The Bible and Geology
At this point some one asks, “Why does the writer spend his time with this less-controverted subject-matter?” Why does he not boldly take up matters found within the realms of geology and astronomy, over which the friends and enemies of the Bible have been waging their fiercest warfare?” The question is pertinent, and we at once and willingly accept the implied challenge.
Ancient literature bearing upon the origin of the earth is comparatively full, and not devoid of interest.
Teaching of the ancients as to the origin of things.
The Egyptians, as Plato informs us, taught that the earth and the heavens originated out of a kind of pulp, and that men were generated from the slime of the river Nile. Other sages of Egypt held that the world was hatched from a winged egg. It may be too bold to say that modern science can disprove these theories; but all friends of the Bible are well pleased that Moses did not say men were generated from the slime of the river Nile, and that Solomon did not say the world was hatched from a winged egg. But why did not these Bible writers so teach? Was not Moses “learned in all of the wisdom of the Egyptians?”
Lucretius, in his poem “On the Nature of Things,” affirms that “nature does all things spontaneously, without the intermeddling of the gods.” But modern research announces that there is not the slightest evidence that any form of life ever has been, or ever can be, produced by spontaneous generation.
This is still true today in 1996, and is the best evidence against evolution – DBS.
Aristotle claimed that matter produced all things. But modern research finds not a shred of evidence that matter can produce any form of life, even the lowest, except through the agency of antecedent life.
Zeno held that the universe sprang into existence from its own inherent energy, and Epicurus taught that it happened to come into existence “by a fortuitous concourse of atoms.” But “inherent energy,” and “fortuitous concourse of atoms,” are expressions which are now being set aside by science.
Plutarch, after studying all the ancient philosophers, arrived at this conclusion: “The insectible bodies, or atoms, by a wild and fortuitous motion, without any governing power, incessantly and swiftly were hurried one against another, many bodies being jumbled together; upon this account they have a diversity in their figures and magnitude. . .After this manner the principle parts of the earth were constituted.” One need not be told that these words, in the light of modern investigation, are nothing but the sheerest nonsense.
Still cruder and falser, if possible, are the views that have prevailed in India and China. Of these we have no need to speak.
These opinions and teachings of ancient literature bearing upon the origin of things have, beyond controversy, no modern scientific support.
Sir William Thomson gives expression to modern opinion.
The statement of Sir William Thomson, in his address upon taking the presidential chair of the British Association, at the Edinburgh meeting, may be taken as representative of the best thought of the present age. Heinrich Frey, Lionel S. Beale, W.H. Dallinger, Lotze, Wundt, Helmholtz, and other of the profoundest thinkers of Europe and America, have given expression to the same opinion.
“A very ancient speculation,” says Thomson, “still clung to by many naturalists (so much so, that I have a choice of modern terms to quote in expressing it), supposes that, under meteorological conditions very different from the present, dead matter may have run together or crystallized or fermented into ‘germs of life,’ or ‘organic cells,’ or ‘protoplasm.’ But science brings a vast mass of inductive evidence against this hypothesis of spontaneous generation, as you have heard from my predecessor in the presidential chair. Careful enough scrutiny has, in every case up to the present day, discovered life as antecedent to life. Dead matter cannot become living without coming under the influence of matter previously alive. This seems to me as sure a teaching of science as the law of gravitation.”
This is still true today – DBS.
But what is this life that never had a beginning, that has life in and of itself eternally? This that commanded the earth to bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind?” that commanded the waters to “bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life?” and that “giveth to all life, and breath, and all things?” The Bible upon its every page declares that this antecedent Life and Maker of all things is a supreme Intelligence, called God; and modern science makes the same confession, or is dumb.
From the origin of the earth to the history of it subsequent formations, is the next step in our investigations. Any attempt to treat all of the various matters relating to the geology of the Bible in their fulness is manifestly out of the question. Such a treatment would of itself require a volume of many pages. The object we have in view may, therefore, be best accomplished by quoting the opinions of those who are in every way fitted to judge in these matters. And certainly all thoughtful men, under the circumstances, will justify this argument based upon authority.
Opinions of eminent men as to the geology of the Bible.
The first proposition to be established is this: While the Bible was not written to teach geological science, it has nevertheless, in a general way, especially in the first chapters of Genesis, recorded the geological history of our globe; and, according to the testimony of men eminent as scientific thinkers, it has made in its record no mistakes. The following testimonies are presented in evidence.
“The relation of geology, as well as astronomy, to the Bible, when both are understood,” says the late Professor Silliman of Yale College, “is that of perfect harmony.”
Chancellor Dawson, who has bestowed upon the subject the most patient and critical attention, thus expresses the result of his investigations as to what is termed the geology of Moses: “The order of creation, as stated in Genesis, is faultless in the light of modern science, and many of its details present the most remarkable agreement with the results of sciences born only in our day.”
