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In-Depth: Marrying Theology to So-Called Science (Part 4) — Unmasking Motivations

Calvin Smith

In Part 3 of our series, we showed how uniformitarian geology (which overthrew flood geology) was based on a false interpretation of the rock layers (because there is ample evidence of massive, rapid deposition rather than slow sedimentation having occurred), and neo-catastrophism (which replaced uniformitarianism because of its lack of sufficient explanatory power) cannot account for the uniform and continuous nature of the vast majority of the rock layers we observe.

We then asked, “Why won’t scientists simply return to the Genesis account of Noah’s flood and a corresponding literal, six-day creation [a model that can account for all of the observable evidence] as the better explanation?” To which we’ll give a response.

However, we should also ask why there was a push to abandon the Mosaic account (as Charles Hodge described it [see Part 1]) in the first place? We’ll reveal the answer to both questions in our final treatment.

The Motivation to Remove Moses

I conceived the idea five or six years ago [1824–25], that if ever the Mosaic geology could be set down without giving offence, it would be in an historical sketch, and you must abstract mine, in order to have as little to say as possible yourself. Let them feel it, and point the moral.

Welcome to the inner thoughts of one of the most influential (although less known among the average) individuals in modern history—Sir Charles Lyell (1797–1875). As mentioned previously in Parts 1–3, and as shown in the above quote, he was instrumental in the deliberate undermining of the Mosaic account (relating to geology).

We can know not only what Lyell’s skills and accomplishments were, but also his motives and methods to a great extent, particularly because of the access we now have to his own writings (and those of other specific individuals of his day with whom he interacted).

Lyell was anti-Christian, a lawyer by profession who later became a geologist. And although Charles Darwin is often thought of as the man who managed to bring about the Darwinian revolution that overthrew the Christian religion as the dominant worldview, Lyell’s workings “behind the scenes” were integral to the entire scheme.

I don’t use the term scheme in an offhand fashion. Although many people are under the impression that scientists simply found the evidence of millions of years in the rocks, which then discredited the Genesis account by fiat, Lyell was actually the instigator of a much larger and purposeful plan than most people—especially Christians—are aware of. The evidence is plain to see in the aforementioned quote.

Although written in an antiquated style somewhat foreign to modern ears, what he was saying here is that if what Moses wrote about Noah’s flood (commonly understood to be the explanation of the rock layers found around the world) could be replaced with an alternate history regarding the age of said rocks, it would undercut the entire Bible.

Lyell’s background in law had equipped him to argue persuasively, and he knew the Victorians of the day would not stand for direct attacks on the church, so his plan was to use seemingly inoffensive and “scientific” arguments from geology to discredit the history in the Bible, all very much on purpose.

Looking Through the Lens of Long Ages

Charles Darwin was greatly influenced by the uniformitarian principles outlined in Lyell’s Principles of Geology, which he read on his famous voyage on the Beagle where he supposedly “discovered” the story of evolution.

In fact, it was through the deep-time spectacles he’d donned while reading Lyell’s work that he began speculating as to what long ages might accomplish in living organisms given enough time, so Principles of Geology was what supplied Darwin’s imagination with the required millions-of-years landscape that evolution demands.

He became friends with Lyell upon his return to England and obviously became privy to, and embroiled in, his cultural machinations. In a letter to his son George, Darwin commented on Lyell and his clear motivation and strategy to damage Christianity.

Lyell is most firmly convinced that he has shaken the faith in the Deluge &c far more efficiently by never having said a word against the Bible, than if he had acted otherwise. . . . I have lately read . . . that direct attacks on Christianity . . . produce little permanent effect; real good seems only to follow from slow & silent side attacks.

As Darwin pointed out, Lyell, cunning enough to know there could be significant resistance from the church should he be too obvious, focused on seemingly scientific and intellectual arguments rather than overtly theological ones. He was also clever enough to seek allies from the more liberal wing of the clergy, who were more likely to compromise, to help accomplish his goal.

The following quote where he is encouraging a friend of his to publish some of his work in a popular publication of the day (the Quarterly Review) shows these tactics on full display.

If we don’t irritate, which I fear that we may (though mere history), we shall carry all with us. If you don’t triumph over them, but compliment the liberality and candour of the present age, the bishops and enlightened saints will join us in despising both the ancient and modern physico-theologians. It is just the time to strike, so rejoice that, sinner as you are, the Q. R. [Quarterly Review] is open to you.

Again, the more Shakespearean language might prove more difficult to understand, but he was clearly emphasizing what Darwin’s letter regarding Lyell’s shrewd plan entailed, i.e., not to insult the church writings or to lord these ideas over them.

And by working with those already inside the church who were willing to bend the plain reading of Scripture, enlisting their help to popularize these ideas and overcome the more staunch Bible defenders (who were more likely to detect the logical and inevitable theological outworking of removing Genesis as real history), he bought time to have it established as science through academia.

Starting with the fact that he was “Sir” Charles Lyell, and as geology as a serious study was largely in its infancy, further combined with the fact few people had the same resources to travel and examine geological evidence firsthand, Lyell’s travels and interpretations of what he saw made him a seeming scientific authority on the subject.

