Answering a Young Earth Creationist’s Critique of the Framework Structure

John C. Rankin (June 27, 2007)

For many years, back to the early 1990s, I sought at various junctures to have conversations with various “young earth” creationists – those who believe that the days in Genesis 1 refer to six successive 24-hour periods. This I address in my outline of the Framework Theory in my article on Darwin and the Days of Creation. [I was unsuccessful until I crossed paths with Tim Chaffey of Answers in Genesis, in 2009, and several Mars Hill Forums we were able to address (click here)].

In 2006-2007 I was in communication with a leader at Answers in Genesis, and was able to present to him a profile of the Framework Structure, of which his understanding had many many misunderstandings. Finally he supplied me a an article where a scholar trained in Hebrew exegesis had critiques the Framework Structure. I was grateful for this opportunity, I read it closely, and then summed up my observations. Here is the content my email answer.


Good afternoon, and I trust all is well with you. I have fully read Robert McCabe’s critique of the framework structure — and thank you again for sending it along. You have read my chapter, so you know my argument, and here allow me to make some observations of McCabe, assuming your knowledge of what I have written:

Part I:

  • p. 19: Treating the framework hypothesis as “novel” is problematic. Namely, the 24-day hypothesis was novel in the 1830s, and was couched in a reactionary posture against the incipient macroevolutionary theories of the day. Prior to that, in Jewish mishrashic history, its only rare appearance was quickly dispensed with. Now, as Dr. McCabe well knows, much Hebrew syntax and grammar, falling into spoken disuse by 1000 A.D., was lost to scholars until the nineteenth century, especially in terms of rediscovering the parallel nature of Hebrew poetry. So yes, the framework hypothesis is most recently proposed, but in service to exegeting the original text, and that alone is the sufficient criterion — fidelity to the text. Faithful exegesis critiques the framework hypothesis equally as well, and there are points in [Meredith] Kline I where I might have a different angle. Dr. Kline went to be with the Lord in May, and he was a brilliant man devoted to the glory of God in many marvelous and unique ways.
  • p. 19: As I have written clearly, any attempt to “harmonize the days of the creation week” with any scientific presupposition is eisegetical – whether to a young earth or old earth. And truly I do believe that Genesis 1, as the framework hypothesis understands, purposes to say nothing about the age of the universe or earth. I am free to be convinced in any direction that good science leads – as I have made clear.
  • pp. 21, 23: Topical yes, but not “non-sequential.” I believe that days 1 and 4, 2 and 5, and 3 and 6, form a rough chronology, but the concern is foremost with theological order, which then lays the foundation for the importance of chronological order of the Messianic line from Adam to Jesus.
  • pp. 28ff: The upper register and lower register concepts in Kline are most intriguing and valuable, and the more the Hebrew is studied and grasped, the more this reality percolates, especially in service to the Sabbath.
  • pp. 33-34: Genesis 1 is the most unique and powerful piece of literature in human history, as God intended it. It has prose and the poetic parallelisms fused together, and it is simplistic to minimize either.
  • pp. 34ff: McCabe’s use of the w’ consecutive is overused here, though it is a pervasive and important reality in the Hebrew Bible. On pp. 35-36 he says: “If Moses did not intend the creation account to be taken sequentially, then why did he so frequently use a grammatical form that is regularly used for sequence? My argument is not that waw consecutive always denotes sequence … but that waw consecutive is generally used as a preterite in narrative literature.” This observation requires a) Genesis 1 to be merely narrative, but its admixture and poetic parallel structure adds extra and unique dimensions; b) it thus overlooks the natural use of the w’ consecutive in theological order which precedes and defines concerns with chronological (sequential) order; and c) it overlooks the powerful reality that in Hebrew, context modifies word usage, whereas in Greek it is more of words modifying the context. McCabe is taking a Greek way of syntactical thinking into a Hebrew text.
  • pp. 37ff: The argument here follows in the same wrong presuppositions, making much of issues that are readily defined by a theologically ordered w’ consecutive, not a chronologically ordered one.
  • p. 43: McCabe says: “To review this point about sequentially numbered, literal days, we have demonstrated that Genesis 1:19 summarizes the ‘fourth day’ with the simple, singular ‘day,” which is qualified by the numeric adjective ‘fourth,'” and that the ‘fourth day’ is an earthly literal day, as opposed to a heavenly day.” As you know, I am not making the quasi-Augustinian argument for calling any day a “heavenly” one as opposed to a “literal” one. I see no such oppositional issue. I am taking Genesis 1 literally, but not “literalistically.” On its own Spirit-breathed literary terms, the creation week is a literary device in service to the eternal purpose of our literal weeks, to the Sabbath and its eternal trajectory. Just as we understand the spiritual purpose of the Body of Christ as a metaphor rooted in knowing how a physical body works, so Moses used the literalistic week to point theologically to eternal Sabbath.
  • pp. 43-44: The Framework theory does not view days 1 and 4 as identical as McCabe says, but are parallel – domain and ruler over the domain.
  • p. 46: McCabe says there is no hint of the metaphorical – but only due to his atomistic Greek syntactical way of reshaping normal Hebrew syntax.
  • p. 48: McCabe again creates a false dichotomy of “narrative” v. “poetic.”
  • p. 50: It is picayune to strain the parallels to address issues it does not, nor issues Kline et al. do not raise as does Futato here.
  • p. 53: The “normal providence” issue raised here is a interesting concern – but not one which I bring into my argument.
  • p. 59: McCabe repeats a critical thesis of his: “… we are dealing with historical narrative that is sequentially advanced.” No – we are dealing with theologically sequential narrative which is the basis for verifiable history and chronology. He does so by muting the poetic parallelisms, by examining Hebrew syntax with Greek syntactical assumptions, and in the long run, weakening the Bible’s scientific and historical rigor.
  • p. 64: McCabe says: “If the framework’s hermeneutical dualism prevails, how long will it be before Adam’s federal headship and the fall are also abandoned because of literary form? What about other historical events in Genesis 1-11, such as the universal flood in Noah’s day? As Douglas Kelly has noted: ‘Is it naive to suppose that such a far-reaching hermeneutical dualism could be stopped at the end of the second chapter of Genesis, and would not be employed in other texts that run contrary to naturalistic assumptions’ … framework proponents have viewed the creation account’s stylized features as a license to find more figurative elements in this text than is normal for historical material…” I disagree. No naturalistic assumptions and no license. While there are elements in some framework proponents that I might disagree with, and could open up these concerns, there is no dualism being argued here. This is the fear of a slippery slope, and I embark on no such slope. It all comes down to whether or not there is a dualism, and whether McCabe is proper is negating the prose/poetic structural balance of Genesis 1. I argue foundationally for the federal headship of Adam, the nature of sin and its judgment, i.e., in the historicity of the universal flood, and etc.

