Concerning the Creation Research Society, the Book The Genesis Flood,
And "Flood Geology" (II)
David E. Koltenbah
Some Observations About These Claims
One is led to wonder in view of these quotations if the name of the Society is not somewhat of a misnomer. If most of the earth's features accrue from the Flood, then nearly all geological vestiges of the Creation and of the antediluvian world, if any are to be expected at all, must have been obliterated by the Flood. Geological research to establish or corroborate the Creation can therefore hardly be expected to be fruitful, but because of the alleged abundance of the evidence of the Flood, it would seem more appropriate to have named the Society the "Deluge Research Society." Such a name would certainly have been more revealing of the activity of the organization.
In making these criticisms, I do not call in question, of course, the Genesis account, although there may be some specific points of disagreement with these writers when they attempt exegesis of specific texts. The validity of the "Flood Geology" as a scientific hypothesis - for that's what the Society advocates in part claim that it is -- may be indeed questioned.
Let me for the moment turn aside for an observation. If, as the authors aver in the quotation above (ibid.) the "Flood Geology" is a matter of Biblical truth, then it can hardly be merely a scientific hypothesis for the Bible believer. But if it is a scientific hypothesis to be treated on the same footing with other scientific theories in the gladiatorial arena of science, then it is not a matter of clearly revealed Scriptural truth. Biblical truth constitutes a divine revelation, not a scientific hypothesis. If because the Bible is true it is not possible for a believer to conceive of the deposition of most of the strata by any mechanism other than the Flood, then it should not be necessary to resort to geological evidence to prove the point.
Indeed, Biblical exegesis alone should reveal:
(1) the earth is stratified,
(2) most of the strata were laid down in water catastrophically,
(3) the strata were laid down -simultaneously rather than gradually,
(4) the strata were universally formed simultaneously,
(5) the forms of life fossilized in the rocks all lived contemporaneously and were all destroyed simultaneously,
(6) the approximate date of all this stratification is unique, comparatively recent and in historical time, and not variable, remote and in prehistory, and finally,
(7), the Noachian Deluge was the cause of all this. To the extent that geological interpretation and citation must be resorted to substantiate these points, to that extent it is an admission that these features of the "Flood Geology" are not revealed in Scripture.
The Real Question
To put the question in focus, does the Bible require us to believe that many, most, or all (as the case may be) of the presently noted geological formations and fossils were caused by the Flood? Are there alternative scientific viewpoints open to the believer in the Bible? Is the Bible in fact neutral on a particular hypothesis of the mechanism and duration of the formation of the strata? Is it also possible to believe, without violence to Scripture, that the Noachian Flood, while it did occur, did not in fact so permanently alter the earth's surface as the "Flood Geology" adherents claim? These are questions which this writer believes are of importance to those who are interested in the topic of religion-and-science, but he fails to see that one's eternal salvation hinges upon his acceptance of one view or the other of whether the Noachian Flood left, its indelible geological mark on the face of this globe.
The underlying assumption of the promoters of the "Flood Geology" is that because Genesis reveals a great flood to have occurred, therefore the evidences of its occurrence must be universally and abundantly evident in the earth today, and that no other interpretation of geological evidence is in accord with Scripture. This no more follows it seems to me, than to assert that belief in Christ's resurrection requires identification at the present of some particular tomb in the Holy Land as the precise location of that miraculous event, and that no other explanation of the use in antiquity of the particular tomb in question is tolerable.
An Objection to the Society's Methodology
There are some other points of objection which one can raise such as the lack of objectivity of a scientific methodology which insists upon restructuring the scientific evidence along the lines dictated by a particular manifesto. To be sure, presuppositions are inevitable and logically indispensable in science as in any other system of thought, but these must be recognized in science as merely assumptions, working hypotheses, not a body of inviolable dogma which dictates the selection of particular evidences favorable to the thesis or which forces the data to render the interpretation desired. Certainly the history of science is sadly replete with instances of such reductionism, but this is not in the best tradition of either science or of scholarship in general, including Biblical scholarship. Objectivity in science is maintained only by allowing the possibility of alternative schemes and of the discovery of evidence hitherto thought impossible.
