Evolution, Long Periods, or Days
On the fifth and. sixth days God created fish, fowl and the land animals. Of this we read in Gen. 1:20-25: “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful and multiply; and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. And God said, let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”
Also this passage of the creation narrative is quite opposed to the theory of evolution as well as to that of long periods instead of days. The former cannot possibly be brought into harmony with the latter. We must choose between the two, we cannot believe both. If we maintain that the theory of evolution is correct or that the creation days were long periods of millions or even billions of years (which is only a camouflaged form of the theory of evolution), we must not pretend that we believe the creation narrative as recorded inGen. 1, and the narrative of the creation of the animals on the fifth and sixth days.
The theory of evolution has it that God did not create all creatures separately by the word of His power but that all the different creatures, living or otherwise, organic or inorganic, have a common origin, developed from some original cell. This, of course, is no science in the true sense of the word, but mere philosophy. Besides, it does not mean anything, for if we deny that God is, and that He is the Creator of the universe, we will never find or understand the origin of all things. It seems, however, that the philosophy of evolution is based on two facts: the similarity of the creatures; and the gradually ascending scale from the lower to the higher creatures.
Now, Scripture also teaches the same facts, without, however, drawing the conclusion that the lower creatures are the evolutionary source of the higher. Notice the ascending scale of the living creatures: plants, fish, fowl, the land animals and, finally, as the crown of them all: man. But notice also that the creation narrative emphasizes throughout that every one of these creatures is created after his kind: the different creatures are formed separately so that the species are closed. They did not evolve from one another: And seeing that this is the case, the creation narrative stands not only opposed to the theory of evolution, but also to that of long periods instead of days. For why should God create one species first, let it exist for millions of years on the earth, say this were even possible or conceivable, and then create the next kind?
But now let us study the text, informing us what God created on the fifth and sixth days, a little more in detail.
First of all, the creature formed on those days is described as the moving creature that hath life. This distinguishes it from the plant. The fowl is created to fly in the open firmament of heaven, vs. 20. The text speaks of every living creature that moveth and every winged fowl, vs. 21. It speaks of every living creature after his kind and of every beast of the earth after his kind, vs. 24. Again, in vs. 28, we read that man is given dominion “over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” And also in vs. 30 we read: “And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life.”
Notice, in the second place, that God blessed them. This means, of course, that God spoke His Word to them, the Word of His favor, and that Word of God is always powerful and efficacious. It is true that this is said only of the fish and fowl, but it is safe to assume that it includes also the land animals. The contents of this Word of blessing is, evidently, expressed in the words: “be fruitful, and multiply.” Through the Word of God, they are able, therefore, to multiply and reproduce their own kind by an act of their own will or incentive.
The animal, therefore, is described in the text as a living and moving creature that is able to reproduce its own kind through the Word of blessing which God spoke to it. The plant, too, is living, but it does not move, it is rooted in the earth. The plant, too, reproduces its own kind, but not by a conscious act of its own incentive. But the animal is free from the earth. It determines from within its own movements, in the water, in the air, on the land; swimming, flying, creeping, running. The plant has no consciousness. It does not know itself nor the world outside of itself. But the animal has a certain soul-life (“the soul of the animal is in his blood”) though in various degrees in different animals. Hence, the animal has senses, the sense of sight, of hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling. Through those senses it is not only conscious of the outside world but also of self. It has a certain measure of perception and understanding, of will and desires, of memory and imagination.
This is not to be understood as if the soul of the animal is at all like the soul of man. Man’s soul is spiritual, the animal’s is not. We must speak of the creation of man in our next editorial, but even now we may note that man, and that, too, the individual man was created by a special act of God: He formed him by His own hands from the dust of the ground. Thus man became a living soul in distinction from the animal.
Finally, we may note that each creature is formed from its own sphere in which it lives and moves. The waters bring forth the fish, undoubtedly by the brooding of the Spirit and by the powerful Word of God calling them into existence. For do not forget that we read in vs. 20: “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life.” God spake and it was so and that, too, immediately. Perhaps, the fowls were created both from the waters and from the earth. For although we read in Gen. 1:20 that they were created from the waters only, yet in Gen. 2:19 we read: “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air.” At any rate, the beasts of the field were created by calling them from the ground. They belonged entirely to the sphere of the earth, were earthy, and out of that sphere they were created.
About The Three Points
We will not attempt to explain all the passages of Scripture which the Synod of 1924 or rather the committee of Synod adduced in support of the First Point. Synod itself or its committee gave no exegesis but only quoted the texts. Besides, we are not discussing the “Three Points” in all their implications but giving an answer to Dr. Klooster’s article on the subject in Torch and Trumpet. We will, therefore, proceed to consider what Klooster has to say on the Second Point.
