Category Archives: fundamentalism

Is Covid-19 Evil? A Christian answer?

 

Is Covid-19 Evil? A Christian answer?

 

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The only reasonable answer is NO. Definitely No, the virus is not evil.

It is simply part of the natural order, so can be no more evil than a Koala Bear, a bluebell, a sunset or a beautiful woodland. Some will disagree, but lets consider the universe, the natural world or the creation, call it what you will.

The universe is billions of years old and billions of light years across. Our tiny planet was formed some four and half billion years ago along with the Solar System. Initially Earth was too hot for life and gradually cooled, with volcanic activity, earthquakes and the like. The first life was formed some three or four billion years ago. Grossly simplifying it was some kind of bacteria, which lived and died at a great rate. Viruses appeared as dubiously living things riding piggy-back on any life-form they could and often killed them. Since then the earth has been violent, with bits of crust whizzing round the surface of the planet with earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. Life has also moved on. New and more complex forms arose and went extinct to be replaced by others. Animals could only thrive by eating up other living things, whether plant or animal. At times fossil animals have been found with the teeth marks of predators. Disease and death was the other side of life and many of these were caused by bacteria or viruses. Animals have a love-hate relationship with bacteria and thus half the human body is made up of – not human flesh – but BACTERIA. Last to appear on Planet Earth were humans and for many millennia their lives were “nasty, brutish and short”. Life expectancy did not top 40 anywhere until the 19th century. Famine, starvation and disease were rampant, with regular pandemics, most notably the Black Death.

All of this is totally natural with suffering and death going on for a few billion years. Triceratops suffered in agony when ripped apart by a T Rex, as much as we do if we suffer from covid-19 or another ghastly disease.

All this is totally natural and is simply the way the world is.

Think of watching an animal in at the kill. Consider a lion bringing down a springbok. Once looking out the kitchen window I saw a sparrow eating honeysuckle berries. In a flash a sparrowhawk appeared and grabbed the poor sparrow. Last autumn I discovered spiders in my garden were catching tortoiseshell butterflies in their webs, wrapping them in silk nd taking them to their food cache. All is totally and utterly natural.

Too often we only consider the cuddly bits of nature and forget the rest. We want to stay with Bambi. Nature is not like that. Neither are our lives and we know most of us will die of dementia, heart, respiratory disease or cancer. Three hundred years ago we never lived long enough to die from those.

I spent over a year living in a mountainous desert, which was as rugged as it was beautiful. Each day was self-indulgence on fantastic scenery, which was even more fantastic when the desert flowered after rains. But I did not keep my social distance with a Cape Cobra, which probably would have been fatal. Before that I was in the Ugandan bush, beautiful in a different way, but I had to take anti-malarial tablets. Mosquitoes kill more humans than any other animal – including humans. Closer to home our enjoyment of snow-covered mountains can end up with hypothermia. Not to mention all the other diseases we can get.

All is totally natural, but suffering and death is never far away

Violent earth processes, predation, disease, suffering and death is usually referred to as Natural Evil, but that seems a misnomer as if it is Natural how can it be Evil – unless some devil put its oar in? Too much Christian theology does just that; the alleged Curse given by God after the Fall of Genesis 3, or due to a very early angelic Fall, spiritual warfare as the devil tries to wreck everything now.

To say that suffering is Natural is not comforting if we see a pyroclastic cloud or tsunami coming towards or a large branch falls on our head or we are struck by lightning. Or even when we get a bad cold and feel like death warmed up. Worse is when we break a bone, get a nasty illness especially if it is fatal or when we witness illness in others. Think of watching the 2004 Tsunami clips on TV.

It is painful, it is sad, but we need to admit it is totally natural and normal so Natural Evil is not a good term.

What about Covid-19 and other suffering?

Is it always natural and not evil?

It seems most likely that it came from a bat at a live, wet, market and jumped to humans at the end of 2019. In a sense that makes it harder as we can’t blame one person or a group.

If suffering was caused by agent then we could blame the agent.

There are those who want to identify the agent. Some say it is God cursing the earth after the sin of Adam and Eve related in Genesis 3. Many evangelicals believe just that. Others, noting that the previous idea can’t be tenable if we accept and ancient earth and evolution suggest a primeval fall of angels, who have been causing havoc ever since. Even today, well over two centuries after the discovery of geological time and extinction before humans, far too many Christians still accept this untenable set of beliefs.

Or else one may claim to believe in spiritual warfare, in that we live in a world where natural disasters, disease and evil are tied up not only with the choices of human beings but with the freedom exercised by spiritual forces in rebellion against God. Despite the victory of Christ is his death and resurrection, there are still lots of spiritual battles of good and evil, whether cancer, a tsumani or a pandemic.

These divide creation into good and evil. But how do you decide which parts of creation is evil? When in Yellowstone some years ago a Ranger told me that some visitors told him to remove all the bad animals from the park. I presume they meant grizzlies and bison who are not very cuddly. Just because they are potentially dangerous doesn’t mean they are evil. I must admit I was a bit jumpy on one hike despite having a bear bell! Some extend this to the inanimate creation and consider earth forces like earthquakes and volcanoes to be bad and with malign spiritual forces behind them. This is totally Manichean with a battle of good and evil and makes people look for the good and the bad, rather like that Yellowstone visitor.

We cannot make this simplistic division of creation into good and bad, but we need simply to accept creation as it is, and realise there are some uncomfortable aspects. I’ll come back to suffering.

More recently some, and not fundamentalist, have stressed the Groaning of Creation from Romans 8. This can be tied into the fundamentalist view of the curse of Genesis 3, or have a curse without a curse, apparently accepting the whole evolutionary picture by saying the cosmos needs redeeming. I have to admit that I do not know what it actually means, and really only makes sense if we believe a literal fall which changed the cosmos. It is also dependent on a particular translation of Romans 8 vs 19ff.

One of the most common theistic explanations which is brought out every disaster is that the event – hurricane or virus – is an Act of God and a judgement on sin. This is a common practice of leading pastors and they single out things like gay marriage. I find it hard to believe in a loving god who’d bump off so many people because a few went for single-sex marriage. It makes God an ogre and a nasty bit of work.

Granted this is an old view and was wheeled out for many natural disasters and pandemics in the past. It does have some roots in the Old Testament but not in Jesus Christ.

None do justice to a loving God (though there are issues why He allows such disasters) or to the brute naturalness of these disasters whether floods or pandemics.

Not all suffering is natural

Much suffering is not from a natural cause and is caused, directly or indirectly, by humans. Human history is full of examples and the Holocaust is the worst of many. I write this close to the 75th anniversary of the freeing of Belsen. Words fail on that. Or take some examples from history; the Thirty Years war of the 17th century, the harrowing of the north of England by William the Conqueror, the blood-bath of WWI for a few.

It is too easy to focus on the evil of the Holocaust and Pol Pot and ignore all the lesser evils like the ones each of us commits – assuming we can grade them. Human evil always hurts others to a greater or lesser extent. Just read a standard history book and think of the human suffering caused by war, revolution, or misgovernment. The most well-known is the history of World War II with its horrific toll of suffering and death. Just read a volume by Max Hastings or Anthony Beevor or Michael Burleigh’s aptly titled work on WWII Moral combat, which is a most unsettling book.

It does not have to be the world at war, it can be within a family, local community or a church community. On the last there is not only child abuse but spiritual abuse Title. Many have left a church totally hurt by “nice Christians” who behaved badly.

Some may try to play down the moral side by insisting that often it was not deliberate. That comes from the common, but simplistic and wrong, view that for an action to be sinful/evil, it must be deliberate. Not all evil is deliberate, but that does not make it not evil. In one of the Anglican prayers of confession we find these words;

We have sinned…..

Through ignorance, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault…

I confess that when I first used it half a century ago I thought it misguided as I thought sin had to be cold-bloodedly deliberate. I gradually appreciated its wisdom.

Weakness is the failure to do what is right as Edmund Burke said “All that is needed for evil to thrive is that good men do nothing.” In fact, good men become evil. Weakness can often mean lacking the moral fibre or guts to do what is right.

Ignorance comes in various forms. At the simplest it is simply not knowing and there is nothing wrong in that, provided we admit to it. It is wise to realise one’s ignorance. But there is a more serious ignorance when we simply fail to find out something on a vital issue. This can have lethal results if a mechanic is ignorant on fixing a bike, car or plane, because he failed to consult the manual. Ignorance can be deliberate and/or culpable, when a person simply fails to find out what they can. Many years ago there was a ghastly accident on Snowdon. A group of hillwalker out to climb Snowdon in January, and without skill or equipment attempted a snow and ice climb. Halfway up one slipped and broke his leg, they left him there. They carried on, another slipped and died. It was a catalogue of culpable folly and Snowdonia Mountain Rescue were fulsome in criticism, something they do not usually do. You may be ignorant about a route up a mountain and thus when you attempt it you may have a serious accident. But that does not make you blameless, as if you have not worked out the route before by studying the map and guide book and checked whether you and the party are capable of returning safely, you are responsible for everything which goes wrong. Many years ago the Welsh Mountain Rescue ascribed nearly half of accidents one year to folly.

Now the Holocaust is simply “deliberate fault” and unmitigated human evil. There are many lesser examples of bad actions due to “deliberate fault”, and I am sure you can think of many – including your own.

Where does covid-10 come in? The virus itself is totally natural, and, if the present scientific consensus is right, then C-19 had existed for ages in bats. In Wuhan the virus did what viruses often do, especially when its host animal is badly stressed – it jumped to another species and this time to humans and we know the rest and the terrible results.

There is no evil in the C-19 virus itself, though it causes disease, but the evil and sin is in how conditions were formed to enable the virus to jump species. All the evidence points to the live trade in exotic animals, which is illegal in civilised countries. Animals are kept in appalling conditions and if alive are highly stressed and if dead squalid and filthy. It is not a hygenic environment, ideal for spreading diseases and that is what happened. (I am aware that some say it came from a lab – when the same strictures apply.)

Some may try to play down the moral side by insisting it was not deliberate, so we go back to the prayer of confession;

We have sinned…..

Through ignorance, through weakness

The outbreak of C-19 was not deliberate but seems to have been caused by blatant ignorance and weakness in taking part in live markets. The lack of animal welfare could be seen as deliberate. Before too many fingers are pointed, the whole human race has a bad record on treating the earth and the life in it.

We could list many other examples like the drunk or careless driver who kills.

Earlier I gave some of the false explanations for so-called Natural Evil and why they are wrong. They gain traction because they do appear to be explanations and I’ve offered nothing by way of explanation. My omission is deliberate, but it is not an omission, but a realisation that an explanation is not forthcoming. We are simply stymied by suffering, whether on a personal level when we lose a relative, a pandemic or a war.

When suffering strikes many want an explanation, be it “Why is God punishing me?” as if is a result of wrong-doing, either ours or Adam’s. Suffering is often seen as punishment and enough theological spin-doctors down the centuries have spun their tales, which often cause more hurt than comfort.

We live in a world where suffering is guaranteed whether on a large or small scale. Each of us has experienced suffering in the past, more for some than others. From the news or history books we will hear of more. However much we put it on one side we know it will continue to hit us until the day of our deaths. That death will cause suffering to others. My mother, who lost my father at 51, once said to me decades later, “you never get over it.” Move from the family to the wider society.

Suffering is more of a problem today than before when life expectancy was about 40, you’d expect to lose half your children, famine and disease hanging over like a cloud. If you read about 19th century Britain, you find women dying in childbirth, lots of children dying and a life where death was never far away. At the end of the 19th century Sunday School hymnbooks had several hymns to sing to mark the death of a fellow scholar – as that was expected. Then most, Christian or not, were much more acceptive of suffering, as they had to be.

The Bible gives us nothing tangible on the origin of evil and suffering.

On the former it accepts some kind of spiritual evil, which is weaker than the power of God. I am very hesitant to call it in on every occasion but have occasionally come across it.  This needs to be emphasised, especially as many want spin a theology of little biblical basis, whether to explain suffering or to give comfort.

Human evil or sin is a brute fact and common to every person, The Old Testament is weaker on it than the New Testament. And the behaviour in the OT is often appalling! It is almost that the character of Jesus highlights what human evil is by contrast. Each human comes off worst in comparison, thus giving the central theme  – all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God – which on its own would be soul-destroying, but the greater emphasis is on Jesus Christ, whose forgiving transformative powers are presented in so many different ways, like the many facets of a cut diamond.

I suggest the common and popular view of atonement – penal substitution – is very limited and self-centred focusing on the individual’s salvation, rather than the reconciliation and redemption which litter the pages of the New Testament. It also leans to seeing suffering as punishment, and is also rather smugly triumphant.

