The Mohler-Chapell Interchange on Genesis 1 At TGC

April 10, 2013 — 2 Comments

So, yesterday I was sitting in the first round of workshops at The Gospel Coalition National Conference here in Orlando and tweeted this:

I got several immediate responses, and that’s not particularly surprising. Because it was a workshop, I don’t think audio will be available. They may have recorded it, but it definitely wasn’t videoed. Anyway, I thought at the very least this comment was worthy of extended explanation and so here we are.

The workshop was actually centered on the question of whether Adam and Eve were historical figures. Chapell and Mohler, as you might imagine, both answer in the affirmative. They began by explaining their different lines of argument that support that conclusion. I think, if I remember correctly, there were 4:

  • The literary argument (everyone else in the story is historical)
  • The theological argument (drawing from Romans 5, and 1 Corinthians 15)
  • The ethical argument (our equality is grounded in us all coming from an equal source)
  • The pastoral argument (if Adam and Eve are not personally responsible for the entrance of sin into the world the God alone is)

Obviously I’m shortening this so you can get the gist. I thought the ethical argument was actually the most persuasive, especially in a culture that is currently obsessing over the question of marriage equality. If we simply evolved, it is likely, if not certain, they there are currently several streams of humanity. In other words, we are not all equal because back at the head waters of the human race there does not stand one couple, but rather several convergent lines of evolved hominids who it would be very hard to argue are necessarily equal. If nothing else, it is very difficult to ground the idea that all humans are equal if all humans didn’t evolve from the same source (though of course in this model we did all come from the same primordial goo).

However, if you ground human equality in the biblical story and teaching of solidarity in Adam and Eve, then it is very easy to argue that all humans are equal and deserve the respect and dignity of an image bearer of God. But, once you do that, it is hard to turn around and argue that marriage can then be redefined to include same sex participants. Civil unions (state marriages) are defined by the state, but marriage as a transcultural institution cannot be just summarily redefined. That is kind of a rabbit trail (actually more than just “kind of”), but you’re getting the privilege of my semi-unfiltered thoughts from yesterday’s workshop.

Now, because it would have been a fairly uninteresting discussion if Mohler and Chapell just sat up there and went through everything they agreed about. Theologically at least, they both affirmed that the important issue is not the days in Genesis but then proceeded to discuss it and that’s when the disagreement started. Mohler hold Genesis 1 teaches 6 literal 24 hour days of creation. Chapell holds that the days were of indeterminate length which is the analogical day view. He actually just walked by as I am writing this and I confirmed that that is in fact his view (which is also Poythress’ view, and very similar to my view).

Mohler’s primary concern is that we do not start, at any point, bowing the knee to naturalism and reframing our interpretation of Scripture. He sees any questioning of 6 24 hour days to stem from advances in science, not necessarily accusing Chapell of doing this, but suggesting that no one was considering a different interpretation until evolution came onto the scene.

Chapell’s primary concern is that we do not unnecessarily add to the biblical teaching in ways that make more of a conflict between the Bible and science than is really necessary. What he was pressing toward Mohler was whether or not the text of Genesis necessitates affirming that the days were in fact 24 hours. The argument he brought up, that I thought was rather decisive (mainly because Mohler did not offer a counter argument other than just reaffirming his position) is how time was to be reckoned prior to the completion of the solar system as we know on day 4. Chapell thought that for Mohler’s view to work, we have to suspend all natural laws as we know it, except for the passage of time, a point that Mohler disagreed with strongly. He disagreed, but I didn’t really hear a rebuttal of the fundamental issue, which is that Genesis clearly depicts God working to create in 6 days, but it doesn’t necessitate that the days were 24 hours. That is of course an inference from the text (the days were normal days like we now them now), but the physics of at least, if you’re going to affirm that God created the elements in the order presented, is hard to reconcile with time passing in 24 hour increments. I think it is better to be interpretively agnostic on how long the days were than to dogmatically insist on a 24 hour length. If you want the 24 hours, it seems like you can’t have the sun showing up until day 4.

In the end though, this is kind of minor detail, a point that both Chapell and Mohler agreed upon. It was good to see them argue sharply over interpreting Scripture, but without getting contentious and ending on their agreement instead of dwelling on the disagreement. My takeaway from the workshop was seeing a model of two Christian leaders arguing, but doing so respectfully and graciously and both arguing from principles and a commitment the interpreting the word of God in the best way possible.


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I’m an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let’s connect!

2 responses to The Mohler-Chapell Interchange on Genesis 1 At TGC

  1. This would have been good to see live.

  2. If people do not hold to a literal 6 day creation, then they would have to believe that death and dying occurred before original sin of man, and suffering and dying in the world wasn’t caused by man. They would have to believe that God caused death in the world and not man.

    When Adam sinned, all of creation fell. If people hold to evolution, they would have to believe creation fell before Adam sinned.

    Jesus Christ said in Matthew 19:4…”And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,”

    If people say the earth was billions of years and man is young, then are they saying that man and woman were not created at the beginning? Then would they be saying that Jesus was wrong?
    Also, the passage in Exodus 20
    Exodus 20:9
    Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,
    Exodus 20:10
    but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.
    Exodus 20:11
    For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.

    Here God writes in stone that He created everything in the six days.
    If Christ instantly created the fish and bread, why is there such a problem of believing He could create the world in 6 days? Evolution denies the power of God and justifies man to do what he wants.

    In Christ & Christ Alone,
    Kevin Spengler

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