Theistic Evolution Openly Taught in Metro New York Presbytery

Discussion in 'Natural Revelation and God's Creation' started by bouletheou, Aug 26, 2010.

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  1. ken.kang-hui

    ken.kang-hui Puritan Board Freshman

    rom Keller's published works and what I know about him during my days at Redeemer, I think it is safe to at least conclude the following:

    1) He believes in the framework hypothesis for explaining creation, which the PCA considers within the bounds of the Westminster Standards and do not require an exception.

    2) It is not clear that Keller himself personally believes in Theistic Evolution, but he considers it a viable option for those who hold to Reformed convictions. Whatever his own personal convictions, he has never taught either Creationism or Theistic Evolution as THE correct view. He has, however, clearly spoken out against Evolution as a theory of live.

    3) Whatever his views on evolution, Keller has clearly stated that he believes the historicity of Adam to be the only viable option for Reformed Christians. However, he is not willing to say it is salvific issue. He also believes that there is room for believing that Adam may have evolved from hominids, although he has not stated that this is his personal view and has not taught it at his church.

    Most of this can be gleaned form his Biologos essay at; I've filled in the gaps based on my own experience.
  2. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    I think I understand what you are saying, but would explain it this way:

    The PCA adopted the findings of a study paper which proposed that four views of creation could be "non-fundamental" exceptions within the Westminster Standards. Study papers of this kind are to be given "due and serious" consideration by sessions and presbyteries, but are not absolutely binding on them.

    Even Dr. Sproul at one time held the view you mentioned (but later changed his mind to the classical view, which he now holds).

    However, anything other than the "literal" (classical) view, "in the space of six days" in the Westminster Confession would be an exception, including the view you mention. The Presbytery would be free to grant or not grant that as an exception, some presbyteries would not. All presbyteries would need to thoroughly investigation the implications of a candidate requesting such an exception. But it is an exception to the standard, and must be requested as that.
  3. Willem van Oranje

    Willem van Oranje Puritan Board Junior

    To teach that contra-confessional opinions are acceptable or plausible is to teach against the confession, no matter what ones private opinion might be.

    Furthermore, I think it's a real problem if a pastor of a Christian church is not teaching creationism. If that is the case, he is not teaching the whole counsel of God.
  4. Tripel

    Tripel Puritan Board Senior

    Yes, you're right. Evolution has a definition. Natural selection is a process of evolution, but it is not evolution itself.


  5. Zenas

    Zenas Snow Miser

    Genetic modification as a result of natural selection = evolution, according to definition. Your misstatement ignores the first portion of what I said. I obviously agree that natural selection is a process of evolution, that's implicit in the definition I used. It's the process plus the result that equals evolution. With that in mind, your conclusion states an obvious and uncontested fact, while ignoring what I've said.

  6. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    As I have said it is really simple:

    Natural selection = death before the Fall

    Death before the Fall = denial of the reality and nature of sin

    Denial of the nature of sin = denial of need for salvation

    Denial of need for salvation = denial of the necessity and fact of the Work of Christ

    denial of the necessity and fact of the Work of Christ = Christ is a liar

    Ideas have consequences.
  7. SRoper

    SRoper Puritan Board Graduate

    I don't think that's quite right either. While what you stated was one of the possibilities suggested, the report said it is also possible that certain alternate views are not exceptions to the Standards at all. This was left up to each presbytery.

    ---------- Post added at 02:10 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:04 PM ----------

    "Death before the Fall = denial of the reality and nature of sin" is what's in question. I think everyone agrees that there was some kind of death before the fall even if it's only cellular death. Did animals die before the fall? I think it's possible. It's hard for me to see animal death as a moral evil without it being accompanied with a command to be vegetarian. Ideas have consequences.
  8. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    It remains to be seen that death can be applied to plants, since they do not have nephesh. How would we know that there was cellular death? What verse discusses that? What verse tells us that animals died before the Fall? Or that now post-Fall the liberty to eat animals implies that it was permissible pre-Fall? After all, God commands the killing of (certain) people now. Does that mean (by logical consequence) that He commanded it pre-Fall? This is typical of an attempt to rehabilitate a heterodox view that has been denied for Millennia by Christians. (Note: I am not saying that Keller or any poster here holds that view).

