1800 AD to 1859 AD: The church responds to the theory of long geologic ages.

This part of the creation discussion is short (1800 AD to 1859 AD) but highly significant. The Biblical timeline of creation and the record of the flood are challenged by uniformitarian geology.

Timeline:

1726-1797 – James Hutton, a Scottish geologist advocated uniformitarianism. (Genesis Flood)

1797-1875 – Charles Lyell, a lawyer advocates uniformitarianism. He is the author of the influential geology text, Principles of Geology.

1830’s – The Gap Theory is developed. The gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 allowed for the insertion a long time period between the two verses. During this time period, the work of uniformitarian geology was accomplished. Today, the Gap Theory is termed the Ruin-Restoration Interpretation of creation.

1830’s – The Day-Age Interpretation of creation is developed. In this view, the days of creation listed in Genesis 1 each represent a long period of time. During some of these long periods of time, the work of uniformitarian geology was accomplished.

1836 – Discours sur les Revoulions de la surface du Globe was published. It was authored by Georges Culvier (1769-1832). The thesis of the book was that were multiple global floods. Each flood produced separate series of fossils. This is termed the “successive catastrophe theory.” (Genesis Flood)

1835-1837 Creationist chemist/zoologist Edward Blyth (1810-1870) wrote about natural selection. (Refuting Compromise)

1839 – On the Relation Between the Holy Scriptures and Some Parts of Geologic Science was published. It was authored by John Pyle Smith (1744-1851). In this book, the universality of the Genesis flood was attacked for the first time. Smith was first to use the “local flood theory.” (Genesis Flood)

1845 – The first discussion of any varying views of creation days in any reformed commentary, confession or catechism is found. (PCA Report)

1857 – Philip Gosse, a British biologist, publishes Omphalos: an Attempt to Untie the Geologic Knot. This book postulated the “appearance of age.” (Creation and Time)

Summary of the Creation Discussion from 1800 to 1859:

This period marked the establishment of two different approaches that Christians have taken to confront the challenge of a secular world view. The world considered uniformitarian geology to be truth; truth that is in conflict with the Bible.

The first approach to facing this challenge is to believe the Bible even though it conflicts with what the world teaches. Those who take this approach believed the Biblical account of creation and the flood. This approach is based on a presupposition that the Bible is the word of God.

The second approach to this challenge is to reinterpret the Bible so it will be in harmony with the current secular world view.   At the time, obtaining harmony appeared to be a fairly simple task of inserting millions of years into the Bible to replace six days. The task was handled in two very different ways with: 1) the Ruin-Restoration Interpretation of creation (Gap Theory); and 2) the Day-Age Interpretation. These interpretations are examples of “Concordism” which is described in Refuting Compromise as attempting to preserve Genesis as history by reinterpreting certain passages.