Canadian Reformed Creation Overture
Do the Reformed Confessions, in particular the Three Forms of Unity, leave room for theistic evolution, that is, for the notion that God used a process of evolution to bring the world into being? And do the Reformed Confessions allow for the teaching that Adam had hominid ancestors, who lived and died before sin entered into the world?
And is this a ‘gospel issue’?
By God’s grace, the Protestant Reformed Churches and her sister churches have consistently rejected every form of theistic evolution. Every officebearer affirms the historicity of Genesis 1-11. We have not even had a case in which the historicity of Genesis 1-11 has been questioned in our churches, ecclesiastical assemblies, seminary, or Christian schools. Deliberately, this question is asked of seminarians and candidates at the synodical and classical examinations: “Do you affirm the historicity of Genesis 1-11? Do you understand the days of Genesis 1 to be ordinary, 24-hour days? Do you reject the compromise theories of the Gap Theory, Theistic Evolution, Progressive Creationism, and the Framework Hypothesis?” Anything but an unambiguously affirmative answer would disqualify from office. The RFPA has recently republished Homer C. Hoeksema’s In the Beginning God, a vigorous defense of biblical creationism, while David Engelsma’s pamphlet, “Genesis 1-11: Myth or History” and Herman Hanko’s pamphlet, “The Framework Hypothesis and Genesis 1,” are testimonies to the commitment of our churches to biblical creationism.
For this we offer humble thanksgiving to God, who preserves us in the truth.
We are thankful that in our history no one has even suggested that the creeds leave “wriggle room” for theistic evolution in any form.
We wish it were so in other churches and denominations. That there are weaknesses and compromises elsewhere must not be a cause for gloating, but an occasion for mourning. “Tell it not in Gath!”
On March 11, Classis Ontario West of the Canadian Reformed Churches received an overture from Providence Canadian Reformed Church in Hamilton to change the wording of Article 14 of the Belgic Confession on “The Creation of Man.” The overture, unanimously adopted by the Council of Providence CanRef on January 26, proposes strengthening the language of the Belgic Confession explicitly to rule out theistic evolution. The overture, which will be considered at the next Regional Synod East, and then possibly forwarded to Synod 2016, includes the following amendment:
We believe that God created the human race by making and forming Adam from dust (Gen. 2:7) and Eve from Adam’s side (Gen. 2:21-22). They were created as the first two humans and the biological ancestors of all other humans. There were no pre-Adamites, whether human or hominid. God made and formed Adam after His own image….1
For the sake of comparison, here is the current wording of the Confession:
We believe that God created man out of the dust of the earth, and made and formed him after His own image and likeness.…
Apparently, there are some who argue that the simple statement, “God created man out of the dust of the earth,” does not rule out all forms of theistic evolution. The proposal (overture) of Providence CanRef will now pass through the ecclesiastical machinery of the broader assemblies. The earliest possible adoption would be at Synod 2016, and, if consultation with sister churches is required, at Synod 2019.
But why is such a proposal (overture) deemed necessary?
Because Providence CanRef sees a clear and present danger!
The proposal itself contains damning evidence that theistic evolution is tolerated in the Canadian Reformed churches. “The Canadian Reformed Churches face a significant doctrinal challenge in the area of origins.” “Since this teaching [of pre-Adamic hominids] already exists in our churches and has been successfully gaining adherents, it appears that our confessions in their existing state are not sufficiently guarding our churches against this false teaching.” “Theistic evolution is being tolerated in our churches.” “It is disingenuous to suggest that this project does not endeavor to allow this teaching to become a permissible view in our churches.” “This error has already been given too much time and space to grow.” “Official ecclesiastical action is urgently needed.” “We are firmly convinced that the challenge before us is so dire that it calls for action of this momentous nature.”
The proposal names individuals who promote theistic evolution, who write for the “Reformed Academic” blog, and who are involved in “Biologos,” a theistic evolutionist “think tank.” One such man, Dr. Jitse Van der Meer, is quoted:
With respect to all that is included in being created in the image of God, Jesus did not share his nature with a common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees because Adam and Eve were the first humans created in the image of God. But Jesus is also truly human in his material body and in that respect he like the rest of us shared in this common ancestry.2
“This common ancestry!” According to His human nature, Jesus Christ shares—with us—a common ancestry with humans and chimpanzees!
Providence CanRef is right to sound the alarm.
However, we feel compelled to ask—why this approach? Why an overture to amend the Belgic Confession, which, besides being unnecessary, is laborious and time-consuming? Providence CanRef does not desire a study committee report, for “appointing a study committee on this question allows time for this false teaching to continue being propagated in our churches.”
Such a proposal could very well end up in a (nonbinding) study report, and then it could die the death of a thousand amendments. Is there time for that?
Why not discipline? Why not use the keys of the kingdom, which Christ has given to deal with heresy in His church?
The objects of discipline, according to the Heidelberg Catechism, are “those who under the name of Christians maintain doctrines or practices inconsistent therewith” (Q&A 85). Should not Dr. Van der Meer and those who agree with him be disciplined? Providence CanRef hesitates: “because these issues are often dealt with as discipline matters at assemblies in closed sessions, the judgments rendered have no public standing for the churches—they are decisions typically known only to the parties involved.” Discipline cases involving public heresy should not be treated in closed session. Public heresy requires a public trial and public censure. “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear” (I Tim. 5:10).
Belgic Confession, Article 14 does not need to be clarified or changed. It is clear. However, sophisticated theological and scientific minds disagree. “Theistic evolutionists, also in the Canadian Reformed Churches, argue that the meaning of ‘dust’ is not clear. Therefore, they say, the door is open to blending scientific insights with Scripture, arguing that Adam could have been born from hominid parents, rather than formed from literal dust.”
