In theory, this summer’s General Synod of the Christian Reformed Church at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, promised to define the denomination’s position on evolution. A study committee on Creation and science brought a 45-page report—three years in the making—to the annual synod for discussion and approval. Though ultimately accepted, the report and the debate that surrounded it failed to clear up all ambiguities in the church’s perspective on human origins that have stirred controversy in the 310,000-member body.

Heated debate focused on one of six summary declarations in the report, pitting those who believe that standard evolutionary theory is not necessarily incompatible with the biblical account of Creation against those who maintain the Bible teaches unequivocally that humans were created by a special act of God in a way that precludes evolution. That declaration, Declaration F, states that the clear teaching of Scripture on “the uniqueness of human beings as imagebearers of God rules out the espousal of all theorizing that posits the reality of evolutionary forebears of the human race.” Though opposed by the majority of the committee that drafted the report, Declaration F was approved by the synod 95 to 82.

Opponents felt the declaration was inconsistent with the otherwise tentative tone and content of the rest of the report. While the report affirms Adam and Eve as “the progenitors of the human race,” it also states there are various plausible interpretations of Genesis 1:1 and that the “present apparent conflict between Christian faith and science over questions of origins cannot be easily resolved.”

The report concludes that the church is not in a position “to state authoritatively that Scripture speaks definitively ...

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