously or consistently employed by Bible scholars.

2. The scheme requires explanation to show that it is not too subtle
for the ordinary Hebrew to have understood it, or for the ordinary
believer today to understand it.

3. Other explanations for the absence of the refrain on the seventh
day have been offered by responsible commentators, and need to be

4. No other Scriptural examples are offered where time indicators
are used analogically.

5. Though it may claim a kind of continuity with Augustine (as well
as Anselm, and sympathy from Aquinas), it is not really the same as his
instantaneous creation view. Hence its continuity may be said to be

E. Other Interpretations of the Creation Days

There are other interpretive schemes that are probably represented in
the PCA, but are not represented on the Study Committee. We will
summarize them briefly.

The intermittent day interpretation

In this scheme the days are calendar days of creative activity,
separated by periods of unspecified length. That is, the days are
normal, and consecutive, but not contiguous.

This view is chiefly associated with Robert Newman and Herman
Eckelmann, Jr., Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth (InterVarsity,

The strength of this view is that it aims to leave the days as
ordinary ones while pursuing a high level of concordance with scientific
conclusions (except evolutionary ones, which its advocates reject).

Among its weaknesses would be the lack of textual indicators for the
intervening spaces, as well as its intentionally high level of
harmonization with modern scientific results with little relevance for
the ancient audience.

The gap (or reconstitution) interpretation

This scheme sees the creation week of Genesis 1:1-2:3 as
describing the re-making of the earth after a primeval rebellion had
spoiled it. It reads Genesis 1:2 as and the earth became formless and
a condition which it attributes to this rebellion.

This has been associated with such figures as Thomas Chalmers (as
early as 1814), Arthur Custance, and the Scofield Reference Bible
(including the new edition). The Scofield Bible combines this with a
day-age interpretation of the days.

It is argued that this scheme allows geology to tell us that the
earth is old, and that the fossils represent old animals, at the same
time as it takes the days as calendar days. (As indicated, the
Scofield position would not endorse this last part.)

Its chief weakness is the grammar of Genesis 1:2: it is hard to see
how the construction can be interpreted as and the earth became,
both because of the verb tense and the absence of the normal idiom for

The days of revelation interpretation

The days are six consecutive 24-hour days in which God revealed the
narrative to Moses. This is associated with the British soldier and
diplomat P. J. Wiseman, Creation Revealed in Six Days (1958), and his
son, the well-respected Assyriologist Donald J. Wiseman, in Creation
time – what does Genesis say?,
Science and Christian Belief 3:1
(1991), 25-34.

The days of divine fiat interpretation

This view asserts that the days are six consecutive 24-hour days in
which God said his instructions, while the fulfillment of those
instructions took place over unspecified periods of time. This view
appears in Alan Hayward’s Creation and Evolution (Bethany, 1995
[originally 1985]). Hayward is a progressive creationist who makes a
strong and responsible case against Darwinism.

The focus on Palestine interpretation

This view sees creation as restricted to Genesis 1:1 and argues that
the account shifts in Genesis 1:2 to a description of the preparation of
the Promised Land for Israel. This view comes from John Sailhamer,
Genesis Unbound (Multnomah, 1996).

Expanding time

This view is connected with the Israeli physicist Gerald Schroeder.
Schroeder propounds his position in his books Genesis and the Big Bang
and The Science of God. First, he contends that since the Jewish
calendar begins with Adam, we may take the six creation days as separate
from this clock. Second, he employs Einstein’s relativity theory, under
the assumption that the six days are days from a different frame
of reference than ours on earth, namely from the initial Big Bang (from
our frame of reference, the universe is 15 billion years old).

Under this scheme, the first day is 24 hours from the beginning
of time perspective,
and 8 billion years from ours. The second day,
24 hours from the beginning of time perspective, was 4 billion years
long from ours. The third day from our vantage point was 2 billion
years, the fourth day one billion years, the fifth day half a billion,
and the sixth day was a quarter billion years long.

To Schroeder’s delight, this adds up to 15.75 billion years, the
same as the modern cosmologists’ calculation.

The appeal of this view is that it does not need another meaning for
day, and at the same time harmonizes with modern cosmology. The
exegetical difficulty is that it requires a vantage point other than
that of earth, which the Genesis account seems to presuppose.
Philosophically, it must justify its strong impulse toward harmonization
(see the discussion of harmonization in the Definitions section).

V. Original Intent of the Westminster Assembly

The Westminster Confession of Faith 4:1 says,

It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the
manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness,
in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all
things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days;
and all very good.

What did the Westminster Assembly mean by the phrase in the space
of six days?
Without casting a shadow over the good intentions of
anyone, we would remind the Church that these are not ideal
circumstances for an unbiased, balanced interpretation. This study has
arisen in theological controversy B which frequently in history has been
the matrix for theological definition. The interpretation of this phrase
has received more attention in the last three years than in the previous
three-hundred-fifty. No doubt, more light will be shed on the phrase as
research continues. In the meantime we should all exercise mutual love
and due caution in drawing conclusions.

The Committee agrees on a number of facts bearing on the original
intent of the Assembly. These are listed as follows:

  • The doctrine of creation is of integral importance to the theology
    of the Standards.

  • The discussion of the length of creation days held by the Assembly
    was not in the context of the variety of interpretations of Genesis 1
    available today.

  • Throughout the ages of its history, the church has wrestled with
    the theological implications of the existence of light before Day 4.
    This may have given rise to the statement of William Perkins, of great
    influence on that generation of Puritanism, who wrote, six distinct
    or six distinct spaces of time.

  • Throughout pre-Reformation history Augustine’s instantaneous
    creation view was treated with respect, and, while not adopted by a
    majority, was never considered heretical.

  • John Calvin employed the phrase the space of six days (sex
    dierum spatium) in order to counter Augustine’s instantaneous creation
    view. The Westminster Assembly by adopting this phrase excluded
    Augustine’s instantaneous creation view.

  • The influence of the Irish Articles of 1615 and their primary
    author James Ussher on the Assembly was very important. The first
    confessional use of “the space of six days” is found in the Irish

  • The Confession of Faith 4:1, Larger Catechism 15, and Shorter
    Catechism 9 use the phrase in the space of six days without
    further specification.

  • At least five divines affirmed the Calendar Day view, possibly
    more. No evidence has been found of any view other than the Calendar Day
    in the writings of individual divines.

  • Among Calendar Day advocates among the divines, there were
    differences on other related matters, e.g., the length of the first day,
    the time of year of the creation of Adam, the time of the fall of Adam,
    and the time of the fall of the angels.

  • In interpreting the Standards, as in interpreting Scripture,
    historical and literary context must be observed as the most important
    indication of meaning. Thus, as we seek to understand the original
    intent of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms regarding creation,
    it is imperative that we consider the historical time in which those
    documents were prepared. They were composed by the Westminster Assembly,
    which met between 1643 and 1649. (The task of drafting Chapter 4 of the
    Confession was assigned July 16, 1645. The Assembly debated and
    concluded this chapter on November 18-20, 1645.)

Three Interpretations of the Original Intent of the Westminster Standards

As we considered these facts, three interpretations have presented
themselves. To some of us, the evidence leads to the conclusion that the
Assembly meant six calendar days. To others of us, the evidence
is not strong enough to conclude that the Assembly wished to exclude any
view other than the instantaneous view of Augustine. To yet others of
us, the evidence suggests that the Assembly intended to express no more
and no less than what Scripture expresses in the phrase in six
(Exodus 20:11). A summary of the three interpretations is given

A. First Interpretation of Intent

To begin with one must consider the context in which this phrase
in the space of six days is first used, and why the Westminster
divines used it. The first known appearance of the phrase is in Calvin’s
Commentary on Genesis, in a passage in which he is directly
contradicting a figurative view of the creation days, in particular,
Augustine’s instantaneous creation view. It was included in the Irish
Articles, authored by Archbishop James Ussher, then Professor of
Divinity at Dublin. The articles were adopted by the Church of Ireland
in 1615. Ussher’s language reflects Calvin’s concern to exclude the
Augustinian instantaneous creation view. Ussher held to six calendar
days of creation, along with his young earth view that is reflected in
his chronology. It is natural to infer from this that the Irish Articles
specified the Six Calendar Day view.

This is of particular significance, for as Philip Schaff says these
articles were the chief source of the latter (Westminster
To use a phrase from an officially recognized
Confession of the Irish Church in any other sense than that which it
meant in that Confession is improbable. It was a phrase that had a
particular meaning by the time of the Westminster Assembly. The reason
for their use of the phrase lies in just that fact. It was a succinct
way of describing the six days of creation of Genesis 1, with the
understanding that those days were normal, calendar days. The
significance of this, together with the findings of the Rev. David Hall
regarding the meaning of the phrase in the space of six days
essentially settles the issue of what the Westminster Divines intended
by this phrase. Hall finds a number of the Divines specifically
referring to six calendar days. Within such variation as existed among
the Divines no evidence is provided of support for views such as
Day-Age, Framework, Analogical, etc. The original intent of the
Westminster Confession and Catechisms by the phrase in the space of
six days
is clearly the affirmation that creation took place in six
calendar days.

That this was the interpretation of the Church of the 17th century
is clear from the early commentaries on the Standards. Vincent affirms
six calendar days, as does Thomas Ridgeley in his Commentary on the
Larger Catechism, published in 1731.

B. Second Interpretation of Intent

Other committee members interpret the facts differently. The second
interpretation is that the intent of the Westminster Assembly was to
express duration of time in the creation days without being specific as
to the exact nature or length of those days. The evidence is not strong
enough to conclude that the Assembly wished to exclude any view other
than the instantaneous view of Augustine. Their view is as follows:

As we seek to understand the teaching of the original intent of the
Westminster Confession and Catechisms regarding creation, it is
imperative that we consider (1) the historical time in which those
documents were prepared, as well as (2) the function of the phrase in
the space of six days
in the teaching of the Confession.

