Today at the 40th General Assembly of the PCA, the majority of the commissioners voted not to make any statements regarding the historicity of Adam and Eve. Don Clements at The Aquila Report wrote a summary of the day’s actions:
Three Presbyteries had submitted overtures concerned with the topic of Theistic Evolution and the historicity of Adam and Eve.
Overture 10 from Rocky Mountain Presbytery asked that the General Assembly go on record (known as making an ‘in thesi’ statement that would reject all evolutionary views of Adam’s origins. Overture 29 from Savannah River Presbytery asked for a similar statement.
But Overture 26 from Potomac Presbytery asked for something different. They felt that the PCA had clearly stated their position on these topics, most especially in Larger Catechism Question 17, and anyone who wanted to know what the PCA’s position was could simply read the following statement from that answer:
“After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal soul; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall”
A minority of the committee brought to the floor their position defending the adopting of an ‘in thesi’ statement, staying that is was needed since there were a number of people and/or institutions that were claiming to uphold the Westminster Standards (i.e. LCQ 17) yet, at the same time, were claiming that Theistic Evolution or views that Adam and Eve were not truly newly created was within the bounds of understanding of the Standards.
When the votes were taken, the assembly voted by a 60-40% margin to approve the Potomac Overture and not make a statement.
While I appreciate the sentiment of the majority report that the PCA already has statements affirming the historicity of Adam, those who believe that there is not a significant group of theistic evolutionists within the PCA are kidding themselves. It was particularly telling that despite the many assurances by those in favor of the majority report one man spoke to say that he believed the minority report went beyond the Scriptures in what it affirmed about Adam. He said that Genesis 2:7 states that God created Adam from the dust, but not how. He thought there should be more latitude in interpretation there.
That is exactly why we need to address the issue of Adam and evolutionary origins.
8 thoughts on “PCA General Assembly Votes NOT to Make a Statement on Adam and Eve”
This is such a critical topic for the PCA, it deserved better study, discussion and airing of all the concerns. This vote will allow variances in what differing presbyteries find acceptable in ordination and transfer exams that will create turmoil and cause division within the PCA over this doctrine. Some will bring charges for approval of teaching elders who hold to theistic evolution, while others will bring charges against those who refuse to approve teaching elders that hold to an evolved Adam. What was to be lost by approving such clarification provided by these two ‘in thesis’ overtures? What was gained by not approving it? It is hard to understand why 60% of presbyters would balk at not clarifying the PCA’s stand on this doctrine. The only plausible reason at this point seems to be to allow more wiggle room for interpretation.
I sent a similar comment to someone who commented on WesWhite.net on this topic. I expect this is going to sound like nitpicking but the principle is important. We should not be binding people to positions that go beyond the Scripture no matter how tempting it might be. The minority report appears to only use Scriptural language but the emphasis will certainly be interpreted as implicating views that go beyond what is actually said. Does “immediate” mean suddenly appeared as if one second there was dust and then Adam’s body? Formed suggests a process and to use Ken Ham’s favorite phrase “where you there?” If none of us where there how do we know that God didn’t form a cell from the dust and then build up those cells into different forms eventually resulting in the form of Adam into which he breathed life. Where the cells of his body not working so such that life was to each cell or was that life he breathed into him different than the animals (I think so). If so the cells were alive biologically and came from possibly other cells that were built up. I’m not talking evolution necessarily though it could be “apparent evolution” just like there is apparent age in the trees in the garden. My point is that how do we know that God didn’t form Adam through a process of steps even if those steps only took 12 total hours! I don’t think we can force anyone to accept that we know exactly how God did it only that he took the dust and made Adam from it somehow. Immediate has connotations that suggest man knows something that God has not told us. He could have started with soil, made a cell, made DNA for that cell, copied that cell and made simple organism, from that organism he could have divided off some material and made other organisms and so forth. Could he not have done that even in the space of one day? If he did it this way would it be incorrect to say that Adam was made from the dust of the ground? If he did, it could be said that Adam had intermediate ancestry and I don’t see how that affects redemptive history. Certainly he was doing lots of other creative acts like separating all the water from land in one day which is miraculous (ironically some YEC types try to explain how this was done by natural means in the space of 24 hours, talk about trying to be overly naturalistic) but separation does imply a series of events rather than water was here and then poof it was over there or maybe it could mean that but I wasn’t there. I wouldn’t want to be held being forced to believe it had to be one way or the other when the text doesn’t actually tell us what the sequence of events was. The text does not tell me that the dust instantaneously went from atoms of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen to a complete human body and if you were there that there were absolutely no intermediate steps that could be observed.
Joel~ I understand the point you’re making. However, I think the word “immediate” is not so difficult. The purpose is to say that God formed Adam from dust into a human, and that He did not take a existing creature and make that creature a human. This does not go beyond what Scripture teaches and is in fact affirmed in other statements by the PCA. The Creation Study Report states that Adam and Eve were not the products of evolution from lower life forms.
One part of being a confessional church is confessing what we believe. Some of the arguments that I’ve heard made against these overtures on various sites could also be made against our confession (and against any sermon preached that involves more than reading of scripture). We squandered an opportunity as a denomination to proclaim what we believe. It brings to mind the justification controversy with Shepard in the OPC, the issue was getting bogged down in procedural points, when someone stood up and said (paraphrasing here) “Our people are confused on the issue of justification, why would we not desire to take any opportunity to state what we believe?” That is my question for those in the PCA who did not support these overtures, regardless of whether or not you believe that ‘in thesi’ are effective, there is confusion on this issue, why would we not desire to take any opportunity to proclaim what we believe?
Mark B.: Your comment gets to the heart of the concern – clarification. This is such a major doctrinal issue, it needs a great deal more discussion by the PCA.
As a sidebar: just one small issue among many coming out of the Creation seminar at GA- who were these soulless creatures proposed by Dr. Davidson (and others)? Are we to think there were points along man’s evolution where he was half nameless creature, half man? Three quarter man and one quarter soulless creature? What became of the soulless ones who were 99% biologically ‘man’? What would be a Biblical understanding of the rise of the soulless creatures?
Sedgegrass~ In his book, Dr. Davidson uses the example of the Neanderthals. He considers them to be human like, but without a soul.
Rachel, do you know Dr. Davidson’s teaching concerning the Flood? Universal or not? If not, it would be entirely logical to speculate that there might be soulless races today…
I think it is the science that is soulless.
Bill~ He does not believe that the flood covered the entire earth, although he does believe that the human population was destroyed except for Noah and his family. Any other hominids (non-humans) would have died out either before or after the flood for unexplained reasons.
But I do think your question is a very valid one. How can we be sure that all those other soulless ones actually died out?
Darwinian evolution was the source of much racism, although most evolutionists don’t like to talk about it.