A response to BioLogos on the origins of young-earth creationism

The study of logic is always interesting—especially the study of logical fallacies. One of these logical fallacies is known as “The Genetic Fallacy.” This fallacy is where an argument is judged to be right or wrong, depending on its supposed origins, rather than on the merits of the argument.

One major article on the BioLogos website attempts to use this fallacy against the biblical creation position. Karl Giberson, who served until recently as executive vice president of BioLogos, has written what they euphemistically label as a “scholarly essay,” entitled “Adventist Origins of Young Earth Creationism.” His argument is two-fold: First, he claims that young-earth creationism is not biblical and that 150 years ago or so, people would not have believed it. Second, he claims that the ideas of young earth creationism originated in Seventh-Day Adventism.

At the end of Giberson’s article, he criticizes a number of creationist organizations by name, including ours. For this reason, this present article was thought to be important, even though there are many other excellent and detailed criticisms of it already on the web.

Adventist Creationism

We will deal with the second accusation first, because this is an example of the Genetic Fallacy. Its thesis is this:

  1. Seventh-Day Adventism is wrong.
  2. Young Earth Creationism came from Seventh-Day Adventism.
  3. Therefore Young Earth Creationism is wrong.

Let me start by saying this to SDA readers: it is not the purpose of this article to criticize Seventh-Day Adventism. The position of the SDA on various biblical issues is irrelevant to this article. Let me also state, in the interests of integrity, that there are many issues on which I do not agree with SDAs, and find their views to be out of accord with my understanding of scripture. But, I say again: That is irrelevant to this article. If the SDAs were 100% right on every issue, or if they were wrong on every issue other than creation, neither extreme position would either validate or invalidate Young Earth Creationism. The sequence of arguments above is not logical. Even if statement 1 were correct (SDA readers, please bear with me), that is irrelevant to the question of whether or not the Young Earth Creationist position is biblically correct.

According to Giberson’s article, Ellen White, the main influence behind Seventh-Day Adventism, began receiving visions shortly after her sect leader William Miller (the Harold Camping of his day) had been disappointed that Jesus had failed to return in 1844. Giberson claims that our creationist positions are based on the expansions of Bible accounts in White’s book Patriarchs and Prophets. He states, “In a curious twist of history, modern young-earth creationism can be traced to her visionary expansion of the Genesis flood narrative.”1

Giberson proceeds to refer to George McCready Price. Price was an amateur geologist, also an Adventist. He wrote a book, called The New Geology in 1923, which rejected the prevailing uniformitarian views of the time.

Giberson then claims that the famous book, The Genesis Flood, by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris, is simply a rewording of Price’s book.

But what is not widely known, because the authors of The Genesis Flood left it out of their book, is that the arguments in the book are really just Price’s arguments, updated to provide a more scientific presentation. 2

Even if Giberson’s contention were true, that would not invalidate The Genesis Flood. However, it is not true. Whitcomb and Morris start from scripture. If some ideas coincide with Price, then that simply means that Price’s ideas cannot be all wrong, despite Giberson’s innuendo. In the same way, I would guess that Giberson—a Darwinian evolutionist—does not share Darwin’s racist views. Giberson’s attempts to smear people by association are illogical and distasteful. They certainly have no place in something described as a “scholarly essay.”

The Fundamentals

In arguing that Young Earth Creationism is a recent aberration, Giberson appeals to The Fundamentals—a series of booklets published between 1910 and 1915, which define Christianity’s fundamentals. These works gave rise to the term “fundamentalism.” Giberson states:

[The fundamentalists] were not united in rejecting evolution as a mechanism of creation. And there was no rejection of the scientific research that indicated that the earth was far older than 10,000 years.3

Is that so? This is easy to check, because copies of The Fundamentals are readily available. Baker published a four-volume set of The Fundamentals in 1998. In volume 1, we read:

The beginning of Genesis, therefore, is a divinely inspired narrative of the events deemed necessary by God to establish the foundations for the Divine Law in the sphere of human life, and to set forth the relation between the omnipotent Creator and the man who fell.4

The book continues, in a careful and very lengthy discussion of the early chapters of Genesis, to lay down the principle that, not only are these early chapters literally, historically true, but that to deny this is to undermine the Gospel. There does not appear to be much room for equivocation there!

Historic Creationism

Actually, Giberson’s whole unscholarly thesis is off the wall. It easily can be shown that more recent “Flood Geologists,” working from scripture, have produced lots of information and evidence, which has nothing to do with Adventism. For example, Giberson should read Dr. Andrew Snelling’s two-volume masterpiece Earth’s Catastrophic Past. And it is also easy to show that many people believed in a literal six-day creation, before White was around. Giberson ought, for instance, to be familiar with Dr. Terry Mortenson’s book, The Great Turning Point, in which Mortenson traces the history of the Scriptural Geologists, defending a biblical interpretation of geology at a time when much geology was turning to deep time uniformitarianism.

In summary, Giberson’s arguments are puerile and disingenuous, as well as illogical. The subtitle of Giberson’s book Saving Darwin is “How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution.” It is a shame that he couldn’t write a book with the legend “How to be a Christian and believe what God actually says.”

  1. Giberson, K., Adventist Origins of Young Earth Creationism, < http://biologos.org/uploads/static-content/Giberson-scholarly-essay-1.pdf >, p. 1, accessed May 17th 2011
  2. Ibid, p. 2
  3. Ibid, p. 1
  4. The Fundamentals, volume 4, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), p. 274

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