Trinity Western University's Statement on Creation: A Critique (detailed version)
by Richard Peachey
Trinity Western University, a Christian liberal arts university in Langley, BC (Canada) has produced a document titled "Statement on Creation, the Bible, Science, and Our Response," which was approved by the TWU Board of Governors on February 9, 2002. This statement has been distributed with other "community documents" to people who ask for information about TWU. Much of the document is laudable from a Young Earth Creation point of view, but there are some major flaws as well. This critique will quote, and comment on, selected sections in order to point out both the strengths and the weaknesses of the TWU statement.
1. "Our biblically Christian world and life view includes faith in God as the Creator, Redeemer, and Restorer of all things."
Good. Some key roles of God with respect to the created order, including his foundational role as Creator, are here set forth. Also, the Christian worldview is, appropriately, linked specifically to the Bible as its source of information.
2. "We believe the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, to be the inspired Word of God, without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men and women, and the Divine and final authority for all Christian faith and life." [italics in original]
Very good. The statement affirms the creation record in Genesis, along with the rest of Scripture, as God-breathed, inerrant, sufficient, and authoritative. Christians therefore must believe Genesis, since it is part of divine Scripture which is the final authority for faith (belief) as well as for life (behaviour). See also Hebrews 11:3. (Note: The first two chapters of Genesis, technically "without error in the original writings," can for practical purposes be considered fully reliable in the extant manuscripts as well, since there are in these chapters no major textual issues relevant to the origins debate.)
3. "Scripture is true in all it affirms and therefore we believe that God's creative acts are trustworthily recorded in the biblical account and necessary for our understanding of His redemptive purposes."
Very good. Now, the Old Testament plainly "affirms" that God created by fiat, within the space of six days, in a particular sequence (Genesis 1:1-2:3; Exodus 20:11; Psalm 33:6,9). And the Lord Jesus Christ "affirms" that "at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female' " (Mark 10:6). So this sentence would prima facie appear very supportive of a Young Earth Creation viewpoint.
4. "Scripture affirms that God created the universe, but it does not do so in scientific language nor does it fully disclose God's methods in creation."
Somewhat dicey! Does the word "fully" here mean that there might be some significant method(s) by which God created, other than the disclosed method (fiat)? Furthermore, one wonders what is meant by: "it does not do so in scientific language"? Obviously, the Bible does not employ modern technical jargon; no one would argue that it does. But the language is certainly "scientific" in the sense that, if an impartial observer had been on site, he would legitimately have been able to record what transpired during the days of creation in language identical to that contained in Genesis 1.
5. ". . . the universe . . . evidences in itself an intelligent design that reveals something of the 'invisible qualities' of its Designer (Rom. 1)."
Good. This lends support to scientists from the Intelligent Design movement (and others) who cite examples of divine engineering such as that found in the bacterial flagellum, the human eye, etc.
6. "Investigation within these biblical and scientific frameworks should honestly and fairly gather and interpret all scientific data and uphold a responsible evangelical interpretation of Scripture."
Sounds good. The crucial question here is: What is a "responsible evangelical interpretation of Scripture"? If this means a "literal" interpretation in the historic sense of that word (i.e., a historical-grammatical interpretation making proper use of context), Young Earth Creationists must applaud. The problem is that all too often interpreters, including some who call themselves "evangelical," impose on Genesis (and other texts) a set of evolutionary assumptions which are alien to Scripture.
7. "A doctrine of divine creation based on Scripture is the first element of a Christian worldview."
Excellent! Creation is foundational, logically and chronologically, to all other Christian thinking. Once again, the source of our information is here explicitly asserted to be the Bible.
8. ". . . one God . . . existed prior to the coming into existence of the material cosmos. God the Creator is totally other than and essentially distinct from His creation."
Good. God's transcendence and holiness are affirmed. The universe is not itself God, nor is it infinitely old. This confutes pantheism and oscillating-universe theories, as well as various strains of "New Age" thought and religious evolutionism.
9. "God's Word is the creative means by which everything has come into existence."
Very good. But it's curious that there is no mention at this place of other possible methods used in creation, as were hinted at in point #4, above!
10. ". . . the created order is the result of God's purposeful design and actions as described in the six creative days (Hebrew: 'yom') of Genesis 1 and as such cannot be explained solely with reference to time, chance, self-generating processes and/or natural laws."