His plan to “free the science from Moses” succeeded wildly. He popularized the concept of uniformitarianism and overthrew the logical conclusions regarding geology drawn from Moses’ writings involving Noah’s flood and a recent six-day creation.

As mentioned, although he played more of a behind-the-scenes role, Lyell was instrumental in paving the way for Darwinian evolution by establishing its much-needed timeframe, and the Western world has been changed ever since—but not for the better.

Recruiting Christians to Undermine Genesis

Most importantly for his cause, he convinced many Christian leaders to advance his plan by abandoning a plain reading of Genesis, as we pointed out previously with this quote from the great expositor Charles Hodge, who said,

It is of course admitted that, taking this account [Genesis creation] by itself, it would be most natural to understand the word [day] in its ordinary sense; but if that sense brings the Mosaic account into conflict with facts [supposed millions of years], and another sense avoids such conflict, then it is obligatory on us to adopt that other.

And of course, Hodge wasn’t the only one. I could cite scores of similar quotes such as the following from David Young, a Professor at Calvin College who wrote a book on how he considered Noah’s flood to be local rather than global because of the “facts” from geology. Quoting from Edward Hitchcock’s Religion of Geology, he wrote,

If geological facts “unequivocally require such an interpretation [Noah’s flood was a local rather than global flood] to harmonize the Bible with nature,” then “science must be allowed to modify our exegesis of Scripture.”

And as confidence in the book of Genesis (the seedbed of all Christian doctrines) faltered both in and outside the church, the erosion of biblical inerrancy and the authority of God’s Word was downgraded more and more in culture to the point that Christianity has largely lost its voice to declare the truth—even the truth of the saving message of the gospel.

All of this was spearheaded by Charles Lyell, someone who’s been referred to as a snake oil salesman today (see Part 3) in secular academia, whose entire purpose was to undermine biblical Christianity. So why is it that Christian leaders like Charles Hodge supported his agenda?

Genesis Compromise Is Uncalled For

And why do the majority of Christian leaders and Bible college seminaries still continue to support the conclusion that the ever-changing supposed “settled science” should dictate how Scripture should be interpreted, especially when that supposed science is so unsettling to the biblical worldview?

Remember, attempting to add millions of years to the Bible inevitably requires inserting that time (represented by the rock layers) somewhere within the six days of creation. However, to do so is to admit that the record of death within those layers (fossils) must have occurred prior to Adam sinning. Which is a declaration that the loving God of the Bible used billions of years of death and suffering to create and called everything very good—all before Adam sinned. And if there was death before the fall, how can we explain the gospel and the character of God correctly?

For those Christians thinking belief in a literal Genesis is a trivial matter that doesn’t make any real-world difference to biblical authority, perhaps they should think again. Maybe they should read the many testimonies like the following (from the former professing Christian creationist and historian of science, Ronald Numbers) and from countless other professing Christians that apostatized from the faith for these very reasons.

I vividly remember the evening I attended an illustrated lecture on the famous sequence of fossil forests in Yellowstone National Park and then stayed up much of the night . . . agonizing over, then finally accepting, the disturbing likelihood that the earth was at least thirty thousand years old. Having thus decided to follow science rather than Scripture on the subject of origins, I quickly, though not painlessly, slid down the proverbial slippery slope toward unbelief.

Of course, the only conflict is in someone trying to somehow blend belief in evolutionary, long-age storytelling with Scripture. However, if you take the Genesis account as plainly written, there is no conflict and no need to attempt to explain supposed contradictions such as “death before sin.”

Accepting that rock layers filled with fossils occurred at the time of the great flood in Genesis removes the need for a millions-of-years explanation because the sinful actions recorded within it occurred some 1,650 years after the fall, reconciling any conflict or contradiction the evolutionary story brings.

What Ronald Numbers—just like so many others who were swayed from the faith because of so-called established science—should have done is kept his faith planted firmly in the Word of God. Which is what all of those who profess Christ should do, because many who’ve married their theology to the science of the day have ended up divorced from their former faith altogether.

A Word of Warning

Brothers and sisters in Christ, why not turn to the Word of God and read it for what it is, the revelation of the One who was there, that we can trust without the need for the ever-changing interpretations of man to illuminate its plainly written words?

What authority are we trusting in—the words of fallible men or the infallible Word of God? It is no wonder that Lyell was used by the enemy to undermine the authority of God’s Word specifically through attacking the Genesis account of creation and the flood.

Unmasking the Motivations of Bible Scoffers

So, why won’t many scientists simply return to the Genesis account of Noah’s flood and a corresponding literal, six-day creation—a model that can account for all the observable evidence–as the better explanation for rocks and fossils?

Because it’s not about the facts; it’s about their spiritual condition. They have become scoffers who reject the truth that God created the world covered in water and later destroyed it by water. Which means they believe they can discount the truth that he will someday destroy the world by fire and there will be a new heaven and a new earth.

Bible skeptics are ultimately attempting to avoid accountability for their sin to the God of creation and are attempting to suppress the truth of his judgment in their unrighteousness.

However, let us believers not be counted among the scoffers of the day. Let’s rather rejoice that what we see in God’s world matches what we see in his plainly written Word and that we can trust the Bible from the very first verse.

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