1. What is required of us at this time is to seek to understand
clearly the context in which the phrase in the space of six days
is first used, and why the Westminster divines used it. The first
appearance of the phrase is in Calvin’s Commentary on Genesis. It also
appears in the influential Elizabethan Puritan William Perkins’s
Exposition of …the Creede, where he refers to the work of creation
being done in six distinct days, which he also paraphrases as
six distinct spaces of time. The Irish Articles of 1615, produced
by Archbishop James Ussher, who was much admired by the Westminster
divines, says in Article 18: In the beginning of time, when no
creature had any being, God, by his word alone, in the space of six
days, created all things, and afterwards, by his providence, doth
continue, propagate, and order them according to his own will.

Clearly there is a tradition in Reformed circles prior to the
Westminster Assembly to use this phrase, which is no more or less
specific regarding the nature and length of the days in the Irish
Articles than in the Westminster Confession.

What is also clear is that this phrase is employed, at the very
least, to distance one’s position from a view of instantaneous creation
such as Augustine had advocated (and as was still being propagated at
the time of the Westminster Assembly, as evidenced by the popular
Religio Medici by Sir Thomas Browne, published in 1643). What is not so
clear is whether the phrase required six 24-hour days. All of the
relevant sources (including the Westminster divines whose writings on
this subject are available) understand the sun, moon, and stars to be
created only on the fourth day – one of the facts from Genesis 1 that
moved Augustine to his speculations about the creative days and to a
preference for instantaneous creation. This caused Calvin to ponder
about the light created on the first day:

Further, it is certain, from the context, that the light
was so created as to be interchanged with darkness. But it may be asked,
whether light and darkness succeeded each other in turn through the
whole circuit of the world; or whether the darkness occupied one half of
the circle, while light shone in the other. There is, however, no doubt
that the order of their succession was alternate, but whether it was
everywhere day at the same time, and everywhere night also, I would
rather leave undecided; nor is it very necessary to be known.

This same sort of reticence about the nature of the days before the
creation of the sun may explain Perkins’s paraphrasing of six
distinct days
with the expression six distinct spaces of
Whatever the nature and duration of the first three days, they
were not solar days (that is, not in the sense of days determined by a
24-hour rotation of the earth in relation to the sun).

It has not been demonstrated that a majority of the Westminster
divines intended for the phrase in the space of six days to mean
six 24-hour days. At least five prominent members of the Assembly did
so: John White, John Ley, John Lightfoot, George Walker, and William
Twisse. Evidence that has been offered for up to twenty-one divines
holding to such a view includes: the mere use of the expression in
six days,
but this begs the question of the nature of the days;
agreement with James Ussher’s chronology for the age of the earth since
the creation of Adam, but this is based on the genealogies of Genesis 5
and 11 and does not depend on the creative days being 24-hours; or the
endorsement of certain works by members of the Assembly, but mere
endorsement does not prove agreement to every statement in a book.

Among the five Westminster divines who clearly hold to six 24-hour
days, some held to other specific points that the Assembly did not
endorse. Lightfoot declared that creation must have been on the autumnal
equinox, but Walker said it must be on the vernal equinox. Lightfoot
also has Adam created at around 9 a.m. on the sixth day and Eve tempted
around noon, with the fall of the human race occurring on the sixth day.
Such speculations were not adopted by the Assembly.

2. How does the phrase in the space of six days function
within the teaching of the Confession? The Assembly placed great
emphasis on the doctrine of creation in the systematic teaching of the
Standards. Like the sufficiency of Scripture, the decrees of God, and
God’s covenant with man, the doctrine of creation by the Triune God is
integral, part of the fabric of the document. However, the more specific
question of the length of the creation is mentioned only once, briefly.
The length of creation does not hold the same integral place in the
Confession as the broader doctrine of creation.

Moreover, the Assembly as a body chose not to specify the length of
the days, whatever individual commissioners may have believed. It is
well known that the Assembly was not shy to define its positions in
detail, but it never did so on this matter. In the final analysis it is
what they wrote, not what they thought, that is determinative of
meaning. It is not a sound principle of interpretation to take the
statements of individuals as defining the intent of a deliberative body.

Moreover, the Assembly did not require the more specific views of
the influential Lightfoot in its statement on the creation days. This is
because the Assembly was seeking to confess the faith common to all. On
October 20, 1645, unimpeachable supralapsarian Calvinist George
Gillespie, contrary to his own specific opinion, urged reserve on the
Assembly in its statement on the decree of God. Strong words had been
proposed. Gillespie stated, When that word is left out, is it not a
truth, and so everyone may enjoy his own sense.
Unlike the studied
ambiguity of modern creedal statements that allow unbelief, such reserve
was motivated by the desire to establish unity on the most important
matters of biblical truth in the three kingdoms (England, Scotland, and
Ireland). And in its first chapter the Assembly confessed that sincere
Christians will not agree on everything in Scripture.

It would appear that the question of the length of the creation days
was not of paramount importance to the Assembly. No evidence has been
produced that the Assembly intended to exclude any view but the
instantaneous creation view. Even granting that no long-day view has
been found among the members of the Assembly, some of us believe that in
light of these contextual considerations it goes beyond the evidence to
claim that the phrase in the space of six days excludes any view
other than instantaneous creation.

C. Third Interpretation of Intent

A third position held by some members of the Committee is that
although there is evidence that certain individual members of the
Westminster Assembly held to a creation week of six calendar days, the
best evidence of intent is the language of the constitutional documents
themselves. This position holds that the confessional language in the
space of six days
is substantially equivalent to Scripture, and that
the clear expressed intention of the Westminster Assembly is thus to be
no more or less explicit than Scripture itself.

Under this analysis – that the constitutional language was intended
to be substantially equivalent to Scripture – the matter under debate is
no longer a Constitutional issue, because if a candidate were to take
exception to the language in the space of six days then he would
be deemed to have taken exception to the language of Scripture itself,
such as Exodus 20:11: [f]or in six days the LORD made the heavens and
the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. . .
If an examining
court allows latitude in the interpretation of Genesis 1 and related
passages regarding the length of creation days, that same latitude
should be allowed for the candidate’s interpretation of the phrase in
the space of six days
contained in the Standards, and no exception
should be noted. If, on the other hand, an examining court does not
grant latitude in the interpretation of Genesis 1 and related passages,
no exception should be allowed, because the PCA obviously does not
permit exception to the language of Scripture.

VI. Advice and Counsel of the Committee

The Committee reminds the Assembly of the tremendous theological
significance of the Biblical doctrine of creation. As Bavinck points
out, The doctrine of creation, affirming the distinction between the
Creator and his creature is the starting point of true religion.

He goes on to say:

There is no existence apart from God, and the Creator
can only be known truly through revelation. . .This creation is properly
said to be ex nihilo, ‘out of nothing,’ thus preserving the distinction
in essence between the Creator and the world and the contingency of the
world in its dependence on God.

. . .Creation also means that time has a beginning, only God is
eternal. As creatures we are necessarily in time, and speculation about
pretemporal or extratemporal reality is useless speculation. The purpose
and goal of creation is to be found solely in God’s will and glory. It
is especially in the Reformed tradition that the honor and glory of God
was made the fundamental principle of all doctrine and conduct. A
doctrine of creation is one of the foundational building blocks of a
biblical and Christian worldview.

The orthodox view includes the following elements: that Scripture is
the inerrant Word of God and self-interpreting, the full historicity of
Genesis 1-3, the unique creation of Adam and Eve in God’s image as our
first parents, and Adam as the covenant head of the human race. A
necessary corollary of this view is the fact that the curse and the
resultant discord in the universe began with the sin of Adam. It is the
incomprehensible God who has revealed himself clearly in nature and in
Scripture. He has revealed exactly what He intended, and those areas
which are not revealed belong to the Lord our God (Deut 29:29).

There are areas in which there are differences of interpretation of
both Scripture and of our Standards, which we need to continue to
explore patiently and respectfully before God.

In light of the present diversity regarding the creation doctrine in
the PCA., the committee was established to study the exegetical,
hermeneutical, and theological interpretations of Genesis 1-3 and the
original intent of the Westminster Standards’ phrase in the space of
six days,
. . .[and to] report. . .its findings, along with its
non-binding advice and counsel if any.

As we have studied the history of this matter, reflected in Section
II, it is clear that there has been a good deal of diversity of opinion
over the issue of the length of the days throughout the history of the
Church. It is this kind of diversity that is found in the PCA today. The
fact is that the Church, while affirming with one voice the creation of
all things visible and invisible by the triune God, has not come to a
unity of position on the matter of the nature and length of the days, as
she has with regard to such doctrines as the Trinity and the Person of
Christ. This indicates that the Westminster divines were correct in
their affirmation that all things in Scripture are not alike plain in
themselves, nor alike clear unto all. . .
(WCF I, 7). We believe
that this is the reason that this Committee has not been able to reach
unanimity. We have come to a better understanding of each other’s views,
resulting in a deeper respect for one another’s integrity.

We are aware that this is a divisive issue. It is the hope and
purpose of the Committee to give advice that could avoid any division of
the church. While affirming the above statement of what is involved in
an orthodox view of creation, we recognize that good men will differ on
some other matters of interpretation of the creation account. We urge
the church to recognize honest differences, and join in continued study
of the issues, with energy and patience, and with a respect for the
views and integrity of each other.

It should be observed that the ordinary courts of jurisdiction for
officers in the church are the presbytery for the teaching elders and
the session for the ruling elders and deacons. These are the courts that
deal with the theological position of the officers, and it is not the
prerogative of the Assembly to interfere with the judgments of these
courts, except by way of review of the presbytery minutes, or by
judicial process.

The advice of some who hold the Calendar Day view is that the
General Assembly recognize that the intent of the Westminster divines
was the Calendar Day view, and that any other view is an exception to
the teaching of the Standards. A court that grants an exception has the
prerogative of not permitting the exception to be taught at all. If the
individual is permitted to teach his view, he must also agree to present
the position of the Standards as the position of the Church.

Others recommend that the Assembly acknowledge that the four views
of the interpretation of the days expounded in this report are
consistent with the teaching of the Standards on the doctrine of
creation, and that those who hold one of these views and who assent to
the affirmations listed below should be received by the courts of the
church without notations of exceptions to the Standards concerning the
doctrine of creation.

