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God's Pattern of Creation

 God’s Pattern for Creation: A Covenantal Reading of Genesis 1

W. Robert Godfrey

 

This literary effort can be best described as a kinder, gentler, but still fallacious compromise departing from the grammatical historical sense of Genesis 1.

Dr. Godfrey is a talented speaker whose views on most theological topics are sound.1 In fact most of his “ten theses” on creation are perfectly consistent with six day creation about 6,000 years ago (pages 95-96). These ten theses include statements that the God of the Bible alone created the heavens and the earth out of nothing. Genesis 1 & 2 are true, historical, non-contradictory accounts. Scripture alone authoritatively interprets the biblical account of creation. The claims of modern science cannot determine the interpretation of the Bible. God created man immediately from the dust of the earth. Man did not evolve from lower animals. The Sabbath is a creation ordinance for man. Jesus did not abolish the Sabbath, but fulfilled and transformed it into the Lord’s day. Christians must believe what God has revealed about his work of creation.

 

 

 

 

AS THE CROWE FLIES – BOOK REVIEWS BY DR. DON CROWE

God's Pattern for Creation

God’s Pattern for Creation: A Covenantal Reading of Genesis 1

W. Robert Godfrey

P& R Publishing Co. 2003, 141 page paperback.

     Robert Godfrey is president and professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California.

     This literary effort can be best described as a kinder, gentler, but still fallacious compromise departing from the grammatical historical sense of Genesis 1.

     Dr. Godfrey is a talented speaker whose views on most theological topics are sound.1 In fact most of his “ten theses” on creation are perfectly consistent with six day creation about 6,000 years ago (pages 95-96). These ten theses include statements that the God of the Bible alone created the heavens and the earth out of nothing. Genesis 1 & 2 are true, historical, non-contradictory accounts. Scripture alone authoritatively interprets the biblical account of creation. The claims of modern science cannot determine the interpretation of the Bible. God created man immediately from the dust of the earth. Man did not evolve from lower animals. The Sabbath is a creation ordinance for man. Jesus did not abolish the Sabbath, but fulfilled and transformed it into the Lord’s day. Christians must believe what God has revealed about his work of creation.

 

     I certainly agree with these conclusions,2 but do not see how they could possibly be maintained from the arguments made in the first 93 pages! Reformed covenantal theology does not depend on the bizarre novelty known as the framework hypothesis.

     Godfrey acknowledges his indebtedness to Meredith Kline, yet his concluding theses indicate some positive differences. For example, when Godfrey states that man did not evolve from lower animals, he is differing from the openness of Kline and Waltke to human evolution. But if we reject the evolutionary theory, as we ought, there is no more pressure to make the Bible 'fit'. Godfrey does accept the chronology of evolution in preference to the biblical, God-breathed, chronology of Genesis 5 & 11.

     The writer shows a meager knowledge of creationist literature by his rehearsal of tired old, often refuted, objections to six day creation. For example, he brings up Augustine to show that someone believed in figurative days before Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Godfrey does us the favor of giving the source in an end note. One can read Augustine’s tentative speculations about the ‘days’ of Genesis in his City of God [Book 11, chapters 6& 7].  What compromise views never mention is Augustine’s strong and assured defense of what we call “young earth” creation, about 6,000 years ago. [found in City of God, Book 18, Chapter 40]3 The ‘old earth’ views were held by the pagan Egyptians and others. This pagan view is precisely what the modern theologians who reject grammatical historical hermeneutics believe about chronology.

     On a positive note, Godfrey does reject the ‘chaos myth’ even though some conservative commentators have dredged it up from the pool of liberalism. All liberals and too many ‘conservatives’ take paganism as the original (with their evolutionary views) and Genesis merely a later reaction against [or accommodation to?] pagan cosmology.

     Many of the typical framework contentions are mentioned. The Framework-Guesswork Hypothesis has often strained credulity in finding artificial parallels among the days, but even when there really are some parallels, nothing justifies an esoteric meaning for the Hebrew word ‘day.’

