Even more recently, such as at the time of the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial (1925), the actual face of biblical literalism was quite different than one might expect—especially if one has in mind young earth creationism with its insistence upon a 10,000 year old recently-created earth and its focus on ‘‘flood geology’’. Around the time of the Scopes trial in the early twentieth century, there is no record of any biblical literalists within normative Christianity who interpreted the Bible as claiming a recent creation in six 24-hour days or that Noah’s flood had anything to do with how one should interpret the record of global stratigraphy. Indeed, literalists at that time saw Noah’s flood as a local phenomenon and ‘‘even the most literalistic Bible believers accepted the antiquity of life on Earth as revealed in the paleontological record.’’ The one exception to this general rule was the Seventh Day Adventists—a sect of Millerites who, after 1844 (and disillusioned by Christ’s failure to return), regrouped under the leadership and supernatural visions of the teenage prophetess Ellen G. White—a charismatic young woman ‘‘whose pronouncements Adventists placed on par with the Bible’’. White and her Seventh Day Adventist followers harbored no doubts about the correct reading of the early chapters of Genesis because in a trancelike vision White was ‘‘carried back to the creation’’ by God himself, ‘‘and was shown that the first week, in which God performed the work of creation in six [24 hour] days and rested on the seventh day, was just like every other week.’’ White likewise saw that during Noah’s flood, God created all the various geological layers of sediment and fossils by burying the organic debris and causing ‘‘a powerful wind to pass over the Earth...in some instances carrying away the tops of mountains like mighty avalanches...burying the dead bodies with trees, stones, and earth.’’ Thus, from the divine dreams of Ellen White young earth creationism was born and, ironically, it was conceived in stark opposition to the reigning biblical literalism of the day.Most young earth creationists that I know are, I believe, unaware of this information. How, or if it would change their Christian walk is unclear. It is instructive to read Ron Numbers' The Creationists to see how dominant the Adventists were in the formation of modern-day young earth creationism.
The article is a good expose on how the scriptures would read if we really did read them literally, which is quite differently than our modern understanding of them is. He reiterates the position that is held by Paul Marston and others, that there is absolutely nothing in the passages that indicates that Adam and Eve are the only people around during the account in Genesis.
Although the paper is largely devoid of scientific observations, he ends by reminding those of us that tend to think too highly of the scientific endeavor that it is not the be all and end all that we think that it is:
While the doctrine of creation demands that Christians take science seriously, a large part of taking science seriously is to understand that science, as such, is not (and never has been) in the business of making unalterable pronouncements about the nature of reality. Because there is so much terrain in both science and theology that remains unexplored we must press onward in faith, sobered by a good dose of epistemic humility, and taking care in the meantime to not greatly exaggerate the reports of Adam’s death.That said, if all the evidence points in one direction, how long do we ignore it?
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