Biblical Presuppositions and HistoricalGeology: A Case Study

Biblical Presuppositions and Historical
Geology: A Case Study


For this they are willingly ignorant of that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in water: whereby the World that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men [II Pet. 3:5-7].


One of the most glaring examples of the urgent need for Christian reconstruction is the so-called "Genesis Flood controversy." This controversy, though simmering for several centuries, has recently boiled over into a steaming debate among evangelical Christians. At stake is the real pertinence of the orthodox confession that Genesis, including its early chapters, is the inerrant Word of God. This issue is this: does Genesis present a view of early history that cannot be reconciled with the view of modern historical science, and, if it does, should Christians loyally remain with Genesis and begin the long, arduous task of reconstructing historical science today? This issue was known, of course, long ago, but in 1961 two conservative scholars published their book, The Genesis Flood,1 in which they challenged Christians to stop trying worn-out harmonizations and to start reconstructing the historical sciences, including historical geology. The controversial aftermath of their work and the lessons to be learned from it form the content of this article.

Definition of the Issue

The issue involves a three-sided controversy over Genesis 1-11 and the historical natural sciences (chiefly geology, paleontology, and chrohometry). Failure to see the debate as a three-sided one, not just a two-sided one, is widespread. If Genesis 1-11 appears to report by the traditional interpretation a kind of history radically at odds with the historical sciences, there remain only three options.

1. John C. Whitcomb, Jr., and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1961).



First, one may try to reinterpret the Genesis text in the hope that it can be brought into conformity with present non-biblical, historical models. This option is a legitimate one as long as the doctrine of inerrancy is followed, and the normal, literal method of interpretation is applied. The problem encountered during the many attempts at reinterpretation, however, is the limitation involved. Can the Genesis text be reinterpreted enough to permit the wholesale realignment required?

A second option remaining is to reinterpret the scientific-historical data that have been used to build up the present secular viewpoint. This option, too, is legitimate, if one adheres to the goal of giving an account for each piece of data available. There should be nothing sacrosanct about contemporary scientific-historical models. Again, however, we encounter the matter of limitations. How far can this reinterpretation process go before one is being dishonest with the strata, the fossils, and various chronometric data?

A third option, and one being taken by increasing numbers of professing Christians, is to forsake Genesis as a source of anything pertinent historically and scientifically and to go on and formulate historical models without any reference whatsoever to the Genesis text. The early chapters of Genesis, it is claimed, give only the religious picture, not the historic scientific one. Unfortunately, this option lands one squarely in the arms of neo-orthodoxy and, therefore, radically denies historic Christianity.

Into this three-sided controversy plunged the authors of The Genesis Flood (hereinafter referred to as TGF). They affirmed that a real clash exists between Genesis 1-11 as traditionally interpreted and contemporary historical science. As a solution they dogmatically proclaimed that the only viable option today for an orthodox Christian is the second one-a broad scale reconstruction of the historical sciences from the ground up. Before one studies the details of TGF argumentation, however, one must first understand how previous Christians struggled with the problem.

The Past Three Centuries of Debate

Much time currently being wasted in repeating past mistakes can be saved, if one is willing to learn from the last three centuries of Church history. Twentieth-century evangelicals are not the first believers in the Church to feel the force of the problem of the conflict between historical science and Genesis.

The Evidence and the Framework. To make clear the significant shift in apologetic thought over the past three centuries, it helps to discuss the question of the past in light of the evidence used to answer it. If the question is encountered, "What happened in the past?," three kinds of evidence are available: (1) documents or legends of eye-witness observations, such as Genesis (personal historical record); (2) mute remains,


such as fossils (impersonal historical record); and (3) natural processes observed today, such as the precipitation cycle. Evidences (1) and (2) are primarily historical; evidence (3) is primarily scientific. Study of the past, then, involves a mixture of both fields--history and science.2

