Re: [asa] The Bible and the Anthropologically Universal Flood

From: Michael Roberts <>
Date: Sat Mar 17 2007 - 16:00:14 EDT

Ted, I am at one with you , Paul and Davis Y on accommodation which I
originally got from Hooykaas and then my own reading.

Galileo seemed to make no use of Calvin but looked to Augustine which was no
surprise. However Accommodation was widely held in both prot and catholic
churches and was used to justify long geological time in the 18th century .
I discuss this in a chapter in a geol soc of London Special Publication
Myth and Geology SP273 which was published yesterday. I dealt with Fr J
Needham an english RC priest who wrote in French and friendly with Buffon
and the Swiss geologist and tutor to George III 's queen. This is part of
what I wrote ;

"In the middle decades Buffon met and corresponded with Fr. Joseph Needham,
an English Roman Catholic priest and scientist. Needham was a skilled
microscopist and the first Roman Catholic priest to be elected to the Royal
Society. What is important here is his understanding of Genesis published in
his Nouvelles Recherches, which were mostly on microscopy (Needham 1769).
There Needham was happy to extend the understanding of 'Day' to signify
periods of different times and that the day of Moses are probably periods of
more than 24 hours, pointing out that even 60 millions of years are merely
'une partie infinitesimal de l'eternitie'(Needham 1769, p. 54). Almost with
echoes of Calvin, he wrote that '[e]n effet Moise ecrie pour tout le genre
human, et non pas pour les astronomies ou les philosophes'(Needham 1769, p.
62) and cited Augustine in support. This demonstrates that accommodation was
common to both Roman Catholic and Protestant.

Buffon returned to and lengthened his timescale in Époques in 1778. His
suggestions of 74,000 years and seven epochs are well-known, along with his
unpublished estimate of the age of the earth of 2 million years. Buffon
sought to bring his extended time-scale into line with Genesis in a manner
which can be perceived as devout or undevout. Though he was hardly the most
disciplined of Catholics, he cannot be aligned with les philosophes and
their infidelity. His scientific and speculative arguments do not concern us
but his theology does. In the Premier Discours Buffon devoted some dozen
pages to the interpretation of Genesis (Buffon 1778, pp. 28-31). Compared to
16th century exegetes and Ussher (and the associated mythology) this is
radical indeed, but compared to 17th century exegetes, Roman Catholic and
Protestant, it is a moderate development and no more. It was also well
within the bounds of contemporary orthodoxy as Buffon was no more radical
than Needham. Roger considers Buffon to have based his ideas on Calmet, but
there is only a general likeness, as Buffon gives no citation of Calmet.
Further, Calmet, though writing fifty years earlier, gives no indication a
long duration of time. Buffon's ideas of the creation of an initial chaos
followed by six lengthened days are similar to those of Needham and Whiston,
both of whom were devout believers. Buffon had merely extended the
conventional exegesis of Genesis. Whereas in his Natural History Buffon
omitted all reference to Genesis One and criticised interpretations of the
Deluge, in the Époques he omitted any reference to the Deluge and
concentrated on a 'stretched' Genesis One. This may have been to forestall
major criticism. It was difficult to condemn Buffon, without condemning
Needham as well. Buffon had kept to a literalist position as possible and
emphasised the generally accepted understanding of accommodation.

De Luc and his letters to Queen Charlotte and Blumenbach
            The Swiss-born geologist Jean Andre de Luc, who came to England
in 1773 to be Reader to George III's Queen Charlotte, was a friend of both
de Saussure and Voltaire. He was also friendly with members of the Lunar
Society. From 1776 he wrote many letters to the Queen, which were published
in 1779. These letters were almost entirely on geology and its relation to
the Christian faith. As these fill many volumes only a few highlights can be
mentioned. Like Buffon he discussed Whiston and other Theorists at length
and stressed that 'Moyse n'a donc voulu nous apprendre, ni la durée ni la
maniére de la création. Il nous a indiqué l'ordre sucessif de l'existence de
parties distinctif de l'Universe'(de Luc 1779, vol. 5, p. 639), thus
reiterating an accommodationist view of scripture and here he concurred with
Buffon, and, of course, with Calvin and many others. "

If you want to read de Luc on the subject you can read his many volumes in
French or what he wrote to Blumenbach which were translated into English and
published in the British Critic a conservative High Church Anglican journal

If accommodation is wrong on geological time and Genesis it is also wrong on
heliocentrism and probably geocentrism too!



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Received on Sat Mar 17 16:02:05 2007

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