A Travel Guide to the Evangelical Creation Debates: What is Young Earth Creationism?

BY CHARLES P. ARAND

Introductory Note: This series of posts seeks to explore the world of “creationism” and the “creationists” among those who generally come under the large umbrella of the American Evangelical community. Within this community, significant debates are taking place regarding the world’s origins and how we address those origins as Christians.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that the terms “creationism” and “creationists” do not refer primarily to the doctrine of creation and theologians who focus their study on the doctrine of creation. Nor do they refer primarily to scientists who study the world as scientists. Instead, they refer to positions and proposals that seek to reconcile, or show the harmony between, faith and science on the matter of origins.

The reasons given for pursuing such a synthesis or harmony are often evangelistic and pastoral. In some ways, the reasoning follows those of theologians like Thomas Aquinas and Anselm who sought to synthesize the Christian faith and philosophy as an apologetic to Islam. So here these reasons provide a “theological-scientific synthesis” as an apologetic for the reasonableness of believing the God of the Scriptures.

In part 2 of this series, we briefly surveyed the history of the Old Earth Creationism movement along with the various positions of contemporary Old Earth Creationists. We now turn our attention to those who regard themselves as Young Earth Creationists within the larger Evangelical world (not necessarily Lutherans who identify as Young Earth Creationists). Please keep in mind that here we are not speaking of theologians who hold to a recent creation solely based on the Scriptures (as for example Martin Luther). Young Earth Creationists not only hold to a recent creation based on Scripture (which has a long theological tradition), but seek to show that a proper reading of nature will confirm or be congruent with Scripture (a recent scientific enterprise). To that end, they propose using the biblical account of the flood, for example, as a scientific model for interpreting the data of creation.

Again, the following is a descriptive report of my encounters with them and observations of their positions and not an exhaustively and comprehensively researched scholarly article.[1] In drafting these posts, I have consulted with people from across the spectrum of the three evangelical creationist camps I identified in my introduction and want to express my many thanks and appreciation for their reading of the posts and suggestions for improvement.My goal is to provide a map to this terrain. I hope to show that the specific exegetical questions and issues here arise within a larger context of the need to reconcile faith and reason (whether it be rational philosophy or empirical science). The evaluation of that attempt will take place in my last couple of posts.

CPA

A High Altitude Snapshot

  • Young Earth Creationism, as a scientific enterprise, is younger than Old Earth Creationism among Evangelicals. It became influential in the middle of the twentieth century.
  • Like most Old Earth Creationists, Young Earth Creationists reject the science of evolution.
  • Unlike Old Earth Creationists, Young Earth Creationists also reject an old earth and universe as set forth by geologists and astronomers. Many of them, but not all, date the earth’s age between 6,000 and 15,000 years.
  • Young Earth Creationists originally focused on developing a scientific model based on Noah’s flood (e.g., Price, Morris) to account for the fossils in the geological record.
  • Young Earth Creationists disagree as to whether one can say that the earth “looks old.” Most argue that it is young and looks young. A few hold that it looks old but is actually young.

Introduction

Many of us in the Lutheran Church Missouri–Synod (LCMS) are likely to be more familiar with those who refer to themselves as Young Earth Creationists (YEC) than we are with Old Earth Creationists (OEC) or Evolutionary Creationists (EC). This may be due to the influence of the older Creation Research Society (in whose formation a number of LCMS scientists played a significant role) and the relatively recent but significant influence of Answers in Genesis. But beyond these well-known groups, there are some lesser known voices who need to be taken seriously as well, as their approaches may align better with Lutheran theology (.e.g,, Todd Woods below).

Origins of Young Earth Creation Science

Prior to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries many (if not most) Christian theologians believed that the Scriptures portrayed a relatively recent creation. In the early church, calculating the age of the earth was important for determining the current year.[2] Throughout history people have attempted to calculate the age of the earth, including Martin Luther. The most famous of them is Bishop Ussher who believed the earth was created in 4004 BC.[3]

A long history also exists of speculating what the earth originally looked like. In a fascinating and important book, Mountain Gloom and Mountain Glory: The Development of the Aesthetics of the Infinite,[4] Marjorie Hope Nicolson shows how aesthetics (from the Greeks) often shaped the way in which one viewed geological features of the earth. For example, some spoke of the earth as the “Mundane Egg” and believed that “the original earth was smooth and round,” a peaceful and fruitful pastoral landscape ideal for human habitation. By contrast, mountains were seen as distortions and blisters on the face of the earth. Thus, many classical and Christian authors gave thought to the structure and shape of the earth before and after the fall (Gen 3) and before and after the flood (Gen 6-9).[5]

Luther seemed to share something of that aesthetic. Early on in his Genesis lectures, Luther speculated that mountains arose in connection with the flood.

