Assemblies of God Denomination Responds . . . but What Does It Really Mean?

Recently, I wrote a blog post in which I detailed what I declared was a change that had occurred in the Assemblies of God (AG) denomination’s “Doctrine of Creation” statement. Last month, AG, based in Springfield, Missouri, released this document as an update of its 1977 creation statement.

For reference purposes, here are the two official AG position papers:

In my blog post, I claimed the following:

Then note the major change in the 2010 revision. Now the Assemblies of God statement reads, “The advance of scientific research, particularly in the last few centuries, has raised many questions about the interpretation of the Genesis accounts of creation. In attempting to reconcile the Bible and the theories and conclusions of contemporary scientists . . . ”

I went on to explain in the blog post how the leaders of the AG denomination had now succumbed to allowing different views on Genesis that are sadly so prevalent in the church today, and that such a change of position was undermining the authority of God’s Word. Ultimately, the change is also significantly contributing to the collapse of Christianity in our Western world. With its statement released last month, AG is now essentially saying we have to accept the fallible ideas of fallible humans, and put these beliefs in authority over the Word of God.

I would urge you to read my entire previous blog post before reading further.

The Assemblies of God denomination has responded to my blog post, issuing a public statement to clarify its position on creation/Genesis in what AG had presented in its recently revised Doctrine of Creation statement.

After reading AG’s clarification statement (reproduced below), I am even more adamant about standing by the comments I made in my previous blog post. AG is admitting that it has, indeed, changed its position on Genesis. In fact, the new statement (which is entitled “THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION — Development and Significance of the Revised Position Paper”) actually more clearly reveals a major problem we see in the church today, and it is a serious issue that God’s people need to be aware of when trying to discern what a denomination, Bible college or seminary, etc. actually believes and teaches about Genesis.

We are living in a post-modern age when even Christians can’t automatically believe that the words we use in talking to each other have the same meaning or definition any more. This especially applies to Christian leaders.

As you read this new statement (below) from the Assemblies of God denomination, it will become clear to you that AG has changed its position and is not advocating the six-literal-days/young-earth position. Also as you read, please be asking yourself the following about definition of terms:

  • But what do they really mean by “rejection of Darwinian evolution”?
  • But what do they really mean by “accurately communicates God’s creation”?
  • But what do they really mean by “actual, historical events”?
  • But what do they really mean by “these statements do not exalt scientific findings over against Scripture”?
  • But what do they really mean by “no way is science exalted over Scripture; Scripture is exalted above all human reason”?
  • But what do they really mean by “particular creation theory”?
  • But what do they really mean by “literal”?
  • But what do they really mean by “inspiration and authority”?
  • But what do they really mean by “‘the authority, certainty, and finality of God’s eternal Word”?

What you will learn is that “literal” doesn’t really mean “literal,” “historical” doesn’t mean “historical,” and so on.

I have interspersed my comments with AG’s just-released clarification statement to reveal what has actually occurred here. AG’s response begins with the following:

The current position paper adopted by the General Presbytery on August 9-11, 2010 is a careful but slight revision of the original position paper adopted in 1977. It will be noted that the current paper largely follows the outline of, and employs much of the language of, the original.

A “‘slight” revision? Read the two statements in full, and I believe you will conclude the revision is not “slight” at all.

Actually, if you read the 1977 paper (and see my previous blog post), you could easily take it to mean that the denomination had once taken a strong stand on six-literal-days and young-earth creation. The 2010 statement contains significant modifications in wording.

The 1977 statement is fairly clear (though the language is not as specific as we would have wanted it to be) that Genesis is literal history—thus six literal days and a young earth. The current AG leadership is now interpreting the language of the 1977 statement to have allowed for various “creation theories” (as its now calls them). But read the 1977 language for yourself; it didn’t say what is now claimed in AG’s clarification statement. Their own website has a “Creationism” article (which references the 1977 statement) that explains with rather specific language what the leaders meant by the 1977 statement—i.e., six literal days and a young earth. There we read the following:

The advocates of gradual process are called theistic evolutionists. For them, God’s creative days recorded in Genesis may well have been eons of time.