Focusing just on punishment for sin, it overlooks the fact that we have a mangled Jesus, who was humiliated and beaten up before being strung up. Jesus had entered into human suffering, in a way which most of us won’t. During his life He was not the strong man overpowering his opponents but identified with the unpowerful. Nothing is further from the Jesus of the Gospels than the corruption of the Nazi Churches with their fuhrer Christology. Jesus was no ubermensch superior to everyone else (with blue eyes and blond hair too). Instead he was an untermensch – everybody’s dogsbody. As he made clear in Mark 10 when two disciples wanted to bag the best seats in the Kingdom.

42 So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

He came to serve, not to be served and that is the calling of every Christian. Paul brings this out in Phillipians 2. Where Paul looks to the example of Jesus for a Christian to follow

2If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was* in Christ Jesus,

6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess  that Jesus Christ is Lord,  to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Here the example of Jesus’s sacrificial service and devotion is something to be emulated and that it something which has come into the wider society through the Christian faith as Tom Holland argues in his book Dominion, even though many would not confess to being Christian. We have seen this sacrifice during the covid pandemic.

Perhaps sacrificial service is the only Christian answer to any suffering on any scale, rather than spinning yarns about god cursing Adam and Eve, or a spiritual warfare. It is probably the only human answer too.

Suffering and death is a given and never explained and that is the theme of Job, a fine religious novel in verse. How anyone can take it a historical beats me as the whole story is artistically contrived and none the worse for that. The writer enjoyed piling it on with a certain black humour in the first few chapters and then introduced the reader to four, well-meaning but wrong-headed advisors (just as we have today from many religious writers).

Job ends up after his four advisors were no help being confronted by God;

“Were you there when I created the universe”

Or rather Job 38 vs1 ff

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: 2 ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. 4 ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you  have understanding.5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!  Or who stretched the line upon it?

The essence of God’s message to Job was “trust me”,  without the superficiality of today’s usage. Job turned to God in trust and then to action. In the absence of any answers on suffering a Christian who rejects all the dodgy theological yarns spun in despair has only the option of trusting God in Jesus Christ and striving to serve.

As I wrote above the essence of Jesus’s life was to serve others and so that became the mark of the early Christians, as, unlike the Romans, Christians actually cared for those in need, and this became apparent in the pandemics which afflicted the Roman world. This marked out Christians from the beginning and the contrast with the Roman lack of care for others is summed up pithily in the Epistle to Diognetus ch5 vs7 “They share their food but not their wives.” Many Romans did the opposite! This stemmed from the second of the two commandments and other parts of Jesus’ teaching and extended in Paul’s ethical teaching and above all in the letter of James chap1 vs27

 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

And so, despite the Church being sucked into power structures since Constantine, It has always had an emphasis of caring for those in need, heroically in pandemics and more mundanely in the setting up of hospices and the care of the sick. Many of these became hospitals with a legacy of such names as St Mary’s, St Thomas’s and others. With the missionary movement, Christian missionaries of all denominations pioneered hospitals and medical work in areas where there had been none.

However it is wrong to see Christianity as primarily a moral code devoted to good works rather than a faith in Jesus Christ, with all the added religious mumbo jumbo about salvation as Clement Atlee called it. The two are totally intermeshed and cannot be separated.

In his letters Paul often first gives his doctrine and then his ethical teaching.  John in 1 John presents it almost as an oscillation between “religious faith in Christ as saviour” and loving action.

1 John 3 vs23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

1 John 4 vs 7-117 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.

Clarity can be worse than imprecision and can lead to arrogance, whereas if our imprecision comes from not knowing we are more likely to be humble and understanding, and thus more able to help others.

I suggest there is no “answer” to C-19, and all attempts to give an answer are doomed as I demonstrated earlier. Perhaps I should be more dogmatic and say

THERE IS NO ANSWER TO C-19 OR TO ANY SUFFERING.

We have witnessed some arrogance in response to C-19 , like those who scrawl “Jesus is my vaccine” on their trucks, or think their faith will protect them.

Pandemics are not like that and never have been, or else the Black Death would have been neither.

The answer comes in doing the best one can and that means looking for the science, as did the earliest attempt at quarantine or some ways of dealing with outbreaks like typhus in Philadelphia in 1836. Any solutions will be in the scientific knowledge of viruses and how to deal with them. As this is so matter of fact, technical, and apparently soulless, more emotive responses are often preferred. That is doomed. To understand one needs to be practicing a very high de-coupling, and then, and only then, dealing with the personal suffering with skill and care. Many of the daily scientific reports this March and April have been rather cold and distant and some have criticised them for their lack of human warmth. However the best scientific evidence is needed before making moral and political decisions. Those decisions are not easy, as often the least bad option must be chosen.

To those Christians who have to have a “biblical” answer to everything, this will be a feeble and wrong response. It is so much easier to see Covid-19 as God’s judgement on a wicked world or a similar ghastly theological explanation. Using the word correctly and wisely they are heretical and also very hurtful.

We are in the position of Job, in that magnificent Old Testament legend about suffering. No one can give an answer, except that on this planet “shit happens” – there is death, disease and suffering which hits us in so many different ways. Most of the time it is one individual in one family but a Pandemic affects everyone potentially. Corporately we face our mortality and find no answer.

We can understand it partially with our reductionist science and then need to apply that as those who suffer are cared for and hopefully led to the road of recovery.

For a Christian that is to look at the example of Christ and to love one another.

Perhaps this meme quoting an American Old Testament sums up what we shoulf think and above all do.

Image may contain: text

 

On plagues, judgement, and the Book of Revelation | Psephizo

A useful bog  by an Anglican theologian on the subject

 

Rather sharp on those who see God’s stroppy judgement in every possible disaster.

Some Christian seem think God’s an ogre who delights in sending plagues and disasters to punish us.

I will have more on this in a later blog of my own

 

Source: On plagues, judgement, and the Book of Revelation | Psephizo

Why is Franklin Graham being turned away? Bring back Billy!

Image result for billy grahamImage result for franklin graham

 

Since the 50s Billy Graham had many visits to Britain ( and the rest of the world) and was generally welcomed. I played a small part in his 1984 visit.

His son Franklin is not so welcome and thus in 2018 when he came to Blackpool several local clergy asked thier bishop not to show a welcome.  I didn’t go to hear him, but nearly did to see how much I’d dislike him!!!

I have only followed his visit casually and have no wish to take part.

Here is a better comment that I would make

Source: Why is Franklin Graham being turned away? | Psephizo

Six Geological Reasons Why I am Not a Young-Earth Creationist Part 1 — Igneous Rocks

Here Kevin gives the first of 6 blogs on why Geology says no to a Young Earth.

It’s worth reading just for the geology and photos

GeoChristian

This is the first in a planned six-part series of Six Geological Reasons Why I am Not a Young-Earth Creationist. I am a Christian who holds to the inerrancy and authority of the Bible, and who also has a master’s degree in geology. I have previously given my biblical and theological reasons why I believe the Bible does not require a young Earth. This present series will have six parts:
  1. Igneous rocks
  2. Sedimentary rocks
  3. Metamorphic rocks
  4. The fossil record
  5. Ice ages
  6. Radiometric dating

Each of these broad geological arguments against young-Earth creationism can be summarized as: Too many events, too little time.

Introduction

Since the 1700s, most scientists, Christian or otherwise, who have studied the Earth have concluded that there is overwhelming evidence that Earth is many millions of years old. The evidence for an ancient Earth has come from many subdisciplines of geology, including the study of igneous…

View original post 2,022 more words

Creationists in the 19th Century

Are Young Earth Creationists an old or a new phenomenon? Often when those who believe in 10,000 year old earth are mentioned it is assumed that they are traditional Christians. In fact they are not as their Young Earth arguments on go back to ellen White in the late 19th century. Sure many before 1800 believed the earth was young, but that was not folly or the rejection of science, but simply geology had yet to make the case for an ancient earth. By 1800 almost all educated people in Europe and north America accepted an ancient earth. Before that young earth was never, never, never the standard view of the churches.

 

Caution Creationists3

After 1817 in England some Christians, many of the clergy and some skilled in science, fought against old earth geology, despite many geologists being Anglican clergy. The first to do so was the Rev Thomas Gisbourne, who was a mentor to Wilberforce and the last patient to be treated by Erasmus Darwin in 1802. I love odd historical facts. Soon others joined him and they made a bit of noise until the mid-1850s when they went extinct in Britain until 1968.

I have found a motley collection of fifty individuals, many of whom were clergy. One was Dean Cockburn of York who ranted and raved at those like Sedgwick and Buckland, who were very effective at putting him and other anti-geologists down.

 

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Here’s Sedgwick in action

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/how-to-deal-with-victorian-creationists-and-win/

I have not found one bishop among them, but there is at least one Young Earth bishop in the 21st century. Another bishop sent me an irate e-mail at six o’clock in the morning objecting to me writing to the Times agreeing with Dawkins for saying bishops should criticise Creationism more strongly.!!

I looked at them for years but only published in my book Evangelicals and Science, but in the 90s Terry Mortenson did a Ph D on them at Coventry University, which has no history of science department. He often claims it was a Ph D on the history of geology, but really it is an account of those who rejected geology, thus not about geologists! His work came out The Great Turning Point,which is many chapters from his thesis.  He claimed that his subjects were mostly well-informed in geology, but that is simply not the case. To read one like Fairholme on geology made me titter, (I have a copy of his wonderful book) and I am quite sure it had a worse effect on those great Christian geologists Buckland and Sedgwick, who were less circumspect than I am! As for Lyell, he laughed at them and let the clerical geologists deal with them!!

180px-charles_lyell

So a quick summary of the history of geology from 1660s. Before then most opted for a date like 4000BC as the date of creation like Ussher, but without strong conviction.

Jacobus_ussher

One of the first was Nils Steno and after that, just considering Brits, were a series of savants , including John Ray (who had doubts about a young earth),

300px-John_Ray_from_NPG

who initially thought the earth was young and all strata were laid down in the flood. But that was under question by 1700 and during the next hundred years scholars of all sorts from all over Europe continued their field work and by 1800 the argument was whether the earth was many millions of years old or just few hundred thousand. Unexpectedly to us today one of the last to accept an old age was the canal engineer William Smith in about 1800, AFTER he had devised his ways of using fossils for relative age dating. It seems he was persuaded to do so by a trio of local vicars.

200px-william_smith_geologist

During the flowering of anti-geologists, real geologists were working out the geological column. Rev Adam Sedgwick was one of the most prolific.

column+temp

The extract is very Anglo-centric, as that is where the players came from. For a fully European perspective you must read Martin Rudwick’s Bursting the Limits of Time.

 