The many and often violent disagreements arise from how much weight is given to each kind of evidence, and therefore the discussion focuses upon the presuppositional framework being used to interpret the evidence. Orthodox Christians, for example, have traditionally worked in terms of a framework in which Genesis is taken as part of category (1) evidence, and not only as an evidence, but as an inerrant, authoritative evidence. All other evidence, whether historical or scientific, is of lower weight or authority in constructing models of the past. As a contrasting example, recent naturalistic science works from a framework in which there is maximum uniformity over time and space of natural processes.3 Observations from the past that seem to dispute this dogma of uniformity are discounted. As a result, category (3) evidence is given much authority, with less authority being assigned to categories (1) and (2). How the evidence is handled by traditional Christianity and naturalistic science can be pictured as follows:

Order of Assigned

to Each

Kinds of Evidence



personal, historical record ( chiefly the Bible )



impersonal, historical records (e.g., fossils)



natural processes (e.g., precipitation cycle)



The positions are in exact disagreement. Christianity, under the authority of the Word of God, is preoccupied with the historical evidence; naturalistic science, under the authority of hypothetically autonomous

Order of Authority Assigned to Each Christianity Naturalism

2. Strictly speaking, type (3) evidence can be subdivided into two parts. The precipitation process, for example, consists of basic laws (adiabatic processes, heat transfers resulting from change of state, etc.) and a system or concatenation of those laws determined by what are called "boundary conditions" (current patterns of large-scale heat, water, and momentum transfers between the atmosphere and its boundaries-outer space and the planetary surface).

The important thing to note is that both the basic laws and their concatenations are derived from (historical) observations: one does not operate the other way around. Therefore it would seem more logical to teach at least some phases of historical geology, to cite an illustration, in the history department rather than in the Science department.

3. Recent discussions of this question may be found in: Reijen Hooykaas, Natural Law and Divine Miracle (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1959); Claude C. Albritton, Jr., Uniformity and Simplicity (Boulder, Colo.: The Geological Society of America, 1967); and Henry Morris, Biblical Cosmology and Modern Science (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1970), chapters 2 and 3.


reason, is preoccupied with present processes.4 If a question arises concerning a catastrophic, universal flood in the past, Christians would consult the historical observations made in the Scriptures and then try to explain how it might have occurred. Naturalistic scientists, on the other hand, would consult the catalog of possible physical mechanisms now known and then judge-reconstruct-the observation recorded in the historical document. The two frameworks are moving in opposite directions.

The Evidence and the Shift in Framework. Using the information just discussed, one can analyze what happened over the past three centuries of apologetic debate over early Genesis. By carefully watching the framework being used in the background, the spiritually sensitive scholar will avoid being led astray by the numerous details and technical jargon. Instead he will wonder: is the interpreter starting with the Word of God, or is he starting with a uniformitarian universe? If the Word of God and uniformitarian presuppositions collide, which is followed?

In the 1600's, the Christian position was followed by pioneering geologists like Steno (1631-1687) and Woodward (1667-1727). Taking category (1) evidence of Scripture as the standard, they interpreted the fossil evidence of category (2) in terms of the Genesis flood.5 The main difficulty, and one that has plagued biblical geology ever since, was the defining of an adequate process to account for how the flood laid down the observed rock forms.

As a harbinger of what was to come, the English clergyman and naturalist Thomas Burnet (1635?-1715) tried to improve the harmony between the Genesis historical record and the supposed geological processes. On the surface his work, Sacred History of the Earth (1681), seemed orthodox. He divided earth history into three ages based upon II Peter 3:5-7: Creation to Deluge (Antediluvian Age); Deluge to Conflagration (Present Age); and Conflagration to Eternity (Millennium).6 Below the surface, however, he made a mistake that was to cost him his victory-a mistake which has been repeated hundreds of times since. He adopted the idea of the absolute uniformity of processes inside nature, and he claimed that what appeared miraculous in the biblical account could be explained by science as products of naturalistic processes.

Predictably his critics showed that known present processes could not explain events like a global flood recorded in the Bible. Faced with the

4. This preoccupation of autonomous man is not just a recent one. See Rousas J. Rushdoony, The Mythology of Science (Nutley, N. J.: Craig Press, 1967), pp. 59-78.

