The other day I received a phone call from a rather delightful Orthodox Presbyterian. Mr. Jonathan Orcutt, a Biblical Creationist, called to encourage me, having read some of my comments on Dr. Jay Wile’s blog site. Mr. Orcutt was most upset over this Great Homeschool Conventions debacle in which Ken Ham has been judged a sinner for naming compromise, and righteously indignant over Dr. Wile’s rosy defense of compromiser Dr. Peter Enns. He also had some concerns regarding Apologia, the company Dr. Wile founded, and their curriculum and I was able to advise him that Dr. Wile is no longer with the company. In fact, Answers in Genesis has come out in support of Apologia since our conversation.
In the course of our conversation, I began wondering how a fellow who calls himself Young Earth Creationist comes to defend the likes of Dr. Enns. I recalled that I had written but neglected to publish an article regarding Dr. Wile’s views on what makes a biblical Christian back when he quit Apologia. The following is a discussion of Dr. Wile’s views, which I term “big tent orthodoxy.”
I have updated it to reflect current developments.
Last year, a lot of people in the Christian homeschool community were discussing Dr Jay Wile’s blog post, I No Longer Work For Apologia Educational Ministries - and with good reason! A lot of us use or have used or intend to use Apologia products. They teach a solid worldview, a good grasp of science from a Biblical Creationist perspective and many of those resources were written by Dr Wile himself, who sold the company back in 2009. So when the former owner of Apologia stated that “I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the new direction Apologia is taking” and “I just cannot support its new direction or the vision of its new owner” and THEN stated that THIS was his given reason for formally resigning from the company he once owned, well, people got all out of joint, to say the least.
I do think Dr Wile found it necessary to make a distinction between himself and the new Apologia, since many folks assume he’s authoring their new stuff as well, and I don’t think he meant to demonize the new owners. Nor will that be the topic of this post. I think he made a sincere public statement out of genuinely held convictions and made it in such a way as to minimize the uproar it would inevitably cause. I’ll stand by that estimation until he proves me wrong.
To elaborate on his objections to Apologia’s worldview curriculum, he stated in one comment that “the works of Dr. Ross would be an opposing viewpoint compared to Apologia products, even my books. Honestly, however, books by C.S. Lewis, Norman Geisler, and Gleason Archer would be opposing viewpoints to the new material being produced by Apologia.”
In another comment, he admits ”I am an Arminianist, but it doesn’t bother me that the owners are Calvinists. What bothers me is the vision. Their vision for how to instill Biblical values in students is simply incompatible with mine. Also, I am a young-earther, but I don’t see that as a necessary interpretation of Genesis.” In an earlier, more comprehensive comment, states:
“…the really troubling aspect of the Apologia worldview curriculum is that based on what it says, the vast majority of evangelicals do not have a Biblical worldview. As I read the text, in order to have a Biblical worldview, you have to be a young-earth Calvinist. There is never any point at which the texts I have read (one that is already published and one in manuscript form) actually say that directly, but if you compile all the things the texts say about what a Christian is supposed to believe, that’s what I come up with.
More importantly, however, there is no discussion about the fact that there are many different kinds of Biblical worldviews among orthodox Christians. Thus, the book that is published and the manuscript of the second book give no indication that there is any other way for Christians believe regarding the issues discussed in the text. This is quite the opposite of what I strove for at Apologia. I believe that we developing thinking Christians who will hold onto their faith by allowing them to explore the faith, think about the various views within the faith, and come up with their own conclusions. That was the goal of my texts, and honestly, I think that’s why students like them so much. I actually give the students credit for being able to think for themselves and come to reasonable conclusions by themselves.
So even though I have specific disagreements regarding the content of the two books I have read, that doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that the books simply do not include any indication that there are other views in orthodox Christianity. Honestly, I think this presents a serious problem for students who begin interacting with other Christians who believe radically different things from what they were taught by their parents. I personally have seen the strife such interactions cause the Body of Christ and the individuals involved, simply because they have not been properly shown the wonderful diversity that exists within the church.”
