The following photo of the substructure of the Lincoln Memorial was posted on January 16, 2023, by an Admin on the Facebook page, Biblical Creation:
Here is the text they posted with it:
Anyone who has ever visited a cave has heard the evolutionist claim that stalactites and stalagmites growing in the cave take, on the average, a full century to grow only one inch and grow to be 40 feet or so only after several thousand years. Or so evolutionists once thought. For those who believe this along with millions of cave visitors each year, hundreds of thousands of years of Earth’s history begin to become a reality before their eyes. But the question is, does it really take a century to grow one inch of stalactite?
When the Lincoln Memorial was built during the 1930s, the engineers sank steel cylinders into the bedrock to anchor the monument. The base of the memorial is set high above ground, leaving a cavernous basement beneath the floor. Rainwater seeping through the marble floor has formed stalactites up to five feet long on the basement ceiling! This growth is an inch per year, not per century! The Earth is not millions of years old or even hundreds of thousands of years. We know from Biblical history and geneaologies [sic] that God created the Earth just thousands of years ago. Biblical truth always trumps man’s scientific theories.
As an old earth creationist, I believe that Genesis 1:1 happened much earlier than 4004 BC, but that God Almighty did, literally, through His awesome and limitless power, create the universe in its entirety. But, according to these people, whether I believe in evolution or not (and I don’t!) I am an “evolutionist”.
According to the above, evolutionists evidently no longer believe that it takes thousands of years, on average, for a stalactite to form, because the Lincoln Memorial proves otherwise. But what does the picture actually show?
To begin with, most of the Memorial, including all of the structure seen here, is concrete. The statue of Lincoln and the surfaces in the chamber surrounding it are in fact marble. Marble is calcium carbonate rock, just like caves with speleothems—stalactites and stalagmites. But the caves and the speleothems are native limestone. Marble is limestone that has been modified (metamorphosed) by the temperatures and pressures caused by thick overburden sediments. Both are water soluble, but the solubility is measurable, and yes, it normally takes a long time. Fig. 2, below, is a photo that I took of a marble and limestone structure that has been standing out in the open for around 2400 years. It has been damaged by human wear and tear, by earthquakes, and even by a 17th Century Venetian bomb, but for the most part, rainwater has had minimal effect on the stone itself.
At any rate, seepage between quarried and assembled blocks of marble or limestone can’t in any way be compared to seepage through the pores of native limestone! I can show you buildups of calcium carbonate in the water pipes in my house, too, but that has no bearing on the age of the earth. As usual with young earth creationists, there is no actual scientific analysis presented to back up the claims associated with their photo. My assumption is that the so-called “stalactites” are leeched salt, not calcite at all!
Atheists who attempt to use theology they don’t understand to disprove the Bible are fools. Christian apologists who try to use scientific principles or findings they don’t understand to shame science are also fools, and this “gotcha” post is very foolish.
As a devout Christian engineer retired from a geological field, I have a foot in both camps. I agree that “Biblical truth” always trumps scientific theory, but when there is a real conflict between the two, one must at least consider the possibility that traditional interpretations of Scripture might be flawed. It has happened before.
Over the last several months, I have adopted a new favorite author. His name is John C. Lennox. Among other things, he is a Cambridge-educated Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, and he has written a number of books on subjects that have interested me for many years.
Most of his opinions on the intersection of theology and science seem to match my own very closely. In particular, a point from his book, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?, particularly resonates with me.
Conservative Christian scholars have mostly agreed that God miraculously created the universe, that humans descended from a real Adam and Eve, that the Genesis Flood was real, and that science does not trump Scripture!
But not all of those are “Young Earth” Creationists, and not all believe the theory, stated nowhere in Scripture, that the universe’s appearance of vast age is due to the Genesis Flood. Now, unfortunately, according to Professor Lennox (and my own observation), you are no longer free to reject those views.
Today, if you say you are not specifically a “young earth” creationist, then you will automatically be viewed by most of your Christian peers as a denier of Scriptural inerrancy and an “Evolutionist“. A large percentage of conservative Christianity, including major influencers like John MacArthur Jr, who I greatly admire, accept Henry Morris’ flood theory more or less uncritically.
The so-called “flood theory” was popularized by Morris in 1961 in a book that he co-authored with theologian John Whitcomb, titled The Genesis Flood. I recall first reading the book in the late 70’s or early 80’s. It was formatted into two sections, the first being a theological treatment by Whitcomb, and the second a mechanistic approach by Morris, laying out his theory that the apparent age of the earth was caused by rapid erosion and redeposition of silt caused by earth-rending, catastrophic flooding, accompanied by massive earthquakes and tsunami surges. After reading Whitcomb’s exposition on the Biblical evidence for a worldwide flood, I was an enthusiastic fan of the book. That enthusiasm faded when I read Morris’ section. I found his grasp of fundamental geology and physics to be highly flawed, and his argumentative style (e.g., “any fool can plainly see…”) to be insulting.
The believability of The Genesis Flood was greatly enhanced by a Foreword (not included in the latest edition) written by an eminent geologist, John C. McCampell, PhD, of the University of Southwestern Louisiana. Unfortunately, book Forewords don’t always get read with the same concentration as the body. Dr. McCampbell did not endorse the theory! What he endorsed was Morris’ Christian worldview, fairness and independent thinking! The appliable paragraph read:
"From the [Foreword] writer's viewpoint, as a professional geologist, these explanations and contentions are difficult to accept. For the present at least, although quite ready to recognize the inadequacies of Lyellian uniformitarianism, I would prefer to hope that some other means of harmonization of religion and geology, which retains the essential structure of modern historical geology, could be found."