5. A brief survey and excellent bibliography may be found in N. A. Rupke, "Prolegomena to a Study of Cataclysmal Sedimentation," Why Not Creation?, ed. Waiter E. Lammerts (Nutley, N. J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1970), pp. 141-151.

6. Francis C. Haber, The Age of the World: Moses to Darwin (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1959), pp. 71-83.


choice between biblical type (1) evidence and the naturalistic type (3) evidence, Burner surrendered biblical authority, making visible his previously hidden humanistic presuppositions. By 1691, in his work Archeologia Philosophicae, he explicitly abandoned biblical authority by "reinterpreting" Genesis allegorically.7

Of course Burnet was only one of many churchmen who found themselves moving in the direction of modern apostate thought. The towering works of figures like Descartes (1644), de Maillet (1748), de Buffon (1749), Hutton (1785), and Lyell (1830) cast long and influential shadows over the intellectual world. The writings on early earth history by these thinkers developed a tremendous momentum away from the biblical position.

To the naive observer, all that Christian apologists of the period appeared to be doing was making minor changes in the interpretation of the text (the first option mentioned above). Nevertheless, what they really were doing was converting completely over from a biblical framework to a naturalistic one. Two illustrations clearly show the point. One seemingly minor change was to abandon the traditional interpretation of the days of Genesis as literal, 24-hour periods and to claim that the days represented ages. When this was done, however, the earth's geological formations could be viewed within a framework of naturalism in which cons of time were required to build them up. This step led, in turn, to the very logical deduction that a global flood was unnecessary to account for the strata, and moreover, that such a flood was impossible, since the field evidence was now explained by long, gradual processes rather than by a miraculously catastrophic environment.8 What began as an innocent change in one interpretation ended in making a wholesale change in overall viewpoint. A Pandora's box of additionally required interpretational changes had been opened. The traditional global flood was now out of the question.

A second illustration of how one apparently innocuous textual reinterpretation led to an uncontrollable avalanche of required reinterpretations is the matter of a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Although the idea of a gap had been toyed with by scholars much earlier in Church history, it had been done so for theological, not apologetic reasons.9 In 1804,

7. "Burnet treated the Mosaic account of history as allegory and abandoned the biblical age of the world as inadequate." Ibid., p. 83.

8. A flood of global proportions great enough to lift the ark over two miles above present mean sea level would have to have left some evidences. The contrary position, that it did not leave any such evidences, is called the "Tranquil Flood" theory, and it is adequately refuted in TGF, pp. 97-106.

9. See the discussion in Arthur Custance, Without Form and Void (available from the author, Box 291, Brockville, Ontario, Canada, K6V5V5). The most famous statement of the position can be found in John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I.


however, the Scottish clergyman, Thomas Chalmers, picked up the gap idea as his answer to the tension between historical science and Genesis. No sooner had this been done than exegetes discovered they were worse off than with the day-age reinterpretation. Dating all the geological ages prior to Genesis 1:2 automatically surrendered all geological data to the absolute uniformity of natural processes. Since all geological data were sufficiently "explained," there were no type (2) data left unexplained as the needed evidence of a global flood. Not only was there no evidence of a global flood, but now there was no evidence of any catastrophe between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. The problem of harmonization had not been solved at all; it had been doubled.10

The important thing to notice about what happened over the past three centuries of debate is that "reinterpretations" are not minor; they result from a shift in the intellectual framework going on in the background. Churchmen like Burnet and Chalmers made naive commitments to the humanist framework long before they tampered with the traditional exegesis of Genesis. In practice, regardless of their official theoretical pronouncements, they attached supreme authority to type (3) process evidence and tried to fit scriptural type (1) evidence and stratigraphic type (2) evidence into a naturalistic, process-centered viewpoint.

