A developing schism in Flood geology
Young-earth creationism continues in its development with the ongoing refinement of a Bible-based geologic framework of earth history. Unfortunately, this work is not unified as two opposing perspectives have developed. The more popular approach seeks to adapt and modify existing concepts and ideas derived from Naturalism (e.g. the standard geologic timescale, Plate Tectonic theory, and radiometric age dating). We identify this framework as the ‘Remodelled naturalistic approach’. The less popular framework, which we term the ‘Reconstructed Bible-based approach’, seeks to define earth history solely from the biblical narrative. These constructs are diametrically opposed to one another. We review the two geologic frameworks and their supporting concepts and conclude that the advancement of either approach should be conducted openly and defended by peer-reviewed literature. A failure to do so will only serve to weaken the advancement of diluvial geology.
The development of a Bible-based geological framework of earth history is progressing. However, the work is not unified. Two competing perspectives have emerged, each with a different philosophical basis. A schism is developing in Flood geology that will divide it into two opposing positions. One approach advances a remodelling of geological ideas derived from Naturalism (figure 1). The other advances a reconstructed geologic history based solely on an outline derived from the Bible (figure 2). Presently, the ‘Remodelled’ naturalistic approach is the more popular of these two efforts in creationism. The least developed and less popular concept is the ‘Reconstructed’ Bible-based geological outline. Because these constructs are progressing in different directions, it is important to understand their differences, limitations, and ultimate endpoints. This work presents an overview of the two conflicting perspectives.
The need for a biblical geologic framework
In their groundbreaking work, Whitcomb and Morris1 understood that earth’s biblical geologic history should not be defined from the naturalistically based standard geologic timescale. Unfortunately, neither they nor any other young-earth creationist at the time proposed a formal geologic framework in which to define the rock record. This has resulted in a largely disorganized effort in reconstructing earth history based on the biblical account. As an organized scientific pursuit, the development of diluvial geology has advanced very little over the course of several decades.
A Remodelled naturalistic approach
Although not the first person to attempt a diluvial interpretation of earth history, a comprehensive book on the geology of the Grand Canyon by Dr Steven A. Austin, a young-earth creation geologist, was the most highly developed effort in remodelling the naturalistic standard geologic timescale within the biblical narrative2,3 (figure 3). Two years later, a special issue of the Journal of Creation4 was dedicated to defining the Flood/post-Flood boundary at various stratigraphic contacts while also using a compressed standard geologic timescale. Shortly thereafter, several young-earth creation scientists proposed a hierarchical geologic framework based on following the time-compressed standard geologic timescale with an emphasis on lithology and biostratigraphy.5 A summary/overview of the ‘Remodelled’ naturalistic approach adapting a compressed standard geologic timescale to biblical history has recently been published by Dr Andrew A. Snelling.6
In 1994, several young-earth creationists proposed an adaptation of the popular naturalistic idea of Plate Tectonic theory to the Flood framework. They apply a compressed standard geologic timescale with the purported accelerated movement of earth’s many crustal plates consistent with the concepts already promoted by naturalists (e.g. Wilson cycles, matching biostratigraphy, matching lithostratigraphy, and matching paleomagnetic data sets).7 Identified as Catastrophic Plate Tectonics, this Remodelled naturalistic concept has become widely accepted among creationists and promoted by many of the young-earth creation organizations because it is consistent, except by time differences, with the popular Plate Tectonic theory taught in most public and private schools.
