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In the Space of Six Pages: On Breaking the Confession with the Rod of Irons

Lee Irons has provided us with a Framework Interpretation response to David Hall's important 1998 speech to the PCA General Assembly. In that speech Hall dealt with the Confessional meaning of creation "in the space of six days."

  • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Th.D.,
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Lee Irons has provided us with a Framework Interpretation response to David Hall's important 1998 speech to the PCA General Assembly. In that speech Hall dealt with the Confessional meaning of creation "in the space of six days." In his response titled "In the Space of Six Days: What Did the Divines Mean?"1 Irons mounts a vigorous assault on Hall's historical research into the original meaning of the Confession of Faith's statement.

Though Irons extends admirable academic courtesy to Hall's diligent labor (Hall's work is "an excellent service," "useful," a "good beginning," "interesting," and so forth), he is not very impressed with the results. In fact, he deems Hall's extensive research largely unhelpful to the traditionalist viewpoint and, worse still, even counterproductive to it. He speaks of Hall's "wrong conclusions," exposes the "fatal flaw in Hall's reasoning," mentions his "methodologically unsound" procedure, and notes the "fallacy of Hall's argument" as well as its "arbitrary" nature. In short, "Hall's own evidence backfires."

Irons' assault is vigorous and unrelenting. But in the final analysis it serves to unmask the quiet desperation of the Framework Interpretation and illustrate its ultimate Confessional failure. What is worse, Irons' argument provides a clear example for us of the dangerous hermeneutical engine driving the Framework Interpretation. As I shall show in this brief response, Irons' paper suffers from dialectical tension, conceptual confusion, and methodological absurdity. This is fortunate, however, in that had he sustained a successful argument he would have undermined the whole purpose of creeds themselves by evacuating the meaning of creedal assertions.

Basically, Irons attempts two bold and important ventures in his paper: (1) He strives to demonstrate the Confession's statement that God created the world "in the space of six days" is ambiguous. The Confession, he argues, merely parrots Scriptural language, thereby leaving the interpretation of the "six days" of Creation to the individual subscriber. (2) He further argues that historical exegesis of the Confession proves that this ambiguity is intentional. By this maneuver he attempts to open the door to the Framework Interpretation, while undercutting the literal six-day creation argument.

The Framework Interpretation would earn more respect among its opposers were its proponents to admit that the language of the Confession means what it actually says and then simply declare an exception at that point.

As we shall see, Irons fails both of his primary goals in his paper. In an effort to conserve space, I will proceed through his article in a seriatim fashion. But before I actually begin my response we must note the nature of the debate between the Framework Interpretation and the Six-Day Creation Interpretation.

The section of the Confession in dispute is found in chapter 4, paragraph 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.

Here our Confession presents Presbyterian Framework theorists with an immediate and embarrassing problem. The almost universal and historical consensus recognizes the Confession's statement "in the space of six days" as defining the timeframe of the original creative acts of God. The average English reader doubtlessly recognizes these words as setting temporal limits upon the original creative work of God. And herein is exposed the dangerous implications of the Framework Interpretation: Not only does the Framework view discount the temporal delimiters structuring the Genesis 1 record itself ("evening/morning," solar function, ordinal prefixes, serial enumeration2 ), but it sets about refashioning the very simple and obvious language of our Confession.

The Framework Interpretation would earn more respect among its opposers were its proponents to admit that the language of the Confession means what it actually says and then simply declare an exception at that point. But when we witness the attempt at re-interpreting the clear language before us, deep and serious concerns boil up. Where will this methodology lead? What elements within the Confession are safe from the re-interpretive hermeneutic? And for how long are they safe once this interpretive approach is unleashed?

The Problem of Historical Exegesis

Irons opens his actual response to Hall's research in the writings of the Westminster divines with this rather surprising comment, a comment that exposes a fundamental flaw in Irons' effort:

Hall does not seem to have asked himself a pertinent hermeneutical question. Can we assume that these views of these theologians is [sic] ultimately determinative for how we ought to interpret what the Confession itself actually says and does not say? In other words, just because many of the divines held a particular view of the days, does that necessarily imply that the Confession affirms a particular view of the days? (1)

Shortly thereafter he argues: "Studies of intellectual context are only of limited value with respect to the politics of confessional subscription" (2).