And so, just as there are mountains after the flood where previously there were fields in a lovely plain, so undoubtedly there are now springs where there were none before, and vice versa. For the entire surface of the earth was changed. (LW 1, on Genesis 2:11–12).[6]

But later, Luther seems to suggest that mountains did exist before the flood:

after the Flood Noah saw a surface of the whole earth far different from the one he saw before the Flood. Mountains were torn apart, fountains were broken up, and the courses of rivers were changed by the immeasurable force of the rushing waters. (LW 1, on Genesis 4:16)

Luther also shows awareness of petrified wood and stones in mines. There are “various forms of fish and other animals” that he believed must have been due to the flood (LW 1, on Genesis 2:11–12).[7]

Nicholson says that throughout the Renaissance there were debates as to whether only the ground was cursed making it hard to farm (thistles and thorns) or the entire earth was cursed.

It is only in the twentieth century, however, that there was an attempt to scientifically prove that the earth was young (6,000–15,000 years). And this was done by drawing upon Noah’s flood as an explanatory model to account for the fossil record in the geological strata of the earth. Two books defined the movement known today as Young Earth Creationism. The first book, The New Geology by George McReady Price, a Seventh Day Adventist, was published in 1923. The other book, The Genesis Flood, by Henry Morris, a Southern Baptist civil engineer, and John C. Whitcomb, Jr., a fundamentalist Old Testament teacher, was published in 1961. No history of Young Earth Creationism can be considered apart from these two books.[8]

When Price became a Seventh Day Adventist he encountered the writings of Ellen G. White, the founder of the Seventh Day Adventist movement. White claimed “to receive divine messages in trancelike visions,”[9] placing her writings nearly on the same level as Scripture. She and her followers opposed old earth geology mostly because it undermined the literal Sabbath rest.

The flood as a way to account for the geological data came to her in a vision that she described as follows:

The entire surface of the earth was changed at the Flood… As the waters began to subside, the hills and mountains were surrounded by a vast turbid sea. Everywhere were strewn the dead bodies of men and beasts. The Lord would not permit these to remain to decompose and pollute the air, therefore He made of the earth a vast burial ground. A violent wind which was caused to blow for the purpose of drying up the waters, moved them with great force, in some instances even carrying away the tops of the mountains and heaping up trees, rocks, and earth above the bodies of the dead….

At this time immense forests were buried. These have since been changed to coal, forming the extensive coal beds that now exist and yielding large quantities of oil.[10]

Given White’s authority, “most Adventists” were “unwilling to entertain interpretations of Genesis such as the day-age and gap theories that allowed the majority of fundamentalists to accommodate the findings of historical geology.”[11]

White’s views did not gain much of a following in the larger fundamentalist world until Price, an amateur scientist, promoted them in his book. Although an Adventist, his book helped to establish by the mid-1920s his “reputation among friends and foes alike as the most innovative and influential defender of special creation.”[12] It was due in large part to his growing popularity as an anti-evolutionist that William Jennings Bryan tried to enlist Price as a witness in the famous 1925 Scopes Trial “despite the fact that he belonged to a ‘sect’ and lacked scientific credentials.”[13]

At the heart of George McReady Price’s book is his conviction that evolutionary theory “all turned on its view of geology, and that if its geology were true, the rest would seem more or less reasonable.”[14] More specifically, he maintained, “the invariable order of fossils” was “the very backbone of the evolutionary doctrine.”[15] For this reason, he found White’s portrayal of the catastrophic effects of the flood as an alternative model to explain the predictable sequence of fossils:

Assuming that a sudden shift in the earth’s axis had released massive subterranean reservoirs of water, he speculated on how the resulting disaster would first kill the “smaller and more helpless animals” with their burial place being determined by their specific gravities. “The vertebrate fishes, if killed in numbers, would tend to rise to the surface. The larger animals and man would flee to the hilltops from the rising waters, and when finally engulfed, would simply be drowned, and not immediately covered with earthy deposits.”[16]

Like White, Price speculated that God sent a “cosmic storm” to bury the dead bodies so that they would not pollute the air as they decayed. He also allowed for post-flood glaciers on a limited basis and agreed with White about the formation of coal.[17]

Henry Morris is the next important figure to develop flood geology for young earth creationism and more than any other person is responsible for its popularity among fundamentalists and conservative Evangelicals in the second half of the twentieth century.

As a young Southern Baptist, Morris taught civil engineering at Rice University during WWII. In 1943, he ran across a reference to Price’s New Geology, a fortuitous event that he came to regard as a life-changing experience.[18] From this time on, he moved away from the gap theory that he had previously held and began defending Price’s flood geology theory.