Morris billed himself as a “hydrologist“. He was educated as a civil engineer. Part of that degree would have trained him to understand the forces on and within dams and conduits (including riverbeds) subjected to hydrostatic pressure and hydrodynamic fluid impingement stresses. As a government employee working for a joint US/Mexico commission tasked with monitoring the Rio Grande boundary waters, he may have done some of that, but I suspect that his job was mostly administrative, recording flood data and channel-shifting. Aside from that position, I believe that the rest of his career, before and after, was spent teaching civil engineering. I see nothing in this background that would obviously quality him to draw the conclusions he did in The Genesis Flood!
1. The science of the properties, distribution, and effects of water on a planet's surface, in the soil and underlying rocks, and in the atmosphere.
2. The properties, distribution, and flows of water in a specific locale; the hydrological characteristics of a particular place or region.
I must now establish my own credentials for entering into this critique of Young Earth Creationism in general, and the Flood Theory in particular.
My undergraduate studies at the University of Texas were in math and physics. My intention was to do my postgraduate studies in astronomy, but after a 2-year Naval tour, practical considerations induced me to accept a graduate fellowship in Petroleum Engineering, instead.
My professional field, petroleum engineering, particularly my main specialty of reservoir engineering, was in many ways related to subsurface hydrology. Oil and natural gas are always found in association with water. Below the water table, earth’s crust is almost always entirely saturated with one or more of these three liquid components or something less common, like carbon dioxide or helium. Because of capillary forces, water will usually share the pore space to some extent with other fluids. Water has to be dealt with in all phases of exploring for and then exploiting hydrocarbons.
I had some of the same hydraulic engineering training as Morris (dams, weirs and channels), although on a more basic level, but most of my education and years of professional experience were more geological in scope. I dealt with almost anything relating to sedimentary rocks and stratigraphy: where the constituent particles originated; how they were weathered, transported by erosion, deposited, cemented, chemically modified, saturated and disrupted by viscous fluid flow within their pore space or fractures; and how they were subsequently modified by folding, fracturing, compressing, uplifting, and sometimes being exposed at the surface or under the sea, and beginning the cycle all over again. I collected and analyzed cores, drill cuttings, fluid samples, pressure profiles, and electrical resistivity and radiation data. From all that, I had to make reasonable estimates of how much, if any, and what types of hydrocarbons were deep underground, who owned the mineral rights in the drainage area, whether it could be profitably retrieved, by what means and how fast, and ultimately, how much profit is to be expected. I was answerable to my employers, clients, government agencies, royalty owners and/or financial lenders. Sometimes I worked closely with geologists and legal folks, but mostly I worked for small companies and had to do pretty much all of it myself.
Alternate Christian theories to account for the apparent vast age of the universe.
I will have more to say on Morris, the Genesis Flood, and my own views on creation (both the science and the theology) in future posts. Some I wrote years ago, but I plan to rework and repost them. The rest of this post will be a discussion of the Conservative traditions that current “creation culture” now considers to be unacceptable.
In his book, No Final Conflict, Francis Schaeffer lists several areas where, in his judgment, there is room for disagreement among Christians who believe in Creationism and the total truthfulness of Scripture:
1. There is a possibility that God created a “grown-up” universe.
2. There is a possibility of a break between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 or between 1:2 and 1:3.
3. There is a possibility of a long day in Genesis 1.
4. There is a possibility that the flood affected the geological data.
5. The use of the word “kinds” in Genesis 1 may be quite broad.
6. There is a possibility of the death of animals before the fall.
7. Where the Hebrew word bārāʾ is not used, there is the possibility of sequence from previously existing things.
Millard Erickson’sChristian Theology (the text used at Calvary Bible College when I was there) lists the following Conservative theories, which mostly fit into the scope of Schaeffer’s comments, above:
The gap theory holds that there was an original, quite complete creation of the earth perhaps billions of years ago (the creation mentioned in Gen. 1:1). Some sort of catastrophe occurred, however, so that the creation became empty and unformed (1:2). God then re-created the earth a few thousand years ago in a period of six days, populating it with all the species. This creation is described in Genesis 1:3–27. The apparent age of the earth and the fossil records showing development over long periods of time are to be attributed to the first creation. The catastrophe is often linked to the fall of Satan (Lucifer). Creation then lay in ruins for a long period of time before God rehabilitated or restored it.16
The flood theory views the earth as only a few thousand years old. At the time of Noah, the earth was covered by a tremendous flood, with huge waves with a velocity of a thousand miles an hour. These waves picked up various forms of life; the mud in which these forms were eventually deposited was solidified into rock under the tremendous pressure of the waves. The various rock strata represent various waves of the flood. These unusual forces accomplished in a short period what geologists believe would ordinarily require three billion years to accomplish.17
The ideal-time theory says that God created the world in a six-day period a relatively short time ago, but that he made it as if it were billions of years old. This is a genuinely novel and ingenious view. Adam, of course, did not begin his life as a newborn baby. At any point in his life he must have had an apparent (or ideal) age many years older than his actual age (i.e., the number of years since his creation). The ideal-time theory extends this principle. If God created trees, rather than merely tree seeds, they presumably had rings indicating an ideal age rather than their real age. Thus, each element of creation must have begun somewhere in the life cycle.18
The age-day theory is based upon the fact that the Hebrew word יוֹם (yom), while it most frequently means a twenty-four-hour period, is not limited to that meaning. It can also mean epochs or long periods of time, and that is how it should be understood in this context. This view holds that God created in a series of acts over long periods of time. The geological and fossil records correspond to the days of his creative acts.19
The pictorial-day (or literary-framework) theory regards the days of creation as more a matter of logical structuring than of chronological order. The author arranged the material in a logical grouping that took the form of six periods. While there may be some chronological dimension to the ordering, it is to be thought of as primarily logical. The account is arranged in two groups of three—days one through three and days four through six. Parallels can be seen between the first and fourth, the second and fifth, and the third and sixth days of creation.20
The revelatory-day theory. The days were not successive days on which God did the creation, but days on which the story of creation was revealed. So the truth of the account took place in six twenty-four-hour periods, but the actual creation may have taken much longer than that.21
Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, lists more or less the same group of theories, and goes into much more detail on all questions of creation.