When anyone compares WCF 4:1 with the Framework Interpretation of Genesis 1, it becomes immediately obvious why Irons would want to question Hall's historical research: the views of the Confession's framers are incompatible with the Framework Interpretation but perfectly fit the Six-Day Creationist perspective. Irons' statement here at the very opening of his critique is remarkable in several respects:

(1) By this opening maneuver Irons effectively discounts the scholarly practice of historical exegesis. Yet in order to understand any historical document we must seek to discern the original intent of the author(s). Otherwise the whole interpretive enterprise becomes an exercise in eisegesis, leaving the document at the mercy of future fads and fashions. Hall's research analyzes the published writings of the framers (and others in their era) to discover their fuller thoughts on the matter before us. Their creedal formulation does not appear out of the blue, but within a particular intellectual context. Irons himself admits Hall "has assisted us in placing the Confession in its intellectual context" and that "Hall has provided many quotes useful for determining original intent" (Irons, 1).

(2) Such historical research as Hall provides us becomes absolutely indispensable in situations like those currently before us. Long after the framing of the Confession's article on creation, an entirely new view of the whole creation process has arisen. This new view directly contravenes the very clear and historically recognized language of the Confession. The Framework Interpretation informs us that the days of Genesis do not instruct us on the passing of time as we now experience it. Rather Genesis speaks of something altogether different. In fact, rather than creation transpiring "in the space of six days," the Framework Interpretation urges that "with respect to both the duration and sequence of events, the scientist is left free of biblical constraints in hypothesizing about cosmic origins."3 Irons is correct in noting that "the Confession is what is binding, not the views of individual authors" (2). The problem arises in that through Irons' sleight-of-hand, the Confession is being evacuated of its original intent. Such a maneuver demands that we research the wider body of literature produced by the divines to discover what they meant. The necessity of Hall's research, then, becomes all the more urgent due to the re-interpretive process necessary to make room for the Framework Interpretation.

(3) This historical research becomes especially necessary in that the document in question is a creedal document. As the Latin etymology of "creed" instructs us and as creedalism has historically operated, a creed is a statement of belief, a pronouncement of commitment to a particular theological position. The whole purpose of a creed is to "lock-in" a particular theological viewpoint, to stand against the eroding tides of shifting fashion. Consequently, a creed must be understood in terms of its original intent or else it fails of its purpose, in that it does not secure a particular theological construct as a "platform for unity" (Irons, 2). The Six-Day Creation Interpretation vigorously and unashamedly proclaims that God created the universe "in the space of six days," just as does the Confession; the Framework Interpretation argues that God most definitely did not create in such a compacted time frame, due to God's use of natural providence in the creation process (based on insights derived from Gen. 2:5).4

(4) Furthermore, despite Irons' assertion, Hall's research does not "assume" the views of the framers of the Confession: it documents them. And it documents them in the light of the specific and clear statement within the Confession they framed. In various places in Irons' paper we find that certain of the views of the Westminster divines do not appear in creedal form in the Confession of Faith: the young earth, the date of the creation, the season of the creation. Yet in 4:1 we do discover their view on the time-frame of the creational activity of God.

(5) Ironically, Irons himself allows historical exegesis to demonstrate that "the Westminster divines specifically rejected the Augustinian view. . . . There can be no doubt that 'in the space of six days,' both in Calvin and the Confession, was intended to rule out the instantaneous creation view"5. Though he complains of Hall's "selective" use of historical argument (see the next point), it seems that Irons himself is selective in his denouncing the use of historical exegesis.

