Recently there came to my attention from a friend and reader of our Standard Bearer a printed leaflet by Prof. Donald Wilson of Calvin College. The leaflet bears the deceptive title: “God’s Revelation—Scripture and Nature.” I call this title deceptive because actually the leaflet is nothing but a plea for the heresy of evolutionism and for tolerance toward what has come to be called “theistic evolutionism.” It is a plea for a kind of peaceful co-existence between those who hold to creation-faith and those who hold to evolutionism under the guise of a belief in creation.
Because this continues to be an issue in Reformed churches, both here and in the Netherlands; because it has sometimes been questioned whether concrete instances of evolutionistic teachings and of tolerance and sympathy toward evolutionism exist in Calvin College and in Reformed and Christian Reformed circles; because, moreover, our own young people are exposed to this kind of teaching at high school and at college level; and because there is a deceptive line of reasoning exemplified in this leaflet, which sometimes causes our young people to waver, theStandard Bearer will examine critically the position set forth in this essay. Incidentally, I recall that the last Christian Reformed Synod rejected the proposal of a study committee on creation and evolution on the ground that there was no specific case in which the Scriptural and confessional teaching was denied. Well, if there are those who are minded to present a specific case, here is evidence; and I have no doubt that more such evidence could be uncovered. The essay under discussion begins by introducing a change in problematics. It calls attention to the fact that whereas formerly the question was generally asked, “Which are you going to choose? Creation or evolution?” and was asked in a way that “implied the choices were mutually exclusive,” now “an increasing number of evangelical Christians are beginning to take a second look at these questions and to ask themselves “Are Creation and evolution really diametrically opposed?” There is a subtle argument here: the argument of the weight of an increasing number of evangelical Christians who are beginning to question the old and tried and definite stand against evolutionism. Along with this argument a favorite ploy is used: ask questions, teach men to question matters which have long been settled for the church, and thus create doubts in the minds of men.
This I call a devilish method. It is the method of the devil’s question to Eve, “Yea, hath God said . . .?”
Then follows the essay’s only and very limited attempt to treat the subject expressed in the title, that of God’s revelation in Scripture and in nature. Let me quote it:
And what about the question, “What are you going to believe—the Bible or science?” The first thing for us to remember is that both nature and Scripture are revelations from God. Consequently they do not contradict one another. If they appear to do so it is because our understanding of these revelations is inaccurate, not because the revelations themselves contradict one another. We call our understanding of nature, science. Since we are imperfect, our “science” is imperfect, but so, on the other hand, is our understanding of Scripture. It is true that the Bible is infallible, but our understanding of it is not. So again when the question is asked, “Which are you going to believe—the Bible or science?” one must reply, “I believe both God’s revelation in nature and His revelation in Scripture, but I admit that my understanding of both is imperfect and incomplete.”
Now what is wrong with the above?
There are many things wrong. There is no exposition of the idea of revelation. There is no maintenance of the unity of God’s revelation. There is no explanation of the relation between God’s revelation in Scripture, and in nature (correctly: in the works of His hands). There is no definition of science. There is no distinction made between believing and unbelieving science; true science and false science. There is an unqualified equating of the imperfection of our science and the imperfection of our understanding of the Bible. And notice that finally there is an evading of the question, “Which are you going to believe—the Bible or science?” The author does not answer this question, but evades it.
But what is basically wrong here?
Analyze this paragraph carefully and you will discover that it is an attack on Scripture. To be sure, the author asserts that he believes both God’s revelation in nature and His revelation in Scripture. He even asserts that the Bible is infallible. But he nevertheless denies the sufficiency of Scripture (Article 7, Confession of Faith). For what he utterly fails to make plain is that the Bible is normative for our science. What he utterly fails to make plain is that it is impossible rightly to read God’s book of creation except in the light of Holy Scripture. What he utterly fails to point out is that no one can ever arrive at true science (or, if you will: true understanding of God’s revelation in nature) except as guided by and in the light of God’s infallible Word. Moreover, there is an implicit denial of the perspicuity of Scripture. For what a sad commentary on one’s estimate of God’s Word it is when one simply says in one breath that his science and his understanding of Scripture are both imperfect and incomplete!