While Dr Wile’s views on what should constitute Christian education are troubling in and of themselves [The Bible doesn't tell us to teach our kids a wide range of views and let them figure it out; it says to train up a child in the way he should go and, since the Christian is commanded to be ready to give a reasoned defense for the hope within us, I believe we're not only to teach them what they ought to believe but why they ought to believe it.], my chief concern here is his assertation that there are multiple orthodox views on Creation, especially when he includes Old Earth Creationism amongst those views.
It is my contention that Old Earth Creationism is not orthodox. At best, it is heterodox. Dr. Wile contends that both Old Earth and Young Earth Creationism are equally orthodox. In fact, he further objects to my use of the term Biblical Creationist as a proper designation for Young Earth Creationism while all other views should be considered extraBiblical Creationism for their characteristic of imposing extraBiblical ideas like evolution and long ages onto the Text.
Dr. Wile objected to my use of Biblical and extraBiblical Creationist in this fashion by saying:
“I strongly disagree with the idea that Old Earth Creationists aren’t Biblical. Are you really willing to say that people like Norman Geisler, Gleason Archer, and J.P. Moreland aren’t Biblical?
The young-earth view of creation is one orthodox interpretation of Scripture, but there are others. Even many in the early church, such as Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Athanasius of Alexandria , Basil of Caesarea, Augustine, and Hilary of Poitiers, didn’t think the Genesis days were 24-hour days. Why do modern young-earthers believe that they MUST be 24-hour days.
For the record, I am a young-earth creationist. I prefer that term, however, because I think old-earth creationists, as well as some theistic evolutionists, are also Biblical.”
Our readers should be made aware, if they aren’t already, that orthodox views represent the traditional accepted doctrines of the Church as affirmed by Christ and the apostles, that heresy represents doctrines in error and that heterodox views represent departures from the orthodox view that are permissible [ie. - they're not heresy].
In supporting his case for Old Earth Creationism as an orthodox view, Dr Wile merrily points out that a handful of the Church Fathers did not view the 6 days of Genesis as literal days. He then contends that:
“Since the early church was not unanimous in taking the days of Genesis as 24-hour days, I fail to see why the modern church should be. Indeed, given the fact that many in the early church viewed the days of Genesis to be something other than 24-hour days, I think the modern church is free to believe that as well. Thus, if some Christians want to postulate that the days were something else (not an attempt at order, but instead, long ages of time), I can’t see how you can suddenly say they don’t believe the Bible. It seems to me that those who believe that the Genesis days represent long ages believe the Bible as much as Clement of Alexandria, Athanasius of Alexandria, Basil of Caesarea, Augustine, Hilary of Poitiers, etc., etc.”
Well, he’s correct in stating that Old Earth Creationists believe the Bible as much as the Church Fathers he names [the majority of the Church Fathers affirmed a literal, historical Creation Week], but that’s hardly a compliment. The fact is that they didn’t believe the Bible where Genesis [and the 4th Commandment] was concerned. They believed in “instantaneous creation.” They meant well, but they supposed that because God could do anything [He can] and can make whatever He wills occur in a moment [He's not bound by time] that He would never take 6 days to create everything. They seemed to feel that it impugned on God’s omnipotence for Creation to take an entire week. And why should God speak, they reasoned, when He can accomplish His will with a thought instead.
Dr Wile quotes Philo Judaeus, a Jewish theologian who lived at the time of Christ, who held a similar view:
“And he says that the world was made in six days, not because the Creator stood in need of a length of time (for it is natural that God should do everything at once, not merely by uttering a command, but by even thinking of it); but because the things created required arrangement; and number is akin to arrangement.”
If only more artists would become theologians! Just because the Creator had the capacity to do things all at once without so much as an utterance doesn’t mean He could not choose to do otherwise! A creator typically enjoys the creative process. Why shouldn’t God? Other than this silly insistence that God must create according to the utmost capacity of His omnipotence [where did they get the notion that He must do what He is capable of with utmost efficiency?], no proponent of instantaneous creation has a leg to stand on. The Bible records 6 days of Creation and a Creator who speaks Creation into existence. On what grounds do we doubt the revealed Word of God?
