George Bugg (1769–1851)

Bugg held to the dominant view of evangelicals and high churchmen regarding the infallibility of the Scriptures, not just in matters of religion and morality, but also of history.

George Bugg1 was probably born in 1769, the year he was baptized at the Anglican church in Stathern, Leicestershire. At the age of nine, his mother passed away, which was the first of several mournful experiences for Bugg. Beginning in 1786, he received a few years of private tutoring from Reverend Thomas Baxter, curate of Ufford, Northamptonshire. He was admitted to St. John’s College, Cambridge, in May 1791 and received the B.A. degree four years later.

In July 1795 he was ordained deacon in York and became curate of Dewsbury, near Leeds, where he was made priest the same year and served until 1801. Subsequent curacies included Welby with Stoke in Leicestershire (1802), Kettering in Northamptonshire (1803–15), Lutterworth in Leicestershire (1817–18), and Desborough near Kettering (1831–45).2 By March 1846 he had moved to Hull where he lived with his unmarried daughter Elizabeth and two teenage house servants until his death at home on August 15, 1851, at the age of 82.3 Shortly before his death, and after a lifetime of ecclesiastic setbacks, he was finally made rector of Wilsford, Lincolnshire, in 1849, though he apparently never lived there.4

In 1804 he was married to Mary Ann Adams, daughter of a local prominent draper in Kettering. They had four daughters and one son (who died at ten months old), and before Mary’s premature death in 1815 she served with George in expanding Sunday school ministry and the work of the Church Missionary Society and the British and Foreign Bible Society. When she died, Bugg was left with the care of his daughters, who were all under the age of seven at the time.

He was brought to personal faith in Christ in his late teens or early twenties,5 at which time he also apparently became convinced that “the Scriptures are strictly and literally true.”6 Every indication is that Bugg was a fervent evangelical Anglican all his life. His lifelong friend, Reverend Thomas Jones of Creaton, was a leading evangelical Anglican. Bugg was noted for his effective preaching and had good relations with and the respect of many non-conformist (i.e., non-Anglican) ministers. His two books on baptism and regeneration, written in 1816 and 1843, were refutations of the views of Dr. Richard Mant and Dr. Edward Pusey, respectively.7 He considered the views on baptism of both Mant and Pusey to be virtually identical to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church (that infant baptism is the means of salvation), and therefore a serious threat to the doctrine of justification by faith, a concern expressed by many evangelicals in the 1830s and 1840s as the Anglo-Catholic “Tractarian” movement spread within the Anglican Church.8 In both treatises he was respectful toward his opponents, while strongly disagreeing with their views.9

Bugg’s life was checkered with difficulties and controversies. Besides the death of loved ones and frequent struggles with illness, he was dismissed by two bishops from three of his curacies. In each case the dismissal appears to have been the result of a few prominent non-evangelical parishioners complaining to a liberal Bishop and involved vague charges with no opportunity for redress.10 Never was he accused of any particular doctrinal error, moral misconduct, or ecclesiastical irresponsibility.

The anti-creationist Michael Roberts asserted, without documentation, that some time after Bugg’s last dismissal (1812) he became a unitarian.11 This was most definitely not the case, however, as noted by his close lifelong friendship with a leading evangelical Anglican, Reverend Thomas Jones. Certainly at the time Bugg wrote his massive two-volume Scriptural Geology (1826–27) he was a thoroughgoing Trinitarian, evidenced by two statements he made against Socinians, a unitarian sect.12 Also, he was equally Trinitarian in his two books on baptism and regeneration, in 1816 and 1843 respectively.

His other writings included a book of sermons (1817),13 an account of a legal squabble Bugg had with the husband of a woman who before her death had willed that Bugg distribute some of her money to certain charities (1835),14 and a pamphlet on the Anglican Prayer Book (1843).15 By far, Bugg’s most significant work was Scriptural Geology. Although the work appeared anonymously, a number of his readers knew he had written it and Bugg identified himself as the author in his correspondence with the Christian Observer, the leading evangelical magazine of the day.16 Volume I (361 pages) appeared in 1826, but due to Bugg’s poor health, Volume II (356 pages) was delayed until the following year. The work had 200 pre-publication subscribers, who included 85 clergymen, 15 members of the nobility, and 7 students at Cambridge University. Five of the clergymen were leading evangelical Anglicans: Charles Simeon (in Cambridge), Josiah Pratt (in London), William Marsh (in Colchester), Legh Richmond (in Turvey, and whose varied accomplishments included the study of mineralogy)17 and Thomas Jones (in Creaton).18

