The Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Evolution The Trial of Terry Gray

        In 2004, Report of the Committee to Study the Views of Creation for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church said "a characteristic expression of the long-held doctrinal consensus in the OPC was a 1968 statement on creation by the Presbytery of Southern California. Seven of the eight affirmations [with 4-7 especially relevant for human origins] on creation read as follows:
        1. The one true and living God existed alone in eternity, and beside Him there was no matter, energy, space or time.
        2. The one true and living God according to His sovereign decree, determined to create or make of nothing, the world and all things therein, whether visible or invisible.
        3. That no part of the universe or any creature in it came into being by chance or by any power other than that of the Sovereign God.
        4. That God created man, male and female after His own image, and as Gods image bearer man possesses an immortal soul.  Thus man is distinct from all other earthly creatures even though his body is composed of the elements of his environment.
        5. That when God created man, it was Gods inbreathing that constituted man a living creature, and thus God did not impress His image upon some pre-existing living creature.
        6. That the entire human family has descended from the first human pair, and, with the one exception of Christ, this descent has been by ordinary generation.
        7. That man, when created by God, was holy.  Then God entered into a covenant of works with the one man Adam.  In the covenant Adam represented his posterity, and thus when he violated the requirement, all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him and fell with him into an estate of sin."

        The requirements for a ministerial candidate include a satisfactory answering of these questions:
        B. Does the candidate understand and affirm the priority of Scripture in the relationship between special and general revelation?
        D. Is the candidate able to address and refute the errors of the theory of evolution both exegetically and theologically?

        And in a footnote to the report's Introduction and Synopsis:
The Committee also commends the united affirmation of our brothers in the Presbyterian Church in America in its Creation Study Report: We affirm that Genesis 1-3 is a coherent account from the hand of Moses. We believe that history, not myth, is the proper category for describing these chapters, and furthermore that their history is true. In these chapters we find the record of Gods creation of the heavens and the earth ex nihilo; of the special creation of Adam and Eve as actual human beings, the parents of all humanity (hence they are not the products of evolution from lower forms of life). We find further the account of an historical fall, that brought all of mankind into an estate of sin and misery, and of Gods sure promise of a Redeemer. Because the Bible is the word of the Creator and Governor of all there is, it is right for us to find it speaking authoritatively to matters studied by historical and scientific research."


Documents Related to the Evolution Trial in the OPC were assembled by Terry Gray, the defendant.
The story begins with Gray's book review of Darwin on Trial (by Phillip Johnson) in 1992, which
"elicited a response from the Presbytery of Northern California in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) questioning whether an elder in the OPC could hold views such as those found in this book review."
It continues with actions of the OPC from the formation of a committee (1993) to rejection of Gray's appeal (1996) and ends with Gray's recantation letter in 1997, when he "was restored to being an officer in good standing."

In 1996, Terry Gray (in the thread below) summarized his views that were rejected by OPC:
I'm really a progressive creationist when it comes to the origin of man.  My position has been that God used a hominid body and then by a miraculous special creative act created a human being, body and soul, from that pre-existing hominid.  This is the position that was soundly rejected by the OPC General Assembly.  In other words, since I did not adopt a positon of "immediate" creation of the body of Adam from literal dust of the ground (ordinary dirt), my view is contrary to Genesis 2:7 and the Larger Catechism Question 17.
In 1997, here is the final point of the 7-point statement in his recantation letter:
7. Thus, my response is simply that I do not know how to bring these two ideas [described in points 1-6] together and that I am willing to remain in a state of agnosticism and cognitive dissonance on this issue. Perhaps future findings of science or future refinements of our understanding of the Genesis text will allow for resolution.
 



Here is a 3-message thread (with posts by Gray, Jones, Gray) on the ASA Discussion List in 1996:

by Terry Gray June 18, 1996

Some have expressed interest in the outcome of my appeal before the OPC General Assembly.  So here's the word.
The 63rd General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, meeting at Geneva College June 6-13, DENIED my appeal.  The summary text of the appeal is below; the full text is at http://mcgraytx.calvin.edu/gray/evolution_trial/evolution_appeal.html
The vote was roughly 25-85.  The Assembly spent from 9:30 am until 8:30 pm debating the topic.  On the whole the debate was of high quality with much of the discussion focusing on the meaning of the phrase "dust of the ground".  Even those opposed congratulated us on a well-presented case.  The advisory committee had previously spent about 20 hours working on this matter.  There were some who had their negative vote recorded.  A protest signed by 9 commissioners was later entered citing the arguments in Ground A as sufficient cause to sustain the complaint.
The General Assembly is the final court of appeal, so having lost here the proposed censure of *indefinite suspension from office* (I won't be able to function as an elder) will go into effect shortly.  It is likely that my elders will give me a year or so to reconsider my position during which time I can recant and be restored.  If I won't recant, then after one year, the suspension will likely turn into *deposition* (the removal from church office altogether).
More than anything I'm saddened by the decision and the implications that it has for the OPC.  I have no plans to leave the OPC and will prayerfully consider what the decision means for me and my views.
I plan to put the relevant sections of the Minutes of the General Assembly on-line in the near future.


