My Position on Isaiah 7:14 and the Creation Controversy
Daniel H. King, Sr.
As many have rightly concluded from the content of our recent Open Letter, it is the belief of those of us who wrote and signed it that the views of Hill Roberts and Shane Scott constitute a "damnable heresy" (2 Pet. 2:1), rather than merely an exotic alternative to traditional interpretation of the creation account in Genesis one. If we believed the latter, Harry Osborne and I would not have made the effort to write the letter or encourage others who share our conviction to sign it.
In the past several weeks I have been asked on several different occasions by various brethren to explain my personal motivation for having a part in its writing and ultimately putting my signature to the letter. Perhaps there are others who still are curious about my own specific reasons for doing so, since it is apparent to them from the past that I have had a special affinity for Florida College and a particular affection for many of the teachers and workers who function at the institution. In addition, I have been rightly described as "an academic" by training and temperament, so many feel that I have sold out to other non-academic interests by voicing my objections to recent developments at the school in so public a forum.
For me to have written a private letter to the faculty or administration would have been fine, according to their thinking. But to do so publicly and in this format is harmful to the school and undoubtedly weakens my own influence with these men. To them I would reply that my first loyalty is to my Lord and His Word. Everything and everyone else must take a back seat to Him. The truth is (and you know this) that many had already voiced their objections to them by this means and felt that their letters and voices had gone practically unnoticed. They have told me this either in writing, in telephone conversations, or private discussions. Their feeling is that these things would never have been permitted to go so far during earlier years of the school's existence. I agree with their assessment. I did not write letters or make phone calls. It was not originally my intention to become involved in this public controversy.
Before this contention erupted, it was my expressed intention to settle down to semi-retirement from local preaching and writing in the journals, running my financial services business on a day to day basis, preaching on weekends, and writing the books that I have promised to publish. Those who have urged me to write on this subject will attest the fact that I was very hesitant to add one further responsibility to my list, knowing that it would shove other things aside for the time being. But I must say that I was in a state of shock when my attention was drawn to the writings of brother Hill Roberts and my former student Shane Scott. I would have to confess that my attention to my business and local preaching work had kept me from reading very much in the literature of our brethren or attending the lectures at FC. All of this caught me totally by surprise.
Leading up to this point, it was widely known that I had a special interest in the Bible and Evolution Controversies, from the earliest days till our own. That interest grew out of personal experience. I was, in my first two years of college at Wayne State University, a science major, interested in biology and anthropology in particular, and rather convinced at first that evolutionary theory held the key to inanimate and animate origins. Upon my conversion to Christ, I rethought those views and realized that I had been deceived by my professors, who only supplied one aspect of the evidence to their young and rather ignorant students. Having had this unique experience myself as a student and young person, I have delivered numerous special series on the Bible and Evolution question in assorted formats at different congregations around the country in the interest of saving some of them from such deception. This background information was intended to explain my particular interest in this subject and the reason for my getting so directly involved in this controversy, despite a personal aversion to getting caught up in something so time-consuming and personally painful as this issue has proven to be.
Over the last year and a half since Hill was invited to the Florida College lectures as a speaker, I have heard brethren in every corner of the US and Canada voice their heart-felt concern over what this invitation and the subsequent defense of Hill and then of Shane might mean as to the direction of the school. As a former faculty member, who, incidentally, taught the course on "Bible and Evolution" while there, I have listened quietly and said little or nothing about the school while this controversy unfolded. It is no secret that I love the men who so sacrificially and faithfully work with the school in the Bible department and administration. Most of them are friends of long standing whose friendship I treasure. Not all of them, of course, side with those who have supported Hill and Shane. A number of them do not. That needs to be clearly understood.
Ferrell Jenkins and Colly Caldwell in particular have been among the best of my friends at the school. I would not purposely do anything to hurt or hinder their good work so long as I am convinced that they are headed in the right direction, in terms of scriptural truth. I do not hold any ill-will toward either of these good men. As to the present issue, I am convinced that they are sincere in their view that this subject is simply a matter of opinion and ought to be treated as a matter of spiritual indifference.