The advice of others on the committee is that the PCA has existed
for over 25 years with a variety of viewpoints regarding creation being
accepted, and a diversity of presbytery and sessional practices. These
members of the Committee recognize that it would be disturbing to the
Church if the Assembly sought to change the present practice of the
Church which has provided for various ways of receiving candidates for
office, who make the following affirmations.

All the Committee members join in these affirmations: The
Scriptures, and hence Genesis 1-3, are the inerrant word of God. That
Genesis 1-3 is a coherent account from the hand of Moses. That history,
not myth, is the proper category for describing these chapters; and
furthermore that their history is true. In these chapters we find the
record of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth ex nihilo; of the
special creation of Adam and Eve as actual human beings, the parents of
all humanity (hence they are not the products of evolution from lower
forms of life). We further find the account of an historical fall, that
brought all humanity into an estate of sin and misery, and of God’s sure
promise of a Redeemer. Because the Bible is the word of the Creator and
Governor of all there is, it is right for us to find it speaking
authoritatively to matters studied by historical and scientific
research. We also believe that acceptance of, say, non-geocentric
astronomy is consistent with full submission to Biblical authority. We
recognize that a naturalistic worldview and true Christian faith are
impossible to reconcile, and gladly take our stand with Biblical


The Creation Study Committee recommends that the Assembly hear its
report for up to one hour under the rules for informal
(Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, 1990 ed. pp.
533-34), along with adoption of a rule (2/3rds vote required) that under
this procedure no motions with respect to the report or recommendations
be in order. During this period of informal consideration the committee
will review its report, respond to questions and lead in discussion.
Since instructed by the Assembly to bring non-binding advice and
(M26GA, p 191), the committee further recommends that at the
conclusion of the allotted time, the following recommendations be
adopted as a unit without amendment.


We, therefore, recommend the following:

That the Creation Study Committee’s report, in its entirety, be
distributed to all sessions and presbyteries of the PCA and made
available for others who wish to study it. Adopted

That since historically in Reformed theology there has been a
diversity of views of the creation days among highly resected
theologicans, and, since the PCA has from its inception allowed a
diversity, that the Assembly affirm that such diversity as covered in
this report is acceptable as long as the full historicity of the
creation account is accepted. Adopted as amended

That this study committee be dismissed with thanks. Adopted

VII. Appendices

A. Definitions (a fuller version than above).

In order to be clear about where we agree and where we disagree, we
must first be clear on just what we mean by the words we use. A number
of terms appear in discussions of Genesis 1-3, and the various parties
may actually mean different things by them. A theme running through this
discussion is the problem created by there being several meanings
available for these terms, and we must decide which sense of the word is
relevant to our discussion.

Among these terms are: literal, as in we prefer a literal
interpretation of Genesis
; historical, as in do we affirm that
Genesis 1-3 are historical narratives?
; poetical, as in is the
narrative of Genesis 1 poetical?
; and creationism/creationist, as in
is the PCA a creationist body? Other words that we must also be
careful to define include evolution in its many senses (are all of them
objectionable?); and science (in what sense might the Bible and science
be in conflict?); and, finally, harmonization (is it proper to find a
Biblical interpretation that harmonizes with scientific conclusions?).
In the course of this description we will also define some linguistic
and philosophical terms we use: analogy, metaphor, anthropomorphism,
equivocation, metaphysics, naturalism, deism, catastrophism, and

Our aim here will be to present in broad stroke form the main issues
and conclusions upon which everyone in the PCA can agree.


As Protestants we say we believe in the importance of the
literal interpretation of a passage. But what do we mean by that?
The term comes out of medieval discussions of the various meanings of a
text, such as the literal, the anagogical, the
allegorical, and so on. The Reformers stressed the literal
meaning as the one of primary interest. In this context they meant that
we ought to care about the meaning the author intended; we should ask,
what would a competent reader from the original audience have gotten
from this text?
Now, it is important to recognize that this puts no
requirements on us, say, for excluding such things as figurative
descriptions, anthropomorphisms, exaggerations, and so on: instead we
try to follow the conventions of the particular literary form we are

We must make this proviso because there are other meanings of the
word literal that can confuse us. For example, often when we say
take a statement literally we mean that we take it in its most
physical terms, without allowance for figures of speech such as
metaphor. This is the literalistic interpretation, and we owe it
no loyalty at all. We find literalism of this kind amusing if our
children apply it to idioms such as raining cats and dogs, and we
find it frustrating when we are discussing the meaning of all in
Romans 5:18. It is not difficult to marshal exegetical arguments to
suggest that by the word all in Romans 5:18 Paul meant all
those represented by the respective covenant head,
and we may
legitimately claim that this is in fact the intended or properly
literal meaning. This helps us to see that the properly literal
meaning of a text need not be the same as the meaning that lies on the

What does this mean for our interpretation of Genesis 1-3? Quite
simply, it keeps our attention on the communication act between Moses
and the generation of Israelites he led into the Sinai desert. That is,
part of the argument in favor of our interpretation should be its
relevance and intelligibility to competent readers from the original
audience. This will also have a bearing on the validity of some kinds of


In ordinary language, when we say that an account is
historical we mean that it is a record of something the author
wants us to believe actually happened in the space-time world. There is
no question but that the Genesis 1 account should be taken as being
historical in this sense: after all, this is how every Biblical
author who refers back to it treats it (e.g. Exod 20:11; Heb 11:3; Rev
4:11; Isa 40:26; Jonah 1:9). Again, we must be careful to understand
what that does and does not say. This does not decide ahead of time such
things as whether the manner of description is free from figurative
(i.e. that the account demands what we have called a
literalistic interpretation), or whether the account is complete
in detail, or whether things must be narrated in the order in which they
occurred (unless the author himself tells us).

We have no difficulty in harmonizing the Gospel accounts by allowing
that the different authors may have grouped things by logical rather
than chronological reasons; and this does not take away in the least
from their historicity (nor does a properly literal
interpretation require anything else from us).

Confessional Presbyterians have not hesitated to affirm, not only
that the narrative of Genesis 1-3 claims historicity for itself, but
also that it is in fact historically true, and thus worthy of our

Linguistic terms

A number of terms from linguistics and literary studies are relevant
for any discussion of hermeneutics.

Poetical. In popular speech we tend to contrast the poetical
with the historical (or factual), as well as with the
literal, because we take poetical to mean that it need not
refer to something in the external world.

A good example of the popular definition at work comes from J.R.R.
Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, in the chapter A conspiracy
Merry and Pippin have just sung a song whose refrain is,
We must away! We must away! We ride before the break of day! In
response Frodo says, Very good! But in that case there are a lot of
things to do before we go to bed. . .
To this Pippin replies, Oh!
That was poetry! Do you really mean to start before the break of

On the other hand, at the literary and linguistic level, the focus
is on the kind of language and literary style: there may be rhythm; but
especially there will be imaginative descriptions and attempts to enable
the reader to feel what it was like to be there. Quite often the
language is harder to process than ordinary prose; it may be repetitive
or allusive. These linguistic features reflect the different
communicative purposes of poetic language: e.g. to celebrate something
special, to mourn over it, to enjoy the re-telling, to enable the
audience to see things differently. To call something poetical in
this way is not of itself to deny its historicity, for example (consider
Judges 5; Psalm 105; 106).

Some have referred to the language of Genesis 1:1-2:3 as
poetical, and they may in fact mean poetical in the linguistic
and literary sense; however, many people hear that as a denial of its
historical truth value, because they interpret the statement in light of
the popular definition. As a matter of linguistic detail it is probably
not strictly correct to call the language of this passage
poetical anyhow. A better term would be exalted prose
: this captures the feeling of celebration that competent
Hebrew readers find in the narrative, and the highly patterned use of
language, while at the same time it keeps our eyes on the fact that at
the grammatical level we have a narrative.

Analogy. According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary (1999),
an analogy is similarity in some respects between things otherwise
unlike; partial resemblance.
When we say of an argument that it
hits the nail on the head, we are asserting a similarity between
the two entities. Thus the key to interpreting an analogy is correctly
to identify the points of similarity and the points of difference. A
successful identification will require a close acquaintance with the
world of the speaker and his linguistic conventions: e.g., in different
cultures a dog evokes differing reactions, and we would make a mistake
if our speaker assumes one view of dogs (say, that they are unclean
scavengers), while we assume another (say, a faithful companion).

Two types of analogy are important to exegesis and theology. They
are, first, metaphor, and second, anthropomorphism. A metaphor is an
implicit analogy; that is, we do not find the words like or
as in the statement, we infer them. For example, when Jesus tells
his disciples you are the salt of the earth (Matt 5:13) or when
James says the tongue is a fire (James 3:6) we know from the
nature of the things talked about that an analogy is being made (because
we know that in physical terms people are not salt, and tongues are not
fire). Properly to interpret Jesus’ statement requires that we know what
function salt had in first century Palestine; we then assume that is the
point of similarity. James provides his own clues, indicating that wild
destructiveness is the point of similarity.

An anthropomorphism is a way of speaking about God, as if he had
human form or attributes. When Nehemiah prays, he refers to God’s
ear and eyes (Neh 1:6); and since we know that God is not
defined spatially like we are, this must be an anthropomorphism.
Similarly, when Moses tells us that in six days the Lord made heaven
and earth, and on the seventh day he rested [or, ceased from labor] and
was refreshed
(Exod 31:17), we know that God does not get tired, so
the rest and refreshment must be anthropomorphic. When we speak of God’s
jealousy or wrath, we are referring to something real, something similar
to our jealousy and wrath – but also something altogether free of our

Analogy is the basis for all our thought. As C. S. Lewis pointed
out, When we pass beyond pointing to individual sensible objects,
when we begin to think of causes, relations, of mental states or acts,
we become incurably metaphorical.
And, as Herman Bavinck noted,

We have the right to use anthropomorphic language with
reference to God because God himself has come to dwell with and in his
creatures, and because it has pleased him to reveal his name in and
through creatures. . .[I]t is altogether impossible to say anything
about God apart from the use of anthropomorphisms. We do not see God as
he is in himself. . .He must needs accommodate himself to our limited,
finite, human consciousness. . .If anthropomorphic, creaturely names do
injustice to the being of God, then it necessarily follows that we have
no right to address him at all: we must needs be silent altogether, for
every name by which we should wish to designate him would be sacrilege,
an attack on his majesty, blasphemy.

