Throughout history, the church has read Scripture as reporting a God-created creation that occurred over six 24-hour days (or instantaneously, in at least one instance) within the last several thousand years. From the church fathers through Augustine (instantaneous creation), Aquinas, the Reformers (including Calvin), the Westminster Divines, and the post reformers, this has been the case.
Every faith has to make decisions about what it believes. The Christian church generally agrees its beliefs are based on the Bible. Beyond that, though, agreement is often hard to find.
Case in point: those of us who call ourselves reformed or Calvinists agree that Scripture is inerrant and the whole counsel of God’s Word is true, without contradiction. So what do we do when Scripture tells us that “God created the heavens and the earth” in six days? We argue about it.
Whether or not one believes in six 24 hour days of creation does not determine whether one is a Christian; that is dependent solely on believing in Jesus Christ. However, what the leaders of a denomination believe about the days of creation may be determinant of its future.
This piece will examine the Presbyterian Church in America’s 2000 decision to allow elders to deny six 24 hour days of creation without taking an exception to the Westminster Standards and the effects of that decision on the PCA today and into the future. Sneak preview of the conclusion: the future of the PCA is in God’s hands, and we should be in constant prayer to Him about the direction He will take us because we are not doing a very good job of it ourselves.
Every elder in the PCA is required to “sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scripture.”
However, this doesn’t mean that they have to agree with everything the Westminster Standards proclaim. The Book of Church Order 19-2 says, “our Constitution does not require the applicant’s affirmation of every statement and/or proposition of doctrine in our Confession of Faith and Catechisms.”
What it does mean is that it is up to each Presbytery to determine if a candidate for elder “is out of accord with any of the fundamentals of these doctrinal standards.”
This is done by requiring a candidate to “state the specific instances in which he may differ with the Confession of Faith and Catechisms.” Then, if “the difference is neither hostile to the system nor strikes at the vitals of religion,” the candidate can move forward, pending meeting other requirements, including election by the congregation.
Some relatively common exceptions from the Westminster Standards that might be taken by an elder and granted by a presbytery are those related to the Sabbath, exclusive Psalmody, and civil magistrates. But one exception that is not taken, anymore, is on the days of creation.
That is because of the PCA’s adoption at its 2000 General Assembly of a study report that allows PCA elders to hold any of several views on the days of creation “as long as the full historicity of the creation account is accepted.”
Genesis 1, of course, tells us that “God created the heavens and the earth” in six days, with each day being separated by evening and morning. The reality of the 24 hour days of creation cannot get much clearer than that. Jesus supports this in Mark 10:6 when He says, “from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female,’” indicating that Day Six was very close in time to Day One. And again when He says the “blood of Abel” was “shed from the foundation of the world.” The biblical text leaves no room for the “days as ages” theory or an old earth.
Likewise, the Westminster Confession, tracking Genesis 1, states “It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost … to create or make of nothing the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days.”
This plain understanding of creation is nothing new. Throughout history, the church has read Scripture as reporting a God-created creation that occurred over six 24-hour days (or instantaneously, in at least one instance) within the last several thousand years. From the church fathers through Augustine (instantaneous creation), Aquinas, the Reformers (including Calvin), the Westminster Divines, and the post reformers, this has been the case.