Do Geologists Hate the Bible?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, March 28, 2019 3 comments

by Steve Risner

Today, I'll be tackling the 8th question in a series of 10 posed by Michael Roberts, an old earth creationist or possibly a theistic evolutionist. Last week we dealt with the fact that creationism of the Biblical kind (what some call young earth creationism) has overwhelmingly been the traditional view of Christians and Jews since those faiths were a thing. The evidence makes any attempt at rewriting history appear to be parody and not to be taken seriously. This week's question is a little different, although it does try to redefine a few things. Let's take a look.

Were early geologists opposed to Christianity and did they use their geology to undermine belief?

Again, I like the quick and easy answer. The answer is: of course not! As far back as the 200s AD, Tertullian spoke of Flood geology. Chrysostom wrote on it in the late 300s AD. Augustine did so in the late 300s AD to early 400s AD. These men would probably not qualify as “geologists” for most old earth creationists, but Charles Lyell (one of the most infamous deep time geologists of the 1800s) was an attorney. Most evolutionists have no trouble with Darwin even though he was not a scientist of any kind.

However, in terms of geologists, Nicolas Steno, who Mr. Roberts mentions, was a “young earth” creationist and studied geology as such. He is known as the father of modern geology and his principles are still used in geology today. Francis Bacon, the developer of the scientific method, was a major influence on many of the “Scriptural geologists” of the 19th century. These geologists were hated, literally, by many who disagreed with their beliefs concerning geology and earth history. Bacon believed there was a major difference between the laws God used to govern the universe (operational science which can be studied and tested) and how God created the universe and all that is within it (historical science or origins science). Even back then, this debate was heated.

About his belief in a 6000-year-old earth, Steno wrote that sedimentary layers were laid down successively and that they and fossils were the result of the Flood. John Woodward, another geologist of the day, agreed. Isaac Newton's successor, William Whiston, also shared similar beliefs about earth's age (he added 6 years to Ussher's calculation) but believed the Flood may have been the result of comet bombardment, an idea that is still today tossed around by creationists as a portion of the Flood mechanism. Alexander Catcott used geological arguments to defend the Genesis creation narrative and the Flood narrative. Johann Lehmann believed that primary sedimentary layers were the result of creation while those bearing fossils were from the Flood of Noah.

It was really James Hutton who began to tell the tale of uniformitarianism in the late 1700s. His work was criticized heavily by Richard Kirwan who disliked Hutton's ideas because they were atheistic and disagreed with the Genesis narrative. Jean-André Deluc had similar views to Kirwan and accepted the Genesis account and Noah's Flood as real history. Kirwan and Deluc disagreed on some points of Scripture and its creation account and universality of the Flood, but the two were heavily influenced by the Bible in their studies.

The Geological Society of London was established in 1807 and had members who had little knowledge of geology but plenty of money and a desire to learn. However, these men were nearly unanimously deep time proponents and gave hardly a glance to Biblical teachings.

William Buckland was a leading geologist in England who pushed catastrophism solidly and actually taught Charles Lyell. Lyell would eventually be the one who admitted to attempting to “remove Moses from the sciences.” Buckland believed the geologic evidence supported creation and a global Flood, but he leaned towards an old earth for some reason. He published works that made it very clear, even in the 1800s, that the Flood of Noah was a real event and a global catastrophe. Years later, his views changed as others began to work on his interpretation of the Bible and the evidence. You can see the slope here, I hope. We start with the historical document of the Bible and work from there. Over the years, some tend to allow anti-biblical ideas in, resulting in small amounts of compromise. Then we have overt compromise where we accept some but not all the Bible's clear teachings. Then the slope steepens and the journey from half Christian doctrine/half secular doctrine to no Christianity at all is fast and easy. How can any old earth creationist or theistic evolutionist deny this? Buckland is a perfect example.

In the 1830s, Charles Lyell, an attorney, published his works on geology, outlining how he thought geology should be done. He was radically uniformitarian in his approach—an approach we know has been debunked for a long time yet is still advocated by many. Lyell's purpose, according to him because he was “the spiritual saviour of geology,” was in “freeing the science from the old dispensation of Moses.” This was tragic. Geologists forsook the catastrophic history of the world and replaced it with a debunked idea of long, slow, gradual processes. All geologic activity was viewed this way for a long time, which is why Roberts makes claims about geologists only finding evidence for an old earth and other such nonsense. More recently, small catastrophes are allowed into the framework of geology, but no one would admit to a global catastrophe like the Biblical Flood.