In view of this it would never be satisfactory to dismiss a Biblical
statement as a mere analogy, as if by virtue of being analogical
it could not refer to something real. Quite the contrary: these
statements do refer to real things or events, and describe them in the
only way possible, by way of their similarity to other things of which
we have experience.

Philosophical terms. Since the following entries involve the
discussion of worldview matters, we will need to define some of the
philosophical terms employed.

Equivocation. When words have more than one meaning (as most do),
they are said to be equivocal. If in our argument we use words in
different senses without distinction; or if we assume that what is true
for one sense is true of the other senses, we commit the fallacy of
equivocation. For example, I know that peace is possible in the
world, since everyone in my church has peace in his heart
from the fallacy because it confuses a different sense of the word

There is also another meaning of the word equivocate in popular
usage. In this informal usage, if someone uses a word in a different
sense than the one the hearer is likely to understand it in, or if he
deliberately uses a term that is ambiguous, this may be called

The technical sense is the one used in assessment of arguments, and
thus will be the one that we use in this report.

Metaphysics. Metaphysics will here refer to one’s convictions as to
what the world is like, how its parts interact with one another, and
what role God has in it all. It often involves us in discussions of
whether and how we can know the world and God’s role in the world. Under
this heading theologians have discussed such topics as the character of
second causes and their relationship to God’s providence, and the
meaning of miracle or supernatural event.

Naturalism is a metaphysical position that the world exists on its
own, and that God exerts no influence on any object or event in the

Deism is the view that God made the world, but that he no longer
involves himself in its workings. Historically, deists have generally
held to a naturalistic metaphysic for anything after the initial
creation event.

Geological terms. Under this topic we can also treat two terms from
geology, namely catastrophism and uniformitarianism. Catastrophism is
the view that geological phenomena were caused by catastrophic
disturbances of nature, rather than by continuous and uniform processes.
Flood geology is a form of catastrophism, which explains many
features of the world by the catastrophic flood of Noah’s time. Although
geological catastrophism is generally connected with young earth
geology, the connection is not a necessary one; in fact, the majority of
geologists in the early 19th century were Christian catastrophists –
including old-earth geologists. Few geologists today hold to

Uniformitarianism is the view that, since natural laws do not
change, the processes now operating are sufficient to explain the
geological history of the earth. During the 19th century, this became
the dominant view in geology, and is the dominant one today. However, we
must be careful to make proper distinctions, since there are two forms
of uniformitarianism.

First, there is substantive uniformitarianism: the view that, over
the course of the earth’s history, the intensities and rates of the
geological processes have remained the same. This position, associated
with Charles Lyell’s 1830 Principles of Geology, is not widely held by
modern geologists.

Second, there is methodological uniformitarianism: the view that,
though the processes have always been the same, nevertheless their rates
and intensities may have varied over the earth’s history (and therefore
the earth’s history may in fact include catastrophic upheavals). This is
a very common position in modern geology. This position of itself does
not deny the possibility of an historical flood in Noah’s day, or of
miracles. Not surprisingly, the fact that there are these two
meanings for uniformitarianism leads to problems in
communication. When geologists speak of the principle of uniformity,
they may mean either the substantive or the methodological kind. Many
creationists feel it necessary to defend catastrophism because to them
its only alternative is uniformitarianism, which they take to be the
substantive kind, which (to them) is virtually deistic (or at least,
contradicts the flood account). However, at least according to Davis
Young, a practicing geologist of Christian conviction, modern geology
only affirms the methodological kind of uniformitarianism. Young
contends, One might even question whether the geologic community as a
whole ever did enthusiastically adhere to substantive
After affirming methodological uniformitarianism,
he even says, methodological uniformitarianism cannot reject a priori
the Flood geology theory without looking at the rocks.

Any use of principles of uniformity to rule out supernatural events
a priori is subject to severe critique: not only from our theology, but
also from the philosophy of science. On the other hand, the belief that
nature is uniform is hardly in itself contradictory to Christian
supernaturalism: after all, it is precisely our position that nature did
not produce the historical miracles, because nature can not. Further, it
is not clear that there is any necessary connection between
uniformitarianism (in either of its senses) and Darwinism. Charles Lyell
himself long opposed Darwin’s theory. On the other hand, many of the
early advocates of Darwinism (such as T. H. Huxley, Darwin’s
) appealed to Lyell’s Principles of Geology in support of
Darwinism. It would be worth investigating whether this is a proper
employment of Lyell’s views, or a use of their prestige that goes beyond
what the views themselves entail.


The derivation of the word creationism simply suggests that it
affirms that the universe is a creation of God, and hence that a
world-view such as naturalism is untrue. In popular usage, however, the
tendency is to use this as a term for what is called young earth
creationism, the belief that the Genesis days are consecutive,
contiguous calendar days, and therefore the earth and universe are less
than about 15,000 years old. (Young earth creationism is typically
associated with the Calendar Day view of Genesis 1. There are those,
however, whose interpretation of the Genesis days is separate from the
question of the age of the earth; and there are some adherents of the
Calendar Day view who have no opinion on the age of the earth.)

Additionally, there are other types of belief in divine creation. We
shall leave aside deistic views, since they are clearly not in the
bounds of historic Christian belief.

Old-earth creationism allows that the natural sciences accurately
conclude that the universe is old (i.e. millions or even billions
of years). Within this category there are two sub-categories. First are
the theistic evolutionists (or evolutionary creationists), who
believe that natural processes sustained by God’s ordinary providence
(God’s providential second causes) are God’s means of bringing about
life and humanity. (This employs a specialized definition of
evolution, which we will discuss under evolution below.)

The second sub-category of old-earth creationists are often called
progressive creationists: these believe that second causes sustained by
God’s providence are not the whole story, but that instead God has added
supernatural, creative actions to the process. Typically, these creative
actions are thought to correspond to the fiats of Genesis 1. However,
individual progressive creationists differ on such points as whether
these recorded fiats are an exhaustive list of creative events, or
simply a representative one; whether and to what degree biological
change took place between the creative events.

It is difficult to identify the origin of this sense of the term
progressive creationism. In 1871 Hodge’s Systematic Theology
(I:556-562) describes a standard distinction between the first creation
(or, immediate), namely the initial creation from nothing event,
and the second creation (or, mediate or progressive),
namely the power of God working in union with second causes to
shape the creation for the divine purposes. However, progressive
does not here have the specific sense it has today. In
1954, Bernard Ramm’s Christian View of Science and Scripture (pages
76-79, 155, 191) uses the term in the more contemporary sense, and even
seems to assume that this meaning is common knowledge. Hence the term in
this meaning originated no later than 1954.

The progressive creationists and the young earth creationists agree
on a key point: namely that natural processes and ordinary providence
are not adequate to explain the world. They both fall into the category
of supernatural creationists or special creationists. It is this common
affirmation that allows many in both camps to work together under the
umbrella of intelligent design. Among the supernatural events
they both affirm are: the origin of the universe; the origin of life and
its diversity; and the origin of human beings.


Keeping close track of the meanings of the word evolution is
one of the most difficult tasks facing the believer who wants to
practice discernment in today’s world. Many popularizers of
naturalism-as-science build their arguments on equivocation on this
word, and thus many believers come to suspect that every use of the word
is loaded with naturalistic implications.

The basic meaning of the word is change over time. This basic meaning
is simply a descriptive claim, and makes no comment on how that change
may have taken place, nor on how extensive those changes might be. For
example, in linguistics it is possible to speak of the evolution of
the Germanic dialects,
and in so doing to imply nothing about
mechanism. When cosmologists speak of the evolution of the cosmos
they need not be saying anything other than that the cosmos is changing
over time: if they are making a metaphysical claim, they are cloaking
their meaning with the term.

This basic meaning may be employed in biology, to the effect that
the creatures we see today are related to those whose remains we dig up
in the fossils; and that the differences have to do with genetic changes
that the descendants have inherited. For example, we can find authors
who write of dingoes as having evolved from domestic dogs brought to
Australia by the aborigines. We also find authors (sometimes the same
ones!) who write of domestic dogs as having evolved from wolves. These
two examples show that when we use the word in this way we make no claim
as to the mechanics of the processes involved: in the case of the dingo,
the process is a natural one, while in the case of our existing
domestic dogs the process is one of selective breeding (i.e.
interference with nature).

If this were the only meaning of evolution in biology there
would not be the kind of controversy that we find today. Christians who
are supernaturalistic creationists would, to be sure, disagree among
themselves over just how much genetic relatedness the various species
have with each other: e.g. do dogs and coyotes share a common ancestor?
What of dogs and foxes? Dogs and cats? However, they would all reject
the claim that natural processes alone are adequate for explaining what
we see.

The reigning beliefs about evolution in our culture generally make a
strong metaphysical claim of a naturalistic sort, and this introduces
another meaning of the word. For example, the National Association of
Biology Teachers (NABT), in its official 1997 statement on teaching
evolution, gives us this definition:

The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an
unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic
modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical
contingencies and changing environments.

Any special or supernatural activity of God is excluded by this
definition, and indeed, by their definition of science (which,
ironically, contradicts their claim that evolutionary theory, indeed
all of science, is necessarily silent on religion and neither refutes
nor supports the existence of a deity or deities
). The non-theistic
adherent of this view will probably prefer the earlier version of this
NABT statement, which called evolution an unsupervised, impersonal,
unpredictable and natural process.

This naturalistic description of evolution is commonly called
Darwinism, in honor of Charles Darwin (1809-1882). Darwin’s
Origin of Species was published in 1859, and its sixth edition came out
in 1872. He was not the first to advocate some form of biological
evolution; his contribution was to describe a mechanism, namely small
inheritable variations on which natural selection then operates to
determine which forms will survive. He did not originally use the phrase
survival of the fittest, but by the sixth edition had adopted it
from Herbert Spencer. He took as his opponents those who held to the
immutability of species,
without considering whether opposition
might come from some other quarter (or from some other definition of
species or immutability). In the Origin he was unable to
claim that life itself had a purely natural explanation: in the last
paragraph of the book he speaks of life, with its several powers,
having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into
; earlier in the final chapter he expresses the belief that
animals are descended from at most only four or five progenitors, and
plants from an equal or lesser number.
However, in a letter written
in 1871 he speculated:

It is often said that all the conditions for the first production of a living organism are now present which could ever have been present. But if (and oh! what a big if!) we could conceive in some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, etc. present, that a protein compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the present day such matter would be instantly devoured or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed.