"The Genesis Flood" Position

Both Drs. Morris and Whitcomb were well aware of the previous debate summarized above when they wrote their book. They were, therefore, determined not to abandon the biblical framework by fanciful "reinterpretations." This attitude explains why so much of their book is taken up with a detailed defense of the traditional exegesis of Genesis 1-11.11 After establishing the sound limitations of literal interpretation, they next proved that Genesis 1-11 cannot be harmonized with present historical science. In terms of the three-sided nature of the controversy discussed above, they found option one illegitimate, and they declined option three. Thus, their work strongly urged Christians to take the second option, the option of reconstruction in historical science.

The Limitations of Sound Interpretation. In chapters 1-3 of TGF, the flood is proved to have been global in extent by many arguments. Of these, this writer believes the most powerful are: (1) the depth-time argument; (2) the ark size and purpose argument; and (3) the apostolic commentary in II Peter 3:5-7. Why is the matter of the flood treated

10. Haber, pp. 201-3. Few proponents of the gap as a geological "panacea" understand what they are really saying. By conceding the cause of observed earth strata to pre-Genesis 1:3 processes, gap advocates remove Genesis l:4 ff. and the flood from all effective contact with history. God's work after Genesis 1:3 is then historically irrelevant.

11. Four out of seven chapters in TGF deal with matters of interpretation.


with such prominence compared to other details in Genesis 1-11? In light of the previous debate, it was the inability of the harmonizations to cope with a geographically universal flood that doomed them to failure. The matter of a global flood, then, is a sort of touchstone that marks apologetical success or failure. Harmonies which are sellouts to naturalistic, uniformitarian science eventually always have to minimize the dimensions of the flood.

To show the unbiblical nature of any "reinterpretations" that would try to minimize the flood, TGF authors put forth their depth-time argument based upon Genesis 7:19-20:

If only one (to say nothing of all) of the high mountains had been covered with water, the flood would have been absolutely universal; for water must seek its own level-and must do so quickly!12

It is to be noted that the validity of this argument does not depend, as with former arguments, upon the word "all" in Genesis 7:19. The argument rests upon the combination of time and depth together. Valid exegesis simply cannot be stretched to allow for anything less than a global flood.

A second argument appearing in TGF to support this point is the matter of ark size. If the flood were less than global, why build such a large ark (equal in volume to over 500 railroad stock cars!) when the much simpler and more efficient method of evacuation could have been used as was done later in the case of Sodom?

A third argument found in TGF showing that legitimate interpretation cannot be loosened up enough to permit a local flood is the apostolic commentary found in II Peter 3:5-7. Although this New Testament passage has been used to prove universality at least as far back as Thomas Burnet's 1681 work mentioned above, there has been a strange lack of treatment by local flood proponents. In 1955, for example, Ramm never bothered to list this passage in his index to The Christian View of Science and Scripture, preferring to remark hastily, and ungrammatically: "An examination of the references of the New Testament to the flood are not conclusive, one way or the other, but permit either a local or universal flood interpretation."13 No other critic of the universal flood interpretation has satisfactorily dealt with this passage.

Obviously, then, sound interpretation limits the orthodox Christian to a universal flood. Desperate "reinterpretations" are woefully uncon-

12. TGF, pp. 1-2.

13. Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1955), p. 249. This is doubly striking, since he was careful to uphold only a year later (1956) the time-honored principle that Scripture interprets Scripture: Protestant Biblical Interpretation (Boston: W. A. Wilde Co., 1956), pp. 125-26.


vincing. As a zoologist once reflected on how a Bible teacher will "fudge" his exegesis when dealing with passages like the flood narrative:I still wonder whether he's given me more time (in the genealogies of Genesis) because I demand it, or because it's really there. The same question applies to the days of Genesis and to the universality of the Noahic Flood [emphasis supplied].14

The TGF authors skillfully quoted the sardonic observation of T. H. Huxley: "A person who is not a Hebrew scholar can only stand aside and admire the marvelous flexibility of a language which admits of such diverse interpretations."15 Clearly, therefore, option one in the three-sided controversy discussed above is dead. The biblical account is not to be reinterpreted by "autonomous" science.

