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THE IDEA OF A 'REFORMED' POSITION ON CREATION
In the last Technical Journal for the 2014 year, we find some review of an approach to apologetics on the part of Dr R.C. Sproul. It is brought to light by the publication of a work entitled, A Reformed Approach to science and Scripture.
The article makes it clear in reviewing this newly published work on a Reformed View here touching origins, that Sproul has previously presented views on the short nature of the creation days as so clear from the word of God that it would require considerable intellectual athletics to think otherwise. It was noted that without question, he must follow what is written above abstracted conjectures, and so forth.
This sounds very nice and in a good sense, Reformed; but alas, as with some other reformed doctrines, especially when they are gloried in, the sound of belief is not the same as what is to be believed, from the Bible. It seems to have in some such circles, as in the matter of women elders and various degrees of virtually secular ecumenicity, a formal rather than a functional perspective. In other words, it is at times found in crucial issues to speak well and perform badly.
It can become like a varnish. Errors on Israel (cf. Israel, the Pentad, Ch. 1 above and Volume 9, Chs. 1 and 10 of Department of Bible ...) seem also close to endemic and lead to most important failure to keep up with the light in a dark place noted by Peter (2:19) and even in some cases, to hold rankly unbiblical views concerning Israel, issuing in boycotts and the like.
One well remembers a case when one was at Westminster Theological Seminary, when a preaching professor issued harshly extreme views on the Reformed position on the love of God, and judged my preaching in inexplicable rancour and astonishing confusion. Intriguingly, this very one later joined in the sacking of another Professor as having too stringent views about what constituted the Reformed Approach, as if HIS view was IT. There appeared a tradition of intolerance and invention. It was an unusual variation from the normally far more reasonable work of the faculty, but it always represents a danger.
Such issues should be, and can be resolved by simple reference to what is written*1. Hence this reformed view terminology can become a traditionalistic, somewhat mobile, yet variously enforced approach, where the Bible is FUNCTIONALLY peripheral. Thus instructed, we revert.
Let us then return to the current issue in the book about a Reformed view on science. Here then we find that when Dr Sproul, whose work was in focus, later thought of complex issues of space-time, matters purely scientific in nature, he was left with the resultant 'belief'' item, that concerning the age of the earth, he does not know. That comes into line as vast change. What required gymnastics to construct, was now so uncertain as to require ignorance in a classical avoidance technique.
There are of course limits to biblical interpretation concerning the early generations, but as has been pointed out in the article The biblical minimum and maximum age of the earth, Technical Journal 28(2), 2014, these are very restricted in scope.
They are small enough not to affect the KIND of understanding one has. They are far too small to leave open the KIND of date involved, thousands and not millions of years.
How then can current scientific ambivalence on means of estimating time, time here as distinct from there, time in this or that perspective, in this or that interpretation of the texture and dimensional situation to be conceived when one speaks of time in this universe: how could this have any effect on what is written in the Bible ? If the biblical perspective concerning this earth and man on it and the mode of speaking to man on it in terms of his diurnal experience and ultimate resultants is inspired, then there is no question of it really meaning this or that of some esoteric kind. You can take it or leave it but if you leave the continuity concept in Genesis, then you leave the Bible (cf. interview with Professor Andrew Steinmann, Creation magazine, 36 (1), 2014). Then any invasive theory relating to the Bible, here Genesis, becomes a joint work, two authors, God plus man, a grotesque and sheer prodigy of presumption and confusion indeed. This approach does not concern merely something totally missing in the context, in inventive manipulation, but what is utterly contrary to it. Enticing to some, a new structural may then arise to peck at the mess.
Of course, there is evidence of some structure in the creation, order being like that, for example the first phase after the heavens and the earth announcement, concerns the earth, the second the heavens; but that has nothing to do with the fact that the separate questions of when, how long and for what purpose, in what overall historical context and in answer to what questions, have their own criteria. ALL of these things may be asked of the text and context, without muddle.
Thus I might want to give students some notion of order in an illustration or experiment, but this is far from being a contradiction of what my lab notes say about when I did it and how long it took. It seems at times that ANYTHING, in terms of altering God's definition of sin, on the one hand, and the word of God on any topic in the Bible, on the other, is permitted because of an underlying desperation to escape without admitting it.
So far, then, we have considered the general situation regarding the relevance of what at any particular time in history, man is making of the universe in his secular, foundationally pre-emptive approach to it. God speaks truth, and various theories, some irrational, others contradicting empirical evidence*2, and as expected therefore contrary to what the Bible teaches, have no bearing on its interpretation. It may be done about a word or a work or a universe as understood in some fanciful or anti-verified or misunderstood fashion (it all changes extraordinarily, the content of these various theories), but in principle, it is all one. You converge, being convicted and converted to God, and you follow, not diversifying into novelty, or you listen to the latest version of 'Hath God said ?' and ponder, becoming confused, unclear, nebulous in understanding, arrested in development of the teaching.