Darwin was not himself an atheist, although he was likely a deist.
Charles Hodge saw clearly the naturalistic bent of the theory, however,
and in his Systematic Theology (ii:12-24, 27-33), and especially in What
is Darwinism? (1874; republished by Baker, 1994), gave a trenchant
critique and concluded that its exclusion of creative events from the
biological history of the world was tantamount to atheism.

The modern theory of evolution is not actually Darwinism, however;
it is neo-Darwinism. This theory, developed in the 1920’s and
30’s, makes use of advances in genetic theory since 1900, which explain
how traits can be passed on, and how mutations can enter the gene pool.
It also incorporated views on biochemical evolution or
abiogenesis (origination of life from non-living matter)
evocative of Darwin’s warm little pond. Further, rather than
seeing a selective advantage in the improvement of an organism’s fitness
for survival, the modern focus is on its success in passing on its genes
by reproduction. This is the view behind the NABT statement quoted
above, and has eliminated all reference to special or creative divine

The theistic evolutionist properly so-called affirms this, but
instead of speaking of purposeless natural processes speaks of
God’s skill in designing and maintaining a world which has within itself
the capacities to develop the diversity of life (e.g. Howard Van Till of
Calvin College).

It is only right to note, however, that this description of
proper theistic evolution is based on the metaphysic underlying
the view. Popular usage of the term theistic evolution can be
broader, and not entirely consistent: some apply the term to all brands
of old-earth creationism; some apply it to versions of old-earth
creationism that allow large-scale biological development (e.g. those
that allow that all mammals share a common ancestor); some apply it to
any view that allows common ancestry for all living things.

A kind of theistic evolutionary view that has important
historical relevance for confessional Presbyterians is the one that
allows that Adam’s body was the product of evolutionary development
(second causes working alone under divine providence), and that his
special creation involved the imparting of a rational soul to a
highly-developed hominid. This view has been associated with James
Woodrow and Benjamin Warfield (at least early in his career). We can
supply a strong critique of such a construct from exegesis of Genesis
1-2, where, as John Murray observed (Collected Writings, 2:8), in
Genesis 2:7 the man became an animate being by the in-breathing, and by
implication was not one beforehand (for his body to have had animal
ancestry, the man’s ancestors must have been animate beings). We may
also critique the view from the anthropology involved: man is a
body-soul nexus, and the body must have the capacities to support the
expression of God’s image; such a body cannot be the product of second
causes alone. Finally, we should note that this kind of theistic
is an unstable metaphysical hybrid: it tries to combine
the naturalistic picture of the development of the capabilities
necessary to support the human soul, with the supernaturalist
acknowledgment of the divine origin of what distinguishes us from the
animals. This combines elements from incompatible metaphysical

For our purposes we will restrict our attention to the more precise
notion of theistic evolution that we described above; this has
the virtue both of being clear and of being metaphysically
self-consistent. This precise sense of theistic evolution ties in
to the naturalistic sense of the word evolution, replacing its
naturalism with an insistence that only ordinary providence is

The metaphysically neutral sense of the word evolution
(genetic change over time), though of itself inoffensive to Christian
belief, nevertheless is frequently used as a proof (actually, a
proof by equivocation) of the naturalistic version. This appears, for
example, in the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) 1997
Statement on the Teaching of Evolution:

Evolution in the broadest sense can be defined as the
idea that the universe has a history: that change through time has taken
place. If we look today at the galaxies, stars, the planet Earth, and
the life on planet Earth, we see that things today are different from
what they were in the past: galaxies, stars, planets, and life forms
have evolved. Biological evolution refers to the scientific theory that
living things share ancestors from which they have diverged: Darwin
called it descent with modification. There is abundant and
consistent evidence from astronomy, physics, biochemistry,
geochronology, geology, biology, anthropology and other sciences that
evolution has taken place.

Here they are employing the metaphysically neutral sense of
the word, and applying it across disciplinary boundaries. They go on to
make a stronger claim, however:

There is no longer a debate among scientists over
whether evolution has taken place. There is considerable debate about
how evolution has taken place: the processes and mechanisms producing
change, and what has happened during the history of the universe.
Scientists often disagree about their explanations.

We should couple this contention with the assertion found earlier in
their paper:

Science is a method of explaining the natural world. It
assumes the universe operates according to regularities and that through
systematic investigation we can understand these regularities. The
methodology of science emphasizes the logical testing of alternate
explanations of natural phenomena against empirical data. Because
science is limited to explaining the natural world by means of natural
processes, it cannot use supernatural causation in its explanations.
Similarly, science is precluded from making statements about
supernatural forces, because these are outside its provenance. Science
has increased our knowledge because of this insistence on the search for
natural causes.

In this way it becomes clear that only natural-process-based
explanations are to be allowed as science, and hence they alone are
considered to be adequate to explain how we came to be. It would follow
from this that only a naturalistic evolutionary theory can qualify as a
scientific (read: true?) explanation of ourselves, and of
the world.

This shows that the doctrine of common descent is not at the
heart of the naturalistic theories of evolution; but is instead a
consequence of the theories’ naturalism. Someone who holds that living
things all share common ancestry and that along the way God carried out
supernatural actions to introduce changes, is not a true theistic
in the precise sense. (This is not an endorsement of
such views, only an attempt to put them in their proper place.) We can
see further that it would not be helpful to refer to any form of
supernatural creation as a kind of theistic evolution (at
least not in the specialized sense) since the two views are so different
in their understanding of the place of natural and supernatural events
in the origin and development of life.

This topic, evolution, also requires discussion of the terms
micro-evolution and macro-evolution. Micro-evolution refers to
genetic variations over time (or evolution) within certain limits (i.e.
within a type or kind). For example, finch beaks in the Galapagos
Islands vary from island to island so that they are well adapted to the
particular kinds of seeds and insects available on each island. It is
generally agreed that these finches are descended from finches that
migrated from the mainland, and that these changes are the product of
micro-evolution. The term has its limitations, however: though it
speaks of variations within limits, it says nothing about the
introduction of genetic innovations. With minor exceptions (e.g.
non-fatal mutations in fruit flies), such micro-evolution as has
been observed proceeds by selecting characteristics that are already
present in the genetic make-up of the group (just as selective breeding

Macro-evolution is evolution that crosses the boundary of the
kind. For example, the origin of a spinal cord from an
invertebrate would be a macro-evolutionary development by anyone’s
definition. Those opposed to naturalistic evolutionary theories often
point out that micro-evolution is the type of evolution actually
observed to have taken place, and that this is a long way from providing
evidence for macro-evolution by purely natural processes. No one has
ever observed the accumulation of small steps (micro-evolution)
sufficient to produce such a major innovation as a spinal cord.


Behind the naturalistic evolutionary views discussed above there lies
a loaded definition of science. The National Science Teachers
Association statement says:

Science is a method of explaining the natural world. It
assumes the universe operates according to regularities and that through
systematic investigation we can understand these regularities. The
methodology of science emphasizes the logical testing of alternate
explanations of natural phenomena against empirical data. Because
science is limited to explaining the natural world by means of natural
processes, it cannot use supernatural causation in its explanations.
Similarly, science is precluded from making statements about
supernatural forces, because these are outside its provenance. Science
has increased our knowledge because of this insistence on the search for
natural causes.

The key sentence is Because science is limited to explaining the
natural world by means of natural processes, it cannot use supernatural
causation in its explanations.
This means that, according to this
definition, science is inherently naturalistic, at least in its methods.
It is impossible to keep that methodological naturalism from
going on to become metaphysical naturalism (natural causes are
all that there is). Since science has such a high profile in our
culture, and scientific knowledge is held to be public,
verifiable, and true, this naturalistic bent has become a part of what
is counted sophisticated rational thinking. Indeed, because of
this many believers consider science or scientific
to be directly at odds with the disposition of faith.

There are several problems with this definition, however, that
should prevent our acquiescing in it. To begin with, we should not fall
prey to the idea that there is such a thing as Science: the word
is just a personification of an abstract noun. Instead, there are
sciences; and though they have features in common, they differ in their
fields of study and in their methods (and in some cases their
conclusions). Hence the naturalism one finds in evolutionary biology
need not imply that cosmology or geology are also naturalistic.

Second, the definition cited here focuses on scientists’ study of
regularities in the natural world. As believers in a good
creation and God’s comprehensive providence, we have no difficulty in
presupposing that natural things do not need any supernatural
tinkering to perform their natural functions; hence we do not
consider it proper to invoke any special divine action to explain the
movements of the planets. At the same time, there are also disciplines
that study historical events: and in such cases to limit our inquiries
to natural causes alone is rational only if we have good reason
beforehand to believe that natural factors alone are relevant. It is no
reproach to God’s skill as a creator, nor to his providence, if we allow
ourselves to look for supernatural factors in the causes of, say, the
crossing of the Red Sea, or the Great Awakening, or the origin of
humans. In so doing we do not claim that God is any less active in the
ordinary events.

This shows that a definition of science must allow for both contexts
of study; perhaps something like: The sciences are disciplines that
study features of the world around us, looking for regularities as well
as attempting to account for causal relations. In the causal chains we
allow all relevant factors to be considered.
As Christians we
recognize that there are contexts in which supernatural factors are
relevant. We would even go so far as to say that, in some cases –
such as the resurrection of Jesus – no one would be rationally justified
in offering an explanation solely in terms of natural factors.

When science operates this way it is in no way an opponent to our
faith; indeed, it needs the Christian doctrines of creation and
providence for its metaphysical basis. We should therefore not allow
ourselves, or those we speak with, to equate science with naturalism.


