Open Letter

"Making Sense of the Days of Creation"
A Review of Ferrell Jenkins' Lecture at Florida College, February 8, 2000

Steve Wallace

 


Brother Ferrell Jenkins gave the above lecture in the Puckett auditorium as part of this year's lecture series. This writer was in attendance to hear this lecture. Later that same evening, I had the opportunity to talk with Ferrell about it, differing with some of the things he had said. When the lecture was later transcribed I wrote an informal review of it which was circulated via e-mail. This review led to a brief exchange of posts with brother Jenkins via e-mail. In all of my dealings with Ferrell, Ferrell has been kind and I certainly have no axe to grind with him personally. It is simply a case of his speech deserving a more formal review because of its implications on matters troubling brethren today.

Because of Watchman Magazine's format a more in depth review is possible. In spite of this, all of brother Jenkins' speech is not included in this article. A copy of his speech, in PDF form, can be accessed by visiting Ferrell Jenkin's web site, www.bibleworld.com. Clicking this link will take you away from Watchman. Use your back button to return to this page.

Concerning Florida College's Use of Hill Roberts

Response:

The issue concerning Hill Robert's speaking last year at the Lectures was not what he spoke about (which, of course, was not Creation or the Days of Genesis), but that one, advocating what he does in his seminars in churches of Christ, should be used at all! We do our brethren no favors when we further the influence of those who teach clear error. The college does not have fellowship with brethren in the same manner a church does, but men's influence are with the college. The brethren at Florida College lent their influence to brother Roberts. This is seen to be even more serious when we note what Ferrell says the next paragraph from his speech.

Florida College's Knowledge of brother Roberts' Beliefs

Response:

They knew what brother Roberts believed and yet decided to use him, thus furthering his influence among brethren. Further, they even ascertained that he would not speak on his erroneous beliefs. This is an open confession of their concern about what he taught on the days of Genesis. In light of this, brother Jenkins' words here are somewhat confusing. He says he had no idea the brother Roberts was so controversial. He must have had some idea. Also, whether Ferrell intended it or not, this changes the issue from what brother Roberts teaches to how he is viewed among brethren. The Bible must be our measure in such matters, not the church (Rom. 16:17-18; 2 Jno. 9-11, more on this later).

The Charge of "E-gossip" and the "Service" Florida College Did Brethren in this Matter

Response:

With regards to the charge of e-gossip, Ferrell is duplicitous. He accuses brethren of "gossiping" and sending others to the "electronic mail chair" (which got a good laugh and applause), and then immediately speaks of Florida College's decision prompting good articles and discussion of issues which are important to brethren. Now, which was it? There is nothing good about gossiping and spiritually electrocuting brethren! Is that what resulted from having brother Roberts on the lectureship? Or, was it a prompting of discussion and the writing of good articles? Further, based on his words, one would expect that Ferrell would be above "e-gossip." That this is not so is seen in the false charges he has been circulating about Dan King. Brother Jenkins says that Dan does not believe that Isaiah 7:14 refers to the birth of the Messiah. Dan believes no such thing. Rather, Ferrell uncharitably charges Dan because Dan, like many brethren, believes Isaiah 7:14 had reference to an occurrence contemporary to Isaiah in addition to speaking of the birth of Christ (Matt. 1:23).

Brother Jenkins' charge against brother King needs to be examined. For the past 18 years he said absolutely nothing about the Isaiah 7:14 question and what Dan had written about it so long ago--that is, until he was questioned about his own toleration of Hill Roberts' and Shane Scott's views. Now, rather than cite a scripture, Ferrell finds something with which to charge the signers of the open letter, that of inconsistency on the toleration of religious error. Since he disagrees with Dan on his reading of Isaiah 7:14, he now charges us with tolerating what he considers to be error. However, this throws him upon the horns of a dilemma. If Dan actually taught error 18 years ago, why did Ferrell not reprove him? Why has he remained silent until now? The reason is obvious. The two issues are not parallel at all, and Ferrell knows it. This is why he has not made an issue of it before now. If Dan did not believe that Isaiah 7:14 was fulfilled in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, brother Jenkins would have his parallel. But brethren Hill Roberts and Shane Scott do not believe that "God created the heavens and the earth and all that in them is" in the six literal and consecutive twenty-four hour days that Genesis 1 describes. That is a huge difference! Dan believes what the Bible says, Hill and Shane deny it.