Morris first promoted his views in 1946 in an apologetic book, That You Might Believe, in which he argues for a recent creation and a worldwide flood (while still allowing that the gap theory had scriptural support) and millennial views of eschatology.[19] In that same year, he entered graduate school in Minnesota to study hydraulic engineering—in part to pursue his avocation and explore effects of water on earth history—and received his PhD in 1950.

In 1953, Morris gave a paper entitled, “Biblical Evidence for a Recent Creation and Universal Deluge” at the American Scientific Association on the campus of Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. One of its Old Testament teachers, John C. Whitcomb, Jr., immediately was persuaded by Morris’s presentation. Earlier, Whitcomb had objected to Bernard Ramm’s view that the biblical flood had been confined to Mesopotamia rather than extending over the entire world and now he had an alternative view to offer. Whitcomb went on to write a doctoral dissertation on the flood that he completed in 1957.

Whitcomb hoped to find a publisher for his dissertation, but editors told him that the scientific aspects of his book needed the input of someone with a PhD in science. After speaking with several conservative scientists, he persuaded Morris to assist him. Morris provided an extensive revision to the manuscript to account for developments in the field of geology that had taken place in the fifty years since Price first wrote his book. Beyond that, Davis notes, The Genesis Flood is built upon the arguments that Price first put forward in his New Geology.[20]

Morris’s Genesis Flood, went through 29 printings and sold over 200,000 copies in two decades.[21] Its popularity brought Price’s ideas into the mainstream of fundamentalism and what would become known as Evangelicalism. More recently, Andrew Snelling wrote Earth’s Catastrophic Past: Geology, Creation & the Flood, Volumes 1 and 2, (Institute for Creation Research, 2009). CMI calls this book “the most comprehensive book available on the abundant evidence for Flood geology” and hails it as an “update of the classic The Genesis Flood.” (https://creation.com/review-snelling-earths-catastrophic-past, accessed Jan. 25, 2018).

From this brief historical overview regarding the rise of Young Earth Creationism, we see the critical role of Noah’s flood in developing a scientific model that accounts for the geological data uncovered over the past couple centuries. Young Earth Creationism continues to play a significant role as is evidenced by the Creation Museum’s new “Ark Encounter” exhibit in Kentucky.

While the development of YEC focused on the matter of geology (which Price regarded as the linchpin to evolution), it has expanded beyond geology to include scientific arguments from astronomy, biology, and genetics.

Who Are the Young Earth Creationists?

  • The Creation Research Society (CRS). Davis notes that when The Genesis Flood did not receive a positive reception among many in the American Scientific Association (ASA), a number of scientists left and founded the Creation Research Society—an organization that requires members to accept the tenets of scientific creationism (https://creationresearch.org/).
  • The Institute for Creation Research (ICR). Henry Morris founded the Institute for Creation Research in 1970. It is currently run by his son, John Morris, who has a doctorate in geological engineering (http://www.icr.org/).
  • Answers in Genesis (AiG) was founded by the Australian Ken Ham in 1993 and arguably has gained greater name recognition and notoriety within the church and wider culture as a result of his widely publicized debate with Bill Nye in 2014 on the question, “Is Creation A Viable Model of Origins?” (https://answersingenesis.org/).
  • Creation Ministries International (CMI). This group appears closely tied to AiG as can be seen in their statement of belief (https://creation.com/). The two groups apparently were originally joined but split. AiG focuses more on popularizing YEC and is something of a cultural lightning rod. CMI appears to focus more on developing scientific arguments.
  • Core Academy of Sciences (http://www.coresci.org/). Headed by Todd C. Woods, a biologist. This organization holds retreats and offers resources to students and church leaders. He offers homeschool curricula (http://www.coresci.org/education) and blogs often on human origins (http://toddcwood.blogspot.ca/).

Having recently run across Woods’ work, I find his blogs to be very thoughtful (e.g., see his review of Is Genesis History?, a movie in which he speaks about false dichotomies. He also seems to caution against grounding faith in human reason and human answers. For example, he writes:

We need a renewed appreciation of faith in the face of uncertainty. Faith isn’t having all the answers. Faith is neither rational nor irrational. Faith is a certainty born of experience with the risen Lord Jesus. We don’t have to be afraid of not having answers. That pressure comes from the world and personal pride. Jesus isn’t impressed with our “answers” anyway. Jesus is looking for faith. Once that sinks in, once we really understand that, I think we can start to relax. And that’s when the fun begins. [Emphasis added]

He follows up with:

So, for me, that really sets Core Academy apart. Other organizations want you to buy into their answers so that you can have faith. We want to inspire faith so that you can relax and start looking for answers and maybe even discover some unknown wonder of God’s creation.

