Proposed Seminar on Creation and Science at 2012 PCA General Assembly Stirs Debate – by Dominic Aquila

The concerns raised about the seminar are based on what appear to be inferences that Old Earth Creationism has more scientific evidence and credibility than Young Earth Creationism.

 

Over the last few days, concerns have been raised in blogs and Facebook postings by a number of PCA members regarding one of the seminars that will be presented at the 40th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, meeting in Louisville, Ky., June 18-22.

The seminar entitled, “The PCA Creation Study Committee a Dozen Years Later: What Does Science Say Now?” has as one of its stated purposes to “provide an update on the scientific evidence for an ancient earth using examples non-scientists can easily apprehend.”

Presenters for this seminar are Dr. Gregg Davidson, a member of Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Oxford, Miss., and a professor of geology and geologic engineering at the University of Mississippi; and Dr. Ken Wolgemuth, a member of Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian Church (EPC) in Tulsa, Okla., and a geologist working as a consultant in the oil industry. Both are lecturers with Solid Rock Lectures, an organization that does workshops on how to reconcile evolution and an old earth with the Bible. Dr. Davidson is also the author of When Faith and Science Collide: A Biblical Approach to Evaluating Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and the Age of the Earth (Malius Press, 2009).

The seminar description also states, “Pastors and theologians are generally familiar with the biblical arguments surrounding questions of the age of the earth, but few have access to scientific data that they can understand. Most rely on information from young earth organizations that do not adequately or accurately reflect conventional scientific understanding. When information from these sources is passed on to students and congregations, Christ, as the author of truth, is poorly represented.”

The concerns raised about the seminar are based on what appear to be inferences that Old Earth Creationism has more scientific evidence and credibility than Young Earth Creationism. The seminar description asks whether “our members are inadequately prepared to wrestle with challenges to their faith when encountering the actual scientific evidence.” Those assessing the seminar made it clear that they know the PCA does allow for different interpretations of the days of creation ever since the 28th PCA General Assembly in 2000. However, the critics allege that this seminar is now questioning the credibility of Young Earth Creationism by asserting it does not have the scientific evidence to back it up.

In response to questions on why this seminar was approved, Dr. Roy Taylor, PCA Stated Clerk, stated in part:

The Administrative Committee/ Office of the Stated Clerk is responsible for General Assembly logistics. The seminars at the General Assembly are part of that process. Over the years the AC/SC has delegated the coordination of seminars to the staffs of other committees and agencies (CE&P, MNA, CC). For the past few years Covenant College staff has helped us with scheduling seminars, but plays no role in the design or approval of seminars for inclusion in the final schedule. Seminars have become an important part of our Assembly in which people receive ministry training, and useful information….

Multiple seminars for smaller groups are held in smaller venues, within a shorter time frame, and in various time slots. The smaller seminars are usually led by persons who have a special interest and expertise in a topic and who can give informed presentations, in civil discourse, within an orthodox biblical-theological framework. The number of seminars is limited by the time allotted on the docket and the space available.

The process for seminar topics and speakers is that essentially the same as it has been in previous years, other than the major seminar topics and speakers. In the immediate past, a byfaithonline.com poll and the CMC have been involved in the process of determining the topic for major seminars. The AC delegates to another Committee or Agency the responsibility of arranging for seminar topics and speakers. The AC Meeting Planner works with the Committee or Agency on making rooms available at specific times for people who request to lead seminars. If the Committee or Agency coordinating the smaller seminars or the AC Meeting Planner have any questions about a topic or speaker, they ask for my opinion. The seminar schedule for 2012 is now complete and finalized.

Within biblical-theological and confessional parameters there may be an acceptable range of views….In the same manner, there may be different views of the age of the universe among orthodox believers who all affirm that God created the universe. The Creation Study Committee of the 27th and 28th General Assemblies delineated four views that would be within our confessional parameters. Young earth creationism is one view that is within the parameters of our confession. Some Reformed theologians and biblical scholars hold to a universe that is older than that of the proponents of young earth creationism. Drs. Davidson and Wolgemuth requested to conduct a seminar on the age of the universe. They can provide an informed presentation on the age of the universe, in civil discourse, within an orthodox biblical-theological framework.

One of the reasons this topic may be of special concern at this time is that there are two overtures before the General Assembly asking it to reaffirm the confessional position on the historicity of Adam (see here and here). The overtures ask the GA to affirm the following: “That Adam and Eve were created, body and soul, by immediate acts of Almighty power…” and “That Adam’s body was directly fashioned by Almighty God, without any natural animal parentage of any kind, out of matter previously created.

They also point to the PCA Creation Study Committee Report of 2000 which affirmed the following:

All the Committee members join in these affirmations: The Scriptures, and hence Genesis 1–3, are the inerrant word of God. That Genesis 1–3 is a coherent account from the hand of Moses. That history, not myth, is the proper category for describing these chapters; and furthermore that their history is true. In these chapters we find the record of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth ex nihilo; of the special creation of Adam and Eve as actual human beings, the parents of all humanity (hence they are not the products of evolution from lower forms of life). We further find the account of an historical fall, that brought all humanity into an estate of sin and misery, and of God’s sure promise of a Redeemer. Because the Bible is the word of the Creator and Governor of all there is, it is right for us to find it speaking authoritatively to matters studied by historical and scientific research. We also believe that acceptance of, say, non-geocentric astronomy is consistent with full submission to Biblical authority. We recognize that a naturalistic worldview and true Christian faith are impossible to reconcile, and gladly take our stand with Biblical supernaturalism.

Some expressing concerns about this upcoming seminar wondered if the nature of the topic and the way it is described contradicts the PCA’s position on human origins stated in the Creation Study Report. Others questioned whether having a seminar promoting one of the major positions on origins without the other one being presented, and at a GA in which there will be debate on the historicity of Adam, may not be good timing.

The seminar description states in part:

The Creation Study Committee reported their results in 2000 without establishing a firm position on the age of the earth. The report encouraged the PCA to consider what additional scientific understanding might develop in the future to assist in answering the question of age. This seminar will provide an update on the scientific evidence for an ancient earth using examples non-scientists can easily apprehend. Pastors and theologians are generally familiar with the biblical arguments surrounding questions of the age of the earth, but few have access to scientific data that they can understand. Most rely on information from young earth organizations that do not adequately or accurately reflect conventional scientific understanding. When information from these sources is passed on to students and congregations, Christ, as the author of truth, is poorly represented. More importantly, our members are inadequately prepared to wrestle with challenges to their faith when encountering the actual scientific evidence. Church leaders need to be aware of the evidence even if convinced it is wrong. The seminar will explicitly acknowledge the authority and preeminence of scripture over natural evidence, while also recognizing that God’s natural creation can sometimes aid in choosing between plausible biblical interpretations.

Dominic Aquila is a Teaching Elder in the PCA and serves as President of New Geneva Seminary in Colorado Springs, Colo., as well as serving as the volunteer Editor In Chief of The Aquila Report

@Copyright 2012 The Aquila Report – All Rights Reserved.

[Editor’s note: Some of the original URLs (links) referenced in this article are no longer valid, so the links have been removed.]