God Means What He Says: A Biblical Critique of the Framework Hypothesis

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Most modern commentators recognize the validity of this two-triad structure. Differences exist on how to classify the two triads, but Meredith G. Kline's analysis is suggestive: the first triad days narrate the establishment of the creation kingdoms, and the second triad days , the production of the creature kings. Furthermore this structure is not without theological significance, for all the created realms and regents of the six days are subordinate vassals of God who takes His royal Sabbath rest as the Creator King on the seventh day.

Thus the seventh day marks the climax of the creation week. Day 5. This deliberate two-triad structure, or literary framework, suggests that the several creative works of God have been arranged by Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in their particular order for theological and literary, rather than sequential, reasons. For this reason we believe the days of the creation week are a figurative framework providing the narrative structure for God's historical creative works. Although the above considerations make the framework interpretation a plausible understanding of the days of creation, we recognize that we have not yet demonstrated the impossibility of a sequential understanding of the creation days.

One might still argue that day four need not be taken as a recapitulation of day one, proposing instead that God could have sustained day and night for the first three days by supernatural means prior to the creation of the sun, moon and stars. But Gen.

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Then, in verses , we are told how God dealt with these exigencies. In verse 6, the absence of rain is overcome by the divine provision of a rain cloud "a rain cloud began to arise from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground" ; and in verse 7, the absence of a cultivator is overcome by the creation of man. Notice that Moses offers his audience ca. So when Moses states that God didn't create vegetation until He had established the natural means of sustaining that vegetation, i. The very fact that Moses would venture to give such an explanation indicates the presence of an unargued presupposition, namely, that the mode of providence in operation during the creation period and that is currently in operation and which Moses' audience would have recognized are the same.

Since the mere giving of a natural explanation presupposes providential continuity between the creation period and the post-creation world, we may infer a general principle, applicable beyond the case of vegetation, 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.

With this principle in hand, we now return to the problem of daylight, and evenings and mornings, prior to the sun. Although the sequential view attempts to explain this problem by hypothesizing that God sustained these natural phenomena by some non-ordinary means for the first three days, this speculation of human reason is contradicted by the disclosure of divine revelation that God employed ordinary means during the creation period to sustain His creatures.

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The final exegetical observation that ultimately clinches the case is the unending nature of the seventh day. The seventh day is unique in that it alone lacks the concluding evening-morning formula, suggesting that it is not finite but eternal. Further cementing this impression, the author of Hebrews equates the seventh day of creation with God's eternal rest "My rest" when he writes: "although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.

For He has thus said somewhere concerning the seventh day, 'And God rested on the seventh day from all His works,' and again in this passage, 'They shall not enter My rest'" Heb. Hebrews interprets Ps. Although the works were finished from the creation of the world, that is, although God's own rest has been a reality ever since the conclusion of the sixth day of creation, yet it is incumbent on the covenant community that they not passively assume that their participation in God's rest is a fait accompli.

Rather, they must "be diligent to enter that rest" by mixing the gospel message with faith Heb. God's rest is an eternal, ongoing reality, to which the covenant community of all ages is called to enter.


It began on the seventh day of creation and so, according to the terms of the covenant of works, Adam was called to enter that rest as signified by the weekly observance of the Sabbath after the divine pattern Gen. The eternal divine rest continued after the fall, and so the offer was reissued in the covenant of grace on the basis of faith, but the wilderness generation failed to enter because of unbelief Heb.

The divine rest continues in the new covenant administration of the covenant of grace, for the church is called to enter it "today" by responding in faith to the gospel message Heb. Evidently, God's seventh-day rest did not end when the sun rose on the first day of the week! It continues even "today" and will continue for eternity, when the elect, who by sovereign effectual calling had been granted rest-entering saving faith, are ushered into the eternal Sabbath rest of God at the blessed appearing of our glorious rest-giver, the Lord Jesus Christ Gen.

If the seventh day of creation is not a literal, finite day measured by the sun-earth relationship which defines our experience of time, it must belong to another temporal arena. The divine Sabbath rest must not be viewed from the earthly point of view, as if Gen. No, in Gen. Thus, as Kline writes, "It is heaven time, not earth time, not time measured by astronomical signs. And if the seventh day marks the passing of heaven time, then the whole picture of God's performing His creative work within a "week," must be heavenly, and thus figurative, as well.