The Relationship Between Scripture and Geology

Bugg held to the dominant view of evangelicals and high churchmen regarding the infallibility of the Scriptures, not just in matters of religion and morality, but also of history. He also believed that, at least with respect to Genesis, the “plain” and “obvious” literal meaning is the correct one.19 He reasoned:

I allow, as I before allowed, that sacred writers may be silent about science or even ignorant of it, without impeaching their infallibility as recorders of divine revelation. But whatever they do declare, and on whatever subject (as we before observed from Bishop Horsley) is certainly true. They were under divine and supernatural guidance, and therefore personal ignorance in the writer is no defect; and error is impossible.20

Therefore, when Bugg chose the title for his book, he was not asserting that the Bible teaches us the details of geology. Rather, on the basis of Genesis, Bugg was cautious not to give “any thing more than bare suggestions” about the geological effects of creation and the Flood, for “the scriptural data certainly afford a mere outline” of the events of the past.21 It gives clues or the foundational principles for interpreting the geological phenomena.22

Now, though we expect from the Bible, no detail of circumstances respecting what are the state and situation of the fossil strata, we have seen enough respecting the cause and OPERATIONS of the DELUGE to prove the real ground and principle upon which we account for the actually existing state of those strata.23

Bugg was quite emphatic that the Scriptures do not “establish any peculiar system of philosophy.”24 To the objection that “the Bible is not given to us to teach us geology,” Bugg agreed, partially at least, depending on the meaning of the phrase. He contended that geology and the Bible both had legitimate and illegitimate provinces.

THE BIBLE is certainly not given to teach us geology, as a SCIENCE. But it is given to teach us what nothing else can teach us—the time and manner of the world’s creation. It is, moreover, given to inform us that the world has since been destroyed, and why it was destroyed. These “two events or epochs” are, when received in the light of Revelation of IMMENSE IMPORTANCE. The one, displays the Being and natural perfections of the Deity, or as the Psalmist and St. Paul have recorded it: “The glory of God,” and “His eternal power and Godhead.” The other exhibits him in his moral character, as the just and righteous Governor of the world.

GEOLOGY, in its modern character, does not only fall short of both these grand objects, but in its obvious consequences, thwarts, if not destroys them both. For, as we have seen, it would merge OUR CREATION among the geological REVOLUTIONS, even among the least of them, and thus annihilate its CHARACTER. And as to the time and manner of the creation, it would make the “Word of God” to speak what is unintelligible or erroneous. With respect to the other, its obvious tendency is to diminish, if not subvert the MORAL causes which operated at the DELUGE. For it bewilders and leads away the mind of the beholder from the awful import of that catastrophe, by presenting to him indefinite numbers of such events. And it blunts the edge of his moral feeling by familiarizing him with the misery and destruction of the earth’s inhabitants, so many times repeated, without any connexion of offence, with the suffering beings.

It is the province, then, of geology, and not of the Bible, to afford us “any curious information as to the structure of the earth.” But it is not the province of geology, as Mr. Sumner seems to think it is, to “speculate on the formation of the globe.” The Bible does not “interfere with philosophical inquiry,” or repress the researches of mankind.” But it does forbid us to interfere with “the literal interpretations of terms in Scripture,” when such interference would change the character of the thing revealed, and fritter down the creation of the Bible into “THAT creation which Moses records, and of which Adam and Eve were the first inhabitants”; and so make “the Mosaic account of creation” a mere epoch in the progress of geology from the “primitive formations” to the present times.25

Buckland, Sumner, and other old-earth proponents argued that the geological structure of the earth displayed God’s wisdom and benevolence in preparing the earth for man. Again Bugg agreed. But it was not the structure (i.e., the geological facts) of the earth that was his concern. He objected that the old-earth geological theory about the time and processes of the formation of that structure was inconsistent with the nature of God. He asked, where is the wisdom, kindness, and justice of many revolutions on the earth before man sinned, which destroyed myriads of creatures? The Bible, on the other hand, taught that God had originally made a perfect, mature, productive, and fertile creation and that there was a holy and wise reason for the one destructive catastrophe, the Flood.

