Thursday, January 29, 2004

The Inexplicable Insistence in Reformed Camps on a Literal Six Days.

More and more I see it. Where I don't expect to find it. Insistence on the cardinality of a literal six days of creation in Reformed, Covenantal schools of thought.

It is almost ubiquitous. It is found in mainline Reformed denominations like the PCA, which are becoming more liberal, and in more conservative antagonists, off-shoots, and internal fringe groups like the pharisaical "Biblical Patriarchy" movement that claims, among other things, that even sending your kids to Christian school is non-biblical, they must be home schooled, and no youth groups or children's Sunday School. (But they are blog fodder for another day.)

I can understand such a view in dispensational thinking. Dispensationalists take just about everything literal, except obvious metaphors (and the atoning sacrifices in the millennial temple). They are at least self-consistent when they demand a literal six days interpretation of creation.

The Reformed, on the other hand, consider the literal hermeneutic decidedly low-brow. Ezekiel's Temple is not to be taken literally. Descriptions of astronomical calamities are not to be taken literally. The thousand years of Revelation 20 are not to be taken literally. Many things are not taken literally. But the six days, those must be taken literally.

Otherwise intelligent scholars are as brazen in their dogma as they are light in their reasoning.

Gentry writes, dogmatically, not exegetically, in an otherwise excellent book:

Each of the six days in creation was a literal twenty-four hour day: (1) Day is qualified by "evening and morning", which specifically limits the time frame. (2) The very same word day is used on the fourth day to define a time period that is governed by the sun, which must be a regular day…1

One would like to ask: You call yourself Reformed, because you view the church as having been reformed in the sixteenth century so as to get back in line with the early church. Do you recognize the irony of your position? Many of those revered church fathers (not to mention modern titans such as Francis Schaeffer) would not be eligible to be a deacon in your churches because they did not affirm a literal six day creation.

Augustine? Forget about him. To Gentry, Augustine is apostate, at least in this matter. For Augustine "was evidently inclined to think God created all things in a moment of time, and that the thought of days was simply introduced to aid the finite intelligence."2 Augustine’s "instantaneous" creation is as non-literal as an old earth view, 3 and by one mathematical measure far more radical: 14 billion years is a finite multiple of six days, but six days is infinitely (times) larger than nothing.

The evidence is strong that many church fathers, including Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, thought creation took six thousand days, a la 2Pet. 3:8. One reason is that Adam did not die (literally) when he ate the fruit, even though God told him in that day he would die (Gen 2:17—see NASB). How to reconcile? Adam lived less than one thousand years, so he did die in that day, as long as a day is a thousand years, ergo all the Genesis days are a thousand years. Jump forward a couple thousand years and we are telling Justin Martyr and other fathers, that if they listen to their elders and stop all this foolishness some day they might be eligible to be a church officer. That's in the tolerant churches. In some, they'd be booted.

Now many big shots throughout church history did believe in a literal six day creation, including John Calvin. But what they did not demand was elevating the interpretation to a litmus test of orthodoxy. No, that plank of legalism is relatively modern. It was invented as a misguided attempt to combat evolution. Evolution requires lots and lots of time. If the earth is young, the theory is deprived of the necessary time.4 So dogma was created in the hope that it would prevent the faithful from being seduced by science.

Madness. Anti-science madness. Propagated by the ignorant. By people like Douglas Wilson and, it grieves me to say, Kenneth Gentry.

1 Kenneth L. Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, footnote on p. 102.
2 Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, 4.33-34, 52-53.
3 Actually, many proponents of the old earth "day-age" view claim their interpretation is literal, and only the English translation of the Hebrew yôm into day renders the view apparently non-literal. The same word, when translated into day elsewhere, does not seem to demand among young-earthers a literal 24 hour interpretation. Not many would claim, for example, the day of God's Wrath has to last exactly 24 hours.
4 There are very strong model-based arguments that the "old earth" is already way too young for evolution to have occurred as postulated.

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