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EVANGELICALS, GEOLOGY, AND GENESIS LEADING TO DARWIN
By the 1820s most evangelicals adopted the Chaos-Restitution Theory
of Chalmers and Sumner, seemingly removing any conflict between Genesis
and Geology. However, this statement needs qualification, as the only
people who can be studied are those who wrote either in books or magazines.
The pages of the Christian Observer the leading Anglican evangelical
journal give an insight into Anglican Evangelical attitudes to geology. The
editor, S. C. Wilks (1789–1872) tried to avoid controversy, but ensured
the anti-geologists were always answered, relying on W. D. Conybeare
for geological guidance. From 1827 the division between Bugg and Faber
dominated several volumes, and the correspondence became acrimonious
with articles such as “On the Infidel Tendency of Certain Scientific Speculations”
(vol. 34, 1834, pp. 199–207) and then “Replies to a Layman on
Geology” (pp. 306–316), written by Conybeare. For twenty years, Wilks,
the editor, attempted to guide his readers into accepting geology without
totally censoring the anti-geologists. A modern-day parallel can be seen in
Christianity Today.
Before the 1820s dissenting and Methodist evangelicals were more likely
to interpret the Bible literally. By the reign of Victoria their leading scholars
had accepted geological findings.Most notable was the Congregationalist
John Pye Smith, a Biblical scholar, who published The Relation between the
Holy Scriptures and Some Parts of Geological Science in 1839, originally given
as the Congregational Lecture in 1838. Smith adopted a novel exegesis of
Genesis 1, by arguing that God had recreated a small portion of the earth
in six days and put Adam and Eve there. The rest of the planet had been
there for millennia, thus accommodating geological ages. Pye Smith gave
an excellent resume of geology, and criticized the “anti-geologists.” In 1837
another Congregationalist George Redford (1785–1860) also wrote on the
relation of geology and Genesis in The Holy Scriptures Verified, grappling
with the issues in a muddled way, more or less accepting the Gap Theory
and for his geology looking to Fairholme as well as Buckland. Redford’s muddled
arguments indicate that he was not a dogmatic literalist, but just a minister confused on science.
Though there was a considerable diversity among evangelicals of all
denominations, the majority were supportive of geology. Only a vocal minority
considered geology to be infidel.Commentators frequently adopted
a non-literal approach to Genesis, most notably the Free Kirk Robert Candlish
(1806–1873).
THE HARMONY OF GENESIS AND GEOLOGY
During the early nineteenth century there were numerous harmonies of
Geology and Genesis. Though some were “anti-geologies,” the majority
accepted geology and propounded their harmonies with variable geological
competence. The most widely sold and competent was Buckland’s
Bridgewater Treatise. By the 1850s the vast majority of educated Christians
accepted geology, the enthusiasm for “anti-geology” had waned,
evincing the astronomer Rev. Robert Main’s (1808–1878) comment in the
conservative Replies to Essays and Reviews (Wilberforce, 1862) edited by
Samuel Wilberforce: “No educated Christian accepts 4004B.C. as the date
of creation.” That was true then, but not today!
The Chaos-Restitution theory was the mos widely held reconciliation of
Genesis and geology until mid-century, which Hugh Miller challenged in
Footprints of the Creator (Miller, 1847, p. 332), his anti-evolutionary critique
of the Vestiges and in The Testimony of the Rocks (Miller, 1858). Within a few
years Gilbert Rorison was arguing for a totally pictorial exegesis ofGenesis
in Wilberforce’s Answers to Essays and Reviews (Wilberforce, 1861, pp. 281–
286) and the Chaos-Restitution interpretation began to go out of fashion.
Archdeacon John Pratt of Calcutta was one of the last serious writers
to expound it. After that it was taken up by nascent fundamentalists in
the late 19th century, and enshrined in the Schofield Reference Bible, while
the Day-Age interpretation gained ground among the more “intellectual”
conservatives, notably by J. W. Dawson.
Most typical of the 1850s are the volumes by Pratt, Hitchcock, and Miller.
John Pratt (d1871) was Archdeacon of Calcutta, and in the midst of his missionary
work wrote on the isostasy of the Himalayas. An evangelical, he
published Scripture and Science not at variance in 1856 and revised it in
1871,when he still held the Gap Theory and rejected Rorison’s exegesis in
Replies to Essays and Reviews. From its title the American Edward Hitchcock’s
The Religion of Geology (1853) sounds unpromising. Hitchcock was
no mean geologist, and was aggressive in justifying geology to those like
the Hebraist Moses Stuart. Hitchcock saw the problem as being caused by
too literal a reading of Paradise Lost and that “the theologians having so
mixed up the ideas of Milton with those derived from inspiration,” thus
giving rise to Bishop John Colenso’s (1814–1882) complaint “The truth
is that we literally groan, even in the present day, under the burden of
Milton’s mythology” (Colenso 1863, vol. iv, p. 148). Though Colenso was
notorious for his views on biblical criticism in the 1860s, his approach to
Genesis One was similar to that of evangelicals and he quoted extensively
from them. Pride of place must go to Hugh Miller’s The Testimony of the Rocks,which
has already been mentioned.
These three represent the moderate, scholarly evangelical. Others were
less moderate, as is shown by George Eliot’s essay on the immoderate
evangelical—John Cumming (1807–1881). He wrote at least twice on science,
first a lecture given at Exeter Hall in 1851 and then his peculiar
Church before the Flood (Cumming, 1854). Eliot’s criticisms of Cumming are
fair (Eliot, 1973), but a dismissal of Cumming will miss an essential point.
Cumming was very conservative, yet, accommodates the whole of geology
into the first two verses of Genesis. Joseph Baylee (1808–1883), Principal of
the Anglican theological college, St. Aidan’s Birkenhead, was also an ultraconservative,
who wrote on geology and Genesis and allowed geology
to sit alongside his almost literal Genesis (Baylee, 1857). This acceptance
of geology is easily lost in a cursory reading as Baylee claims to be literalist
and it demonstrates the need to study Victorian (or any) writing on
their terms and not with spectacles provided by the twenty-first century.
Their exegesis may not be convincing, but it shows that ultraconservatives
accepted geology.

SCRIPTURAL AND ANTI-GEOLOGISTS?
It may seem that geology presented little challenge to evangelical faith
in the nineteenth century. That was not so for someC hristians,who argued
that geology undermined the truth of Genesis and are frequently termed
Scriptural Geologists, which can cause confusion as geologists like Sedgwick
and Buckland held both geology and a conservative interpretation of
Genesis. So they could rightly be termed Scriptural Geologists. Millhauser
(1954) to a limited extent and Mortenson (1996, 2004) define Scriptural Geologists
as those who claimed that all geology was within the confines of
Six Days and a Flood. To Mortenson “scriptural”means a literal hermeneutic.
Therefore, all who reject literalism have compromised their biblical faith,
be they Sedgwick or not. Throughout his work, Mortenson made strident
criticisms of conventional geology and claimed that several “Scriptural
Geologists” were competent geologists. However his failings are twofold.
First he misunderstands conventional nineteenth-century geologists and
wrongly claims that their geology is based on assumptions of the vast age of
the earth, and secondly he fails to discern that his “competent” scriptural
geologists misunderstood geology. Hence, his work has value in giving
biographical details, but not in the assessment of the scriptural geologists.
Against Mortenson, John Lynch takes a wider view of “scriptural geology”
in his introduction to Creationism and Scriptural Geology, 1817–1857
(Lynch, 2003), a seven volume series reprinting some of eight “scriptural”
geologists. Five were hostile to geology and three supportive. Thomas
Chalmers, John Pye Smith, and Hugh Miller did not regard geology as
infidel. The hostile five were John Mellor Brown an Anglican clergyman,
Granville Penn (1761–1844), grandson of the founder of Pennsylvania and
an Anglican layman, George Young (1777–1848), a Presbyterian minister
and two laymen George Fairholme (1789–1846) and John Murray (1786?–
1851), a chemist. Only two had good field skills in geology, Miller who
needs no introduction and George Young, who did some competent work
around Whitby in the 1820s. By choosing both “pro-” and “anti–geologists”
Lynch undermined the polarized historiography,which usually surrounds
“Genesis and Geology” discussions. All eight writers can be rightly described
as Creationists and Scriptural Geologists, as they understood geology
from the perspective of Creation and Scripture. Chalmers, Pye Smith, and
Miller were respected evangelicals whose works indicate the change in biblical
interpretation over that half century from Chalmer’s semi–literalist
Gap Theory to Miller’s poetic vision. However, in a recent lecture to the
Evangelical Theological Society Mortenson (2001) stresses the theological
compromises of Chalmers, Pye Smith, and Miller, who had “succumbed”
to the Enlightenment.
There is less correlation of evangelical fervor and opposition to geology
from 1817 to 1857 than today. I am aware that most historians, whether
Millhauser or Mortenson refer to flood geologists as Scriptural Geologists
but I prefer the term anti-geologist used by Miller in The Testimony of the
Rocks in his chapter The Geology of the Anti-Geologists (Miller, 1857). Miller
as an evangelical was not going to let others claim the term scriptural. Anti-geologist is theologically neutral and focuses on attitudes to geology, not scripture.

The flowering of “anti-geologists” came as a deluge in the mid-20s and
annoyed Uniformitarian and Catastrophist alike. Their cry was that geologists
were mistaken and ungodly. Some had good scientific credentials
outside geology, like Brande of the Royal Institution, John Murray and
Andrew Ure (1778–1857) of Glasgow, others were evangelicals for example
Bugg, Nolan, Cole, Best, Mellor Brown, and Young and some were traditionalist
clergy for example Vernon Harcourt (brother of the cofounder
of the British Association), Dean Cockburn of York, and Edward Nares.
Despite their variety the anti-geologists had a common theme; the earth
was a few thousand years old being created in six 24-hour days and the
strata were laid down in the Noachian Deluge. Many emphasized that
there was no death or suffering before the Fall (Genesis 3) and thus no animals
had lived for more than a few hours before Adam. This was to retain
the centrality of the Atonement, as death is the curse of sin. (Most orthodox
Christians, e.g., Sumner, Chalmers, and Bishop Samuel Wilberforce
did not reckon that animal death before the Fall affected the Atonement.)
The importance of the “anti-geologists” can be overstated as they attracted
much attention, particularly in retrospect. The “anti-geologists”
were attacked most vigorously by other Christians, as was Ure’s A New
System of Geology (1829), which was scathingly reviewed anonymously in
the British Critic of 1828. Lyell identified the reviewer,

“A bishop, Buckland ascertained (we suppose Sumner), gave Ure a dressing in the British Critic and Theological Review! They see at last the mischief and scandal brought on them by Mosaic systems”

(Lyell.). By the way, Sumner was an evangelical and later Archbishop of Canterbury.
There appear to have been no anti-geologists in America until the Lord
brothers writing in the 1850s in reaction to Hitchcock’s The Religion of
Geology. Eleazer Lord responded with The Epoch of Creation: The Scripture
Doctrine Contrasted with the Geology Theory (1851) and his brother David
Geognosy, or the Facts and Principles of Geology against Theories (1855). Both
criticized geologists and their Christian apologists like Pye Smith, Hitchcock,
and Miller and argued for a belief in a six-day creation. By the time
of the Civil War American Scriptural Geology had almost gone, soon to be
resurrected by Ellen White (Stilling, 1999).
THE EVANGELICAL ANTI-GEOLOGISTS 1817–1845
Many anti-geologists were evangelical clergy and laity. The first work,
which challenged geology was Thomas Gisbourne’s The Testimony of Natural
Theology to Christianity in 1818. Gisbourne was a friend of William
Wilberforce and the last patient to be treated by Erasmus Darwin in 1802.
The book was eirenic, but objected to geology, because the existence of
death in the animal world implicit in the existence of prehistoric life before
Adam contradicts the view in the opening lines of Paradise Lost
Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
The storm broke in the 1820s in the Christian Observer, creating internecine
warfare among evangelicals, and was paralleled by the publication
of aggressive critiques of geology. It began with reviews of G. S.
Faber’s A Treatise of the Three Dispensations in 1823, which was classic theology
on the “dispensations” of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus Christ, but
the third chapter Respecting the length of the Six Demi-Urgic Days caused the
problem. Here Faber summarized geological findings under the guidance
of Buckland. Bugg took great objection. Several years later Bugg wrote to
the Christian Observer criticizing the editor S. C. Wilks for taking the “side
of modern geologists” and listed the five difficulties of the bible versus
geology, which were
(1) Geology claims that death was there before Adam sinned,
(2) Geology denies the Six Days of Creation
(3) “Scriptural Creation” is handed over to Geology.
(4) Prevents missionary work among the Hindoos.
(5) Removes the basis of the Sabbath {Bugg, 1828, p. 329)

[this is exactly what Young Earth Creationists argue today.]

