A BRIEF REVIEW OF “FLOOD GEOLOGY”
By J. Parnell McCarter
Flood geology is the interpretation of the geological history of the Earth in terms of the global flood described in Genesis 6-9. Flood geology is promoted by organizations such as the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and Answers in Genesis. For example, Answers in Genesis holds this: “The following are held by members of the Board of Answers in Genesis to be either consistent with Scripture or implied by Scripture…The Noachian Flood was a significant geological event and much (but not all) fossiliferous sediment originated at that time.” (see http://www.answersingenesis.org/about/faith )
As a young earth creationist, I am thankful for the advocacy of young earth creationism by those who adhere to “flood geology”. They have contended for young earth creationism when it had little support elsewhere. Nevertheless, I must dissent from it in several important respects, as briefly outlined herein. I hope in so doing I will at least encourage my fellow Christians to consider ways we perhaps should refine our understanding of creation and our approach to science and apologetics.
First and foremost, philosophically I dissent that we know the extent to which supernatural interventionism contributed to what we now observe in the geologic strata. As I explain at http://www.puritans.net/yec/interventionism.htm , it is philosophically impossible to know from observation of the natural data alone the extent to which its condition may be the result of supernatural versus natural processes. It is simply scientifically untestable, if one grants that supernatural interventionism at least played some role (albeit indeterminate as to extent). To understand this point, imagine examining the wine that Jesus Christ had converted from water. A scientist examining the wine could have made all sorts of conclusions about its origins, etc. (upon the assumption of uniformity of natural laws and processes). But all of the scientist’s conclusions about the wine made upon such assumption would have been thoroughly wrong. Why? Because supernatural interventionism played a major role in explaining the origins of the wine, and such precluded scientific methodology in determining its origins.
So from natural data alone we cannot tell the extent to which supernatural interventionism played a role in explaining the natural geological data, but can we from the divine revelation of scripture? Flood geologists assert we can. For instance, here is what we read from ICR:
“The record of earth history, as preserved in the earth's crust, especially in the rocks and fossil deposits, is primarily a record of catastrophic intensities of natural processes, operating largely within uniform natural laws, rather than one of gradualism and relatively uniform process rates.” (from http://www.icr.org/tenets/ ) [The indention is mine- JPM.]
ICR is asserting they know fossil deposits originated by natural processes. I fail to see where in scripture one can deduce that from. It is not clear to me from scripture whether fossil deposits originated by natural processes or supernatural processes. I strongly challenge that assumption.
Second, I question the assumption of flood geology that there was definitely no animal death before the Fall. For example, we read this from Answers in Genesis: “it is clear from taking the whole of Scripture that animals were vegetarian (like man) before the Fall, and understanding the Biblical doctrine of the atonement (as will be discussed in a future illustration) there could be no animal death or bloodshed before the Fall either.” (from http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/overheads/pages/oh20010713_50.asp)
I have explained my reasons for questioning this assumption at http://www.puritans.net/yec/death.htm .
This is no small matter, because if animal death could have occurred before the Fall, then it may be that much of the fossil record relates back to Creation week. In other words, God could have created many of the geological strata with fossils and fossil fuels ex nihilo, or else much of it could have been supernaturally or naturally formed in the course of events occurring in Creation week.
Third, we really do not know what God did in the way of supernatural intervention or natural processes as a result of and in the immediate aftermath of the Fall, or in the years subsequent. In order for humans suddenly to become subject to death is a significant supernatural intervention. And His making it harder for man to cultivate crops (Genesis 3:17) suggests there may have been supernatural intervention in this respect. How do we know what God may have been doing in most of the world where Adam and Eve were not located in the way of supernatural intervention or natural processes that may account for some or much of the fossil record?
Fourth, given that scripture teaches that God created a fully functioning universe ex nihilo, I question many assertions of scientific proof for a young earth. An example of such an assertion is this claim by the ICR: “There are many scientific evidences for a relatively recent creation of the earth and the universe, in addition to strong scientific evidence that most of the earth's fossiliferous sedimentary rocks were formed in an even more recent global hydraulic cataclysm.” (from http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/overheads/pages/oh20010713_50.asp ) This seems philosophically untenable. A fully functioning young earth created ex nihilo will by its very nature give an appearance of age if we (falsely) assume uniformity of natural laws and natural processes back for some indefinite period of time.
Fifth, while I do not claim to be a scientist or geologist, from what I have studied over the decades I am not satisfied that flood geology has satisfactorily answered the objections of its naturalist critics. I am not going to rehearse all of the debates here between flood geologists and their naturalist critics, because the internet and the literature is full of them. But it is important to keep in mind that both flood geologists and their naturalist critics (i.e., the mainstream secularist scientific community) are working under the assumption that the geologic strata are explicable by natural processes, and not supernatural interventionism. While I do not necessarily rule out that possibility, neither do I rule it in. And I would say that the evidence as I have seen it thus far leads me towards the view that supernatural interventionism has played a much greater role in the origins of the geological strata than either the flood geologists or evolutionary naturalists have to date been willing to admit.