Similar to these word, though not so explicit, are those of the late Professor Benjamin Peirce of Harvard College: “Science and religion were born of the same house, and that house is not divided against itself. There is and will be an apparent conflict between them; but it is of human origin, arising from our defects of our knowledge and not from the greatness of it.”
Professor Arnold Henry Guyot, whose name is enrolled with almost every noted scientific association of the world, thus speaks of the harmony between the Bible and nature’s records of creation: “To a sincere and unsophisticated mind, it must be evident that the grand outlines sketched by Moses are the same as those which modern science enables us to trace. The same divine Hand which lifted up before the eyes of Daniel and of Isaiah the veil which covered the tableau of time to come, unveiled before the eyes of the author of Genesis the earliest ages of the creation; and Moses was the prophet of the past, as Daniel and Isaiah and many others were the prophets of the future.”
Hugh Miller, whose acute observation, exact reasoning, and finished style have rendered him celebrated in science and literature, speaking of the geologic prophecies of the Scriptures, says, “These latent scientific prophecies or anticipations of the word of God, of which we have been speaking, seem to have been so deeply embedded in the sacred text that the world has not seen them hitherto; nor, indeed, could see them now, were it not that our advancing science is revealing them. The geologic prophecies, though they might have been read, could not be understood until the fulness of time comes, in the brighter light of scientific knowledge, that these grand old oracles of the Bible, so apparently simple, but so marvellously pregnant with meaning, stand forth at once cleared of all erroneous human glosses, and vindicated as the inspired testimonies of Jehovah.”
Professor Dana, whose scientific publications have placed him in the front rank among philosophic naturalists, speaks thus while writing of the Mosaic account of creation: “The first thought that strikes the scientific reader is the evidence of divinity, not merely in the first verse of the record and the successive fiats, but in the whole order of creation. There is so much that the most recent readings of science have for the first time explained, that the idea of man as the author becomes utterly incomprehensible. By proving the record true, science pronounces it divine; for who could have correctly narrated the secrets of eternity but God himself?” Elsewhere this same professor has happily put his thought thus: “The grand old Book of God still stands; and this old earth, the more its leaves are turned and pondered, the more will it sustain and illustrate the sacred Word.”
Speaking of Psalm civ., Baron Humboldt says, “We are astonished to find in a lyrical poem of such a limited compass the whole universe – the heavens and the earth – sketched with a few bold touches. . .This contrast and generalization in the conception of natural phenomena, and the retrospection of an omnipresent invisible Power which can renew the earth, or crumble it to dust, constitute a solemn and exalted form of poetic creation.”
Now, must not testimony from so many authorities be respected? Of course it must. Therefore, young men, when the skeptic says to you that the teachings of science have demolished the Bible, it is your privilege, with modesty, yet with firmness, to reply, “Some of the ablest scientific men of this world think otherwise, and hold the Bible in supreme admiration.”
Dr. D. Russell Humphreys estimates that 10,000 scientists of today (1996) would agree with the creationist position. – DBS
It is at this point that certain matters should be carefully noted. When, for instance, these Bible accounts of the creation were committed to writing, modern science had not had its dawn; and at that time, too, the now-rejected systems and theories of ancient scientists were in their development, and were holding sway over the thoughts of men. How, therefore, did it happen, if there is nothing exceptional about the Bible, that, without being in the least contaminated by opinions then prevalent, it maintained from first to last a solitary path of scientific accuracy?
You who can make estimates, judge what are the chances, if the Bible is only an ordinary book, that Moses would have written widely different from all his contemporaries, and at the same time in harmony with that which is most recent in science? How did it chance that the Bible reports that light was the first product of creative energy, and that man was the last; and that the creation of light, the creation of man, and the order of the intervening stages of creation as outlined by Moses, are not only not in conflict, but are in perfect harmony, with the most recent announcements of both astronomical and geological science?
Sublime are the representations as found in the original text: “In the beginning had God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth had become a waste and a void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God was brooding upon the face of the water” (Gen. i. 1,2). This language covers the geological history of the world down to the darkness and devastations of the ice and drift epochs. Then follows an account of the Mosaic days of creation (Gen. v. 1-27), in an absolutely faultless order, as typified by those vast geologic periods. Whence, therefore, this accurate account of the creation, which, among all the other cosmogonies of antiquity – the records and traditions of the Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the peoples of India, the masses of China, the writings of Heroditus, Thales, Pythagorus, Aristotle, Plato, Zeno, Epicurus, and other Greeks and many Romans – stands alone, challenging the world’s acknowledgement and admiration? Can these facts by any thoughtful person be set aside with a sneer?
My guess is that Luther Thompson would have embraced modern young-earth creationism with enthusiasm had it been known at his time. The compromise day-age and gap theories he alludes to presented a solution which satisfied many Christians for many years, and his argument comparing the scriptures to those of other ancient ideas still stands – DBS.