Martin Luther spoke wisdom concerning these views:
“When Moses writes that God created heaven and earth and whatever is in them in six days, then let this period continue to have been six days, and do not venture to devise any comment according to which six days were one day. But, if you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are.”
The irony is that proponents of instantaneous creation were still Young Earth Creationists, a further testimony to the fact that a young Earth has ever been the traditional, orthodox position of the Church. Old Earth Creationism is a much newer view that only came about when scientists began to propose uniformitarian views of geology that cast doubt on the Biblical account of the Noachian worldwide Flood.
Rather than obeying the command to Let God be true and every man a liar, Old Earthers have supposed the plain meaning of Scripture to be in error [in some cases they admit they believe the "pre-scientific" authors to have just been entirely wrong!] so they hasten to accomodate the current consensus of men and try to make the Bible fit their opinions. The trouble is that the current consensus rests on the philosophy of naturalism
Dr. Wile attempts to make the case that since these Young Earth Creationists did not hold the days of Genesis to be six, consecutive 24-hour days that we need no do so either and that, furthermore, we can see from this that Young Earth Creationism has not always been the traditional view of the Church; therefore, other views on Creation are just as orthodox as YEC. I’m being overly obvious, but the point is that YEC is the traditional orthodox view of the Church even if some think the universe is 6 days younger than they ought. Old Earth Creationism did not come about until men proposed uniformitarian geology as an extraBiblical alternative explanation to Flood geology based on Biblical presuppositions.
He uses that [failed] point as a springboard to note that some Biblical Christians such as Spurgeon and CS Lewis have espoused long ages. This is certainly true. Yet he goes a step further by stating that since they were orthodox Biblical Christians their views on the age of the earth must also be considered orthodox and Biblical. It is hubris to warn folks that the notes and comments in their Bibles aren’t God-breathed and inerrant, only the Scripture is, and then pretend as if our holy heroes were somehow inerrant! A man may be considered Biblical and orthodox in all respects and still hold one view that is not. Thus our estimation that a man is orthodox [Biblical] is a generalization; there is none perfect save God. His argument is a classic non sequitur he should have recognized himself. Just because someone can be generalized as orthodox or Biblical does not mean that they cannot hold a heterodox view on some subject.
Again, martin Luther’s views on the subject of Church Fathers, Reformers and and other revered man of God, past and present, is cogent to our conversation:
“The “Days” of Creation were ordinary days in length. We must undertand that these days were actual days (veros dies), contrary to the opinion of the holy fathers. Whenever we observe that the opinions of the fathers disagree with Scripture, we reverently bear with them and acknowledge them to be our elders. Nevertheless, we do not depart from the authority of Scripture for their sake.”
This brings up Dr. Wiles original objection: that we shouldn’t exclude Old earth Creationism and even some theistic evolution from the term Biblical Creationist, because he feels it impugns an otherwise Biblical Christian who holds these views. It does impugn their inconsistency of hermeneutic, for they hold the Bible as their ultimate authority where it concerns fulfilled prophecy, the miracles of Christ and the Resurrection but arbitrarily hold the word of men as their ultimate authority where they dispute the historicity Genesis; these same men who dispute the historicity of Genesis also dispute fulfilled prophecy, the miracles of Christ, and the Resurrection by their naturalistic presuppositions! This is no doubt offensive to the Old Earth Creationist and the theistic evolutionist that I would dare to name their compromise and inconsistency, but their Creationism is still extraBiblical for they impose extraBiblical concepts like long ages and evolution upon the text; likewise, their Creationism is still extraBiblical because where it concerns Genesis and any passage refering to it as historical, they take extraBiblical sources as their ultimate authority over the plain meaning of the revealed Word of God. They impose meaning upon the text rather than deriving meaning from it.