Even a child knows what “dust” means! And if dust somehow symbolizes “hominid parents,” do we turn back into our hominid parents when we die? “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:19). “Hominid thou wast, and unto hominid shalt thou return”! Theistic evolutionists might think they are clever, but they are simply denying the clear, unambiguous, authoritative teaching of the Word of God.
Let the Canadian Reformed churches bring actual charges of heresy against the theistic evolutionists in her midst—that is the real test. Let us see how the theistic evolutionists squirm to circumvent the clear teaching of the creeds, and let us see if the churches will let them get away with it. That is where the battle must be fought.
A Tale of Two Cakes
In January 2013, two women entered “Sweet Cakes by Melissa,” a bakery run by Aaron and Melissa Klein, a Christian couple in Oregon. The women requested a cake for a lesbian “wedding.” When the Kleins refused, the lesbian couple filed suit.
The lesbian couple submitted a list of 88 complaints in alphabetical order in support of their lawsuit for “emotional damages.” The list included “mental rape,” “distrust of men,” “distrust of former friends,” “discomfort,” “high blood pressure,” “impaired digestion,” “loss of appetite,” “migraine headaches,” “loss of pride,” “resumption of smoking habit,” “shock,” “stunned,” “surprise,” “uncertainty,” “weight gain,” and “worry.”3
Because the Kleins politely declined to make them a wedding cake?
The judge awarded the lesbian couple $135,000, explaining, “[the] amounts are damages related to the harm suffered by the complainants, not fines or civil penalties which are punitive in nature.”
“Harm suffered”? Because they had to order a wedding cake from another bakery?
Spare a thought for the Kleins, who endured online abuse, angry protests, hate mail, harassment, and even death threats. No award for “emotional damage” for them.
The ruling will likely bankrupt the Kleins. Nor has the judge ruled out further damages.
In addition, a GoFundMe website set up to help the Kleins pay their legal costs, which raised over $100,000, was shut down after a complaint that the fundraising effort was “illegal.”4 Why? Because the bakery had been found guilty of discrimination. GoFundMe does not allow fundraising campaigns for those who have been “found guilty of violating laws.”
Meanwhile in Colorado, the tables were turned. In March 2014, Bill Jack requested several “anti-gay” cakes. Two of the cakes were to be Bible-shaped. On one cake, he requested the words “God hates sin” and “Homosexuality is a detestable sin” with a picture of two grooms holding hands with an “X” through them. On the second cake, he requested the words “God loves sinners” and “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” with a similar image.
The bakery, Azucar Bakery in Denver, refused Bill Jack’s order. The owner did not want to make a cake with a “message of hate.” The bakery even offered to make a plain cake, which the customer could decorate himself— compromises offered by Christian bakeries, which have been routinely dismissed.
Jack filed suit, not because he was offended as such, but as a test case. The wisdom of filing such a lawsuit is questionable. The result is illuminating.
If a Christian can be forced against his conscience to make a “pro-gay” cake, that is, a cake for a “gay wedding,” can an unbeliever—even a homosexual—be forced to make an “anti-gay” cake?
The Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled that the bakery is not guilty of discrimination:
The Division finds that the Respondent did not discriminate based on the Charging Party’s creed. Instead, the evidence reflects that the Respondent declined to make the Charging Party’s cakes, as he had envisioned them, because he requested the cakes include derogatory language and imagery. The evidence demonstrates that the Respondent would deny such requests to any customer, regardless of creed.5
So a cake with a message that homosexuality is sin is “derogatory,” but a cake that celebrates a “gay wedding” is not only good, but even something the law forces a baker to provide against his conscience.
We might seriously reconsider in our modern, corrupt society whether baking cakes, floristry, photography, or other careers in the wedding-planning industry are wise choices for Christians, and advise our children and young people accordingly.
1 The proposal, from which many quotations are taken for this article, is available on Providence CanRef’s website, http://providencechurch.ca/ (accessed April 28, 2015).
2 Italics are mine.
3 “Go Fund Me Shuts Down Fundraiser for Christian Bakers, Claims Money Was for ‘Illegal Purpose,’” http://christiannews. net/2015/04/26/gofundme-shuts-down-fundraiser-for-christianbakers-claims-money-was-for-illegal-purpose/ (accessed April 28, 2015). Some readers of this rubric might wonder why I have submitted so many “All Around Us” articles on homosexuality. The answer is simple—this is the issue of the day, especially in the Western world. We may find it distasteful—I do; I would prefer to write on other subjects, and I will, as God enables me—but we cannot ignore this. Moreover, at the time of submitting this article, judgment is still reserved on the Ashers Bakery case in Northern Ireland, on which I reported last time.
4 The GoFundMe website came to national prominence, when it was used to help a Christian pizzeria owner in Indiana. When asked if they would provide pizzas for a hypothetical “gay wedding,” Kevin and Christie O’Connor of “Memories Pizza” in Walkerton, IN, said that they would refuse such a hypothetical order. The outrage from the perpetually offended “LGBT community” and their supporters forced the O’Connor family to close their business and go into hiding. The O’Connors received a staggering amount of online donations (over $841,000 in a few days) from supporters, who respected their right to run their business according to their conscience without coercion from the state. Under national and international pressure, the legislature and governor of Indiana changed their recently passed RFRA law (Religious Freedom Restoration Act), which was designed to protect businesses like “Memories Pizza.”
5 The text of the ruling can be read at the link provided here, thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/denvers-azucar-bakerywins-right-to-refuse-to-make-anti-gay-cake (accessed April 28, 2015).