Somewhat helpful! This assertion runs counter to P. J. Wiseman's proposal of "revelatory days" rather than "creative days." (According to that view, the six days of Genesis 1 constituted the time frame during which God revealed to the human author his prior work of creation.) As well, the peculiar view of John Sailhamer, that Genesis 1 describes the preparation of the promised land (rather than the original creation), will not be easy to reconcile with this wording. "Literary" views also appear to come under fire here (e.g., the view of Bruce Waltke, who holds that the mention of "six days" is more of an artistic literary device than a true chronology). And of course, evolution of the completely atheistic sort is opposed by this section. But one is given pause by the explanatory parenthesis, "(Hebrew: 'yom')." In light of point #21, below, this insertion would seem to carry the message: "We don't necessarily intend literal days here; we only mean whatever the Hebrew word means — which we consider a subject for debate" (!)
11. ". . . God made His creation to be good and at the end of the creation narrative He concludes that it was 'very good' (Genesis 1:31)."
Noteworthy! This item, if given full weight, undercuts profoundly any claim that "Theistic Evolution," "Old Earth Creationism," or "Progressive Creationism" is theologically viable! Millions of years of pain, suffering, parasitism, disease, carnivory, bloodshed, and death prior to human sin is not compatible with an original creation made "very good." When theologians allow vast periods of geologic time before human existence, naturalistic philosophers easily (and rightly!) cut them to pieces using their "dysteleological argument" (i.e., what kind of God would use such horrendous processes to bring a world of life into being?).
12. ". . . the first human beings, Adam and Eve, were the culmination of God's distinct creative acts."
Excellent! Taking this assertion at face value, Adam and Eve are stated to have been historical individuals, created separately by God rather than being produced through an all-encompassing evolutionary process. This affirmation counters every position that would mythologize or allegorize the creation of the first pair of humans.
13. "They were created in His 'image' (Genesis 1:26-27), a characteristic that distinguishes human beings from all other creatures and bestows on them unique significance and value in the eyes of the Creator."
Very good. Without attempting to delimit what the "image of God" means (a much-controverted issue), this sentence affirms the special status of human beings (contra extreme "animal rights" activists such as Peter Singer).
14. ". . . the first human beings fell into sin through a historical act of disobedience to God (Genesis 3)."
Good. "Original sin" is here stated to be a real part of history. Our wicked nature, then, is not something that evolved over time from a "reptilian brain" through a series of primates. This acknowledgment is critical to a foundation for the gospel message. But this section might also have been a good place to allude to the biblical doctrine of "total depravity." Scripture teaches that no aspect of human will, intellect, or emotions has been left untouched by the Fall (Romans 3:10-18). Christians must therefore take care that they do not naively trust naturalistic scientists to interpret the data of the history of life and the universe for them — almost inevitably, such interpretation is done in such a way as to oppose a straightforward reading of the Genesis account.
15. "This disobedience brought death to humanity (Romans 5:12) and has also affected the creation in significant ways. Nonetheless, much evidence of the original goodness remains."
Fine as far as it goes, but really, it ought to go further. In addition to the death sentence, God imposed new difficulties in agriculture, including thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:17-19). The divine Curse also involved heightened maternal pain during human childbirth (Genesis 3:16). Evidently animal death resulted as well: the Creator prepares garments of skin for the sinful couple (Genesis 3:21). Whereas in Paradise, humans and animals had all been herbivorous (Genesis 1:29f.), carnivory occurs after the Fall (by the post-Flood era, if not before — Genesis 9:2-4). Alongside the suffering of humans, the "whole creation" is now "groaning" in "bondage to decay;" it has been "subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it" (Romans 8:18-22). Scripture thus indicates a suite of major negative changes in the biosphere subsequent to the time of human creation. All this would appear contrary not only to "Theistic Evolution" but also to "Progressive Creationism" and every other form of "Old Earth Creationism."
16. "Evolution in its simplest form is merely a designation for observable changes over time. . . ."
Troubling! Evolutionary propagandists regularly begin a discussion of evolution in this way, offering a definition in terms of something no one can rationally disagree with ("change over time") — and then they attempt to slide seamlessly from a consideration of observable intraspecific variation into a discussion of "particles to people" macroevolution! (See for example Niles Eldredge, The Triumph of Evolution, p. 88.) TWU should be more careful to distance itself from such approaches.
17. "TWU rejects the following views as both non-biblical and going beyond legitimate science: 1) evolutionism that asserts that all entities and phenomena have been brought into existence by chance. 2) interpretive frameworks that fail to account for both the distinct creative acts of God described in Genesis 1:1 to 2:25 and God's superintending, direct and immediate involvement in the entire process of creation. 3) the consequences of the religious perspective of evolutionism, namely that there are no universal created laws or moral absolutes. 4) the view that the material world or 'nature' is autonomous, that the cosmos is eternal and progressively evolving by some self-generating process. 5) the notion that progress whether human or otherwise is inevitable. Neither Scripture nor science validate [sic] the inevitability of progress in the cosmos apart from the redemptive activity of God."
