PMT 2013-027b by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
The following study will analyze the Westminster Confession of Faith on six-day creation.
Reformed Theology and Creation
Reformed Christians have a special stake in the creation/evolution debate. With our high view of Scripture we are pre-committed to the integrity of the Word of God in all areas of life.
Unfortunately, today much of reformed theology writes off six day creationism as naive fundamentalism or gross bibliolatry. Though most reformed scholars would decry evolutionism, they often capitulate to the evolutionary elite, being pressured to re-interpret Genesis in order to maintain academic credibility.
Fifty years ago reformed OT scholar E. J. Young noted: “Recently there has appeared a recrudescence of the so-called ‘framework’ hypothesis of the days of Genesis, an hypothesis which in the opinion of the writer of this article treats the content of Genesis one too lightly and which, at least according to some of its advocates, seems to rescue the Bible from the position of being in conflict with the data of modern science.” 1 Later he lamented that “it is difficult to escape the impression that some of those who espouse a non-chronological view of the days of Genesis are moved by a desire to escape the difficulties which exist between Genesis and the so-called ‘findings’ of science.” 2
Framework Hypothesis advocate Mark Ross writes: “As adherents of the Framework Hypothesis have come from divergent theological persuasions, including some who do reject the historical character of the Genesis narrative, this suspicion seems to be confirmed. Given this diversity, it is easy for confusion to arise over just what the Framework Hypothesis is claiming and what it is denying.” 3 Such is a tragic surrender of ground by Christianity to the reigning cultural mythology of our day: chance oriented, naturalistic evolutionism.
In this brief study I will provide a summary of the evidence from Scripture and Confession which demands a literal six day creation position for reformed Christians who operate under the Westminster Standards. I will also incorporate some subsidiary themes illustrating the necessity of the standard historical-grammatical approach to Genesis. Let us begin with our confessional position.
Six Day Creation in Genesis (15 CDs)
Sermons by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr
The Westminster Confession
Some reformed Christians deny that God created the heavens and the earth in six literal days. This denial brings them into clear contradiction with the Westminster Standards, which teach that the Lord God created the heavens and the earth “in the space of six days” (WCF 4:1; LC #15, SC #9).
It is important to note that here the Confession is not merely picking up the language of Scripture and quoting it, thereby leaving the language open to interpretation. The six day statement is not a catch phrase. The Assembly very clearly speaks of a literal six day creation, when it states in WCF 4:1: “It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.” The phrase “in the space of” demonstrates their concern with the temporal time-frame of the creative process.
In so stating the matter, the Westminster divines picked up on the language of John Calvin, who held to a six day creation: “For it is too violent a cavil to contend that Moses distributes the work which God perfected at once into six days, for the mere purpose of conveying instruction. Let us rather conclude that God himself took the space of six days, for the purpose of accommodating his works to the capacity of men.” 4 Calvin clearly had in mind literal days, for he states on page 105 of his Genesis commentary: “I have said above, that six days were employed in the formation of the world; not that God, to whom one moment is as a thousand years, had need of this succession of time, but that he might engage us in the consideration of his works.”
The language of the Confession and the sentiment of the Westminster divines is so obvious that even detractors from six day creationism have admitted the meaning of the Confession. One such opponent of six day creation, Edward D. Morris, writes: “But the language of the Confession, in the space of six days, must be interpreted literally, because this was the exact view pronounced by the Assembly.” 5.
In my following few contributions, I will flesh out the view of creation in the Westminster Standards.
- E. J. Young, Studies in Genesis One, 51.
- Young, Studies, 44.
- Mark Ross in Pipa, and Hall, eds, Did God Create in Six Days?, 114.
- John Calvin, Genesis, p. 78.
- Edward Morris, Theology of the Westminster Symbols, 202.