Thus we see that, when compared with the Scriptures, the modern geological theory makes every thing unwise, unkind, and perhaps, unjust. It finds no original creation: and it cannot prove a first creation, from “wise design.” For “primitive” rocks remaining thousands of years alone is unwise, because useless. And, dashing these to pieces, in order to mend them and make fresh ones, designates either a want of wisdom in the primitive “design,” or a failure in the attempt, and a want of experience and power to execute a wise one. But whoever predicates either of these on the Most High, “charges God foolishly.” . . . That the location and adaptation of the strata to the use of man are wise and good, is fully admitted. But these are facts. That the time and manner of these formations, however, which the modern geological theory professes to develop, shew “wise foresight and benevolent intention,” and exhibit “proofs of the most exalted attributes of the Creator,” is, I believe, what few will have boldness enough to assert. Yet, if geologists would recommend their science (which involves their “theory” of formations), they must not only shew that there is wisdom and goodness manifested in the formation of the strata, but in their theory of that formation.26

On the basis of the scriptural account of creation and the Flood then, Bugg explicitly disavowed “all pretensions to a system of operations and causes, as well as classification and arrangement in the stratification.”27 He did believe, however, that the character of the Flood as described by the Bible would correspond with the leading features of the geological phenomena of the earth.28 This correspondence he attempted to demonstrate, and we will consider it later.

Modern geologists could not harmonize the Bible with their theories, without taking away from the Scriptures all legitimate meaning.

Bugg was mindful that his critics would object that the insistence of binding geology to the Scriptures was a repetition of the mistakes of the Church at the time of Galileo. He replied that there was a significant difference: whereas Copernicus found no difficulty reconciling his theory with Scripture, modern geologists could not harmonize the Bible with their theories, without taking away from the Scriptures all legitimate meaning.29 However, Bugg did not explain how he came to this conclusion about Copernicus.30 To the charge that he was attempting, like the Catholic authorities of Galileo’s day, to prevent all inquiry, Bugg countered that his two volume work was a “most minute inquiry into every part of the subject in dispute.”31

Respecting the accommodation of the language of Scripture, Bugg contended that “the history of creation has one plain, obvious, and consistent meaning, throughout all the Word of God.” The rest of Scripture offers no hint or key to any other meaning so that if the obvious meaning is not the true one, then the biblical authors have misled their readers and the creation narrative has no meaning, or a false one. Furthermore, argued Bugg, the phenomenological language that the Bible uses to describe the movement of the heavenly bodies is the common language used then as now. Otherwise, it would be intelligible to no one but astronomers. Also, it was foreign to the “office of the sacred writers” to teach the science of astronomy. However, although the Bible also was not intended to teach the science of geology, it did give detailed narratives of the creation and the Flood, which were critically relevant to the discussion of geological theories about earth history.32

The historicity of the Genesis account and the historical nature of geological theories were what Bugg repeatedly emphasized. He quoted with approval the words of the Quarterly Review of Buckland’s Reliquiae Diluvianae (1823):

That in an inquiry into the history of the world to reject the evidence of written records as wholly irrelevant and undeserving of attention, is in itself, illogical and unphilosophical. It is true that to assume these records to be infallible and above all criticism is to prejudge the question and to supersede all inquiry: but when the case is one of remote concern and full of difficulty, when we are compelled to compass sea and land for presumptive and circumstantial evidence, to turn a deaf ear to that Volume which professes to give a direct and detailed account of the whole transaction “is a great” violation of the laws of sound reasoning.33

He considered it to be most unphilosophical for the old-earth geologists and divines “to reason from the operations of nature to the origin of nature, for which they have no data.”34 At best, he argued in chapter 1 of Volume II, they theorized that the primitive mountains were formed out of a fluid. But they never explained the creation of the fluid. In fact, he contended, as they attempted to explain first formations solely by natural causes they were implying, sometimes no doubt unconsciously, an infinite series, which amounted to atheism.

