In the Name of the One who Turned Water into Wine

In preparing for Easter, I’ve been thinking on what John says about Jesus:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5, ESV)

Jesus, who came and lived and died for the sins of His people, is the One through Whom all things were made. Scripture tells many ways in which He demonstrated His authority over the world He created. One of my favorite of those accounts is from the wedding at Cana, His first miracle. I love that it was at a wedding feast. What a beautiful foreshadowing of the coming Wedding Feast! And what an appropriate focus for us as we celebrate His victory over sin, death, and Hell. He is risen, and He will come again!

Here some thoughts on the miracle at Cana:

One of the fruits of the Reformation is the hermeneutic of using Scripture to interpret Scripture. How does that apply to the discussions of Genesis and origins? Well, we have many examples of miracles that Jesus performed. Since Jesus is the Word through whom and by whom everything was made, it seems reasonable to compare His work at Cana with His work at creation. Here is something I read recently on the authority of Scripture versus the authority of science:

As for determining what science says versus Scripture, how does one decide what is miraculous and what’s not?

For example, suppose there was an expert wine maker at the wedding feast at Cana, and let’s suppose that he was hired to make the wine selections for the father of the bride. Being an expert wine maker he would know the age of the wines and the vineyards they came from and could speak of their relative merits and taste.

Suppose that when Jesus turned water into wine the wine maker tested this wine for its age, maturity, bouquet and such, based on his knowledge of wine he would declare that this wine was years old and came from a wonderfully cared for vineyard. Using the best science of assessing wine, he would be forced to draw this conclusion.

So what would his response be when the servants told him that this exquisite wine wasn’t years old but just a few minutes old, that a few minutes before there was only water in the pots and that this man Jesus turned the water into wine.

Which authority would we believe? The science that has the corner on wine making or in Jesus who is able to act supernaturally? Why is it so hard to believe that the one who changed water into wine instantly and supernaturally could not also create the universe, visible and invisible, by the word of his power?

In the Name of the One who turned water into wine,
Rachel

Dialogue: is it always worthwhile?

In the recent past, I have participated in dialogues, discussions, and debates with various proponents of evolution (theistic and otherwise). After many words and much time spent, I came to a realization. While dialogue can certainly be useful, there are times when you find yourself going around in circles. On one of those occasions, I wrote the following to explain why I felt the discussion had reached a natural endpoint:

We seem to be going around in circles, to some degree. We both have a decent understanding of the Scripture and the science being discussed.

I believe that the Genesis account is meant to be read as a literal history of what actually happened and that there are repercussions on many fundamental Christian doctrines when one takes a more allegorical approach. I also believe that the science, especially the evolutionary science, is open to interpretation and debate.

You believe that the evolutionary science is solid and that there are repercussions to the rest of science when one interprets the science differently. You also believe, from what you’ve stated, that the Scripture is open to interpretation and debate.

These are fundamentally opposite positions. From what I’ve read, your position is that YEC is bad science and bad theology, in that it does not accurately represent the truth of nature, and it is damaging to the faith and witness of the Church. I believe that theistic evolution/evolutionary creationism is bad science and bad theology, in that it relies on fundamentally flawed presuppositions to interpret the scientific evidence, and it does damage to the faith by undermining or redefining many important doctrines.

I’m not sure we can say that we are the same where it counts. Not that I question your faith, because I don’t. I hate to keep using the same word, but there is a fundamental difference in our hermeneutic approaches to Scripture and that leads to many, many differences. There is a very real danger that the hermeneutical approach favored by theistic evolutionists, like those at BioLogos, will lead to an eventual denial of the resurrection. Not that everyone who holds to theistic evolution will eventually deny the resurrection, but the same approach that reinterprets Genesis in light of what “science knows” is regularly used to reinterpret the resurrection.

So, I’m not sure where we go from here. I don’t mind discussing with you, but we do seem to be saying the same things over and over again.