Ryrie’s Basic Theology, Charles Ryrie, presents a subset of the above, but without specific names. He is far more concerned about the creation of Man, specifically, than the Universe in general. That’s not a bad approach!
Erickson himself favors the ideal-time theory, as you might guess from the wording of paragraph 3 above. He states that it is “in many ways irrefutable both scientifically and exegetically but presents the theological problem that it makes God an apparent deceiver.” I would agree that any theory that does not incorporate an assumption of vast actual age would have to include this form of apparent age in order to account for function via the known physical laws. In fact, I would compare it to a movie started in the middle. Virtually everything about the universe appears very much to be aged, and in fact would have to do so. I am more concerned with the suggestion of deception than Erickson is, in view of the following, which tells me I should be able to trust my senses:
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. —Romans 1:20 ESV
Erickson’s second choice seems to be the age-day theory, but to my mind that idea conflicts with the use of “yom” as it appears in Genesis 1, where I am pretty much wedded to solar days.
Grudem sums up his opinion as follows: “My strong encouragement to the entire Christian community is that both old earth and young earth viewpoints should be acceptable for leaders in evangelical churches and evangelical parachurch organizations.”
Ryrie is somewhat non-committal regarding the Universe but does seem to favor a young earth. He is staunchly against biological evolution, as am I.
Some combination of the pictorial-day and revelatory-day theories seem to be favored by another contrarian, John Walton. I like Walton very much, but I’m not convinced of his arguments in this respect.
Like many Christians of my age, I grew up with a Schofield Reference Bible, and I liked Schofield’s favorite, the gap theory. I no longer use that term and have a different slant on it than I used to, but I’ll discuss my views on that in a later post. For now, call me “a two-flood, old earth creationist with all mankind descended from a recent, literal Adam and Eve.”
In ancient times, the peoples of the Middle East held a deep-seated, superstitious awe for the oceans and other large bodies of water. To them, the deep-water basins were abyssal, bottomless pits, full of monsters and evil spirits or demons. The continents floated on the ocean waters, which were also the common source of springs and subterranean rivers, so these source waters, too, were infested with evil spirits. Take, for example, the river Banias, which today flows from between rock strata down-slope from the famous cave at Caesarea Philippi. In Jesus’ day, the river flowed from the mouth of the cave. The pagans of Decapolis named the cave “The Gates of Hell” and surrounded its exterior with shrines to the god Pan.
The same ancient peoples who feared the deep waters also recognized that they were the source of life, providing fresh drinking water for humans and animals alike, water for the fields, and an abundance of fish, the staple of life for many civilizations.
The Hebrew word most often used in the Bible to refer to this interconnected reservoir of water, either in whole or in part, is tehom, usually translated as “the deep.” Exactly what elements are included in any particular reference to tehom must be inferred from the context or modifiers. In Gen 1:2, most would agree that it referred to an all-encompassing ocean, prior to the formation of dry land surfaces. In Gen 49:25, Jacob is giving his deathbed blessing to Joseph, speaking of “the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep [tehom] that lieth under…”(KJV) I believe that he is, here and in the parallel passage, Deut 33:13, referring to the entire, composite water system lying beneath the canopy of “heaven above.” In Job 28:14, in his discourse on Wisdom, Job defines his own usage of the term by means of the poetic doublet, “The deep says, ‘It isn’t in me,’ and the sea says, ‘It isn’t with me.’” (CJB) In Isaiah 63:13, tehom refers to the Red (or Reed) Sea, opened up for Moses and the Israelites.
Gen 7:11 – “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.” (KJV)
Gen 8:2 – “The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained;”(KJV)
What, then, are “the fountains of the deep”, or ma’yenot tehom, as mentioned in the Flood story? Ma’yenow (singular) denotes a spring, fountain, or source. Can this be taken literally, like a spring in the desert, or is it poetically descriptive of the fact that water from “the deep” was gushing freely from some aperture or region? When considered in parallel with “the windows of heaven”, wa’rubot (chimneys or windows) ha-shamayim (the heavens, or elsewhere, “firmament”), my own opinion is that the “fountains” and “windows” must both be poetic terms, whereas the water and the flood were most certainly literal!
