This morning at the 40th General Assembly of the PCA, Dr. Gregg Davidson gave a seminar on the age of the earth. Thanks to a couple of my friends who were able to be there, I have had the opportunity to listen to what Dr. Davidson had to say. According to some who were there, the seminar was full, and Dr. Davidson seemed a little nervous.
Dr. Ligon Duncan opened the session by discussing the Creation Study Report and the boundaries that were set in that report. While the report allows for a diversity of opinions on the meaning of the creation days, some issues, like the special and direct creation of Adam, are considered of “vital importance to our Reformed testimony.”
After this introduction, Dr. Davidson began by explaining that Dr. Ken Wolgemuth was not able to attend because he had been called away by his job to Saudi Arabia. Dr. Davidson laughed and said that Dr. Wolgemuth’s schedule changed before the issue of the seminar “went nuclear” on the blogosphere. He went on to promise that nothing that he said would be outside the boundaries set by the Creation Study Report. He also reminded everyone that the scope of the seminar was the age of the earth and not evolution. Anyone who was interested in his views on evolution were directed to his book, When Faith and Science Collide.
Before Dr. Davidson got into explaining the scientific evidence for an old earth, he took a few minutes to lay out his own Christian beliefs, including the inerrancy of Scripture and the death and resurrection of Christ. He was careful to emphasize his belief in an historical Adam and Eve and the doctrine of original sin.
The majority of his presentation was very similar to the material that he lays out in his book. He stated his belief that science can be useful in deciding between two plausible interpretations of Scripture. He gave the example of Galileo and whether the sun orbits the earth or the earth orbits the sun. This was an example of a time that the increasing evidence of science helped to show which interpretation of Scripture was best.
Dr. Davidson explained that his purpose in the seminar was to equip the pastors and elders so that they can better minister to their congregations. According to Dr. Davidson, there are many in the church who are taught that the evidence for an old earth is weak and that to be faithful to Christ one must hold to a young earth. This can become a stumbling block to the faith for many, especially young believers, who grow up and are then challenged when they discover that the evidence for an old earth is very strong. The evidence that Dr. Davidson presented in the seminar is designed to help prevent this potential crisis of faith.
In the same way as he does in his book, Dr. Davidson then addressed the problems that he sees in reading Genesis 1 and 2 in a straight-forward, literal way. These problems include the apparent differences in the two chapters on the order of creation and the problems with having light before the sun. Dr. Davidson used the parable of the mustard seed to give an example of a passage of Scripture that is completely true even though the statements about nature are not. Jesus says that the mustard seed is the smallest seed and that seeds have to die. According to Dr. Davidson, this is not technically accurate as there are many seeds smaller than the mustard seed and that seeds don’t actually die when they germinate. Using this passage, Dr. Davidson explained that Genesis 1 and 2 are best understood as completely true, but not as scientifically accurate statements.
Dr. Davidson then explained a handful of scientific evidences for an old earth. All were pretty straight forward and clearly outlined. He also explained why the most common Young Earth Creationist interpretations do not fit the evidence. In closing, he explained that his intention was not to change Young Earth Creationists into Old Earth Creationists. His desire was to have those who hold to a young earth at least understand that those who hold to an old earth do so for plausible reasons. He repeated his desire to remove a stumbling block to the faith that requires a belief in a young earth.
The audience was allowed to submit questions for Dr. Davidson to answer. The questions were challenging ones both scientifically and theologically. The most interesting questions were the last two. First, Dr. Davidson was asked about his belief in an historical Adam. The question asked if he believed Adam was specially and directly created by God from the dust or if Adam was a hominid adopted by God. Before answering, Dr. Davidson said that he hoped his answer to this question would not cause people to write off the evidence he had given in the seminar. His answer was that he doesn’t see a difference between Adam specially created by God from the dust and Adam as a hominid adopted by God and given a soul. Either way, according to him, Adam is the first human and the father of mankind. He pointed out that the wording of Genesis is that Adam was created by God from the dust of the earth and that science would say that Adam was created from the dust of the earth.
The last question asked was whether or not the session at Dr. Davidson’s church allows him to teach old earth. Dr. Davidson said that he is not currently under discipline and that he has never asked or been asked to teach on the subject.
16 thoughts on “PCA Seminar Speaker: No Difference Between Adam Specially Created from the Dust and a Hominid Adopted by God and Given a Soul”
You say, “adoption,” I say, “creation.”
You say, “permission, I say, “by fiat,”
Adoption, creation, permission, by fiat; let’s call the whole thing off.
“His answer was that [he] doesn’t see a difference between Adam specially created by God from the dust and Adam as a hominid adopted by God and given a soul.”
We ARE one! Praise God for unity! Yippee!
Just wanted to say that I attended the seminar and the review you provide above I think is a quite fair reflection of the what was presented. I estimate that between 240 and 255 people attended and there were fewer than 230 seats but many people standing. Joel
‘Before answering, Dr. Davidson said that he hoped his answer to this question would not cause people to write off the evidence he had given in the seminar.’
I’d like to present scientific evidence to show that there is life on other planets. When I’m done, I’ll tell you about the time I was abducted by aliens, but don’t let that worry you that the facts I’m sharing aren’t objective.
