Isn’t Belgic Confession Article 14 Sufficient?
If you are a member of the Canadian & American Reformed Churches you likely know about the proposed revision to the Belgic Confession article 14 by Classis Ontario West. If not read it here: Proposal Regarding BC Article 14
This is the proposed change:
We believe that God created the human race by making and forming Adam from dust (Gen. 2:7) and Eve from Adam’s side (Gen.2:21-22). They were created as the first two humans and the biological ancestors of all other humans. There were no pre-Adamites, whether human or hominid. God made and formed Adam after his own image…[the rest of the text remains as currently adopted.]
My initial reaction to this was to stay away. Far away. The last time I got in the middle of this issue, I felt like Gumby being drawn and quartered.
But I have received a number of questions asking what I think about the proposal. One person asks, “Isn’t Belgic Confession Article 14 Sufficient?”
Before I write anything, I qualify my statements by saying that I am a layperson. I am not a scientist, a pastor, or a theologian. I will comment on the actual proposed revision, but I will refrain from commenting on the body of the proposal.
To put it simply:
I agree with the clarification per se, but I am not convinced that the confession needs to be changed. I do believe that there needs to be a statement on the issues facing the Church, presently, within the Reformed and Evangelical world. One of the big ticket items being the issue of origins as it pertains to theistic evolution, specifically, with regard to the special creation of Adam and death prior to the fall. That is, whether or not Adam descended from “pre-adamites.” This is the big issue for me in the whole evolution debate. The Gospel stands or falls on whether or not death entered the human race through Adam’s sin.
Should this further clarification be added to the Belgic Confession by the Canadian Reformed Churches? Maybe I am a purist, but, I would make the argument mentioned in paragraph 3 of the proposal – that is, that the way article 14 currently reads is sufficient. Let’s read the first paragraph of BC Article 14:
We believe that God created man of dust from the ground and He made and formed him after His own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy. His will could conform to the will of God in every respect. But, when man was in this high position, he did not appreciate it nor did he value his excellency. He gave ear to the words of the devil and willfully subjected himself to sin and consequently to death and the curse. For he transgressed the commandment of life which he had received; by his sin he broke away from God, who was his true life; he corrupted his whole nature. By all this he made himself liable to physical and spiritual death.
Let’s read the last sentence. “By all this he made himself liable to physical and spiritual death.” If Adam descended from monkeys, or apes, or hominid creatures, then death was already in our blood. What that means is, that if Adam’s ancestors died, then Adam would not be “liable” for death since death already existed. How could he be liable for something that he did not cause? This removes, for me, the possibility of pre-adamic ancestors.
Ok, now let’s read the first sentence. “We believe that God created man of dust from the ground and He made and formed him after His own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy.” That is pretty cut and dried isn’t it? I have heard the arguments for theistic evolution, but let me ask as simple question. Does God change? Does he change his mind? In the first article of the Belgic Confession we confess that God is immutable. To be immutable means to be unchanging over time. Let me ask another question, considering that God is immutable, would He create man in his own image, call it good, and then allow death and mutations to occur over millions of years to create Adam? Which is it? Either He created Adam Good, or he didn’t and instead used death and mutation to get him to that state of goodness mentioned in Genesis.
Some may ask…What is so bad about death before Adam? Simply, we confess that death is the price of sin, and death entered in through Adam’s sin. If death existed before Adam, that is, if Adam had parents or grandparents who died before the fall, then he was not liable for it, as we confess. If Adam is not liable for death, then we do not need the sacrifice of Jesus. If we do not need the sacrifice of Jesus…well, like I said, the Gospel stands or falls on this point.
In my mind Belgic Confession Article 14 is currently sufficient to refute theistic evolution. I believe that it already, adequately, teaches that Adam was a special creation, that he did not come out of the womb of a pre-adamic hominid creature.
I know the drafters of the overture intend to glorify God and protect the flock. There is no doubt in my mind of that, and I appreciate their concern and the passion that went into drafting it. If I can be so bold to say as a layperson, I am concerned about changing the Belgic Confession as our little denomination has it. The drafters of the proposal state,
“We believe that this proposed change is a clarification, rather than a major change.”
It is true, that it is a simple clarification, but my concern is that by changing the confession, and being a confessional church, we separate ourselves just a little more from other confessionally reformed churches. We’ll have our own little confession for the Canadian Reformed Churches and the other Reformed Churches will have their own. If the proposal is approved, my hope is that the confession does not change without at least consultation with our sister churches. Ultimately, I wonder if creating an additional document, like the Walloon Articles mentioned in the proposal (8b), to clarify an origins position would be a viable option? Make it binding for ministers if it is deemed necessary.
I have avoided commenting on the body of the proposal itself and instead focused only on the actual proposed revision. Feel free to read the following links for more commentary on the body of the proposal:
The Proposal from Classis Ontario West Proposal Regarding BC Article 14
Arnold Sikkema’s Response to Allegations Contained in the Proposal: I Am Not A Theistic Evolutionist.
Nelson Kloosterman’s Response to the Proposal: Making A Dirty Splash In a Little Puddle.
Bill DeJong’s Response to the Proposal:Amendments to the Belgic Confession?
Anyway. These are my thoughts from my small and sinful brain on the matter. In the end God is faithful. May he be glorified in this process whatever the outcome.
I will do my best to read and approve any comments on the blog, but no guarantees… I am on vacation after today 🙂 See you when I get back in April!