Concordism and Princeton theology

Ted Davis (
Fri, 26 Sep 1997 15:29:53 -0400

I generally agree with Terry Gray's comments on evolution, concordism, and
Princeton theology. My main addition involves what was, I think, one of the
chief cornerstones of concordism in the 19th century, namely the antiquity
of the human race and the historicity of early Genesis. Classical
concordism, if we may call it that, involved the belief that the Bible and
science ARE TELLING US THE SAME STORY, so long as we read both books
correctly. This is more specific than the looser claim that Genesis gives
us profound truths about God and the world that are wholly consistent with
modern science (eg, the belief that the world is "good" or the belief that
creation was accomplished/unfolded in time). Thus, Benjamin Silliman
(founder of the first undergrad science program, at Yale, and founder of
"Silliman's Journal," the American Journal of Science), Edward Hitchcock
(president of Amherst and the first great professional geologist in
America), and James Dwight Dana (Yale geologist famous for helping prove
Darwin's theory of coral reefs) all like to point out that "Man" was not
found in the fossil record (true at that time), which is perfectly
consistent with "him" having been created last. They were happy with either
the day-age or the gap theory of exegesis, in part because both left intact
the historicity of Adam & Eve and the fall. Likewise Hodge, Warfield, etc.
But at the turn of the century it became clear that humans were older than a
few thousand years, leading people like Warfield and William Henry Green to
try awfully hard to pack some extra time into the Genesis geneologies, going
(IMHO) to ridiculous lengths (pun intended) to do so, stretching human
history out to around 100ky.

They did this sort of thing, of course, to preserve concordism in the sense
defined above, where both books really tell the same story. In this way
they could hold on to an historical fall, which is (IMHO) crucial to
orthodox Calvinism. Query for Calvinists in the group: how wrong am I?
(Aside: I am partly Calvinistic myself, as I love Calvin's theology of
creation. I'm a Calvinist on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and this is
Friday, so maybe I shouldn't push this one too far today.)

My strong sense is, that concordism can't work for genuinely modern science,
with its tenet that humankind appeared a long time ago. What CAN work,
however, and still preserve much of the beauty of traditional concordism, is
the looser type of concordism outlined above. One can keep the language
about two books without assuming they tell the same story, only that they
illuminate one another.

Ted Davis