This says it all ” He stated his belief that science can be useful in deciding between two plausible interpretations of Scripture.” The problem with that statement is that science is procedure for interpreting the physical reality around us. It is the presupposition of the scientist that will influence that interpretation. There are no objective guarantees that the interpretation will be correct, since it is ulitmately subjective, or a collective of subjective interpretations, which never equals an objective revelation. All he is saying is that his subjective interpretation of physical reality is useful to interpreting the objective revelation of scriptures. Instead of appealing to other passages of the same objective revelation. And this interpretation is not even necessarily based upon the context cues provided by the author, but instead, a very limited view of universe that defies the understanding of any one generation. This is a classic case of getting the cart ahead of the horse. As a Christian, the correct statement would be that scripture can be useful in deciding between to plausible interpretations of physical reality, given that the source of scripture is God himself and the sole source of objective truth.
Thank you for posting a good summary of the seminar presentation for those who might be interested but were unable to be there.
Bully! Why was he invited to speak??
“He [Dr. Davidson] stated his belief that science can be useful in deciding between two plausible interpretations of Scripture.”
That is a direct violation of the teaching of WCF 1:9 and 10, as well as Sola Scriptura. WCF 1:9 begins this way: “The infallable rule of interpretation of scripture is the scripture istelf;…”
The issue is that old earthers can’t use scrpture to defend their interpretation. So they add error upon error by interpreting scripture through the lense of non-emperical scienctism.
Hi Andrew, despite another comment below, the well worn geocentricity example is still informative here. If not for our modern view of the solar system obtained solely from scientific inquiry we would doubtless read some passages of the scriptures differently. In this case science has helped to inform which interpretation best meshes God’s special and general revelation. Now, maybe you can make an argument that those verses don’t have the import that passages from Genesis have and the Scriptures speak more to their interpretation. But this is a far different argument than making the stark universal statement that Davidson is in violation of the confessions for saying that “science can be useful”
PS. I have published a picture from the seminar for those interested.
Actually the well-worn geocentricity example is not informative here, unless you want to add that geocentricity is not a biblical or theological matter. The incursion of thinking that creation is geocentric is based on Ptolemaic/Aristotelian scientism. Never has it come from scripture. That just further demonstrates the folly of not following the scriptures with respect to everything about which they speak.
Just because people in the past violated the doctrine of “scripture interprets scripture” by claiming some sort of ecclesiastical authority for geocentrism, doesn’t mean that we should do the same with respect to current “science”.
The correct path is not just to substitute older scientism with new, but to reject it entirely and follow the Christian doctrine of Sola Scriptura, as summarized in WCF 1.
Further you misrepresented what I said. I didn’t claim that saying science was useful violated the Confession, but rather I said that claiming that science was useful in interpreting scripture violated WCF 1:9,10. Science is quite useful, but not for interpreting scripture, or even for informing one’s choice between two plausible interpretations. But we don’t even have that here, since “Old Earth” is not a plausible interpretation of scripture, despite what the OPC and PCA creation reports might say.
For others speaking about the nexus of scriptural use of the phrases sun rising and sun setting (or going down) with the idea of geocentrism, let me state this is a non-sequitur. The scriptures, just like we do today, speak of things as they are observed from earth. Sunrise and Sunset tables are still called that today. Does that mean that those who publish such things like the US Navy are guilty of beleiving in or teaching geocentrism? Really?
“He stated his belief that science can be useful in deciding between two plausible interpretations of Scripture. He gave the example of Galileo and whether the sun orbits the earth or the earth orbits the sun. This was an example of a time that the increasing evidence of science helped to show which interpretation of Scripture was best.”
The example of Galileo is a smoke curtain and stands in no comparison with Davidson’s “exegesis” of the Genesis account. Nowhere in Scripture (to my knowledge) is there an explicit account that the sun moved around the earth, other than in Joshua 10 vs. 12-13, where there is given an account of a miracle according to human experience. Galileo’s discovery did not have any concequenses on the hermeneutical principles of the Scriptures. I still have to hear or read an atheist scientist who fights war against bible believing christians or theologians because they use expressions like “sunrise” and “sunset”. Why? They still use these expressions themselves, without exception.
As John McArthur and R.C. Sproul in the recent Ligonier Westcoast Conference in a Q&A session answered a question on the historicity of Adam both in the affirmative, they also both expressed clearly that the acceptance of theistic evolutionism will have devastating concequenses for the churches, since there is a huge shift in hermeneutic principles of the Scriptures.
The most pressing question toward the GA of the PCA should be the following. Why, since Davidson’s book can be read privately, is he invited to give a “lecture” in the highest gathering of a church denomination that has the Westminster as its standard?
I think Dr.Timothy Keller approves highly of these moves and would respond that this is “what is so great about the PCA”! ; if he were not behind pushing these issues already.
Sjoerd de Boer
Josh. 10 is not all the mention of sun movement in Writ.
OT: Gen 15:12, 17; Pss 19:4-6, 50:1 ; Eccl 1:5; Jon 4:8; Nah 3:17; Mal 1:11.
NT: Mt 5:45, 13:6, Mk 16:2, Eph 4:26.
Many other verses also speak of the sun rising and going down.
Of course you are right about all these verses. They all speak in a matter that is not strange to our experience, while scientifically we know that the sun stands still. However, we still speak the same way as the Scipture mentions the “movements of the sun”, ( like I said, even atheist scientists do).
Sorry I expressed my point so poorly. I hope you still get my point, though. It is with regard to Joshua 10 that many attackers of the inerrancy of Scripture used this passage to prove that the Bible cannot be taken serious as an historical account.
My main point was that Galileo’s discovery cannot be used here as an example for justifying Theistic Evolutionism, since the latter demands a complete different hermeneutic set of principles that cannot be married within the Reformed hermeneutic principles. I hope at least that that is clear.
Geocentric bonanza: http://bylogos.blogspot.com/
I do not know (scientifically or otherwise) that the sun stands still.
Luther was right on Joshua; Galileo wrong.