Identifying the Fountains of the Deep
Young Earth Creationists often take the view that “the fountains of the great deep” refers to continental springs, geysers, fissures, Artesian wells, and other surface openings that God miraculously ripped open and caused to spout abnormally great volumes of water from natural aquifers deep in the earth’s crust. This rending and subsequent flow, they say, caused cataclysmic changes in the topography, including newly up-thrust mountain ranges, massive erosion, and even the division of large supercontinents into the smaller continents we know today.
A fairly traditional view.
Others take the view that God caused volcanoes to sprout across the continents and spew water and, presumably, lava (since that’s what volcanoes do).
I can’t resist mentioning still another view that I ran across proclaiming, presumably with a straight face, that the unprecedented heavy rain was associated with a drop in barometric pressure so severe that water under the earth’s crust for some unspecified reason “pushed up and out … to come to the surface”, evidently causing the crust to pop like a balloon! Incredible, since the normal barometric pressure at sea level is typically below 15 psi, which is pretty much the same pressure that my own bare feet exert on earth’s crust when I stand on it!
An incredibly naive view.
My view is that the term “fountains of the deep” describes features of the ocean floor. Opening of these “fountains” may have caused some shifting of the tectonic plates and therefore some near-shore damage on the continents, but the main effect was a sudden simple rising of the sea level. I will discuss a possible (to me, probable) mechanism below, but first I would like to present some brief arguments against continental “fountains”:
Scripture nowhere states that the flood caused catastrophic changes in Earth’s geology, and there is no valid scientific evidence that either the topography or the stratigraphy of the earth was greatly influenced by a single massive flood. The idea that the Genesis Flood accounts for the apparent old age of the earth is simply an assumption made in an effort to explain something that the Bible itself made no effort to explain. It is a defensive theology aimed at those scientists and others who deny scripture. Since it is in no way backed by scripture, it must meet the objections of science and of common observation, and it simply fails to do so. In a separate post, here, I presented a substantial list of geological phenomena that to my personal knowledge cannot possibly be explained by the Genesis Flood. I also presented my credentials for addressing the various issues discussed.
Crustal aquifers exist, not in caverns, but in porous and permeable rock formations. While sometimes quite large, they are limited in their areal extent and thickness. Many thousands of deep oil and gas wells (including a number that I was involved in drilling and evaluating) and countless geophysical studies have shown no evidence of permeable rock formations in continental crust large enough to contain the enormous volumes of water that would be necessary to cover the highest mountains, even if they were much lower than they are today. And were they? Possibly a bit; the Himalayas, for example, are demonstrably rising even now as a result of plate tectonics and the ongoing collision of the Indian Plate with the Eurasian Plate. But consider Mt. Ararat:after God closed the windows of heaven and stopped up the fountains of the deep, Ararat, at Over 16,000 feet above the normal sea level, was still under the receding water!
Sufficient quantities of sub-continental water would most certainly have had to come from deep within Earth’s mantle unless they were created by God, on the spot (which I acknowledge to be theologically possible, but not necessary). Any continental aperture of sufficient depth to reach these depths and sufficient width to handle the volume of water necessary would, I think, have to be fairly humongous. Why are there no traces of anything like this?
Continental volcanoes might account for a large volume of deep-sourced water, but I don’t think there is evidence of enough continental volcanism to provide that much.
Finally, I think that Gen 7:11 provides an important clue. This passage states that it was the “fountains of the Great Deep” (tehom rabaah) that God opened to start the rising flood. That terminology in Scripture normally refers only to the abyssal ocean basins, not to continental features.
Likely Mechanism of the Flood
There are two likely mechanisms, that I can see, that God might have used to bring that much water up from the deep, and then to store it again once He was done with it:
First, he could have simply created it on the spot, flooded the earth with it, and then de-created it again when he was done with it.
It seems to me, though, that His modus operandi as described in scripture is normally to wrap what He has already created in some sort of miracle when He wants to make a major power statement. I think that He “foreknew” what He was going to do and incorporated that plan into His original design.
Every school child since before my day has known that the earth has an upper “crust”, a central “mantle”, and a lower “core”. Geophysicists now believe that the mantle consists primarily of different forms, or “phases” of the mineral Olivine, which is a “magnesium iron silicate.” The simple Olivine of the upper mantle, under the heat and pressure of lower depths is converted to a phase called Perovskite in the lower mantle. Between the two regions is a transition zone consisting of Olivine phases called Wadsleyite and Ringwoodite. Both of these mineral phases can be very heavily hydrated and are now thought to contain as much as 3.5 times as much water as in all the earth’s oceans. Many young-earth creationists, as well as ancient-earth creationists like me, speculate that this is the primary source of the water that God used to flood the earth in Noah’s day.
Most people probably think of the deep regions of the earth as simply dead, stagnant, unmoving rock. In reality, the earth is a dynamic, “living” system from surface to center. We have all been taught about the “water cycle”, where ocean water evaporates, clouds form, rain falls on the continents, and streams and aquifers return the same water back to the oceans. There is also a water cycle involving the mantle transition zone: ocean water is dragged, in prodigious quantities, into the depths of the mantle by the “subduction” of Earth’s oceanic tectonic plates. This water charges the transition zone, and much later is returned to the ocean through the agency of deep-ocean “smokers” (hydrothermal vents) and volcanism along the Mid-Oceanic Ridges; in the Island-Arc and Continental-Arc volcanoes near subduction zones; and in “hot spot” volcanoes like the Hawaiian volcanos and the Yellowstone super-volcano.