  • Perhaps the most scientifically accomplished Young Earth Creationist now is John Sanford, originally a plant geneticist from Cornell who wrote Genetic Entropy and, more recently, Bones of Contention. We had the pleasure of hosting Sanford at Concordia Seminary, after he gave a talk at a local university. Sanford has an important story that needs to be carefully considered. He was an atheist scientist at Cornell, but late in his career became a Christian. Initially, he saw himself as an evolutionary creationist but became an old earth creationist and finally a leading young earth creationist as a result of his study of Scripture.

What are their Views on Scripture?

Young earth creationists view Scripture as inspired and inerrant in all areas, including historical and scientific matters.

  • CRS: After speaking about the Bible’s inspiration, CRS states, “all its assertions are historically and scientifically true in the original autographs” [italics added] (https://creationresearch.org/index.php/about-crs/statement-of-belief).
  • ICR: “The Bible, consisting of the thirty-nine canonical books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven canonical books of the New Testament, is the divinely-inspired revelation of the Creator to man. Its unique, plenary, verbal inspiration guarantees that these writings, as originally and miraculously given, are infallible and completely authoritative on all matters with which they deal, free from error of any sort, scientific and historical as well as moral and theological” [italics added] (http://www.icr.org/tenets).
  • AiG: “The 66 books of the Bible are the written Word of God. The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout. Its assertions are factually true in all the original autographs. It is the supreme authority in everything it teaches. Its authority is not limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes but includes its assertions in such fields as history and science.” Of particular interest is a statement about what this means for science: “The account of origins presented in Genesis is a simple but factual presentation of actual events and therefore provides a reliable framework for scientific research into the question of the origin and history of life, mankind, the Earth and the universe” [italics added]. (https://answersingenesis.org/about/faith/). CMI provides the same statement as AiG (https://creation.com/about-us#what_we_believe)

One cannot underestimate the importance of these statements for Young Earth Creationists. The debate over creation is not really so much about creation as it is about the Bible: its authority, reliability, and perspicuity. Ken Ham states:

  • “I want to make it very clear that we don’t want to be known primarily as ‘young-earth creationists.’ AiG’s main thrust is not ‘young-earth’ creationism as such; our emphasis is biblical authority. Believing in a relatively ‘young earth’ (i.e., only a few thousands of years old, which we accept) is a consequence of accepting the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator.” (https://answersingenesis.org/why-does-creation-matter/a-young-earth-its-not-the-issue/)
  • “Here’s what I mean by this: I understand that the Bible is a revelation from our infinite Creator, and it is self-authenticating and self-attesting. I must interpret Scripture with Scripture, not impose ideas from the outside!” (https://answersingenesis.org/why-does-creation-matter/a-young-earth-its-not-the-issue/)
  • “If you can’t trust the Book of Genesis as literal history, then you can’t trust the rest of the Bible. After all, every single doctrine of biblical theology is founded in the history of Genesis 1-1…if Adam wasn’t created from dust, and that if he didn’t fall into sin as Genesis states, then the gospel message of the New Testament can’t be true either.” (Ham, K. & Ham, S., Raising Godly Children in an Ungodly World: Leaving a Lasting Legacy, New Leaf Publishing Group, 2008).

Reading God’s Book of the Bible with God’s Book of Creation

The Young Earth Creationists included here insist that any reading in science or history must align with the Scriptures. It is important to point out that Young Earth Creationists do not take issue with observations of science or new data. What they take issue with is how one should interpret the data.

  • “AiG teaches that ‘facts’ don’t speak for themselves, but must be interpreted. That is, there aren’t separate sets of ‘evidences’ for evolution and creation—we all deal with the same evidence (we all live on the same earth, have the same fossils, observe the same animals, etc.). The difference lies in how we interpret what we study. The Bible—the ‘history book of the universe’—provides a reliable, eye-witness account of the beginning of all things, and can be trusted to tell the truth in all areas it touches on. Therefore, we are able to use it to help us make sense of this present world.”
  • AiG goes on to say, when properly understood, the “’evidence’ confirms the biblical account.” [italics added] (https://answersingenesis.org/about/). See also: (https://answersingenesis.org/answers/). Along the same lines, CMI states, “Facts are always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information. By definition, therefore, no interpretation of facts in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record.”

Again, affirming a young earth creation is not so much about creation and science as it is about the Bible and believing that the Bible is true in every detail. In other words, for them, affirming a young earth is a corollary of affirming the Bible.

What Do They Say about the Age of the Earth?

These Young Earth Creationist organizations reject Old Earth Creationism and conclude that the earth is between 6,000 and 15,000 years old. They arrive at that conclusion by affirming a literal six, twenty-four-hour day creation and from calculations based upon the genealogies of Scripture.

