By James C. Rakestraw, PE, CFM
In Part 2 of this series, we discussed the Great Unconformity and the geologic column. We will now take a break from geology and look at faith. Particularly, the question: Is it possible for an educated person to believe in the Biblical account of the Flood?
The Journey of a Skeptic, Step 3, A faith journey to salvation and answers:
When I was a Freshman at Michigan Tech, an old friend from junior high school shared his faith and I observed his changed life. As a result of his witness I started to read the Bible and I became convinced of my sinfulness. I was attending a “mainline” church where faith was based on a combination of the Bible, tradition, science and common sense. The accounts of creation and the Flood seemed to be stories for the simple people of simpler times. My faith (such as it was) consisted of intellectual assent to the New Testament and temporal faith in crisis situations.
I became a Christian while stationed at the Army Engineer School at Fort Belvior, VA. A man from a Christian group, the Navigators, shared the gospel with me and I trusted Christ. After a few months of being discipled by the “Navs”, I was on my way to Viet Nam. I served with the 4th Engineer Battalion, 4th Infantry Division at Pleiku and An Khe. While in Viet Nam, I decided to return to Virginia and get some Nav training once my service time was over.
Upon returning to Virginia I started a new career in the land development branch of civil engineering. Later, this emphasis changed to municipal engineering with an emphasis on hydrology and hydraulics. Professionally, I became a Registered Professional Engineer (PE) and later a Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM). My study of the Bible gradually led me into reformed teaching and the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
My search for answers began when I started looking at Bible related questions like:
- “Do you have to speak with other tongues to be saved?” – No!
- “Does, God elect some for salvation?” – Yes!
- “Is the structure of the Bible based on covenants?” – Yes! “
- “Did God create the world in seven days of ordinary length?” – I could not reconcile the Bible to my educational background.
- “Was there a literal Flood that wiped out most of the earths inhabitants and shaped most of the earth’s geology and physiography?” – I could not reconcile the Bible to my educational background.
- “Is it possible for an educated person to believe in Flood Geology?” – Possibly, but I had never bothered to investigate the matter.
As a Christian, my faith based on a plain reading (1) of Scripture co-existed with by belief in evolution and uniformitarian geology. I heard a few speakers that supported the literal view of the Flood. I felt sorry for them and embarrassed for them. How could any intelligent person believe in a literal flood?
During this time period of searching for answers, I met and married Debbie. We were blessed with nine children. I began to wonder what I teach them concerning creation, human origins and the Flood? This became an item of prayer. My prayers were answered in 1996 we moved to Fredericksburg, VA and we joined New City Fellowship (PCA). Eugene Rivers, an elder taught a Sunday school class on the Genesis Flood. I had heard of the book of that title years ago but never bothered to read it. However, for the first time in my Christian life, I was interested in hearing an explanation of the literal view of the Flood. I was impressed with Eugen’s credentials; he had a degree in aeronautical engineering.
The class was very interesting and many of my questions were answered. The class began with a timeline of the history of the Christian community’s view of the Flood. Before the advent of uniformitarian geology, nearly all Christians held a literal view of creation and the Flood. After the uniformitarian geology became accepted, attempts were made to reconcile the Bible to uniformitarian geology. The earliest attempts at reconciliation included the Day-Age view and Ruin Restoration (Gap) view of creation. Associated with these was the view of the Flood as being some sort of local event.
Helpful information gathered from the class included:
- The concept that fossil record was a record of the order of burial of living organisms rather than a record of evolution.
- Also, the fossil record was a record of rapid burial of creatures rather than burial by one grain of sand or mud at a time.
- Hydrodynamic sorting of materials. In my fluid mechanics class, we studied Stokes Law which was very complex in application. Later in a class on mineral dressing, we encountered the statement that Stokes law didn’t work for slurry like media as one might encounter in a mud flow. In a slurry, particles tend to separate in accordance with grain size under different laws. The use of different equations to model different situations is widespread in engineering.
The class convinced me that the worldwide flood described in Genesis was possible. I purchased the “Genesis Flood” shortly after the class and read it with interest. The book was published in 1961 and is probably the most influential Christian book of the 20th century. Author John Whitcomb has a doctorate in theology. Co-author Dr. Henry Morse has a doctorate in civil engineering and served as the head of the department of civil engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. After reading the “Genesis Flood” I began to consider myself a person who in Presbyterian Church in America terms held the Calendar-Day view of creation (2). My big question: “Is it possible for an educated person to believe in Flood Geology?” had been answered with an emphatic – YES!
I was thankful for my Sunday school class and for the book “The Genesis Flood”. However, I started to formulate a few questions:
- Was there really a vapor canopy? If so, why was there a Great Unconformity?
- Did thrust faults really exist? My structural geology books showed them, and they seemed logical in terms of structural geology and engineering mechanics.
(1) Plain Reading: Basically, with a plain reading, meanings are to be assigned the ordinary meaning of words. The following was excerpted from Wikipedia on 3/1/15:
“The plain meaning rule dictates that statutes are to be interpreted using the ordinary meaning of the language of the statute. In other words, a statute is to be read word for word and is to be interpreted according to the ordinary meaning of the language, unless a statute explicitly defines some of its terms otherwise or unless the result would be cruel or absurd. Ordinary words are given their ordinary meaning, technical terms are given their technical meaning, and local, cultural terms are recognized as applicable.”
(2) The Calendar-Day view of creation is also described as the Literal View, and the Twenty-Four-Hour View of creation in the PCA Report on Creation. It is described as the Days of Ordinary Length View in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church Report on Creation.
My final questions concerning the Christian faith had been answered. But these answers would soon be challenged.