New Jersey Presbytery
Fairton, NJ (November 16, 1996)--Fairfield Presbyterian Church, described by its pastor, Michael Scheuelke as the oldest in the denomination, hosted the stated meeting of New Jersey Presbytery. Most prominently on the agenda was the attempt to resolved a long-standing controversy concerning the length of the days of Divine creation in Genesis 1. The court adopted the following resolution, articulated in the form of a series of affirmations and denials:
AFFIRMATIONS AND DENIALS REGARDING THE INTERPRETATION OF GENESIS ONE
I. CONCERNING METHODOLOGY
A. We affirm that God's general revelation in nature and His special revelation in Holy Scripture are in perfect accord although finite and sinful human reason may often misinterpret both general and special revelation. We deny that Scripture is always to be interpreted to agree with current scientific opinion. We deny that science is necessarily an ungodly and unbiblical endeavor.
B. We affirm that the Bible speaks truly when it teaches in areas where science also speaks, including the subject of the origins of life and matter. We deny that the Bible was intended to be a science textbook.
C. We affirm the legitimate role of science in studying God's creation. We deny a scientism that comes out of atheistic or deistic naturalism.
D. We affirm that Genesis one is propositional revelation given to instruct us and inform us about the Divine creative activity.
We deny that the subject of origins is necessarily mysterious and can only be represented in symbolic truth, myth and images that convey no propositional truth as done in neo-orthodoxy.
E. We affirm that a person is not dependent for understanding Scripture on the expertise of biblical scholars. We deny that a person should ignore the fruits of the technical study of Scripture by biblical scholars. (1E is directly quoted from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics.)*
F. We affirm that all teachers in the church must support their interpretation of Scripture by the exposition of Scripture.
We deny that theories held by the physical sciences, history, sociology or anthropology are to be preferred over Scripture when it speaks to an issue.
G. We affirm the obligation of presbyters to respect both the Westminster standards and their brethren by clearly and completely informing them of their views when there is any reason to think that one's understanding of the Westminster standards differs from their brothers' understanding. We deny any presbyter the right to privately judge the consistency of his views with the Westminster standards when they differ in any respect whatever from the standards.
II. CONCERNING CREATION IN GENERAL
A. We affirm that the triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - created all things out of nothing. We deny that anything except God Himself has eternal or timeless existence to the past.
B. We affirm that God freely and graciously created all things for His own glory. We deny that creation is a necessary process of the self-development of God.
C. We affirm the special creation of Adam, the original, historical father of all humans, out of the matter of the earth with the Divine in-breathing of life; and the creation of Eve, the original, historical mother of all humans, out of the body of Adam. We deny any doctrine of the gradual evolution of human species from more primitive life forms.
D. We affirm the uniqueness of the human species as created in the image of God. We deny that all species of life have equal value and that human life is to be valued no higher than other forms of life.
E. We affirm the unbroken goodness of God's creation before the historical fall of Adam and Eve into sin by eating the forbidden fruit brought evil into God's earthly creation. We deny that evil is a necessary consequence of material or finite creatures.
III. CONCERNING THE INTERPRETATION OF THE DAYS OF GENESIS ONE
A. We affirm that there is order, sequence, and progression in the Divine process by which God created the heavens and the earth and their contents. We deny the theory of instantaneous creation.
B. We affirm that God's creative activity establishes a temporal pattern for man to follow with the weekly routine of six days of work followed by one day of rest. We deny that the Genesis one account of six days of Divine creative activity and one day of Divine rest fails to give significant information about the creation process.
C. We affirm that one natural interpretation of Genesis one is the 24 hour day exposition. We deny that the 24 hour day interpretation is the only exegetically possible interpretation.
This resolution is the result of the labors of an ad hoc committee erected at the May 1996 meeting of NJ Presbytery to study and report. The members of the committee, now dissolved, were: TE Worth Carson, chairman; TE Dr. Craig DiBenedictus; TE Gary Engelstadt; TE Pedro Govantes; TE David Longacre; TE Dr. David Miner; and RE Richard Springer.
The floor debate preceding the adoption of the resolution included the verbal presentation (with supporting written papers distributed) of three positions on the length of the creation days. This was followed by a period in which commissioners questioned the three committee representatives who explained the three positions. Pastor Govantes fielded questions specific to the Literary (or Framework) view, Dr. Miner those directed to the Day/Age view, and Pastor Englestadt defended the Literal view.
The version of the resolution which the Presbytery adopted was an amended one. The original included these three final paragraphs of commentary:
"After hearing the 24 hour, day-age, and framework views we have determined that all three views can attest to the above affirmations and denials, which we believe are within the system of doctrine taught in our standard. And we recommend any candidate coming for examination, no matter what view of Genesis one he holds, be examined in light of these affirmations and denials.
The committee also recommends that in regards to the Confession, the Westminster divines probably understood Genesis one from a 24 hour view, and, therefore, any other view could be taken as an exception.
(For those presbyters who believe that the day age or framework view are exceptions we recommend that they be taken as acceptable exceptions because they can be defended biblically, and are within the Reformed tradition)."
TE Keith Graham, Correspondent
Locktown Presbyterian Church
197 Locktown-Flemington Road, Flemington, NJ