A RESOLUTION ON CREATION AND EVOLUTION
In the Presbytery of Southern California of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church the question arose what should be expected of ordained officebearers of the Church with respect to the doctrine of creation. In answer to this question the Presbytery adopted the following resolution (quoted from the Presbyterian Guardian):
1. The one true and living God existed alone in eternity, and beside Him there was no matter, energy, space or time.
2. The one true and living God, according to His sovereign decree, determined to create, or make of nothing, the world and all things therein, whether visible or invisible.
3. God performed His creative work in six days. (We recognize different interpretations of the word “day” and do not feel that one interpretation is to be insisted upon to the exclusion of all others.)
4. That no part of the universe nor any creature in it came into being by chance or by any power other than that of the Sovereign God.
5. That God created man, male and female, after His own image, and as God’s image bearer man possesses an immortal soul. Thus man is distinct from all other earthly creatures even though his body is composed of the elements of his environment.
6. That when God created man, it was God’s inbreathing that constituted man a living creature, and thus God did not impress His image upon some pre-existing living creature.
7. That the entire human family has descended from the first human pair, and, with the one exception of Christ, this descent has been by ordinary generation.
8. That man, when created by God, was holy. Then God entered into a covenant of works with the one man Adam in the covenant Adam represented his posterity, and thus when he violated the requirement, all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him and fell with him into an estate of sin.
The Presbytery believes this to be the teaching of the Bible.
While this is, on the whole, a commendable resolution and while it is a serious effort to combat the increasing threat of evolutionism, we find it difficult to understand the insertion of the parenthesis in point 3. There are other subordinate points which could, no doubt, be criticized, such as the idea of the covenant of works. But the parenthesis in point 3 is a serious concession which really weakens and will eventually destroy the thrust of the entire resolution. This is worth calling attention to since there are many nowadays who are convinced that the line can be held against evolution while a certain openness is permitted in the exegesis of Genesis 1. This is impossible.
Apart from the fact that there is no sound exegetical reason to interpret the word “day” in Genesis 1 in another way than a normal day of 24 hours (and there are several sound exegetical reasons for this interpretation), the fact remains that the meaning given to the word “day” in Genesis 1 lies at the heart of the creation-evolution controversy. This ought to be clear if we consider the fact that there is no reason at all to give to the “days” of creation any other meaning than a 24 hour period unless one wants an older earth than such an interpretation will permit. If the days are days of 24 hours, the whole chronological import of Scripture forbids an old earth. If an old earth is nevertheless desired, the only way to fit such an old earth into the chronological data of Scripture is through an interpretation of Genesis 1 which is less than literal. But the only reason any one would want an old earth is to make room for various findings of science which, on the surface, demand an old earth in order to be understood. But it is precisely at this point that the error is made. For it is at this point that greater weight is given to science and the findings of science than the revelation of God in the Scriptures.
It all comes down to this. The whole discussion of the meaning of the word “day” in Genesis 1 is not a purely academic discussion which really has no bearing on the question of creation vs. evolution. This is what the resolution quoted above suggests. But it simply is not true. The discussion of the meaning of the word “day” in Genesis 1 is an integral part of the whole controversy. And if a certain freedom is permitted in the exegesis of Genesis 1 which makes room for an old earth, the result will be that the back door is left ajar to permit some form of evolutionism to sneak in after all. The meaning’ of the word “day” must be decided on exegetical grounds alone. And then it will become obvious that the word can only mean a normal day such as we know it.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF STATE AID TO EDUCATION
In a recent article in the Torch and Trumpet, Rev. Louis Tamminga writes concerning the predicament in which Ohio Valley College found itself after receiving federal assistance in its building program. It had received a total of $76,000.00 from the federal government which covered part of the cost of an auditorium erected on the campus. This grant was given under the Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963. In a routine visit in 1968 auditors of the Government General Accounting Office, the auditors learned that the auditorium was being used for chapel exercises. The college is allied with the Church of Christ. Further, these chapel exercises are a required part of the students’ daily program. The auditors pointed out that the college was therefore in violation of the law. The law states that “no part of the facility or facilities included in the project may be used for sectarian instruction or religious worship.” The college was given the choice between suspending all devotional exercises or repaying the amount of the original grant.
It is a strange thing that there are still many who cannot understand that state aid will inevitably involve state control. This same question is being discussed at considerable length here in the state of Michigan once again. There are in this state many supporters of Parochiad (Michigan’s version of state aid to education) who are pushing hard for the state to support in some measure private education. Increasingly it appears as if some bill is going to be passed which will give the private schools a legal claim on the support of the state. But in this movement there is also the constant provision that any aid given by the State must -be used for the teaching of subjects which are “neutral”. That is, such aid can only be used in courses which have no religious approach and content. Yet there are many who are supporters of the Christian School movement who nevertheless are lobbying strongly for such aid.