It turns out, paradoxically, that water itself is what spawns volcanic activity, because the melting point of rock is drastically lowered in the presence of water. There is, in fact, an intriguing theory that there should be a sheet of molten rock at the upper surface of the transition zone. From my own knowledge of petrology and fluid flow in rock, that makes me think that conditions in such a region could be right, under certain circumstances (like a gentle push from the Hand of God!) for water-laden, low viscosity, basaltic magma to suddenly channel rapidly through this discontinuity into the Mid-Oceanic ridges, causing a subsequent rise in sea level that could be described poetically as the “fountains of the great deep” opening up. In fact, if this superheated and thus buoyant water were to bubble quickly to the ocean surfaces, could not one expect to see thick clouds of warm water vapor rising quickly into the stratosphere where they would rapidly cool and set off an inundation of torrential rain?
Regarding the return of the flood waters to the transition zone: in my view, the text implies a direct miracle.
Gen 8:1 – “God remembered Noach*, every living thing and all the livestock with him in the ark; so God caused a wind [ruach] to pass over the earth, and the water began to go down.” (CJB)
The Hebrew ruach can mean “wind” in scripture, but it often is translated as “spirit”. In Genesis 1:2, the Ruach of God hovered over the surface of the water. In 8:1, God caused His Ruach to hover over the face of the water-covered earth! In both cases, the earth was covered with an unbroken expanse of water, and God sent His Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to deal with it!
In a recent post, The Hijacking of Creationism, I discussed the currently obligatory conservative Christian view of why the earth appears to be billions of years old when traditional interpretations of Genesis 1 say it is only about 6,000 years old. I expressed my misgivings about that explanation, which proposes that all or certainly most of the appearance of age is due to damage to the earth’s crust caused by torrential rains and upheavals associated with the Genesis Flood. I also expressed doubts about the qualifications of Henry Morris, popularizer of the Flood Theory.
I do believe in the historicity of the Genesis Flood itself, but I don’t believe that the best explanation of how God brought this judgement about (see Fountains of the Deep, an earlier post) would have caused the level of devastation that Flood Theory requires.
As recapitulation of my own technical and professional qualifications: I am not a geologist, but I am well-trained in relevant aspects of geology. In a long career as a petroleum engineer, I worked extensively with and/or in place of geologists.
There are several sub-fields of petroleum engineering, and I have worked most of them. For most of my tenure with both large and small companies, both as an employee and as a consultant, I served as a petroleum reservoir engineer. As such I have had to be intimately familiar with all aspects of stratigraphy (rock layering), including rock and fluid properties, strata deposition mechanisms and deformations, fluid saturations and flow mechanisms, and, for diagnostic purposes, subsurface electrical and radioactivity profiles. As a well-site drilling engineer, I have examined rock cores and bit cuttings, electrical logs, pressure and flow tests, and more, from the surface to more than a mile deep. As a production engineer, I have observed how both productive and non-productive rock strata behave under a wide variety of external disturbances. In short, I probably know more about rock layers and how they behave than most geologists in non-petroleum fields.
One way to solve the age problem is to simply say, “What’s the problem? God simply spoke everything into existence exactly the way we would have seen it in 4004 BC!” Now, I don’t doubt for an instant that Almighty God is capable of just such a mighty act but just because He can, does that mean that He did? Observation suggests that He did not. To borrow a phrase from 1 Cor. 14:33, God is not the author of confusion, so why would His creation be so complex and appear so tremendously old, if it is not? Just to fool scientists and throw people off the track? I don’t think so!
Several years ago, before the advent of smartphones, I set out to make the 22-minute drive from my home to Belton, Missouri, where I was taking a semester of Theology at a Bible College. The topic of the day was to be Creation, and I knew that my professor was a proponent of Flood Theory. On the way I decided to pull out my microcassette recorder and list as many geological phenomena as I could think of, before I got there, that I know cannot be explained by the flood. I’ve since lost the list, but I recall most of what was on it. Here are some of the key items (in no particular order), with my reasoning added:
“Clastics” are the small, sometimes microscopic, rock fragments formed by “weathering” of larger fragments or massive rock formations. “Erosion” is the process by which clastics are subsequently moved from place to place and deposited in broad areas by the force of moving water, wind, glaciation, volcanic action, or simple gravity. When these clastic “sediments” become fused together over long periods of time by heat, pressure or chemical action, they become the sedimentary rock strata that we see today. My focus here is on the fragments themselves, not the strata.
Weathering of solid, non-sedimentary rocks like granite is generally not due primarily to frictional erosive flow in stream beds as most people think, but rather is caused by expansion/contraction cycles. Perhaps the most important of such processes, often called “frost wedging“, occurs when water enters small cracks and pores in the rock, freezes, expands, and wedges the openings larger. Over many alternate cycles of freezing and thawing, the two sides of the wedged rock can completely separate. Plant growth in these opening can accelerate the wedging. Another very common process that weathers rock is “exfoliation“, which occurs as the surface of a rock heats and cools more rapidly than the interior, causing layers near the surface to flake off.