Probably the most promoted and highly touted of the many Remodelled naturalistic concepts has been accelerated nuclear decay. Well-funded research produced two separate volumes8,9 containing many technical ideas supporting the adoption of radiometric age-dates and proposing their incorporation within the biblical framework. To reach the lay audience, additional non-technical materials10 were produced to promote the results of the study and its application in defining Bible history. The popularity of the RATE investigation is due to its acceptance of excessively old age dates that are believed to be the result of accelerated nuclear decay which occurred predominately during Creation Week and the Flood.11
Issues with the Remodelled naturalistic framework
Perhaps the best advantage in following the Remodelled naturalistic framework is that it quickly and comprehensively provides a fully developed perspective in which to redefine a young earth. Theoretically, one need only compress the standard geologic timescale to accommodate it to the biblical narrative, and all of the geologic history taught in school has direct application to developing a young-earth geologic framework. However, applying this approach has many serious issues to be resolved. For example, the linear progression of time follows the same Eons, Eras, Periods, and Epochs as the standard geologic timescale. This means that the Precambrian-to-Holocene evolutionary sequence also follows and its advocates must defend the Flood burial of all created life consistent with the standard geologic timescale. Other issues include the requirement to accept missing time when no rock layers are present and the application of conceptual ideas (e.g. facies, stratigraphic succession, and changing paleoenvironments) that are counter to what might be expected during the Flood cataclysm. These issues have not been addressed by the Remodellers.
Support for the Remodelled framework is derived from many different naturalistic datasets (e.g. biostratigraphy, Plate Tectonics, and radiometric age-dating). The necessary modifications to following this approach in defining biblical earth history often result in serious but separate issues from Naturalism. For example, both the acceleration of Plate Tectonic theory and the acceleration of nuclear decay create serious heat issues that individually and separately generate sufficient heat to melt the entire earth during the global Flood.12,13
The biblical record restricts the greatest periods of globally encompassing geologic energy expenditure to two separate periods—Day 3 of the Creation Week and the global flood. This places limits on the development of the compressed standard geologic timescale and its corresponding stratigraphic sequence and directly conflicts with the bifurcated biblical requirements. Assigning Precambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic sediments and strata to either Day 3 or the Flood creates inconsistency, conflict, and confusion when applied globally.
Finally, the Remodelled naturalistic approach seeks to set the pre-Flood/Flood and Flood/post-Flood boundary at specific contacts along the compressed timescale (e.g. Pre-Cambrian/Cambrian, Paleozoic/Mesozoic, and Mesozoic/Cenozoic). However, the global nature of these stratigraphic contacts has made them seemingly indefensible and irrational.14,15 Published work further developing these important boundaries in diluvial geology has since ended.
Although articles and books have been written challenging many of the ideas in the Remodelled naturalistic approach,16,17,18,19 little information in its defense has been forthcoming from its advocates. This philosophic construct can only advance as it is developed in the peer-reviewed technical literature. However, it remains a very popular framework for many in creation science despite its limited defense and poorly defined naturalistically accommodating foundation.
A Reconstructed biblical outline approach
A different philosophical approach to establishing a framework for defining a biblical geologic history (figure 4) was first proposed by Dr Tasman Walker in 1994.20 Independently, Carl Froede Jr21 published a similar conclusion—that young-earth creationists need to construct earth’s geologic history based solely on the biblical narrative (figure 2). This approach jettisons any need for incorporating the standard geologic timescale. It also liberates Bible history from the conflicting philosophical assumptions inherent in remodelling naturalistic geologic history (e.g. standard geologic timescale, lithostratigraphy, biostratigraphy, and radiometric age-dating).
Issues with a Reconstructed biblical geologic framework
The Reconstructed biblical geologic framework is not tied to any existing conceptualization or philosophy where ideas have already been developed that could readily be adapted. Rather, defining earth history will come from applying the historical outline from Scripture to the physical rock record. This approach is still in its infancy due to the scale of work necessary to develop a detailed earth history—largely dominated by the Flood.
Although two Reconstructed Bible-based geologic timescales have been developed, each has a different perspective on the divisions of time. The Walker timescale confines much of the stratigraphic record to specific numbered days within the Flood year22 while the Froede approach is more open to defining the rock record based on the site-specific conditions and the local rock record.23 However, both are useful in defining important pre-Flood/Flood and Flood/ post-Flood boundaries and will allow the geologic division of time to be developed in a consistent manner despite any differences.