Good as far as it goes. Atheistic evolution is rejected (items 1 and 3), as is the Wiseman hypothesis (since Genesis 1 and 2 are said to describe "creative acts"). Automatic "progressive" evolution is generally out of favour with scientists these days anyway, so the fifth point may not accomplish much. The fourth point opposes steady-state cosmology, but that view is pretty much out of favour too. What would really be helpful here is some firm declaration regarding the "Big Bang," the "chemical origin of life," and macroevolution. Also welcome would be clear wording on the "Gap Theory" and the nature of the Genesis Flood.
(TWU might respond that they have to be selective and can't deal with every possible creation-related issue. Some of the omissions noted, however, are rather significant; and the reader may easily be left with the impression that TWU tolerates any number of well-known non-biblical positions that haven't been specifically ruled out — such as Theistic Evolution, Progressive Creationism, a Local Flood, or Hugh Ross's suggestion of indefinitely long, overlapping creation "days." After all, what is the purpose of a statement like this if not to clarify where the institution stands on major issues of the day?)
18. "All current models for correlating the biblical details with scientific data about creation involve assumptions that make them to some degree theoretical and tentative. These models do not have the same status as Divine revelation and are therefore open to ongoing critique and research."
Well said. Creationists are free to propose explanatory models such as the Vapour Canopy Theory, or Russ Humphreys' "Starlight and Time" cosmology, but we must not cling dogmatically to such ideas. On the other hand, though, views based firmly on the ipsissima verba of Scripture (such as the view that the "days" of creation were six literal days) should never be treated as if they belonged to mere "models."
19. ". . . a biblical view of creation does not constrain legitimate scientific inquiry and research because we accept two sources of information: biblical revelation and natural revelation."
Red Flag!! This "two-source" view which accepts "nature" as a "sixty-seventh book of the Bible" is fraught with danger. What tends to happen is that the interpretive historical reconstructions of evolutionary scientists, formulated within the framework of a naturalistic philosophy (and using data gathered from a cursed Earth) are placed on a par with (or worse, elevated above) clear statements found within God-breathed Scripture! Creation evangelist Ken Ham is correct when he urges Christians to examine all data (and claims about data) through the "spectacles" of the Bible.
20. ". . . Biblical and natural revelation, though different, are never to be conceived of as in conflict with each other because God is the source of both. Apparent discrepancies should result in deferring conclusions in favor of a careful and humble reexamination of the presuppositions, theories, and interpretations that led to the disagreement."
Amen! But at the same time, we need to be careful to maintain the apostolic favouritism toward Scripture: "Let God be true, and every man a liar!" (Romans 3:4).
21. ". . . differing positions must be subject to ongoing honest evaluation and scrutiny, and respectful debate within the framework of a biblical Christian worldview."
Very good, and very necessary. All of us must exhibit humility, respecting others and continually striving to keep our worldview within biblical parameters. We hope our critique of TWU's statement will be seen as an earnest and fair contribution to the ongoing debate, and of course we must leave ourselves open to having our own position evaluated by others.
22. "We recognize that faithfulness to a high view of Scripture does not produce conformity to any specific interpretation or position on the following aspects of a creationist position. Therefore members of the TWU community may differ on: 1) the timetable for creation in Genesis 1 and whether God's whole collection of creative acts occurred over a shorter or longer-term span of time. 2) young or old earth. 3) the extent of limited changes in life forms over time (e.g. speciation)."
Regrettable! This paragraph permits TWU faculty to hold the "Day-Age" view, "Progressive Creationism," or other theories that allow for millions of years of suffering and death prior to God's declaration of a "very good" completed creation! The third point could be read as excluding "particles-to-people" macroevolution, since it countenances only "limited changes in life forms," but it's hard to be sure because no clear statement on macroevolution has been set forth previously in this statement. Indeed, one can only speculate about the status of "Theistic Evolution" at TWU in view of the document's failure to explicitly oppose it.
23. "Because we believe so strongly in the biblical teaching about creation, our campus community strives to . . . respect the intrinsic value of each species as a created work of God without value judgments on its worth or usefulness to humankind."
Confusing! Biblically, God created various organisms after their own "kind," a term which is not equivalent to current usage of the word "species." Indeed, taxonomists have conducted unending debate over how best to define "species." The best spin we could put on this section is to just overlook the statement's use of the word "species" and presume that what is really meant is only that all life forms are descendants of organisms created by God.
For a shorter version of this critique of Trinity Western University's Statement on Creation, go to: <http://www.creationbc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=95&Itemid=62>