The summary text of the appeal is below, followed by a link to the full text:

And now, this thirteenth day of September, A.D. 1995, comes Terry M. Gray, Ph.D. and appeals from the judgment of the Session of Harvest Orthodox Presbyterian Church in the case of Terry M. Gray, Ph.D., and in support of said appeal sets forth the following specifications of error: The Session of Harvest Orthodox Presbyterian Church erred in:

1. Denying the request of the Defense to dismiss Charge 1 (That Dr. Terry Gray has committed the public offense of stating that Adam had primate ancestors, contrary to the Word of God (Genesis 2:7, 1:26, 27) and the doctrinal standards of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (WCF IV.2, WLC 17)) on the grounds that said charge is not an offense serious enough to warrant a trial.

2. Finding the accused guilty of Charge 1 when said charge is not a chargeable offense. Grounds:
a. According to the Book of Discipline, an offense which is serious enough to warrant a trial in the area of doctrine for the ordained officer is a violation of the system of doctrine contained in the Holy Scriptures as that system of doctrine is set forth in our Confession of Faith and Catechisms (BD III.7.b).  Since nothing in the Confession of Faith and Catechisms is denied by the accused and since the Confession of Faith and Catechisms do not address the narrow question of the animal ancestry of Adam's body, the view in question cannot be considered a doctrinal offense as defined by the Book of Discipline. (See Appendix 1.)
b. There are no theological implications of the view held by the accused, i.e. no doctrine of the Confession or Catechisms is affected by this view. (See Appendix 2.)
c. Scripture does not forbid the view held by the accused. (See Appendix 3.)
d. The view of the accused is nearly identical to a view discussed and permitted by such orthodox Reformed theologians as B.B. Warfield and J.G. Machen. (See Appendix 4.)
e. Because the Confession or Catechisms nor the text of scripture forbids the view of the accused, it should be permitted as a matter of liberty even though many may not accept this view. (See Appendix 5.) Terry M. Gray, Ph.D., Appellant

the full text


by Stephen Jones June 18, 1996

Despite our disagreements, I sympathise with Terry in believing that Adam had primate ancestors.  I cannot see that Genesis 2:7, 1:26, 27 forbids that view.  Indeed, I would have thought that Genesis 2:7 "the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being" leaves the *means* by which God did the forming an open question.
The real problem, IMHO, is Terry's claim that this was *Evolution*, rather than *Mediate Creation*.  I can well see why an Orthodox
Presbyterian Church would object to the former (with its secular, atheistic overtones), but may not object to the latter, since the very same term was used by Hodge:
"But while it has ever been the doctrine of the Church that God created the universe out of nothing by the word of his power, which creation was instantaneous and immediate, i.e., without the intervention of any second causes; yet it has generally been admitted that this is to be understood only of the original call of matter into existence.  Theologians have, therefore, distinguished between a first and second, or immediate and mediate creation.  The one was instantaneous, the other gradual; the one precludes the idea of any preexisting substance, and of cooperation, the other admits and implies both.  "(Hodge C., Systematic Theology, Vol. I, 1892, James Clark & Co: London, 1960 reprint, p556).

God bless.

Steve


by Terry Gray June 28, 1996

Steve,
Just a quick response here.
As to your distinction between evolution and mediate creation and your reference to Hodge, I have the following to say.  As much as I dislike the particulars of the terminology, you yourself have recognized that I'm really a "progressive creationist" when it comes to the origin of man.  My position has been that God used a hominid body and then by a *miraculous special creative act* created a human being, body and soul, from that pre-existing hominid.  This is the position that was soundly rejected by the OPC General Assembly.  In other words, since I did not adopt a positon of "immediate" creation of the body of Adam from literal *dust of the ground* (ordinary dirt), my view is contrary to Genesis 2:7 and the Larger Catechism Question 17.
Your view, if you would assert that there any kind of biology continuity between a hominid body and Adam's body (other than common design), would have been ruled heretical as well.  I have always claimed that there is discontinuity (image of God, uniqueness from the animals, etc.) and continuity (hominid ancestors, anatomical-physiological-genetic-biochemical similarity) when it comes to origin of man.
Of course, on my view, all evolution is mediate creation anyway, admiting both *preexisting substance and cooperation*, but some minds don't seem able to grasp that concept.ݬ ;-)

TG



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