  • ICR: Under “Biblical Principles”: “All things in the universe were created and made by God in the six literal days of the Creation Week described in Genesis 1:1-2:3, and confirmed in Exodus 20:8-11. The creation record is factual, historical, and perspicuous; thus all theories of origins or development that involve evolution in any form are false” [italics added] (http://www.icr.org/tenets). John Morris of ICR states, “Scripture presents enough chronological information to estimate the number of years between Adam, whom God created on Day 6 of the creation week, and Christ, who was the last Adam” (http://www.icr.org/biblical-age). He states that the earth is at least 6,000 years old but not more than 15,000 years old.
  • CRS: “All basic types of living things, including man, were made by direct creative acts of God during the Creation Week described in Genesis” (https://creationresearch.org/index.php/about-crs/statement-of-belief).
  • AiG: “Scripture teaches a recent origin for man and the whole creation, spanning approximately 4,000 years from creation to Christ.” AiG provides the most comprehensive survey of the calculations based in large part upon the genealogies of the Bible. Drawing upon a number of sources and laying them out in chart form, AiG concludes “the average date of the creation of the earth is 4045 B.C. This still yields an average of about 6,000 years for the age of the earth” (https://answersingenesis.org/age-of-the-earth/how-old-is-the-earth/).
  • CMI: “The days in Genesis do not correspond to geologic ages, but are six [6] consecutive twenty-four [24] hour days of Creation.”

All of these groups agree on how to interpret “day” in Genesis 1, and each of them affirms an earth of about 6,000–15,000 years old. Given the earth’s young age, can we at least say that it looks very old? Here we might find slight disagreement.

  • ICR seems willing to say that it does look old and that this shouldn’t surprise us. But that does not mean (in opposition to old-earth creationists) that “God lied to us by making humans to look deceptively mature when they had in fact just appeared.” To the contrary, Morris argues, such a conclusion is the opposite of what should be the case. “To deny that it had the appearance of age when it was created runs counter to the idea of creation. In other words, “creation without the appearance of ‘age’ is impossible” (http://www.icr.org/article/creation-with-appearance-age).
  • AIG takes a different position. They argue that the earth in fact does not look old. They ask, “Does the universe really look old, or have we simply been indoctrinated to believe it looks old? Would the Creator God really deceive us into thinking that the universe looks old when, according to the Bible’s account, He created it only about 6,000 years ago?” (https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/age-of-the-universe/). For the full article see: https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/age-of-the-universe/mature-for-her-age/.

Young Earth Creationists generally reject the various exegetical approaches (e.g., day-age theory, gap-theory, framework theory) for reconciling Scripture with geology as found among Old Earth Creationists.

  • AiG: “The days in Genesis do not correspond to geologic ages, but are six [6] consecutive twenty-four [24] hour days of creation.”
  • CMI: “The ‘gap’ theory has no basis in Scripture. Nor has the day-age idea (so-called progressive creation), or the Framework Hypothesis or theistic evolution.”

Creation of Humans and the Introduction of Death

All of the Young Earth Creation groups here affirm a special creation of Adam and Eve as the culmination of God’s work of creation that God regarded as “perfect” and unmarred.

  • CRS: “All basic types of living things, including man, were made by direct creative acts of God during the Creation Week described in Genesis. Whatever biological changes have occurred since Creation Week have accomplished only changes within the original created kinds” (https://creationresearch.org/index.php/about-crs/history-and-aims).
  • ICR: “The first human beings did not evolve from an animal ancestry, but were specially created in fully human form from the start. Furthermore, the ‘spiritual’ nature of man (self-image, moral consciousness, abstract reasoning, language, will, religious nature, etc.) is itself a supernaturally created entity distinct from mere biological life” (http://www.icr.org/tenets).

They also affirm the subsequent story about their fall and the consequences for the entire world—both human and nonhuman.

  • ICR: “The universe and life have somehow been impaired since the completion of creation, so that imperfections in structure, disease, aging, extinctions, and other such phenomena are the result of ‘negative’ changes in properties and processes occurring in an originally-perfect created order” (http://www.icr.org/tenets).
  • CMI: “Death (both physical and spiritual) and bloodshed entered into this world subsequent to, and as a direct consequence of, man’s sin” (https://creation.com/about-us#what_we_believe)

The Noachian Flood

In many respects, the interpretation of a day as a normal, 24-hour calendar day is a matter of scriptural exegesis. By itself, it may lead one to conclude that the Scriptures portray a world that is young, but it does not provide an interpretive framework that can make sense of the scientific data uncovered by the geological sciences.