If this Technical Journal report be then correct, on the topic of Sproul's adventures in declaration about the word of God, and Genesis in particular, as cited, then what is in view is profoundly saddening.
There is a movement from biblical reliance to - not this time of strange invented ages, via twiddled functions and assumptions framed in enormity, festering in the illogical, and merely desired, as is far more normal in unbelief, but of something more aloof.
We come here not merely to unverified ideas competing in various modes of woeful, wandering irrationality, but to a MODE of viewing the universe, and its impact on the Bible reading scholar. It is as stated, an issue of something raised by scientific postulates, preliminary propositions, competitive ways of understanding. Excursions into the philosophy of science, and its untenable postulations, by their very esoteric sparkles appear now to dazzle on the simple and unchanged topic: what does the Bible say.
Certainly, a person could fail to understand the intricacies of the mathematical modes of implementing some of these hi-tech, hi-spec theories, but that does not apply to their overview, contention and postulation concerning time itself. It does not apply to the logical issues back of their concepts.
Hartnett and Humphreys have their own very fascinating approaches in biblical terms; but these explorations, though backed by much, are still being furthered, though naturally far in advance of the myths they overthrow at the postulation probe level.
But what has a series of approaches in scientific mode (when it IS in that mode, as only sometimes - see Scientific Method), to do with the interpretation of a passage in the Bible which is taken to be straight from the mouth of God, and without need for assistance down the line from some of His creatures, as to what REALLY is the case. If it is not REALLY as He states for those on this earth in that terminology which He so tellingly and emphatically and definitively adopts, then it is wrong. What could be found in the interstices of space, or for that matter of space, is of interest; what is stated about the nature of things on this earth and in terms again, of what God did concerning this earth and its resultant features is either right or wrong. It alone in actuality has been defensible rationally, in terms of scientific method*3. So where is the problem ?
It becomes simply a different form of unbelief. Instead of considering as possibly accurate, a schema of creation which departs decisively in date-mutation from that of the biblical depiction, because ephemeral theories which have gross logical deficiencies are in vogue, now the idea appears to be this. Consider not the DATE outcome of all these figures, but the ELEVATED MODE of their whole system of belief concerning the age of the earth, their postulates and their competing ideas, among each other. Give attention to an Arabian Nights of fantasy, NOT required by tested data and contrary to verification opportunities, and then what ? If it were a class, the answer would be simple. THEN you are dreaming, so pay attention.
Surely in all this, the underlying thought may go like this: There is something somewhere, which MIGHT, just might have some kind of validity, so that what the Bible teaches ever so clearly may not be really ... well quite right in some way. Such is the way Sproul seems to have taken. To turn this into a Reformed Declaration on the subject would be to demean it in terms of its traditionalistic, culturally demeaning weaknesses. The Reformation did a great deal of good: it is a pity to see the Reformed name misapplied to such abasement.
What then ? Is it exciting, this position ? Great! what is it ? It is this. One simply does not know the answer IN VIEW of all these pseudo-scientific and sometimes scientific nostrums and postulations.
So to philosophy back of such, the bow is made. It was in effect the same on the issue of the love of God to the lost*1. There also philosophy entered, hideously amiss as shown so often on this site. The love of God to those who may ultimately be lost is not at all unclear, as pointed out to Professor John Murray of Westminster in my student days, in terms of Colossians 1:19ff., and that is only a start. The idea seemed to be that God loved such, but not to the point ... to what point ? To the point where heaven and hell could be in some sense relevant!
However the statement in Colossians 1 is that having made peace by the blood of the cross (the ultimate criterion for coverage and context as in John 3), the Father desired to reconcile ALL in heaven or on earth to Himself. That becomes an essential aspect of the nature of God. To denude it with a contradiction, or a minimisation, sadly, is to defile it.
No answer was given to this explicit biblical challenge during my student days, nor has it ever been, for when God speaks in His word, to speak contrary is amiss; and to insist on it comes near to rebellion. That is why it was so gratifying to the hear, that the so kind and gracious John Murray, justly famed, held his peace and offered no answer.
Certainly this subject takes meditation, but as in Predestination and Freewill, the first of the Seven Volume Set on this site on such topics, not only does the Bible show the answer in its own terms IF YOU FOLLOW THEM, but nothing else solves the entire scope of the data on freedom, choice, predestination, foreknowledge, determinism and voluntarism. The Bible has that distinction. It is never amiss to trust and to test it, for it alone holds the answers to riddles and churning confusions (cf. LIGHT DWELLS WITH THE LORD'S CHRIST ...).
