YEC and 19th cent

From: Ted Davis (
Date: Wed Jan 16 2002 - 16:07:05 EST

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    I think there were in the early 19th century, as Glenn Morton notes (using
    appropriate texts from Edward Hitchcock and Hugh Miller) rather more
    YECs--what they themselves might have called "biblical" or "scriptural"
    geologists--than one might gather from what Michael Roberts says. Michael's
    concern seems to be that lots of modern ignorami apparently think there were
    essentially no Christians who thought otherwise (than YEC), and he is right
    that lots of modern ignorami think this, and they are wrong about it: there
    were a truckload of Christian geologists, e.g., who accepted the earth's
    great antiquity, though a good number of them prior to the 1850s at least
    did not also accept the antiquity of humans. On the other hand, as Glenn
    stresses, there were also lots of Christian thinkers--I hesitate to call
    them "geologists," since already in that day the real geologists were
    pulling away from the "scriptural geologists" and other popular writers--who
    found the idea of an old earth enormously disturbing (I don't exaggerate by
    wording it that way). This is precisely why Hitchcock, Silliman, and Miller
    were so keen to make their case for allegorial interpretations of some sort
    (though Hitchcock was pretty darn sure that his favorite view, the
    creation/restitution or "gap" view, was really the "literal" interpretation
    of Genesis): they knew that the popular view was untenable, and they wanted
    gently or otherwise to nudge the church into accepting real science.

    By the latter half of the 19th century, to the best of my knowledge, the YE
    position had pretty much faded into obscurity among educated Christians,
    though the hoi polloi might have held YE views more widely (it's always hard
    to know about the hoi polloi at this historical distance). SDA people (as
    Ron Numbers notes) held YE views quite strongly and still do. They also
    combined this with "flood geology" for the combination that is now YEC. Ron
    thinks the combination was rare or unknown outside SDA circles for decades,
    I think it was more widely held than Ron thinks, but still not very widely
    held among educated Christians.

    This issue is (like all historical questions) very much dependent on which
    precise historical period one asks about, which countries, and which
    Christians. It gets pretty messy, that's one of the things about history
    that frustrates many scientists, it can look like one *%&$ fact after
    another (to quote someone loosely). On the other hand, some of the sciences
    can be pretty messy too, looking like one *&$% fact after another, until you
    know enough to recognize the principles in operation.

    Ted Davis

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