I do not have the intention of discouraging the reading of the Creation Research Society Quarterly or The Genesis Flood. There are some worthwhile items in these pages, and there are some attitudes and policies of the Society which I think commendable, although I have not the space to go into that here. One should be aware of the defects and deficiencies of these works if he reads them or quotes from them, however.
I feel that occasionally the studies of Scriptural texts consist more of reading the interpreter's meaning into the text than reading the inspired author's meaning out of the text. One cannot disregard the fact that sectarian biases often greatly influence a man's peculiar interpretation of both science and Scripture. (Ramm says that G. M. Price was a Seventh-Day Adventist. Knowing Adventism's peculiar emphasis upon the absolute and universal fixity of time in order to fix the Sabbath as an eternal institution, I cannot but wonder if Price's views on geological chronology were not partly subconsciously influenced by his views of Biblical chronology.) Further, an interpretation of a particular Old Testament verse is not necessarily correct merely because it is conservative as opposed to a modernistic view growing out of a denial of inspiration. One is not excused from careful exegesis of Scripture in his fight against modernism merely because he commendably has conservative attitudes toward the Bible. Also, one's science is not necessarily valid because it is motivated by conservative religious motivations.
There are also some scientific matters in the "Flood Geology" works which I feel are questionable. I am fully confident some statements constitute a distortion of the evidence and a misunderstanding of scientific laws and theories, particularly I found as relate to physics and astronomy, which disciplines I understand better than geology. (For example, the material in Chapter VII in The Genesis Rood which suggests that rates of radioactive decay were significantly altered by a supposed extremely intense cosmic ray radiation at the time of the Flood, is simply a piece of science fiction. It completely ignores the effects of such a universal and massive radiation dose on inorganic and organic materials, living organisms and genetic structures -- effects which would have been much more devastating and ineradicable than the Flood itself. Furthermore, there is no evidence, scientific or Biblical, for such a supposition. Of course one can always suppose that God supernaturally protected all substances except radioactive elements in the rocks from such alleged radiation. It seems to me there is a tendency in some writings on Christian evidences to seek refuge, when Biblical and scientific evidences are lacking, in conjectures about what God could have done under such-and-such circumstances. One has no right to invent miracles to bolster "scientific" conjectures.
There is also a tendency in these works to misunderstand and misapply quotations from scientific authorities. The reader of these works should take the trouble, as I have, to check some of the original sources cited. A trip to the local library may reveal that the full context of the quotation conveys a meaning entirely different from that construed by the "Flood Geology" writer. I do I not insinuate that this is true of all quotations, or of all such writers, or that such misapplication is the result of dishonest intent. I attribute this merely to a misguided zeal for a personal interpretation of Bible and science which has been identified mistakenly with Divine revelation, an instance of that reductionism to which I referred earlier. Such, instances make the' careful reader quite cautious of the scholarship of some of the "Flood Geology" writers. (These writers, Morris and Whitcomb, are to be commended, however, for providing bibliographical citations for the arguments they make. The lack of such references is a deplorable failing of much popular writing on religion-and-science. Unfortunately, Whitcomb- and Morris often misapply citations.)
On the other hand, such failure to distinguish between what is objectively revealed and what one subjectively interprets revelation to mean has led some of these writers to, that intolerance and dogmatism to which I called attention earlier, The attitude, which some of the Flood Geologists have expressed, which charges objectors to their pet scheme with blasphemy, is hardly conducive to the progress of either science or Old Testament studies.