Thus then, we see with perfect certainty, that the OPERATIONS of nature afford us no data for a theory on first formations; and that it is not the province of philosophy, which is concerned only with the operations of nature, to speculate about the time or manner of the WORLD’S FIRST EXISTENCE.35

The questions of origins (how? and when?) could only be answered by revelation, said Bugg. “Its Divine Author alone, knows how He made the world; and His WORD therefore in this matter, is our only guide.”36

Geological Competence

Bugg did not have (or claim) geological competence, but neither was he totally ignorant of geological facts and theories. At the end of his book, Bugg declared that he “sought no instruction (in theory or argument), but that of his Bible.”37 But this did not mean that he had read only the Bible. He admitted that he had little firsthand knowledge of geological phenomena and no skill as a practical geologist, but that he accepted the facts as described by the leading geologists, many of whose writings he had read.38 His work, representing three to four years of study,39 contains many lengthy, documented quotations from the current relevant books of such old-earth proponents as Buckland, Cuvier, Faber, Sumner, and Phillips and from relevant recent scientific journal articles. He also indicated that he had read at least some of the writings of prominent old-earth geologists on the European continent.

Geologists and Geology

One of Bugg’s critics, “Oxoniensis Alter,” complained that Bugg’s whole book was an ad hominem argument.40 The editor of the Christian Observer said that Bugg “had deviated from simple argument into criminations” and that he had accused Faber, Buckland, Sumner, and others of being perverters of Scripture and abettors of infidelity.41 As Bugg focused his criticisms on the theories of Cuvier and Buckland, it is true that, because he concluded that their theories were unphilosophical, illogical, and contradicted by their own description of the facts, this reflected quite negatively on these two men and the divines and other geologists who followed their catastrophist theory. However, Bugg repeatedly and explicitly stated42 that he was not accusing Cuvier, Buckland, Sumner, Faber, Conybeare, Phillips, etc., of evil motives (i.e., of intentionally trying to undermine Scripture by their theories).43 He did, however, believe that many of the continental geologists did consciously intend to attack Scripture. He said that he had “the highest opinion of Mr. Buckland’s integrity, and of Mr. Faber’s and the Christian Observer’s sincerity.”44 But while their motives may have been commendable (i.e., to vindicate Scripture), Bugg was certain that the actual effect of the old-earth theory was nevertheless very detrimental to the Christian faith.

I have been particularly cautious not to charge individuals (not even Baron Cuvier) with hostile designs against the Scriptures; but that he has propagated, and others have adopted, a system which is hostile to the Scriptures is the subject for discussion, and is not to be silenced by rebuke or censure.45

Several statements that Bugg made, if lifted out of the context of his whole argument, might lead us to think that he was opposed to the study of geology or denied the geological facts. For example, he said that the “modern inquiries into geology may justly lie under the imputation of being dangerous to religion” and he called geology an “insidious science.”46 But generally Bugg was most explicit in saying that what he opposed was the old-earth “theory” or “scheme” or “system” of geology, because he believed it was contrary to reason, the geological facts described by the geologists, and the plain meaning of Scripture. Contrary to the charge of his critics,47 he emphatically stated that he did not deny the “physical facts” of geology, but opposed the old-earth theoretical interpretations of those facts.

From an attentive consideration of their writings, it will be seen that Dr. Buckland and Mr. Faber, do much more than admit that the “physical facts” are true which geologists allege. They embrace the theories by which geologists account for the formation of those “physical phenomena,” and from which they endeavor to prove, that numerous races of animals lived and died “on our globe during myriads of years before the formation of man.” These theories are “inferences,” or deductions, which geologists have drawn from their “physical facts.” But these theories, inferences, or deductions, are not facts. They are conclusions which geologists assert to arise out of those facts. It is a fact that the “strata” are deposited in a certain form; it is a fact that “animal remains” are found embedded in the strata. These are facts, and, generally speaking, we may say these facts are true.48

Like Penn, Bugg went on to say that facts do not speak for themselves,49 but must be interpreted, and that often the old-earth geologists were guilty of using language which ignored this distinction and therefore clouded the philosophical debate. He remarked:

The subject now before us is, whether the Scriptures and the modern theory of geology agree. Not “geological PHENOMENA,” as your correspondent has put it; but the geological theory. . . . It is an artifice unworthy of philosophy, to say nothing of divinity, to make, as writers on geology very often make, and as Oxoniensis Alter has made, geological theories synonymous with geological phenomena; thus bewildering the reader, and involving in the premises what remains to be proved in the process.50