(6) A little later in his paper Irons makes a startling statement that as seriously misrepresents Hall's research as it does misconstrue the nature of the historical exegetical enterprise:

Hall's appeal to the weight of church history is arbitrary. On the one hand, he wants us to avoid the hubris of the modern mindset which rejects the ancient in favor of the new, and which always assumes that newer is better. But on the other hand, he selectively decides which ecclesiastical traditions are allowed to count. The traditions of 19th century American Presbyterianism and Old Princeton are dismissed as being too recent. But by what authority does Hall determine the cut-off point of legitimate 'old' traditions?" (4)

This remarkable error cannot be allowed to pass unnoticed. Note that:

(a) Hall's appeal to church history is not in the least "arbitrary." Hall is engaged in historical exegesis for the purpose of determining original intent. Consequently, he cites from the "intellectual context" (to use Irons' own phrase, 1) in which the Confession was framed. The problem before us is that later observations and re-interpretations of the Confession have evacuated the Confessional statement of its historical meaning. Perhaps diachronically mapping out the development of Confessional interpretations would prove an interesting study, but this is not the issue before us.

(b) Contrary to Irons' assertion Hall is not interested in the least with "old" v. "new," but with original intent v. contemporary re-interpretation. The two concerns (old/new v. original/contemporary) are not equatable in the least. At times in Irons' paper he seems to understand this, but then he appears to forget the matter when drawing conclusions.

Returning to the same paragraph on Irons' page 1 (regarding "the pertinent hermeneutical question"), Irons continues his assault upon historical exegesis of the Confession: "Just because many of the divines held a particular view of the days, does that necessarily imply that the Confession affirms a particular view of the days?" (1). In response let us note the following:

(1) Irons admits that "many of the divines" hold the natural day view of Genesis 1. He confesses that Hall "has located a large number of quotes from the 17th century Reformed theologians which indicate the possible presence of a consensus on several points relative to the days of creation" (1). In point of fact, Hall not only provided us a large array of evidence in this direction in his original paper, but he has since added several new references from the divines: the body of evidence is growing.5 How can we dismiss the divines' convictions on the Genesis creation account when interpreting their Confession? Especially when a proposed interpretation counters those convictions?

(2) Irons does not offer even one countervailing assertion by a Westminster divine. There appears to be no dispute among the divines as to the nature of the creation days. The dispute is a modern cavil that has suspiciously arisen since the appearance of scientific evolutionism and its demand for enormous time-frames (not that Irons, Kline, or their associates are sympathetic to evolution).

(3) The extra-Confessional statements of the divines do not imply that the Confession "affirms a particular view of the days." Rather the Confession itself (as we shall see in a little more detail shortly) affirms God created "in the space of six days," thereby fitting perfectly with the framers' other writings.

The Failure of Irons' Analysis

Irons complains: "assuming that these men almost universally held to a young earth, logically we cannot conclude that the Confession itself affirms or requires the young earth position" (2). In response we should note:

(1) Irons' choice of terms unfortunately tends to bias his readers against Hall's work: once again he speaks of "assuming" something. Hall does not assume the young earth perspective of the divines: he provides what Irons himself calls "a catalogue of quotes"; that is, he documents their views.

(2) But theoretically the young earth viewpoint differs from the six-day position in an important respect in our Confessional debate: the Confession does assert God created "in the space of six days." The Six-Day Creation view does not require that the Confession asserts a young earth; that position is conceptually distinct.

(3) Irons misses the point of Hall's citing young earth evidence from the divines. He does not cite the young earth statements in order to demand a young earth perspective for creedal subscription. Rather he is demonstrating from the intellectual context of the divines that their creedal statement "in the space of six days" cannot be extrapolated out into multiple billions of years, as allowed in the Framework Interpretation and evolutionary theory. Whatever the age of the earth is, it did not come to that allegedly advanced age during the creation week, for the Confession directly informs us that that week only covered "the space of six days."

Irons attempts to undercut Hall's research by commenting on the debate over the season of the year in which the original creation week occurred, whether it was "in the spring or the fall" (2). He notes that this issue was "not resolved" among Reformed theologians. Then he makes the self-destructive observation:

Clearly, then, it was a question that could have been debated at the Westminster Assembly and the majority view could have been enshrined in the Confession itself. Yet we find no references to this question in the Confession. Is it not obvious that the Assembly did not consider this issue to be relevant to the Confession's purpose and scope? (2)

This comment actually strengthens our argument against the Framework Interpretation:

(1) As a matter of fact, the divines did include a statement concerning the length of the creation week. Consequently, on Irons' own method this is "relevant to the Confession's purpose and scope." What is more, the fact of original creation transpiring "in the space of six days" is so important that it not only appears in the Confession of Faith but also in both the Larger and Shorter Catechisms:

Larger Catechism Question 15: What is the work of creation? Answer: The work of creation is that wherein God did in the beginning, by the word of his power, make of nothing the world, and all things therein, for himself, within the space of six days, and all very good.
Shorter Catechism Question 9: What is the work of creation? Answer: The work of creation is, God's making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.