While this is based on one particular conversation that I had, it is generally applicable to most dialogues between creationists and evolutionists. In my opinion, arguing over the evidences, one way or the other, is often wasted breath. I don’t believe that I can change their minds, although I pray that the Lord will, and I know that they will not change my mind, although I bet they are praying for me too. So, while I do believe that there is a time and place for evidence and dialogues, I also believe that there is a time for silence.

He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ (Luke 16:31 ESV)

The Stigma of Our Generation: Rejecting Evolution

[E]very generation of Christianity has its own stigma by which the believer’s faith is severely tested. … The most hotly contested issue of any day is that which makes the minority view look foolish and makes the believer look a fool. Athanasius stood alone in his day when he stood for the full deity of Jesus Christ. The world is against you, they would say to Athanasius. Flashing his black eyes, he retorted: ‘If the world is against Athanasius, the Athanasius is against the world.’

Things are no different today. We may think that our issue is unprecedented in weightiness in its threat to the Bible. We may fear that at long last the Bible will be disproved and Christianity made extinct. But there is nothing new under the sun. …

The stigma of our generation then, it seems to me, is to reject the theory of evolution and stand unflinchingly for creation by God:’that things which are seen are not made of things which do appear.’

R.T. Kendall, “Faith and Creation,” Should Christians Embrace Evolution?, pgs. 109-110)

A Question of Authority

But, [insert name of orthodox giant of the faith here] agrees with me!

This is a popular argument used on a regular basis by many different theologians, scholars, writers, bloggers, etc. The purpose of the argument is to declare that since such-and-such a person, whose orthodoxy can’t be challenged, held the same belief that is being argued for, then the belief must also be orthodox.

One common example goes something like this:

Many Reformed scholars and pastors, such as J.I. Packer, Francis Schaeffer, Charles Spurgeon, and J. Gresham Machen, hold/held to an old Earth. Since they are thoroughly orthodox in their beliefs, then it must be acceptable to hold to an old Earth.

Another example that is frequently used in the theistic evolution debate is say that since B. B. Warfield held to some version of theistic evolution and since he was a strong defender of the inerrancy of Scripture, then not only is theistic evolution compatible with Christianity, it poses no threat to the inerrancy of Scripture.

The problem with these type of arguments is that these appeals have their source in fallible men, instead of the only source of infallible truth, Scripture. Now, I realize that most people making an appeal to a giant of the faith would argue that these men used Scripture to form their beliefs. I’m sure that’s true. However, all men, aside from Christ, are subject to error. The Westminster Confession of Faith states it this way:

All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.

If we are not to use synods or councils as our “rule of faith” because of the potential for error, then it would be equally unwise to make any man, but Christ, our touchstone.

In Galatians, you see an example of how this should work. Peter, who was a well-known and well-respected leader within the community of believers, had bowed to the pressure of the circumcision party and stopped eating with the Gentiles. Paul did not say, “Oh well, Peter is one of the apostles. He knew Christ! His ministry has flourished and grown. He’s such a blessing to the community of faith. If he thinks it’s right to separate from the Gentiles, I’m sure he knows what he’s doing.” No, Paul “opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.” (Gal. 2:11 ESV)

I’m not saying we shouldn’t listen to or learn from or consider what the giants of the faith have said on various topics. By all means, we should learn from those who have gone before us! But, we must always remember that they are men, just like us, just as capable of error as we are. Let us put our ultimate trust in the only infallible source of knowledge available to us. As the Reformers said, Sola Scriptura!

A New Catechism

Redeemer Presbyterian Church (NYC) and The Gospel Coalition have come together to develop a new catechism:

So, with all that in mind, we decided to adapt Calvin’s Geneva Catechism, the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms, and especially the Heidelberg Catechism, to produce New City Catechism. While giving exposure to some of the riches and insights across the spectrum of these great Reformation-era catechisms, New City Catechism also looks at some of the questions people are asking today.

We also decided that New City Catechism should comprise only 52 questions and answers (as opposed to Heidelberg’s 129 or Westminster Shorter’s 107). There is therefore only one question and answer for each week of the year, making it simple to fit into church calendars and achievable even for people with demanding schedules.

