Creation and Adam and Eve discussions continue to engage the attention of the Presbyterian and Reformed community at large. William Evans at Reformation21 takes note of Kevin DeYoung’s recent post 10 Reasons to Believe in a Historical Adam and Eve. The aim of both of these posts is laudable – to defend the historicity of Adam and Eve in the face of those who argue the Genesis account is mythical rather than historical. However, despite noble aims, the posts seem more likely to contribute to further erosion of the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. Continue reading
Polity vs. Politic
In his recent piece “Change, Acquiesce, or Depart Honorably with Conviction”: The Unhappy Politics of Creation, Dr. William Evans provides an intriguing reply to the article “Hermeneutics and Awkward Science”. From his early article criticizing G.I. Williamson’s concerns on the historicity of Adam and Eve to his present reply a trend is becoming clear: Evans is arguing that church courts ought not visit or revisit contemporary interpretations of Genesis 1 and 2, and that there is no need to define the historicity of Adam and Eve. Instead he labels a robust defense of church polity, the liberty and authority of the courts of the church to evaluate and define doctrine, church politic.
Recently at the Aquila Report, my friend Bill Evans continued the lively discussion on Genesis and hermeneutics, noting a variety of thoughtful concerns. Yet, while doing so, he seems to indicate that proponents of the literal six day view, whether historic Southern Presbyterian, or other, fail to either grasp or fully engage with more sophisticated hermeneutic approaches such as the twentieth century framework theory as propounded by Kline, the day age, or the gap theory.
In his article Evans states, “he [VanDoodewaard] also asserts that the controversial work of Peter Enns represents a “consistent” application of a hermeneutic that finds a place for extra-biblical data in the interpretive process, and that this provides compelling reasons to eschew such a hermeneutic.”
My issue is not with having “a place” for extra-biblical data in the interpretive process. I, and the many capable theologians who hold to a literal six day view, believe that there is a place. To frame the argument in this manner tends to caricature, instead of providing clarity. The issue at heart is not whether there is “a place”, which most would certainly agree with, but rather what that place is in each instance, how it is discerned, defined, and delineated.
“For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.” (Exodus 20:11)
Among confessional Presbyterians (PCA, OPC), particularly in the northern half of the United States, it has long been accepted that varieties or aspects of evolutionary thought may be legitimately held and harmonized with the teaching of Scripture. Roots of this can be traced back to men including Charles Hodge and B.B. Warfield, its twentieth century acceptability bolstered by the work of Meredith Kline and others. Expressed ecclesiastically by sanctioning acceptability of multiple views on Genesis 1 and 2 in the OPC and PCA, the line to this point has held at the historicity of Adam and Eve. This status quo continues to have supporters. While this plural stance is formally articulated in these denominations it is most recently defended by my friend, William Evans, in a recent piece at Reformation 21: Perspicuity, Exegetical Populism, and Tolerance.
However, despite the attempts to hold this long approved approach in northern Presbyterianism, the attempt to allow a pre-Adamic merger of the two systems fails when individuals seek to pursue a thorough and carefully logical consistency of thought. Peter Enns stands as the most recent example of this, having come to consistently adapt his hermeneutic to what he views as acceptable and authoritative evolutionary models. Enns’ address of a conference of New York area PCA pastors maps out his take on this, which is ironically similar, though opposite to my own: Talking to Pastors about Adam and Evolution Options. I agree with Enns as to the consistency of his mapping and conclusions, aside from one significant difference: I am convinced he errs fundamentally in his exegetical hermeneutic — error rooted in his submission to, or choice of authority. Historiographical and theoretical scientific interpretations of evidence have primacy over the self-attesting authority of Scripture in Enns’ approach. Rather than Scripture interpreting and assessing reconstructions of historical contexts, reconstructions of historical contexts re-interpret and re-assess Scripture, either through hermeneutic theory or more direct adjustment.