Summary and conclusions
A biblical approach to understanding earth’s geological history remains under development. Two competing philosophies, the Remodelled and Reconstructed frameworks are being advanced. The Remodelled perspective advocates modification of naturalistic concepts allowing for the adaptation of an existing and well-developed framework through such tenets as a time-compressed standard geologic timescale, accelerated plate tectonics, and limited periods of accelerated nuclear decay. Inconsistencies between the remodelled geologic and naturalistic timescales have been identified but remain unresolved. Additionally, the adaptation of the Remodelled approach creates new issues separate from its naturalistic source, many of which appear to require miracles for their resolution. Is this how creation science should advance?
The Reconstructed framework is a ground-up approach to defining earth’s biblical geologic history based on the divisions of time outlined in Scripture. The development of this conceptualization of biblical history will require fieldwork and the reanalysis of existing naturalistic datasets (i.e. reject naturalistic interpretations and work from the physical data). It does not suffer from underlying philosophical requirements or conflicts that might require miracles to resolve. However, there is much work to be done in developing the Reconstructed framework and the workers are few.
The mutually exclusive constructs of a Remodelled versus Reconstructed framework of biblical geologic history will ultimately result in disunity between the camps defending Flood geology. The advancement of either approach should be based on consistency in following the biblical narrative, its application to the physical rock record, and common sense. Presently, the Remodellers point to the Grand Canyon, as they have since 1994, while the Reconstructed supporters have numerous examples from across Australia and the United States where the biblical geologic timescale has been applied. The need to invoke miracles to accommodate ideas based on Naturalism should be avoided in the development of either geologic framework. Lastly, the advancement of either geologic framework should be conducted openly and defended by peer-reviewed literature. The lack of defense of either framework will only serve to weaken the advancement of diluvial geology.
References and notes
- Whitcomb, J.C. and Morris, H.M., The Genesis Flood, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1961. Return to text.
- Austin, S.A. (Ed.), Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe, Institute for Creation Research, Santee, CA, 1994. Return to text.
- It should be noted that the ‘Remodellers’ reject the deep time assumptions of the standard geologic timescale and refer to it as the ‘Geologic Column’ (implying an emphasis on the stratigraphic relationships). However, the linear requirements of the naturalistic geologic column trap its adherents into following the evolutionary sequence via biostratigraphy. Return to text.
- Snelling, A.A. (Ed.), Special symposium: Where should we place the Flood/post-Flood boundary in the geological record?, J. Creation 10(1):29–167, 1996. Return to text.
- Snelling, A.A., Ernst, M., Scheven, E., Scheven, J., Austin, S.A., Wise, K.P., Garner, P., Garton, M. and Tyler, D., The geological record, J. Creation 10(3):333–334, 1996. Return to text.
- Snelling, A.A., Earth’s Catastrophic Past: Geology, Creation and the Flood, Volume I, Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, TX, 2009. Return to text.
- Austin, S.A., Baumgardner, J.R., Humphreys, D.R., Snelling, A.A., Vardiman, L. and Wise, K.P., Catastrophic Plate Tectonics: A Global Flood Model of Earth History; in: Walsh, R.E. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 609–621, 1994. Return to text.
- Vardiman, L., Snelling, A.A. and Chaffin, E.F. (Eds.), Radioisotopes and the age of the Earth: A Young-Earth Creationist Initiative, Institute for Creation Research and Creation Research Society, El Cajon, CA, and St. Joseph, MO, 2000. Return to text.
- Vardiman, L., Snelling, A.A. and Chaffin, E.F. (Eds.), Radioisotopes and the age of the Earth: Results of a young-earth creationist research initiative, Institute for Creation Research and Creation Research Society, El Cajon, CA, and Chino Valley, AZ, 2005. Return to text.
- DeYoung, D., Thousands not billions: Challenging an icon of evolution — Questioning the age of the Earth, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2005. A companion video was also produced and sold under this same title. Return to text.
