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No. 235 "Vital Articles on Science/Creation" January 1993
CREEDS AND THE SIX CREATION DAYS
by Louis Lavallee*
Copyright (c) 1993 by I.C.R.
All Rights Reserved
* Louis Lavallee (M.S., Harvard, M. Div., Reformed Theological
Seminary) is an environmental administrator in Mississippi.
"It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation
of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, 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
Thus begins Chapter 4 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the
doctrinal standard for conservative Presbyterians. It was written 350
years ago by ministers and laymen assembled by the English Parliament to
reform and unify the English, Scottish, and Irish churches in accordance
with the Word of God.
Confessions, or creeds, are as old as the church, with the first draft
of the Apostles' Creed dating from the 2nd century. As J. Gordon Melton
writes, "Even the most anti-creedal and experience-oriented groups
usually have a small body of assumed intellectual content (a system of
beliefs that can be put into words). . . ."
While all the early creeds speak of God as the maker of heaven and
earth, they do not mention the six days. Nevertheless, almost all the
early Gentile Christians had turned from pagan evolutionary ideas to the
Biblical teaching of recent creation in six days.
Creeds cover Biblical teaching in broad strokes, with special coverage
for contemporary controversies or doctrinal emphases. Hence the early
ecumenical creeds focused on the trinity and the person of Christ, which
had been the center of controversies in the early church. Later, the
Reformed Confessions focused on differences from Roman Catholic
doctrine. It was only in the 17th century that creeds first mentioned
the six creation days.
In Philip Schaff's extensive three volumes, The Creeds of Christendom,
the first creed mentioning the six creation days was the Irish Articles.
These Articles of the Irish Episcopal Church were adopted in 1615 and
later became the model for the Westminster Confession. Article 18 reads:
"In the beginning of time, when no creature had any being, God, by his
word alone, in the space of six days, created all things. . . ." The
Articles were drafted by James Ussher, then head of the theological
faculty of Trinity College, Dublin. The inclusion of the six days
reflected his interest in the true, Biblical history of the earth in the
face of contrary philosophies.
In 1632 the Mennonites, meeting in Holland, wrote their Dordrecht
Confession, the first article addressing creation: ". . . In this one
God, who `worketh all in all,' we believe. Him we confess as the Creator
of all things, visible and invisible; who in six days created and
prepared `heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are
therein.'" This confession was also adopted later in the century by the
Amish, and remains authoritative in many of these churches.
In his study of the Westminster Assembly, which met from 1643 to 1646,
Scott Thomas Murphy concludes that "the Divines saw no need to
compartmentalize religion, history and science. For them, such events as
the creation of the world and the resurrection of Christ were religious
facts, historical facts and scientific facts."
Four of the Divines wrote commentaries on the first chapters of Genesis.
They and the others, according to Murphy, took the creation account
as literal history. It was important to them that all the historical
details were true. Anthony Burgess, one of the Divines, said, "If the
Scriptures might err in matters of less moment, why not in greater?"
They did not think that a Christian could believe only those events of
the Bible that speak of our salvation. According to Murphy, "The
Divines' view of inspiration led them to believe that statements that
are non-fundamental to salvation, and even statements that seem trivial
are the inspired truth. . . . (Divine Samuel Rutherford wrote that) many
are saved who never heard of many historical facts contained in
Scripture, yet once these facts are known, it is not a matter of
indifference whether they are believed or not."
Murphy tells us that: "The Westminster Divines were familiar with Plato
and Aristotle and used methods gleaned from both. Nevertheless, neither
philosopher was consistently followed, since Scripture was the Divines'
final rule." Many of these men were educated at Cambridge, yet they
humbly rejected the notion that man could apprehend eternal truths.
Their Confession begins: "Although the light of nature, and the works of
creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and
power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient
to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto
salvation. . . . The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is
the Scripture itself. . . . The Supreme Judge, by which all
controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of
councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private
spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can
be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture" (I.1,9,10., Westminster Confession).
The Westminster Confession, finished in 1646, was not only adopted by
Presbyterians, but became the basis for the Congregational Savoy
Declaration of 1658 and the Baptist London Confession of 1689. All
affirmed creation in the space of six days. However, by the 20th
century, mainline Presbyterian, Congregational, and Baptist bodies had
chosen new confessions, with no mention of the six creation days. For
example, the 1890 English Presbyterian Articles of Faith read, "Almighty
God . . . was pleased in the beginning to create the heavens and the
earth . . . through progressive stages. . . ."