Further, Ferrell sent a post around to many brethren via e-mail which dealt with various responses to his lecture. In it he wrote, "Every one of these accounts I have seen took the quotations out of context and failed to tell you that a tape of the speech is available so that you may listen to the speech for yourself." Since this writer had written a response to Ferrell's speech, he wrote Ferrall asking where he had misrepresented him. Ferrell sent back a post which did not substantiate his charges. Who is guilty of "e-gossip?"

Near the conclusion of his speech, a kinder Ferrell counsels: "And let's study an issue carefully before we start a campaign against a brother. And let's be sure that we do that in love when we are convinced that he is wrong." Is his public e-gossip charge in harmony with these words?

Ferrell says that Florida College did brethren a "great service" in having Hill Roberts for lectures last year because of the discussion it prompted. If discussion of this matter is good, why have brethren Jenkins, Roberts and Caldwell been so reluctant to discuss it? But more to the point, you do not do the Lord or his people a "service" by furthering the influence of a brother who teaches error on something so basic as the Genesis account of creation.

Brother Jenkins' Beliefs about the Days in Genesis 1:

Response:

Which is it? He says, "I'm inclined to think that this was in a six periods of 24 hours each." Then, two sentences later, Ferrell says, "And my mind has been made up and my mind basically has not changed in all of those years on this particular topic." This is talking out of both sides of his mouth. Is brother Jenkins' mind made up on Acts 2:38 or is he merely inclined to think that baptism is for the remission of sins? Inclination is leaning; making up the mind is conviction. From what we will note from his further words in his speech, it is clear that brother Jenkins' thought about the days in Genesis 1 fit more in the realm of inclinations.

Brother Jenkins' Confidence in the Teachers at Florida College:

Response:

This is nebulous at best. It is true that we must be careful about the exact import of the terms that we use. Having said this, we err not to note that Shane Scott holds views similar to a theistic evolutionist. In saying, "That's my confidence of the people who are here," Ferrell is including Shane Scott. With regards to what we wrote above, one can see that Ferrell's "confidence" in Shane Scott shows that "inclination" would better describe his thoughts about the length the days in Genesis 1.

Ferrell and the Flood:

Response:

It is not "equating" the two to say that the Bible's account of the Noachian flood harmonizes perfectly with what is known (not theorized) in Science today about geology. Much of geology is theory (including "Flood Geology"), but that which is demonstrably proven does not contradict in the least what Genesis reveals about the Flood. That is the point. How is it that Hill Roberts, et al, can point to geology and then interpret the Bible to harmonize with that, but I am at fault if I show that different points made by God-fearing geologists in their contentions are in harmony with Noah's flood (God's account of it)? Has Ferrell tried to convert brother Roberts out of his erroneous beliefs on this point?

What Other Brethren Have Believed:

Response:

With regards to the italicized section of the above, just who among us has tried to state an exact age for the earth? On the other hand, Ferrell is implicitly arguing herein for tolerance of the belief that the earth is billions of years old. After all, he has already mentioned brother Roberts in his speech and this is what brother Roberts believes. Upon what basis does he argue for such toleration? To do this, he seems to appeal to the church as a source of authority (the Roman Catholic concept of the church). He has no scripture for fellowshipping brethren in error, so he appeals to what brethren have always done. I have a tape of a sermon that brother Colly Caldwell preached in Franklin, TN, in the mid 1980's where he says, "And [we ought] never say, `That's the way we've always done it'." (Brother Caldwell shouted to emphasize the word "never" in his sermon.) Yet, brother Jenkins basically says "that's the way we've always done it" with regards to fellowship and those who believe like brother Roberts.

