Friday, February 24, 2012

ARP Put to Question on Biblical Adam

The question of the historicity of Adam and Eve has become an issue also in the Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP).

1.The Aquila Report notes that, on February 18 the Session of Midlane Park Presbyterian (ARP) in Louisville, Kentucky adopted the following overture to their General Assembly(which is to meet on March 5-6, 2012):
1) We affirm that Adam and Eve were special, unique, direct creations of God, created in His image, with Adam being formed from the dust of the ground and Eve being made from his side; as such, they were real human beings and the first man and woman,
2) We affirm that the account of creation as found in Genesis 1 and 2 is history;
3) We deny any teaching that claims that the account of creation as found in Genesis 1 and 2 is mythology;
4) We deny any theory that teaches that Adam and Eve descended from other biological life forms and that such a theory can be reasonably reconciled with either the Standards of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church or Holy Scripture.

The ARP has about 40,000 members and adheres to the Westminster Standards.

2. In 2008 the ARP affirmed the inerrancy of Scripture. Inerrancy became a heated issue at Erskine College and Seminary, which is officially controlled by the ARP. In practise, the ARP has had much difficulty in imposing its standards on Erskine--particularly regarding inerrancy.

Unhappily, as interpreted by some ARP members, an official affirmation of Scriptural inerrancy need not have much practical consequences on our Bible reading. Consider, for example, the view of Dr. David Norman,  an ARP member currently president of Erskine. Elaborating on his notion of inerrancy, Dr Norman has stated,

“Can one believe in inerrancy and still believe in _____?” (Fill in the controversial idea of your choice: female elders, abortion, homosexual marriage, or football at Erskine). My answer would be “yes.” How? Because a commitment to inerrancy deļ¬nes our premise, not our conclusions.”

The controversial ideas covered by the above quote evidently include evolution. In an interview, Dr. Norman asserted that he wants Erskine to maintain ARP beliefs while also teaching evolution:

"I believe in a historical Adam and Eve, and I believe that a historical Adam and Eve is a position that any high quality theologian will consider a fact, but I also recognize that most of the top biologists in the Western world would consider some form of evolution to be a fact, and I think all facts are God's facts."

Asked if that means he is comfortable with evolution being taught at the college, he said, "yes", without hesitation. Dr. Norman noted that he is a good friend of Francis S. Collins, founder of the Biologos Foundation, which promotes theistic evolution; Norman praised the way Collins has promoted the view that evangelical Christianity need not contradict evolution.

But Francis Collins teaches that humans evolved via purely natural causes, that Genesis 1-2 is not historical and Adam and Eve are just representative of how people don't obey God. Moroever, genetics indicates that we actually descended, not from 2 original people, but from a group of  at least 10,000 people.

This raises the question of precisely what Dr. Norman means by "an historical Adam and Eve". Norman's underlying premise seems to be that, while Scripture is inerrant, our interpretations are not. Hence, we should permit a variety of interpretations, also regarding Adam and Eve.

3. Consider also the views of Dr. William B Evans, an ARP minister/professor who teaches at Erskine. Commendably, Dr Evans has been a strong promoter of ARP standards, including biblical inerrancy. Nevertheless, Evans maintains that the church should not take a position on contemporary interpretations of Genesis 1 and 2, nor define the historicity of Adam and Eve. Evans himself holds to a non-literal reading of Genesis 1. In a recent article, he affirms "the historicity of Adam and Eve" but not necessarily a literal Adam and Eve who were specially created, without any animal ancestry.

Dr. Evans believes that the scientific evidence for an old earth is so extensive that to maintain a young earth constitutes "a denial of the doctrine of common grace". He urges against concocting "pseudo-scientific alternatives to the prevailing scientific consensus" or "retreating into fundamentalist obscurantism." Evans concludes that the Bible is inerrant in all that it affirms but that we must avail ourselves of the interpretative insights of historical context and modern science.

Evans' views have been challenged by yet another ARP minister/professor, Dr. William Van Doodewaard, in an article, Defining Adam and Eve. Dr. Van Doodewaard comments:

The implication of Evans’ position seems clear: whether Peter Enns, Biologos contributors, or others posit Adam and Eve as chieftains of a tribe, whether Adam and Eve had human or animal ancestry, whether there was human or animal death prior to the fall, or whether Adam and Eve were specially created, are adiaphorus issues.

Thus, although Dr Evans may profess Scriptural inerrancy, in actual fact he exalts the  prevailing scientific consensus--equated with the doctrine of common grace-- to constrain what Scripture actually teaches. Such grotesque distortion of common grace has no basis in the Westminster standards. Indeed, the Westminister Confession stresses that Scripture should trump all doctrines of fallen men (I.10), who are defiled in all faculties (VI.2), disabled and wholly inclined to evil (VI.4). The Westminster Confession affirms also, contrary to Dr. Evans, that God created everything "in the space of six days" (IV.1).

In sum, the ARP, like the PCA (see previous post), needs to make up its mind whether it is serious about upholding the primacy of Scripture--or not.


Steve Drake said...

Hi John,
'PCA Savannah River Presbytery, at its January 2012 stated meeting, approved an overture to be sent to the 40th General Assembly of the PCA asking that it reject “all evolutionary views of Adam’s origin." The PCA General Assembly will meet in Louisville, Ky., June 19-22, 2012.'

'The Aquila Report notes that, on February 18 the Session of Midlane Park Presbyterian (ARP) in Louisville, Kentucky adopted the following overture to their General Assembly(which is to meet on March 5-6, 2012)'

It will be interesting to see how well these overtures are received by the PCA and ARP General Assemblies and whether they are adopted within the respective denominations.

The Savannah River overture is from a presbytery while the Midlane Park overture is from the session of a particular church, but praise God that we are beginning to see a response to the onslaught of the heresy put forth by BioLogos.

We can only pray. Thank you again for your efforts on this blog to keep these issues in the forefront. Continue to keep us abreast of these developments.

Andrew Duggan said...

Dr Byl,

Let me add my thanks as well to you for keeping this important topic in the forefront. Having the testimony of a scientist such as yourself is very satisfying.

Mr. Drake,

Let me express my appreciation to you in your efforts recently elsewhere in the blogosphere.

Steve Drake said...

Thanks to you as well for your comments and support 'elsewhere'! It was much appreciated! There is such a wealth of information here at Dr. Byl's blog, and it is safe haven for those of us unwilling to compromise on the authority of Scripture, starting from Gen. 1:1.

Darrell Todd Maurina said...

Thank you for your post, Dr. Byl. Presumably you will remember my name from years ago at Christian Renewal. I now live in Missouri and my church, which originally began as a United Reformed mission work, is now in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and in presbytery to which this proposal against theistic evolution was submitted.

A clarification needs to be made, however. The presbytery, not the general synod, met in March. The vote was unanimously to send this on to the general synod.

That says a lot about the conservative stance of the Mississippi Valley Presbytery in the ARPs. However, I think it's equally obvious that the vote at general synod will not be unanimous.

john byl said...

Hi Darrell

Nice to hear from you again. Thanks for the clarification. I believe that the next ARP General Synod meets June 5-7, 2012.

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

As a follow up the ARP overture passed nearly unanimously at the June Synod.