In this century in the United States, one large and at least two
smaller denominations have written or modified creeds to affirm the
six-day creation. In other churches the subject of creation is
controversial and there is a current effort to reform the creed.
In 1932, the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod adopted a "Brief Statement
of Doctrinal Position," Article 5, stating: "We teach that God has
created heaven and earth, and that in the manner and in the space of
time recorded in the Holy Scriptures, especially Genesis 1 and 2,
namely, by His almighty creative word, and in six days."
Later, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod wrote an equally clear
statement on creation. Article II.1 and 2. of their creed affirms that
creation "happened in the course of six normal days by the power of
God's almighty word" and that "the Bible presents a true and historical
account of Creation."
Three Baptist bodies have confessions that affirm belief "in the
Genesis account of creation." One of the three, the New Testament
Association of Independent Baptist Churches, has added that "the six
days of creation in Genesis Chapter One were solar, that is twenty-four
The current creation movement may be instrumental in causing some
Reformed and Presbyterian churches to reconsider their confession about
creation. The Alliance of Reformed Churches15 is convening a series of
confessional conferences on current controversies. The first, scheduled
at Wheaton College, July 21-24, 1993, will address "evolutionism."
The Rev. Steve Schlissel has confidently written, "The Confessional
Conference seeks to overthrow evolutionists, especially the `theistic'
types, . . ."
The Word of God is the source of our confessions. The Westminster
Confession's fourth chapter on creation shows that the authors took
seriously their first chapter on Scripture: "The authority of the Holy
Scripture . . . is to be received because it is the word of God" (I.4.).
This is still the reason, in the face of contrary philosophies, that we
gladly confess that in "six days the LORD made the heavens and the
earth" (Exodus 20:11; 31:17).
-- REFERENCES --
1. Philip Schaff, "The Creeds of Christendom," Vol. 3, Grand Rapids:
Baker, 1966 (1877), p. 611.
2. J. Gordon Melton, ed., "The Encyclopedia of American Religions:
Religious Creeds," 1st ed., Detroit: Gale Research Co.,
1988, p. xxi.
3. See author's articles, "The Early Church Defended Creation Science,"
_Impact_, No. 160, ICR, October 1986; "Augustine on the Creation
Days," _Journal_of_the_Evangelical_Theological- Society_, 32/4,
December 1989, pp. 457-464.
4. Schaff, _The_Creeds_of_Christendom_, Vol. 3, p. 529.
5. Melton, Ibid., pp. 420-425.
6. Scott Thomas Murphy, _The_Doctrine_of_Scripture_in_the_Westminster_
_Assembly_, Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International,
1985, p. 82.
7. Ibid., pp. 83, 84, 86, 208.
8. "An Expository Comment," London: Abel Roper, 1661, p. 12,
quoted in Murphy, Ibid., p. 81.
9. A Dispute Touching Scandal and Christian Liberty, London:
John Field, 1646, p. 44, paraphrased by Murphy, Ibid., p. 79.
10. Ibid., p. 5.
11. Schaff, _The_Creeds_of_Christendom_, Vol. 3, p. 916.
12. Melton, Ibid., p. 149.
13. Ibid., p. 157.
14. Ibid., Faith Baptist Bible Fellowship, p. 484; General Association
of Regular Baptist Churches, p. 492; and New Testament Association
of Independent Baptist Churches, p. 498.
15. An alliance of mostly Christian Reformed churches, with
participation by a few other Reformed and Presbyterian churches and
16. "Schedule Set for Confessional Conference," _Christian_Renewal_,
11/1, September 14, 1992, p. 4.
17. "Why four, art thou, O Confessional Conference?", _Christian_
_Renewal_, 10/18, June 22, 1992, p. 5.
The author thanks the Reformed Theological Seminary library staff for
their courtesy and assistance.
This "Impact" was converted to ASCII, for BBS use,
from the original formatted desktop article.
Comments regarding typographical errors
in the above material are appreciated.
Don Barber, ICR Systems Administrator
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