- Nevertheless, some advocates of a ‘Reconstructed’ biblical geological framework think accelerated nuclear decay is a reasonable inference from the evidence the RATE team has provided, though they disagree that this entails a whole relative dating scheme. For example, Oard, M.J., Radiometric dating and old ages in disarray, J. Creation 20(2):36–41, creation.com/dating-disarray, 2006, and Walker, T., Radioactive dating no problem for the Bible, creation.com/no-dating-problems, 30 April 2008. Return to text.
- Akridge, A.J., Bennett, C., Froede Jr, C.R., Klevberg, P., Molén, M., Oard, M.J., Reed, J.K., Tyler, D. and Walker, T., Creationism and catastrophic plate tectonics, Creation Matters 12(3):1, 6–8, 2007. Return to text.
- Froede Jr, C.R. and Akridge, A.J., RATE study: Questions regarding accelerated nuclear decay and radiometric dating, Creation Research Society Quarterly 49:56–62, 2012. Return to text.
- Froede Jr, C.R., Norway’s newest dinosaur and the Flood/post-Flood boundary, Creation Matters 12(1):9, 2007. Return to text.
- Froede Jr, C.R. and Oard, M.J., Defining the pre-Flood/Flood boundary within the Grand Canyon: Were all the pre-Flood sediments scoured down to basement during the Flood?, Creation Matters 12(4):3–4, 6, 2007. Return to text.
- Woodmorappe, J., The Mythology of Modern Dating Methods, Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, CA, 1999. Return to text.
- Reed, J.K. (Ed.), Plate Tectonics: A Different View, Creation Research Society Books, St. Joseph, MO, 2000. Return to text.
- Reed, J.K. and Oard, M.J. (Eds.), The Geologic Column: Perspectives Within Diluvial Geology, Creation Research Society Books, Chino Valley, AZ, 2006. Return to text.
- Froede Jr, C.R., Geology by Design: Interpreting rocks and their Catastrophic Record, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2007. Return to text.
- Walker, T., A Biblical geologic model; in: Walsh, R.E. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 581–592, 1994. Return to text.
- Froede Jr, C.R., A proposal for a creationist geological timescale, Creation Research Society Quarterly 32:90–94, 1995. Return to text.
- An example of this approach is found in Walker, T., The Great Artesian Basin, Australia, J. Creation 10(3):379–390, 1996; creation.com/great-artesian-basin. Return to text.
- An example of this approach is found in Froede Jr, C.R., Neogene sand-topebble size siliciclastic sediments on the Florida Peninsula: Sedimentary evidence in support of the Genesis Flood, Creation Research Society Quarterly 42:229–240, 2006. Return to text.
As a few previous commentators have incidentally indicated, it's not quite accurate to describe the divisions in contemporary Flood geology as a simple "schism". In addition to Dr. Brown's model (to which I do not adhere), the "Flood Science Review" on the website "In Jesus name productions" lists 4 other YEC flood models (excluding CPT, which is also included in that linked review). In my humble opinion, what the authors of this current article are attempting to do is to unite the splintered "non-CPT" camp against the vastly more popular (and more developed) CPT/RATE camp. This strikes me as a misguided effort to inflate the strength of the opponents of CPT.
I find it somewhat petty to repeatedly imply that the work of men like John Baumgardner is "widely accepted... and promoted" because of similarity with what is "taught in most public and private schools." This strikes me as a painful attempt to cast aspersion on those who hold to the theory, and a weak one at that. Does anyone seriously that the CPT/RATE camp is lauded in naturalistic circles because they too hold to Plate Tectonics?
>"It does not suffer from underlying philosophical requirements or conflicts that might require miracles to resolve."
Need I comment on the irony of advocates of the self-proclaimed "Biblical" approach maligning their opponents for "requir[ing] miracles"? I won't.