When we speak of finding a harmonization of two accounts, we mean
that though they have the appearance of being at odds, we want to find a
way of adjusting our understanding of one or both of them so as to allow
them to agree. At its heart, this enterprise assumes that the data from
the two sources are true, but our interpretations of the data may need

For example, we can harmonize the Gospel accounts by assuming that,
say, one author follows chronological sequence while another does not.
Or, perhaps one author records more detail than the other does. We
consider it legitimate to co-ordinate the dates of events in the Bible
with the dates we gather from external sources (say, from studies of
Egypt or Mesopotamia). An example of this would be the resolution of
apparent difficulties in the dates of the Hebrew kings by positing the
practice of co-regency (a son is co-regent with his father); some
accounts may date a king’s reign from the beginning of his co-regency,
while others may date it from the death of his father. This procedure
for harmonizing requires an interpretation of Biblical texts that does
not lie on their surface (and will not appear in an older commentary
such as Keil’s). Whether this scheme as a whole is right or not is
another matter: the point here is that it is a legitimate endeavor.

On the other hand, we need have no hesitation in attributing to
Scripture the right to make claims about the space-time world (though we
of course take into account the kind of language it uses, on a
case-by-case basis). For example, from time to time various scientists
have proposed a polygenetic theory of human origins (i.e. the various
types of humans arose separately, either by creation or by evolution) to
explain the differences in the races. Our theology, however, holds to
the unity of humanity in physical descent from Adam. This leads us to
favor a theory that involves monogenetic origin of humans (i.e. they all
come from the same ancestral pair).

This shows that the reassessment of interpretations is a two-way
street: sometimes the interpretation of the natural world will have to
be revised or even rejected, and sometimes the interpretation of the
Biblical passage will shift. At the same time, we have no reluctance to
affirm that there are certain core Christian doctrines that we do not
intend to revise: doctrines such as the Trinity, the createdness of the
world, the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus, and so on.

Under what conditions is it proper to allow harmonization with a
scientific result
to influence our interpretation of a Bible
passage? That depends on several factors: for example, it depends on
which science has produced the result. By the understanding of
science advocated in point 7 above, it is proper to call
archaeology a science. The co-regency approach is an effort to
understand the Biblical text in the light of results in that science. On
the other hand, as discussed above, we would not want to harmonize a
Bible interpretation with a naturalistic theory of evolution, because
the theory not only depends on a world-view antithetical to the Biblical
one, but also forces the data into a framework they do not support.

The propriety of harmonization also depends on the degree to which
pre-commitments antithetical to Christian faith have worked themselves
into some scientific theory. This occurs in naturalistic evolution, but
also in some strands of cognitive science (e.g. those that assume a
materialistic anthropology). However, we must be aware that just because
some practitioners in a particular discipline employ such
pre-commitments, it does not follow that all do, or that all theories in
that discipline are opposed to our faith. Still less does it follow that
just because some in one discipline are naturalistic, therefore all
sciences are hostile to our faith. We must take them on a case-by-case

Another factor in the propriety of harmonization is whether the
concerns of the scientific result are the same as those of the author
and audience of the Biblical text. For example, during the medieval
period it was assumed that the Ptolemaic cosmology and the Biblical text
could be harmonized easily. Under this harmonization the Bible would be
falsified if the cosmological theory were abandoned. It is now
recognized by many Old Testament scholars that physical cosmology was
not even the concern of such Bible texts as Psalm 93:1; 96:10; and
104:5. It was exegetically invalid to apply them to support the
cosmological theory to begin with. These harmonizations went astray
because they failed to ask what would have been relevant to the
recipients of the Biblical passage in question. They also were improper
because they assumed that the language of the relevant Biblical texts is
something other than phenomenological and everyday.

And finally, this leads us to another factor in weighing
harmonizations: namely, to wed our interpretation to a particular
scientific theory may make our interpretation into an historical
curiosity if the theory is substantially revised or even abandoned. On
the other hand, some empirically-based results will stand the test of
time. If even the members of the individual disciplines do not know
which is which, how can we who are not specialists ever expect to do so?
Again, the best protective measure is to keep in mind the scope of the
Biblical text and the particular kind of language used.

The result of all this is that we cannot make a blanket statement
about harmonizations, other than be careful! We should not
trumpet our harmonization as proving the Bible is right, in view
of the factors mentioned here; on the other hand, under certain
circumstances we can show that a harmonization is plausible so the
disputer cannot say that he has proved the Bible wrong. Nor
should we reject out of hand efforts to integrate the results of
exegesis with the tentative conclusions of the sciences.

In view of these considerations, we see that, for example, we are
not in a position to rule Flood geology out of court before we
even start. The question in this case, as in so many others, must be
whether it represents good exegesis of the Scripture and of the rocks.
We may also say that one who properly considers the matter and rejects
Flood geology is not necessarily thereby rejecting the
historicity, or even the universality, of the Noachian flood.

B. The New Testament’s View of the Historicity of Genesis 1-3

The way the New Testament interprets Genesis 1-3 is normative for
the church. Leaving aside the specific question of the length of the
creation week for a moment, we must acknowledge that the principle of
the analogy of Scripture compels us to read Genesis 1-11 and
particularly Genesis 1-3 as actual history. This is so both in terms of
the formal treatment of these passages in inspired Scripture, and in
terms of the vital biblical-theological issues at stake in them. In a
word, Genesis 1-11 cannot be rejected as history without destroying
Christianity. What follows is a survey of some of the evidence.

Our Lord Jesus taught Genesis 1-3 as real history. In refuting the
Pharisees’ allowance of frivolous divorce, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees
for not following Genesis 1:27: So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them,

in the following words: at the beginning, the Creator made them male
and female
(Mt 19:4). He then goes on to argue the impropriety of
frivolous dissolution of the marriage covenant from God’s revelation –
what the Creator said, (Mt 19:5) – in Genesis 2:24, A man
shall leave his father and his mother, and the two will become one
(Compare Paul’s similar use of Gen 2:24 in Eph 5:31, and 1
Cor 6:16). Likewise, in dealing with Sabbath observance, Jesus
taught that the Sabbath was instituted for the first man, Adam. The
Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath
(Mk 2:27). This is
a clear reference to Genesis 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day and
hallowed it.
Jesus connected the institution of the Sabbath with
this text of Genesis, which places it within the creation week.

Jesus referred to the deceit of the serpent in Gen 3:4 when he
compared the Pharisees to Satan, the father of murder and lies. He
was a murderer from the beginning, and stands not in the truth, because
there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own:
for he is a liar, and the father of lies.
(Jn 8:44)

The apostles likewise handle Genesis 1-3 as real history. Paul
teaches that Adam was a historical person. It was his act of
disobedience that brought the curse into the world. …sin entered the
world through one man, and death through sin…
(Rom 5:12-20). Paul
refers to Adam’s eating from the forbidden tree (Gen 2:17) as a
trespass (Rom 5:15). He goes on to spell out the principle of
representative headship, on which the entire covenant theology of
Scripture is based. Adam is the head of the race, whose sin is imputed
to mankind, just as Jesus is the corresponding one man through
whom grace and the gift of righteousness abound to the many (Rom 5:19).
In each case the one acts representatively on behalf of his people. This
is the foundation both of the sinful state of humanity and the
imputation of Christ’s saving righteousness to believers. Paul makes the
same kind of statement in 1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die,
so in Christ all shall be made alive.
He can refer with ease to the
temptation of the Corinthian church as parallel to the temptation of
Eve: But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve in
his craftiness, your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity and
the purity that is toward Christ.
(2 Cor 11:3).

Paul also refers to the curse on the ground of Genesis 3:17-19:
cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all
the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to
thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face
shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it
wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

In Romans 8:20-22 he comments on the groaning of the whole creation,
which is longing for freedom from the bondage to corruption which
she will receive with the resurrection of believers. This text takes
perhaps the grandest view in all of Scripture of the cosmic effect of
the fall of Adam – death and corruption have followed for the entire
non-image-bearing creation. It is the result of the historic fall of
Adam. Just so, glory awaits the creation with the sons of God because of

That glory comes as believers are united to Christ, their living
Head. In the meanwhile, there is a struggle and a warfare, but Christ is
the victor. In Genesis 3:15, God promised our first parents they would
prevail over Satan and his seed through the suffering of Christ, the
Seed of the woman. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and
between your seed and hers. He will bruise your head, and you will
bruise his heel.
Paul encourages the church at Rome that they will
prevail over him as well, in their union with Christ: the God of
peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord
Jesus Christ be with you.
(Rom 16:20).

Apart from the historic fall of the race, sin may be reinterpreted
unbiblically. For instance, in the Barthian view, sin is man’s finitude,
rather than his rebellion, and the resultant curse of God. But the New
Testament compels us to read the fall of Adam as real space-time
history. Paul is reading Adam’s sin in Genesis 3 as determining the sad
course of human history. It marks the beginning of the historic change
in God’s attitude toward mankind. The implications for Christ’s
atonement follow in course.

In 1 Corinthians 15:45-47, Paul goes further back than Gen 3 to the
creation of Adam in Genesis 2:7. So it is written: ‘The first man
Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving Spirit…The
first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.

Clearly he takes Gen 2:7 as real history. In the flow of his argument,
Paul anchors the believer’s hope in the bodily resurrection in the
parallel between Adam and Christ. The creation of Adam as an earthly
living being is a divine pattern for the recreative action of Christ,
the last Adam, in the resurrection of redeemed humanity. The link is
clear: creation, specifically God’s special creative act in Gen 2:7, is
the pattern for God’s supernatural act of resurrection/transformation of
the believer. Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 15:45c that Gen 2:7 itself
prescribes the glorified/resurrection bodies of believers as the fruit
of the work of Christ, the last Adam. Redemption fulfills God’s purpose
in creation, revealed in Gen 2:7. So Paul draws an explicit connection
between creation and eschatology. We will see below that the author of
Hebrews does the same.

Again, Paul teaches that salvation includes transformation of the
sinner into the image of God, endorsing the original creation of Adam in
God’s image (Gen 1:26-27). Union with Christ, the new man and
resurrected Head of the new creation, means progressive transformation
recreation in the image of God: Do not lie to each other, since you
have taken off your old man, with its practices, and have put on the new
man, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator

(Col 3:9,10, cf. Eph 4:22-24).