It is here, though, that we have had to part company. I am persuaded that the views of Hill Roberts and Shane Scott are much more than that. Shane and Hill cannot find one scintilla of evidence in the text of the Bible to insert their billions of years into Genesis 1. This they add to the Word of God (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18, 19). They ignore the fact that no long period of time was ever said to have "an evening and a morning," and that all the days of Genesis 1 are said to have both. This they take away from the Word of God (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18, 19). In addition, there is not one shred of biblical information that can be marshaled to their aid. However, it must be admitted by all that they do not believe what they do based upon anything the Bible itself says, but based upon what some uniformitarian scientists say about the age of the earth and of the universe. They bend their biblical interpretation on this issue to fit certain scientific theories and then make spurious arguments which are indicative of infidelity to make their case (example: Shane argues that there would not have been sufficient time on the sixth day for Adam to name all the animals, as per Gen. 2:20. That is the type of argument I have heard liberal theologians and infidels make throughout my academic career).
A number of good brethren have approached me with the notion that this is merely a harmless view which cannot do us any grave injury if we merely tolerate it. My own study of this issue leads me to believe that, although their intentions are certainly good, they are mistaken in their lack of concern about the seriousness of this particular approach to Genesis 1. I realize that some brethren have made unstudied comments about this sort of thing in the past, and that even a few "heavyweights" in the Restoration Movement have expressed their uncertainty about these matters. A few have offhandedly remarked about private views which deviate from the norm. If that is all I thought we were talking about here, I would not have wasted all the time and effort that I have spent on this problem. I have a genuine fear that we have come to tolerate some pretty serious differences among us, and if we are able to tolerate this one, then we are really "in the stew," so to speak. Let me offer an illustration of the point which I am trying to make.
In my years as a college student back in the 1960's, I recall listening to Dr. Batsell Barrett Baxter at David Lipscomb College bitterly bemoaning what he considered to be the "mistreatment and abuse" of a brother who had been forced from the faculty of the school a number of years before by what he judged "the caustic writings and preaching" of certain men, especially one Foy E. Wallace, Jr. He was still quite visibly upset at brother Wallace. The man who had been forced out was a premillenialist. Now Baxter was not a premillenialist, but thought that it was of such a speculative and harmless nature that it should be tolerated. On the other hand, I remember hearing brother Wallace say on one occasion in a sermon, "My daddy told me that if a snake stuck its head out of a hole, to step on it then, not to wait for it to get completely out, or it would bite me. I believe premillenialism is such a deceptive serpent."
Both brethren Wallace and Baxter are now deceased. I believe that history has since confirmed the judgment of Wallace, and condemned the view of Baxter. Premillenialism is virtually unknown in most of the churches of Christ, while it abounds everywhere about us in evangelical religion. Foy Wallace and others like him are largely responsible for that. He was little appreciated by the academics for his work, in fact he was mostly vilified by them in private (never in public), but most of us who preach today are greatly appreciative of him for his strong stand against this prodigious error. He awakened the sentiments of many sleeping brethren to the danger of this false doctrine. I fear that many of my brethren who are presently at Florida College are much akin to academics in other times and places. The academic environment itself makes them ripe for this fatal flaw. They are not the first to fall into this trap, nor will they be the last. I truly believe that their hearts are in the right places, but their heads are in the sand.
I am further convinced that my dear friends at Florida College who have defended this present error have done the college and the brotherhood a grave disservice by attempting to garner support for this notion that Hill and Shane are merely victims of overzealous radicals who want to make every difference between brethren a matter of fellowship. One will look in vain to find that tendency in my work or writings. And, while I do not entertain the preposterous notion that every matter is worthy of a breach of fellowship, I just as surely believe that some matters are sufficient in their departures from biblical faith and doctrine to lead me to say, "You have gone too far, and I will not go there with you" (see 2 John 9-11; Eph. 5:11). If I did not believe this issue was sufficiently dangerous to merit that kind of treatment, I would not have written as I have, or signed the Open Letter. I must profess to any of you who may have some thoughts to the contrary, that I am truly passionate about this issue. I am convinced that some of us have set a course, by our words and deeds, for a destination to which we shall not wish to arrive. I believe that those who have set out on this journey are fully persuaded that they are right on this matter, but I am just as sure that they are wrong.