It also strikes me as very unfair to give readers the impression that the theory of Plate Tectonics is wholly "derived from Naturalism", especially without mentioning the pioneering work of Antonio Snider-Pellegrini, a Christian geographer - no "naturalist" - who proposed a theory of Plate Tectonics in 1858 - and placed the break-up of continents during the Flood!
Thank you for this article. I have been watching & reading creation science for around 20 years now, and studying some of the embarrassing history of well-meaning accommodationist views that failed ---which yet lingered around catching & tripping up young Christians, & those who loved & respected the promoters of the ideas in the first place for many years, even centuries, to come!
Better to 'duke it out' in the open & with humility so far as remaining flesh yet permits, than in Inquisitional darkness & censorship 'unity', right? All in the light with everything to be proved-tested. -------I had read that there were some differing with the more popular geological view, & I really didn't understand the basic problems & distinctions between them. Now I have more source information for caution & balance myself in embracing various theories outside my area of expertise that can also be used as a cautioning lesson for my children & grandchildren.
If the Jews missed the first coming of Christ for misconceptions on Creation as allegory and Kingdom expectations, what fools we are to think ourselves & our progeny might not be just as sadly presuming on such things with His second coming approaching given Romans 9-11, and some coming to Him in spirit & truth for the new birth later rather than early ---as Nicodemus or the Thief!
Thank you, again, and for all that your ministry does in pointing out the harmony between observational science & the written word.....for helping to monitor & explain the broad scope of creation science research (including the differences within it), & for pointing us to resources to investigate for ourselves that we may come to our own conclusions as the men of Samaria following the woman at the well's testimony. God bless.
I don't understand why you refer to this as a schism, or why you think the views are incompatible. It seems to me that Catastrophic Plate Tectonics provides a plausible mechanism for the flood, whereas Reconstructed Biblical History provides an interpretive correspondence between various rock layers and the various stages of the flood. CPT explains where all the water came from, to produce 40 days of continuous worldwide rainfall, how the entire earth was flooded, and why the Atlantic coastlines of the Americas, Europe and Africa fit together (along with the mid-Atlantic ridge) like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. If ocean water came into contact with molten lava along fractures in the crust extending for thousands of miles, this would result in explosive steam production that would fill the atmosphere with additional water and water vapor, resulting in a huge increase in rainfall worldwide, and the lighter magma would replace the heavier seafloor, raising sea levels, contributing to worldwide flooding. Seismic soundings along the continents have revealed huge slabs of buried rock that could be the ancient seafloor. CPT explains raw geological data, not secular interpretations of the data, and has been modeled by Dr. Baumgardner's Terra software, showing that it is, at the very least, a feasible model.
Why do you claim that the theories proposed by Dr. Walker and Dr. Froede compete with CPT? Do they provide an alternative mechanism for the flood? Do they explain polonium radiohalos and the excess helium in zircon crystals that evidence accelerated decay? ... or are their theories merely descriptive interpretations that tell us when, during the flood year, the various rock layers were deposited?
I'm not a geologist, but the Reconstructed version makes good sense to me. It follows biblical history and can framework the same data available to secular geologists. I know that the Remodelers are trying to meet secular scientists within the latter constructed framework/s, but honestly, Christians eschewed those limitations with the virgin birth and incarnation of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago. Personally, I don't think that Remodelers and Reconstructionists are in schism doctrinally, but, it's time to take back the true history of the world and reframe it (once again) in biblical terms. Well done to Dr Tas Walker and Carl Froede for opening the way.
Thanks, helps to make explicit what might have been causing confusion before (in my reading). I have been reading young earth science for maybe 40 years.
I am pretty sure that you will disagree with me and I will continue to disagree with you on some of your assumptions, but in the little space that I have:
"For example, both the acceleration of Plate Tectonic theory and the acceleration of nuclear decay create serious heat issues ..." . God stopped the sun for Joshua which, from an
empirical standpoint, cause serious momentum and inertia issues for those standing on the battle field that day (and orbital / rotation issues for Copernicus). God - using miracles - easily
overcomes these issues.