A few years after Faber’s work, Bugg published his magnum opus Scriptural
Geology in two volumes, which was an answer to Buckland. Bugg
claimed that “whatever is contrary to that Bible must be false.” He started
from the premise that the Mosaic narrative gives the general order of the
strata with one physical revolution on the third day and that “Christian
Geologists are bound in honor and conscience to agree.” What follows is a
variety of theological argument, a rejection of contemporary geology, and
a reinstatement of the Deluge as the source of all strata. Bugg’s motivation
was theological as he was unable to accept animal death before the Fall.
Frederick Nolan (1784–1864) was a notable Oxford divine of his day,
whose career parallels that of Faber. Both were leading evangelical theologians
publishing prodigiously on the similar subjects of evangelical
beliefs, polemics against the Oxford Movement and millenarianism. The
pair made forays into geological science, Nolan rejecting it and Faber welcoming
geological findings. In 1832 Nolan was elected to the Royal Society
and in 1833 he gave the Bampton Lectures entitled The Analogy of Revelation
and Science established (Nolan, 1834). Nolan argued that the findings of
geologists were mistaken and the earth really was a few thousand years
old. Buckland’s anger was undisguised as his wife Mary wrote to William
Whewell on May 12, 1833,
we have had the Bampton Lecturer holding forth in St Mary’s against all modern
science, . . . Denouncing all who assert that the world was not made in 6 days as
obstinate unbelievers, etc.” (Morrell and Thackray, 1984)
Though Nolan’s  Bamptons were soon eclipsed by Keble’s Assize Sermon
on July 11, 1833, which marked the start of the Oxford Movement, Nolan’s
lectures highlighted a rumbling problem within the churches. At that time
geology was the science of the day with its strange extinct beasts, its
vast time scale, with the present day “towering o’er the wrecks of time.”
Geology had captured the imagination of the British public.
There were other evangelicals who took up cudgels against geology
during those two decades. To obtain an exhaustive list would involve
the detailed scanning of journals and libraries. In his research Mortenson
identified about thirty and I have found another dozen or so. In mere
numbers this is a fraction of Christians who wrote positively of geology.
They had passed the peak of their activity in about 1840 and thereafter
dwindled, though still making some impact in the 1850s. There are a
variety of reasons for their decline. A major factor was simply increasing
age; younger evangelicals were more open to geology, following on first
from Chalmers and Faber, then Pye Smith and Miller, and then those like
Birks and Pratt. Faber and Birks were strong millenarians, which indicate
the lack of correlation of anti-geology with millenarian views, as is the case
in the twenty-first century and the Seventh Day Adventists.
SCIENTIFIC ANTI-GEOLOGY
This may seem to be an oxymoron, but numbers of anti-geologists argued
that their geology was more scientific than conventional geology.
A frequent contributor to the Christian Observer during the 1820s and
1830s was George Fairholme (1789–1846), who signed himself as “A Layman
on Scriptural Geology.” Fairholme was Scottish born and had no
university education. According to Mortenson his denomination is unknown,
nor are his evangelical convictions. As well as contributing to
the Christian Observer and the Philosophical Magazine, Fairholme wrote on
the General View of the Geology of Scripture (1833) and the Mosaic Deluge
(1837). The preface of the latter discusses the theological results and skepticism caused
by geology and especially the rejection of a universal deluge,
“there cannot be conceived a principle more pregnant with mischief to the
simple reception of scripture.” All emphasis is put on the universality
of the Deluge—”if false. . . . then has our Blessed Saviour himself aided
in promoting the belief of that falsehood, by. . . . alluding both to the fact
and the universality of its destructive consequences to mankind” (p. 61).
Fairholme made much of stems of tall plants,which intersect several strata
(Polystrate fossils).
In the General View of the Geology of Scripture (1833) Fairholme gave the air
of geological competence, enhanced by citing geological works. His geology
does not bear comparison with geological writers of his day, whether
Buckland, Sedgwick, or amateurs like Pye Smith. Though he claimed to
carry out geological fieldwork, there is no evidence that he did more than
ramble though the countryside. His lack of geological competence is best
seen in his discussion of the relationship of coal to chalk. (In the Geologic
Column coal is found in the Upper Carboniferous or Pennsylvanian strata
and chalk in the Upper Cretaceous.) Fairholme wrote
the chalk formation is placed far above that of coal, apparently from no better
reason, than that chalk usually presents an elevation on the upper surface, while
coal must be looked for at various depths below the level of the ground. (Fairholme,
1833, p. 243).
He had previously discussed this (op cit pp. 207–210) and concluded,
having misunderstood an article in the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, that
Nothing can be clearer than this account; and it appears certain, that, as in the case
of the Paris Basin, this lime-stone formed the bed of the antediluvian sea, on which
the diluvial deposits of coal, clay, ironstone, and free-stone, were alternately laid
at the same period. (Fairholme, 1833, p. 209)
It is clear that Fairholme regards Carboniferous Limestone and the Cretaceous
chalk as the same formation, and wrote on coal fields that
they lie among sandstones, . . . , but have, in no instance, been found below chalk,
which is one of the best defined secondary formations immediately preceding the
Deluge, . . .
Thus the Cretaceous strata are pre-Flood and the Coal Measures were
deposited during the Flood!
To a geologist today and in 1833 that is risible! When Fairholme penned
this, it had been known for decades that Chalk always, always overlie
the Coal Measures with a vast thickness of strata in between. In 1799,
William Smith drew up a list of strata from the coal measures to the chalk,
which was extended in the table accompanying his geological map of 1815
(Phillips, 1844/2003). Cuvier and Brogniart, who had worked extensively
in the Paris Basin, gave the same succession. Thus by the standards of his
day, Fairholme was talking nonsense as he was when he wrote
“But during the awful event [the Deluge] we are now considering, all animated
nature ceased to exist, and consequently, the floating bodies of the dead bodies
must have been bouyed up until the bladders burst, by the force of the increasing
air contained within them.” (Fairholme, 1833, p. 257)
It is impossible to agree with Mortenson’s assessment, “By early nineteenth
century standards, George Fairholme was quite competent to critically
analyze old-earth geological theories”(Mortenson, 2004, p. 130).
Though Fairholme took it upon himself to criticize geology, he did so from
sheer ignorance, as is evidenced by his claim that Chalk always underlies
Coal. Fairholme, like all anti-geologists, attempted from his armchair to
find fault with geology, which he regarded as infidel, but his “scientific”
objections were a total misunderstanding of geology. No wonder they
were rounded on by Sedgwick, who in A Discourse on the Studies of the
University (1834/1969) wrote that the anti-geologists
have committed the folly and the sin of dogmatizing on matters they have not
personally examined. (p. 106)
and regarded some as

“beyond all hope of rational argument.”

Then, as now, the advantage of writing   ridiculous works is that the refuting of them
is beyond the wit of rational people.

[Nothing like ending with a scathing remark from a Dalesman!]

***************************************************************************

This is how I feel after reading anti-geologists or creationists

 

BmZJVIpCEAEmHN_

This is another good read

2876

The Genesis Flood, a revue in 1969of the Creationist pot-boiler

Having studied geology and then worked as an exploration geologist I couldn’t conceieve of any person with any education not accepting that the earth is billions of years old and the whole geological story is what has happened. It was re-started in 1961 with the publication of The genesis Flood by Morris  and Whitcomb

I have an early edition with little notes in it!!!

Image result for j c whitcombImage result for j c whitcomb

 

They didn’t quite say this

315500_393800870693304_2100848630_n

My first shock was when I met a 400lb or so missionary from the Southern States in Uganda who lent me magazines arguing for a young earth, but they were so naive I put it down to Christian hillbillies. A year later while mapping a thousand square miles of unknown Precambrian rocks in South Africa – yes, I was the fourth geologist to look at them – I red a review of The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris by A.N. Triton aka Oliver Barclay. In a long review Oliver gently shredded the book.

Image result for henry morris

Morris was a more active creationist, writing loads of books, not of which had any scientific basis. He also set up the Institute of Creation Research, which has “scientsits” churning out similar stuff.

Whitcomb, who died on 4th Feb 2020,

Image result for j c whitcomb

later wrote a bit of creationism, but was more of a theologian and probably contributed the theological parts of the Genesis Flood.

Probably most significant is Appendix 1 Paleontology and the Edenic curse. It’s the usual guff on Ro 5.12 & ! Cor 15 vs21 -22. And the misreading of Romans 8 vs 19-22 forcing in an edenic curse into the verses. John Lightfoot who got creation at 3962BC in the 1650s would not accept his interpretation. It then gives claims that animals were originally veggies if not vegans and that the Fall changed animals structurally. This type of theodicy later became the mainstay of creationists like Ken Ham and Sarfati, but that’s another story.

I read this book years ago – it’s not very good

Image result for j c whitcomb

I remember laughing at the thought of anyone being so daft to believe it! The following year I went to L’Abri in Switzerland to study under Schaeffer and as I was a geologist seeking ordination, his son-in-law insisted I read The Genesis Flood. I was dismissive of it but then read it with increasing fury. At first I couldn’t contradict it, but then I found the flaw. The authors consistently and systematically misquoted all geologists they referenced. I was appalled at the dishonesty. I read the other half dozen books given to me and found the same. Needless to say at L’Abri I had several doubting whether I was a Christian. I gave a paper on creationism which didn’t go down too well.

poly

At that time Creationism was hardly known in Britain and none were bothered by it at theological college in Durham , though one student and one visiting lecturer went on to become creationists. Creationism only became apparent in 1981 in the wake of the Arkansas trial, but by that time evangelicals were split down the middle over it and a good number (5%) of Anglican clergy had fallen for it.

Anyway back to The Genesis flood. After it was published in 1961 american evangelicals were slow to comment on it so revues only appeared after a few years. The most damning and comprehensive was one by the geologist Prof Van der Fliert of Amsterdam in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation.

So here it is.

Nothing has changed  and the approach today is still misrepresentation and wacky alternative geologies, which claim most strata were deposited during the few months of Noah’s Flood.

ararat_or_bust

It is fair to say that these two authors have done immense damage both to science and the church. I could itemise some of these

https://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1969/JASA9-69vandeFliert.html

 

Fundamentalism and the Fundamentals of Geology

J. R. VAN DE FLIERT*

Department of Geology
Free University of Amsterdam
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

From: JASA 21 (September 1969): 69-81.

Introduction

With increasing astonishment, I read through the book The Genesis Flood-The Biblical Record and Its
Scientific Implications,
 by Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb, Jr.If I had been told a few years ago that an apparently serious attempt would be made to reintroduce the diluvialistic theory on Biblical grounds as the only acceptable working hypothesis for the major part of the geological sciences I would not have believed it. I would have considered it just incredible that a professor of Old Testament and a professor of Civil Engineering would write it, and that the foreword would be written by a professional geologist.

The serious fact is that it has been written and published in a volume of more than 500 pages of excellent paper and illustrated with 28 photographs. To stress the pretended scientific value of the work, favorable comments of a theologian and various representatives of natural sciences-a geologist, a geophysicist, an archaeologist, a biologist, a geneticist, a chemist, and an engineerare printed on the cover.

It is almost incredible that such an effort, which must have cost an enormous amount of work and money, has been made for such a bad procedure as this. I have felt very reluctant to write against it, but finally agreed to do so, yielding to stress from different sides.

There are two main reasons for this article. The first is that the authors of The Genesis Flood have written on the basis of their belief in the Holy Scriptures as the reliable Word of God. This belief I share.

Second, it is my sincere conviction that it is a fundamental and extremely dangerous mistake to think that our belief in the reliable Word of God could ever be based on or strengthened by socalled scientific reasoning. Any attempt to harmonize the historical geology of today with the account of the first chapters of Genesis represents a colossal overestimation of scienceas well as a misunderstanding of the Genesis recordan overestimation which is as great as that of those scientists who completely reject God as the Creator. If we thus overestimate science, we lose the battle before it is started. The Bible does not give outlines of historical geology nor accounts of scientifically controllable creative acts of God! If we think the Bible does provide these, we have brought God’s creative work down to scientific control, down to the visible things, contrary to the teaching of the Bible that “through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God” (Hebrews 11:3a). We deal a death-blow to the Christian religion when we bring the Holy Scriptures down to scientific level by teaching that the Bible should give us a kind of scientific world-picture or axiomata of historical geology, or of Western science of history, or physics, biology, jurisprudence or whatever science it be. Thus, we lose the Bible as a reliable Word of God completely, because we then make its teachings dependent on the poor state of our scientific knowledge today … which will change tomorrow!

The overestimation of science fails to see its possibilities and its limits. It means the corruption of true scientific working, both in the evolutionistic thinking of those who do not believe in God, and also in the thinking of Christians who do believe in God. These latter corrupt scientific work thoroughly when they start from a pretended biblical (in fact, imposed by them on the biblical teaching) elementary historical geology, into which then the geological data will have to fit! This is no less pseudo-scientific than that kind of evolutionistic reasoning that ignores God, and therefore presents truly a very had case for orthodox Christianity today!

Scientific Pretension and Scientific Foundation

Before I start a more technical treatment of a few important geological questions, I want to make a few critical remarks of a general character concerning the pretended scientific value of The Genesis Flood.

First, writing a book with such significant claims or conclusions requires a thorough knowledge of the geological sciences and their principles. Neither author -one a theologian, the other a civil engineer-is a geologist. Everybody knows that in the present state of scientific development it is practically impossible for one person to master more than one branch of science. Now, the list of modem publications cited in the book is impressive but at the same time misleading. The way in which part of this literature is used proves that the real problems have often not been understood. A theologian should know how dangerous it is to lift a text out of the context and to treat it separately. This is true not only for interpreting the Bible but also for explaining scientific publications. To lift a certain sentence out of a publication, and to use it for something quite different than the original author meant, is scientifically dishonest. I realize that the authors of The Genesis Flood did not intend to do this at all, and in a few cases they even admit that the author they cite used his words in a slightly different way, but in others they give evidence of not having understood the exact bearing to which they refer. Thorough scientific work makes extremely high demands on professional knowledge!


If I had been told a few years ago that an apparently serious attempt would be made to reintroduce the diluvialistic theory on Biblical grounds as the only acceptable working hypothesis for the major part of the geological sciences, I would not have believed it.


The Essential Importance of the History of Science and Theology

Second, it is really astonishing that the authors of The Genesis Flood do not seriously take into account the history of the “warfare between theology and geology”. They sound as if this were the first time that the idea was put forward that the deluge was responsible for the major part of the fossiliferous strata in the earth’s crust, whereas this idea was perhaps a respectable hypothesis early in the history of the development of geology but was soon shown to be false by evidence accumulated as the science of geology began to grow. This history of geology is an essential part of the study to be made, and has to be taken into account as an event which God has revealed to us in the middle of the twentieth century.