Part II:

  • pp. 63ff; McCabe’s critique of “ordinary providence” has points worth investigating. But I make no such argument, and never use the language. I do not believe in a dualism of separating extraordinary and ordinary, supernatural and natural. God is sovereign over all, and all is consistent with his nature and creative choices.
  • pp. 68ff: The text of Genesis 2:4-7 has always been challenging, and neither the use of ordinary or extraordinary providence is satisfactory. McCabe thus goes into great depth with much technical arguments that miss a very simple reality, as I argue: Genesis 2:4-7 sets up the context for follows, a context that locates the first covenant with Adam and Eve on the sixth day.
  • p. 87: I have great difficulty with the argument that “Genesis 2:5 is best understood in the light of Genesis 3:8-24.” If McCabe believes, as I do, in the foundational doctrines of creation, sin and redemption, then we know that Genesis 1-2 is the biblical order of creation which precedes and hence defines the fall into sin which is introduced in Genesis 3; and the process of redemption which is prophesied in Genesis 3, and historically inaugurated in face of the contest with sin in Genesis 4. Hence theologically, he has the cart before the horse. The same is true in how Genesis 1 and its uses of day and Sabbath define Moses’s use of day in the Ten Commandments and how the author of Hebrews defines the Sabbath.
  • p. 127: McCabe says: “Unfortunately, even professing evangelicals have been influenced by our world’s insistence that ‘science’ teaches an old earth model.” If so, then it is eisegetical, but just as with 24-hour models and any other model which brings a scientific presupposition to bear before looking at the biblical text.

Now, this is all excellent material that needs a sane conversation within the larger evangelical community.

Here is a proposal: Invite Dr. McCabe to address a forum with me at your headquarters, and advertise it well. I will define my understanding of the Framework structure proactively; and he will define his 24-hour day interpretation proactively; we will dialogue one-on-one. being accountable to each other’s questions; then take questions from the audience. In particular, we can probe the matter whether the Framework structure leads to such a slippery slope he is concerned with.

[There was never a response to this email, nor to my proposal, what stands open-ended.]