With regard to brother Jenkins saying he has tried to avoid the issue of the age of the earth, we now note some things from his book The Theme of the Bible (2nd corrected edition, 1969). In this book Ferrell offers several quotes from B.B. Warfield. Warfield believed, "We may suppose any length of time to have intervened between these events." Ferrell notes that "The genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 differ greatly in the various texts" (P.26). He then shows the different number of years per the Hebrew Text, the Samaritan Text, and the Septuagint Text. However, the differences are in several hundreds of years. What does that have to do with the millions of years that are allotted to man's life on earth by the evolutionist, by the theistic evolutionist, and by some of our brethren who advocate the Geologic Timetable? Luke puts 75 generations for the timetable between Adam and Christ. The issue is this: Does that period of time embrace thousands of years, or millions of years? Has Ferrell addressed himself to such brethren as the one who stated that Adam lived 930 years after he sinned, not since he was created? In his book, Ferrell's chapter, "The Antiquity of Man", includes this quote from Warfield: "In a word, the Scriptural data leaves us wholly without guidance in estimating the time which elapsed between the creation of the world and the deluge and between the deluge and the call of Abraham. So far as the Scripture assertions are concerned, we may suppose any length of time to have intervened between these events which may otherwise appear reasonable" (my emphasis, sw). Although Ferrell claims to believe in a young earth, Theistic Evolutionists have made use of such arguments as the above to get an ancient earth into the picture. Ferrell quotes Warfield (pp. 25- 26), "For all we know they may have been of immense lengths" of time between Adam and Abraham . "There is no reason inherent in the nature of the Scriptural genealogies why a genealogy of ten recorded links, as each of those in Genesis 5 and 11 is, may not represent an actual descent of a hundred, or a thousand or ten thousand links." Ferrell adds to this: "While this view does not contradict the scripture we see no necessity in holding it and several difficulties connected with it." Now, is that not a strong disclaimer! There could be ten thousand missing links in that genealogical record and, according to Ferrell, that does not contradict Luke 3:23-38! (Note: While brother Jenkins took the above-cited material out of later editions of his book, his words in his lecture show us that he did not do so out of strong conviction that it was in error.)

What was Luke's point if 75 (even up to the time of Christ) or 10,000 (just up to the time of Abraham) are all the same? Although we do not deny the well-attested presence of gaps in some of the genealogies, at what point does all this "stretching out" of the genealogies become ludicrous? Moreover, why are brethren promoting the arguments of Theistic Evolutionists, with their implications of immense lengths of time, if they are not Theistic Evolutionists themselves? Is there no chronological value at all in the genealogical records? If not, what point was there in mentioning specific lengths of time such a "eight hundred ninety and five years" (Gen. 5:17)?

Why mention only ten links if actually there might have been ten thousand? We are not denying the existence of gaps in some of the genealogies, but surely there is some substance to these generational records. Should we simply ignore them? Why allude to any at all if they are to be considered meaningless historically? Ferrell quotes these fellows who spout error with every turn of the pen, but does not refute their conclusions, and then complains of gossip against himself and others who do the same thing that he is doing! His use of reckless language is what now has him in hot water with many preaching brethren.

The Age of the Earth:

Response:

Ferrell denies the evolutionists' claim for the age of the earth and shows the folly of Usher's specific date in years. However, he keeps asking the question, "How is the problem solved?" Remarkable, in light of the background of his speech, is that he himself takes no definitive stand.

Also, we note a noteworthy implication from Ferrell's words: "Well, the evolutionists say that the earth is 4.5 billion, some say 6, some say 4, 5.4" "The earth is not old like the evolutionist says." Without intending to do so, brother Jenkins has paralleled what brother Roberts believes on the age of the earth with what the evolutionists believe. This implication is proper because of brother Roberts' belief in the evolution of the inanimate universe.

(continuing quotation of Ferrell on the age of the earth)

Response:

Notice the italicized words above. Brother Jenkins just leaves this belief dangling without any refutation. Also, Ferrell's words here obscure the fact that there is a Bible basis for gaps in genealogies, while the belief that the days of Genisis 1 were other than literal 24 hour days lacks a Bible basis.

Brother Jenkins on the Bible and the Days in Genesis 1:

Response:

With regards to the usage of the word "day" in Genesis 1-2, in which of these different senses is the word used in the phrases, "one day," "second day," "third day," etc.? This is the issue.