Let us however leave this illustration and continue the account of the reformed view of science, and in particular creation. Contrary to this stringency concerning the use of the Bible, here found so effective, exclusively rational and above presented, a different way is found here in this book on the Reformed view. To a mixed multitude of thrusting ideas, in the unbolstered philosophic department of science, the possible crown is devoted. It is this. MAYBE the maths, the ideas, the contortions in this domain being so high, may be mighty also, so that one must not go quite so far as to say that the Bible is just plain right. No, now one DOES NOT KNOW.
These lupine growlings become a condition, a pause button being pressed. What if they be correct ?
Such knowledge is NOT too wonderful, but abased, an abutment of majesty to thought. It is as if to tell God that though His thoughts are not as our thoughts, not to get carried away with this. It is, in short, to the biblical mind, absolutely horrid, an abasement before the fairy treading heel either of mere fantasy, misaligned and contrary to verification, or of sound thought, biblical in type and unverified in detail.
It is true that some are seeking to find from the Bible some indications which mayh lead to an understanding of the universe confirmatory of the Bible, and such are still being explored; but even here, the categorical failure of secular efforts to dispense with God is by contrast, exposed as uncompetitive. Actually, there is no necessity that creation in its MODE should mirror the products of creation, the current universe in ITS MODE OF WORKING. Writing on paper to make verse is not subject to the same relevant rules as maintaining the copy! To create and to maintain are identical; and what is revealed of one or the other, in truth, simply coheres AS revealed, as a mark of truth.
However, biblically oriented endeavours to find any kind of continuity between the action creation and its current laws can be interesting, and its exposure of secular efforts, confusing the two, rather than trying to align possibilities, is one good outcome already!
But as to any contest ? Flamboyant, secular postulations correct ? against what God has said and this in terms which biblical perspective alone can meet without equivocation and self-contradiction ? To take the relevant part of the field of postulations, that ignoring the Bible, is this philosophy-based, normally materialistic perspectives (cf. Lewontin*4), in some way an innovation, a cause for pause ? Is God to be subjected to the scrutiny of atheists, materialists, determinists, unable to find the very first beginning of rationality, all set on having it all there (begging the question), contrary to entropy (mere law), and inventing everything as it comes out of nothing (irrational) ? Is this in some way so intimidatory to the timid that the name 'reformed', which once stood for not a little amid other myths, is to be made subservient to such betrayal of truth and new myths of naturalism, which in any case run into so many contradictions*5, that it is already a farce!
Let us rather leave to those who prize the idea of being Reformed Regulators (as distinct from Bible validators), the desire to be so, even if, no doubt inadvertently, it acts to make morbid the very name, which has already failed in some departments, though basically right in its original thrust against ecclesiastical myths.
We need to remember, as in the case of Hezekiah, that having been once of great service for the cause of the Lord does not make someone or something for evermore the very criterion of correctness in all other issues! Let God be right though every man be a liar.
No retiring offering for this type of self-defined Reformed Rationale!
None at all.
See for example:
The Glow of Predestinative Power Chs. 4, 8, 1,
The Christian Pilgrimage, Ch. 3,
Great Expectations... Greater Faith Chs. 7 and 9,
To Know God, the Power of Christ's Resurrection ... Ch. 1,
Keys to the Comfort of the Kingdom of Christ Ch. 7,
Helpless Hitches ... and Divine Dealings Ch. 2 ,
The Open Door, the Closed Mind and the Call of Christ Ch. 1,
Going with God ... Ch. 2
See the following:
The Defining Drama Ch. 3,
Christ the Cumulative and the Culmination Ch. 9,
Cascade of Truth, Torrent of Mercy Ch. 6,
Lively Lessons in Spiritual Service Ch. 5,
Dig Deeper, Higher Soar ... Ch. 1,
The Biblical Workman Ch. 8,
The Way of Truth and the Way of Error Ch. 8.
See also Waiting for Wonder Appendix.
See Department of Bible ... Vol. 8, Chs. 14, 15, Vol. 9, Ch. 2.
See Lord of Longsuffering ... Ch. 2,
The Splendour of the Biblical Coverage ... Ch. 3
See *2 above.
Professor Hartnett exposes the fanciful manner of inventing with no verificatory or indicative EVIDENCE whatever, in a manner contrary to known natural law, certain concepts of negative energy and dark matter that become largely constitutive (some 94%) of the universe, or markedly operative in it. This replaces relevant appeal to the court where the theories are to work. This leaves us with imagination, ure and simple, to detract from the fact that the big bang, for example, is outrageously deficient in accounting for what is KNOWN!
With such an area UNKNOWN on this postulate, it really can have almost no relevance at the outset. Other conflicts are also noted, in non verifications of various kinds (cf. That Magnificent Rock Ch. 7; and Dismantling the Big Bang - Williams and Hartnett).