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Augustine’s Six Day “Denial” (Part I): “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” – Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible

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Augustine’s Six Day “Denial” (Part I)

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“Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?”

Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible

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. . . some things were done before the world was created, yea from eternity. The persons of Trinity were, as it were, confederated in a design, and a covenant of redemption. . . There were things done at the creation of the world, in order to that work; for the world itself seems to have been created in order to it. –

-Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), History of Redemption [1]

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Unbelief–an Argument for Unbelief?

The young man appeared erudite when challenging the congregation’s confessional statement on human sexuality: “If Augustine’s writings, notwithstanding his alleged denial of the six day creation, [2] were so highly-esteemed and quoted by Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders alike, why must we post-Darwinians take Genesis 1:27 so literally with respect to gender relationships? “Everyone knows that Genesis 1 is a creation hymn and not to be taken literally.”

Augustine’s denial of the six day creation, however, if he did indeed deny it, [3] did not go unnoticed. For “Creation” “in the space of six days” was affirmed in the three major historic Protestant confessions of the seventeenth century, namely, the Westminster Confession, the Savoy Declaration, and the Baptist Confession of 1689.

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Joseph of Arimathea’s Minority Report

While an erudite man routes his logic for gender relationships through St. Augustine and the six day creation, this writer points to Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, to corroborate the literal six day creation! Joseph of Arimathea, “looking for the Kingdom of God,” voted against the Sanhedrin’s recommendation to Pilate to execute Jesus of Nazareth. Following Jesus’ death by crucifixion on the sixth day, Joseph’s verbal minority report translated into action. Going to Pontius Pilate, Joseph took responsibility for the timely burial of the Lord Jesus Christ before the seventh day, the sabbath rest, began. The Scriptures were thereby fulfilled. [4]

Set forth in the “living oracles” entrusted to the Jews by God Himself, [5] and recorded by Moses, the six day creation was foundational to the work and the history of redemption. The Jewish lunar calendar was inextricably bound to the six day creation while pointing to the person and work of Christ. The Fourth Commandment and all Hebrew festivals reflect that fact. [6] Accordingly, the author of Hebrews could write that Moses “esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt . . . through faith . . . kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood” (Heb. 11:26-28).

The sabbath rest promised in Psalm 95:7-11, and expounded in Hebrews 3 and 4, was fulfilled in the high priestly ministry of Christ. [7] Juxtaposing one’s entering God’s rest with resting or ceasing from his works, [8] the Hebrew epistle thereby corroborates the “law of faith” which the apostle Paul set over against “a law of works” in Romans 3:27. The promise of “sabbath rest for the people of God,” correlative to God’s resting from his six days of work as Creator, [9] perfectly corresponds to Jesus’ promise of “rest” in Matthew 11:28 and to the “peace with God” which follows from justification by faith apart from works. [10] The  foundation for this “rest” was the finished work of Jesus Christ, as attested by the fact that, when that work was completed, Jesus “sat down at the right hand of God.” [11]

Paul’s identification of Jesus Christ as “the image of the invisible God”–an unmistakable correlate with Genesis 1:27, and as “the firstborn of all creation,”  [12] establishes that the person and work of Christ and the six day creation cannot be disassociated. [13]

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The Faith of God

That “faith” through which we “understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” [14] is of a single piece with the “faith” that justifies. And in both cases, it is “the faith of God.” [15] The faith through which a person is justified “without the deeds of the law,” thus, is a continuum with that faith that the world was created in six days. For the ex nihilo creation mentioned in Hebrews 11:3 cannot be distinguished from the “works” attributed to God in Hebrews 4:10 and from which God rested. Those “works” are one and the same with the creation attributed to the Son in Hebrews 1:2. Yet some evangelicals have proceeded to shrink from the “six days” as if Genesis 1 were a “creation hymn”–mere poetry, or to use C. S. Lewis’ expression, a “myth.” [16]

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John Milton’s Hymn to Creation’s Firstborn [17]

“The faith of God” prevails. Heavenly choirs rejoice in the King of Kings whose birth they celebrated and whose victory is manifest with joyful sound whenever a prodigal returns.

Such Musick (as ‘tis said)
Before was never made,
…..But when of old the sons of morning sung,
While the Creator Great
His constellations set,
And the well-balanc’t world on hinges hung,
And cast the dark foundations deep,
And bid the weltring waves their oozy channel keep.18

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Endnotes

[1]. Works, 1:26-27

[2]. “Westminster Theological Seminary and the Days of Creation” www.wts.edu/about/beliefs/statements/creation.html#N_1_

[3]. With respect to Genesis 1, Augustine simply acknowledged that our intellects cannot comprehend what “we can have no hesitation in believing.” City of God, Book 11, chapter 7. Note: In Book 11, chapter 30, Augustine affirmed that “six is the number of days in which God completed His works.”

[4]. Isaiah 53:9; Luke 13:32;18:33;23:50-56; 24:7;1 Cor. 15:3-4

[5]. Acts 7:38; Rom. 3:2

[6]. Exod. 20:11; Lev. 23:1-44

[7]. Matt. 11:28; Heb. 10:12

[8]. Heb. 4:9-10

[9]. Heb. 4:9-10

[10]. Rom. 3:28; 5:1

[11]. Heb. 8:6; 10:11-12

[12]. Col. 1:15

[13]. Exod. 20:11; Matt. 11:28; 27:63-65; Luke 23:54, 56; 24:1,6-7; 44-46; Acts 2:1; Heb. 4:8-9

[14]. Heb. 11:3

[15]. Heb. 11:3; Rom. 3:3; Ephes. 2:8-10

[16]. Michael J. Christensen, C. S. Lewis on Scripture, pp. 57-80

[17]. Col. 1:15

[18]. John Milton, On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity, Herbert J. C. Grierson, Metaphysical Lyrics and Poems of the Seventeenth Century, p. 99

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Works Cited

Augustine, St. 1958. City of God. An abridged version from the translation of Gerald G. Walsh, S.J., Demetrius B. Zema, S.J., Grace Monahan, O.S.U., and Daniel J. Honan. With a Forward by Vernon J. Bourke. New York: Image Books

Christensen, Michael J. 1979. C. S. Lewis on Scripture: His thoughts on the nature of biblical inspiration, the role of revelation and the question of inerrancy. Nashville, Abingdon Press.

Edwards, Jonathan. 1879. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, A.M., rev. & ed., Edward Hickman, 2 vols. 12th edition. London: William Tegg & Co.

Geneva Bible. 1560. www.genevabible.org/Geneva.html

Grierson, Herbert J. C., ed. [1921.] 1959. Metaphysical Lyrics and Poems of the Seventeenth Century. New York: Oxfords University Press.

“Westminster Theological Seminary and the Days of Creation.” An official statement approved by the Faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, March 1, 1999. www.wts.edu/about/beliefs/statements/creation.html#N_10_

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About the Writer
David Clark Brand is a retired pastor and educator with missionary experience in Korea and Arizona. He and his wife reside in Ohio. They have four grown children and six grandchildren. With a B.A. in the Liberal Arts, an M. Div., and a Th.M. in Church History, Dave continues to enjoy study and writing. One of his books, a contextual study of the life and thought of Jonathan Edwards, was published by the American Academy of Religion via Scholars Press in Atlanta.

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Series Navigation<p></br /></p><< The Ultimate Interlocking Puzzle: “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” – Romans 3:3 Geneva BibleAugustine’s Six Day “Denial” (Part II): “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” – Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible >>


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