Eventually, weathered rock fragments can become small enough to be transported by erosion. As they tumble along, they will be further broken up as they knock into other fragments, a process called “saltation“. Roiling water from the Genesis Flood could have redistributed loose fragments—soil, dirt, pebbles, and even larger rock—and further broken and shaped some of these fragments, but it could not, in a span of only 40 days, have caused any significant erosion of solid rock, even if heavily laden with abrasive silt. Nor could the Flood account for the rounding and blunting that we typically see in sand grains and many other clastics. The Flood, as cataclysmic as it was, simply did not last long enough or provide the temperature swings or friction surfaces needed to account for the clastic structure we see.
Can I prove this? No, but it is my professionalopinion, and Scripture has nothing to say on the process. Scientific studies could be done to prove the feasibility (or not!), but I haven’t seen any such research. The relevant discipline to conduct such studies is called “rock mechanics“, and in fact rock mechanics was the focus of my own master’s thesis.
Homogeneity and sharp boundaries
Sedimentary rock strata sometimes extend laterally for long distances—often hundreds, or even thousands, of square miles which, strangely, Flood Theory enthusiasts seem to regard as proof of their point. In general, the strata tend to be mostly homogeneous, with few random impurities indicating uneven mixing with other rock types during deposition. Furthermore, the boundaries between layers tend to be crisp and well-defined. A sandstone, for example, does not normally grade into a shale or a limestone.
These characteristics are the opposite of what one would expect of sediments transported by a violent flood. During the rain, and afterwards as the water receded, any large or dense rocks transported would quickly have sunk to the bottom, followed by smaller and less dense rocks, and finally silt. The final result would be a single, deep, turbidity layer, grading from heavy, dense rock at the bottom, to lighter clastics at the top. Sorting would be by size and weight, not by rock type.
Limestone is formed from the skeletal material of sea life. A critter dies and sinks to the bottom. Its soft tissues decay, and what remains calcifies. Over time, enough of this material accumulates to form beds that fuse into massive rock strata. In a Flood scenario, we should expect to see calcified remains more or less distributed throughout the single, thick stratum discussed above. Of course, we do see some distribution of calcified fossil remains in all rock types, but additionally we see massive continuous beds of relatively pure limestone interbedded with sandstones and shales and other rock types. I simply don’t see how this can be accounted for without repeated flooding over long intervals of time. Almighty God could have simply spoken it into being in this configuration, or He could have directed the Flood waters and upheavals in such a way as to “stack it” to His own specifications, but why? Only to fool us into discounting our own senses? If I could see anything in Scripture to make me think this way, I would accept it. But I simply don’t!
Let’s say that the cataclysmic geologic activity associated with such a flood caused mountains to cyclically rise and recede in a very short time span and caused rock and debris to wash into the low areas, burying forests and animal life forms. If the up-thrust rock was composed differently from place to place, couldn’t this alternating rise and fall account for the rock strata that we observe? No! Such a violent scenario would cause mixing of the materials, not sorting and stratification, particularly since most of the rock strata are composed of very fine-grained clastics that are themselves a product of weathering and subsequent erosion over long periods of time.
Geologists have mapped the “normal sequence” of rock strata—the so-called “geologic column“—at many locations throughout the world. At any particular location, it is not at all uncommon to find that various members of the normal column are missing, since stratum thicknesses vary naturally from place to place, all the way down to zero; but the overall sequence is nevertheless still normally recognizable. It is also not terribly uncommon to find regions where the sequence is exactly reversed; in other words where we find the apparent age of the rocks decreasing with depth. This is evident, for example, in some of the rocks exposed by the Grand Canyon. Genesis Flood theorists are fond of chuckling at the irony they see in this. “Haha, geologists, the joke’s on you! Not only is the sequence wrong, but it is exactly opposite from what you expected!” In reality, this is easy to explain. Tectonic forces cause deformation and bending of entire sequences of strata. In nature we find them tilted to all angles, including completely flipped over. This is the same thing that happens when you use your fingers to push the left and right edges of a newspaper towards each other. The difference is that solid rock is more or less rigid, unlike newsprint. Such deformations over the course of days or even years or decades would cause the rock to crumble and the strata to disintegrate. Over geologic time, however, “solid” rock tends to undergo “plastic” deformation. In geologic (not meteorological) time, it can flow like a viscous fluid—in fact, exactly like a glacier.
Discontinuities and crossbedding
A related effect that we frequently see over geologic time is that strata get “tilted” to some angle by those same tectonic forces, then the tilting action stops and weathering/erosion cuts horizontally across exposed edges of the strata. Flowing water initially brings debris down from the highlands and cuts river channels in those transported debris fields, but then over time there is a levelling effect, forming the broad, flat plains between mountain ranges and the coastal peneplains. Still later, deposition may form new strata in horizontal beds lying across the eroded edges of the older rock. The interface between the canted strata and the horizontal strata is called a “discontinuity” or “unconformity“. “Crossbedding” usually refers to unconformities in aeolian sands (see below).
Not all rock strata are deposited by water. Sometimes wind blowing over long periods of time can deposit clastic materials and form rock strata. These “aeolian” deposits have a very distinctive structure that is readily recognizable to geologists. Fossilized desert sand dunes are a subset of this group. I see no possible way that the Genesis Flood could account for these.