That is where the importance of the flood narrative in Genesis 6–9 comes into play. More than anything else, it was the cornerstone for developing a creation science based on geology. This is why the extent of the flood’s reach is more of a critical exegetical issue than a scientific issue. Some Old Earth Creationists, in light of scientific data, interpret Genesis 7:19–20 (“on the earth”) to be speaking of “the known world” (perhaps confined to the Mesopotamian world). Young Earth Creationists counter that “on the earth” means a worldwide flood, and for this reason it is legitimate to use the flood as an interpretive model for the geology that we see throughout the world.

  • CRS: “The great flood described in Genesis, commonly referred to as the Noachian Flood, was an historic event worldwide in its extent and effect” (https://creationresearch.org/agree-with-statement-of-belief/).
  • CMI: “The great Flood of Genesis was an actual historic event, worldwide (global) in its extent and effect” (https://creation.com/about-us#what_we_believe)
  • CMI: “The Noachian Flood was a significant geological event and much (but not all) fossiliferous sediment originated at that time” [Italics added].

If one can affirm a worldwide flood that encompassed all of the continents, one can then hypothesize and develop models about the impact of such an event and how it would determine what we see within the geological record. What kinds of geological changes were wrought by the flood?

  • IRC: Under their Principles of Scientific Creationism, they state, “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. 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” (http://www.icr.org/tenets),
  • IRC: Under Principles of Biblical Creationism, “The biblical record of primeval earth history in Genesis 1–11 is fully historical and perspicuous, including the creation and Fall of man, the Curse on the Creation and its subjection to the bondage of decay, the promised Redeemer, the worldwide cataclysmic deluge in the days of Noah” (http://www.icr.org/tenets).
  • AiG: “Thinking biblically, we can see that the global flood in Genesis 6–8 would wipe away the concept of millions of years, for this Flood would explain massive amounts of fossil layers. Most Christians fail to realize that a global flood could rip up many of the previous rock layers and redeposit them elsewhere, destroying the previous fragile contents. This would destroy any evidence of alleged millions of years anyway. So the rock layers can theoretically represent the evidence of either millions of years or a global flood, but not both. Sadly, by about 1840, even most of the Church had accepted the dogmatic claims of the secular geologists and rejected the global flood and the biblical age of the earth” (https://answersingenesis.org/age-of-the-earth/how-old-is-the-earth/)

Summary

In his updated edition of The Creationists, Ronald Numbers adds a new chapter, “Creationism Goes Global,” which documents the spread of Young Earth Creation science in the first two decades of the twenty-first century. It has spread beyond the United States and Australia to gain a following in Britain, Europe, and elsewhere. Numbers notes that this directly counters Stephen Gould’s claim to New Zealand scientists that they need not be concerned about scientific creationism because the movement was “peculiarly American.”[22] Numbers also notes that the movement had grown from the obscurity of a few self-taught amateur scientists to hundreds if not thousands of professionally credentialed scientists around the world.[23]

Addendum: LCMS Involvement

From nearly the beginning, various individuals of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod have had some type of involvement or interaction with those who developed and promoted the flood geology that gave rise to Young Earth Creationism. In fact, the engagement of some Missouri Synod Lutherans led Price to ask at one point, “Are the Lutherans to get ahead of us Adventists in teaching Flood Geology?”[24] Here are a few highlights:

  • Theodore Graebner was one of the initial members of the Deluge Geology Society founded by Price. Although Graebner had written several books against evolution, he refused to commit himself to a particular scientific paradigm such as the ruin and restoration (gap) theory or the flood geology theory. “In spite of all that I have read about the flood theory to account for stratification, erosion, and fossils, I cannot view the mountains without losing all faith in that solution of the problem.”[25] In addition, “As for how and when the fossil-bearing strata were formed, he professed agnosticism: ‘I do not know how long it took to lay down the strata, nor does anyone know.’”[26]
  • Alfred M. Rehwinkel published The Flood: In the Light of the Bible, Geology, and Archaeology (CPH, 1951). In the book, he “praises Price as the foremost defender of Genesis ‘as a trustworthy record of the early history of our earth’ and who is ‘an able geologist and a brilliant writer.’”[27] There appears to be some difference between Rehwinkel and Graebner on the issue of Flood Geology as a comprehensive account of the earth’s geology, which is worth further exploration.
  • Walter E. Lammerts grew up in a Missouri Synod family. He received a Ph.D in biology (cytogenetics) in 1930 and became a prominent rose breeder. In 1941, he joined the Deluge Geology Society. Lammerts regarded Price’s work as a way of reconciling “his literal Lutheran theology with the testimony of the rocks” and for “the rest of his life he remained a grateful disciple.”[28] According to Numbers, Lammerts later provided Whitcomb with “technical advice on events associated with the Genesis flood, especially the survival of plant life and the construction of the geological column.”[29] Numbers states that by the 1960s, Lammerts was “one of the two most influential scientific creationists in America” with the other one being Morris.[30]
  • John Klotz wrote his BD thesis against evolution under Theodore Graebner in 1941. He went on to earn his PhD in genetics from the University of Pittsburgh. He published his dissertation, Genes, Genesis, and Evolution, in 1955 “in which he defended a universal flood, a young earth, and recent creation in twenty-four-hour days.”[31] Klotz was initially asked by Whitcomb to be the co-author of the book that became The Genesis Flood, but Klotz declined since he was not a geologist. Whitcomb then asked Henry Morris to be his co-author.
  • Wilbert Rusch, a Missouri Synod teacher of geology, was also involved in these various discussions. Klotz even urged Whitcomb to consider asking Rusch to be his co-author.
  • Six of the first 18 members of the Creation Research Society were Missouri Synod Lutherans. Most practiced in fields other than geology. Lammerts was president, Rusch, treasurer, and the steering committee included John W. Klotz and Paul A. Zimmerman.
  • As Numbers puts it, “Lutheran conservatives refused to compromise on the issue of a recent special creation,” but they also “tended not to insist on the flood model of earth history.” Thus, Lutherans differed as to whether or not the flood could account for all the rock strata. He notes: “For a decade the synod supported a seven-man committee to investigate the ecological and paleontological record.” Flood geology received little support. “In 1977 the synod in convention voted against establishing a permanent creationist organization like the Adventist Geoscience Research Institute.”[32]

There is more to this story to be told. The history is fascinating and deserves further study within our circles. This might even be a dissertation topic for a PhD in American religious history.

Resources for Further Reading

John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications (P & R Publishing, 50th anniversary edition, 2011).

Rebecca Morris Barber, Henry M. Morris: Father of Modern Creationism (Institute for Creation Research, 2017).

Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels, edited by Robert Carter (Creation Ministries International, 2014).

Jay Seegert, Let There Be Light: Making Sense of the Creation/Evolution Controversy (Icon Publishing Group, 2013)

Jay Seegert, Creation and Evolution: Compatible or in Conflict? (Master Books, 2014).

Coming to Grips with Genesis, edited by Terry Mortenson and Thane Ury (New Leaf Publishing, 2008).

Thousands…Not Billions, edited Don DeYoung (Master Books, 2005).

Jonathan Sarfati, Refuting Compromise: A Biblical and Scientific Refutation of “Progressive Creationism” (Billions of Years) as Popularized by Astronomer Hugh Ross (Creation Book Publishers, updated and expanded edition, 2011).

Jonathan Sarfati, Refuting Evolution (Creation Book Publishers, 2nd edition, 2008).

David Catchpoole, et al., The Creation Answers Book (Creation Book Publishers, 2007)

Resources for Further Reading by LCMS Authors

Joel D. Heck, In the Beginning, God: Creation from God’s Perspective (Concordia Publishing House, 2011).

Darwin, Evolution, and Creation, edited by Paul A. Zimmerman (Concordia Publishing House, 1959). Other contributors were John W. Klotz, Raymond F. Surburg, and Wilbert H. Rusch, Sr.

John W. Klotz, Genes, Genesis and Evolution (Concordia Publishing House, 1955).

Rehwinkel, Afred, M. The Flood in the Light of the Bible, Geology, and Archaeology (Concordia Publishing House, 1951).

ENDNOTES

[1] In drafting these posts, I have consulted with people from across the spectrum of these three camps and want to express my many thanks and appreciation for their reading of the posts and suggestions for improvement.

[2] https://ipfs.io/ipfs/QmXoypizjW3WknFiJnKLwHCnL72vedxjQkDDP1mXWo6uco/wiki/Anno_Mundi.html

[3] Paul A. Zimmerman has an interesting chapter entitled, “The Age of the Earth” in Darwin, Evolution, and Creation (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959). Other contributors included John W. Klotz, Raymond F. Surburg, and Wilbert H. Rusch. Paul Zimmerman cites Frederick Zeuner who notes that the ancient Chaldeans thought the earth had been around for two million years while the Persians believed it was around 12,000 years old. He also states that “a creationist can operate with a young earth or a very ancient one” (p. 144). And he notes that “Ussher’s chronology is both inaccurate and obsolete” (p. 144).

[4] New York: Norton & Co., 1959.

[5] Nicholson, pp. 78-102.

