As far as we can tell, this will be our concluding post about the Proposal to revise BC 14 and the Ninth Commandment, before moving on to other significant dimensions of the Proposal.
This one relates to accusations made against Br. J., in terms of three topics: (1) definition and target, (2) guilt by association, and (3) using material retracted by Br. J. In each instance, the very words of the Proposal are provided, followed by my explanation of Br. J.’s actual position.
1. Definition and target
1.1 Proposal to revise BC 14:
“By theistic evolution, we mean the teaching that God created the world and all organisms over billions of years. Many theistic evolutionists, including some within the Canadian Reformed Churches, also teach that Adam was not the special and direct creation of God. Rather, while acknowledging that Adam was a historical figure, they teach that he was the descendant of pre-existing hominids (man-like creatures with an evolutionary history) that was, at some point and in some ill-defined way, chosen by God to be endowed with his image.”
“That theistic evolution is being tolerated in our churches is evident from the fact that to date there have been no public sanctions for any of the individuals teaching it.”
1.2 Br. J., by contrast, defines theistic evolution as the evolution of plants, animals, and humans by means of natural processes under God’s guidance. The expression “by means of natural processes” excludes direct divine supernatural intervention as a means of creation.
Contrary to the Proposal’s accusation, Br. J. has publicly affirmed and believes that God does act in the world by direct supernatural intervention. In particular, he believes that Adam and Eve were created by God’s special supernatural intervention. Therefore, he rejects the creation of humans by natural processes as stipulated in theistic evolutionism.
Moreover, although he is open to discussing the possibility that God created Adam and Eve by direct supernatural intervention from human-like ancestors, he is not committed to this possibility, nor does he believe it or teach it.
2. Guilt by association
2.1 Proposal to revise BC 14:
Br. J., “who is a team member in the ForumC BioLogos project, discussed his own transition from young earth creationist to a position accepting an evolving creation in the 1990s.”
2.2 Br. J.: Careful reading discloses that this is a quotation from something written by a reporter that did not come from Br. J., and therefore has no standing as a ground for the proposal.
In addition, Br. J. speaks at various conferences arranged by various organizations. That does not mean he is a team member of that organization. Nor does it mean that he supports their goals. As a Christian he knows himself called to witness to the truth and in that capacity he may speak against the goals of the organization that arranges the event because there is freedom of speech. In this particular case, he was invited to speak at a conference organized by ForumC. He accepted the invitation on the condition that he would be free not to promote theistic evolution, but to present his own ideas. ForumC agreed. Thus the quoted sentence misconstrues Br. J.’s position.
Finally, the talk described his move away from scientific creationism, not his transition to a position accepting an evolving creation. He presented theological, philosophical, and scientific arguments against an evolving creation, specifically against the transition from non-life to life and from animal to human.
3. Using retracted material
3.1 Proposal to revise BC 14:
Br. J. “also wrote the following:
‘Fourthly, there is the irreversible hierarchical structure of the classification of living things. If animals living today would have been created by fiat creation rather than by evolutionary creation, there would have been no hierarchical branching pattern unless the Creator would have wanted those who investigate such matters to believe there had been a history which never actually occurred. Since the Creator does not deceive us I am led to the conclusion that He created animals by means of an evolutionary process thereby giving us a real evolutionary history.'”
3.2 Br. J. withdrew the last sentence when challenged in an ecclesiastical context. Therefore, it is unfair to use this as an accusation against him in the Proposal.
Moreover, in response to challenges against Br. J.’s writing, he and his challengers were advised and assured that there is room within the church for discussing these matters, as long as they do not contradict Scripture or the Confessions. For his challengers now to use his previously exonerated statements by way of accusation in support of revising BC 14 seems disrespectful toward that advice and contradictory to that assurance.
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By way of summary, it needs to be pointed out that our Ninth Commandment claim is this: unlike other church leaders and writers accused of violating Scripture and the Confessions, who respond by saying that they’ve been misunderstood, that is not what is going on here.
These brothers being accused in Ground 1 of the Proposal to revise BC 14 are being accused of believing and teaching things that they have declared, have written, and have argued explicitly that they do not believe or teach.
Given the pre-classis letter from Br. A. to the overturing consistory, and Br. J.’s declarations to a broader assembly, and its exoneration in principle of those declarations, the issue involving Ground 1 is one of culpable misrepresentation.
To be continued.