Still other features are formed only by glaciers flowing slowly and plastically downhill. Flowing water cuts V-shaped valleys. Glaciers scoop out large and obvious U-shaped valleys, like using a giant spade. “Hanging valleys” are formed when one glacier melts away, leaving behind its characteristic U-shaped valley, and many thousands of years later a new glacier flows by at an angle to the first.
As glaciers flow, the debris that they scoop out of the canyons strings out to the side like snowbanks formed by plows after a storm. The debris itself is called “till” and it is tumbled and polished into a form that is easily recognizable. The so-called Split Rock of Horeb, in the first figure above, is till deposited by a glacier during the last ice age, in what is now northwest Saudi Arabia. The ridges of till that I have described are called “lateral moraines.” The Genesis Flood could not in any way account for the effects of glaciation. Glacial ice, like rock strata, would crumble if it were deformed and forced to try and flow over a short time span.
Salt, gypsum and a number of other deposits are laid down as a result of evaporation over long periods of time. Water simply cannot hold enough of these materials to form, in a short time span, the deep beds of such “evaporites” often found.
I don’t think that God set out to destroy or remake the entire planet with the Flood! His purpose was to show fallen mankind after the Flood that He would not tolerate their evil ways forever. He saved Noah and his family. He saved animal species that could not swim. He did not destroy plant species or swimming animals, because they could survive the limited time span of the Flood. There was no reason to break up land masses, nor was there a mechanism for doing so, because “the fountains of the deep“, I believe, were the volcanic vents along the mid-oceanic ridges, and the rains were spawned by out-venting from those. So, far from being smashed by raging torrents and mudslides, the wicked were destroyed by rising waters, like in a huge bathtub. Similarly, the waters receded by means of suction into tectonic plate subduction zones, on a smaller scale, a proven and well-understood process.
Another important question not answered by the Flood Theory is, how would the Flood account for the apparent (and in my opinion, demonstrable) 13.7-billion-year age of the universe?
Um, surely you don’t expect a short answer from me?! Not when there is so much bad science to consider, and also—believe it or not—a lot of bad theology, as well!
Most scientists, certainly, and probably most theologians agree that “theology is about God”, and “science is about purely natural and self-sustaining processes.” As someone who has been passionately interested in both theology and science from an early age, my view is that there is an unavoidable overlap. Both disciplines, in a very real sense, share the same goal—uncovering truth about the universe around us—and both disciplines come from the same source—the God who created and maintains the universe.
you can’t fully understand the universe without understanding the Designer who built it and instituted the natural laws that govern its existence, and you can’t fully understand God without understanding the environment He created for His creatures.
I am contending here that science is worth listening to and not simply dismissing as an enemy of faith. Most of my readers are intelligent Christian Believers but are neither scientists nor theologians. To those, I pose the question:
Can we only believe what our eyes show us if it conforms to what we have been taught? Can we not even consider that there are “mysteries” (Paul’s term) that can only be understood with the passage of time? We even have a theological term for that: “progressive revelation.”
Rom 1:19-20 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them [the ungodly and unrighteous], because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. ESV
If God has revealed Himself in nature to the ungodly, then who are we as believers to say that there is no benefit to us in that same revelation? I live by the principle that God gave me “eyes to see and ears to hear”. If my senses seem to conflict with what I have been taught to believe, then I must question both my senses and my beliefs. That doesn’t happen often, because I’ve had pretty good teachers over the decades. But not everything in the Bible is crystal clear. Most trained pastors and theologians subscribe to a particular “hermeneutic“, or system of principles for exegesis, i.e., interpretation of Scripture. See, for example, the book, Basic Bible Interpretation, by Roy B. Zuck.
I am a Biblical “literalist”, but that doesn’t mean I take every last word as literal. Does anyone believe that Jesus’ parables were literally true stories? A parable, by definition, is a made-up story designed to teach a principle. Did Peter see a real sheet containing real animals? I don’t think so, it was a vision, not reality, and was meant to teach him a lesson about people, not food. Is “three days and three nights” exactly 72 hours? No, that’s a well-attested Hebrew figure of speech. As is the “evil” or “single” eye of Matthew 6:22, which is about stinginess. Did Jesus promise me a mansion in Heaven? No that’s both a translation issue (“mansion” vs. “dwelling place”) and a misapplication of Hebrew wedding imagery, which Jesus’ hearers would have immediately recognized as such and not understood as a real estate promise (see “Jesus and Hebrew Wedding Imagery“). Will the meek inherit the earth? No, that’s a quote of Psalm 37:11 where David was speaking poetically of the prophesied return of Israel (the meek) to the Promised Land. Are there helicopters in Revelation? Maybe so, maybe no, but everyone agrees the wording there is symbolic.
On the other hand, did Jesus convert water into wine, and did He resurrect from the dead? Emphatically, yes! Science can’t demonstrate the possibility of either, but neither can they be disproved, and the facts are fundamental to my belief system. The same with Adam and Eve, the Genesis Flood, the Sea of Suf (Red/Reed Sea) crossing, manna from heaven, and numerous other phenomena that some folks can’t believe.
