By J. Parnell McCarter



Recently on a reformed email list a minister in the OPC included the following in his post (see http://groups.yahoo.com/group/r-f-w/message/7344 ):




From: "Glenn Ferrell" <jglennferrell@...>
Date: Thu Apr 28, 2005  2:51 pm
Subject: Re: [r-f-w] Sabbath Transportation



…Taking your “Framework Hypothesis” example.  Churchmen of integrity may differ as to whether this may be found in the Genesis account of creation.  “Framework” supporters do claim they are attempting to derive the original intent of God speaking through the Holy Spirit in the words of the original authors as understood by the original readers.  They must be distinguished from “theistic evolutionists” who deny the creation of “kinds” directly by God, the historicity of Adam and Eve and the Fall.  “Framework” supporters do not reject the authority or infallibility of the Scriptures and claim a desire to be true to the intent of the text.


One may say the “Framework Hypothesis” is precluded by affirmation of the Confession, “...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.”  While it may be granted the Westminster Divines never thought of the possibility of a “Framework” view; they clearly desired to affirm what Scripture taught regarding creation in six days.  A person affirming the “Framework Hypothesis” may also affirm the infallibility of Scripture and that God created “in the space of six days” as the Scriptures intended to communicate.


While I do not accept the “Framework Hypothesis” myself and rather affirm God’s creation in six literal days, I do not think my specific view may be implicitly understood as the only valid view, or mandated by general synod action as a new ordination or membership vow.  To establish this as a standard for membership or office, a general synod would have to amend the form of government to explicitly add this to the requirements for membership or office.  Such amendment would require the ratification of the lower courts of the denomination.


Alternatively, charges may be brought against an individual holding or teaching such views, due process allowed, culminating in an exoneration or conviction, with the possibility of appeals to the general synod.  A judicial decision on the matter by the general synod would stand as a precedent defining whether a doctrine or practice was within the acceptable limits of belief and practice of the denomination.


However, without following one of these two methods, explicitly changing the confession or form of government, or pursuing judicial process, matters of faith and practice are limited by explicit ordination and membership vows as contained in the form of government.


Anything going beyond this amounts to ecclesiastical tyranny and violates WCF XX:ii, “God alone is lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship.  So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commandments out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.”




It is not surprising that a minister in the OPC would express such lack of certainty concerning whether the Framework Hypothesis is heretical, given that this heresy remains an acceptably held position within the OPC.  But we should not be so uncertain ourselves, for scripture and the Westminster Confession of Faith are perspicuous on this matter.


The Framework Hypothesis teaches that the world was not necessarily created in the space of six days, whereas scripture clearly teaches (and the Westminster Confession of Faith clearly affirms) that the world was created in the space of six days.  The two positions are contrary to one another.   Both scripture and the Westminster Confession of Faith imply that the Framework Hypothesis is a heresy.  Therefore, it is not a new term of communion to require all communicant members to adhere to the doctrine that the world was created in the space of six days.


Rev. Ferrell seems to cast doubt upon what was originally intended by the term “six days”.   He wrote: “A person affirming the “Framework Hypothesis” may also affirm the infallibility of Scripture and that God created “in the space of six days” as the Scriptures intended to communicate.”  But it is quite clear in scripture **and** in the Westminster Standards that the term “six days” was to be understood literally, just as it is clear in scripture that the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ on the first day of the week is to be taken literally.  The same method by which we know the latter we also know the former.  To move away from that method of understanding scripture is to move towards the errors of the Romish Pope, who would have us to believe the Big Bang Theory co-invented by a Jesuit.  It is also to move us towards a denial of the perspicuity of scripture, and to move us toward the need for Vicars of Christ who can help us to understand what is really meant in the puzzling language of scripture.   Nor should we imagine that uncertainty on this issue has no impact on weekly Sabbath observance, given that weekly Sabbath observance is significantly based upon God’s creation of the world in six literal days, and His Sabbath rest on the seventh day.  (It should come as little surprise that here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA there is an OPC minister who has expressed the view that “everyday is the Sabbath”, which is a convenient way for him to get around true weekly Sabbath observance.)   The logical consequence of uncertainty on this matter is an abandonment of some of the foundational principles of Reformed Protestantism. 


It is generally the case in history that the complete logical consequences of a position take time to develop and manifest themselves.  We should not be surprised when the heresy of the Framework Hypothesis bears its full and ugly fruit in the OPC.