J. Gresham Machen was apparently not a six-day creationist. Dr. John Byl at the bylogos blog has written an interesting assessment of the issues surrounding Machen’s and B.B. Warfield’s acceptance of non-literal views of Genesis. Most of the discussion is on Warfield’s ideas about “theistic evolution,” but Machen apparently concurred. In The Christian View of Man
(1937 – a quick review here), Machen wrote, “It is certainly not necessary to think that the six days spoken of in that first chapter of the Bible are intended to be six days of twenty four hours each. We may think of them rather as very long periods of time.” Westminster Theological Seminary, the seminary that Machen founded, holds today to that view.
Dr. Byl also mentioned an article from January 2000 by Machen scholar D.G. Hart and John Muether in which the authors state that Warfield’s and Machen’s views “offer a better opportunity for credibly engaging the scientific community and meaningfully defending the truth of Christianity than the one now promoted by scientific creationists.” I hope that this does not mean what it appears to imply–that our interpretation of the Bible should be influenced by what would be palatable to scientists or make apologetics less daunting. Regardless of one’s view on creation, this would be a dangerous hermeneutic.
Dr. Byl concludes,
“…one cannot argue that, since Warfield and Machen were orthodox, we should accept all their teaching. I think it fair to say that Warfield and Machen were generally soundly Reformed. They were great theologians from whom there is still much to learn. Nevertheless, regretfully, they did depart from Scripture in their treatment of evolution. Hence some of their teaching is non-Reformed.”
This is a matter of current relevance for Protestants standing in Machen’s theological tradition. In another post, Dr. Byl points to two articles from 2010, one by a PCA author and the other by an OPC author, objecting to young-earth creationism. The OPC author, according to Dr. Byl, “contemptuously dismisses creationists as ‘preachers in lab coats,’ ‘charlatans,’ and ‘a caricature of religion.'” Dr. Byl notes,
“…waffling on the Bible to appease mainstream science is futile. The wiser strategy is to firmly uphold the Sola Scriptura of the Westminster Confession, proclaiming all that the Bible teaches. Christian faith is undermined not by biblical consistency but, rather, by unbiblical compromise.
“And if that causes us to lose credibility in the eyes of the worldly intelligentsia, so be it.”