Bugg wrote with strong conviction about many things: for example, the historicity of Genesis, the infallible authority of Scripture, the global and violent nature of the Flood, and the literal meaning of the days of creation. But in his own theoretical attempts to harmonize the geological phenomena with the literal interpretation of the scriptural accounts of creation and the Flood, he explicitly expressed great caution. Examples included such matters as how the breaking of the fountains of the deep during the initial phase of the Flood would have caused faults, dips, and inclinations, how whirlpools in the tumultuous Flood collecting floating animal debris could have formed highly concentrated fossil graveyards, why tropical creatures are found buried in the strata of the northern latitudes, and how the vast pebble and gravel beds were formed.51 In ending one such discussion he stated the following about the explanation he offered:

. . . [this] is only suggested as a probable circumstance from the analogy of cases. On subjects where data are so imperfect, it were arrogant, not to say impious, to assume airs of importance and confident dictation. The whole of these suggestions may one day prove to be nothing more that mere speculations. However, as the whole seems natural, and, from present data, not improbable, I have thought I might be allowed to throw out the foregoing hints on points on which geologists speak with the fullest confidence.52

Creation and the Age of the Earth

Bugg believed in a literal six-day creation and a global Noachian flood that produced most of the fossiliferous strata. He clearly believed the earth was only about 6,000 years old, but he did not discuss the genealogies or the exact age of the earth.53

Though he was absolutely convinced of a recent creation and global Flood, he was not dogmatic about every point within this view. Besides the cautious geological speculations mentioned above, he was not dogmatic on each of his interpretations of Scripture. For example, he was undecided whether all the matter of the universe was created at once on the first day of creation and then was formed and organized during the six days, or was successively created over the course of those days.54

In defense of this view, he gave refutations of the day-age theory of Faber and the gap theory favored by Buckland and Sumner. Bugg argued that the day-age theory is proven false on several counts. First, in the period prior to the Flood, Cuvier’s theory postulated many physical revolutions of the earth after the creation of plants and animals, whereas the Bible declares only one physical pre-Flood revolution,55 on day 3 before the creation of plants. Second, the number and arrangement of the fossil remains of the supposed geological revolutions is inconsistent with the order of creation in Genesis. Bugg quoted Faber correctly as saying that the succession of organized fossils in the strata agree with “the precise order of the Mosaic narrative.” But Bugg replied that a careful inquirer would see that this was obviously false.56 That the order of Genesis 1 did not fit the order of the fossil record was a conclusion also embraced by most old-earth geologists at the time.

Bugg believed that the matter of the sun, moon, and stars was created at the beginning of the first day, but that they only became endowed with luminosity on day 4. “Day” is clearly literal in Genesis 1:14, where the heavenly bodies are said to be for the purpose of telling time. But there is no reason to think that “day” has any other meaning in the rest of the chapter, so all the days of creation must be literal.57 To the objection that light from distant stars could not have reached the earth in only a few thousand years, Bugg replied that the distance to stars and the nature of the transmission of light were too imperfectly known to overthrow the clear statements of Scripture.58 The day-age theory must also be rejected because it makes an absurdity of the biblical statements about the origin of the Sabbath (Gen. 2:1–3 and Exod. 20:8–11).59 To the objection that too much happened on day 6 for it to be a literal day, Bugg replied that we are too ignorant of how many animals Adam named to say that he could not have done it in a few hours, which, if he did, would have left sufficient time for the other events assigned to that day.60

Bugg rejected the gap theory because, first, its notion of a long series of creation-revolution-creation-revolution reduced the biblical account of creation to virtually nothing. His opponents considered the biblical creation account to be a description only of the preparation of the earth’s surface for the creation of man61 and as such only related to a thin section of the total geological record, which itself was only a tiny fraction of the whole globe. Furthermore, the sedimentary rock formation which Cuvier attributed to the creation (which was just below the loam, clay, sand, and gravel attributed to the Flood) was not in any way a suitable preparation for man. In fact, contended Bugg, on the old-earth interpretation of the strata, the Flood would have a greater claim to being called a creation than the creation itself, because the geological results of the Flood were more suitable to plants, animals, and man than the geological effects which the old-earth proponents attributed to creation week.62