(2) It exposes the horrendous danger inherent in Irons' Confessional exegetical methodology. If Irons argues that the absence of a clear statement from the Confession is telling evidence against its significance, then we cannot argue that God created the entire universe! The Confession says nothing about the creation of the universe when it states:

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.
After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image ... (WCF 4:1-2a)

Notice that the Confession only mentions the creation of "the world" and the creatures in it (cp. also LC 15). Elsewhere it only alludes to "the beginning of the world" (LC 116; SC 59).

Returning again to his bias against historical exegesis, we may note that Irons writes: "Notice the fallacy of Hall's argument. 'The context of Westminster's original intent' as defined 'in their other writings' must interpret what the Confession itself actually says'" (3). In response I would comment:

(1) Where is the fallacy in this? Is this not common, scholarly historical exegesis? Again Irons' complaint does not reflect the actual situation in Hall's work.

(2) Does not Irons himself (1, 5) assert that the language "in the space of six days" is the divines' response to Augustine's conception? And how does he know that? On the basis of historical exegesis of the divines' other writings! "Hall correctly argues that the Westminster divines specifically rejected the Augustinian view in its 'in the space of six days' language" (5).

(3) Furthermore, where does the Confession itself allow any other view than that creation transpired "in the space of six days"? The Confession and Catechisms consistently maintain that view. Indeed, the Standards assert that the seventh day sabbath prevailed "from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ" (WCF 21:7; LC 116; SC 59). Obviously the Sabbath is established after the creation process, yet it is deemed extant "from the beginning of the world." Furthermore, in that man himself is a part of the original creation process "in the beginning," how can the Framework Interpretation allow a multi-billion year old earth (see footnote 4 above) which places man late in the scheme of things far from "the beginning"? Do the Standards not demand the appearance of man upon the earth "from the beginning" (WCF 8:6; as does Scripture, Mt. 19:4; Mk. 10:6)?

Evidence of the strain placed upon Irons' presentation appears in various overstatements and misconceptions, such as the one we come upon at this point in his paper: Irons erroneously argues that "the divines would have known only two possibilities: either an eternal world, or a world about 6,000 years old." In fact, "a very old universe" was "not within the realm of intellectual possibility for them" (3). This is obviously overstated in that:

(1) Turretin (a Reformed writer cited by Irons and living in the time of the divines) muses theoretically: "Thus the duration of the world might have been of many more ages than it actually is; so that from the beginning of the world to the present time, there might have flowed by not only five or six million years, but seven or nine. And yet you could not rightly infer from this that therefore the world might have been created from eternity because the consequence does not hold good from a longer, finite and bounded duration... to an eternal and infinite duration."6 Obviously it was "intellectually" possible for them to contemplate a very old world beyond 6,000 years old.

(2) Irons himself admits in the paragraph preceding the one containing his statement: Hall "shows that prior to the 19th century, it is rare to find an orthodox theologian arguing for an old earth" (3). If it is "rare," it is not beyond the realm of possibility for it was in fact considered, even if not frequently.

(3) In Hall's paper, which has been read by Irons, Hall cites Ussher's Sum and Substance of Christian Religion wherein Ussher affirmed a young earth and argued that one of the reasons for this was "to convince all heathen, that either thought that the world was without beginning, or that it began millions of years before it did" that they are mistaken (Hall, 9).

