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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Roots of Compromise

Earlier blogs here have commented on the emergence and affect of Higher Criticism and Liberal Theology on the Church including their inroads into evangelical churches. We have also blogged extensively on how the current world view on Origins has impacted the Reformed Church's interpretation of the Word of God.

While this writer leans to Calvinist doctrine (because of a little more weight for it in the Word of God over other doctrinal positions) I cannot avoid noting some traps Calvinists can fall into by going too far with (or corrupting) Calvinist doctrine. I am aware there are Calvinists and there are Calvinists but one who caught my eye this week was Robert S. Candlish, D.D. (1806-1873) of Scotland who succeeded Thomas Chalmers in the chair of divinity at the New College, Edinburgh in 1841.

In 1842 Dr Candlish published a work on Genesis. I don't have that version but I do have the 1868 version inscribed "New Edition - Carefully Revised". I suspect some alteration from the early edition occurred due to Charles Darwin's work "On the Origin of the Species"etc., having been in circulation about nine years.

I provide a few quotes from Dr Candlish and readers will see the roots of Darwin's influence on the interpretation of the Word of God.

Right at the outset, on page 1, Dr Candlish signals an intent to lift the Word of God out of the reach of science and deal, as much as can be allowed, with the spiritual and moral elements:

"The view taken in this Lecture I hold to be important, not only in its practical and spiritual bearings, on which I chiefly dwell, but also in relation to some of the scientific questions which have been supposed to be here involved. It lifts, as I think, the divine record out of and above these human entanglements, and presents it, apart from all discoveries of successive ages, in the broad and general aspect which it was designed from the first and all along to wear, as unfolding the Creator's mind in the orderly subordination of the several parts of his creation to one another, with special reference to his intended dealings with the race of man. On this account I ask attention to what otherwise might appear to some to be an irrelevant metaphysical conceit."

On page 13, Dr Candlish admits of a form of Calvinism which asserts an odious view of the character of God concerning evil. Not only that, it lays the foundation for Christians to permit a monstrous and demeaning process of Creation ascribed to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

"And if now, my Christian brother, the God who made all things, evil as well as good, - sickness, pain. poverty, distress, - is your Saviour; if he is ever seen by you. and his voice is heard telling you, even of that which presently afflicts you, that he made it as he made you, - how complete is your confidence."

On page 18, Dr Candlish expresses admission of a serious assault on the credibility of the long held Christian account of Origins:

"This divine record of creation, remarkable for the most perfect simplicity, has been sadly complicated and embarrassed by the human theories and speculations with which it has unhappily become entangled. To clear the way, therefore, at the outset, to get rid of many perplexities, and leave the narrative unencumbered for pious and practical uses, let its limited design be fairly understood, and let certain explanations be frankly made. In the first place, the object of this inspired cosmogony, or account of the world's origin, is not scientific but religious."

As if to acknowledge the Uniformitarian beliefs of his predecessor at New College, Dr Candlish says on page 19:

"What history of ages previous to that era this globe may have engraved in its rocky bosom, revealed or to be revealed by the explosive force of its central fires Scripture does not say. What countless generations of living organisms teemed in the chaotic waters, or brooded over the dark abyss, it is not within the scope of the inspiring Spirit to tell." All that contrary to the narrative of the Creation account in Genesis 1, ably supported by Exodus 20:11.

And later, on page 20, he reaffirms his intent to abandon historical rendering for elements seemingly out of reach of science:

"Our present concern, therefore, is with the moral and spiritual aspect of this sacred narrative."

The irony of all that is that Dr Candlish provides a helpful commentary on later events contained within Genesis, even holding to a global flood which destroyed the world that was, and upholding the long life span of early man.

There was no cause for Dr Candlish to give ground to Darwin's science. His record of dealing with the science of his day, however, provides us today with a helpful background to why the Church is in the sorry state it is today.

Sam Drucker


Eric said...

So, that's where the odd notion that the creation account is 'theological' not 'scientific' had an early outing. It's popular today, too. Just let's think, is it 'theological' but not 'historical', not 'practical', not 'real', and therefore 'not informative'?
Surely, if it is concerning the God who created, then 'theological' embraces all the rest!

sam drucker said...


This is early stage buckling to the weight of worldly opinion.

Sam Drucker