Before The Genesis Flood was published, GARBC churches did not necessarily believe in a literal 24-hour creation day. While this was a common view, it was not unusual for a pastor or college professor to embrace the day-age view of creation.
At the time, Regular Baptists were not interested in writing their doctrinal statements to exclude either group. Just a few months before the publication of The Genesis Flood in 1961, the Grand Rapids Association of Regular Baptist Churches met for its annual meeting and passed a resolution stating, “There are many who hold to six literal days of twenty-four hours each while there are other true, born again, earnest Christians who hold to an age-day interpretation, and such we would not for one moment wish to exclude from fellowship.”
When Marchant A. King wrote “A Specific Alternative to Evolution” for the January 1962 Baptist Bulletin, he suggested either viewpoint was viable within our theological perspective, affirming a possible “day-age interpretation” that allowed for “a series of interpositions each marking the beginning of the new age.” Bulletin editor Merle Hull, knowing the idea was becoming less popular, interjected a note at this point in Merchant’s article: “Mention of the ‘day age’ interpretation does not indicate the Bulletin’s endorsement of it—Ed.”
Retired GARBC pastor Charles Alber recalls the most controversial question at his ordination in 1963. David Otis Fuller began by asking, “Where do you stand on the sufficiency of Scripture?” and then followed with, “Where do you stand on the days of creation?”
“At the time, there were only two alternatives,” Alber remembers. “Either the gap theory or the day-age theory. Leon Wood was my Old Testament prof in seminary, and he promoted a day-age position. Fuller promoted a gap theory between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. I was schooled in this, and knew the Scriptural support offered for both.”
Cornered between proponents of two difficult positions, Alber answered the best way he could: “I don’t know!”
“I’ve got a problem with both views,” Alber recalls saying to the ordination counsel. “They both require death before the fall of man. Always in the back of my mind was the problem of death before sin in Romans 5:12.”
“A lot of people accused the day-age theorists in our association as believing in theistic evolution. They didn’t—and there were never any local-flood guys in our camp either. But [the possibility of theistic evolution] is why so many of us were suspicious of Ramm’s work at Wheaton College.”
After the ordination examination in 1963, one of the participants approached Alber and suggested he read The Genesis Flood, which he subsequently did. “I ended up believing their position was the most feasible,” Alber says.
In 1964, Arthur Williams publicly endorsed Morris and Whitcomb’s views in an article for the Baptist Bulletin, “The Genesis Account of Creation” (October and November 1964). “It is our conviction that once the interpretation of the six days of creation which makes them extended periods of perhaps millions of years in duration is accepted, the door is opened for the entire evolutionary philosophy,” Williams wrote, appealing to a consistent use of literal, historical, and grammatical interpretation.
At the 1966 GARBC Conference in Grand Rapids, messengers passed another conciliatory resolution stating that “historically the six creative days have been and are interpreted by most of our Associational churches as twenty-four hour days,” but making it clear that “we would not therefore wish to exclude from Associational fellowship those holding other views (providing such views are within the framework of our doctrinal statement and historic Christian orthodoxy).”
But the 1966 resolution provoked a three-year discussion among our churches as to what our Association’s view really was. The resulting title of a 1969 GARBC resolution revealed the motivation behind our developing consensus: “Verbal Inspiration and the Twenty-Four Hour Day.”
“We the official messengers in session in Fort Wayne, Indiana, clearly, plainly, and unequivocally declare ourselves as believing in the verbally inspired Word of God and in the six literal twenty-four hour days of Creation as plainly set forth in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis,” the resolution said.
Motivated by a larger, fundamental belief in inerrancy, our emerging consensus was embracing the position of The Genesis Flood. As often happens in the GARBC, the doctrinal idea summarized in a conference resolution was eventually codified in a formal revision to our Articles of Faith. Messengers to the 1975 GARBC Conference passed a new statement, changing the original wording (“We accept the Genesis account of creation and believe that man came by direct creation of God and not by evolution”) to a much more complete statement using “immediate creative acts of God,” a phrase that ruled out the day-age theory entirely.
Kevin Mungons is managing editor of the Baptist Bulletin and editorial director of publications for Regular Baptist Press.
Original GARBC Articles of Faith (1932)
“We accept the Genesis account of creation and believe that man came by direct creation of God and not by evolution.”
Current GARBC Articles of Faith (1975)
We believe the Biblical account of the creation of the physical universe, angels, and man; that this account is neither allegory nor myth, but a literal, historical account of the direct, immediate creative acts of God without any evolutionary process; that man was created by a direct work of God and not from previously existing forms of life; and that all men are descended from the historical Adam and Eve, first parents of the entire human race.”
- Download GARBC resolutions on creationism
- Download historical articles on creationism