Scripture and Geologists: A Reply to John Byl -- By: Davis A. Young

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 51:2 (Fall 1989)
Article: Scripture and Geologists: A Reply to John Byl
Author: Davis A. Young


Scripture and Geologists: A Reply to John Byl

Davis A. Young

I. The Issue

In two recent issues of WTJ1 I maintained that 300 years of concordistic and literalistic attempts to harmonize the findings of geology and the early chapters of Genesis had failed and that “to achieve an appropriate understanding of the relationship between biblical texts and scientific activity, then literalism and concordism should be abandoned and new approaches developed” (p. 293). Some possible avenues for future work were briefly explored.

John Byl challenged my thesis by claiming that empirical data and theory were not adequately distinguished and that I failed to reckon with the subjective and speculative nature of theorizing.2 He questioned “whether the geological evidence is indeed as unambiguous” (p. 144) as I claimed. He also thought I had not sufficiently considered the role of miracles in earth history. In sum, Byl asserted that I had adopted a “secular” theory of geology and had attempted to impose that theory on Scripture.

Byl has raised important questions. Although the discussion would best be continued on a good geological field trip, these few pages of the Journal will have to suffice.

II. Some Aspects of the Christian Philosophy of Geology

1. The Strength of Geological Evidence

Is the geological evidence regarding the earth’s antiquity and the flood compelling? All manner of unsolved problems remain in geology as in any science. Nevertheless, despite Byl’s misgivings and the opposition of “creation scientists,” the broad conclusions of geology regarding the antiquity and main lines of historical development of the earth are well established and rest on solid evidential and theoretical grounds. Discussion of the numerous

lines of massive amounts of evidence is beyond the scope of this article.3 I will simply assert that the evidence points toward an extremely old planet that has experienced a variety of mountain-building episodes, continental migrations, and igneous intrusions, as well as development and extinction of numerous organisms. The fossil evidence4 cannot be construed in a manner that is compatible with the understanding that animals from the entire globe migrated to and from the ark. Deposits unequivocally related to Noah’s flood have not been found. The evidence relevant to these conclusions has been critically sifted and evaluated by thousands of competent professional geologists, Christian and n...

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