(More on the days in Genesis 1)

Response:

In the opening sentences of the above paragraph, Ferrell lamely refuses to treat as false doctrine what brothers Roberts and Scott believe. Ferrell earlier complained about those who try to "equate our understanding of the Bible with the current understanding of science"? Now, he supports Hodge's book and quotes from it, "For apologetic purposes we need to demonstrate ways the account can be harmonized with scientific facts". Did Ferrell forget what he had previously said?

(more on the days in Genesis 1)

Response:

Brother Jenkins warns against dogmatism on the days in Genesis 1. His basis for doing so is what brethren have taught or written. If we can show conclusively from the Bible that the days of Genesis 1 are literal 24-hour days (as indeed we can), let us use our knowledge of truth to refute views contrary to this truth. We should not let his warning against "dogmatism" scare us. Are we not viewed as dogmatic on the church, baptism, music in worship, etc., by those in the world?

Brother Jenkins' Closing Remarks:

1) His Appeal for Brethren to Seek to Reach the Lost:

Response:

Brother Jenkins is able to take a jab at Ron Halbrook and others who are warning against trends in the church, while warning against a "trend" about which he is concerned! He counsels us to spend more time trying to reach the lost in a speech where he preaches on a problem he sees. It is interesting that he, a representative of the college, advises brethren as to what they should be doing while refusing advice from brethren with regards to what the college has done.

2) Alleged Abuse of E-mail:

Response:

Brother Jenkins bemoans the situation that exists where brethren condemn people on e-mail with out ever studying with them. Has he personally talked to all of the brethren to whom he has reference above? Is he not doing the very thing he condemns? For the record, if a brother has publicly taught error or guilty of public sin, one is not bound by the scriptures to personally talk to that brother before exposing his false teaching (Eph. 5:11; cp. Paul's conduct in 1 Cor. 5 and 15).

3) How Do We Respond to a Brother Who Teaches Error?

"And let's study an issue carefully before we start a campaign against a brother. And let's be sure that we do that in love when we are convinced that he is wrong." (p. 11, paragraph 1)

Response:

If one is convinced that a brother is "wrong", does it follow that he is starting "a campaign against" him? This is inflammatory language, designed to prejudice minds against anyone who confronts a brother believed to be wrong. Ferrell, have you ever been convinced that a brother was wrong? If yes, then was what you said about the matter starting "a campaign against" him? (Did you start a "campaign" against institutional brethren during the division over those issues?) If you "discuss(ed) it in a spirit of brotherliness and of brotherly love", why can not you credit others with doing the same? Will you name us some brethren who are not doing this so that we can exhort them?

Brother Jenkins' speech will have at least two effects on uncritical hearers: 1) It will cause them to think that the meaning of the word "day" in Genesis 1 is a matter of opinion; 2) It will smear and discredit anyone who disagrees with him on this matter. All of this obscures the real issue, i.e., that we can know what the Bible means by "day" in Genesis 1. As a result of this, Florida College should admit it made a mistake in having brother Roberts in to give lectures and in having brother Scott as a teacher there.

In the broader context, brother Jenkins' speech fits neatly into the current push for unity-in-diversity. While it is regrettable, it gives brethren a chance to look at this controversy from another perspective. Brother Jenkins' efforts to make the controversy over the days of Genesis 1 a matter of opinion parallel other brethren's efforts to make differences over marriage, divorce and remarriage a matter of opinion. We have noted that the latter differences will lead to further extremes, such as the acceptance of homosexuals into fellowship. Likewise, this current move by Florida College logically leads in the direction of modernism, though none of those currently involved in the defense of brethren Roberts and Scott is likely to personally embrace modernism. (As Steve Wolfgang said in his second lecture concerning colleges started by brethren, "The devil's got them all.") How much better it would have been for all Christians everywhere if Florida College had simply admitted their blunder, apologized and went on from there!

(I am thankful to brother Bill Reeves. Material from his response to brother Jenkins' lecture is included with slight changes in this article. He also helped in critiquing this article before publication.)


email this author at styvas@mindspring.com

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