It is not unfair to point out that it is a matter of published record that the scientific credentials of some of the "Flood Geology" advocates have been disputed by critics who both are scientists themselves and believers in the Bible. Brethren who write or preach on religion-and-science and who cite various scientific "authorities" may be well advised to pursue their study beyond the mere copying of a convenient quotation. The fact that a man has a Ph.D. does not automatically preclude his being a crank, nor an M.D. that he is a quack. (I do not suggest that these men are all cranks or quacks.) Some evaluation must be made of the individual's professional competence in the matter quoted and of his recognition and respect among competent members of his profession. This is all the more essential if his views are radically controversial and widely different from the professional opinion of his colleagues. He may be right and they wrong, but the one who cites him as an authority had better know the reasons why. Some of the writers I have criticized may be quite competent in a given specialized discipline but merely naive amateurs in the areas of geology and geophysics in which they purport an expertise.
Leaving the Options Open
I do not wish to be misunderstood -- I do not question the doctrine of verbal inspiration, the fact of the Creation, or the historical occurrence of the Genesis Flood, nor can I be fairly charged with having advocated this or that evolutionary hypothesis. In particular, the Creation and the Flood are Biblical doctrines to be believed, although all the physical aspects of them which would have been of interest to scientists have not been revealed in Scripture. The allegation that the Flood is the basic principle, of all geology is a scientific postulate which can be rejected or accepted with impunity-insofar as religion is concerned according to one's knowledge and interpretation of the pertinent scientific data.
Nor am I here insisting on any particular scientific theory as an article of religious faith. Much to the contrary -- and this is the primary point of this paper -- there is great danger in tying faith in the Bible irretrievably to this scientific theory or that, because all scientific theories must be considered tentative me even tenuous - and should the hypothesis eventually be discarded by the scientific community in view of new contradictory evidence (if it indeed has not already been discarded), Biblical faith would seem to some to have been discredited.
My purpose in writing, therefore, is to express a vague, and I hope groundless, fear that brethren by unqualified endorsement of the Creation Research Society may lead some of the younger writers and preachers to hold that orthodoxy requires acceptance of a particular view of geology which has in fact doubtful scientific validity and no particular Scriptural endorsement, at least in this writer's view. Worse still, if this occurs there may arise a tendency to tag any brethren who do not subscribe to a particular scientific theory about earth history with some name suggesting they are less than entirely faithful to Scripture. My hope, on the other hand, is that the purely scientific options may be left open to young persons who in the years to come will (hopefully) have acquired in their education a basic knowledge of the sciences, so that as we preach the gospel to them we do not inadvertently prejudice them against the truth by dogmatically equating an erroneous scientific opinion with the faith in Christ which will lead to their salvation
We may well teach all who come to Christ to abandon those philosophies which are opposed to the truth of the gospel, but it is a cruel hindrance, nay, a violation of New Testament teaching, to demand they abandon as a condition of discipleship any part of their cultural acquisition the sacrifice of which is not required by Christ in His Word. To hind such burdens upon them may also result in our gradually secluding ourselves - we who are identified with the movement to restore New Testament Christianity - out of sight and earshot of most of the educated young people in future generations who would otherwise have given sympathetic ear to the preaching of Christ.
I recommend that those who desire to read into the possible relations between geology and the Flood look also at the other alternatives available to believers. One could well begin with Modern Science and Christian Faith and Bernard Ramm's Christian View of Science and Scripture, mentioned earlier, and with the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation. I make no blanket endorsement of these writing or of any other that I know of on religion-and-science. These works must be read with the same care as that given to any commentary on Scripture; uninspired writers can and do err. But it would be well if one intends writing or preaching on these matters that he inform himself of all sides of the subject matter, that he present all of the scientific options that are legitimate for the believer, and that above all else he avoid making any of them a religious dogma in the absence of a Biblical statement to that effect.
A trickle of dogmatism can grow to tides of dogma in which are drowned true Christian liberty and the noble spirit of the Restoration Movement which "speaks where the Bible speaks and remains silent where the Bible is silent."
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 4, pp. 3-7