As an aside, but illustrating Irons' inadvertent tendency to overstate and misconstrue evidence, Irons misrepresents Turretin when he brings him into the discussion in the way in which he does: "When Turretin discusses the question 'Was the world from eternity, or at least could it have been?', he appeals to the 'six thousand years' of sacred history recorded in Scripture as evidence for the world's non-eternity" (3). Irons' unwary reader will doubtless get the impression that this is either Turretin's only argument or his major one. Yet Turretin begins his argument two pages prior to this offending statement with numerous Biblical references to the fact of creation by God - irrespective of the date of the earth's origin. In other words, the date of the earth's creation is not a first order or necessary argument.

The Awkwardness of Irons’ Argument

Having misconstrued the nature of the enterprise before us, Irons finally comes to “the meaning of ‘in the space of six days’” (4). His presentation now is in a full-scale decline into self-contradiction. Of Hall’s documentation showing the divines believed in a literal six-day creation, Irons argues: “Hall’s evidence points in the opposite direction” (4). After citing five illustrations from the theologians of the seventeenth century showing statements about “a natural day” and “twenty foure howres,” Irons makes the incredible and excited leap of logic: “But such qualifying expressions were not included in the Confession! The phrases ‘natural day’ and ‘consisting of 24 hours’ are nowhere to be found either in the Confession or the Catechisms. . . . Does not this suggest an original intent on their part to leave the Confession ambiguous by simply quoting thelanguage of Scripture?” (4). But note the following rejoinders:

(1) Irons overlooks the important fact that the Confession of Faith is a creed, not a systematic theology. It is a statement, not an exposition. I t summarizes doctrinal truth; it does not expand upon it.

(2) The evidence Hall provides leads precisely and inexorably to Hall’s conclusion. And this despite Irons’ vain attempt to breathe life into Alexander Mitchell’s long discounted argument otherwise. I n that creeds are summations of doctrine and in that all the evidence presented by Hall7 that the Westminster divines and seventeenth-century theologians held to twenty-four hour days, we can easily understand how they could employ the shorthand phrase “in the space of six days” to represent their view. Were there contrary views floating among Reformed scholars and being debated in their day, perhaps they would have provided a fuller statement — although as I will show and as common sense dictates, their phrase admirably accomplishes its purpose in relating their view of a literal six-day creation.

(3) In the examples cited in his attempt to prop up his weak, counter-intuitive, contra-historical argument. Irons reminds us of the allegedly damaging nature of the Reformed commitment to six-day creation in the seventeenth century. Note how his select quotations provide clues as to why it was not necessary to expand upon the phrase: Richardson’s quote observes that the term “day” in his view ‘‘must have comprehended twenty four hours.” White notes quite simply that “it signifies a natural day.” Dort’s observation is that this is “the meaning of these words.” If the word in question “must” mean such, if it “signifies” that, if it is its “meaning,” why would the divines have to belabor the obvious?

(4) Again, it appears to Six-Day Creation advocates that the “problem” with the phrase “in the space of six days” arises not from any ambiguity in the Confession, nor from the original convictions of the divines. But, rather the “problem” arises at least in part from recent concerns (since the late 1800s) that Christians must recognize the enormous time frames demanded by natural revelation brought to us in modern geology.’ In other words, a confessional problem seems to have been manufactured because of our contemporary debate with the current convictions of geological scientists. The Confession’s language is not the problem, but rather the Confession’s theology. Irons’ strained hermeneutical approach to the Confession, misconstruction of the historical evidence, and confusion of the nature of the debate is at least partly related to the problem of the “assured” conclusions (Irons’ calls it “all the evidence,” 3-4) of the geological timetable.

Irons complains against the Six-Day Creation construction of the Confession: “Does not this suggest an original intent in their part to leave the Confession ambiguous by simply quoting the language of Scripture?” (4). But note:

(1) Actually the language “in the space of six days” is quite easily understandable, and necessarily presents a literalistic construction of the record in Genesis 1. Ask anyone on the street what the statement “in the space of six days” signifies.

(2) Furthermore, the Confession does not engage in “simply quoting the language of Scripture” (4) — as if that were evidence against its obvious meaning! Actually the exact phrase is not found in Scripture, for the divines state it in two different, though similar ways: “in the space of six days” (WCF 4:1) and “within the space of six days” ( L C 15). The phrase “in the space of” or “within the space of” clearly indicates the notion of a temporal time frame.