     How can figurativists miss the plain meaning of ‘day,’ the clear account of a world-wide flood, and the detailed God-breathed chronology of the omniscient Creator? It is a tacit assumption that evolutionary chronology must be correct because it is the consensus of modern experts in science. The presupposition of neutral scholarship intrudes into evangelical thought.

     Godfrey uses typical misdirection technique in the case of the Genesis genealogies. Instead of a careful consideration of the actual words, grammar, and syntax, we get redirected to Matthew 1 with its mere list of names with no chronological information.4 Figurativists have yet to explain how the biblical genealogies of 20 generations over 2,000 years, can represent the evolutionary speculation of 2.5 million years with perhaps 25,000 generations or more. When will the figurativists get around to reading serious creationist literature scientific and biblical?

     Sadly Godfrey continues to show very little knowledge of the creationists’ case. He brings up the trite observation that ‘day’ can mean something other than a 24 hour day. Everyone knows this already, but how should that lead us to reject the 24 hour sequential days? If we are to make a serious answer to the question of the ‘day’ we will need to find the objective hermeneutical principle by which we can determine when ‘day’ means an ordinary 24 hour day and when can it mean something else. For example instead of jumping to Matthew 1, we could look at real parallels like the days of Numbers 7. In that chapter the 12 tribes bring their offerings on 12 sequential days. The same literary forms prevail in Joshua 6 as the 7 day march around Jericho is narrated.

     There is a sound objective hermeneutical principle that applies here. When the word ‘day’ is in the singular and made definite either by the article or a numeral, it always means an ordinary 24 hour day. Consider Gen. 2:4 which figurativists love to quote because ‘day’ can mean ‘when’ in this context. But Gen. 2:4 is really a confirmation of the hermeneutical principle because it is NOT definite, having neither article nor number. It is totally irrelevant to the meaning of ‘day’ in Gen 1 in which not only is ‘day’ modified by either the article or a number [sometimes both!], but additionally speaks of the day in terms of ‘evening and morning.’5

     Godfrey also makes a sweeping generalization when he says, “They deny that the Sabbath is grounded in creation and maintain that it is a Mosaic institution that passed away with the coming of Christ.” (p 59) Apparently, the unnamed “they” refers to Dispensationalists, but it is a bogus claim to say that everyone who believes in six day creation rejects the truth that the Sabbath is grounded in creation! This reviewer does not deny this doctrine! On the other hand, Dispensationalists have often held the compromise view known as the Gap Theory. Since many of ‘them’ also reject the grammatical historical understanding of Genesis, perhaps “THEY” are better placed on Dr. Godfrey’s side!

     We are treated to the usual framework claims that a 24 hour day view would make Gen 1 contradict Gen 2. This tactic is to create imaginary ‘contradictions’ in scripture in order to force us into the arbitrary ‘interpretation’ of the framework speculation. But we are not forced to adopt this or any other figurative view, for then we really would have several contradictions.6 Of course it is impossible in a review to give a full refutation of every hit and run assertion made in this book, but that work has been done.

     The reviewer has gotten tired of hearing the hackneyed objection “The Bible is not a textbook on science.” There are several reasons why this cliché should be eliminated.

1.  In one sense we can say that the Bible is “The Textbook” for every area of life and thought. God’s revelation makes knowledge possible, and provides us a standard of evaluating events and observations. In another sense, that of literary form, the historical narrative is not in the form of a modern ‘textbook,’ but this is a rather pointless observation. How would not being in the form of a modern science textbook invalidatethe historical narrative’s absolute validity? Figurativists fail to mention that the Bible is also not in the form of a modern ‘textbook’ on theology!

2.  How would the Bible be more accurate if it were a textbook in the modern sense? Is the tale of the amazing exploding speck [‘big bang’] more accurate?

3.  The Bible is far superior to any human textbook because it is inerrantly accurate. Has anyone examined the foolishness of typical science textbooks lately?

4.  The systemic cancer infecting modern evangelical scholarship is the assumption that unbelieving ‘scientists’ produce neutral scholarship. Figurativists almost always ignore the anti-Christian bias of unbelieving ‘experts’ and feel that they must accept their speculations on chronology and science. An unbelieving scientist is still a Romans 1 man, and his lab coat does not bring regeneration.

