I have deliberately kept a low profile for the past year since the Banner published the article, Tomorrow’s Theology. I have watched as the church responded, and now that Synod has acted upon the various overtures related to it, I think it appropriate to re-enter the conversation.
Essentially Synod 2014 decided to do nothing significant, merely expressing “lament” over two articles in the Banner. Synod regrets that the Banner published those two controversial articles, but decided not to take any substantive action regarding either one.
Looking back on that action now, it seems as if it was a wise decision. I had personally hoped that Classis Wisconsin’s fine overture would have resulted in the appointment of a blue-ribbon committee to investigate the theological implications, if any, of modern scientific discoveries. But perhaps the church as a whole isn’t quite ready even for that, needing more input from the colleges dealing with the relevant scientific data. There is, of course, a lot of writing on the subject, but perhaps it just takes time for the significance of those discoveries to penetrate into our collective psyche.
Now I would like to address one of the concerns of those who criticized the article. There have been accusations that the article moved outside of the parameters of the Reformed confessions. Two points in response: 1) The article itself did not do this. Basically the article is an “If, then” essay. If these scientific discoveries are true, then what, if any, theological implications do they carry? 2) I do, agree, however, that if the lines of inquiry I suggested do prove in the future to be reasonably accurate, it will be necessary for us to move beyond where we now are theologically.
So here is the challenge to those who criticize the article: If the Lord should indeed show us that we can do better theologically, are we willing to listen and obey? Or do we say to the Lord, You have given us good and excellent things in the Reformation confessions; we accept them gratefully and we will not change them even if scientific data shows that we should?
Of course we do not change our theology merely because some scientists think we should. We change it only when the Lord prompts us to. So, suppose that the Lord is using the scientific community to do this prompting. Suppose that the Lord is telling us that it is time to reconsider our decision that it is heretical to think Adam and Eve are not historical persons. Suppose that it is possible to re-define the connection between Adam and Jesus without making this historical connection, but instead following up on Paul’s explanation in Romans 5 that Adam is a type of the one who is to come, a typological connection rather than a historical one.
All right, that implies another challenge. What do we make of the fact that Genesis One says ten times that God spoke? Ten times he spoke and ten times something happened. Let there be light, and there was light. Ten times until God had brought into existence a world in which human beings could exist and thrive. So then, what is the Word of God according to Genesis One? Is it not that which God says in the shaping of the universe? And is it not that world which our scientists are constantly studying? The whole world is as much the product of the speech of God as is the Bible. God made a world that works, and he made it by speaking. So when scientists figure out some aspect of how the world works they are listening to God fully as much as our theologians who are studying and explaining the Bible.