It doesn’t seem at all surprising to me that God might well give us revelation concerning protology — you know what protology would be, the beginnings of things — it doesn’t seem at all surprising to me that God might well give us revelation concerning protology in a figurative rather than a literal account, considering how far beyond our experience the subject matter is. Just as we find his revelation concerning eschatology given in apocalyptic form often. And so we know by now that biblical prophecy is not simply history written beforehand. So many evangelical fundamentalists over the years have said, “Well prophecy is just history written ahead of time.” No, not quite. I mean it’s not written the way most history books read about an event — there’s the highly figurative and sometimes apocalyptic. Nor would I say, by the same token, is protology simply history written after the fact.
What are we dealing with in Genesis 1 after all? The creation of the entire universe! Somehow it doesn’t strike me as surprising that God might have some difficulty revealing that to little old me in just a straightforward, prosaic account. It doesn’t seem at all surprising (to use Calvin’s word about accommodation) that God would accommodate his revelation to his people and to their limits of understanding and to the message he wants to bring them — just as we find in the area of eschatology.
…The OPC has always in its history tolerated differences of interpretation in the area of eschatology. That was one of the two key reasons why the Bible Presbyterian Church came into being in 1937 — you know from the study of Presbyterian history, one year after the founding of the OPC, because the BP people wanted the church to be Premillenialist, and the OPC was tolerant of different interpretations in eschatology. And also the OPC throughout its history has been tolerant with regard to the proper interpretation of Genesis 1. I hope that situation will not change.
But now — again I’m no prophet; if anybody had told me when I was at Westminster Seminary in the late 50’s that in the year 2000 this would be the big issue (certainly in the state of California, in the two OPC presbyteries in our state)I would tell them that they certainly weren’t prophets, because that is ridiculous — but that’s where we are, and we’re now faced with an issue that could tear the OPC apart. Certainly raising big problems in this state. And likewise with regard to the United Reformed Churches.
…To take the position that only the one understanding of Genesis 1 is permissible would certainly be a new position in the OPC, was not the position of Old Princeton, you know, and it’s not the position of Old Westminster, we can now say. If you’re interested in Machen’s [position], you all know how to find what he says on it, but I’m going to tell you anyway. Machen’s book The Christian View of Man, start reading on page 130, it’s about 3 pages, it’s an amazing section. Machen makes statements there that would make — Machen was Old Princeton, and they were open to some possibilities that I myself wouldn’t be open to, but the idea that Machen would favor what’s now being promoted in the OPC of course, that’s impossible. Probably not most, probably all of my presbytery recognize that they would have to vote to not ordain Machen in our Presbytery. But their position is that the OPC has sinned in this regard long enough and it’s time to repent and do the right thing.
This point occurred to me a few years ago, about how the literal vs. poetic view of Gen 1-2 is a false dichotomy; it makes more sense to consider Genesis in the genre of prophecy (which God’s people have a history of misunderstanding, even when the fulfillment becomes visible). As I noted at the time, it is surely not possible that the idea was original to me, and now I know Strimple thought it first. And that’s OK.