ARP Professors exchange blogs on creation issue in the denomination: Evans responds to VanDoodewaard

I am an old-earth, special creation of Adam and Eve guy, and I am genuinely uncomfortable with macro-evolutionary explanations of human origins. 


I read with interest and more than a measure of surprise the recent post by my ARP ministerial colleague, Dr. Bill VanDoodewaard

As I read his post, his substantive contentions are threefold

– that I have misinterpreted and misrepresented his goal as being the exclusion from ministry of those who do not hold to literal six-day young-earth creationism,

–  that he is simply concerned about the special creation of Adam and Eve, and

–  that my own “stated” position is “that the theistic evolution of Adam and Eve, pre/co-hominds/part of a tribe was a legitimate position in the life of the church, a non-issue, so long as there was an Adam and an Eve.” 

We will treat these in reverse order. 

Regarding the last issue, I and some others who know me and who have read Dr. VanDoodewaard’s post are a bit flummoxed, as that simply is not my position.  I am an old-earth, special creation of Adam and Eve guy, and I am genuinely uncomfortable with macro-evolutionary explanations of human origins.  I do not regard this as a “non-issue.”  As far as I can tell, my own position is quite close to that of James Montgomery Boice (except that he was a Day-Ager and I hold to the Framework Hypothesis).   At the same time, I also recognize that there are conservative Presbyterian brothers and sisters who view the matter differently and who either affirm evolutionary origins for human physiology (e.g., Warfield) or who want to allow for discussion of that possibility (e.g., my good friend Jack Collins).  Thus we have ecclesiological issues in play here here as well as exegetical and theological, and my main concern is that we study these matters very carefully before we move to the politics of exclusion.

Regarding the second, if Dr. VanDoodewaard is correct in saying that his “primary concern was the problem of evolutionary origins of Adam and Eve,” then why does he spend so much time in his posts defending literal six-day young-earth creationism?  The answer to this question is clear from his public posts–he regards literal six-day young-earth creationism as the only consistent way to affirm the special creation of Adam and Eve.  Consistent with this, in our private discussions he made it clear that he is “not personally persuaded” that non-literal days approaches can be reconciled “in a consistent manner” with the special creation of Adam and Eve, and that anything other than special creation falls “outside the bounds of orthodoxy.” For the record, I continue to suspect that the problem for Dr. VanDoodewaard is not any formal inconsistency with affirming both an old earth and the special creation of Adam and Eve, but rather the fact that an old-earth view does not a priori exclude the possibility of evolutionary process.

Regarding the first issue, I believe that a careful reading of Professor VanDoodewaard’s own posts bears out my concern that the politics of exclusion are being invoked.  This extract from his Hermeneutics and Awkward Science seems to clearly imply that position:   

As theologians we can cite numerous examples of friends and acquaintances in the academy and professional science who are physicists, biologists, chemists, geologists, and even paleontologists, who did not always, but now do believe that a six-day literal view coheres best with both Scripture and science. At the same time many of us trace a steady ecclesiastical lineage of a six-day literal interpretation back through the 19th century, prior to the days of Hodge, Darwin, Lyell, to the times in the life of the church when it was not a matter of significant debate.

We agree that fellow believers who we love, admire in many respects, and are thankful for, differ on this, yet duly note that in the Reformed churches we have historically barred men from ordained service in the church over things like baptism, views of worship, views of charismatic gifts, and views of church government, believing that this is indeed for the good of the church.

The Synod of Dordt, with all its weaknesses, codified and enacted a theological rigor in response to a current dilemma, arguably ‘narrowing’ fellowship to exclude from ministry fathers and brothers in the faith who in a number of cases shared deeply in passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and shared some of the general contours of Reformed theology. It also gave occasion for the church to show needed leadership, her men to rethink significant issues of theology, and in good conscience to change, acquiesce, or depart honorably in conviction.

Certainly where, and if, our current issues are taken up by church assemblies, we trust that wise, gracious, and faithful solutions can be achieved, when they are prayerfully pursued in love for Christ, His Word, His church, and each other.


William B. ‘Bill’ Evans is the Younts Professor of Bible and Religion and Department Chair at Erskine College.  He holds degrees from Taylor University (BA) Westminster