Assemblies of God believers hold that the Genesis account should be taken literally. Admittedly, there is progression in God’s creative work. But each step was concluded: ‘And there was evening, and there was morning.’ This points to a specific measurement of time. The most natural reading of the creation account therefore is to place it in parallel with a 7-day week. By doing so, the burden of determining time frames and development for various components of creation is avoided. Furthermore such a literal view of God’s creation process requires no more faith than theories of science–that our world evolved to its current state by the accidental collision of molecules. (http://ag.org/top/beliefs/gendoct_15_creationism.cfm)

This clearly shows that the 1977 statement was to be taken by the AG denomination as supporting six literal (24-hour) days of creation and a young earth in Genesis. Of course, this is our position as well. At the end of this statement we even read the words, “… [the] biblical account of creation must remain uncompromised.” To which we would reply, amen!

There is, however, a strange aspect to this web article. The AG now links this article to the 2010 statement, even though in the just-issued clarification statement the leaders responsible for the new “Doctrine of Creation” statement no longer insist that the AG denomination take a stand on a young earth and six literal days! I suspect no one realized that the pre-existing “Creationism” article now disagrees with their changed position! You can check it out for yourself:

The above “Creationism” article is now listed under “Assemblies of God Perspectives.”

What’s so unusual is that both are identical!  The only change was the reference to the 1977 statement now references and links to the 2010 statement!

AG’s response continues with the following:

The revision was done by and under the careful scrutiny of the entire Commission of Doctrinal Purity and was unanimously recommended by the Commission for adoption by the General Presbytery. The Commission is composed of ten distinguished Assemblies of God pastors, denominational leaders, and educators, all carefully schooled in theological studies, assisted by three younger leaders chosen to represent the Fellowship as to age, sex, and experience. It was also carefully reviewed by both the Executive and General Presbyteries.

One of the statements I hear over and over again by academics in the church is that Christians need to trust them. We are seeing a return to a time when leaders in the church determined what the average church attendee should believe. Just like hundreds of years ago when people were not encouraged to study the Scriptures for themselves and were told to trust the leaders/academics, we are seeing this trend growing today. Actually, we all need to be like the Bereans, who “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Next, AG’s response claims the following:

It should be noted that the revised paper is, if anything, even stronger in its statement of the inspiration and authority of Scripture that the original with a ringing affirmation of “the authority, certainty, and finality of God’s eternal Word…” It insists upon the trustworthiness of “whatever it [the Bible] teaches to be true, whether relating to matters of faith, history, or the created order.” (p. 1).

At this point I would also say, “Amen,” but on reading further, I soon realized that what I thought they meant in this statement is not what they actually mean!  Let me explain, after you read with the next statement from AG’s response:

Moreover, The revised paper has been prepared with the “Statement of Fundamental Truths” in view. It upholds the doctrines of Inspiration (Statement 1), Creation (Statement 2), and the creation of human beings (Statement 4). Nothing in the official doctrinal statements of the Fellowship approves any one creation theory and, consequently, our Fellowship has always been characterized by a range of opinions on this issue.

As soon as I read this statement, “red flags” were raised, especially when I read, “Nothing in the official doctrinal statements . . . approves any one creation theory . . . . ” So now they are a calling any position on Genesis a “creation theory,” which suggests there can be different views of Genesis, and thus, the denomination is allowing for different views. However, as you read on, the AG denomination actually eliminates a particular view of Genesis: they eliminate the belief that a Christian should only take the six-literal-days/young-earth position.  Now I am sure AG would claim they are allowing for this position as well as others. But they are actually eliminating the position (i.e., the young-earth/six-literal-days position) that teaches there can’t be other views, for the Scripture text is so clear. It is a key point people need to understand. AG’s response continues with the following:

Everything in the paper is a resounding rejection of Darwinian evolution and all atheistic and materialistic pretensions. The paper insists upon an actual creation at a particular point in time by a loving, purposive Creator whose highest creative impulse is seen in the creation of humankind in his own image.

As you will see further on, AG states the following in its response:

The criticisms of the revised paper focus primarily on the fact that it does not take a position with regard to a particular creation theory. It should be remembered that the original paper of 1977 similarly chose not to adopt a particular creation theory, no doubt because Assemblies of God believers in fact espouse a wide variety of creation theories and each one feels their particular approach should be the one adopted in an official position paper. The Commission did not feel it was wise to present a paper sufficiently comprehensive to argue to case for and against the various theories.