Is it any wonder, if we neglect this history, that we make the same mistakes as our fathers did one, two, three or even more centuries ago? When I saw the pictures of the pretended-but definitely not-human footprints in Cretaceous strata of Texas with the comment: ‘Note the tremendous size which immediately reminds one of the Biblical statement that there were “giants in the earth in those days” (Genesis 6:4),2 I was immediately reminded of the times before Cuvier when bones of elephants found in the earth were also considered to be evidence of the Genesis flood and declared to be remains of the giants of those days. Even the undeveloped science of that time was thought to confirm the reliability of Scriptures, and it is said that these bones were nailed to the doors of churches for the sake of strengthening the faith of simple Christian believers! I recall the days when Scheuchzer found his famous fossil which he named ‘Homo dilucii testis’, the ‘man witness of the deluge’.
But Cuvier, the father of comparative vertebrate anatomy, by scientific methods ascertained elephant bones to be elephant bones and Scheuchzer’s “Homo” to be the skeleton of a Miocene salamander. Where then was the foundation on which those simple Christian believers built their faith? And what are Professors Whitcomb and Morris doing now for those Christians who do not know about geology but believe in the Holy Scriptures as the reliable Word of God? The socalled scientific foundation which they want to lay under the Christian’s faith can be easily shown by unbelievers to be no more than loose sand. They could have known it too, if they had simply made a serious study of the history of the (largely manmade) problems between the Bible and geology!

Uncritical Criticism of Geological Principles

Third, the last general remark I want to make concerns the uncritical attitude of the authors regarding their own reasoning. The whole hook intends to levy a fundamental attack on the socalled uniformitarian principle in the geological sciences. They du not realize that, in part, their reasoning is based on the same starting point. In part, also, they fight against windmills, because most present-day geologists do not accept this principle exactly in the sense as it was understood by Lyell (who was no evolutionist when he wrote the first edition of his Principles3), but use it in the sense of a constancy of physical and biological laws, which does not at all exclude, for example, periods with climates differing from that which we know presently, or alternating longer quiet periods with shorter ‘catastrophic’ or paroxysmal episodes.

Besides, one could even agree that Lyell himself was not dogmatic in presenting his uniformitarian principle. His uniformitariauism is what Professor Dr. R. Hooykaas has called a ‘methodological principle‘4, but not one that pretends to have ‘eternal validity’. In the 3rd Volume of the first edition of his Principles, Lycll wrote on page 6:

In our attempt to unravel these difficult questions, we shall adopt a different course, restricting ourselves to the known or possible operations of existing causes; feeling assured that we have not yet exhausted the resources which the study of the present course of nature may provide, and therefore that we are not authorized, in the infancy of our science, to recur to extraordinary agents.

Now, in order to do justice to Lyell, it is necessary to know what he meant when he wrote these lines, and what he meant by extraordinary agents. The answer is not difficult, because on p. 3-6 of the same volume he offers examples. First of all, Lyell refers there to the controversy “respecting the origin of fossil shells and bones-were they organic or inorganic substances?” To this point he remarks:

That the latter opinion should for a long time have prevailed, and that these bodies should have
been supposed to be fashioned into their present form by a plastic virtue, or some other mysterious agency, may appear absurd; but it was perhaps, as reasonable a conjecture as could be expected from those who did not appeal, in the first instance, to the analogy of the living creation, as affording the only source of authentic information. It was only by an accurate examination of living Testacea, and by a comparison of the osteology of the existing vertebrated animals with the remains found entombed in ancient strata, that this favourite dogma was exploded, and all were, at length, persuaded that these substances were exclusively of organic origin.

As a second example, the controversy concerning an aqueous or igneous origin of basalt and other crystalline rocks in mentioned. This was an essential point in the early controversy between Neptunists and Flutonists. Lyell says:

All are now agreed that it would have been impossible for human ingenuity to invent a theory [the Neptunist theory[ more distant from the truth; yet we must cease to wonder, on that account, that it gained so many proselytes, when we remember that its claims to probability arose partly from its confirming the assumed want of all analogy between geological causes and those now in action.

And then Lyell put the important question concerning the methodological principle in these words:
By what train of investigation were all theorists brought round at length to an opposite opinion, and induced to assent to the igneous origin of these formations?

And the answer is:

By an examination of the structure of active volcanoes, the mineral composition of their lavas and ejections, and by comparing the undoubted products of fire with the ancient rocks in question.

He concludes with a third example, the question of whether the great alteration of the level of sea and land, proved by the occurrence of marine fossils in strata forming some of the loftiest mountains in the world, has resulted from the drying up of an ocean covering the whole earth or from the elevation of the solid land. “A multitude of ingenious speculations” failed to explain the former hypothesis. But when “in the last instance” the

question was agitated, whether any changes in the level of sea and land had occurred during the histor
ical period it was soon discovered that considerable tracts of land had been permanently elevated and depressed, while the level of the ocean remained unaltered. It is therefore necessary to reverse the doctrine which had acquired so much popularity, and the unexpected solution of a problem at first regarded as so enigmatical, gave perhaps the strongest stimulus to investigate the ordinary operations of nature. For it must have appeared almost as improbable to the earlier geologists, that the laws of earthquakes should one day throw light on the origin of mountains, as it must to the first astronomers, that the fall of an apple should assist in explaining the motions of the moon.

After having given these examples, Lyell says that the geologists of his time are, for the most part, agreed on questions “as to what rocks are of igneous and what of aqueous origin-in what manner fossil shells, whether of the sea or of lakes, have been imbedded in strata” etc. and are “unanimous as to other propositions which are not of a complicated nature; but when we ascend to those of a higher order, we find as little disposition


First, the over-all impression one gets from reading this article is that (finally!) here is a widely experienced professional geologist, who-even though an evangelical Christian-accepts the findings of modern geology, and who carefully explains why the pseudo-scientific floodgeologists are wrong (in terms which most informed laymen will understand). I believe that it is very important to put the views of such men as van de Fliert before the Christian public, so that they are not so likely to be misled by the erroneous view of people (like the flood geologists) ignorant of modern earth science.

Second, van de Fliert makes a number of points in the course of his article which I believe are important to get across to non-geologist Christians. He indicates the stunned disbelief that so many of us have had when we have seen how the floodgeologists, instead of being properly laughed out of court, were widely accepted in the intelligent Christian community. (This, incidentally, is leading many geologists, both Christian and nonChristian, to think that our generalscience-type courses have been total failures if the average college-educated person can’t recognize as big a blunder as this one when he encounters it) He also indicates the absolute philosophical inescapability of some sort of uniformitarianism or actualism when thinking about past events (whether of a few years or a few eons ago). Simultaneously, he clearly shows that uniformitarianism is a general guiding principle, rather than a philosophical! theological “law” which is rigidly applied to every situation encountered. Finally, he stresses quite nicely the fact that the use of fossils to indicate geologic time is a matter of repeatable, verifiable observation; such use is not a circular-reasoning device based on a preconceived bias for evolutionary explanations of life history.

In conclusion, van de Fliert’s article represents a significant contribution to one of the current controversies in the area of religion-science interactions.
Roger J. Cuffey Department of Geology and Geophysics The Pennsylvania State University University Park, Pa. 16802


as formerly to make a strenuous effort, in the first instance [repeated here!], to search out an explanation in the ordinary economy of Nature”.

Sound Theorizing in Geology and the “Spirit of Speculation”

In chapter I of Volume III of his Principles, entitled “Methods of Theorizing in Geology”, Lyell simply distinguishes two opposite ways of thinking. One starts from scratch with geological reasoning without first making a careful study of the “ordinary economy of nature”. This method has led to untenable speculations and even absurdities; the history of geology provides several examples. This lesson of history should finally be accepted, not merely on incidental points (such as the nature of fossils, the igneous origin of various crystalline rocks, etc.), but as a principle. The second method in contrast starts with a careful study of the present economy of nature, and then sees if the results of the geological processes of the past are really different from those of those oing on at present. This methodological principle has- to be applied to every aspect of geology and his reproach to Cuvier and his school, for example, is that they apply it only partially but not consistently. Such critics are described in the following:

We hear of sudden and violent revolutions of the globe, of the instantaneous elevation of mountain chains, of paroxysms of volcanic energy, declining according to some, and according to others increasing in violence, from the earliest to the latest ages. We are also told of general catastrophes and a succession of deluges, of the alternation of periods of repose and disorder, of the refrigeration of the globe and of sudden annihilation of whole races of animals and plants, and other hypotheses in which we see the ancient spirit of speculation revived and a desire manifested to cut, rather than patiently to untie, the Gordian Knot.

I repeat that Lyell’s uniformitarianism was not dogmatic; he did not exclude the possibility that paroxysms or processes differing from those presently operating might have taken place in geological history. Note the important restriction in his words, “in the infancy of our science”.

This restriction we also find in the concluding remarks of the Chapter:

But since in our attempt to solve geological problems we shall be called upon to refer to the operation of aqueous and igneous causes, the geographical distribution of animals and plants, the real existence of species, their successive extinction, and so forth, we were under the necessity of collecting together a variety of facts, and of entering into long trains of reasoning which could only be accomplished in preliminary treatises. These topics we regard as constituting the alphabet and grammar of geology; not that we expect from such studies to obtain a key to the interpretation of all geological phenomena, but because they form the ground work from which we must rise to the contemplation of more general questions relating to the complicated results to which, in an indefinite lapse of ages, the existing causes of change may give rise.

Lyell had indeed been looking for the methodological basis on which a sound geological science could he built, rather than a geology full of the uncontrollable speculations which had been current for a long time prior to his writing.

Basic Uniformitarianism and the Authors of “The Genesis Flood”

Lyell’s starting point, like that of Cuvier and many others, is the constancy of law, of structural order in created things. This, of course, is the only basis on which we can hope to speak reliably on the geological past. On this point, the authors of The Genesis Flood stand on exactly the same methodological basis as does Lyell. A few examples will illustrate.

There is no doubt that they consider fossils to be remnants of animals and plants which actually lived on earth under circumstances comparable to those we know presently. It is only on the basis of structural constancy that the authors can suggest that huge, but in form superficially human-like, footprints in Cretaceous strata are considered as evidence for the contemporaneity of man and dinosaurs!


Any attempt to harmonize the historical geology of today with the account of the first chapters of Genesis represents a colossal overestimation of science-as well as a misunderstanding of the Genesis record-an overestimation which is as great as that of those scientists who completely reject God as the Creator.


A second example is the way in which the authors of The Genesis Flood argue in favor of what they call “the most significant of these Biblical inferences”, which is “a universally warm climate with ample moisture for abundant plant and animal life”5 before the deluge. For the sake of confirming this inference, the results of present day geology concerning ancient climates are good enough apparently to indicate that there were some periods when there existed a mild and warm climate over the greater part of the world. But these results are based entirely on uniformitarian reasoning. How can we ever infer a warm climate in the geological past, except on the basis of criteria which we derive from studies of the fauna and flora, or physical or chemical processes, which are characteristic of areas of warm climate we know on earth today? The distribution of coral or other reefs, for example, in the marine environment, and the absence of annual rings in the secondary wood of trees, are only two of these criteria.

A third example to show how the authors of The Genesis Flood depend in their reasoning on the priori assumption of the constancy of law, structure and even processes, is found in their speculation that the “superficial appearance of evolution” of similar organisms in successively higher strata could be the result of the “hydrodynamic selectivity of moving water”. After a reference from Krumbein and Sloss6 about criteria on which the settling velocity of large particles is dependent, they write:
These criteria are derived from consideration of hydrodynamic forces acting on immersed bodies and are well established.

Particles which are in motion will tend to settle out of proportion mainly to their specific gravity (density) and sphericity. It is significant that the organisms found in the lowest strata, such as the trilobites, brachiopodes, etc. are very “streamlined” and quite dense. The shells of these and most other marine organisms are largely composed of calciumcarbonate, calcium phosphate and similar minerals, which are quite heavy; heavier, for example, than quartz, the most common constituent of ordinary sands and gravels. These factors alone would exert a highly selective sorting action, not only tending to deposit the simpler (i.e., more nearly spherical and msdifferentiated) organisms nearer the bottom of the sediments but also tending to segregate particles of similar sizes and shapes, forming distinct faunal stratigraplsic “horizons”, with the complexity of structure of the deposited organisms, even of similar kinds, increasing with increasing elevation in the sediments.

And further:

Of course, these very pronounced “sorting” powers of hydraulic action are really only valid statistically, rather than universally. Local peculiarities of turbulence, habitat, sediment composition, etc., would be expected to cause local variations in organic assemblages, with even occasional heterogeneous agglomerations of sediments and organisms of wide variety of shapes and sizes. But, on the average, the sorting action is quite efficient and would definitely have separated the shells and other fossils in just such fashion as they are found, with certain fossils predominant in certain horizons, the complexity of such “index fossils” increasing with increasing elevation in the column, in at least a general way.7

These are only three out of a hundred or more examples which could be given of this use of uniformitarian (the present is the key to the past) reasoning to argue for a catastrophist conclusion!