5.  Godfrey dismisses the idea of a “slippery slope” [one compromise leads to many others] but the decline of old Princeton is an undeniable truth. And as for Westminster has anyone heard of how far Peter Enns and Bruce Waltke went in embracing evolution?

     Dr. Godfrey is in a strait between two. He wants to hold on to most of biblical truth, but believes he can ‘theologize’ away the grammatical historical meaning of the Genesis narrative with no harm done. It is sad that Godfrey is so poorly informed on creation science and believing biblical study. If he were better informed, then he would have answers to those old objections he repeats. Then he could have and teach an absolute confidence and fundamental presupposition of the Word of God as the basis for and interpreter of all life and thought. As it is his students must suffer the loss of any objective meaning open to any serious student, and is moved toward doubt about a book that can mean a dozen different things according to which professor is teaching.

     John Calvin, a real exegete, said in his dedicatory epistle to his commentary on Romans:

     “Such veneration we ought indeed to entertain for the Word of God, that we ought not to pervert it in the least degree by varying expositions; for its majesty is diminished, I know not how much, especially when not expounded with great discretion and with great sobriety. And if it be deemed a great wickedness to contaminate anything that is dedicated to God, he surely cannot be endured; who, with impure or even unprepared hands, will handle that very thing, which of all things is the most sacred on earth. It is therefore an audacity, closely allied to sacrilege, rashly to turn Scripture in any way we please, and to indulge our fancies as in sport; which has been done by many in former times.”7

     One of the unforeseen consequences of the compromise views of Genesis is the robbing of Scripture of any objective meaning. We are left to the conflicting figurative views of the seminary professors, each one insisting that his peculiar view is the right one. If this haphazard ‘hermeneutic’ were applied to all of Scripture, every miraculous event in history would vanish into the ‘upper story’ of a primitive people’s attempt to theologize. Even the resurrection of Christ [if forced into the mold of this kind of interpretation] would be relegated to some kind of non-real history [but at least with an ‘important’ theological truth] Naturally Dr. Godfrey does not want this, so why start down that path in Genesis 1?

     Recommendation: This book is a sad example of modern reformed compromise when they should be standing on the sure foundation of the God-breathed word.

     The perspicuity of Scripture must not be lost in the maze of bizarre novelties. We must recover the sound objective hermeneutic of the Reformation’s grammatical-historical interpretation. We must stand 100% against evolutionary presuppositions, even when dealing with [so called ‘unimportant’] chronology. Chronology is an integral part of genuine history. The Bible gives us the When, Where and Who of genuine historical reality. This book shows us why we must reject the idea of neutral scholarship and build all our thinking on the presupposition of Scripture’s objective and absolute truth.

Dr. Don Crowe

 

Save your money for something better.

Donald D. Crowe, Ph.D.

 

 

 

 


1   I am aware of Westminster’s insipid amillennialism, anti-theonomic “Two Kingdoms” [two laws!] views on church and state, and readiness to throw Genesis under the bus in favor of modern ‘scholarly’ consensus.

2   But I reject some of the baggage smuggled in. For example, when Godfrey says there is no contradiction between Gen 1 and 2, he really means: once we figuratize both chapters, they agree. He believes that if they are read in a normal straightforward way, they would contradict each other after all! Thus his affirmation is misleading.

3   Augustine described ‘old earth’ views of paganism as “most mendacious vanity” and “presumptuous prattling.”

4   This misdirection approach was used in 1890 by William Henry Green and has since been often refuted.

5   Anyone interested in a detailed exegetical study may consult the 60 page work by Robert McCabe http://www.dbts.edu/journals/2000/McCabe.pdf

6   As mentioned Gen. 2:4 uses the indefinite form of day, which can be translated “when.” As for Gen 2.19 we can read the verb as a pluperfect, a kind of ‘flashback’ technique commonly used and acknowledged in leading grammars.

7   I trust that Dr. Godfrey agrees with Calvin here and does not think himself guilty of such abuses of scripture.