    The Bible is clear:

    Death comes from sin, and sin from Adam:
    [bible]Romans 5:12-14[/bible]
    [bible]1 Corinthians 15:56[/bible]
    [bible]Hebrews 2:14[/bible]

    Death is the result of sin:
    [bible]James 1:15[/bible]

    Sin spreads its consequences to creation, which longs for liberation.
    [bible]Romans 8:18-23[/bible]

    Is this really so hard?
  9. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I don't think many understand how fundamental to the Christian religion a Biblical anthropology is. We will never understand the weight of the Fall, the image of God that was marred, or the nature of our federal relationship to Adam and Christ is if we don't ground them properly. It is no mistake that Roman Catholic, Arminian, Lutheran, and Reformed anthropologies are fundamentally different at very key areas. You cannot simply tack a Reformed theology on to an arbitrary anthropology and make any sense of it.
  10. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    He comes right out and says it in the place Lynnie quoted from, unless you decide to play word games. Natural selection in that context is just what NT Wright and all the other hipsters say. Adam's ancestors were hominids (who died, as Pastor Greco pointed out). What else? A head of lettuce? Talking about sticking heads in sand...sheesh....

    He defines all encompassing theory to mean evolution can't save you. Read the book, and the guy he quotes as "balanced".
  11. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Many of "many, many" are in the closet about it though.
  12. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritanboard Amanuensis

    To be frank I think a lot of people's denials of 6/24 is related to their fear of how people will view them at dinner parties and academic events.
  13. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor


    Was scoffed at yesterday at the office for presuming that the bible is a "history book" when the world has 'disproven' so much of it... (It was the six day creation bit and the 'sun standing still' that was the catalyst there).

    So much for the dinner party circuit!
  14. bouletheou

    bouletheou Puritan Board Freshman

    I used to be a theistic evolutionist. I'll tell you straight out why I was. My father is a scientist. A PhD in molecular biology. I wanted to make the Christian faith "credible" to him, so I mythologized the creation account in order to try and harmonize it with modern scientific theories. What I got wrong is that nobody is ever argued into the Christian faith. People believe savingly on Jesus Christ because God the Father has elected them from before the foundation of the world, God the Son has purchased them with his blood, and God the Holy Spirit has quickened their dead hearts. Intellectual arguments are, at best, ancillary to that process.

    I discovered the hard way what Pastor Greco says, the theistic evolutionary model needs death to function, but the New Testament states clearly that death is an enemy, a punishment, an "unnatural" state, so to speak. And we instinctively know that it is whenever we face it. So either I had to give up on the idea of death as an evil (some go with the fear of death being the evil, not death itself, but that doesn't end up working any better.) Or else I had to join the gnostics and assert that the physical creation was not, in fact, good.

    Neither option presented me with any fewer problems than just believing the scriptures as they are written. Once you posit an omnipotent being who can bring a universe into being simply by speaking, then anything that comes after that is pretty much a piece of cake. In the end I bowed and admitted God was God. But, like Lewis, I was a most reluctant convert for a long time.

    Oh, and the ultimate irony? In 2001 I was able to lead my father to Christ, and a literal Adam and the historicity of Genesis 1-3 was no obstacle at all. Christ is the main thing, and once you really believe on Christ, lots of these so-called obstacles just cease to be important. My father is wrestling with these things, as you might expect, but I'm content to let him wrestle in his own way. He and I have great discussions on these things now, discussions which involve good single malts and sitting around the table till the wee hours of the morning.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2010
  15. littlepeople

    littlepeople Puritan Board Freshman

    I've always read Genesis 9: 3-4 and Leviticus 17: 3-4 to be clear indicators that animal death IS a moral evil apart from proper sacrifice. Isn't that the point of the sacrificial system? God provides for the needs of his people physically and spiritually through the death of another. Yet to kill is evil, and the origin of death is sin.