More general objections to old-earth interpretations of Genesis included the following. Bugg frequently referred to Exodus 20:11.63 He argued that since this verse says that “In six days the Lord made the heavens, and the earth, and the sea and all that is in them,” it must, especially when taken in conjunction with the second commandment and Moses’ commentary on this passage in Deuteronomy 4:15–19, refer to the creation of the whole universe and all it contained (including man) at the end of the sixth day, and could not refer only to the refurbishing of the surface of the earth after thousands of ages before man. Also, since in the commandment the six days of God’s creation week are linked to a week of literal days, the days of Genesis 1 must be literal. And since they were written directly by the hand of God they come with an added stamp of truth.

Furthermore, several verses expressly connect man with the beginning of creation, not long ages after the beginning (2 Pet. 3:4; Matt. 24:21; Mark 13:19; Isa. 45:6, 12, 18).64 Buckland said that “the declaration of Scripture is positive and decisive in asserting the low antiquity of the human race” in comparison to the rest of the creation.65 To this Bugg replied:

There is not a word or an intimation given which implies that man is more modern than the animals. If therefore this narrative does not deny a previous state of the earth, and previous races of animals, it does not deny the previous existence of other races of human beings. . . . If then the Scriptures are positive and decisive, and therefore correct in what they assert respecting the “low antiquity of the human race,” they are equally decisive and correct in asserting the low antiquity of animals and fishes of “every race.” And, therefore, the vast antiquity of the objects of Geology are fabulous and visionary.66

Furthermore, observed Bugg, in Scripture the heavens and the earth are always presented as being created (or destroyed) synchronously (Ps. 102:25–26; Isa. 51:6; Rev. 20:11 and 21:1; Matt. 24:35; Heb. 1:10–11; and 2 Pet. 3:5–7). Hebrews 11:3 clearly states that the earth was created out of nothing, not out of the wreck and ruins of a more ancient world (as Buckland asserted).67 Bugg argued that the whole notion of a long series of revolutions causing animal extinctions before the creation and fall of man was contrary to the original perfection of creation as described in Genesis 1:31. He believed, on the basis of Genesis 1:29–30, that all the animals and man were originally herbivorous. Some animals became solely carnivores after the Fall and man was permitted to eat meat only after the Flood (Gen. 9:3). Whether the degeneration of animals into carnivorous habits was the result of a physical change or simply a change in dietary tastes, he was unsure.68

Bugg expressed his conviction many times that the old-earth theories denigrated the character of God, especially his wisdom, kindness, and justice.69 To the idea of many creations and revolutions before the creation of man, who was to be the lord of creation under God, Bugg objected, “Where is the philosophy, the wisdom, yea the common sense in building, destroying, and rebuilding the mansion many times over, before its Lord is made to occupy it?”70 To Bugg, such an idea was consistent with a Hindu, rather than Christian, concept of God:

Hence then, we have arrived at the wanton and wicked notion of the Hindoos, viz. that God has “created and destroyed worlds as if in sport, again and again”!! But will any Christian divine who regards his Bible, or will any philosopher who believes that the Almighty works no “superfluous miracles,” and does nothing in vain, advocate the absurdity that a wise, just, and benevolent Deity has, “numerous” times, wrought miracles, and gone out of his usual way for the sole purpose of destroying whole generations of animals, that he might create others very like them, but yet differing a little from their predecessors!!71

Bugg also complained that professing Christian old-earth geologists exhibited a very careless or superficial handling of Scripture, especially Genesis.72

Finally, Bugg objected to the old-earth theories (day-age and gap) because they involved creation by secondary causes, which was really no creation at all. This was because at this time Buckland believed that the successive formations of geological record on the surface of the earth (i.e., from the primary to tertiary) were the result of many violent convulsions subsequent to the original creation and that these convulsions were produced by secondary causes, superintended by God.73 Bugg responded that since in this old-earth theory the six-day creation only related to the penultimate revolution, our creation was only part of a series resulting from secondary causes, which philosophers and theologians had always agreed were created causes. “But to speak of ‘created causes’ producing ‘creation,’ is a solecism in language, [which] reduces that creation to the class of second cause productions, and destroys the nature of creation.” Such a view of creation was a revisitation of heathen atheistic notions of an infinite series.74 Bugg wrote elsewhere about the initial creation of the earth:

If our geologists therefore will reason from all we see and know to what is gone before, they must not and cannot stop at their “first mixture,” for in truth there can be no first. Every stratum will come from a fluid mixture, and every fluid mixture from prior strata. So that in spite of all Mr. Buckland has said, in his Inaugural Lecture, to rescue modern geologists from the imputation of holding an “infinite series” of formations, the imputation can never be separated from the inevitable consequences of their doctrine.