First of all, he considers the appeal to Scripture in support of the Second Point weak, Writes he:
“I regret to state that I believe the Synodical decision with its appeal to the Scripture passages mentioned in the Committee report is unfortunately weak at this point again. Not that I think the decision incorrect or that there are no valid Scriptural data. On the contrary, the Committee did not in my estimation adduce the strongest Scriptural evidence which was available. The passages are simply listed, and yet the difference between Hoeksema and the Committee concerned precisely the proper understanding of each passage quoted. Gen. 6:3 is quoted for example, but such venerable exegetes as G. Vos and G.C. Aalders interpret the passage in such a way that it has no real bearing upon the second point of 1924. Although the passages quoted— Ps. 81:12, 13; Acts 7:42; Rom. 1:24, 25, 28; II Thess. 2:16, 7 —do have bearing on the question of the restraint of sin, they are not clear proof for the decision taken. It seems to me that an analysis of the restraint of sin resulting from the confusion of tongues at Babel would have been more significant. Further Scriptural analysis of this sort would substantially have strengthened the Biblical support for the second point.”
At the present moment, I wish to ask Dr. Klooster just one question. It is this: Do you consider it proper for the Christian Reformed Church, or for any church, for that matter, to adopt doctrines that have never been officially adopted in or by any Reformed Church on such admittedly weak grounds? You understand, I use the language of Dr. Klooster when I speak of “weak grounds.” For me they are no grounds at all.
Again, do you condemn or consider it proper, on such a “weak” basis, to cast out ministers that were and to this very day are still considered Reformed and whose writings are read and used in all the Reformed Churches as well as in others? If in your opinion this is proper, I have nothing to say except that I radically differ with you. But if you condemn this action of 1924, you must also consider it proper that, even at this late date, before we appear in judgment together, the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church should adopt an apology for what they have done to us in 1924.
This is my conviction.
But let now, first of all, quote the Second Point:
“Relative to the second point, which is concerned with the restraint of sin in the life of the individual man and the community, the Synod declares that there is such a restraint of sin according to Scripture and the Confessions. This is evident from the citations from Scripture and from the Netherland Confession, Art. 13 and 36, which teach that God by the general operations of His Spirit, without renewing the heart of man, restrains the unimpeded breaking out of sin, by which human life in society remains possible; while it is also evident from the quotations of Reformed writers of the most flourishing period of Reformed theology, that from ancient times our Reformed fathers were of the same opinion.”
The passages from Scripture to which Synod refers are mentioned in the quotation from the article by Dr. Klooster. We will, therefore, not mention them here again.
The quotations from the Confessions are the following:
“In whom we do entirely trust; being persuaded that he so restrains the devil and all our enemies, that without his will and permission they cannot hurt us.” Netherland Conf. Art. 13.
And from Art. 36 of the same Confession: “Willing that the world should be governed by certain laws and policies; to the end that the dissoluteness of men might be restrained.”
That is all. Is this proof? If so, for what?
Remember that also the Second Point means to teach and support the theory of “common grace.”
It does not merely teach that the sinner is restrained and controlled by God in his outward actions, so that he cannot always carry out his evil intentions. If this were the teaching of the Second Point it would propose nothing new or strange. Every Reformed Christian, in fact any Bible believing man, believes this. We all heartily believe and confess that God by what is called His providence controls all the deeds of the wicked, both devils and men, so that they certainly can never do anything at all against His will and so that He even realizes His counsel through them. He does this often directly by His power, frustrating the plans of the ungodly in a way which is even beyond our comprehension: Their very thoughts and desires are under His control. They cannot so much as move a finger without His power. Not only so, but He also controls and restrains the wicked and frustrates their plans mediately and indirectly. The ungodly are limited by and dependent on time and place and circumstances in their entire life, as well as by their powers and talents and means. And all these are absolutely in the power and under the control of God. This outward restraint of the actions of the ungodly no one denies.
But this is not the teaching of the Second Point. This could not possibly be called “common grace.” But it teaches:
1. That there is an operation of “common grace” by the Holy Spirit upon and in the heart of the ungodly.
2. That this operation of the Holy Spirit does not regenerate him but restrains within him the process of corruption.
3. As a result the remnant of his original righteousness or “natural light” is constantly being preserved within him; and this also bears fruit in his actual life in many good works.
Such is the meaning of the Second Point.