Saturday, June 26, 2010

Douma's Doubts

Recently an interesting blog has been started by Dr. Jochem Douma, former professor at the Theological University (TU) in Kampen, seminary of the Gereformeerde Kerken Vrijgemaakt (GKV). Here Dr. Douma expresses his concern about developments in the GKV, particularly at his former seminary.

The prime issue is biblical authority. In 2009 the TU appointed Dr. Stefan Paas as professor. Dr. Paas seems to promote the modern documentary hypothesis, which stipulates that Moses did not write the Pentateuch.

On March 18, 2010 the TU awarded a doctorate to Koert van Bekkum for a dissertation on Joshua. Dr. van Bekkum denies that in Joshua 10 the sun actually stood still or that the day was actually lengthened. According to him, this is just a literary device celebrating a great victory; the story reflects beliefs about the heavenly bodies that we no longer share. Van Bekkum contends that there are other events in the book of Joshua that we cannot accept as historical.

Dr. Douma is justly concerned about the direction of the TU and the GKV.

Nevertheless, one can only wonder how much of this is to be attributed to Dr. Douma himself. In 2004 Dr. Douma published his book Genesis, wherein he declared himself to be open to big bang cosmology and evolution. In 2008 the General Synod of the GKV defended Dr. Douma against the charge that he promoted the Framework Hypothesis view of Genesis 1. According to General Synod, this was within the bounds of Reformed Orthodoxy. In an interview on April 3, 2009 Dr. Douma related that, although he had wanted to read Genesis 1 in a childlike fashion, astronomy with its many lightyears led him to another reading of Genesis 1.

But if modern secular science leads Dr. Douma to embrace a non-literal reading of Genesis 1, how can he object if that same science leads Dr. Van Bekkum to embrace a non-literal reading of Joshua 10? After all, Dr. Douma has already adopted the hermeneutical principle that it is sometimes permissable to let secular science trump the obvious (historical) reading of a biblical text. At issue now is merely the extent of its application. Since Douma advances no definite, biblically justifiable criteria, any limits on the application of this new hermeneutic are purely subjective.

According to the Reformed confessions, the Bible trumps all human writings--including scientific theorizing. Once we let go of that gold standard, as Dr. Douma has, anything goes.

In sum, although Dr. Douma raises valid concerns regarding the direction of the GKV, he would do well to re-examine his own writings and to return to a reading of Genesis consistent with the Reformed confessions. His objections would carry much more weight if they issued forth from a solidly biblical basis.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, John, for keeping us up to speed on Dutch developments and for reminding us to read our Bible in faith as a child instead of imposing our (scientific-sounding) ideas on the Bible. Once we let go of the Bible as a book that is the ultimate truth, and use other knowledge as a higher authority, then the platform has broken off the oil well, spewing black filth on pure white beaches.

Herman van Barneveld
Dunnville, ON

Henrietta said...

Dr Bijl, you say: "The prime issue is biblical authority". So true, and it is fuelled by “scientism” – idolizing science. The spectacular progress that natural sciences has made in the last few centuries have led to immeasurable arrogance of their followers. Interest in science is carried to such extremes that it almost becomes a belief.

Daniel Louw said...

It is said: "Dr. Douma related that, although he had wanted to read Genesis 1 in a childlike fashion, astronomy with its many lightyears led him to another reading of Genesis 1."
One should always be very to reinterpret the Bible due to science. Science is always changing and improving, history is fixed.
There are very good theories to explain how we can see starlight of stars billions of light years away in a universe which is 6000 earth-years old. See the following links:
- below "How can we see light from stars millions of light years away?"
These theories are even better than the big bang since one does not need dark matter and energy to explain it.

Rev. Gideon Aggenbag said...

Dr. Douma bores holes in the hull of the boat, then complains that the boat is sinking.

He cannot embrace the Big Bang theory and (consequently) the evolution hypothesis – giving the lie to God’s Word, and then complains if someone else does the same. He must either accept the biblical truth or discard the Bible – there is no in-between.

Rev. Gideon Aggenbag.

Carl Van Dam said...

In the interest of fairness, I think that it is only proper to point out that the dissertation of Koert Van Bekkum, contrary to mainstream OT scholarship, defends the historicity of Joshua's account of the conquest. He does this on the basis of the book of Joshua and the archaeological evidence. He handles both these fields in a masterly way and he is to be commended for his desire to uphold the integrity of Scripture in our time.

Van Bekkum does indeed offer a different interpretation of Joshua 10:12-14 from what we may be used to. He does this on exegetical grounds, however, and is not motivated by the pressures of modern science. He is not seeking to minimize the power of God by working away miracles. He is seeking to apply everything he knows about this text and come up with the best explanation. We may disagree with his conclusions and question some of his arguments but we should at least first carefully listen to what he has to say. That seems only fair to me. (FYI, I know Van Bekkum personally and have spoken to him about this matter.)