So understanding this, what is meant by the statement that the AG denomination takes a “resounding rejection of Darwinian evolution”? You see, there are positions like “theistic evolution” that teach evolution did happen but God was responsible for enabling evolution to occur. There are some views that allow for the evolution of animals but then God took two animals and made them into Adam and Eve. There are many variations on such positions. Now if the AG comment, “rejection of Darwinian evolution,” means that any form of Darwinian evolution can’t be inserted into a particular view of Genesis, then the clarification statement is eliminating all of the positions on Genesis that allow for any part of Darwinian evolution (of man and or animals). But then in a following paragraph, AG claims they are not going “to argue . . . for and against various theories.” This would mean that they are then not going to argue for or against any of the different positions, doesn’t it? So what do the leaders really mean that they are not going “to argue . . . for and against various theories”? Do they really mean they won’t allow atheistic, materialistic evolution? The language is confusing (and I believe deliberately). AG’s response continues with the following:

Rather than depreciating the Genesis account, the paper notes that “Genesis 1-3 accurately communicates God’s creation of the heavens and the earth” (p. 3). It points out that the creation account is couched in “prose form” which “in the Bible often describes actual, historical events…” (p. 3).

Normally, I would say, “Amen.” But then I remembered what I read above, and I realize what is meant by “actual, historical events” is not what those groups like we at AiG (who take Genesis as literal history teaching six literal days, death after sin, and no millions of years, as it is obvious from the text) would normally take it to mean. It is almost like the “newspeak” of George Orwell’s famous novel 1984—the language would normally mean one thing, but it really doesn’t. AG’s response then states the following:

While some have misread the references to scientific research under the heading “Theories of Creation,” it should be noted that these statements do not exalt scientific findings over against Scripture. Rather, it the paper carefully notes that that “the accepted scientific theories of one generation are often revised in the next” (p. 4), a caution to our collegians that they are to examine carefully and critically the evolutionary theories imposed on them on by today’s secular campuses. In no way is science exalted over Scripture; Scripture is exalted above all human reason.

If a person is not influenced by any ideas outside of Scripture, that individual would not take Genesis in any other way than as it is written—six literal days of creation, strict genealogies (that do not allow for millions of years), death coming after sin, animals being vegetarian originally, man made from dust and woman from his side, aglobal Flood, etc. However, if a person allows for “various theories” about creation, then those “various theories” include the gap theory, theistic evolution, progressive creation, the framework hypothesis, the day-age view, and so on. All of these beliefs have one common element: they attempt to reconcile millions of years into the Bible, and require a person to exalt man’s ideas above Scripture, for the idea of millions of years comes from man’s faulty interpretation of the universe. “Millions of years” is just not in Scripture.

By the way, I highly recommend the article by Dr. Terry Mortenson of our staff: see Jesus, evangelical scholars, and the age of the earth. AG’s response continues with the following:

The criticisms of the revised paper focus primarily on the fact that it does not take a position with regard to a particular creation theory.

I can only smile when I read such a statement. They have taken a position. Their position is that it doesn’t matter what view a person has of Genesis. They have eliminated the position (that is, taken a position against the position) that there is only one view of the Genesis text (i.e., the six-literal-days/young-earth position, which one gets from taking the account naturally—as written—with no outside influences). I am sure you would never read this denomination declaring that there are different Resurrection theories or different virgin birth theories, and therefore, one should allow all theories and not take a position, which would actually be taking a position (i.e., to be against those who say it can only be a real literal virgin birth, and there can only be a real literal bodily Resurrection). Of course, AG takes a position on the literal virgin birth and literal bodily Resurrection of Christ, even though secular scientists would adamantly say that there is no way a man could be raised physically from the dead, and no way a virgin birth can happen in humans. But when it comes to Genesis, that is where even many conservative theologians today change their hermeneutical principles and begin questioning the clear teaching of Scripture.

In this era of history, this kind of shift has done more to cause doubt in the Bible’s authority and accuracy, and doubt leads to unbelief in the coming generations. And this is why we conducted the Already Gone research: to challenge the church concerning why two-thirds of our young people are walking away from the church. AG’s response then states the following:

It should be remembered that the original paper of 1977 similarly chose not to adopt a particular creation theory, no doubt because Assemblies of God believers in fact espouse a wide variety of creation theories and each one feels their particular approach should be the one adopted in an official position paper. The Commission did not feel it was wise to present a paper sufficiently comprehensive to argue to case for and against the various theories.

First of all, as documented above, a statement on AG’s very own website clearly clarified the 1977 statement as teaching six literal days and a young earth.