We wanted to do one more thing. We found that parents who teach their kids a children’s catechism, and then try to learn an adult one for themselves often find the process confusing. The children are learning one set of questions and answers, and the parents are learning another completely different set. So New City Catechism is a joint adult and children’s catechism. In other words, the same questions are asked of both children and adults, and the children’s answer is always part of the adult answer. This means that as parents are teaching it to their children they are learning their answer to the question at the same time.

I’ve just begun to look through the New City catechism. This Q and A caught my attention:

Q: How and why did God create us?
A: God created us male and female in his own image to know him, love him, live with him, and glorify him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.

Here is the similar question and answer from the Westminster Larger Catechism:

Q. 17. How did God create man?

A. 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 souls; 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.

I certainly can appreciate the desire to simplify the catechism answers. When I’m helping my children learn them, I tend to paraphrase when necessary to make sure they can grasp the concepts in an age-appropriate way. But, I think it is very interesting what is left out from the Westminster version: “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 souls” especially given the current origins debate.

Any thoughts?

Calvin on the Creation of Eve

In his commentary on Genesis, John Calvin answers objections to the manner in which Eve was created:

Although to profane persons this method of forming woman may seem ridiculous, and some of these may say that Moses is dealing in fables, yet to us the wonderful providence of God here shines forth; for, to the end that the conjunction of the human race might be the more sacred he purposed that both males and females should spring from one and the same origin. Therefore he created human nature in the person of Adam, and thence formed Eve, that the woman should be only a portion of the whole human race. This is the import of the words of Moses which we have had before, (Genesis 1:28,) “God created man… he made them male and female.” In this manner Adam was taught to recognize himself in his wife, as in a mirror; and Eve, in her turn, to submit herself willingly to her husband, as being taken out of him. But if the two sexes had proceeded from different sources, there would have been occasion either of mutual contempt, or envy, or contentions. And against what do perverse men here object? ‘The narration does not seem credible, since it is at variance with custom.’ As if, indeed, such an objection would have more color than one raised against the usual mode of the production of mankind, if the latter were not known by use and experience.

GA Seminar: No Room in the PCA for Young Earth Creationism?

In 2000, the Creation Study Committee submitted a report to the 28th General Assembly on the issue of creation. The report is extensive and covers many topics including various views of the length of the creation days and the original intent of the Westminster Assembly in regards to interpreting Genesis 1–3. The most important part of the report comes from the advice and counsel portion at the end of the report. While acknowledging there to be different opinions within the PCA regarding the nature and length of the creation days, they found considerable unity on the issues of “vital importance to our Reformed testimony.” Here is the statement from the committee:

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 supernaturalism.

The report explains, in great detail, four main interpretations of creation that are common within the PCA. These views are: the Calendar Day interpretation (also known as Young Earth Creationism), the Day-Age interpretation, the Framework interpretation, and the Analogical Days interpretation. According to the committee, these views are all different, but all are in agreement with the affirmations made by the committee. The conclusion one can draw from the report is that there is room in the PCA for a diversity of opinions on the age of the earth and the length of the creation days. Or, at least, there used to be room.

Apparently, some in the denomination believe that it’s time to reinterpret the Creation Study Report based on the “scientific evidence for an ancient earth.” At the upcoming General Assembly, there will be a seminar on this topic: The PCA Creation Study Committee a Dozen Years Later: What Does Science Say Now? Dr. Gregg Davidson and Dr. Ken Wolgemuth of Solid Rock Lectures will be speaking on why we must accept the scientific consensus for the age of the earth:

This seminar will provide an update on the scientific evidence for an ancient earth using examples non-scientists can easily apprehend. Pastors and theologians are generally familiar with the biblical arguments surrounding questions of the age of the earth, but few have access to scientific data that they can understand. Most rely on information from young earth organizations that do not adequately or accurately reflect conventional scientific understanding. When information from these sources is passed on to students and congregations, Christ, as the author of truth, is poorly represented. More importantly, our members are inadequately prepared to wrestle with challenges to their faith when encountering the actual scientific evidence. Church leaders need to be aware of the evidence even if convinced it is wrong. The seminar will explicitly acknowledge the authority and preeminence of scripture over natural evidence, while also recognizing that God’s natural creation can sometimes aid in choosing between plausible biblical interpretations.

