Category Archives: Science and faith

Book Review: In Six Days God Created

In Six Days God Created

In Six Days God Created:  Refuting the Framework and Figurative Views of the Days of Creation, Paulin Bédard, Maitland: Xulon Press, 2013.

In the last number of years, the Canadian Reformed Churches have been troubled by some academics proposing more open-mindedness about creation and its relationship to evolution.  Prior to this development, concern was officially expressed about the openness of the United Reformed Churches to the framework hypothesis proposed by Meredith Kline and others.  There’s no question that the interpretation of Genesis is a living issue in our churches and others.  Therefore, we can be thankful when studious and faithful pastors take up the pen to address these issues and provide sound leadership.

The name of Paulin Bédard will be familiar to many Canadian Reformed readers because so many of us support his missionary efforts in Quebec.  Rev. Bédard is a minister of the Reformed Church of Quebec (L’Église Réformée du Québec) living and working in St-Georges de Beauce.  He does this work with the assistance of the Owen Sound Canadian Reformed Church and many other CanRCs across the country.

In this book, written in impeccable English, Bédard addresses the troublesome trend towards toleration of anything less than a plain reading of the first chapters of the Bible.  In particular, he addresses the framework hypothesis.  For those new to the discussion, the framework hypothesis proposes to see the first chapters of Genesis as a theological statement in a literary structure.  This structure was not intended to be taken literally, although there may be some historical substance to it.  It’s this view that Bédard spends most of his time critiquing.  However, he also gives some attention to other figurative interpretations along the same lines as the framework hypothesis.

The author spends the first part of his book answering criticisms of the traditional, literal view of Genesis 1-2.  In the second part, he demonstrates how and why the framework hypothesis is problematic.  He concludes with a powerful section explaining why this newer interpretation should be regarded as dangerous and not something to be tolerated.

In Six Days God Created needs to get out there into the hands of as many people as possible.  This is a powerful and well-argued book on a timely subject.  The author grounds his arguments strictly on the Word of God, using biblical and time-honoured methods of interpretation.  It is necessary for a book of this nature to venture into the technical side of things from time to time, but I think most adult readers should be able to grasp the points the author is making.  Though the book reflects careful scholarship, the main point is clear:  we simply need to humbly accept what the Bible plainly and clearly teaches about origins.  Such humility and clarity leads me to commend this book most highly.  Get it for your home, for your school, and for your church library.

In Six Days God Created can be purchased here and at many other on-line retailers.


De apologetische method van Tim Keller

Tim Keller

[Note: an English version of this article will appear in an upcoming issue of Reformed Perspective]

In de afgelopen jaren zijn er veel atheïstische boeken op de markt gebracht. Schrijvers als Christopher Hitchens en Richard Dawkins hebben hun best gedaan hun publiek ervan te overtuigen dat het geloof in God niet alleen misleidend is of verkeerd, maar zelfs gevaarlijk en slecht. Deze pogingen hadden tot gevolg dat christenen zich opnieuw gingen uitspreken over hun geloofsovertuigingen en die gingen verdedigen.

Het boek van Tim Keller uit 2008, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, is zo’n verdediging in een wat populaire vorm. Het heeft zelfs de lijst van bestsellers van de New York Times gehaald.

Tim Keller is niet alleen in de Verenigde Staten, maar over de hele wereld bekend. Toen ik onlangs op de Filippijnen was in Cagayan de Oro, en op mijn hotelkamer een tv-kanaal zocht, kwam ik Tim Keller tegen die een preek of een toespraak hield. Zijn boeken zijn vaak vertaald: The Reason for God bijvoorbeeld in het Portugees, Nederlands (met als titel: In alle redelijkheid), Chinees en Koreaans. Keller is in de christelijke wereld heel beroemd, daarover bestaat weinig twijfel.

Veel gereformeerde christenen voelen zich ook door hem aangesproken. Hij is immers de dominee van de Redeemer PCA in New York City. De PCA (Presbyterian Church of America) kent een verband van plaatselijke kerken die variëren van breed-evangelisch tot streng-confessioneel, maar de meeste mensen plaatsen de PCA onder de gereformeerde kerken. Het is ook zeker waar dat de PCA lid is van de North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC), een organisatie waarbij ook de Canadian Reformed Churches en de United Reformed Churches zijn aangesloten. En dan redeneren sommigen als volgt: als Tim Keller dominee is in de PCA, moet hij wel gereformeerd zijn. Maar zo’n redenering is niet feilloos en noemen we een non sequitur.

Het is niet mijn bedoeling hier de vraag of Tim Keller al of niet gereformeerd is, breed aan de orde te stellen. In plaats daarvan wil ik mij richten op zijn apologetische methode en kijken of die gereformeerd is. Wanneer hij probeert het christelijk geloof te verdedigen en te promoten, gebruikt hij dan een methode die de gereformeerde grondslagen en principes van de apologetiek weerspiegelt?

Nu hebben we wel een probleem. Voor zover ik weet, heeft Tim Keller daarover nooit rechtstreeks uitgebreid en systematisch geschreven. Maar wij hebben In alle redelijkheid en in dat boek richt hij zich in de eerste plaats tot de ongelovigen. Het is primair een illustratie van zijn methode, geen beschrijving of uitleg van de methode op zich. Wat zijn methode in het boek is, geeft hij kort aan, zodat we die kunnen onderzoeken. Maar ik zal meer aandacht geven aan wat zijn methode uitwerkt.