A storm of protest was raised in the state when Romney, departing from his office of governor of Michigan to take up the Cabinet post of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Nixon Administration, said in a farewell speech that rather than go in the direction of Parochiad, the private schools should simply permit their children to be taught in the public school system and give religious instruction in the Church and home. His basic premise was precisely that state aid, in any event, can only be given for the teaching of secular or neutral subjects.
The reason for this provision is clear enough. If the state gives aid for religious instruction it is in violation of the First Amendment which establishes the principle of separation between Church and State. Any laws which did not reckon with the First Amendment would be declared unconstitutional in the Courts. But how can a Christian School have “neutral” subjects in its curriculum? Is not this an open denial of the very idea of “Christian” Schools? Christian Schools are established on the fundamental principle that the truth of God’s Word must be the basis for the instruction in every subject taught.
The Standard Bearer intends, the Lord willing, to discuss in future issues this entire question.
THE END OF ANOTHER ANTI-EVOLUTION LAW
The famous “monkey trial” of the 1920’s in almost ancient history. It was in that trial that William Jennings Bryan assisted the prosecution in its case against John Scopes who was convicted of teaching evolution in the public school system of Tennessee. The attorney for the defense was Clarence Darrow. The prosecution won its case although Bryan died shortly thereafter.
That was long ago. Today there are very few states left with anti-evolution laws. Arkansas was one; Mississippi is another. But recently Arkansas’s law was stricken down by the United States Supreme Court as being unconstitutional. The case involved Mrs. Jon Epperson, a former Tenth Grade biology teacher in Little Rock. She claims to be herself a believer in Scripture although she insists that evolutionary theory is not in conflict with a proper understanding of Genesis. She did not herself teach evolution in obedience to the law as long as it stood on the books. But she made a case of it because she considered the law a hypocrisy since it was consistently being violated in Arkansas.
The decision to strike down the law was unanimous. But the decision, written by Justice Abe Fortas, has some ominous implications. Apart from the fact that the striking down of the law opened the door to an official seal of approval on the theory of evolution, the argument of Justice Fortas went beyond anything the court has yet done. The decision argued that the old law impeded religious freedom. And it impeded religious freedom because “Fundamentalists” were holding back learning only because the advance of learning might undermine some of their cherished beliefs. Hence, federal intervention was proper.
If this line of argumentation is followed consistently by the courts, one can only wonder what the future holds. The Court has stated that to believe in creation and to deny evolution is to become guilty of impeding the progress of knowledge. And such impeding of the progress of knowledge is sufficient grounds to warrant federal intervention.
All this applied, of course, to the public school system. But the fact remains that, if this principle is applied more generally, federal intervention in the existing Christian schools (and perhaps even in the Churches) can be justified on the grounds that learning is being impeded.
Even some of the other Justices had reservations. Justice Black saw the vagueness of the law as the only legitimate ground to strike it down. He is quoted byChristianity Today as saying: “Unless this court is prepared simply to write off as pure nonsense the views of those who consider evolution an anti-religious doctrine, then this issue presents problems under the establishment clause far more troublesome than are discussed in the court’s opinion.”
It appears as if, after all, a secular and humanistic religion will become the established religion of the nation.
A LOSS OF CHURCH PROPERTY
The Grand Rapids Press reported on January 27, 1969 that the Supreme Court of the United States had overthrown a decision of the Georgia Supreme Court which had awarded property to a dissident congregation within the Southern Presbyterian Church. The history is briefly this. The congregation of Savannah, GA had decided to withdraw from the Southern Presbyterian Denomination on the grounds that the denomination had departed from its historic faith. Some issues to which the congregation objected were the Church’s support of civil disobedience, the Church’s approval of the ordination of women officebearers, the Church’s support of the removal of Bible reading and prayers from the public school. The congregation kept its property, but suit was filed against it by the presbytery to which the congregation belonged. The Presbytery attempted to get the property away from the congregation. The case went to the State Supreme Court which upheld the right of the congregation to keep its own property. The case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court which overthrew the decision of the State Supreme Court. The grounds were the principle long ago established by the Supreme Court that the Courts have no right to enter into the doctrinal disputes of any Churches. No Court may determine if a Church is adhering to its doctrine or departing from it.
This is, of course, a safe principle. For if the Courts take any other position they assume that they have the right to decide the doctrine of a Church. This right must never be given to the Courts of the nation.
Nevertheless, this is going to be a bitter blow to conservatives throughout the Church world. The conservatives had hoped for a favorable ruling as an incentive to separate from parent denominations when they became apostate. The liberal leaders and ecumenicists were bitterly opposed to the position of the Georgia Supreme Court because they saw a threat to their plans of holding possession of church property as a club over the heads of recalcitrant congregations. The ecumenicists have won the day. The faithful will have to sacrifice their property if they want to remain faithful to the Scriptures. But surely this is not too great a price to pay.