The geological nonsense in the above reasoning is so flagrant that I don’t want to discuss it. Speculative hypotheses are dangerous enough already when brought into connection with the Bible, but this is even worse than speculation. What the authors of The Genesis Flood should learn from Lyell’s example is the fear of speculation and the necessity of a serious search for the foundation on which a reliable geological science could be based!

A little-noticed fact is that the antagonism between uniform itarianists and catastrophists (like, for example, Lyell and Cuvier) is not nearly so fundamental as it would seem. Both geologists agree that the laws of chemistry, physics, and biology-as we know themare applicable also for historical-geological times.

This is an unavoidable a priori for a science that presumes to speak at all about the history of the earth. How paradoxical it may sound; only on the, basis of the constancy of law and structure can we reliably speak about changes in the development of the earth’s crust and its fossil content. In other words, the processes of which the geologist studies the results must be (perhaps not in intensity and scale) essentially of the same created order as that which we actually live in and form part of. If this were not so, the whole of historical geology would be in principle beyond the scope of human scientific possibilities.

On this fundamental point, the authors of The Genesis Flood agree with modern geologists, at least as far as the process of forming the fossilbearing strata in the earth’s crust is concerned. The tragedy is that they have not realized that in this way they have fused the dynamite under their pseudo-scientific building, exploding their so-called ‘Scriptural framework for historical geology’.

On the basis of this principle, the fundamental question is to be answered by careful observation and analysis of the world’s sedimentary strata and structural relationships. Are these the result of a catastrophic process, such as the authors of The Genesis Flood conceive? Or are they the result of processes whose intensity and scale are generally comparable to those going on today, as modern historical geologists have concluded?

There is no doubt about the answer in the present state of our knowledge; the broad lines of present-day historical geology are to be considered as well observed facts.


Although I object to one minor point, I find the overall treatment excellent. If anything, however, the case could be made much stronger than van de Fliert makes it (that is, circular reasoning is not involved in the geological context; it is merely inferred, by those who are not knowledgeable). Hence van de Fliert’s position is quite moderate, rather than extreme.
William F. Tanner
Consulting Geologist 2004 High Road Tallahassee, Florida 32303


The Trustworthiness of the Geological Time-Scale Disputed

Let us now turn to a few fundamental facts and principles of present-day geology. First of all, consider those that concern the stratigraphic column and the geologic (relative) time scale.

As an introduction, note a few quotations from the summary of the chapter, “Modern Geology and the Deluge” in The Genesis Flood.

We read on page 206:

The geological time series is built up by a hypothetical superposition of beds upon each other from all over the world.

That this superposition should be “hypothetical” (which here clearly means “not factual”) is argued with a quotation from a geological text book:8

If a pile were to be made by using the greatest thickness of sedimentary beds of each geological age, it would be at least 100 miles high . . . It is, of course, impossible to have even a considerable fraction of this at one place. The Grand Canyon of Colorado, for example, is only one mile deep.

By application of the principle of superposition, lithologic identification, recognition and nnconformities, and reference to fossil successions, both the thick and the thin masses are correlated with other beds at other sides. Thus there is established, in detail, the stratigeaphic succession for all the geologic ages.

Then the authors of The Genesis Flood continue:

This frank statement makes the method by which the geologic time scale was built up quite plain. Since
we have already noted that lithologic identification is unimportant in establishing the age of a rock, it is clear the “fossil successions” constitute the only real basis for the arrangement. And this means, in effect, that organic evolution has been implicitly assumed in assigning chronological pigeonholes to particular rock systems and their fossils.

There follows a second quotation from Von Engeln and Caster, which apparently should confirm this conclusion:

The geologist utilizes knowledge of organic evolution as preserved in the fossil record, to identify and correlate the lithic records of ancient time.9

This is commented on as follows:

And yet this succession of fossil organisms as preserved in the rocks is considered as the one convincing proof that evolution has occurred! And thus have we come round the circle again.

The trend of this reasoning is clear: Historical geology is basically unsound because it has been trapped in circular reasoning. First, geologists determine the order of succession of fossils in the earth’s crust on the basis of the superposition of the strata, but at the same time they declare the position of the strata reversed-by some tectonic process-when at another place the succession of fossils is found reversed! What is more, and even worse: Behind this is the ‘hypothesis’ of evolution, of “a gradual progression of life from the simple to the complex, from lower to higher” (pp. 132, 134).

Moreover:

quotations from outstanding evolutionary authorities both in geology and biology, demonstrate the great importance of the paleontological record to the theory of evolution. In turn, the principles of evolution and uniformity are seen to be of paramount importance in the correlation of the geologic strata. These principles are absolutely basic, both from the point of view of the history of the development of modern geology and from that of present interpretation of geologic field data. The circular reasoning here should he evident and indeed is evident to many historical geologists (p. 134),

How corrupted and preconceived present-day historical geology really should be is then formulated in the following words:

The basis for the apparent great strength of the present system of historical geology is here clearly seen. Provision is made ahead of time for any contrary evidence that might be discovered in the field. The geologic time scale has been built up primarily on the tacit assumption of organic evolution, which theory in turn derives its chief support from the geologic sequence thus presented as actual historical evidence of the process. Fragments of the sequences thus built up often appear legitimately superposed in a given exposure, but there are never more than a very few formations exposed at any one locality, occupying only a small portion of the geologic column. Formations from different localities are integrated into a continuous sequence almost entirely by means of the principle of organic evolution (p. 136).

I give these rather long quotations in order to show in what light such a sentence as “The geological time series is built up by a hypothetical superposition of beds upon each other from all over the world” should be read, and furthermore to give an example of the mixing up of truth and untruth in the way of arguing of the authors of The Genesis Flood when it concerns one of the fundamentals of geological science.

The Natural Exposure of Normally Superimposed Rock Sequences

The actual situation is that the geological time-scale is based on a factual superposition of rocks yielding a factual superposition of paleontological criteria which has been proved to be the same all over the world. In order to make this clear, we will have to deal first with natural exposureswith the way nature exposes the sedimentary rocks, which contain those documents of the history of the earth’s crust which the stratigrapher investigates.

When Von Engeln and Caster state that “if a pile were to be made by using the greatest thickness of sedimentary beds of each geological age, it would be at least 100 miles high” and that it is “of course impossible to have even a considerable fraction of this at one place”, it should be noted that they are speaking of “the greatest thickness of each geological age”.

Two qualifying remarks should be made about this point. First, the average thickness of sediments of a certain age is far less than the value of the greatest thickness. Second, if at one place a geological age is represented by its greatest thickness, it is very unlikely that sediments of another age would attain their maximum thickness at the same locality.

However, it is extremely unlikely-virtually impossible-to have a considerable fraction of a pile of sediments reduced in this way, and representing all geological ages, at one place.


Lyell’s starting point, like that of Cuvier and many others, is the constancy of law, of structural order in created things. This, of course, is the only basis on which we can hope to speak reliably on the geological past. On this point, the authors of The Genesis Flood stand on exactly the same methodological basis as does Lyell.


For example, consider the world famous example of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, where Paleozoic rocks, still in horizontal position, unconformably overlie tilted Algonkian or intensely folded and metamorphosed Archean Rocks at one locality. As a result of what geologists call epeirogenic movements, this area has been uplifted vertically without changing the original horizontal position of the Paleozoic rocks. Following the uplift, the Colorado River has cut deeply into the rocks to expose, in the steep walls of the canyon, the beautiful vertical succession of more than 1000 meters of Paleozoic strata, In this exposure of a normal uncomplicated succession, the superposition is simple and clear. The Archean basement rocks lie at the bottom of the canyon. Progressively higher up on the walls within the canyon we found the Algonkian sedimentary rocks, then the older Paleozoic rocks, and finally-around the canyon rims-the younger Paleozoic rocks.

Very often, however, things are more complicated. Frequently, the original subhorizontal position of the
sediments at the time they were deposited has not been preserved; as a result of differential movements in the earth’s crust, the sedimentary sequences have been tilted, broken, or folded, so that the layers usually show a dip (varying from a few degrees up to a vertical position). Topographically, these differential movements may give rise to subaerial elevations (mountains) and depressions (lowlands). The mountainous areas are subjected to erosion, which results in the development of new topographic surfaces cutting the bedding planes of the layered sedimentary rocks at an angle. Eventually, erosion may lead to so called “peneplains” or subhorizontal erosion surfaces of vast extent. These peneplains thus may expose thick sequences of sedimentary rocks, in thickness far exceeding those of the Grand Canyon and of which superposition is as undoubtedly established.

In the Grand Canyon, we find a sequence (some 1000 meters thick) of horizontal Paleozoic rocks exposed-in the steep canyon walls-in only the very short lateral distance traversed as we ride from the bottom of the canyon to the high rim overlooking the canyon. In a large region of subhorizontal topography (a peneplain) underlain by nonhorixontaldipping, folded, or hasinal-sedimentary layers, on the other hand, nature may have exposed sequences of rocks amounting to many thousands of meters in thickness. In such a situation, we can no longer speak of a local superposition. We can, for example, walk for hundreds of kilometers across a series of low-dipping sediments in the “Paris Basin”, from Triassic rocks in Luxemburg to Middle Tertiary rocks in Paris. Local differences in topographic elevation (a few up to perhaps 100 meters) are insignificant compared to the distance of a few hundred kilometers and the thickness (about 2000 meters) of the sediments which are exposed at or near the surface. In the case of the Paris Basin, which covers a great part of France, we have a huge bowl-shaped structure, consisting of strata dipping gently towards the centre, which implies of course that the younger strata are exposed in the central, the older in the peripheral, parts of the basin. There can be no doubt about the superposition of the strata in the Paris Basin. The formations are only very gently deformed, and a tectonic reversal is entirely excluded.

A comparable but much larger structure, with lowdipping Mesozoic and Tertiary strata, is found in the Gulf Coast Area of Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida in North America. This is a huge structure of low-dipping strata, in which the superposition is unquestionably normal and also very well known (as a result of thousands of bore holes which have been drilled in the search for oil in these areas). Again, here we cannot reasonably speak of just one locality or one place. But surface and subsurface data permit an unquestionable correlation, layer by layer, and thus the establishment of the sequence of normally superimposed strata attaining a thickness of many thousands of meters.

No evolutionary theory whatsoever could or would ever suggest a reversed position of the strata in the Paris Basin in Europe or in the Gulf Coast Basin in North America! The paleontologist would thereby saw through the branch on which he sits.

The stratigraphic column has been built up essentially on the basis of sedimentary sequences in many relatively stable areas where tectonic disturbances and metamorphism played a minor role and where therefore a reversed position of the strata could a priori be eliminated. On the basis of solid knowledge from these simple areas, the tools have been obtained which permit us to understand more complicated regions. This is an example of the procedure followed by every geologist when he enters a new or unknown area; he first looks for the simpler structures which permit the establishment of the stratigraphic sequence, which in turn is a basic tool for unraveling complicated tectonic structures.

In summary, I want to emphasize that the way nature exposes huge sequences of strata is usually not by cutting deep canyons or valleys into highly upheaved horizontal strata at one place, but instead by differential crustal movements followed by peneplaining erosion (which uncovers older strata in mountainous areas and also furnishes sedimentary materials which are then deposited-often containing fossils-to form younger strata). As a result of such tilting and other crustal movements, great areas of dipping, but unquestionably normally superimposed, strata are now found at or near the surface, and are therefore accessible to the geologist. The huge sequences of sedimentary strata which can be studied in such relatively undisturbed positions over great areas all over the world form the solid factual basis for the establishment of the time stratigraphic column.


It is time for scientists who are Christian to speak up and be counted in regard to “flood geology” and interpretations of the Scriptures. Van de Fliert is absolutely right when he says that “We deal a deathblow to the Christian religion when we bring the Holy Scriptures down to scientific level by teaching that the Bible should give us a kind of scientific worldpicture or axiomata of historical geology, or of Western science of history or of physics, biology, jurisprudence or whatever science it be.” I do not think this means that we cannot rely on the Scriptures to be scientifically correct, but we cannot make the teaching of the Bible dependent upon scientific knowledge.
Donald C. Boardman Deportment of Geology Wlseaton College Wheaton, Illinois 60187


The Primary Superposition in Highly Disturbed Areas

However, much more is to be said. When discussing what they called “Methods of resolving contradictions”, the authors of The Genesis Flood write:

Furthermore, even where superposed strata are exposed, it rather often happens that the fossils appear to be in reverse order from that demanded by the evolutionary history, which paradox is commonly explained by the assumption that the strata have been folded or faulted out of their original sequence (p. 135).