    If meat is given to Noah as food in Genesis 9:4, how can we assume it was lawful prior to that point?

    Notice in Leviticus 17: “Any man from the house of Israel who slaughters an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or who slaughters it outside the camp, and has not brought it to the doorway of the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to the LORD before the tabernacle of the LORD, bloodguiltiness is to be reckoned to that man. He has shed blood and that man shall be cut off from among his people."

    Eating meat without proper sacrifice = bloodguiltiness (of the animal)

    Please, no one think I am making a case for vegetarianism. I am making the case that meat eating is not the proper creation order. It is a provision that serves as a unique picture of the cost of redemption.

    Natural selection prior to the fall, REQUIRES death and bloodshed prior to the fall. Is God arbitrarily restricting the shedding of blood post-fall, but allowing it to be common pre-fall? I'm askin
  16. bouletheou

    bouletheou Puritan Board Freshman

    I'll also tell you from personal experience that once you decide to chuck Gen 1-3 to be credible to the intelligensia, it doesn't stop there. A six day creation isn't the only "embarrassment" after all. How did Noah get all those animals on that boat? How did Moses get all those people across the Red Sea in the time allotted? Can you really believe that a giant fish swallowed a man and then spit him out alive after three days? How do you resolve the synoptic problem, really? etc etc.

    And yet the Lord Jesus clearly thought Genesis 1-3 told us something objectively true about human marriage, and seemed to take its historicity for granted. He also mentioned Noah, the feeding of the Children of Israel in the wilderness with bread from heaven, and Jonah... some of the most "embarrassing" ones... as though they actually existed. So then you start wondering if Jesus knew what he was talking about. And you might get something like the "confession" that's in the back of the PCUSA hymnal which basically said that Jesus in his humanity was basically just as ignorant of the world as the rest of his contemporaries.

    It's a slippery, slippery slope and the landing point is well defined and littered with victims.
  17. ken.kang-hui

    ken.kang-hui Puritan Board Freshman


    With all due respect, I don't think we should assume that everyone who believes in the Framework Hypothesis is doing so because they are "embarrassed" by Creationism. Obviously that is the case for some, but there are many others who do so because they are trying to reconcile the Bible with science in an intellectually honest AND Biblically faithful manner (the same as those who hold to a literal 24/6 Creationism) and/or trying to make sense of the literary style of Genesis 1. These people still hold to the historicity of Adam and the veracityof miracles such as Jonah and the fish and the feeding of the five thousand.
  18. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    It's easy. You just do like Keller and deny the flood covered the whole earth. Then you only have to gather a handful of animals around the base of mount Ararat.
  19. ken.kang-hui

    ken.kang-hui Puritan Board Freshman


    Just curious, where did you read or hear that Keller denies a worldwide flood?

    Thank you.
  20. Theoretical

    Theoretical Puritan Board Professor

    I would tend to agree with this. What seems more troubling is that he provides a significant shield for much, much more liberal folks than him to teach and gain footholds. In this respect, he may be a liberal fellow-traveler.

    Rev. Choong's theistic evolution is the least of his theological problems, and he has no business teaching in the PCA with those views. Frankly, I'd hope a member would come under discipline for some of those.

    The problem I fear is that we've been down this road before in the mainline presbyterian churches where moderate and "nice" conservatives tolerate and coexist with liberals and eventually become completely co-opted. While I'm not surprised, why can't a liberal ever just be honest and leave to a church that agrees with his views?
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2010
  21. bouletheou

    bouletheou Puritan Board Freshman


    I'm not a framework guy by an means. I don't like the view one bit, but I wasn't saying that framework necessarily led to the conclusions above. I do say that Theistic Evolution does, or can. So I'm not saying that the framework hypothesis and theisic evolution are the same thing. They are certainly ideas which could have a lot of overlap, but they are not identical.

    What I was trying to say (apparently unsuccesfully) is that in my own experience, when theistic evolution is embraced because one wants to influence a certain portion of the world, it leads other places you don't realize at first. You do it because you want to lead people to Christ. Pretty soon the Christ you're trying to lead them to isn't the Christ of the scripture. That was my only point.