Further, in 2 Corinthians 4:6, Paul draws an analogy between God’s
creative word in Genesis 1:3, Let there be light, with the
Father’s work in giving the saving knowledge of Christ, . . .for God
who said, ‘let light shine out of darkness’ made his light shine in our
hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the
face of Jesus Christ.
Both creation and illumination are
supernatural acts. Both are acts of God in history.

Again, in dealing with the roles of men and women in the church, Paul
appeals to the authoritative account of Genesis 2. For Adam was
formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived. It was the
woman who was deceived and became a sinner
(1 Tim 2:13,14, cf. 1 Cor
11:9). This follows the same pattern: (however the precise force of his
argument is to be applied) the inspired Apostle treats the account in
Gen 2 and 3 as historical fact, and as determinative of the church’s
responsibility to maintain proper order in the teaching office.

The author of Hebrews likewise interprets the first two chapters of
the Bible as history. In 3:7-4:13 he develops the theme of the New
Testament church as God’s wilderness people, seeking to enter my
(God’s) rest.
In 4:4, he quotes Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh
day God rested from all his work.
This rest of God is the
hope of the church. Hebrews urges us not to fail to enter it by unbelief
(4:1, 10, 11). It is a reality for us and has been, he writes, since
the creation of the earth
(4:3). It remains for some to enter
that rest,
he writes in verse 6. Why does he say this? Because like
Paul, he takes Genesis 2 (verse 2) to be both descriptive of history and
prescriptive of God’s purpose. God’s purpose in creation, that we should
enter his rest, is to be realized through Christ.

Again, the author of Hebrews alludes to Genesis 1:1, In the
beginning, God made the heavens and the earth
in his statement in
11:3: By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s
command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

James declares that God’s goodness and unimpeachable purity are shown
by his creation of the luminaries: When tempted, no-one should say
‘God is tempting me’…Don’t be deceived my dear brothers. Every good and
perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly
lights, who does not change like shifting shadows
(1:13-17). And he
urges us to control our tongues because our neighbor is God’s image. He
alludes to Gen 1:27 in Jas 3:9 with it we bless the Lord and Father;
and with it we curse men, who are made after the likeness of God.

Peter also refers to the creation account as a matter of history,
encouraging believers of the certainty of vindication in the judgment to
come, by referring to God’s judgment in the flood. He refers to the
historical event of creation thus: …long ago by God’s word the
heavens existed, and the earth was formed out of water and by water.

(2 Pet 3:5). This is an allusion to the early form of the earth covered
with water, and God’s separating sea and dry land, Gen 1:2-9.

There is no doubt then, that the New Testament treats Genesis 1-3 as
real history. This is hermeneutically decisive for the church, because
we acknowledge the inspiration and inerrancy of Holy Scripture. But
there is more than the historicity of Genesis 1-3 at stake in the New
Testament’s interpretation of these texts. The very structure of the
covenant plan of redemption is found in Genesis 1-3. Bound up with the
biblical revelation in the first chapters of Genesis are the New
Testament’s teaching on the work of Christ as the eschatological Adam,
and its implications for soteriology and the consummation, as well as
ethical requirements for the institution of marriage and church order.
History is not only born here but sovereignly determined by the
prophetic Word of God.

In Genesis 1-3 Moses wrote a faithful, pristine version of the
actual facts of history. Genesis 1-11 can not be historically rejected
without destroying Christianity. These events and persons must be
affirmed, whatever other differences we may entertain in the details of
the exegesis of the days of Genesis 1.

General Revelation

Definition of General Revelation

In its very first sentence, the Westminster Confession of Faith
recognizes a source of revelation from the light of nature and the
works of creation and providence.
Numerous Reformed theologians have
discussed this revelation using the term general revelation, to
distinguish it from the special revelation of Holy Scripture. This
revelation is general because it comes to all men everywhere, and is
sufficient, as the Confession states, to leave men inexcusable
because of its testimony to the goodness, wisdom and power of God.

Berkhof in his well-known Systematic Theology comments:

The Bible testifies to a twofold revelation of God: a
revelation in nature round about us, in human consciousness, and in the
providential government of the world; and a revelation embodied in the
Bible as the Word of God.

With regard to the former he references the following passages of
Scripture: Ps 19:1,2; Acts 14:17; Rom 1: 19,20. He goes on to quote
Benjamin Warfield, who distinguishes between general and special
revelation in these words:

The one is addressed generally to all intelligent
creatures, and is therefore accessible to all men; the other is
addressed to a special class of sinners, to whom God would make known
His salvation. The one has in view to meet and supply the natural need
of creatures for knowledge of their God; the other to rescue broken and
deformed sinners from their sin and its consequences.

With this foundation, Berkhof then defines general revelation in the
following words:

General revelation is rooted in creation, is addressed
to man as man, and more particularly to human reason, and finds its
purpose in the realization of the end of his creation, to know God and
thus enjoy communion with Him.

Berkhof’s definition comprises three themes: general revelation
rooted in God’s creation of the universe; general revelation addressed
to man’s reasoning faculties; and general revelation’s purpose as a
mechanism for man knowing his God. Using the above as a working
definition of general revelation, we now consider each of the three
components: Creation Roots, Role of Reason, Knowledge of God. Because
the first of these is at the heart of our present discussion, it will be
postponed until last.

Role of Reason

As Warfield points out, general revelation is addressed to
intelligent creatures, i.e., mankind, and is thus generally accessible
to everyone. However, the role of the reasoning faculty of intelligent
mankind has been debated by Reformed theologians over the years. For
example, Cornelius Van Til, in his work A Christian Theory of Knowledge,
spends an entire chapter (Chapter 8) contrasting the positions of
Abraham Kuyper and Benjamin Warfield on this issue, particularly as it
relates to apologetics. Consider the following passage:

Kuyper seems sometimes to argue from the fact that the
natural man is blind to the truth, to the uselessness of apologetics.
But Warfield points out that this does not follow. On this point he
closely follows Calvin. Men ought to conclude that God is their Creator,
their Benefactor and their Judge. They ought to see these things because
the revelation of God to them is always clear. The fact that men do not
see this and cannot see this is due to the fact that their minds are
darkened and their wills perverted through sin. Such is the argument of
Calvin. And Warfield’s insistence that we believe Christianity because
it is rational, not in spite of the fact that it is irrational,
is fully in accord with it.

If we stand with Calvin, Warfield and Van Til, we will agree that
human reason is capable of apprehending the general revelation that is
evident in creation, consciousness and providence. Van Til develops this
concept further in his article Nature and Scripture, where he
declares that the Confession teaches that general (natural) revelation
carries all the attributes of special revelation. Namely, it is
necessary, authoritative, sufficient and perspicuous (clear). As such it
serves as the playground for the process of differentiation,
i.e., of redemption and reprobation.

For our generation, the most obvious and successful application of
human reason to creation (or nature) is in the sciences. The
question we struggle with in the present discussion is: Under what
circumstances are the interpretive findings of science of theological
concern to the Church?
Corollary questions include: Should the
church of Jesus Christ accept the findings of non-believing scientists
as truth?
Should only the findings of professing Christians from
the sciences be taken as truth?
How should we decide between
opposing scientific views when both are proposed by professing
Christians, as for example in the current controversy over the age of
the universe?

Clearly, many of the brute facts of general revelation have
been discovered by unbelievers. For example, there is no serious
questioning by the Christian community of the double-helical model of
the DNA molecule-a key component of all biological systems-even though
it was discovered by two avowed atheists (Watson and Crick). From Van
Til’s viewpoint, however, the unbeliever-who is inevitably committed to
the autonomy of his own reasoning capabilities-will falsely interpret
these facts to suit his own unregenerate motives. The Neo-Darwinist
philosophy is the most prominent current example of the latter as
regards DNA in particular, and all of biological life in general.
Because the unbeliever is made in God’s image, and because of common
grace, he can and often does interpret much of scientific data as such

It is important at this point to distinguish between scientific
theories as such and general revelation in its totality. To aid in this
we may draw a parallel between scientific theories and theologies in the
following diagram:

God –> (General Revelation, Scientific Theories) –> man

God –> (Special Revelation, Theologies) –> man

In the case of special revelation, the same data (Scripture) can give
rise to theologies as divergent as Calvinism and Dispensationalism.
Likewise in general revelation the same data can produce theories as
opposite as Intelligent Design and Neo-Darwinism. Nevertheless, in both
general and special revelation God’s truth remains even if the
apprehension of it by sinful men clouds and distorts it in their minds.
These two books of revelation are by the same author. The first,
the book of nature is God’s self-revelation in creation, while the
second, the book of Scripture, is God’s self-revelation in redemption.
Or as Van Til puts it, . . .revelation in nature and revelation in
Scripture are mutually meaningless without one another, and mutually
fruitful when taken together.

William Dembski has recently proposed what he terms the mutual
support model
to improve the interaction between scientific theories
and theology. He comments:

According to the mutual support model, theology and
science overlap but are not coextensive. Where they overlap, one
discipline can provide epistemic support for the other. Epistemic
support is much more general than proof. Proof-as in decisive,
once-and-for-all settlement of a question-if possible anywhere, is
possible only in mathematics. The mutual support model has no stake in
using theology to decisively prove or settle the claims of science, or
vice versa.

Nonetheless, according to the mutual support model, theology can lend
credence, increase the conditional probability of or render plausible
certain scientific claims and not others. Likewise, science can do the
same for theology.

This mutual support between the sciences and theologies must keep in
mind Calvin’s admonition regarding the priority of special revelation:

That brightness which is borne in upon the eyes of all
men both in heaven and on earth is more than enough to withdraw all
support from men’s ingratitude – just as God, to involve the human race
in the same guilt, sets forth to all without exception his presence
portrayed in his creatures. Despite this, it is needful that another and
better help be added to direct us aright to the very Creator of the
universe. It was not in vain, then, that he added the light of his Word
by which to become known unto salvation; and he regarded as worthy of
this privilege those whom he pleased to gather more closely and
intimately to himself.

Just as old or bleary-eyed men and those with weak vision, if you
thrust before them a most beautiful volume, even if they recognize it to
be some sort of writing, yet can scarcely construe two words, but with
the aid of spectacles will begin to read distinctly; so Scripture,
gathering up the otherwise confused knowledge of God in our minds,
having dispersed our dullness, clearly shows us the true God.