The Bible warns against this: the Scripture is of no private interpretation. This is where we get the doctrine of the perspecuity of Scripture. Where Scripture is unclear, other Scripture passages are to be used to shed light on the intended meaning. The further extraBiblical Creationists lean away from the plain meaning of Scripture, the more extraBiblical [or conversely, the less Biblical] he becomes overall. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. The Bible warns us that no man can serve two masters [or authorities] (Matthew 6:24). Spurgeon called this trend the down-grade – and many are on it in these dark days!
In closing this particular examination of the invalidity of Dr. Jay Wile’s notion of “big tent orthodoxy,” one wonders why he is so keen upon it? He claims to be a Young Earth Creationist but he takes great pains to defend extraBiblical Creationists of all stripes, even compromisers like Dr. Peter Enns of BioLogos who professes the fallible humanity of Christ and thereby offers the Son of God as an imperfect sacrifice for man’s sin, yet castigates Biblical Creationists like Ken Ham for insisting that Young Earth Creationism is the only Biblically consistent view of Scripture. Why does he play Devil’s advocate so fervently and so often? Why his double-minded insistence that he personally affirms Young Earth Creation, but, hey, those other guys have a point, right?
One can only speculate, and there has been entirely too much of that lately. What is certain is that Dr. Wile has gone from being a solid supporter of Biblical Creationism to being an accomodationist. In doing this, he maintains an official position of Young Earth Creationism but tells others it’s OK to believe extraBiblical Creation models as well.
Worse still [yes, it gets worse], he’s gone from a benign accomodationist position to disapproving of anyone who actually stands up for the Young Earth position he professes. His view might be called the “new evangelical tolerance,” a Christianized variant of the world’s new tolerance. This new tolerance goes beyond the traditional view of tolerance, of respecting opposing views to insisting that we not speak out against opposing views. The new evangelical tolerance will tolerate any compromise or sin except the “sin” of naming sin and compromise. Those who insist on doing so will be characterized as “really nasty,” “divisive,” “unloving” and unChristian. No one will care whether they speak the truth for they have turned away from the truth to fables, heaping to themselves teachers that will tell them what they want to hear. In doing so, they call evil good and good evil. Understand that I’m not condemning these compromisers: they are condemned already; the light of Scripture has come into the world but they prefer darkness! And they especially prefer silence!
Charles Spurgeon felt the sting of “evangelical tolerance” in his day. the Baptist Union, forgetting that we are to be “first pure, then peaceable,” tolerated any heresy to preserve the “unity of the Spirit.” But what hath Christ to do with Belial? When Spurgeon named those ministers and churches on the down-grade of compromise with novel doctrines, he was rewarded by being censured by the Baptist Union. Likewise, opines Dr. Henry Morris III in a recent article on the GHC debacle:
“Given the same scenario in the first century, Jesus would have been “disinvited” from speaking at these conventions, and certainly the apostle Paul for naming names, as he did in his epistles.”
What shall we do about this new evangelical tolerance? Spurgeon’s remarks concerning down-graders would apply equally well to Dr. Wile, the Great Homeschool Convention and anyone else who would encourage us to live peaceably with compromise while condemning and ostracizing those who call compromise and heresy into the light:
“A little plain speaking would do a world of good just now. These gentlemen desire to be let alone. They want no noise raised. Of course thieves hate watchdogs, and love darkness. It is time that somebody should spring his rattle, and call attention to the way in which God is being robbed of His glory, and man of his hope!”
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the church is to be the pillar [support and proclamation post] and ground [foundation] of truth; thus saith the Scriptures. Let us speak plainly and boldly against both this present-day down-grade compromise and the new evangelical tolerance.
Christians wishing to make a definitive stand for Biblical Creation are encouraged to add their name to the Creation Letter, affirming the historcal veracity of God’s revealed Word from the very first word. We also urge Facebook users to “Like” the Creation Sunday page at http://facebook.com/creationsunday where you may receive updates on the Creation Sunday Movement. Next year’s Creation Sunday will be held on Feb. 12, 2012, the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday. We expect a big push from Evolution Sunday supporters who will likely combine with Darwin Day celebrants to urge evolutionary compromise from our pulpits with greater intensity.
-Rev Tony Breeden