[6] Nicholson’s quote on page 102 is from Critical and Devotional Commentaries on Genesis (vol. I, Luther on the Creation; vol. II,Luther on Sin and the Flood) in Martin Luther, Precious and Sacred Writings, ed., by J. M. Lenker (Minneapolis, 1904). 164-165

[7] Luther also suggests that the cross on Calvary was located “where the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had been while Paradise was still standing.” Thus, so far as the place is concerned, death and destruction through Satan would be matched by life and salvation won through Christ. Genesis 4:16

[8] This is not to say that some rejected the science of geology altogether in the nineteenth century (what Terry Mortenson of AiG calls “Scripturist geologists”).

[9] Numbers, 90.

[10] Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1958), pp. 107-108.

[11] Numbers, 90.

[12] Numbers, 89.

[13] Ted Davis, http://godandnature.asa3.org/essay-science-falsely-so-called-fundamentalism-and-science-by-edward-b-davis.html

[14] Numbers, 91.

[15] Numbers, 92.

[16] Numbers, 93.

[17] Numbers, 93.

[18] Numbers, 219

[19] His literal reading of Genesis 1 coincided with a literal reading of a 1000-year reign of Christ on earth. See Numbers, 229.

[20] Ted Davis, (http://godandnature.asa3.org/essay-science-falsely-so-called-fundamentalism-and-science-by-edward-b-davis.html). This essay was first published as a chapter in the Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity. Ted Davis is not a Young Earth Creationist, but I believe his scholarship is both fair and helpful. His title “Science Falsely So-Called” is a passage in 1 Timothy 6:20-21 and was often used by Fundamentalists to speak about evolutionary science (e.g., see http://www.icr.org/books/defenders/8127, accessed Jan. 28, 2018).

[21] Numbers, 234.

[22] Numbers 388.

[23] Numbers, 368.

[24] Numbers 331. He devotes several pages to the LCMS.

[25] Numbers 130.

[26] Quoted in Numbers, 131

[27] Numbers 135; Rehwinkel, 102-103.

[28] Numbers 240.

[29] Numbers 242.

[30] Numbers, 247.

[31] Numbers 216.

[32] Numbers, 335.

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3 Comments

  1. Rev. Paul T. McCain February 23, 2018
    Reply

    Dr. Arand, thanks for this summary.

    I had the honor and privilege of being both a student and colleague of Dr. Paul Zimmerman, while he was president of my alama mater, Concordia College, River Forest, and then later serving alongside him as an assistant to President Al Barry. Dr. Zimmerman, I believe, was the first Missouri Synod pastor to hold an earned doctorate in a genuine field of science, chemistry. He was a brilliant man, with a keen intellect, and the ability to think his way clearly through very complex issues. He is more well known among us a a key leader in the fight against the inroads of liberalism in The LCMS during the fifties and sixties leading up to the Seminex crisis. Zimmerman played a key role in documenting and exposing the false teaching being spread throughout The LCMS during those years, but his work in the sciences is equally impressive.

    Dr. John Klotz was his friend and associate and like Dr. Zimmerman, Dr. Klotz was among that generation of LCMS pastors that earned doctorates in science, in the case of Dr. Klotz he earned a Ph.D. in genetics and then did post-doctoral work at the University of MN and Saint Louis. His book “Genes, Genesis and Evolution” stands to this day still as a remarkably useful text.

    Both these men were actual trained scientists, with well respected earned doctorates in scientific fields. Their work on the subject of creation and evolution deserve our careful study and attention. They were also very capable Lutheran theologians.

    Thanks for your article mentioning both of these Christian gentlemen, who have left a lasting legacy among us of completely faithfulness to God’s Holy Word combined with their great learning and scholarship in fields of science: chemistry and genetics, both critical to all these conversations.

    • Charles Arand February 23, 2018

      Thanks, Paul. I am a little envious that you had been a student of Zimmerman (although I did have Klotz for class). I was told that Zimmerman actually chaired the task force that was in charge of investigating the former seminary faculty that walked out in the 1970s. His article on “The Age of the Earth” in the book, Darwin, Evolution, and Creation (CPH, 1959) is very well thought out. I will be quoting his conclusions at length in a subsequent post.

    • Rev. Paul T. McCain February 23, 2018

      Dr. Arand, I should mention that I had Dr. Zimmerman for an introductory class to the New Testament at Concordia River Forest, a class he taught while also serving as president. I did not realize until years later that his Ph.D. was in chemistry, not theology, so masterfully did he teach us. He often liked to quip, “I have an insatiable appetite for information.”

      Yes, Dr. Zimmerman was the chairman of the fact-finding committee that investigated the CSL faculty through many hours of personal interviews with each of them. His experiences of those days are documented in his book, “A Seminary in Crisis: The Inside Story of the Preus Fact Finding Committee” published by CPH in 2007.

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