(3) In fact, the phrase “in the space of” has a relevant history. As Irons admits, it derives from John Calvin’s commentary on Genesis 2:5, where we read:

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 [not his revelation of his works — KLG] to the capacity of men. . . He distributed the creation of the world [not the revelation of it — KLG] into successive portions.

Later at Genesis 2:3 Calvin reminds his reader: “I have said above, that six days were employed in the formation of the world.”

Calvin’s statement is the historical backdrop of the language of the Confession. Even Irons confesses: “It is well-known that the phrase ‘in the space of was first used by Calvin in order to distance himself from Augustine’s view. . . . Hall states this phrase ‘was adopted by the Westminster Assembly.’ And I have no reason to question Hall’s assertion” (5).

Indeed, in Augustine’s writing on the subject — the writings to which Hall and Irons suggest the divines were responding — he himself mentions “in the space of” as a temporal designation that he is opposing. And Irons knows this, for it appears in Hall’s research where he comments: “In The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Augustine the alleged adherent of the framework hypothesis commented: ‘Hence it seems that this work of God was done in the space of a day.’”

Hall continues:

Perhaps most definitive of the view of the Divines is John White (an “Assessor” for the Assembly) who wrote a lengthy Commentary on the First Three Chapters of Genesis (London, 1656). He, too, followed Ussher’s understanding of days and chronology (p. 3), and assuredly did not envision a long period of a geologic age as a doctrinal possibility. Most clearly, this Westminster Divine set forth his opinion, that is uncontradicted by the other divines: “Here, where it [day, yom] is distinguished from the Night, it is taken for a Civil day, that is, that part of 24 houres which is Light; but in the latter end of the verse, it signifies a Natural day, consisting of 24 houres, and includes the night too.” (p. 32) Moreover, “By the Evening, we must here understand the whole night, or space between the shutting in of the light, and the dawning of the next day. . . . In the same manner runs the computation of Times, among the Hebrews to this day.” (32) White’s use of the term “space” and his reference to “God is here represented to us, in the Creation of the world, proceeding by leisure, and taking the time of Six dayes to perform that . . .” indicates that the . Westminster divines had a definite meaning for the phrase “in the space of” that was not merely a summary for large, undefined periods of time.9

(4) In the final analysis we must remember that the Framework Interpretation does not allow the phrase “in the space of six days” to speak of a passage of time anyway. According to Irons, the six-day structure of Genesis 1 is a “literary device intentionally crafted by the author” that cannot be temporally constrained, so that “the days are not literal days.”10 Again the Confession says the creation transpired “in the space of six days”; the Framework Interpretation says it did not. What could be more diametrically opposed?

(5) On another, tangentially-related question Irons argues; “It is entirely conceivable that the Westminster divines intentionally left the question of the age of the earth undecided in the Confession” (1). I f that is their practice and their intent in certain areas, why then did they bother including in the Confession the misleading comment “in the space of six days”? Had they omitted the offending phrase their purpose would have been better served, rather than by inserting it as an “intentionally . . . ambiguous” assertion in a document they declare is their “confession of faith.” Who wants an “ambiguous” confession of faith? The tenuous nature of Irons’ argument is exposed by the fact that he offers no evidence whatsoever: he cites no debate over the phrase, he points to no countervailing opinions among the divines — he simply asserts it as his confession of faith! As Irons shows us, the divines were quite capable of leaving interesting, debated subjects out of their Confession (e.g., the age of the earth, the season of its creation).


The matter before us is extremely important due to the temper of our times. The secular hegemony of naturalistic evolutionism has presented the church a tremendous worldview challenge. The implications of evolution (and its step-child, modern geology) are so wide-ranging and all-penetrating that its inherent relativism has led to dangerous principles of linguistic interpretation. These have even resulted ultimately in a deconstructionist hermeneutic that destroys all meaning in any given text.

The traditional interpretation of the Genesis record stands contrary to evolutionism. Our Confession of Faith as evangelical, conservative Presbyterians also stands against evolutionary theory — not only in asserting the divine origin of the universe and the special creation of man (which Framework Interpreters join with us in affirming — as over against evolutionary theory), but also in setting forth the timeframe within which God’s creative fiats transpired.