This theory, and the reasoning of its authors upon it, imply that every thing we see is the effect of some natural cause, and is also itself the effect of something else which is also natural. Thus the origin of matter is indirectly denied. For if we allow that matter did ever begin to exist, we have no data to assert in WHAT STATE it commenced its existence.

If a man therefore asserts that he knows from the strata of a primitive rock how that rock was originally formed, that man, if he knows what his assertion implies, means to say that that rock arose from a natural or material cause. For with any other cause or its mode of operation, he has no acquaintance. Then he certainly means that its cause or the mode of its operation is familiar to him. This implies an infinite series, and that there is no cause of formations but this.

Such an author ought to know, however he may slight the information, that he is treading upon ground which leads, and not very indirectly, to a denial of the God that made him!75

If the biblical account of creation is rejected, then we have no account of creation of first formations, Bugg reasoned, for geologists have given nothing in its place.76

Bugg was insistent on arguing from analogy to present-day processes, when discussing post-creation history. In other words, apart from the divine miraculous interventions recorded in the Bible (of which one was the Flood), we should assume the uniformity of secondary causes.77 But to make creation the result of secondary causes was to confuse creation and providence.

Here then we find the earth and the sea created immediately by God. We find the earth and sea bringing forth and swarming with life. But the immediate and sole parent of all is God. The fishes are generated without spawn—the fowls without eggs—the vegetables without seed, or “a man to till the ground”—and animals, without progenitors. There is no “second cause.” God MADE them. He made them out of the waters and earth it is true; but who will call these “second CAUSES.” They are not causes at all. They are passive materials at most, and themselves just created by Jehovah.

“And God blessed them, saying, be fruitful and multiply.” Out of this benediction the earth is replenished.78 “Second causes” are henceforth employed by the Almighty. He has formed a creation “whose seed is in itself.” And we now know of neither fish, fowl, vegetable, or animal but what springs out of “their kind.” Thus animals are generated; and their lives are sustained by food. God also made the “sun to rule the day,” at the same time. It so continues. But prior to that arrangement, “second causes” cannot be found in earth or heaven.79

Related to this idea of uniformity of nature and miracles we should note that one of Bugg’s frequent objections to Cuvier’s and Buckland’s theory was that to explain the fossil record they postulated a new creation of plants and animals after each revolution. Bugg found it extremely contradictory and unphilosophical that, in rejecting the biblical account of a miraculous creation and miracle-attending Flood, these old-earth geologists continually, though vaguely, invoked unknown and unspecified miracles to explain their revolutions and creations, while all the time insisting on explaining everything by natural causes.

Cuvier’s whole argument about revolutions and different epochs was based on a view of species that allowed for very little biological variation, so that most fossil creatures must be extinct species unrelated to existing ones. In contrast, Bugg believed, as indicated in the above quotation, in the fixity of the original “kinds,” but that great variation in size, shape, color, habits, diet, hairiness, etc. could be produced within those original kinds by natural causes such as climate change, population isolation, and different food supplies.80 Such variation would be adequate to explain the relatively slight differences between existing species and their fossil counterparts. He succinctly summarized his view to the Christian Observer this way:

The only difficulty which needs to be admitted is, the comparatively slight variations in the animal creation, between the fossil remains and the existing species; variations which surely it is no way unnatural to believe divine providence may have effected, by natural causes, in several thousand years. This, however, modern geologists deny; and have therefore invented their present theory. But the theory almost instantly runs into the very difficulty it is constructed to escape; namely, a deviation from the ordinary course of nature.81

