The scriptural geologists were a movement of scientists and theologians, primarily in Britain, from roughly 1820-60 who defended a biblical, young earth view of origins against the old earth theories that were gaining popularity at the time.
Throughout the vast majority of Christian and Jewish history, the dominant view was the earth was young, created roughly around 4000 B.C., and that the Great Flood in Genesis was a global and historical event. An extremely great number of Christian leaders throughout history, such as Basel the Great, Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wesley, believed in a young earth and/or a literal six-day creation.
However, during the "Enlightenment," society stopped placing God's Word first, where it belongs. They started replacing the clear biblical teaching of creation with a man-made belief in long ages. Belief in long ages was not a new idea when Charles Darwin wrote his Origin of Species. Additionally, theological liberalism developed in formerly orthodox denominations.
The science of geology also developed during this time. While some of the earliest geologists believed in a young earth, the old earth view soon took over. During this time, many Christians, including scientists and geologists strongly opposed this trend and defended the biblical and scientific view of creation.
The scriptural geologists
Not every scriptural geologist was actually a geologist, but they (particularly in the 1820s, 30s, and 40s) all believed that the inerrant Bible's account of creation was true and that science, if performed correctly, would affirm that account. While some scriptural geologists came from the United States, they came primarily from Britain. They were a very diverse group, from very different denominational, occupational, wealth backgrounds, and they contributed to the debate in various ways. While some of them admitted to not having first-hand knowledge of geology (preferring to argue on biblical or logical grounds, which is equally legitimate), others were experts in geology and used geological arguments alongside biblical ones. Regardless of their backgrounds, they were very intelligent scholars and biblically sound.
The opponents of the scriptural geologists chose to ignore them rather than engaging in a legitimate and fair debate.
Due to their upholding of the authority of Scripture, the scriptural geologists believed that the six days of creation were literal days, that the earth was created around 4000 B.C., and that the entire narrative of Genesis 1-11 was factual history. They criticized old earth proponents for several reasons, including biblical and theological, logical, as well as scientific and geological.
While the scriptural geologists did not believe in long ages, they (unlike what secularists and evolutionists mistakenly believe of those who disagree with them) they fully supported the study of science and geology as long as the inerrant Bible was placed above man's ideas. Additionally, they argued respectfully rather than using faulty ad hominem attacks.
Decline and downfall
The scriptural geologist movement started to decline when it began to compromise on important issues of the origins debate. The decline started when George Bugg anonymously wrote his Scriptural Geology in 1826-27, which gave the name to the movement. While Scriptural Geology appears to have been in line with biblical authority, an 1839 work by a "Biblicus Delvinus," who is believed to have been Bugg, showed considerable compromise, such as believing in a "pre-creation" earth. In the 1850s, the scriptural geology movement started to diverge from biblical authority and the writings of previous scriptural geologists.
While several theories exist on the decline and demise of the scriptural geology movement, the best theories are the compromise of biblical authority on the biblical account of creation for man's fallible ideas and the association of speculative fringe theories with no biblical or scientific support (which advocated the ex nihilo creation of fossils alongside the rest of the creation) with the movement as a whole.
With the exception of a small amount of scriptural geology writings (some of which continued to accept compromise on a pre-creation period), the scriptural geologists died out by about 1860.
Scriptural Geology in America
Martyn Payne published the most comprehensive geological treatise in America from the perspective that Noah's flood was a global historical reality. Eleazer Lord performed earlier work on this new academic discipline. Eleazer Lord's brother David published his geology book in 1857. Gordon in the 1877 Vedder Lectures for the students of Rutgers College and Theological Seminary praised the work of Martyn Payne. The Reformed Church in America published these in 1878. Geology being a new science in the 19th century, scholars trained in other fields pioneered the discipline. For instance, Charles Lyell the founder of uniformitarian geology "the present is the key to the past" trained as a lawyer. Payne, however, had scientific expertise as a leading medical scholar of the 19th century. Rodney Stiling negatively appraised the American Scriptural Geologists.
About 40 years passed from the end of the scriptural geologists to the time and writings of George McCready Price, who was the first flood geologist in the 20th Century. During this time, before 1954, only three other flood geologists and believers in a young earth published works on the subject besides Price. These four biblical creationists were forerunners of the modern Creation Science movement, begun by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb when they published The Genesis Flood in 1961.
While numerous old earth creationists attempt to trace the beginnings of young earth creationism to Ellen White and the Seventh-day Adventists, in reality the biblical position of a young earth and a six literal day creation has dominated Christian thought throughout most of history, and the scriptural geologists, who lived and wrote before White, are strong evidence of this.
- Terry Mortenson, The 19th century scriptural geologists: historical background. creation.com. Retrieved December 31, 2016.
- Turpin, Simon (December 29, 2016). A Response to “The Age of the Earth: A Plea for Geo-Chronological Non-Dogmatism”. Answers in Genesis. Retrieved December 31, 2016.
- Mortenson, Terry (August 8, 2007). The Historical Development of the Old-Earth Geological Time-Scale. Answers in Genesis. Retrieved December 31, 2016.
- Johns, Warren H. (November 30, 2016). Scriptural Geology, Then and Now. Answers in Genesis. Retrieved December 31, 2016.
- Johns, Warren H. (1975). The Downfall of Scriptural Geology. Ministry Magazine. Retrieved December 31, 2016.
- Physiology of the Soul and Instinct, as Distinguished from Materialism, M Paine - 1872 (this book is available on-line).
- The Epoch of Creation: The Scripture Doctrine Contrasted with the Geological Theory, E Lord - 1851 (online).
- Geognosy; or, The facts and principles of geology against theories, D Lord - 1857.
- Science of Revealed Truth Impregnable as Shown by the Argumentative Failures of Infidelity and Theoretical Geology. WR Gordon, 1878.
- Rodney Stiling, "Scriptural Geology in America" pp. 177-192. Livingstone, DG Hart, MA Noll (eds.) - 1999, Evangelicals and Science in Historical Perspective.
- Dr. Terry Mortenson, British Scriptural Geologists in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century. Answers in Genesis.