Ellen White, Price, and YEC

From: Ted Davis (tdavis@messiah.edu)
Date: Wed Aug 22 2001 - 08:56:44 EDT

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    The claim that YEC as we know it today is derivative from SDA prophetess
    Ellen White, via Canadian schoolteacher and self-proclaimed "geologist"
    George McCready Price, is very well supported by the evidence--pulled
    together by former SDA scholar Ronald Numbers in The Creationists, with
    additional comments in several other Numbers writings. I've had numerous
    conversations with Ron over the years and, if memory serves me correctly--I
    trust Ron's scholarship better than my memory--his particular point can be
    expressed like this: the *combination of* "flood geology" (the idea that
    most or all fossiliferous rocks were produced by the biblical flood, roughly
    4300 years ago) and "young earth" (the living things on the earth were
    created separately, in a literal creation week, about 6000 years ago, do
    derive from SDA sources. Some comments are in order, and I invite Allen Roy
    and others to comment further.

    First, Price himself (I don't know enough about White to bring her in also)
    was not bothered by an "old" universe; what concerned him was the age of
    living things on the earth, and the solar system itself, both of which had
    to be confined to the traditional biblical chronology. Contemporary YECs
    are, of course, greatly disturbed by the idea of any physical object having
    an actual age more than 5 days older than Adam, though they share entirely
    with Price the view that the earth and all it contains is younger than
    10,000 years.

    Second, both ideas (young earth and flood geology) predate Ellen White, who
    almost certainly drew on the "biblical geologists" of the mid-19th century
    in her writings. But learned evangelical writers did not follow the
    "biblical geologists" in the latter part of the 19th century. Rather they
    followed some of the leading American and English geologists and teachers of
    geology (the former cateogory would include Hitchcock, Dana, and Buckland;
    the latter category Silliman and Jameson), who had found various ways to
    "reconcile" an historical early Genesis with an "old" earth. The "day age"
    and "gap" views were mainly used. But after ca. 1830, no reputable
    geologist appealed to the biblical flood to explain fossils: the evidence
    against this hypothesis was seen as overwhelming; a "young" earth had become
    untenable some decades before that.

    Third, note that I said nothing above about "young" humans. OECs of the
    19th century by and large assumed/accepted the traditional chronology for
    human history, taking Adam and Eve as historical persons and the progenitors
    of all modern persons. In the latter part of the 19th century, however, it
    became clear that hominids who looked like us, buried their dead, made art,
    and made, kept, and used tools, had existed for tens of thousands of years.
    This caused a number of evangelical scholars, including BB Warfield, to
    "push the envelope" on the Genesis chronology and geneology. This gave
    consternation to even highly learned, careful scholars like George Frederick
    Wright, who had a faith crisis over this issue owing to his commitment to
    something like inerrancy. My own view is that, even if we completely
    disregard all evolutionary claims and assume the whole theory is hogwash,
    then the issue of human antiquity is sufficient by itself to call into
    question the historicity of early Genesis. This is one of several reasons
    why I am not an OEC, though I have great respect for aspects of the position
    and (as similar sayings go), "many of my friends are OECs".

    Ted Davis

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