Dr. Choong and the NY Metro Presbytery
When my family and I first joined the PCA some 20 years ago I was new to the Reformed faith and hopelessly naive. To give you an idea just how clueless I was, before applying for membership I carefully studied the Westminster Confession of Faith to make sure that I agreed with the system of doctrine being taught in the PCA. I was even under the impression that some knowledge of the WCF was required for membership and I admit I was a little let down when I was only required to profess Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and share a little bit about how I first came to Christ.
Another sign of my hopeless naivety was my belief that the PCA was a theologically conservative and confessional church, i.e., that it actually believed what the WCF taught and was in no way like the religiously liberal PCUSA. I believed that my family and I had joined a church that unequivocally proclaimed the Gospel, affirmed the doctrine of predestination without apology, and believed in the unquestionable inerrancy and infallibility of God’s Word. What a fool I was. Since that time I learned that besides tolerating false gospels like the one being spread by Federal Visionists, that the many preachers and teachers spreading these false gospels are to be considered our “brothers in Christ” (at least according to the official PCA study report on the Federal Vision and the New Perspectives on Paul).
Even before the flawed FV/NPP report, I learned that multiple interpretations of the days of creation found in Genesis are all permissible; even if holding to so-called “theistic evolution” was strictly verboten. At the time when the PCA Creation Study report came out the study committee observed:
We have found a profound unity among ourselves on the issues of vital importance to our Reformed testimony. We believe that the Scriptures, and hence Genesis 1-3, are the inerrant word of God. 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 God’s 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 further find the account of an historical fall, that brought all humanity into an estate of sin and misery, and of God’s 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. We also believe that acceptance of, say, non-geocentric astronomy is consistent with full submission to Biblical authority. We recognize that a naturalistic worldview and true Christian faith are impossible to reconcile, and gladly take our stand with Biblical supernaturalism.
The Committee has been unable to come to unanimity over the nature and duration of the creation days. Nevertheless, our goal has been to enhance the unity, integrity, faithfulness and proclamation of the Church. Therefore we are presenting a unanimous report with the understanding that the members hold to different exegetical viewpoints. As to the rest we are at one. It is our hope and prayer that the Church at large can join us in a principled, Biblical recognition of both the unity and diversity we have regarding this doctrine, and that all are seeking properly to understand biblical revelation. It is our earnest desire not to see our beloved church divide over this issue.
While ultimately allowing for diversity concerning various exegetical positions on the days of creation, the study committee concluded their report with this final observation and warning:
It should be acknowledged, however, that there are presbyteries that do in fact receive men holding other views [concerning the days of creation] without requiring an exception, provided the men can affirm the historicity of Gen 1-3 and do reject evolution.
It seems that rejecting evolution is no longer a given in the PCA, much less a requirement for PCA pastors. Rachel Miller, who has been following the advance of so-called “theistic evolution” within the PCA, recently reported on PCA minister Ron Choong and provides an insightful review of his book, The Bible You Thought You Knew. Evidently, and according to Miller, whatever you thought you knew about the Bible was wrong, because Choong argues:
- Moses didn’t write Genesis, Genesis was written as a polemic against the Babylonian gods, Genesis does not teach ex nihilo creation.
- Genesis does not speak to how the universe began or where humans came from, Adam is best understood as a group of hominids adopted by God to be imago dei, Adam and Eve were not created with perfect morality.
- Paul’s Adam wasn’t necessarily the singular progenitor of the human race.
- Noah’s flood was an adopted ANE story retold for Israel’s purposes.
- The Tower of Babel doesn’t explain the origin of languages.
- Interpreting the Bible literally can be dangerous.
You can read Rachel Miller’s entire review of here, but some of the quotes she provides from Choong are particularly revealing. For example, Choong writes:
Thus you will find lapses in historical and scientific accuracy as we increase our modern accuracy of historical and scientific knowledge. Even doctrinal articulation of theological points need to be revised in each generation to account for our greater understanding of the world we live in.
So much for the psalmist’s confession in Psalm 119: “Forever, O LORD, Thy word is settled in heaven.” God’s word isn’t settled at all, rather according to Choong our understanding of the truths of Scripture needs to be revised “in each generation” in order to account for the increases in our “historical and scientific knowledge.” Oh, that silly psalmist. In addition to an arrogant and rebellious rejection of the sole sufficiency and authority of Scripture, Choong begs the question by assuming that history and science can provide us with knowledge, even knowledge that is of equal authority to the Scriptures that can and should cause us to revise our “doctrinal articulation of theological points.” As Gordon Clark carefully demonstrates in Historiography: Secular and Religious and The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God, neither history or science can be competing sources of knowledge simply because neither of these presumed sources of knowledge can give us any knowledge at all. And, I might add, this isn’t just the opinion of some backwoods Christian Biblicist lacking Choong’s sophistication and temperament. Concerning the belief in so-called “scientific knowledge,” an idol Choong seems particularly attracted to, the late secular philosopher of science and atheist Karl Popper wrote:
…in science there is no ‘knowledge’, in the sense in which Plato and Aristotle understood the word, in the sense which implies finality; in science, we never have sufficient reason for the belief that we have attained the truth. What we usually call ‘scientific knowledge’ is, as a rule, not knowledge in this sense, but rather information regarding the various competing hypotheses and the way in which they have stood up to various tests; it is, using the language of Plato and Aristotle, information concerning the latest, and the best tested, scientific ‘opinion’. This view means, furthermore, that we have no proofs in science (excepting, of course, pure mathematics and logic). In the empirical sciences, which alone can furnish us with information about the world we live in, proofs do not occur, if we mean by ‘proof’ an argument which establishes once and for ever the truth of a theory. (What may occur, however, are refutations of scientific theories.) – The Problem of Induction
I don’t know what Choong thinks he knows that could controvert Popper’s observations above, much less those provided by Clark, but that doesn’t stop him from asserting:
Most people, whether religious or not, look to the realm of science for hard data about the environment and cosmology. Prior to the modern period and the rise of the natural sciences, people tended to be more simple or naïve about such things and tended to think (if they thought about it much at all) about the origin of the world in religious and theological terms (Footnote 39, 13).
I’m not exactly sure what this footnote is supposed to prove other than appealing to most people is fallacious and that the Apostle Paul was right when he said of those same people: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” But, look how utterly disparaging this PCA minister is concerning those who would reject the so-called “hard data” of science and instead rest on the unchanging word of God. He calls such people “simple or naive”and who are out of touch with modern “advances” in history and science. Basically, if you believe that God created the world and everything by divine fiat, and that the account God gives in Genesis concerning the origins of creation is both historical and true, you are a pre-modern Neanderthal hominid knuckle-dragger unfit for civilized society.
Now, you might be tempted to think that a man with Choong’s views, particularly as they undermine, if not completely gut, the authority of Scripture (which would appear to be of lesser authority than the “hard data” of science) would warrant some sort of investigation even if only to see whether this minister in the PCA has violated his ordination vows. Well, you’d be wrong and would be guilty of thinking the PCA was a theologically conservative and confessional church I once thought it was.
As Wes White reports the Metro New York Presbytery of the PCA (the same Presbytery where you’ll find Tim “Biologos” Keller) has refused to investigate Choong’s views. Not only did they refuse to investigate Choong, but even the suggestion that his views should be investigated were not “recorded in the minutes lest Choong’s name be illegitimately besmirched.” Obviously the NY Metro presbytery is not concerned that God’s unchanging and eternal Word might be “illegitimately besmirched” by Choong, but I guess that’s par for the course in the PCA. I know, I know. I shouldn’t be surprised.