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.