    Kindest Regards,
  22. ken.kang-hui

    ken.kang-hui Puritan Board Freshman


    Sorry for misunderstanding your post. In this case, the fault clearly lies with this reader.

    I am in agreement with you about the dangers of embracing Theistic Evolution. Take a look at Enns, Longman, Waltke, etc. and you can see that it seems to lead inevitably to a denial of or equivocation on the historicity of Adam. BTW, I remember seeing a quote from Keller where he states that often people mistakenly assume he advocates Theistic Evolution because he does not believe in a young Earth.

    Also, I am continuing to pray for you, your family, and your congregation.

  23. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Here's Tim Keller in his own words on his view: An Interview with Timothy Keller | First Things

    It seems pretty clear to me that he's willing to allow others to hold to definite views that internally cohere and he's willing to adopt a position somewhere in the middle.

    I just don't understand this position, however. He only pushes the "insurmountable difficulties" in adopting a position he doesn't like to the area of reconciling those views to other areas of orthodoxy where one doesn't have to speculate on the plain meaning of the text. As we've seen with Mr. Choong, his view digs up the foundation of Federal Theology. I find this difficulty to be much more insurmountable than trying to simply accept the Creation account as historical as it makes much better sense of other very clear Biblical truths about the first Adam.

    In other words, this view turns basic hermeneutics on its head where we are to move from the clear, didactic principles to shed light on other portions of Scripture. Romans 5 and 8 are clear about the nature of Adam. For the sake of literary analysis, however, Gen 1 and 2 control didactic teaching on man's federal relationship and how sin and death are imputed. I personally think that Genesis 1 and 2 are clear but even if I admit they are not, I don't see how anyone can permit a detected literary style to overthrow didactic teaching. Thus, the "insurmountably difficulty" is now pushed to making sense of Romans 5 and 8 where it speaks plainly about the Fall.
  24. SRoper

    SRoper Puritan Board Graduate

    Someone post-fall is allowed to kill an animal without moral significance. There is no indication that this was different before the fall. Yes, perhaps it was different, but perhaps it wasn't. It is going beyond scripture to rule one of these possibilities out.

    All the verses tying death to the fall are consistent with human death which scripture tells us does have moral significance. The evidence that it applies to animals as well is rather weak.
  25. littlepeople

    littlepeople Puritan Board Freshman

    He has shed blood and that man shall be cut off from among his people.

    Weak? What would constitute strong evidence?
  26. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    God killed the first animal in Gen. 3:21, simultaneously providing the first animal sacrifice and the first typological symbol of being covered by the blood of another.
  27. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    And also, if animal death meant absolutely nothing (i.e. it was "very good" before the Fall), then the significance of Adam and Eve (and future men) being passed over because of the typological blood of a dead animal would be lost. The High Priest might just as well have sacrificed a tree on the Day of Atonement.
  28. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    How do OECs deal with Genesis 1:30?

    And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. (ESV)

    This seems to indicate vegetarianism for animals, and yet popular science - and presumably OEC - would say that certain animals were meat eaters long before Man appeared.

    I'm genuinely interested in how OECs deal with this verse.

    Quote from Joshua
    It was paradise, but the fact that even before the Fall it was just a template and pointer to a better world which it would one day give place to, when meditated upon, gives you a different perspective on this world.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2010
  29. Grimmson

    Grimmson Puritan Board Sophomore

    What am curious about with YECs is if God reshaped the natural eating and hunting habits of spiders and sharks, along with other species, after the fall? Which also plays into one's view of God's natural enviromental cycles for such. Of course the OECs would assume that sharks still eat what they eat now and same is true for spiders. It is amussing to think of a black widow spider spinning a web to catch falling fruit.
  30. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    What I find amusing is arrogant specks of dust thinking that He that sits upon the throne of heaven is incapable of reshaping the natural eating and hunting habits of any creature, or even change the very creature itself (as scripture clearly claims in the case of the serpent) to reflect the horrendously pervasive effects of the fall.
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