Now AG is arguing for the acceptance of a “wide variety of creation theories.” However, in doing so the AG denomination is now taking a particular position—one that allows all positions. However, as stated above, arguing for this view actually eliminates the position that Genesis only teaches six literal days and a young earth. Just as there can be only one position on the Resurrection and virgin birth, there can only be one position on Genesis. (Of course, this does not mean that one cannot be a Christian and believe in evolution or millions of years—there are many such Christians; however, we would say they are inconsistent and are ultimately undermining the authority of the Word of God they purport to believe in.) AG’s response continues with the following:

The criticisms that I have reviewed have come from those who are disappointed that the paper did not advocate the creation theory that they prefer. In particular, those who hold to “young earth” theory and to a literal, six-day creation theory seem to be distressed. If the paper advocated either of these views, then those who disagree would be equally distressed. The correspondence really validates the Commission’s decision not to advocate for a particular theory.

So, not to “distress” anyone, the six-literal-days/young-earth creationists will actually have to be distressed so that those holding the other positions will not be distressed! You see, whatever might be stated concerning a position on Genesis, it is going to distress those who disagree with it. Whether one is distressed or not is certainly not the way to determine truth—everyone’s beliefs must be judged against the absolute authority of the Word of God. AG’s response concludes with the following:

Some of the correspondence seems to have come in response to the tendentious claims of Ken Ham who asserts,

In other words, they [The Assemblies of God] have now succumbed to the view—prevalent in the church todaythat is undermining the authority of God’s Word, and ultimately is significantly contributing to the collapse of Christianity in our Western world. The AOG with its August statement is now saying we have to take the fallible ideas of fallible humans and use these in authority over the Word of God. (http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2010/09/08/a-sad-day-for-the-assemblies-of-god-denomination/)

Any discerning reader of the revised paper will see that these claims are irresponsible at best and deliberately malicious at worst. The revised paper is a ringing endorsement of a literal creation by a loving, intelligent, and purposive Triune God!

Respectfully,

Edgar Lee, Chair

Commission on Doctrinal Purity

September 9, 2010

What I wrote on my previous blog was neither “irresponsible” nor “deliberately malicious.” We are simply calling on the Assemblies of God denomination to judge their revised position on Genesis with what God’s Word so clearly states. We are calling the AG church to account for their statements in their new “Doctrine of Creation” statement, which clearly illustrates that the AG leaders have changed a position they once held. Yes, we do believe they are undermining the authority of Scripture. We are losing that foundation in our Western world. It is not “irresponsible” of me, and I am not being “deliberately malicious” in challenging the AG denomination like this.  We are passionate for upholding the Word of God and contending for the faith.

I know there are many AG pastors and church members who stand with Answers in Genesis, and we want to help them. We would love to provide speakers for your church to help equip your people to defend the Christian faith and stand against the compromise even in their own denomination. Call 1-877-244-3370, and go to this link to register. We are here to provide whatever resources we can to assist.

Also, if any AG leaders who participated in the writing of this document want to visit the Creation Museum, we would be happy to host them for the day and also set aside some time for our research and leadership staff to discuss with them the issues referred to above. We want them to better understand why we so adamantly see this as a biblical authority issue.

By the way, if the Assemblies of God position statement on creation really hasn’t changed that much (according to the AG’s recent response), then why did this person (a graduate of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary—with an MDiv—and a candidate missionary with the Assemblies of God US MissionsIntercultural Ministries) write the following:

Oh the horror! Gasp! The AG isn’t taking a literal stand creation in the Genesis creation narrative! . . . Ham goes on to compare this with the position paper that was written in 1977 where at that time the AG did take a more literal stand on the Genesis narrative (insisting on a literal 6 day creation only, all other views or possibilities are man made, etc). . . .

. . . Not taking some strong stand on a specific view of creation is to take a position of unbelief? Hardly. Besides, the position paper doesn’t say science (so-called man made opinions) trumps Scripture (God’s Word). Rather merely that the rise of different (viable) viewpoints should lead to less dogmatism and more unity. Kind of hard to argue with that don’tcha think?

So, according to Ham, moving from a literal interpretation of the creation narrative is a big reason young people, especially college students are leaving the church – without being armed with effective apologetics in creation science the kids get mowed down by their professors and other students and the leave the faith. Well, if you ask me, if they leave the faith over such an issue, I wonder if they really had much of a faith or a real weak faith in God.

And he ends with the following:

. . . but far as I am concerned its a GREAT day in the AG and a GREAT day to be a member of the Assemblies of God.

Well, that is one AG person who has certainly seen the change in how his church views Genesis, despite what the AG church has been recently saying.

You can read his entire blog here.

I urge all Christians to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

For an excellent summary of why the creation days of Genesis were clearly 24-hour days in length and that the earth is young, go to Dr. Mortenson’s article.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

Ken