The two-triad framework underscores the theological import of the days, marked off by the six-fold evening-morning refrain and brought to their climactic zenith in the seventh day of rest, as forming a grand picture of God's creating with a sabbatical teleology in view. The six days of creation have no independent, earthly meaning apart from the concluding capstone of the seventh day which completes the sabbatical picture and gives it meaning.

Thus, to arbitrarily sever the seventh day from the preceding six by asserting that the seventh day is heavenly, while the six days are earthly, is to sever the head from the body, leaving a truncated torso of six days emptied of eschatological significance. The fourth commandment has been appealed to by critics of the framework interpretation as proof that the creation days are literal Ex.

However, this argument presses the relationship between God's work-rest pattern and man's too far, as if the two are identical rather than analogical.

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The weekly cycle of work and rest appointed for man may still be modeled on God's work week of creation even if the divine archetype is calibrated according to heaven time. One final issue. What do proponents of the framework interpretation teach concerning evolution? The Rev. Jonathan Dickinson wrote vigorously against Thomson's overture, and argued that the Scripture alone was a sufficient bond of union.

Any other practice would impose unscriptural terms of ministerial communion, and thus cause unnecessary divisions in the church. Besides Scripture does not require ministers to subscribe to any creeds written by men. There is absolutely no evidence that the anti-subscriptionist party was less orthodox than their Scotch-Irish brethren, or that they secretly wanted to allow room for the Arminian, Arian, and Deistic errors flowing from the British Isles.

As the two sides wrestled over the issue, they realized that they had more in common than they had thought. In the end, a compromise was struck, which basically granted the subscriptionist party their wish, but which provided a system by which men could subscribe even though they had scruples about certain statements not essential to the system of doctrine.

On September 19, , after much debate, the Synod agreed to require subscription according to the following procedure:. All the ministers of this Synod, or that shall hereafter be admitted into this Synod, shall declare their agreement in, and approbation of, the Confession of Faith, with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, as being in all the essential and necessary articles, good forms of sound words and systems of Christian doctrine , and do also adopt the said Confession and Catechisms as the confession of our faith.

But if the Synod or Presbytery shall judge such ministers or candidates erroneous in essential and necessary articles of faith , the Synod or Presbytery shall declare them uncapable of communion with them.



And the Synod do solemnly agree, that none of us will traduce or use any opprobrious terms of those that differ from us in these extra-essential and not necessary points of doctrine, but treat them with the same friendship, kindness, and brotherly love, as if they had not differed from us in such sentiments Records of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America [New York: Arno Press, ], p.

This statement, frequently referred to as the Adopting Act, clearly sets forth the basic premise that the Westminster Standards contain a system of doctrine, and that not all propositions and words in the Standards are essential to that system. Those who subscribe to the Standards, then, are declaring "their agreement in, and approbation of" the Westminster Standards "as being in all the essential and necessary articles, good forms of sound words and systems of Christian doctrine. In addition, it is important to note that the Adopting Act never defines which articles are essential to the system of doctrine, and which are extra-essential.

Instead, the Act sets forth a procedure that allows the presbytery or synod to judge in each case as it arises. A man must honestly set forth his scruples note: the language of "exceptions" is not used with the Standards, and then let the presbytery or synod determine whether his views are consistent with, or do in fact contradict, the system of doctrine. If the presbytery or synod determines that the man's scruples or mistakes are out of accord with the system of doctrine, then he must be refused ministerial communion.

If, on the other hand, "the Synod or Presbytery shall judge his scruple or mistake to be only about articles not essential and necessary in doctrine, worship, or government," then he shall be admitted to the exercise of the ministry, and his fellow ministers shall "treat [him] with the same friendship, kindness, and brotherly love, as if [he] had not differed from [them] in such sentiments.

In view of the distinctions and qualifications of the Adopting Act, which stands near the very beginning of the American Presbyterian tradition, it is clear that the qualifying phrase of our vow, "as containing the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture," is to be understood, in its historical context, as distinguishing between the doctrines which comprise the Reformed system of doctrine, and the "extra-essential and not necessary points" contained in the Standards.

This "system subscription" language was carried over in the statement adopted on May 22, at the reunion of the Old and New Side presbyteries they had divided in over issues arising from the Great Awakening :. Both Synods having always approved and received the Westminster Confession of Faith, and Larger and Shorter Catechisms, as an orthodox and excellent system of Christian doctrine , founded on the word of God, we do still receive the same as the confession of our faith Records , p. It is clear that the united Presbyterian church of viewed herself as being in fundamental continuity with the Adopting Act in adopting the Westminster Standards as containing the system of doctrine taught in Scripture.

