Monday, June 25, 2012

The PCA and Earth History: Litle Progress

A reader sent in the most recent PCA Historical Center Creation Study, a part of the 2012 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. The link to the complete study is here. It begins with a historical account of how the Genesis days were treated. In this account, evolution is featured prominently. Sadly, their exposition of it is predictably garbled. They define “naturalistic evolution” as:
“The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments” (National Association of Biology Teachers). This rules out any supernatural activity of God in the origin and development of life and of humans, and hence makes a naturalistic metaphysic the basis of science.
It does nothing of the sort. It simply states that there are knowable, observable processes that produce evolutionary effects in organisms. It says absolutely nothing about supernatural activity because evolutionary theory does not deal in origins of life. It deals in the modification of life after it appeared. Science is metaphysically neutral. One can make unwarranted extrapolations based on one's preconceived understanding of how nature works, but the results of science simply are. The scientific testing and engineering involved in airplane design is metaphysically neutral, as is the appearance of two species of salamander in the Great Basin where there was once one. Their definition of science is equally garbled.

A large chunk of the document deals with interpretations of the first six days of Genesis. This is equally problematic. When it gets to the objections to the “calendar day” model, the writers make some extraordinarily wrong and biased assumptions and conclusions. They write:
Some have asserted that this view “seems not to take science seriously and impugns the veracity of God because, on the one hand, it dismisses central conclusions of the current scientific consensus on cosmogony and, on the other hand, it supposedly requires one to view the general-revelation evidence as to the age of the earth as misleading.” This criticism is based on the assumption that man is able to interpret general revelation correctly without the light of special revelation. That assumption reverses the proper principle of Biblical interpretation, which is, that special revelation must govern our understanding of general revelation. Those of us who hold the Calendar-Day view make no apology for arriving, after careful consideration of the facts, at conclusions that differ from this so-called consensus. It is not the veracity of God which is impugned but the evolutionary presuppositions of the majority (not consensus) of the scientific community whose assumptions are regularly passed off as facts. Furthermore, it seems disingenuous to fault the Calendar-Day view for differing with current scientific dogma when creationists of all stripes claim to reject the most dominant aspect of that dogma, namely, evolutionary origins of the species. One unique strength of the Calendar-Day view is that it leaves no room to accommodate any version of evolutionism, Theistic or otherwise, while some other theories seem bent on finding some common ground with it.
First, the criticism is not based on the idea that man is able to correctly interpret the data without special revelation. The criticism is based on the fact that God has revealed to us the inner workings of His creation and they do not accord with a strict literal (and theologically debatable) interpretation of the scriptures. It does not reverse the proper interpretation of biblical interpretation, it assumes that the works of God are to be believed just as the word of God is to be believed. How is it that people that writes these things never once reexamine their own biblical interpretations in the light of the data? That never fails to astound me.

The writers then make an unwarranted assumption that “creationists of all stripes” reject evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory has absolutely nothing to do with arguments about the age of the universe. It is the inferred age of the universe that allowed for the formulation of evolutionary theory. This is the oldest creationist argument in the book and the fact that the writers are unaware that it was disproven over forty years ago is disturbing. It makes one think that they have read only Henry Morris in formulating their opinions. They then argue that it is a strength of the Calendar day argument that it rejects evolution. They can reject evolution if they wish, but they do not speak for me or anyone else that accepts evolutionary creationism.

Much more could be written that I do not have time to write. Read the whole document to see where the PCA is going with regard to this issue. It seems to me that they are adopting a flat reading of the scriptures and, despite giving lip service to the historical debates, regard those debates as unimportant to the current discussion. The document is heavily influenced by young earth creationism and, as such, is myopic and narrow in its interpretations and understanding of science.


  1. Couple comments; your first paragraph isn't clear. What this report from the PCA Historical Center is, is the 2000 (I think) creation report of the PCA resulting from a 2 year creation study committee.

    It is unfortunate that 2 years were spent to create document that has so many problems. Unfortunately it is now the "standard" in many ways in the PCA. Just a few days ago I was quoted out of this document about Adam as if it were the apostles creed.
    I am sure that the men on the committee spent many hours but they needed to spend many more hours really getting a grasp of the science and even more time on the theological issues.
    one thing to point out is that it has been 12 years since this study and in that time there has been an amazing amount of scholarly work published. Anyone who created such a study group today would have significantly more resources to work with.

  2. You could quote their argument for Calendar Day creationism almost verbatim to argue for flat earth geocentrism.

  3. Yes, you could. That is the absolute tragedy of it. The defense exists in a vacuum, unfettered by the advances of modern science over the last three centuries.