Present Historical Science Irreconcilable. The next step by TGF authors was to show that a universal flood can in no way be .reconciled to present day historical science. They wrote:

Either the Biblical record of the Flood is false and must be rejected or else the system of historical geology which has seemed to discredit it is wrong and must be changed?16

Critics who do not carefully follow the argument find this statement too difficult to accept and "tune out." Yet, when considered in light of the previous three centuries of debate and the limitations of sound interpretation, it is the only conclusion possible (unless one wishes to leap into the neo-orthodox heresy). If the first option is dead, and the third one unacceptable, the three-sided controversy can be resolved only by moving in the direction of the second option: biblical reconstruction.

In an unwitting confirmation of this thesis, an evangelical geologist, William Tanner, claimed that a local flood in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley "was the best a geologist could produce."17 The maximum depth allowed by present historical geology for such a flood, according to Tanner, is 20 feet, but then no land over 100 miles away would have been affected. Not only would such a relatively midget flood not even momentarily cover the 300-400-foot mounds along the Euphrates, but it would have swept the

14. J. Frank Cassel, "The Origin of Man and the Bible," Journal of American Scientific Affiliation, XII, No. 2, p. 15.

15. TGF, p. 60.

16. Ibid., p. 118. Note that this statement occurs in TGF after four chapters in which the limitations of legitimate interpretation are established. An example of the furious reaction to such an assertion among evangelicals is this one from a professor-friend of the writer: "The book by Whitcomb and Morris . . . is not worth your attention intellectually.... If, in order to remain a Christian, I had to adopt the blinder Morris wears on his mind, I would abandon my faith."

17. William F. Tanner, "Chronology of the Ice Ages," Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, XVII, No. 4, p. 115. See also his article, "Geology and the Great Flood," in the same Journal, XIII, No. 4, pp. 119-21.


ark downstream, away from the mountainous areas associated with Ararat rather than toward them.18

If this river flood (a phenomenon conceived to fit naturalistically with type (3) evidence, be it noted) is "the best a geologist can produce," it would be fair to agree with TGF authors that present historical geology cannot be reconciled to a biblical, universal flood.

A Call for Reconstruction. The final part of TGF was a challenge to Christians to reinterpret the data of historical geology, paleontology, and chronometry within a soundly biblical framework. The authors, cognizant of the numerous times this framework had been abandoned over the past centuries of debate, were determined to work with the biblical authority kept highly visible. Biblical type (1) data reported a recent and rapid direct creation, a nature-transforming fall, and a global flood, so they insisted that fossils and other type (2) data be interpreted in terms of these biblically revealed events rather than in terms of present processes. All animal fossils, for example, show death. Since death began with the event of the fall, all fossils must be post-dated after a "recent" fall rather than being products of a billions-of-years-old process.

Recently one TGF author, Dr. Whitcomb, pointed out several other specific illustrations of why this reinterpretation of the scientific data is required. In Joshua 10, to cite one illustration, it is recorded that the Lord cast great stones down from heaven. How could these stones, many probably still in the vicinity of Beth-horon, be interpreted within the nauralistic process-centered framework? Without the eyewitness evidence in Joshua 10 no geologist could be sure where they came from.19 In terms of this article, type (1) data (Joshua 10) must be used to explain adequately type (2) data (stones at Beth-horon). The scientific problem of elucidating possible secondary processes involved (type [3] data) remains, but the historical problem of time and place of occurrence is solved. Only when the observations of what happened become available, can scientific study of how it happened proceed with some degree of confidence. The naturalistic, present-centered humanist, because he hates history, cuts himself off from the very observational data he needs even to begin speculation on the processes involved!

Returning to the main geological problem, then, one can readily see Whitcomb and Morris' viewpoint. Since a valid historical record of the major events from the beginning of the universe is available, why not use it to establish what factually happened in the past rather than to guess

18. Downstream motion instead of the needed upstream motion toward Ararat is another central failing of all local flood models.