As to the criticism that my position on this issue somehow represents an inherent inconsistency because I have written as I have about Isaiah 7:14, let me offer the following remarks:
In 1982 Mike Willis called me to ask my opinion of the RSV rendering of Isaiah 7:14. I had only recently completed a Ph.D. in Old Testament and it was known that I had spent a great deal of time with my nose in a Hebrew Bible. I told him then, however, that I did not believe the criticism of the rendering in the version merited the attention it had been given as an indication that "modernists had inserted their views into the translation process." Yes, most of those men were modernists; no question about it. I explained to him that this failed to consider the fact that many people, including myself, held to the idea that there was a dual fulfillment of that passage along with many others in the Old Testament. In my opinion it refers to a particular incident in the days of Ahaz the king and ultimately has its fulfillment in the virgin birth of Jesus the Messiah. Mike said that it would be good to have the matter discussed, and asked that I write about the subject and I agreed.
Subsequently, I wrote a series of articles on the subject of modernism, prophecy and its fulfillment, and then had a short public correspondence with my good friend and colleague Melvin Curry on the RSV rendering of the text of the passage. That issue was unimportant to me then, and I consider it unimportant now. I was not the one who instigated the article at the time, and I care not whether one agrees with me on it now. Before those articles were written I had not preached a single sermon on the topic or taught even one Bible class wherein I presented my view. If my memory serves me well, I have not preached a single sermon or taught a single lesson on that subject in the near two decades since it was discussed in Truth magazine. I have not hesitated to discuss it in private, nor have I shown myself unwilling to answer questions about it when asked, because I believe that I am right on the issue and have not changed my opinion. But I do not consider it to be a matter of any great moment.
As to the charge that "Dan believed then that the passage did not predict the virgin birth", as some have alleged, I would reply as follows: Anyone who has read the discussion knows this is not true. I most assuredly do believe that it predicts the virgin birth of Christ. I believe that it was not fulfilled in an absolute sense until Jesus was born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem. So, this is an utter misrepresentation of my view. Do you seriously think that men like Mike Willis, Ron Halbrook, Larry Hafley, and others who wrote for Truth Magazine at the time would have let this matter alone if they thought for one moment that modernism or liberalism lay at the heart of this discussion?
The charge that my perspective on the passage is a "modernistic view" is ridiculous, given the fact that I believe exactly the same thing as Albert Barnes presented in his 1838 commentary on Isaiah. Tim Haile recently set forward essentially the same perspective in Gospel Anchor, and narry a ripple was made upon the pond! Some are repeating this ludicrous allegation, even though I am certain that they know better. God will have to deal with this, I suppose (Rev. 21:8). Let me say, that if I believed the things they are now saying that I do, then I would not have fellowship with me either! No one hates modernism among us any more than I do. For nearly 30 years I have written in opposition to every form of this dangerous error in the various journals among us. My record is remarkably public, since I have written so extensively in the papers. If I am a modernist, then prove it by quotations from my writings. Stop this cowardly sniping in private letters and personal conversations, and deal with it as publicly as I have done over the years of my work.
But let me go on to say to all those who have made this absurd argument, that we do not intend to let you change the subject. The subject we are discussing is not Isaiah 7:14. You have had nearly two decades to disagree with me on that matter and have said absolutely nothing during that time. To begin to talk about it now is a transparent attempt to change the subject from theistic evolution to some other, and to take the pressure off Hill Roberts and Shane Scott and put it on me. It will not work.
Deal with this issue, or better yet, tell Hill and Shane to come out of hiding and debate this issue. If we are making mountains out of molehills, then have them prove it in public discussion, either written or oral. Why do they remain virtually silent while others do their talking for them? Those of you who are defending them, why do you feel that you must defend what you agree is error? Let them defend themselves! Or, if you believe we are wrong, then sign the propositions and let us go forward with a public discussion of the issues involved.
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