Six-Day Creationists are concerned that our Confession is being handled in a disingenuous way when attempts are made to re-interpret its objective, unambiguous statements. I f in the final analysis six-day creation is erroneous, we are convinced that we would have more integrity as a church before the world if we simply revised our Confession by deleting the offending phrase, rather than altering its clear and forthright meaning.

  1. Presented on October 3, 1998, to the “Special Committee to Evaluate the Framework Interpretation,” Presbytery of Southern California of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
  2. See: Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., “Reformed Theology and Six Day Creationism,” Christianity & Society 5:4 (October, 1995): 25-29. Gerhard F. Hasel, “The ‘Days’ of Creation in Genesis 1:Literal ‘Days’ Or Figurative ‘Periods/Epochs’ of Time?”, Origins, 21:1 (1994): 5-38. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1941), 154-55. Robert L . Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, rep. 1973 [1878]), 254-56.
  3. Meredith G. Kline, “Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, 48 (1996); 2.
  4. e.g., Kline writes: “Gen. 2:5 reflects an environmental situation that has obviously lasted for a while; it assumes a far more leisurely pace on the part of the Creator, for whom a thousand years are as one day.” “Gen. 2:5, however, takes it for granted that providential operations were not of a supernatural kind, but that God ordered the sequence of creation acts so that the continuance and development of the earth and its creatures could proceed by natural means. This unargued assumption of Gen. 2:5 contradicts the re- constructions of the creation days proposed by the more traditional views.” “The more traditional interpretations of the creation account are guilty not only of creating a conflict between the Bible and science but, in effect, of pitting Scripture against Scripture.” “All the vast universe whose origin is narrated on day four would then younger (even billions of yeats younger) than the speck in space called earth. So much for the claimed harmony of the narrative sequence of Genesis with scientific cosmology.” Meredith G. Kline, “Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony,” Internet version derived from Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, 48:2-15 (1996). See also: Charles Lee Irons, “The Framework Interpretation Explained and Defended” (by the author: February 4, 1998), 35-36.
  5. Including references from William Gouge, William Twisse, Charles Herle, Daniel Cawdrey, Herbert Palmer, Adoniram Byfield, and John Arrowsmith.
  6. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans, by George Musgrave Giger, edited by James T. Dennison, Jr. (PhiUipsburg, N. J.: P & R Publishing, rep. 1992), 441.
  7. Note that Hall profusely documents the 24-hour convictions of numerous divines, that Irons’ basically admits this as the prevailing view, and that Irons provides no countervailing evidence to the contrary.
  8. “The conclusion is that as far as the time frame is concerned, with respect to both the duration and sequence of events, the scientist is left free of biblical constraints in hypothesizing about cosmic origins.” “The more traditional interpretations of the creation account are guilty . . . of creating a conflict between the Bible and science.” “In this article I have advocated an interpretation of biblical cosmogony according to which Scripture is open to the current scientific view of a very old universe and, in that respect, does not discountenance the theory of the evolutionary origin of man” (fn 47). Kline, “Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony,” Internet version. I should note that Kline does not personally adopt “the evolutionary origin of man” but holds to “Adam as an historical individual” (fn 47).
  9. Hall, op. cit., 12.
  10. Irons, “The Framework Interpretation Explained and Defended,” 27.

  • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Th.D.

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., holds degrees from Tennessee Temple University (B.A.), Reformed Theological Seminary (M. Div.), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th. M.; Th. D).  He also attended Grace Theological Seminary for two years.  He is Research Professor in New Testament (Whitefield Theological Seminary), a theological writer, and conference speaker. He has written numerous books and articles on issues such as theology, ecclesiology, eschatology, theonomy, six-day creation, presuppositionalism, worldview, Christian education, and more.  He also offers a Christian writing correspondence course.  He is the Director of GoodBirth Ministries, a non-profit religious educational ministry committed to sponsoring, subsidizing, and advancing serious Christian scholarship and education.  He is a retired Presbyterian minister holding his ordination vows in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Assembly.

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