19. John C. Whitcomb, Jr., The World That Perished (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1973), p. 130f. Dr. Whitcomb presents in this work responses to TGF criticism more recent than the writer's study done in 1968.


at what might have happened based upon processes observed today? Not to do so, incidentally, is tantamount to discrediting the integrity of the observer (who in this case is God). It may be true that no process adequate to explain the data scientifically is presently known. It may even be true that such a process will never be known, because a directly miraculous and unique action was the cause. Yet why deny that a well-reported event has occurred, just because we know no satisfactory explanatory process? At this point a strong case can be made that Christian reconstruction in the historical sciences is our only hope. If science depends upon observational data to elucidate processes, the rejection of valid observations (even of non-recurring past events) can only stunt scientific growth.

The Controversial Aftermath

Although previous books had promoted a universal flood,20 none so stirred controversy as TGF. In the controversial aftermath one would have expected critics to rebut the Whitcomb and Morris thesis by showing either that option one is valid (i.e., that valid interpretation does not require a recent direct creation and universal flood), or that a universal flood is reconcilable with current historical geology. Nevertheless, in his detailed study of all major TGF reviews, this writer concluded:

The most surprising and disappointing part of this study has been the complete failure on the part of TGF critics to refute the work at its basic foundation: exegesis of Genesis 6-8. As emotional brick bats were thrown at the authors, positive, constructive criticism never once appeared.21

Those interested in Christian reconstruction can profit from observing the kind of criticism TGF received. The response to TGF will most likely parallel future critical responses to reconstructive work in other fields. For convenience the response to TGF will be noted under four headings: (1) apostasy, (2) procrastination, (3) hastiness, and (4) separation.

Apostasy. Above it was noted that increasing numbers of professing Christians are opting for the third way out-neo-orthodoxy. The limitation of sound interpretation is supposedly respected, in that Genesis is said to teach what the traditional Christian view declares it to teach, but the whole Bible is viewed from prior humanist presuppositions as a story, full of religious truths, but devoid of authentic historical truths. Thus the supposed author(s) of the flood account thought it was a real historical

20. Examples would be: George McCready Price, The New Geology (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1923); Byron C. Nelson, The Deluge Story in Stone (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1931 ); Harold W. Clark, The New Diluvialism (Angwin, Calif.: Science Publications); and Alfred M. Rehwinkle, The Flood (St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 1951).

21. Charles A. Clough, "A Calm Appraisal of The Genesis Flood" (Unpublished Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1968), p. 170.


event, although today we "know" it never happened that way, and so the story only teaches us the religious truth of judgment.22

Those who finally realized from TGF that reinterpreting the text is a dead option openly embraced the presuppositions of apostate neo-orthodoxy. Dr. Aldert Van Der Ziel, for example, published his book, Genesis and Scientific Inquiry (1965), in which he followed the lead of the neo-orthodox Old Testament theologian, Gerhard von Rad. Even the A.S.A. Journal, which has been solidly anti-TGF since 1961, remarked about Van Der Ziel's neo-orthodox option:Those who are not satisfied with their present viewpoint regarding science and early Genesis may find Van Der Ziel's presentation a reassuring live option. On the other hand, they may be greatly disturbed by the apparent sacrifices one must make in order to solve the centuries-old problem."23

More recently, a Dutch geology professor at the Free University of Amsterdam, J. R. van de Fliert, wrote a direct attack upon TGF in the International Reformed Bulletin entitled "Fundamentalism and the Fundamentals of Geology."24 He remains adamantly inside his naturalistic, process-centered framework and denies that the Bible's observations of past geologically important events are relevant. He writes:The Bible does not give outlines of historical geology.· Christians· corrupt scientific work when they start from pretended biblical· geology, into which then the geological data will have to fit.· For the fundamentalist.· the reliability of the Bible as the Word of God is related to scientific reliability."25

Van de Fliert's neo-orthodoxy is obvious. Paraphrasing Jesus' statement in John 3:12, one could epitomize the position of van de Fliert and his American and Dooyeweerdian admirers as: "If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, go ahead and believe anyway, when I tell you heavenly things." Included, of course, among the American evangelicals who applaud van de Fliert are Dr. Clarence Menninga of Calvin College, Dr. Donald C. Boardman of Wheaton College, Dr. Roger J. Cuffey of Pennsylvania State University, and Dr. Richard Bube, past president of the American Scientific Affiliation."26 TGF, then, has forced the issue and has brought out into the open the latent apostasy within present-day evangelicalism.

