Thank God for our Concordias!

I recently was trying to find a good exegetical treatment of the Bible’s doctrine of creation, when I found Joel D. Heck’s little booklet In the Beginning, God: Creation from God’s Perspective (Saint Louis: CPH, 2011) (available here for $3.99).

I was pleasantly surprised by this book and can recommend it to anyone looking for a thoroughly Lutheran answer to the question “What does the Bible say about creation?”. The author reviews the basic texts, first in Genesis 1:1-31, then the other creation texts in the Old and New Testament. He gives seventeen reasons why the word “day” means 24 hours in Genesis One. Then he looks at the issues of hermeneutics, and concludes with recent scientific research that supports the Biblical account of creation. He has many excellent supporting arguments in favor of the Biblical account of a “young earth” with a 24 hour-six day creation, including a few arguments I have never heard before. I would recommend this to anyone who is a Bible-believer and who wonders if the traditional Christian view of creation has intellectual credence.

Dr. Heck is a Professor of Theology at Concordia University-Austin, with a Th.D. in Old Testament from our Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis. He represents the many professors at the LC-MS Concordia universities and seminaries who teach the Bible to their students from a perspective of belief, not from skepticism. I know all of our seminary professors personally and can testify that they are all “Bible believers.” Although I only know a few of the theology and religion professors at our CUS universities, the ones I know are “Bible believers” and my impression is that the other theology and religion professors hold the same view. Our church should be deeply grateful to our Lord for these “Bible-believing-Lutheran-professors,” who uphold the Lutheran doctrine and the authority of Scripture, in a day in which both doctrine and Scripture are attacked and mocked.

The synod at its 2013 convention will need to talk about financial support for its universities. The latest Reporter describes some of that discussion and new proposals for a “CUS 2.0″ (see reporter.lcms.org). We also need to keep in mind the latest LC-MS Treasurer’s Report, which states “When the CUS was formed, it was not specifically provided with any funding mechanism to allow it to accomplish the last of its goals (i.e., capitalizing the schools and the System)” (see Lutheran Witness 131 #11 (Nov. 2012): 24; also Reporter 38 #11 (Nov. 2012): 8; and online here). I thought that when the CUS (version 1.0) was originally introduced, the primary purpose was to provide a funding mechanism for capitalization of the schools and the system. I’d say that the synod “got taken to the cleaners” on that promise. Proper capitalization of the CUS and “living within its means” is way overdue.

Although some restructuring, down-sizing of individual campuses, down-sizing of the number of campuses, consolidation, or expense-reduction to match revenue may certainly be in order, the synod should not abandon its universities or let them “run free” of synodical oversight. We have, over the years, invested too much in their campuses, faculties, congregational relations, and other tangible and intangible assets to just let them “wither on the vine” or sever their connections to the LC-MS altogether. As to what should get restructured, cut, merged, expanded, or reduced I can’t say and won’t guess. It is a complex problem for the LCMS Board of Directors and CUS administrators to figure out.

I conclude these thoughts with a brief list of Concordia Publishing House books on creation, supporting a “Bible-believing, Lutheran” position, authored by our professors at our Concordias over the past ninety years. The academic position indicated was at the time of original publication: Theodore Graebner, Saint Louis seminary professor Essays on Evolution (1921); Alfred Rehwinkel, Saint Louis seminary professor The Flood (1951); John Klotz, professor at Concordia, River Forest Genes, Genesis, and Evolution (1955); John Klotz, professor at Concordia Senior College, Fort Wayne, Modern Science in the Christian Life (1961); Paul Zimmerman, president at Concordia, Seward, editor of Darwin, Evolution, and Creation (1959); Paul Zimmerman, president at Concordia, Ann Arbor, editor of Rock Strata and the Bible Record (1970); Paul Zimmerman, president at Concordia, Ann Arbor, editor of Creation, Evolution, and God’s Word (1972); John Klotz, Saint Louis seminary professor Studies in Creation: A General Introduction to the Creation/Evolution Debate (1985 – excellent overview and still in print!); Angus Menuge, professor at Concordia, Mequon, editor of Reading God’s World (2004); Erich von Fange, professor at Concordia, Ann Arbor In Search of the Genesis World (2006 – still in print); and, Joel D. Heck, professor at Concordia, Austin In the Beginning, God: Creation from God’s Perspective (2011 – recently published, and noted above).