"The biblical record restricts the greatest periods of globally encompassing geologic energy expenditure to two separate periods—Day 3 of the Creation Week and the global flood." Yes,
if you accept that "the earth was divided" refers to Babel and not the separation of America from the rest. I read Greek and Hebrew and prefer the later. Solves animal migration too since
America, Australia, etc. were still attached to the rest after the flood. Like Joshua's day God easily overcame any problems related to dissipation of energy during the post-flood separation of continents.
I also view long astronomical ages via time dilation as too convenient and not easily “understood” by a “straight forward” reading of The Bible.
"many of which appear to require miracles for their resolution. Is this how creation science should advance? " Yes! Sometimes I think that you(plural) are sometimes too naturalistic
Earth history is perhaps the most interesting topic there is. The article fails to mention a theory put forth by Dr Walt Brown: The Hydroplate Theory which does conform to the Biblical narrative. It represent an entire new way of thinking on how the earth was created, how the flood occurred, consequences of the flood, and why the earth (and solar system) look and act the way they do today.
This article is a good summary of the two approaches. I have read materials from both camps and find the article reasonably balanced. I have one qualm, and that is the noted desire to avoid invoking miracles. While scientific work seeks naturalistic explanations by its very nature, it must always do so with the humility of spirit which acknowledges that not all phenomena and events are susceptible to clarification by means of its methodologies. If the evidence - all the evidence and not merely the "scientific" evidence - suggests a miraculous explanation for an event or phenomenon, then such an explanation should be embraced (e.g., the parting of the Red Sea). There are things beyond science as all believers know. I would be loathe to seek a scientific explanation of how God "spoke" things into being, for example. Avoidance of miracles can too easily be seen as a nod to the secular scientific establishment in an attempt to gain "respectability" in their eyes.
I was always under the impression, from the various articles that CMI has posted on radiometric dating, that the understood point was not that these rocks indicated an accelerated radiation event(s), but rather that the point was being made that radiometry does not accurately give an "absolute" age of the rock/fossil. In other words, since Potassium-Argon says 240 million years, but Carbon 14 says 34,000 years (just making up an example similar to ones I have read about) either one is right and one is wrong, or they are both wrong. They can not both be right. Since young earth maintains that the Earth is no more than 10,000 years old, and more precisely estimates around 6,000 years old, the inference is that NEITHER C14 nor K-Argon numbers are correct.
This seems to be a combination of these two ideas, not a schism. If this retold naturalistic young earth creationism didn't use the Bible as a reference point, they could claim that it is only the C14 that is correct. But because they DO use the Bible to reconstruct the geology, they infer that BOTH the dates are wrong, or at least accelerated.
I'm not sure I agree with drawing attention to this "schism," but I may not completely understand the distinction. Clarification?
As is so often noted by every YEC organization, the physical data for everyone is always the same. And quite obviously whatever level a layer assumes corresponds to the time sequence of its deposition, regardless of how quickly the layering occurred. Hopefully however these different perspectives will remain at least civil if not gracious among brethren. The head of a pin is not an auspicious venue for a boxing ring.
This article lacks credible reference to the important work of Dr. Walt Brown in the areas of the grand canyon, the earths radioactivity, eruption of the fountains of the great deep and other events biblically linked to the flood in the days of Noah and after, including the division in the days of Peleg.
Might not the difficulties cited in this article indicate that neither of these approaches are adequate for the explanation of the physical realities of the history of the earth?
It indicates a healthy state of affairs as the issues are debated in a vigorous, open manner.
I have read (and watched) with much interest the data produced by the rate team, eg, helium diffusion in zircons etc, that support period(s) of accelerated radioactive decay. From my layman's perspective, this ground breaking research doesn't have to be in opposition to Dr Tas' reconstructed model?? Why would the rate teams research necessitate a different model?