In the church organized into a General Assembly, and formally adopted the Westminster Standards, a new Form of Government and Discipline, and a new Directory for the Worship of God, which together comprised the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the U. The second ordination vow of the Form of Government bound ministers to "sincerely receive and adopt the confession of faith of this church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures" Form of Government XV Thus, the language of the second ordination vow can be traced in an unbroken line of continuity back to the Adopting Act.

Charles Hodge argued that the Adopting Act "has never been either repealed or altered. It has on several occasions been interpreted and reaffirmed, but it has never been abrogated, except so far as it was merged in the readoption the Confession and Catechisms at the formation of our present Constitution, in the year " "Adoption of the Confession of Faith," in Discussions in Church Polity [Charles Scribner's Sons, ], p.

It was Hodge's belief that the procedure for subscribing to the Standards laid down in was "merged" into the Constitution of the PCUSA via her readoption of the Standards in In the above cited essay, Hodge goes on to argue that there are three interpretations of the formula of subscription contained in the second ordination vow. The first interpretation, put forth by those of the New School, and rejected by Hodge, is that in adopting the Standards as containing the system of doctrine, the candidate is merely receiving the Standards "for substance of doctrine.

The second interpretation, also rejected by Hodge, is that in taking the second ordination vow the candidate professes to receive and adopt every proposition contained in the Standards as an expression of his own faith. But this restrictive understanding is contrary not only to the letter, but the historic meaning and use of the vow. Had the authors of the Form of Government intended to require "every proposition" subscription, why did they include the qualifying phrase, "as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures"?

Hodge argued, further, that this interpretation of the vow is contrary to "the uniform action of our Church courts. Besides, the "every proposition" form of subscription runs the danger of raising the secondary Standards to the status of a rule of faith and practice, thus effectively replacing Scripture. The third interpretation of the formula of subscription is, in Hodge's mind, "the true via media" ibid. Only this view, popularly known as "system subscription," is faithful to the express words of the formula of subscription of the second vow, in that it requires the candidate to receive and adopt the Confession and Catechisms for the system of doctrine that they contain.

When asked what this system of doctrine is, Hodge replies that it is the doctrinal system known as Reformed theology, as opposed to Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, or Arminian theology. The "substance of doctrine" position, which Hodge vehemently rejected, is not only vague, but liable to reduce the Westminster Standards to the lowest common denominator of Christianity, whether to the second or even the first class of doctrines.

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The "system of doctrine" position, on the other hand, requires men to hold to the fundamental doctrines, not just of the gospel, but of the Reformed faith as a historically defined system of theology. If we are not satisfied with this, we shall soon split into insignificant sects, each contending for some minor point, and all allowing "the system of doctrine" to go to destruction.

If there is any dependence to be placed on the teachings of history, the men who begin with making the tithing of anise and cummin of equal importance with justice and mercy, are sure in the end to cling to the anise, and let the mercy go ibid. Warfield, who had a great influence upon J.

Gresham Machen, followed Hodge in his understanding of the history of confessional subscription in the American Presbyterian tradition:. Although John Murray did not fully agree with every detail of Hodge's interpretation of the historical evidence, he did believe that Hodge's view was both reasonable and the historic manner of subscription for many generations:. The position argued by Dr.

Charles Hodge in the article frequently referred to … has, no doubt, been the understanding upon which many of those subscribing to the formula have proceeded for generations Presbyterian Guardian 38 [June, ], p. Furthermore, the commitment of oneself to every proposition as the condition of exercising office in the Church is hardly consistent with the liberty of judgment on certain points of doctrine which has been characteristic of the Reformed Churches "Creed Subscription in the Presbyterian Church in the U. Having traced the history of the formula of subscription, from to the time of Hodge and Warfield, we now turn to the OPC itself.

Our thesis is that the OPC intentionally determined to uphold and continue the historic "system subscription" methodology as understood by Hodge and Warfield. If we are in any doubt that the OPC intentionally incorporated the second ordination vow in the historic form inherited from the Presbyterian Church in the U. In order to continue what we believe to be the true spiritual succession of the Prebyterian Church in the U. Since The Presbyterian Church of America claims to continue "the true spiritual succession" of the old body, all that Dr.

Hodge writes is applicable and pertinent to the understanding of the sense the words ["the system of doctrine"] should bear in the new organization PG 2 [Aug.

Critique of the Framework Hypothesis

In , as the OPC was contemplating organic union with the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, the differences between the two churches on confessional subscription were discussed at length in the pages of the Presbyterian Guardian.