When the study committee on Creation and Science reported to Synod 1991, two of its members asked synod to adopt Declaration F: “The church declares that the clear teaching of Scripture and of our confessions on the uniqueness of human beings as imagebearers of God rules out the espousal of all theorizing that posits the reality of evolutionary forebears of the human race.” A third member agreed with this position but with five other committee members urged synod not to adopt Declaration F because, in part:
- “Many members of the Christian Reformed Church are working in this area and…the church should allow them to contribute to a resolution of the problem. Further study in this area is necessary.
- The church should not bind the consciences of its members beyond what is the clear and indubitable teaching of Scripture and the creeds” (Agenda for Synod 1991, p. 412):
Against the advice of the majority, synod adopted Declaration F. Nineteen years later Synod 2010 declared that Declaration F was no longer part of our official position on creation and science. An overture to Synod 2011 contends, “the practical effect of that decision was to allow persons within the CRC to adopt evolutionary theories for the origin of humanity” (Agenda for Synod 2011, p. 634). The overture proposes a simple solution: that synod declare a paragraph of the 1991 report to be part of our official position on creation and science. The paragraph says, in part, “However stylized, literary, or symbolic the stories of Genesis may be, they are clearly meant to refer to real events…Any interpretation which calls into question the event character of the story told in these first and fundamental chapters of the Bible must be firmly rejected, whatever difficulties this may cause with respect to the scientific evidence” (pp. 403-4).
Is this really a solution? Though not impossible to do, synods generally don’t lift a single paragraph out of a report and declare it part of our official position. It adopts recommendations of study committees.
And how are we to understand “event character?” Genesis says that God made the first man by making a mud doll and breathing life into it and made the first woman by performing a surgical operation on the man. Are these actual events to be confessed or are they stylized, literary accounts that point to the real event: God is Creator? If scientists tell us that God’s testimony in his created world indicates that God used the processes of evolution to bring human beings into existence, doesn’t this also confess the same event: God is Creator?
Synods should resist simple solutions to complex matters. In an appendix to its report the 1991 study committee said, “If scientific activities continue apace in the next few centuries, one may anticipate many new discoveries that may be expected to have important implications for questions of origins. In particular, it should be possible to make much more definitive statements about the nature and origin of both the physical universe and its many diverse life forms, including man” (Agenda 1991, p. 433). The Human Genome Project has provided important information about human origins, and we are just beginning to understand the implications of these data.
The study committee noted, “Many members of the Christian Reformed Church are working in this area.” Synod needs to encourage those devoted Christian scholars to continue their study to help all of us more fully understand God's testimony in his Word Book and in his world book (Belgic Confession, Article 2).