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The Framework Hypothesis Introduced (1)

The Framework Hypothesis Introduced (1)

Over the course of the next few days I will be posting excerpts from an online article entitled What’s Wrong with the Framework Hypothesis? The article was written in 2011, but I only found it recently and would like to share it with the readers of the blog. I am not sure how much time Professor Cammenga will spend dealing with the Framework Hypothesis in his Oct. 9 speech on Theistic Evolution, but the two topics are related, and these posts may be considered preparation for the speech. I also wanted to share this article as a reminder of what a wealth of information is available at Because I want to share the excerpts with you in full, these posts may be a bit lengthy.

Today I share with you the introduction of the article. Afterwards I will make some brief comments.

Introduction 1

Since the early 1800s, many Christians have accepted the idea that the Earth is billions of years old. This notion contradicts a plain reading of the biblical text so many have searched for a way to harmonize the early chapters of Genesis with the idea of long ages. Many theories have been proposed, such as the Gap Theory, the Day-Age Theory, and Progressive Creationism. However, as these views were promoted, it became apparent that each view was based on arbitrary methods of interpretation and forced contradictions with the biblical text.

In 1924, a new view, The Framework Hypothesis, was developed by Arie Noordtzij, which sought to eliminate these problems. Approximately thirty years later, Meredith Kline popularized the view in the United States while N. H. Ridderbos did the same in Europe. It is currently one of the most popular views of Genesis 1 being taught in seminaries. Despite its popularity in academia, people in our churches have not heard this view fully explained, though they have heard of some of its claims.

The Framework Hypothesis is essentially an attempt to reclassify the genre of Genesis 1 as being something other than historical narrative. Proponents have attempted to identify figurative language or semi-poetic devices in the text. Thinking they have successfully shown that the Bible's first chapter is not to be taken in its plain sense, they make the claim that Genesis 1 simply reveals that God created everything and that He made man in His own image, but it gives us no information about how or when He did this.

The leading promoter of the Framework Hypothesis pulled no punches when explaining his goal in promoting it. "To rebut the literalist interpretation of the Genesis creation week propounded by the young-earth theorists is a central concern of this article. . . . The conclusion is that as far as the time frame is concerned, with respect to both the duration and sequence of events, the scientist is left free of biblical constraints in hypothesizing about cosmic origins."2 How can a biblical scholar, like Meredith Kline, who held to the inerrancy of Scripture, claim that he desires that scientists be "free of biblical constraints?" In order to make this type of radical claim, a literal interpretation of the creation account must be replaced by a nonliteral view, such as the Framework Hypothesis. Further, what would motivate a biblical scholar to reinterpret the creation account in this type of way?

This chapter focuses on evaluating three major arguments that Kline and other Framework advocates use to support their nonliteral interpretation of Genesis 1:1–2:3: Two Triads of "Days," The Unending Nature of the Seventh Day, and Ordinary Providence. These three arguments will be followed by an evaluation of a key presupposition that undergirds the Framework view.

Readers should note that the Framework Hypothesis did not arise because theologians became convinced that Genesis 1 is not literal history. Instead the theory arose because Christians first accepted the premise that the earth is billions of years old and then determined to find a way to interpret the Bible that would be consistent with this premise. As clever as the Framework Hypothesis is—and it is clever—it must be remembered that it contradicts “the plain reading of the biblical text.”

This introduction is also important because it demonstrates that the Framework Hypothesis is opposed to the orthodox interpretation of Genesis 1. Many people think that there is room for many different views on creation in the church. But the goal of Meredith Kline was not simply to gain acceptance of his view alongside of the orthodox view of Genesis. His goal was to have his view replace (“rebut”) the orthodox view! After all, if scientists will be “free of biblical constraints” for the purpose of teaching that the earth is billions of years old, then the orthodox view of Genesis 1 must be rejected.

I think this statement is also significant, “It is currently one of the most popular views of Genesis 1 being taught in seminaries. Despite its popularity in academia, people in our churches have not heard this view fully explained, though they have heard of some of its claims.” I think it could be argued that the Framework Hypothesis denies the perspicuity of scripture. No plowboy who is reading scripture on his own would ever come up with the Framework Hypothesis in order to interpret Genesis 1. The Framework Hypothesis says to such plowboys, ‘No you do not know what Genesis 1 is really teaching; you need a professional theologian to tell you what it means.’ I would rather be taught what Genesis 1 means from one of my beginning catechism students than a seminary professor who subscribes to the Framework Hypothesis!

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