What’s interesting about this seminar is that while the PCA Creation Study Report does not take a position on the age of the earth, the speakers at this seminar do. The implication from the summary is that the science is settled, and therefore, we need to accept that Young Earth Creationism is not a viable position. According to the summary, not only is YEC bad science, it also reflects badly on Christ as the author of truth. This is a very disturbing statement.

Why is the PCA having only one side of this issue represented? Is there not anyone in the PCA who can represent the Young Earth position? Given the diversity of opinions represented in the Creation Study Report on the age of the earth, it seems odd that one position would be promoted in this way.

The other very disturbing part of this seminar is who Dr. Davidson and Dr. Wolgemuth are and what they believe. Drs. Davidson and Wolgemuth are the founders of Solid Rock Lectures. Solid Rock Lectures provides resources on “understanding evidence for Old Earth Creation and its Biblical basis.” Their website describes the problem facing the modern church this way:

Young people raised in many churches are told that the Bible teaches a recent six-day earth or evolution is weak. When confronted with the actual evidence in college or later in life, they often experience a crisis of faith. The scientific evidence is so overwhelming, many determine it must be their faith that was mistaken. Questioning non-believers likewise face a monumental obstacle to faith when told that to accept Christ they must reject what seems to be reason itself.

As geologists, the theme of their work seems to be correcting the false (according to them) Young Earth Creationism belief “that the Flood can account for the earth’s complex geology, and that all genuine Christians should accept this viewpoint.” In the essay that Drs. Davidson and Wolgemuth wrote for BioLogos, “Biblical and Scientific Shortcomings of Flood Geology,” they lament the number of people they’ve met who have had their faith shaken when they began to be confronted with the scientific evidence for evolution and millions of years. Their goal in writing is to remove this “stumbling block” to the faith:

It is our conviction that these stories of strained or lost faith derive not from an inherent unwillingness to trust the Bible, but rather from misguided teaching on the message of Scripture. Those insisting the earth is young are not simply putting their faith in God’s Word, they are putting their faith in their own particular interpretation of that Word. As such, an entirely unnecessary stumbling block to faith is created, where faith in Christ first requires rejection of sound science. As we have prayed and studied this subject, we have felt God’s call to speak out against this misplaced stumbling block.

Obviously, Drs. Davidson and Wolgemuth deny that Noah’s flood was global and believe that the earth was formed over millions of years, but their accommodation to naturalistic science goes further. In his book, When Faith and Science Collide: A Biblical Approach to Evaluating Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and the Age of the Earth, Dr. Davidson explains why we should be open to evolution:

Rather than defining evolution as Darwinism, evolution should be defined as the name man has given to the study of what God’s creativity looks like. God does not guide, mimic, prod, or adjust evolution as if it is an independent force that God must rein in. God creates. Evolution is merely the physical, chemical, and biological description of what that creation looks like. (90-91)

Along with accepting evolution as the way God created, Dr. Davidson believes in common descent of man:

If our creative nature is truly a reflection of god’s nature, then it is entirely consistent that God would start with a lump of clay (earth materials), and begin to form and shape life through myriad generations until he arrived at what he was ultimately after. (63)

When Dr. Davidson professes a belief in a literal Adam and Eve, he qualifies it this way:

[I]t is conceivable that the Eve and Adam of scripture are genuinely mitochondrial Eve and her mate, selected by God from a population of hominids and endowed with a soul. (65)

In summary, despite the previous acceptance of a diversity of opinions on the age of the earth and length of creation days, there appears to be a move to kick Young Earth Creationists out of the PCA tent. The BioLogos workshop held in NYC in March concluded with an “urgent desire to bring about change.” It would seem that that same desire for change has reached the PCA.