- Apr 28, 2014
Rise of Young Earth Creationism
Although many Christians were concerned about the implications they found in Darwin’s theory of evolution, by the end of the nineteenth century very few Christian authors argued for a young earth. Enthusiasm for this was largely confined to the Seventh-day Adventists, who followed the writings of their founding prophet, Ellen G. White. She claimed to have seen the creation of the earth in a vision from God. In another vision, God revealed to her that Noah’s flood produced the fossil record.12 Early Adventists thus explained the geological data found in the early nineteenth century with their interpretation of the flood story of Genesis 6-8.
Between 1910 and 1915, a group of conservative Christians wrote a large collection of papers titled The Fundamentals. They clarified the beliefs of conservative Christians intent on preserving the faith from the threats of their time. Interestingly, The Fundamentals put no emphasis on Noah’s flood as an explanation of geological data and the contributors accepted an old earth. Even William Jennings Bryan, a fundamentalist who crusaded against the teaching of evolution in public schools, accepted an old earth.
Nevertheless, the modern Creationist campaign gained traction as an anti-evolution movement in the decades that followed. The 100th anniversary of Darwin’s publication in 1959 brought with it a cry from academics to make the public more aware of Darwin’s theory. Around the same time, the federal government funded the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS), which produced a series of textbooks that taught evolution without reservation. Many conservative Christians at the time saw this as an attempt to “ram evolution down the throats of children.”
As if in response to this outcry, John Whitcomb and Henry Morris updated Adventist flood geology in their 1961 book, The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications. Whitcomb and Morris gave an explanation for how Noah’s flood could account for the geological evidence for an older earth. Soon after, small groups of conservative Christian scientists began to form in support of this research. They came to be known as Young Earth Creationists and referred to their flood geology as scientific creationism. The movement continued to grow, and by the 1970s the term “Creationism” increasingly came to mean only the narrow belief that God created in 6 days and the earth is young, not the larger, foundational belief that God is the Maker of heaven and earth, regardless of the time scale involved.
Going back to the original publication of Origin of Species in 1859, we have seen that the original Christian reception of Darwin’s theory was not universally hostile, and that Asa Gray even found it scientifically insightful. With his faith firmly grounded in the creeds of the early church, Gray conducted brilliant scientific research and maintained an unwavering commitment to Christ.
It was actually not until the second half of the 20th century that Young Earth Creationism became a mainstream view within the evangelical community. Knowing this, many Christians today have decided to stop perpetuating a “war” with science.
Prominent scholars like Asa Gray and BB Warfield demonstrate that it is indeed possible to maintain a high view of scripture and accept scientific evidence of evolution.
Soyce and full discussion:
How have Christians responded to Darwin’s “Origin of Species”? | BioLogos