What a great record of outstanding research on the doctrine of creation by our Concordia professors! Thank God for our Concordias!


Comments

Thank God for our Concordias! — 7 Comments

  1. Financial support for its universities? Are student tuition and fees not enough to run a university? Given the state of the tuition bubble at colleges and universities throughout the USA, such drastic reorganization at the Concordias will be necessary indeed. I am glad that the LCMS is going to take action NOW before the bubble pops:

    http://www.educationnews.org/higher-education-bubble/

  2. You must be a young earther in order to be a Bible believer? That’s news to me. How could there be 24-hour days before the sun was created?

    The Book of Genesis isn’t meant to tell us how old the earth is. We are demanding from the text more than it was meant to give.

  3. Dear Mr. Leone,

    I was not talking about “Bible believers” in general in my post. As you may notice, I specifically referred to “Bible-believing-Lutherans” on several occasions.

    Francis Schaeffer was a “Bible believer” of the Evangelical sort. In his “No Final Conflict” (IVP, 1975), he thought that the word “day” in Genesis One could a longer period than 24 hours or could be a regular day as we know it (p. 30). Being a Reformed theologian, he had the permission to interpret Biblical terms in their widest possible sense. This is what allowed, for example, Zwingli and Oecolampadius to interpret “bread” metaphorically. So a non-Lutheran might have a different position in the matter of creation.

    Luther’s principles of biblical interpretation, developed most keenly in his debate with Zwingli, demanded that the meaning of a term be determined by its immediate context, not by all possible meanings that it might have in the Bible. You can see that principle described by Johann Gerhard in his classic dogmatics work On the Nature of Theology and Scripture (CPH, 2006), pp. 494-501.

    Dr. Heck follows Lutheran principles of interpretation in his fine little book I reviewed above. That is why he concludes that the creation of the earth occurred in six 24 hour days. All of the other Lutheran theologians that I cited in my last paragraph agree with him. The LCMS official “Brief Statement” of 1932 affirmed a six day creation in point #5. This was upheld again in the 1971 convention in LCMS resolution 5-24.

    You will notice that I also limited myself to the topic of the “Bible’s doctrine of creation,” i.e., what does the Bible teach us. The question of “How can we harmonize the Bible’s doctrine of creation with natural history?” is an entirely separate question–and very complex.

    “How could there be . . .?” invites speculation without evidence.

    But so you know I am not evading your question, if you look through a telescope (or at photos taken through such) you will see there is a lot of light in the universe that does not come from a star like our sun. There are things astronomers called “nebulas.” We could not see those if they did not emit light. What about the “northern lights”? Do you know anything about “plasma”? What about phosphorescence? And these are all contemporary phenomena in the realm of physics.

    Also, in many books of the Bible that talk of the “heavens” there is evidence of all sorts of sources of light of other kinds. God himself is surrounded by such “light”, as are the angels.

    On whether Genesis means to tell us age–How do you know what the Book of Genesis means to tell us? We know what it means by what it says. Does Genesis have a modern Gregorian calendar? No. Does it use time-counting by other methods? Yes.

    The only area where I see some flexibility is that God created the earth before the six days of “creation” (Genesis 1:1), or at least that is the impression given by verse one. It could be that the earth was created and lay “fallow” for some time before God started shaping it and inhabiting it. Our Lutheran hermeneutics do not rule out a form of what some call the “gap theory”, although there is no other biblical evidence for it either as far as I know.

    I have been interested for some time in what the orthodox Lutheran dogmaticians have thought about this particular issue (i.e., existence of earth before the first day), but all of the relevant writings are in Latin and I don’t have access to them here.

    I agree that we often “demand from the text more than it was meant to give.” It was not meant to harmonize with the speculative findings of natural history, most of whose conclusions are spurious extrapolations from existing evidences.

    But—read Dr. Heck’s book, and see for yourself. It is the best treatment of Genesis One, from a Bible-believing-Lutheran perspective that I have found to date.