22. The neo-orthodox approach is by far the one most frequently encountered in clergy meetings and on college campuses today.

23. Richard T. Wright, "Review of Genesis and Scientific Inquiry by Aldert Van Der Ziel," Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, XIX, No. 4, p. 32.

24. Spring, 1968, issue. Details of reprints and counter criticism are given in Whitcomb, The World That Perished, pp. 111-28. 25. Ibid., p. 113.

26. Ibid., pp. 111-12.


Procrastination. A second kind of response to TGF, largely among conservative Old Testament scholars, has been one of withholding encouragement of efforts directed toward reconstruction. The neo-orthodox option is avoided, but the reconstruction option is feared. The Whitcomb-Morris "flood theory," as it is called, is given the tongue-in-cheek treatment, and desperate pleas are made that such a "dogmatic," startling thesis must not be allowed to contaminate young minds. William S. LaSor, for example, in his review wrote:This is an exceedingly difficult book for me to review for while I find in it much with which I am in entire agreement, I strongly oppose the methodology and the dogmatism in which it is presented.... The authors begin with the conviction that the Bible teaches a planet-wide flood. This conviction is immediately transferred into a dogma from which no "Bible believer" is permitted to differ.As it stands, I fear it will drive some young people further from their Bible, it will serve to divide Christians even more into two camps.· 27

John Warwick Montgomery, incongruously, in the midst of his book describing his search for the literal Noah's ark on literal Mt. Ararat, took careful pains to dissociate himself from the Whitcomb-Morris "theory" of a universal flood!28 He neglected to tell his interested readers, however, how he thought the ark travelled two miles up Ararat without a geologically catastrophic global flood.

Gleason Archer and R. K. Harrison, in their Old Testament introductions, and more recently R. Laird Harris in his work, apparently fully accept without question the current framework of historical geology.29 In spite of the fact that a genuine and irreconcilable contradiction exists between early history as described in the Old Testament and a history acceptable to naturalistic thought, these scholars are somehow hoping a solution will suddenly appear by itself. They procrastinate without decisively taking any option in the three-sided controversy.

Hastiness. A third response to TGF has been a rash of hasty catastrophic theories to account for the flood and other events. Patten, for instance, in his work The Biblical Flood and Ice Epoch (1966 ) and in later writings, has tried to establish physically consistent models of the secondary processes involved.30 This response, while beneficial in stimulating creative

27. William S. LaSor, "Review of The Genesis Flood by John C. Whitcomb, Jr., and Henry M. Morris," Eternity, XII, No. 8, p. 43.

28. John W. Montgomery, The Quest for Noah's Ark (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1972), p. 41.

29. Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1969), pp. 96-102, 147-63, 553-4; and R. Laird Harris, Man: God's Eternal Creation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971 ), pp. 25-71.

30. Donald W. Patten, The Biblical Flood and the Ice Epoch (Seattle: Pacific Meridian Pub. Co., 1966); his editions, Symposium on Creation I, II, III, and IV (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969, 1970, 1971, and 1972, respectively); and


thought, neglects the detailed study needed to pin down more accurately what happened before moving on to speculating on how something happened. For instance, what can be definitely said with biblical authority about the condition of the antediluvian land surface? What can be known for sure versus what can only be inferred about the antediluvian climate? What is the exact nature of postdiluvian physical catastrophes, such as the destruction of Sodom and the Exodus plagues?

Historical questions must be well on their way toward solution before scientific questions can be dealt with. The question of whether unique miracles or secondary providence were involved must be thoroughly discussed. After all, who would propose a "physical model" to account for the transformation of Christ's natural body into his resurrection body?