On yet another hand, was the Ark a ship, as some would have you believe is unarguable fact? Not in my opinion (see “Ships, Boats, Floats and Arks“), but the story itself is true, nevertheless. Did the Genesis flood change the entire structure of the earth’s crust? Not in my opinion (see “Fountains of the Deep“). There is no scriptural support for this simplistic theory, and there are better explanations for the apparent age of the earth. I plan, in perhaps my next post, to list a number of geological features that, in my professional opinion, could not have been caused by either a local or a general, worldwide flood.
In my view nothing in the Bible is in any way flawed—ever—but the Bible is written to convey facts about God Himself, and about God’s Will as expressed through Theology.
Information the Bible offers about human or natural history, or about scientific principles, is only incidental to the goal of explaining and glorifying God and His Will, and in my opinion is not intended to be exhaustive or fully explained. Furthermore, the human instruments who penned scripture, and the ancient audience for which it was initially penned, were historically and scientifically naïve and would have no perspective from which to correctly receive sophisticated explanations about the universe around them.
Sometimes science presents us with observations that are very compelling but seemingly out of sync with our assumptions based on traditional interpretations of scripture. For example, the following KJV references are all from poetic scriptures praising God for His power and greatness and for the stability and security of the planet He created for us:
For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. —Psalm 33:9
the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved. —Psalm 93:1c
the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved: —Psalm 96:10b
Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed [ESV: “moved”] for ever. —Psalm 104:5
the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved. —1 Chronicles 16:30b
and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest. —Zechariah 1:11
These verses “prove beyond any shadow of doubt” that the earth is totally immobile, and the center around which the universe rotates! But, thanks to progressive revelation, we now interpret those scriptures in ways that conform to observation. At some point in the course of using our God-given senses and intelligence, it may occasionally become necessary to thus reexamine certain scriptures to see if there is something that we may have missed, or a conclusion we reached in error because in the past “it seemed to make more sense” than any alternative view. Certainly, I’m not talking about giving up fundamental faith issues, but I am suggesting that we should be more astute about recognizing what is fundamental and what is merely tradition. To my thinking, scripture is clear that God is the Creator. That is a fundamental of my faith, but the brevity of the Genesis 1 account and its wording in the Hebrew makes me much less confident in the traditional interpretations.
I similarly question whether Genesis 2 is a recapitulation of Day 6 in Genesis 1, or a separate creation event. What is fundamental to me is that Adam and Eve were real people, created directly by God, and placed into a real paradise where they really sinned. Noah, too, was a real person and all subsequent humans are descended from him. Without these fundamentals, my whole concept of soteriology is flawed, and my faith is in vain.
The dual advents of Jesus were a mystery to all Believers until Jesus died, and His followers had to reexamine ancient scriptures and develop new interpretations of passages that were not as clear and final as had been thought previously.
I do not believe in biological evolution, for reasons that I may go into in a future post.
At the same time, I reject “Young Earth” hypotheses about the way God created the non-organic universe. I believe that Earth is some 4.5 billion years old, and the universe nearly 14 billion. I’ll leave it to a future post to explain how I reconcile this with the “Genesis account”, which I refuse to explain away as mere symbolism. To reiterate, I believe in a literal, worldwide Genesis Flood, but I reject the theory that it accounts for the present geology of the earth.
Please dismiss the idea that “the theory of evolution” has anything to do with the development of the universe. “Evolution”, as I use the term, is about biological processes and “natural selection”, neither of which have anything whatsoever to do with star formation or the origin of the Solar system. If the formation of a star from interstellar gas and dust is “evolution”, then I guess the formation of a sinkhole after a water main break must also be called evolution.
To close out this post, I want to mention several similarities between Science and Theology:
Both disciplines deal in theory. Christians are fond of saying that, “Evolution is just a theory, not an established fact.” Not a “Law.” When I was a kid, the “Scientific Method” recognized three discrete levels of understanding: hypothesis, theory, and law. Many people brought up in that era see the word “theory” and assume that this is something unproven and tentative. That is no longer the case, linguistically. Reality has blurred the boundaries between theory and law. Many things that were once considered “law” are now recognized to have conditions, or limits. “Newton’s Laws”, for example, are now accepted as useful approximations under certain conditions, but under others, they have to be replaced by Relativistic principles, and even Relativity now sometimes must give way to Quantum Mechanics. So, even though biological evolution is still called a “theory”, most biologists are totally convinced of its truth, or at least that it is a valid working principle. Insisting that it is “theory” and not “fact” is, in this era, an empty argument. In the same way, theological principles must be considered theoretical up to a point, because we aren’t God! We simply cannot have a perfect understanding of scripture.
Both disciplines have an infallible basis. What?! Theology is at heart based on the Bible, which we believe to be inerrant and infallible. That is axiomatic to our beliefs. Most sciences, too—not so much biology, but certainly cosmology (the study of how the universe developed from the time of the “Big Bang”)—have a mathematical foundation, and math is an “exact science.” Math is the inerrant “scripture” of science, and it, too, was authored by God. It originated with God, it is absolute, and much of it is very well understood by human mathematicians.
Both disciplines have elements that are subject to interpretation. Some branches of math, like Probability and Statistics, can be erroneously interpreted and wrong conclusions drawn; and proven valid equations can sometimes be applied incorrectly to observation. But the same can be said about scripture. Sometimes scripture can be misinterpreted or misapplied. Again, we are not God!