    And no, I won’t summarize his arguments here. Get the book and read it yourself! 🙂

    Not everything of value is for free on the Internet.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  4. Question: Recently I was speaking to a guy that’s a Missouri Synod teacher, he’s the principal of a school, and he asked me the question is it essential to believe that a day in Genesis was one 24 hour period. He said that he doesn’t get hung up on things like that. He says that if somebody were to come him and say, “Well, it may have been five hundred years or a thousand years”—not believing in evolution—”but that the Lord may have taken His good natured time to create the world,” he says he doesn’t see where it’s essential to a person’s salvation to believe that way.

    Robert Preus: Well, obviously it isn’t essential to your salvation. It isn’t even taught in the Bible how long those days were, in terms of precise 24 hours.

    I don’t know. On that point I think we’re coming a little bit out of our uptightness. And there are no more Theodore Graebners around writing against the evolutionists. I think it’s much to attack the evolutionists from their pre-suppositional standpoint that they deny providence. That they are basically atheists, which is usually the case. They are at best deist. There’s no such thing as theistic evolution because evolution is a natural explanation for the origin of things.

    Time and space—both of which God is not bound by—and speed are all relative. And it does seem to me that when you’re talking about something that happened before even a man was alive yet—the first six days of creation—to determine the length of those things is a kind of a preposterous thing to try to do. Now I’m not saying they’re long periods of time the way Delitzsch tried to do—millions of years to make it cohere with evolution and all this and that. I think they are evening and morning days. That’s what the text says. But they’re God’s days. That’s one phrase where I like Karl Barth—they’re God’s days when he discusses creation. And how He handled himself in those days, nobody is ever going to know.

    I guess it’s proper to say He created a functioning universe. I think that’s taught in Genesis 1. The question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” is answered—the chicken. He created a functioning universe. He created an Adam who already had maybe whiskers. I don’t know if he had a belly button, but he had finger nails. Maybe there was even some dirt in it when he was created. I don’t know. He was created out of dirt, you know. He created a functioning universe. Now to get into a hang-up like our good creation research guys, whether the trees had rings in them or not at creation, I think is getting a little bit absurd. They’re actually arguing that point. Have you heard that one? Yeah. I think maybe they had rings, but I don’t know. It would be awfully silly to find a Redwood out there older than the world. And I don’t think anybody is going to doubt it if you saw every ring is a year. So I just don’t think you should get yourself into things like exactly how old the earth is.

    Question: Would you preach a 24 hour period in the pulpit?

    Dr. Robert Preus: I’d never preach 24 hours, because there weren’t hour glasses or clocks or anything at that time. Certainly it says evening and morning and those normal days. But it was God’s time acting in those days and what He did and how He did it. But it’s a fiat creation, not an evolutionary creation. It’s a functioning universe, not a wide open universe like the evolutionists say, that can go in any direction or man can evolve himself right out of existence and so forth. That’s what evolution teaches.

    Robert D. Preus
    “The Historical-Critical Method”
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Illinois
    April 26, 1975

  5. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    Thanks to “LCMS Quotes” for the opportunity to clarify my statements in this post.

    When I use the term “24 hours,” I mean “a day in the normal sense of the term.” The latter phrase is used by Heck in his book, which is more precise and less open to confusion by those who like to argue. As Preus noted, there were no time-clocks of any sort at the creation, so “24 hours” is anachronistic–literally!

    Heck’s terminology of “a day in the normal sense of the term” is the best way to explain the position held by the LCMS, but it is more wordy.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  6. On “days” before sunshine: You need only an Earth lump hanging in space relative to a Sun lump waiting for fusion to start on Day 4. You see the Spirit “brooding” on the waters. If at the start God had lots of hydrogen/oxygen fusion going on in the area toward the Sun lump, the bright light from this would give “day” to an already rotating Earth lump as it was already being specialized by Day 2. Simple answer “proving” nothing, but credible. Note, then, that “light” wasn’t the first item up (just as in the Big Bang scenario, light came later, after most everything “slowed down” a bit). That did surprise me as being “right” when I first noticed it. Google for: big bang 26 dimensions. Decades back, theory allowed for 26. That’s cool, with the generalization that as energy decreases, matter increases. God’s total miracle. GLL

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