Putting first a careful historical analysis based upon authoritative Scripture saves Christian reconstruction from the charge that it destroys the possibility of science. A stock argument by believers in the absolute uniformity of natural causes is that to abandon this presupposition destroys all possibility of scientific knowledge, since "anything goes." The limit of one's scientific proposals is the limit of one's imagination, it is claimed. Such is not the case if one's scientific proposals are controlled by what actually happened in history. Thus, a hasty revolution in scientific models is no truly fruitful approach. Careful historical study must first be done.

Separation. The final category of response is a separatist movement among strongly biblical thinkers. In 1964, for example, a new group was organized by TGF supporters called the Creation Research Society. Serious thinkers always realize the value of criticism, but they also recognize that criticism must emanate from commonly shared presuppositions. If a community of scholars is divided by radically different presuppositions, it is foolish to stay tightly locked together. New communities must form.

Dr. Pollard has well said that "science is much more distinctively a human community than it is a body of subject matter or a particular method."31 Because knowledge is too vast for one man to master, groups of men must share and interact for scientific progress to occur. Osteopathy in medicine and parapsychology in psychology are clear illustrations of new fields opening up on their own, although they are discredited by members of the original academic or professional guilds.

TGF has led to the formation of a new community of strict six-day creationists. Several organizations form the concentration points for

his composite work, The Long Day of Joshua (Seattle: Pacific Meridian Pub. Co., 1973). By the adjective "hasty" is not meant sloppiness in generation of models, but generation of the models before dealing intensively with the historical data.

31. William G. Pollard, "Science as Community," Journal of the American Science Affiliation, IV, No. 2, p. 39.


pooling ideas, disseminating information, and publishing of papers.32 This separation will in the long run prove to be TGF's most important contribution. The foreboding of LaSor quoted above has come true; and it is a blessing, not a cursing.


The "Genesis Flood controversy" is a twentieth-century learning experience for proponents of Christian reconstruction. The three-sided nature of that controversy has been explained. Faced with an unavoidable collision between Genesis 1-11 and present naturalistic, historical science, the Christian can move in only one of three directions: (1) reinterpret Genesis to force it into line with naturalistic models; (2) reinterpret the data in the historical sciences to bring them into line With Genesis; or (3) keep present positions on both Genesis and historical science by opting for neo-orthodoxy's brand of irrationalism. The third option destroys the Christian faith, and TGF has shown that the first one is dead. Thus, only the second option, a Christian reconstruction of the historical sciences, remains.

Of the responses which have occurred since 1961, only one offers hope' of true future progress-the creation of a separated community of scholars to work on a base of solid biblical presuppositions. A thorough analysis of all the scriptural data as well as other historical data such as fossils, strata, and chronometric materials must take place before anything approaching a "scientific" model can exist. It may be that truly scientific models of the past will never exist, because of the miraculous and unique nature of biblical history.

The lesson for Christian reconstructionists in other fields is that the most effective move in the present hour will be to gather a scholarly group, faithful to the presupposition that God's Word is "the discerner of the thoughts" in every corner of endeavor-religious, historical, and scientific. Otherwise, Christian reconstruction will never get off the ground.

32. These include: Bible-Science Association. An organization mostly of laymen who are interested in learning about strict biblical creationism. Box 1016, Caldwell, Idaho 83605. Creation Research Society (C.R.S.). Founded in 1963 by some A.S.A. members who believe strongly in strict creationism and want to do research in the subject. Has about 1000 members and publishes a Quarterly. 2717 Cranbrook Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104.

Creation Science Research Center. A small group of strict creationists whose chief interest is publishing and distributing creationist materials. Particularly concerned for the school problem. 4250 Pacific Highway, Suite 117, San Diego, California 92110.

Institute for Creation Research. Another small group of strict creationists affiliated with Christian Heritage College whose chief interest is conducting research projects and writing textbooks. 2716 Madison Avenue, San Diego, California 92116.

Return to CRTA