It is an old story which is told here. It was already elaborated in Professor Aalders’ book10. And it seems that this favorite argument of professors of Old Testament is supported even by some geologists; the authors of The Genesis Flood give the citation of C. H. Rastall, lecturer of Economic Geology at Cambridge University, saying:

It cannot be denied that from a strictly philosophical standpoint geologists are here arguing in a circle. The succession of organisms has been determined by a study of their remains embedded in the rocks, and the relative ages of the rocks are determined by the remains of organisms that they contain (p. l35).

Now, Mr. Rastall may be a good economic geologist; he is definitely not a good philosopher because his statement is simply not true!

What are the facts? A reversed position of strata is the result of strong disturbing movements after deposition. Complicated tectonic deformation occurs when the sediments are deposited in an area which is or becomes highly mobile, in contrast with relatively stable regions.

Since the reversed position of the layers, and, of course, the inverted succession of fossils, is not of primary or stratigraphic origin, but of secondary or tectonic origin, we should find (and we do) completely independent tectonic evidence (in addition to the fossil evidence) for a reversed position of a sequence of strata. Surely, we prefer simple structural relations when establishing a stratigraphic column in an area, but we do not finally depend on them.

In many instances, we can follow a certain sequence of strata from a less to a more intensely disturbed area, and observe, for example, how in this direction the dips increase to a vertical position, and somewhat further on have turned more than 90o from the original horizontal position so that they are then “overturned” and the sequence of layers has become in fact inverted or reversed. A gradual transition from a normal to an inverted position is in fact a phenomenon which is often encountered in folded areas. It has nothing to do with theory; it is just a matter of observation.

When in a mobile area we find with the help of fossils that a sequence of strata lies in reverse position, this conclusion if reliable implies that the strata are folded and that there must be a hinge zone along which the layers have been turned up. Such hinges, along which layers are sometimes turned over 180 degrees so that they are now in a perfect upsidedown position, are perfectly visible, for example, in some deep valleys in the Swiss and Austrian Alps. Now, if our index fossils are reliable, the paleontological evidence, the succession of the fossils, must be in accordance with the tectonic-structural evidence for whatever, normal or reversed, position the strata are in. But if this is the case, and this is in fact what we find, then both evidences do mutually confirm each other. The reversed sequence in which the fossils are found locally therefore does not invalidate, but, on the contrary, fortifies their value as time markers, because we know from independent tectonic evidence that the layers there are in overturned position.

The same situation holds when, as a result of tectonic causes following differential movements in the earth’s crust, rock masses are pushed up and over on top of neighboring areas; in this way also, older rocks will lie on top of younger strata. If such an abnormal succession is of tectonic origin, we should find the fault plane, the overthrust plane, exactly at the place where the older strata appear above the younger formations. Such a situation will usually be characterized by tectonic criteria related to the overriding phenomenon. At such an overthrust plane, we often find a tectonic brcccia, consisting of broken and crushed rock fragments of usually heterogeneous material. In other instances, depending on overburden and fluid pressure at the overthrust plane, friction may have resulted in such high temperature that the anomalous contact indicated by our fossils is characterized by a ‘burned’ or a dynamometamorphically altered zone. And here again, this is exactly how we find it. Tectonic and palcontologic evidence point in the same direction. Instead of contradicting, they confirm each other, and here again we may speak of convergent evidence.

Top and Bottom Engraved in Individual Layers

To find an answer to the question of whether we are dealing with strata in normal or reversed position, a third criterion can usually be found. It is of stratigraphic-sedimentologic character, and involves sedimentary structures found in individual layers.

Let me give a few simple examples to demonstrate the principle. On a sandy bottom, running or waving water may cause characteristic ripples in the sand which we call ripplemarks. They are often found in a fossil state. Wave ripplemarks, for example, form sharp ridges and rounded troughs. When we find in a sequence of layered strata that these sharp ridges point downwards, we therefore know that this sequence lies in an overturned position. In case the external form is not clear, the internal lamination may provide decisive evidence.

Another example, seen by almost everybody at some time, is that when a puddle or a muddy ditch desiccates, a pattern of cracks appears in the drying mud, the so-called “mud-cracks”. Such mud-cracks also have often been fossilized as a result of the filling of the wedge-shaped openings between the polygons with other material, e.g., sand. In this manner, again, the layer was marked for top and bottom during the process of sedimentation. The points of the wedges indicate the direction in which the older layers are to he found.

A great number of comparable stratigraphic-sedimentologic criteria, so-called top-and-bottom features, are known. Usually very small structures, they often give an unmistakable answer to the question whether the position of a layered sequence is normal or not, completely independent of tectonic or paleontologic evidence. In practice, the field geologist working in complicated areas is constantly concerned about the question “normal or reversed position?” He therefore is very keen on finding such top-and-bottom features, the more so when fossil evidence is not immediately, not sufficiently, or not at all available.

It will be clear that when we add the stratigraphicsedimentologic evidence of the sedimentary structures to the already convergent evidence of tectonics and paleontology, there remains no trace, not even a glimpse, of circular reasoning whatsoever. Quite the opposite is true; the reliability of the fossils for relative age determination of geological formations is not denied by local occurrences in reversed order, but on
the contrary confirmed. For with the help of two other criteria, independent from each other and independent of those fossils, we can irrefutably demonstrate that the layers there indeed occur in overturned position.

The Question of Correlation

With the possibility of establishing the normal succession of strata in the earth’s crust, we have in principle a factual basis for the establishment of the order of succession of the fossils they contain. In order to make clear now that the order of succession is the same all over the world, and that fossils therefore may be used as time-characteristic index-fossils I have to go into a little more detail about the local and regional successions of geological formations, the gaps they necessarily contain, and the question of regional and intercontinental correlation.


The actual situation is that the geological time-scale is based on a factual superposition of rocks yielding a factual superposition of paleontological criteria which has been proved to be the same all over the world.


When we look at a geological map of France, we can see that the relatively undisturbed sediments of the Paris Basin overlie more intensely folded sediments of Paleozoic age outcropping in various areas around the actual basin boundary. When we look now at the succession of rocks from Paris, then moving outward from the centre of the Paris Basin, to Charleroi in Belgium, we observe that the lowermost sediments of the Paris Basin, unconformably overlying the folded Paleozoic strata of the Ardennes Massiv, are Upper Cretaceous. Around the basin’s edges, at the surface of this angular unconformity there is in this sequence a huge gap, because practically the whole Mesozoic and part of the Paleozoic are missing. But when we follow this contact, the outcrop of this important unconformity, in an East-South-Easterly direction we gradually encounter successively older formations appearing in the Paris Basin above the unconformity surface; these formations have been called: Lower Cretaceous, Jurassic, and then Triassic.

When we look at the geological map of the United States, we see that (in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia) the folded Paleozoic sediments of the Appalachians plunge down underneath essentially
disturbed sediments of the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Province, the oldest of which are here Cretaceous, at least at the surface.

There is a striking similarity in the position of the Coastal Plain sediments as regards the folded Paleozoic rocks of the Appalachians on one side of the Atlantic and those of the Paris Basin with respect to the folded Paleozoic Rocks of the Ardennes on the other, particularly when we look at the Paris-Charleroi section.
That identity is not only structural; it is much more complex. There is a succession of Upper Mesozoic
and Cenozoic strata which, notwithstanding all kinds of differences due to locally differing sedimentation conditions, can he compared and correlated with that in the Paris Basin, on the basis of the fossil faunal contents of the sediments. That is to say, when we compare the sequences of strata on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, where the superposition is unquestionably known, there appear to be differences in the faunal content of successive layers; these differences allow for a descriptive stratigraphie subdivision, and they occur in the same order of succession. And when we look now at the underlying folded rocks and establish therein the stratigraphic superposition, we find, first of all, that the faunal content of these layers is totally different from the overlying strata, but very similar to that of the folded Paleozoic formations of the Ardennes. Furthermore that comparison of the sequence in the United States and in Europe also reveals faunal characteristics for a subdivision in the same order in America and Europe. All this has nothing to do with evolutionary theories. We simply find a factual superposition of faunal elements (in the strata) which occurs in the same order on both sides of the Atlantic. On the basis of such experience in comparing or correlating stratigraphie columns all over the world, we can then finally say that fossils may be used for indicating the place of the formation in the sequence. This experience of correlating the superposed strata all over the world is essential; every index fossil is constantly being checked on its guide value by new stratigraphie field work, by the many boreholes of the nil companies, etc., all over the world and every day.

The basis of our subdivision of geological time is found in the fact of a worldwide complex identity of the succession of sedimentary strata, The ‘older’ or ‘younger’ can without any doubt be established in both the locally and the regionally exposed strata. The ‘as old as’, the ‘time correlation’, on a regional to continental scale has its base in the identity in the complex succession of stratigraphic series in different places, a complex succession which practically eliminates any other interpretation than that of ‘same age’ (on a certain scale and with a certain degree of accuracy, of course).

We take the example of the Paris Basin /Ardennes and Gulf Coastal Plain Province/Appalachians again. It is clear that the unconformable superposition of unfolded Cretaceous and Tertiary sediments on folded Older and Younger Paleozoic sediments (which, both in relative detail, show comparable faunistic similarity on both sides of the Atlantic) reveals a complex identity structurally and stratigraphieally to the effect that a geologist can give no other interpretation than: an older period (Paleozoic time) in which sedimentation took place in the areas; then folding, mountain building and erosion at or towards the end of this time; finally, renewed sedimentation in at least part of these areas in Mesozoic and Cenozoic times.

We could go a little bit further now and ask about so-called Jurassic and Triassic sediments which appear under the Cretaceous of the Paris Basin. What about their equivalents in the Southeastern States of the United States? Do they really exist, and are they in a position comparable to those in Europe? The map shows that the oldest deposits of the Gulf Coastal province outcropping at the contact with the Appalachians are of Cretaceous age, which implies a gap here for Jurassic and Triassic. Is this implication correct? Yes, because for example away from this surficial contact, from Yucatan to Florida, the oil-well bore has struck older deposits underneath the Cretaceous, showing paleontological characteristics of Upper Jurassic age. Normally underlying sediments, possibly Lower Jurassic, Triassic or Permian, could not he identified as such because of lack of fossils. But when we go, for example, to the Southwestern part of the United States we find a normal superposition of dated Permian, Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous sediments covering very large areas in Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, The same order of paleontologic criteria in the succession of strata-in Europe, in America, in Asia, Africa and Australia, all over the world-this is a fact which simply cannot be denied except by those who do not know or do not want to know. But the factual situation is there for everyone who wants to to go and see.

Parenthetically, I want to point out that therefore evolution (in the descriptive sense that flora and fauna on earth have been subject to change almost continuously in the course of geologic time) is also to be considered as a well observed fact, which is of course something quite different from a theory of evolution and from an evolutionistic philosophy.

Reworking: Mixing of Fossils of Different Age

But, the authors of The Genesis Flood might react by saying that we are still dishonest with our representation of the fossil succession as an observed fact, because in several instances mixed faunas are found, which would therefore represent a mixture of older and younger fossils. Then, they might say, we come along with a complicated interpretation of reworking or comparable phenomena, but that interpretation is only an interpretation, and the fact is that these fossils do occur together in the same bed. And we would have to answer that that is true, but truth and simplicity do not always go together.

When fossil-bearing sediments become subject to erosion, one must expect not only redeposition of the inorganic components but also those of organic origin. This general consideration already implies that a mixing of fossils of differing ages as a result of reworking processes must occur. But, reworking or redeposition in general results in characteristic features by which it can be determined as such.

In the Netherlands, we find silicified Cretaceous sea urchins as elements in Pliocene fluviatile gravels. Marine animal remains in fluviatile beds is of course already anomalous, but furthermore the silicified tests are rounded by their having been transported, and we know the place where they have been washed out of the sediments in which they were originally embedded.