Even before sin, God gave special revelation with general revelation,
and intended man to take them together. Scripture, therefore, must
enlighten the scientist in his investigations. Ultimately scientists
confront God, the author of creation, in their investigations. Van Til

All this is simply to say that one must be a believing
Christian to study nature in the proper frame of mind and with proper
procedure. It is only the Christian consciousness that is ready and
willing to regard all nature, including man’s own interpretive
reactions, as revelational of God.

He goes on to discuss the role of the redeemed sinner who studies
nature, under the drag of the old man who seeks to
interpret nature apart from special revelation. He continues:

The only safeguard he has against this historical drag
is to test his interpretations constantly by the principles of the
written Word. And if theology succeeds in bringing forth ever more
clearly the depth of the riches of the Biblical revelation of God in
Scripture, the Christian philosopher or scientist will be glad to make
use of this clearer and fuller interpretation in order that his own
interpretation of nature may be all the fuller and clearer too, thus
more truly revelational of God.

Knowledge of God

In his treatise on the knowledge of God from the Institutes, Calvin

There are innumerable evidences both in heaven and on
earth that declare his wonderful wisdom; not only those more recondite
matters for the closer observation of which astronomy, medicine, and all
natural science are intended, but also those which thrust themselves
upon the sight of even the most untutored and ignorant persons, so that
they cannot open their eyes without being compelled to witness them.
Indeed, men who have either quaffed or even tasted the liberal arts
penetrate with their aid far more deeply into the secrets of the divine
wisdom. Yet ignorance of them prevents no one from seeing more than
enough of God’s workmanship in his creation to lead him to break forth
in admiration of the Artificer. To be sure, there is need of art and of
more exacting toil in order to investigate the motion of the stars, to
determine their assigned stations, to measure their intervals, to note
their properties. As God’s providence shows itself more explicitly when
one observes these, so the mind must rise to a somewhat higher level to
look upon his glory.

Here Calvin notes the particular role of the natural sciences in
enabling deeper insights into the secret workings of the divine wisdom
in order to obtain a brighter view of God’s glory. If this was true in
Calvin’s day, think of our own in which both the immensity of the
universe (100 billion galaxies each containing 100 billion stars) and
the exquisite and complex construction of the microscopic human cell
have been uncovered.

For the Christian who has been called to a vocation in the sciences,
Calvin’s words are affirmation that one’s labors are helping to expound
more fully the content of general revelation, as the providence of
God is more fully unfolded.
In the last century that content has
grown enormously through discoveries in physics, astronomy, biology,
mathematics and chemistry. In spite of the reigning paradigm of
materialistic naturalism, these discoveries attest to the wisdom of a
super-intelligent Designer who has mercifully poured out His blessings
on His people through the application of these scientific findings in
fields such as medicine and engineering. In the realm of philosophy a
new movement called intelligent design has begun to challenge
materialism and neo-Darwinism by focusing on the scientific facts-such
as the irreducible complexity of various biological systems. As we make
the connection between the Intelligent Designer of general revelation
and the Son of God of special revelation, we reaffirm Paul’s statement
of Colossians 1:16: For by him all things were created: things in
heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or
rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

Creation Roots

This brings us to the third component of general revelation, its
creation roots. It is at this point, the how and when of
creation, that we feel the greatest tension.

First, it is important to reaffirm that special revelation teaches
there was a creation event and/or events. There was a genesis of space
and time. Although the precise interpretation of Genesis 1 & 2 may be
debated, there is no debate that God created the universe, and that
creation includes the covenant head of the human family, Adam and Eve.

In the case of general revelation the story is not so
straightforward. Scientific theories and philosophies have waxed and
waned all the way from an eternally existing steady state
universe to the latest cosmological theory known as the Big Bang, which
states that the entire universe-including matter, energy, space and
time-all came into being from an infinitesimal point in a gigantic
explosion about 15 billion years ago. It is tempting for scientists,
even Christian scientists, working in a field to adopt the latest theory
presumably because the accumulation of data strongly supports it. Yet,
as J. P. Moreland points out, the history of science can be interpreted
as showing a pattern of replacing one set of theories by an entirely
different set. By this reasoning today’s current theory (e.g., the Big
Bang) may eventually be replaced by another theory that better explains
new discoveries. It is important to note that the scientific discovery,
or the data with which scientists work (i.e., the things that God
has graciously revealed to mankind) have not changed, although more data
may become available. It is the interpretation of the data which changes
and which will eventually be seen to be totally in accord with special
revelation in the Bible. Prior to that eventuality, there is even now a
pattern of positive progression in the history of the discoveries
themselves. A century ago astronomers had only a vague notion of the
size of the universe. Today we have measured its vastness through
numerous observations in all regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

At this point we want to suggest a parallel between what the church
confesses about special and general revelation. If there is a parallel,
there is a contrast. The canon of special revelation is for us fixed;
the only parallel to that in general revelation is the entirety of the
created realm (which is incomprehensibly big, and only infinitesimally
apprehended by man!). If we use Hodge’s analogy, the data of Scripture
are the raw material for the construction of theological explanations or
positions (theological or scientific) that we identify ourselves by, and
insist are true. Thus we identify ourselves by the Creed of Nicea.

In theology, there are gradations of loyalty; the trinity is a core
belief, without which a church is no church of Christ. Infant
baptism is important, and distinguishes us from the Baptists – but the
Baptists’ failure to accept that doctrine does not put them outside the
true church (it just cuts them off from the blessings enjoyed by those
who embrace the doctrine).

When it comes to the church’s position on scientific explanations,
there is again a gradation of loyalty. There are some that are simply
outside the pale: polygenetic origin of humanity is one, for example;
neo-Darwinism (at least in its full metaphysical implication, as
discussed in our longer Definitions Appendix) should also be. There are
some scientific positions on which the church must take its stand: for
example, monogenetic (and special) origin of mankind. On the other hand,
there are scientific positions on which the church can say it has no
objection to them: for example, non-geocentric cosmology, DNA as the
basis of the genetic code. Hence for those theories within the pale, the
Christian in science has the privilege of expanding our appreciation for
what God has done by explaining how. But further, for those theories
that are crucial to Christianity’s truth claims (such as monogenetic
origin of mankind), the scientific Christian has the additional task of
commending the evidence for them and refuting the speculations that set
themselves against them. The class of theories to which the church need
have no objection is not a stable one: once, for example, scientists
(including Christian ones) subscribed to the phlogiston theory of
Chemistry. It would be a mistake to tie the truth of Christianity to the
endurance of theories in this class: instead we are happy to let the
evidence take us where it seems to lead. It is not always easy to tell
whether a given theory is in the class of essentials or of the
non-objectionables: at one time some put geocentric cosmology among the

We know where to put some biological theories of origins. We know
this because they take as their starting point a metaphysic that is
irreconcilable with Scripture. Precisely the question, then, is where do
we put cosmological and geological theories regarding the age of the
cosmos and the earth? We have at least two options: (1) to say that our
exegesis of Scripture demands that the earth and universe are
young, so any theories that contradict that must be wrong; (2) to
say that our exegesis of Scripture allows a latitude of belief on the
age question, so long as the core metaphysics of our faith (such as the
idea that the universe has a beginning; God is free to perform miracles
according to his purposes; and that the first humans were specially
created, and all other humans descend from them) are respected. Those
who take the second option should be careful not to identify their
exegesis too closely with specific scientific theories such as the Big

Clearly there are committed, Reformed believers who are scientists
that are on either side of the issue regarding the age of the cosmos.
Just as in the days following the Reformation, when the church could not
decide between the geocentric and heliocentric views of the solar
system, so today there is not unanimity regarding the age question.
Ultimately, the heliocentric view won out over the geocentric view
because of a vast preponderance of facts favoring it based on
increasingly sophisticated observations through ever improving
telescopes used by thousands of astronomers over hundreds of years.
Likewise, in the present controversy, a large number of observations
over a long period of time will likely be the telling factor. John Mark
Reynolds, a young earth creationist, puts it well:

Presently, we can admit that as recent creationists we
are defending a very natural biblical account, at the cost of abandoning
a very plausible scientific picture of an old cosmos. But over
the long term, this is not a tenable position. In our opinion, old earth
creationism combines a less natural textual reading with a much more
plausible scientific version. They have fewer problems of
At the moment, this would seem to be the more rational
position to adopt.

Recent creationism must develop better scientific accounts if it is
to remain viable against old earth creationism. On the other hand, the
reading of Scripture (e.g., a real Flood, meaningful genealogies, and
actual dividing of languages) is so natural that it seems worth saving.
Since we believe recent creation cosmologies are improving, we are
encouraged to continue the effort.

As Reynolds notes, it is a continuing effort, not a completed one
that we face. Ultimately, the church is not the authoritative source for
determining what is or is not scientific truth. Traditionally, this has
been left to the scientific community to decide. However, in our
generation that scientific community has become progressively more
hostile to the truths of special revelation. Thus, the church must be
prepared to address the claimed scientific truths of the science
communities and be prepared to manage by fact as the data from
the science pours forth. The present day intelligent design movement
would appear to be a good example of how the church in the broader
evangelical context can be effective in this manner.

Summary and Conclusions

The goal of general revelation along with special revelation is to
know God, and thus enjoy Him forever. He has given us rational
minds that are capable of thinking His thoughts after Him, particularly
as concerns His creation. Just as the Holy Spirit illuminates our minds
as we read His special revelation, so His providence directs the church
of Jesus Christ to know the truth of His general revelation. In the
knowing, that truth will indeed set us free. Until we know, Christ’s
Church must not be divided over what we do not yet know.

Advisory Committee on Creation
TE William S. Barker, II
RE Mark Belz
TE C. John Collins
RE John Dishman
TE J. Ligon Duncan, III
RE Samuel J. Duncan, Chairman
TE Howard Griffith
RE Stuart Patterson
TE W. Duncan Rankin
RE John B. White, Jr., Alternate
TE Morton H. Smith
Advisor: Mark R. Wardell
TE William H. Smith

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