Lees meer hier…

[Dutch translation by Marja Zwikstra-de Weger with the assistance of Freek Vogelzang and Henk Drost]


The Titus 2:1 Award

Titus 2_1 AwardRyan Smith over at One Christian Dad has awarded Yinkahdinay the Titus 2:1 Award.  Thanks, brother!  He asks me to answer the following questions:

1.  If you could have dinner with any historical theologian/preacher, who would it be and why?

There are lots of choices that spring to mind, but my top one would be Guy de Brès (Cornelius Van Til would be a closer runner-up).  I’ve done a lot of research on him.  I’m impressed not only with his intellectual grasp of the Reformed faith and the gospel, but also the way it gripped his heart.  I think dinner with de Brès would be enlightening and encouraging.

2.  What 1 burning question would you ask?
Who wrote out all the transcripts of your debates while you were in prison?
3.  What would you eat?
His favourite Belgian dish, whatever that might be.  We’d definitely drink a Belgian trappist ale — something good that the Roman Catholics have produced.  They might not do great theology, but they make great beer.
4.  What was the last Bible verse you read?
“Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:5-6
Now I’m supposed to nominate another blog for this award.  I use Google Reader and I follow many different blogs.  Some are updated daily and others on a less regular basis.  Dr. John Byl’s blog Bylogos falls into the latter category.  Considering the challenges the Canadian Reformed Churches are facing on issues relating to creation and evolution, I think this is one of the most important blogs at the moment.  According to Dr. Byl, “The purpose of this blog is to promote a Christian worldview, based on the Bible as God’s inerrant and fully authoritative Word, in accordance with the Reformed Confessions.”  I appreciate his biblical, presuppositional perspective on these issues.

Clarification

Some time ago I wrote a post entitled Position Statements on Creation and Evolution.  It has been brought to my attention that there was a potential misunderstanding in the introductory paragraph.  The impression may have been given that I was speaking of all Canadian Reformed scholars/intellectuals and professional scientists.  I want to assure my readers that this is certainly not what I mean and I apologize if there has been any confusion.  I have clarified the statement to say that these false teachings “are being promulgated by several (by no means all) intellectuals and professional scientists.”


Howard Van Till’s Lightbulb Moment

Howard Van Till

I was reading an old issue of Calvin Theological Journal and I came across a review of a book entitled Three Views on Creation and Evolution (eds. J.P. Moreland and John Mark Reynolds).  Since I’m preaching some sermons on Genesis as of late, this caught my attention.  The reviewer, Clarence Menninga, goes through each of the views.  Theistic evolution is represented by Howard Van Till, now an emeritus professor from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI.  Menninga noted the following:

…Van Till objects vigorously to being tagged with the label theistic evolution, and he suggests that his view be called the fully gifted creation in order to put the emphasis on God’s creating activity and to avoid the godless connotation that the word evolution evokes.  However, even after Van Till presents his perspective on creation and evolution, some of the respondents insist on calling his view theistic evolution, as do the editors.  Van Till, justifiably, comments in his reply that he is personally insulted by their pigeon-holing him.

This book was published in 1999 and the review appeared in the April 2001 issue of CTJ.

In 2006 Van Till made a presentation for the West Michigan Freethought Association.  What does this association stand for?  Their website tells us:

The purpose of Center for Inquiry | Michigan is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.

The title of his presentation was “From Calvinism to Freethought” and you can find it online here.  In this presentation, Van Till outlines the struggles he faced at Calvin over his views.  He had signed the CRC Form of Subscription, but was faced with accusations that he was being unfaithful to his vows.  He writes:

Yes, I did sign the Form of Subscription, but at that time in my life I was naively unaware that I would ever encounter a need to challenge any tenet of the belief system that it represented.

Take note of his honesty.  He eventually came to realize that he was butting up against the confessional standards of the CRC.  Eventually he started to question why Calvin faculty members should even be required to sign the Form of Subscription.  However, the Board of Trustees wanted to keep Van Till at Calvin.  They drafted a document which he could sign, a document which said that he was in agreement with the confessions as they had come to be understood by the CRC and applied to academia.  Van Till concludes his narrative of this period with this observation:

Most of the difficulties that I experienced were generated by a small but vocal minority of members of the Christian Reformed Church, individuals whose worldview had little room for scientific discoveries made after the 17th century, persons who were allowed to have ecclesiastical influence radically out of proportion to their feeble grasp of responsible scholarship.

Notice the subtle “ad hominem” argument in the preceding quote.  This condescending attitude is found elsewhere in the paper.

So where is Howard Van Till today?  This is how he concludes the presentation/paper:

I must move on in my own personal journey. My goal is to craft my new Portrait of Reality as consciously and intentionally as I am able. In order to do so I must often admit that I don’t “know” nearly as much as I once did. The kind of certainty I once professed — authority-derived and institutionally-enforced — is now gone. In its place I find deep satisfaction in “giving it my best shot” each day and taking responsibility for bringing my professed Portrait of Reality in line with my operative Portrait of Reality. The journey of life is good.

I know this is all old news.  But I thought it worth mentioning because the trajectory is instructive.  At one point he objected to having his view described as “evolution” because the word had a connotation of godlessness.  Later, speaking to a crowd of secular humanist freethinkers, he admits that he’d had a friendly attitude towards the word “evolution.”  He went from signing the Form of Subscription, to willfully disregarding the Form, to throwing out Calvinism altogether.  While one certainly wishes that Van Till had his lightbulb moment earlier, we can commend his honesty at this point.  He came to a moment of self-consciousness, finally recognizing where his allegiance truly rests:  “My goal is to craft my new Portrait of Reality…”


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