From: Ted Davis (TDavis@messiah.edu)
Date: Tue Jun 24 2003 - 11:13:02 EDT
"Howard J. Van Till" writes:
Having observed once again on this list several concordist attempts to
pieces of early Genesis text into agreement (concord) with pieces of
natural science, I am led to ask a series of closely related questions:
What is the purpose or goal of this exercise?
Why is concord expected?
Why is concord desired?
When specimens of concord have been crafted, what has been gained?
I have not been a concordist myself for something like 20 years, but I will
answer some of Howard's questions by letting one of the greatest 19th
century concordists speak on behalf of the position. I mean Edward
Hitchcock, professor of geology and natural theology--at Amherst College.
Author of the first geological surveys of
Massachusetts and Vermont, Hitchcock discovered the first dinosaur tracks
known in the Connecticut River Valley. Our
selection is taken from a late edition of his geology text, which his son
helped him update. Like Silliman, Hitchcock believed in
taking a concordist approach to science and the Bible; like Silliman, he
thought it important to include material on religion and
science in textbooks; like Benjamin Silliman, he was convinced of the
earth's great age, but unlike Silliman, he preferred the "gap theory" to
the "day-age theory" when it came to reconciling an old earth with Genesis.
In several earlier editions of his textbook, Hitchcock
is less hesitant to state his exegetical preferences, but in this edition
prepared jointly with his son he is more irenical. Some of his
most interesting points involve natural theology, a subject dear to his
heart. His careful treatment of theological questions
suggested by the presence of death in the animal kingdom prior to the fall
of Adam and Eve, an issue that remains central to
contemporary debates on creation/evolution, is especially important.
(This material and the following comes from my website,
Here's some of Hitchcock's answers:
(1) Why be a concordist? Short answer: it's a great spiritual benefit to
have geology support Genesis.
His own reasons:
1. Geology shows us that the existing system of things upon the globe had a
2. In all the renditions of the globe from the earliest times, and in the
structure of all the organic beings that have
successively peopled it, we find the same marks of wise and benevolent
adaptation, as in existing races, and a perfect
unity of design extending through every period of the world's history.
3. Geology furnishes many peculiar proofs of the Divine benevolence, so
peculiar that they have sometimes been quoted
in proof of penal inflictions.
4. Geology furnishes interesting examples of what may be called prospective
5. Geology proves repeated special divine interpositions, or miracles, in
nature as well as special providences. [Howard will especially like that
one. :-) ]
6. In spite of these evidences of Divine benevolence, geology unites with
all other sciences, and with, experience, in
showing the world to be in a fallen condition, and that this condition was
foreseen and provided for, long before man's
existence, so that he might find a world well adapted to a state of
[Hitchcock's supralapsarian views on death before the fall are highly
important historically, and ignored by YECs today.]
7. Geology enlarges our conceptions of the plans of the Deity.
Overall, here's what Hitchcock said:
First, in order to show that there is no discrepancy between revelation
and geology, we can take any one of three positions,
each of which is sufficient. We may show that Moses does not fix the time
of the material creation; or, secondly, that his account
admits an indefinite period between the beginning and the first day; or,
thirdly, that the days stand symbolically for long periods and
that on the plan of description adopted by the sacred writer be could not
give, in all cases, the chronological order of creation.
Either of these positions, in the view of any unprejudiced mind, completely
vindicates the Mosaic account from any collision with
Secondly, geology furnishes very important illustrations of the Mosaic
account, and corroborates several truths of revelation.
Thirdly, still more remarkably does geology illustrate the principles
of natural religion, and add to its creed several doctrines
generally regarded as exclusively revealed.
Hence it is high time for believers in revelation to cease fearing
injury to its claims or doctrines from geology, and to be thankful
to Providence for providing in this science so powerful an auxiliary of
religion, both natural and revealed.
I think these answer entirely or partially all of Howard's questions except
the first one. As for that one, the answer is all over the place in the
concordist tradition since Bacon and Galileo in the early 17th century.
"Obviously," they would have told Howard, "the book of nature and the book
of scripture have the same author. Therefore they must agree, when rightly
interpreted." Indeed, although I am not a concordist myself, I think this
is probably the *strongest* reason one can give in support of *any* general
attitude/approach toward science and theology--namely, ,the assumption that
truth is one and has a single ultimate source.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Tue Jun 24 2003 - 11:13:12 EDT