Isn't it a very telling fact that most Christians had no reason to doubt the Genesis narratives of the creation and Flood until the later centuries, when atheists, naturalists, materialists, and deists were beginning to argue for the earth's existence outside of the Biblical explanation? It's like God miscommunicated how He created the universe to us and waited for God-hating or God-denying people to come up with ways to reject Him in creation so we would know what really happened. This, of course, would mean these people were the source of truth for us rather than God's Holy Word.

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Tim Helble said...

The members of the Affiliation of Christian Geologists are predominantly old earth. The vast majority of today's geologists who are Christians are old earth. Eight of the eleven authors of "The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth are Evangelical Christians. The old earth, Christian geologists I know love the Lord and love to study His Word. Therefore, I don't see any point in asking the question "were early geologists opposed to Christianity and did they use their geology to undermine belief?"

Your discussion of early geologists in the 1600's to 1800's is very incomplete and a much better discussion about how geologists (including numerous Christian geologists) came to realize that the earth was very ancient and a global cataclysm didn't completely rework the planet's geologic record is contained in first half of the book "The Bible, Rocks, and Time."

Except for a handful of flood geologists, conventional modern geologists don't "admit to a global catastrophe like the Biblical Flood" because there is no physical evidence for such an event. In addition a global flood that completely reworked the planetary geology isn't required by the Biblical text and is quantitatively unrealistic beyond the extreme.

Steve Risner said...

Hello Tim. Thank you for your comment. I would like to point out that the question you're taking issue with "Were early geologists opposed to Christianity and did they use their geology to undermine believe?" was not mine but that of an old earth creationist (or theistic evolutionist...I'm not sure which). You'll have to discuss with him why he asked the question. My goal was simply to answer it.

You are suggesting that popularity has some sort of connection to veracity. It does not. Of course most geologists, Christian or otherwise, are dedicated to the humanist origins myth and its interpretation of geology. They're taught it from elementary school onward.

You are correct that my less than 2 page blog post is incomplete. What topic could I be thorough with in less than 2 pages? However, I did highlight a great deal of the information I felt was attached to the discussion. I'm not sure how anyone could come "to realize that the earth was very ancient." By what standard is such a claim made? Do we have old and young planets to compare our earth to? Do you have solid evidence that discredits the Bible's clear explanation for the age of the earth that is not contestable or heaped in numerous assumptions? I am highly suspicious you have none. How are you sure that a global catastrophe didn't rework the earth's surface? The Bible states without question that it did. The Bible also states without question that God created everything in less than a week and He did it just over 6000 years ago. There is no doubt that this is what the text says and what it intended to say (if we are to trust our own common sense and what many--probably most--scholars have to say about it).

Steve Risner said...

You go further to say that not many geologists hold to the truth of Scripture even if they're claim is that of being Christian. That's fine and I can't argue with it. Many have succumbed to the overwhelming saturation of the humanist origins myth in our schools and media. It's pretty common as I'm sure you know. But many things are taught in our schools that, as a Christian, we should be concerned about. This is one of them since it disagrees with the obvious and clear intent of the Holy Scriptures. But your claim is that there is "no physical evidence" for a global Flood. This is one of those things that makes me have to take a deep breath before I respond. It's total nonsense and I'm sure you know this. There is a great deal of evidence and how could there not be? The Bible gives us the narrative. I, being a Bible believing Christian (I guess some want to suggest there is another variety), not only accept what the Scriptures tell us about creation and the Flood and Babel etc etc but I also see evidence for it all over the planet and beyond. I'm sure you're not interested in that evidence, but it's quite literally all over the world and in many many forms. To suggest there is "no evidence" at all for the Flood means you 1) can't be taken seriously because you're making extremely erroneous claims and 2) you don't believe the Bible or take God at His Word. What could He have done differently to express the truth of His creation and the Flood?

Please explain to me why the earth looks to be billions of years old (preferably without numerous assumptions built on each other) and, more importantly, tell me what the earth would look like if it was only 6100 years old and ravaged by a Flood about 4500 years ago. Please be specific and support your claims as much as is possible (but please don't just give links and expect me to look at them...I don't have time for that). Making a claim and then linking to support is fine, but please don't just drop links and expect me to be interested. Thanks in advance.