Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Davis Young on Flood Geology

In 1995, Davis Young wrote a book titled The Biblical Flood: A Case Study of the Church's Response to Extrabiblical Evidence. He has adapted it to a somewhat lengthy but captivating essay titled History of the Collapse of "Flood Geology" and a Young Earth. Davis once upon a time wrote the truly excellent Christianity and the Age of the Earth, which tackled most of the young earth arguments. Here, he traces the history of the literal acceptance of the Genesis flood story and how that perspective was eventually dismissed by geologists of the nineteenth century only to be taken up again by non-geologists in the twentieth century.

It is often instructive to see how great minds wrestled with the demise of time-honored beliefs in the face of an avalanche of evidence to the contrary. This is what makes the current wave of flood geology all the more inexplicable. The evidence against a world-wide flood has just gotten better, not worse over time. As young notes:
The issue for flood geologists is not whether extrabiblical evidence is relevant to biblical interpretation but rather how to interpret that evidence. Having already employed, without benefit of external evidence, a hermeneutic that demands a literal interpretation of the Bible, flood geologists are prepared to do anything but accept the mainstream scientific evidence that flatly refutes their claims that the earth is geologically young and that a global deluge deposited the fossiliferous strata. They have thus been forced either to appeal to miracles or to construct elaborate theories that manipulate the extrabiblical data to fit their view of what must be true.
As Henry Morris wrote:"The only Bible-honoring conclusion is, of course, that Genesis 1-11 is actual historical truth, regardless of any scientific or chronological problems thereby entailed." [Henry Morris, Remarkable Birth of Planet Earth] This philosophy was also played out in the RATE project where the results were overseen to make sure they corresponded to a "scriptural" understanding of prehistory. He writes this in his conclusion:
Some Christians delight in contrasting the infallible Word of God (that is to say, the Word of God infallibly interpreted by them) with the fallible ideas of sinful human beings and on that basis reject scientific conclusions they do not like. Scripture does oppose purely human philosophies, human pride, and human sin. But does the Bible oppose everything human? Science is a human endeavor that requires the input of fallible humans, but that hardly means that it is anti-Christian, and it certainly does not prevent Christians from accepting and using the results of science. Even the most doctrinaire advocates of a literal reading of Genesis 1-11 are selective in their objections to the findings of the scientific community.

How many of them deny that the earth orbits the sun rather than the other way around, for example? How many object to the science that made high-tech electronics, manned missions to the moon, or modern drugs possible? When so many scientists of such a diverse array of worldviews are able to achieve a virtual consensus regarding a given body of evidence, we had better pay attention. When for the past two centuries thousands of geologists from around the world, including numerous Bible-believing Christians, insist from a lifetime of experience in looking at fossiliferous rocks that those rocks are extremely old and had nothing to do with a global deluge, then the church must listen. Commentators who dismiss or disparage that body of geological knowledge solely on the grounds of their commitment to a principle of interpretation might do well to question their commitment to truth in a larger sense. Is it likely that they will arrive at a sound understanding of what God is saying in the biblical text if they reject a sound understanding of what God is saying in the created order? The extrabiblical data pertaining to the flood have been pushing the evangelical church to develop a better approach to the flood story and indeed to all the early chapters of Genesis.

And yet they continue to peddle the same old myths. Read the whole thing.


  1. Wow! Thanks for the link. It was very informative. I didn't realize that "Flood Geology" was so old and was disproved over 150 years ago. Yet AiG and ICR continue to trot out the same, old, disproved garbage!

    Being blatantly honest now, the more I study and learn, the harder faith becomes. I sometimes start to wonder if this isn't just a mirage. The horrible, lame, irrational, illogical answers given by some Christian apologists almost drives me away from Christianity. The two things that keep me in it are "The Big Bang" (ironically) and a couple of personal miracles I've witnessed. As for the rest of it, I have a lot of unanswered (and probably unanswerable) questions.

  2. Daniel, don't lose hope and faith. It is perfectuly reasonable for God to have spoken to the Israleites in the langage that he used. Unlike some organizations today, they would have understood it mean what he wanted it to mean for them—not a science textbook but a statement of faith and covenant. The evidence for Jesus being who he was is very good. Read Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ. It is very good. My wife gives me a hard time for slamming on the the ICR and Ken Ham but I think they have done irreparable harm to the cause of Christianity in this country and ought to be held accountable in some way. They have, almost singlehandedly, made Christians look like idiots. Also think about this: After all that research that Davis Young did for his book, he is still a Christian. Keep the Faith!!!

  3. sorry about the typing misteaks.

  4. 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 seems address this issue. What's particularly interesting is 22-23:

    22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles

    and then 1 Corinthians 2:4-5

    4My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, 5so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.

    Which almost makes me wonder if there are "rational" reasons. I don't know, maybe this struggle is teaching me more about what faith actually is.

  5. There is one gentleman (I think it was Jerry Coyne but am not sure) who wondered if people that accepted evolution and an old age of the earth practiced a Christianity that would be unrecognizable to your average Christian. I don't agree. That assumes that most Christians are not intelligent. The problem is that the age of the earth and biological evolution have little to no bearing on the lives of most Christians so they don't deviate from the evangelical party line. I worship the living God and have Jesus as my savior just like other Christians. I just have a somewhat different view of the Primeval History, which simply wasn't ever meant to be taken literally.

  6. And Daniel, we have plenty of company. Every day I find more people who are coming out of the closet and saying "I am a Christian and I Accept Evolution!!"

  7. Great Blog, its good to find others of like mind.
    Don't lose faith.
    But I just wanted to point out that if you are
    Catholic, this faith-reason conflict is solved because you are not required to 'check' your
    brain at the door, as our Church does not
    require one to swallow a literal seven-day
    interpretation of Genesis. Also, have you ever noticed that in the second chapter of Genesis the account is reversed and man is created first and all the plants and animals are created afterward.
    Note that I am not relegating Genesis to the level of simply a myth.
    Just thought that I would throw this out.

  8. Anonymous11:48 PM

    I actually have a hard time liking Lee Strobel because of his book 'The Case for a Creator'. I read the Student Edition and I wasn't impressed at all.

    I think more people should speak up against ICR, Ken Ham and their ilk. Keep up the good work!

    In 2009 (when you wrote this post), I was starting to 'come out'. I am still (in 2013) relatively quiet about it. I don't say anything unless specifically asked a direct question. If people start spouting anti-evolution rhetoric, I might say something to correct them, but mostly I just keep quiet.

    I'm more vocal on my blog.