A second example is that, in muds of the Wadden Sea, Cretaceous Foraminifera are found together with the recent foraminiferal assemblage. These Cretaceous elements, however, are found in the smallest fraction (smaller than 0.15 mm) of the washed residues. They are washed out of Cretaceous deposits of the Paris Basin exposed in the Channel, sorted by longshore current action, and only the finest material reaches the Dutch Wadden Seas. Here, although differing preservation already demonstrates the correct conclusion, the uniform size indicates sorting and proves the allochthonous character of these elements in the faunal assemblage.
We found a very interesting example of mixed faunas when working as stratigraphers for an oil company of the Royal Dutch Shell group in North Borneo. The washed residue of a shale sample appeared to contain a normal assemblage of beautifully preserved Paleocene (Lowermost Tertiary) Foraminifera, but also a few very poorly preserved Miogy,osinas, larger Foraminifera of Miocene (Lowest part of Upper Tertiary) age. At first sight, the perfect preservation, absence of sorting, and normal assemblage of these Paleocene Foraminifera, mixed with some 30-40 million years younger Miogypsinas which were in part pyritized and very badly preserved, was astonishing. From the field geologist, we knew that big ‘exotic’ blocks of probably Paleocene age occurred scattered in the shale. We then looked at the part of the sample which had not been washed, and the solution of the problem was found. The sample consisted of a dark grey shaly matrix, in which a great number of angular fragments of a light coloured marl were disseminated. It was clear that the angular fragments were redeposited fragments of an older formation and that they appeared indeed to contain the Paleocene fauna. The autoebtonous sediment-the dark shaly matrix-was apparently formed under more or less anaerobic conditions, as a result of which sulfuric acid was formed, which in turn attacked and in part pyritized the calcaeous shells of ?vuiogypsina during or shortly after deposition. The Paleocene Foraminifera in the original sediment of the angular elements were perfectly protected against such chemical activity in the Miocene basin.

Stories like this may sound complicated, but in fact they are not. Again here, the way in which the resedimentation process was written down in the structural relationships of the younger sediment did not deny, but on the contrary again confirmed or corroborated the reliability of the fossils-in this case pelagic and larger Foraminifera-as index fossils.

Structural Uniformity and Actual Experience

Within the scope of this article it is impossible to deal with everything which the authors of The Genesis
Flood 
have presented. There is one important and fundamental thing, however, concerning which I want to spend a few sentences-the practical meaning of the so-called uniformitarian and actualistic principles in geology.
As a first remark, I don’t like -isms. A term ending in -ism usually means an overestimation of the aspect, modus, state of affairs or whatever is meant by the term. The question which has to be answered, however, is this: have those people who are considered to be the fathers of uniformitarianism or actualism seen something fundamentally essential for our geological scientific knowledge, even if they may not have correctly defined, not fully understood, or overor underestimated what they had seen?

As a historical geologist, who always has to do with documents of a geologic past in the earth’s crust, I cannot pretend to speak even one reliable word about geological history except on the basis of what I called above “structural constancy”. “Structural” is meant in a very large, generalized sense. The only way to distinguish differing processes in the documents is by means of the differing structures they may reveal, Sedimentary processes produce typical, characteristic structures, and tectonic processes produce other differing, but also characteristic structures in the rocks of the earth’s crust. There are, of course, also many kinds or types of sedimentation processes, the results of which can be differentiated on the basis of the differing structural characteristics produced-such as lithologic and paleontologic criteria, texture and structure (in a restricted sense).

The general rule will he that the more detailed the interpretation, the more detailed also our structural analysis will have to be. The general starting point for an interpretation of the sedimentation processes in geologic history on a really, and the only possible, scientific basis will therefore be the assumption that a catastrophic sedimentation process would have to show characteristic structural relationships, and that, on the other hand, the normal, actual sedimentation processes necessarily result in different characteristic structural features. In other words, when our analysis of fossil sediments reveals in great detail the same structural relationship as that which is actually formed under present day condition, the only conclusion which can honestly be drawn is, “It is the same process!” Ascribing comparably structured sediments to catastropic processes would be something like declaring that fossil fish which we have found on the basis of fossil remains to look in detail like actual fish, were not really fish living in water but birds flying in the air!


The reliability of the Word of God spoken in this world through His prophets and apostles is beyond the reach of scientific control, because the Bible is not a scientific book. As such, it is not vulnerable to the results of science. Therefore, Christian astronomers, geologists, and biologists can work without fear as long as they respect the limits of their own scientific field.


The example may sound silly, but it clearly shows the basic role of structural uniformity even for the determination of fossil remains, and demonstrates also the link with actual life’ experience. What could we say about the function of the organs of fossil fishes, or about the environment they lived in, if we did not know the living fish in its environment today?

Now, in view of the need for more detailed reliable interpretation of depositional environments of fossil sediments, one branch of geological sciences, called sedimentology, has grown very rapidly during the last decades. A major part of the work done by the sedimentologist was and still is a detailed analysis of actual sedimentation processes and their results in modem depositional environments. Of course, when we want to know what the characteristic features are of sediments found in a middle neritic marine environment (the zone of approximately 40100 meters depth [20-50 fathoms] on the shelf), we shall first of all have to obtain samples of the modern sediments in this area, examine them in detail and study all kinds of physical, chemical, and biological conditions in the zone. In addition, we shall also have to study the bordering (inner neritic, and outer neritic) environments to be able to specify their characteristics also in a differential diagnosis.

Modern analyses of these sediments ‘in formation’ are done in very great detail, in both the physicochemical and biologic criteria, with the result that a very detailed classification of sediments as related to their depositional environment appears to be possible. But it also appears that this “key of the present” indeed fits into the sediments of the past, because most of them show, often in astonishing details, the same structural relationships. The identity is there. The uniformity is written down in the fossil sediments themselves. There is no way out unless one wants to declare, to pick up the above examples, that the fish is a bird. The identity may exist on a small scale (e.g., the number of Foraminifera per gram of sediment, and the percentages of different species or genera with respect to the total foraminiferal assemblage) but also on a large scale. To conclude I would like to give one example of the latter.

The authors of The Genesis Flood try to deny the evidence for deposits which required a very long time to form, such as coral reefs. Some of them at least are explained as being redeposited during the Flood (pp. 408,409).

Now there are different types of reefs and different organisms which can build reefs, in addition to corals. Reefs have played a very important role in the geological history of the earth’s crust, and sedimentologic research is particularly active in investigating the depositional environments of reef limestones and those immediately related to the reefs.

Let’s look at a barrier reef. It lies at a certain distance from a shore, and separates a lagoonal environment (between barrier-reef and shoreline) from the open marine environment. At the sea-side of the reef body, we distinguish a fore-reef area, on the landside a back-reef zone. The reef-body itself consists of a core of unlayered, massive limestone, built up by the sedentary reefbuilding organisms still in original life position; it is bordered by coarse, and farther away finer reef detritus, which, particularly the latter, are often very well bedded. Now, we do find barrierand other reefbodies at many different levels in the stratigraphic column. But we do not find, say, the core of a barrier-reef body, as a strange element in other deposits. On the contrary, in Silurian reefs in Gotland, in Devonian and Lower Carboniferous reefs in Belgium, the Jurassic reefs in the Jura Mountains, and Cretaceous reefs in the Apennines, etc., etc., we can recognize and locate, in addition to the reef bodies themselves, the associated depositional environments with their characteristic sediments and faunas: the lagoon, the fore- and the baekreef zones, and the open marine environment.

On a small scale and on a large scale, there is no question whatsoever of some catastrophic mixing-up; on the contrary, everything is found exactly in the place where it should be, compared with actual sedimentation conditions in reef and associated environments. We find structural constancy in detail, even when we consider variation as a result of different reefbuilding organisms (such as calcaceous algae, s tromatoporoids, bryozoans, corals, rudistids, or combinations).

These are the facts of stratigraphic and sedimentologic research, which are at the basis of the major results of the geological sciences. This basis makes it possible indeed to say that the broad lines of presentday historical geology, dealing with the formation of the earth’s crust in geological times in the order of hundreds of millions of years, are correct, and are to he accepted as a well established fact.

Science and the Bible: Not the Fundamentalistic Way

It may seem as if I have written very little about fundamentalism so far. However, I was fighting against it all the time, but silently and indirectly until now.

The book of \Vhitcomb and Morris was written on the basis of what we usually call a fundamentalistic or biblicistic viewpoint. This standpoint implies the belief that the Bible teaches us principles, fundamentals or elements of human science in general and of historical geological science in particular.

For the fundamentalist, therefore, the reliability of the Bible as the Word of God is related to scientific
reliability. For him this is particularly true with respect to the first eleven chapters of Genesis . This conception, however, implies inevitably that science and God’s Revelation in the first chapters of the Bible are placed on the same (scientific) level, on the basis of which scientifically obtained data about the history of the earth and man will have to fir, into the ‘Biblical scheme or framework’.

The ‘question’ of the reliability of the Holy Scriptures can thus be fought out on the scientific field, and, as a consequence, we then see theologians entef this field, as Professor Whitcomb now does, as Professor Aalders did in Holland a few decades ago, and as so many before them have done since the end of the Middle Ages.
But these ‘scientific’ battles for an infallible Word of God have been lost right from the start. In constant retreat, the theologians have had to surrender every position they had once taken in this struggle. That’s what the history of the warfare between science and theology should have made conclusively clear. The tragedy of men who wanted to defend the reliability of the Word of God ‘scientifically’ should have taught us that this entire approach was wrong. It should have convinced us that this science is a very bad ally, because its word had only temporal and no eternal value.

The most tragic aspect of the fundamentalist conception seems to me that his standpoint requires scientific proof, so that he must somehow live in fear of the results of developing scientific work, because indeed this development could then also disprove the reliability of the Holy Scriptures. And this leads to the cardinal question whether in this way the fundamentalist’s conception does not reveal an implicit faith in science, which is far more dangerous for Christian religion than is the scientific development itself.

A few years ago, I was speaking to a conference of Reformed ministers in the Netherlands about some fundamental facts of geology. In the discussion, one of them arose and declared that, if he were convinced that what I had told them was true, he would immediately abandon his ministry. But I ask myself ‘what kind of a religion is Christianity when scientific geological facts can prove or disprove the reliability of God’s Revelation to man? What then do we really believe in? In our own ‘image’, conceptions or ideas about an infallible Bible? In an interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis with the help of current natural scientific knowledge just as earlier theologians did with the help of a world picture, incidentally, usually already out of date in their own time?! Does the message of the Bible then really necessarily change with the changing world picture? It surely does as long as we continue trying to accommodate Genesis and geology.

Instead of giving human scientific work its proper place in the light of Scripture, fundamentalism indeed implies, as I indicated already in the beginning of this article, a colossal overestimation of natural science. Neither geology nor any other natural science can ever be a direct exegetical tool, as they have been used, and still are used in fundamentalistie conceptions.

However, the history of the natural sciences and the results of modern geology, for example, could play a far more modest role, the role of an indirect exegetical tool. Such would be not a tool to test, to prove or to disprove the reliability of Scriptures, but to test the reliability of our ideas and conceptions about the Bible, the inspiration, and the historicity of the first chapters of Genesis.

The reliability of the Word of God spoken in this world through His prophets and apostles is beyond the reach of scientific control, because the Bible is not a scientific book. As such, it is not vulnerable to the results of science. Therefore, Christian astronomers, geologists, and biologists can work without fear as long as they respect the limits of their own scientific field.

Our ideas and conceptions concerning the Bible may indeed appear to be vulnerable to the results of scientific development. This state of affairs seems to he difficult to accept, particularly for many evangelical Christians. It cannot be denied, however, that there is ‘revelation’ (be it of a different kind than that of the Bible) in the development of this created world, also in the results of human scientific and technical advances during the last centuries. It cannot be denied and should not be denied that, as a result of this development, our (scientific) world picture (Weltbild) has obtained huge dimensions, both in time and space and has become entirely different from that of the authors of the Bible. But, this is the world God has wanted us to live in, we and our children.

The fundamentalistie view, conservative in an erroneous sense, requires us to accept a so-called “biblical world picture” which should be normative for scientific work. This is a poor predicament indeed for contemporary Christianity, because it tends to transform twentieth century Christians into aliens, standing, as it were, in Old Testament times. Since this is, of course, not possible, the fundamentalistie view tends to deprive them of their belief in a reliable Bible. It alienates us from the Words of Eternal Life, which we understand through faith and not through science, and which stand firm in this rapidly changing world.

References
1Published by the Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Philadelphia, Penna., 1961.
2The Genesis Flood, Text of Fig. 11, p. 175.
3Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology, being on attempt to explain the former changes of the earth’s surface by causes now in operation. 1st Ed. Volumes I-Ill, London 1830-1833.
4R. Hooykaas, Naural law and divine miracle, a historical critical study of the Principle of Uniformity in geology, biology and theology. E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1959.
5The Genesis Flood. p. 243
6W. G. Krnmbein and L. L. Sloss, Stratigraphy and Sedimentation. 1st Ed. 1951. 7The Genesis Flood, p. 274
7The Genesis Flood, p. 274.
8A. H. von Engeln and K. E. Caster, Geology, 1952, pp. 417, 418
9A. D. van Engeln and K. E. Caster, Geology, 1952, p. 423
10Dr. G. Ch. Aaldcrs, De goddelijke openbaring in de eerste drie hoofstukken van Genesis, Kampen, 1932.
11SR. H. Rastall, Geology, In: Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 10, 1956, p. 168.

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Some good reading matter by recent writers

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