This same implicit attack upon Scripture becomes evident later in the essay, when the author raises the question: “Doesn’t Genesis teach us how and when God created the world?”
What is the author’s response? Does he give a clear-cut answer, whether affirmative or negative? I would at least have respect for one who came out in the open with a negative answer though I would, of course, violently disagree with him. But what do we get instead? We get evasiveness: neither a Yes nor a No. We get ambiguity that is certainly far worse than any alleged ambiguity of Harold Dekker. We get the old, worn-out argument that it is all a matter of interpretation, as though the Bible, God’s Holy -Scripture, is so dark and so dense and so utterly incomprehensible that it is impossible to arrive at a conclusive understanding of it. Just listen to this:
Even here evangelical Christians have differences of opinion. Some believe that the days were 24-hour periods, others believe them to be long periods of time. Some believe that the days of
refer to days of Creation; others believe they refer to days of revelation, that is, the days in the life of Moses. Some believe that there was only one creation; others, two creations separated by a gap of time with the days of
referring, to the second creation. Some insist upon interpreting
very literally; others emphasize the hynmodic or liturgical structure of this passage. Each of these interpretations has its strong points and some problems as well. Unfortunately, Christians have so emphasized our areas of disagreement that we have neglected our great areas of agreement.
I am not going to enter into the entire question of the days of creation, nor into the various methods of so-called interpretation of Genesis 1. These subjects have been often treated in the Standard Bearer. I may also refer the reader to my booklet, “In the Beginning God…” for a rather detailed treatment of these subjects. My point now is merely that one who writes so evasively and so obviously halts between two opinions has a very poor Bible. Still worse, he has a very poor God, One Who cannot even make His own Word clear to puny little man!
What is the result of such an impoverished view of Scripture? I am reminded of Scripture’s own words about “ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth.” It is this idea-that is really expressed in the concluding words of the author’s essay: “We should seek new insight into both God’s revelations in nature and Scripture but at the same time realize that the final answers may still be beyond our grasp.”
Now what is the result of such a low view of Scripture as far as creation-faith is concerned?
First of all, belief in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ deteriorates into a general and vague and vapid “Supernaturalism,” whatever that may be. After all, even the Mohammedan believes in “Supernaturalism.” But this is what the author presents:
The basic question then that separates the Christian from the non-Christian is Supernaturalism vs. some form of non-supernaturalism. Supernaturalism implies a believe in the God of the Bible who is intimately involved in the origin and operation of the world and man. Some of the forms of non-supernaturalism are atheism, agnosticism, and skepticism. Here our stand is definite. We believe that there is no satisfactory explanation for the world and man except that a personal God created and preserves them.
But, secondly, do not be deceived into thinking that the author after all believes in creation.
His Creator is only a God Who is somehow vaguely “intimately involved in the origin and operation of the world and man.” But let him speak further:
By saying that we believe that God is the Creator, we reject any idea that the world has had eternal coexistence with God, or that it is the result of chance, or the product of an unknown force. We mean that God was intimately involved in bringing the world into existence and that, apart from God, it would have no existence.
Notice again: creation is vaguely equated with God’s being “intimately involved in bringing the world into existence and that, apart from God, it would have no existence.”
Compare this, if you will, with any statement which the Bible makes about creation.
And thus, finally, the way is prepared for the theory, presented in this essay only in subtle question form, which substitutes evolution for creation by pouring a different content into the Biblical term and concept of creation. Creation comes to mean then the divine employment of evolutionary processes. Here is the presentation of this idea:
The question being asked today in evangelical academic circles is not, “Which do we choose—Creation or evolution?” but rather it is, “To what extent could God have used evolutionary processes to bring about His Creation?”
Thus, covertly the evolutionary theory is introduced under the guise of creation-faith.
In this manner the meaning of almost any Biblical term or concept can be twisted about until it comes to denote its very opposite.
In this same manner the evolutionary hypothesis, for example, can also be applied to the doctrine of Christ’s second coming and the truth of the consummation of all things. The “question” then becomes: to what extent will God employ evolutionary processes to bring about the second creation and the final state of things? And by this sleight of hand the worst post-millennialism of the social-gospellers can be smuggled into the church in the name of the Christian faith.