Bugg did not believe there had been any extinction of the original kinds before or as a result of the Flood. And he doubted whether there had been any since the Flood, because to conclude this man must with certainty know about all the plants and animals now on the earth and must with certainty know that existing races did not arise from the fossil ones. But Bugg contended, man did not have such knowledge.82 Furthermore, the notions of “genus” and “species” were human categories, and man had as yet insufficient knowledge to say whether his boundaries of classification were the same as the boundaries of nature. Certainly, the diversity of human races descended from Noah demonstrated how much variety there could be in a species.83 Bugg also cited Cuvier’s own statements about the variety of foxes in polar and tropical climates, all belonging to the same species.84

The Flood

Bugg argued from Scripture that the Flood waters advanced to their full height above the mountains in 40 days and then receded over the next 273 days, thereby rising seven times faster than they abated. Therefore, the initial stages of the Flood would have been very violent. The waters came from the torrential rains and the “fountains of the great deep,” which he took to mean underground water, just as exists today.85 He did not believe that the Flood significantly rearranged the continents or mountain ranges,86 though it did damage the mountains and deposit the secondary formations, by which he meant everything above the primitive, except for post-diluvial formations of recent occurrence.87

Bugg contended that the geologists dismissed the Flood as the cause of the geological record, because they failed to seriously take into account the violent nature of the Flood, especially the breaking up of the fountains of the deep, a worldwide aqueous and volcanic process, accompanied by earthquakes which elevated and shattered the crust over the subterranean waters (he never explained how such violent action could leave the continents and mountains basically in their antediluvian arrangement).

From these irruptive fountains and descending cataracts of water we may, without fancy or theoretical pretensions, contemplate a scene most awful and tremendous. The waters would instantly, and from all quarters, descend to the low grounds. For we have no reason to suppose that gravity was suspended. These, meeting with waters boiling up from beneath the earth, would disturb each other, and form commotions. The diluvium, of whatever it might consist, whether of fragments of rocks, of soil and vegetables from the hills, and the loose or solid earth which the bursting forth of the waters would urge from beneath, would mingle and form unknown compounds. Stones and detritus, and whatever else might come in the way, would be dashed about, and rolled backwards and forwards in proportion to the impetuosity of the commotions occasioned by the issuing and falling waters.

The amount of the wreck, or the extent to which the hilly contents would be mixed with those in the valleys, or from beneath, cannot be calculated. Nor can we say to what distances either laterally, longitudinally, or perpendicularly, any current formed by the issuing waters, under particular circumstances, might advance. Nor can we conjecture how great a quantity of rocks, stones, mud, detritus, small pebbles, or shells, such a mass of spouting waters, rushing with irresistible impetuosity, might force upon contiguous eminences, or deposit in the neighboring hollows.88

As the waters rose and conquered the land, they would have become less violent. The retiring waters, abating at one-seventh the speed back into underground cavities, would have been less violent than the rising waters. Such a year-long catastrophe would have produced far more than just the diluvial detritus assigned to it by Cuvier and Buckland.89

Bugg said that although the laws of nature (e.g., gravity, aqueous erosion and transport, sedimentation, and behavior of volcanoes) continued during the Flood, it was not a strictly natural event in the normal course of nature, as the old-earth geologists conceived it. The biblical text indicated that it was attended by some miracles, such as the collection of wild and tame animals for Noah, the breaking open of the fountains of the deep, the preservation and landing of the ark on a mountain instead of in a valley, and possibly the creation of new vegetation to recover the earth after the Flood.90

While he often expressed his caution in his geological speculations, he was convinced that, and attempted to explain generally how, the character of the Flood, which he inferred from the biblical account, would have produced most of the present physical features of the earth’s surface, namely, both its regularity and irregularity of rock formations; the mixtures of mineral types; the distinct stratification; the denudation of valleys; the formation of lakes, gorges, basins and barriers; the faults, dips, and inclinations of the strata; the diluvial islands and trap rocks; and the fissures and fractures of the strata. Furthermore, he contended that Cuvier’s and Buckland’s theory of a number of revolutions during untold ages could not explain these features.91

Likewise, Bugg believed that the nature of the Flood explained the fossil record, whereas Cuvier’s theory did not. For example, the Flood would be expected to have buried plants at all levels and to mix together land and marine animals and he cited evidence that this was the case.92 He also quoted evidence from Jameson’s appended notes to Cuvier’s Theory of the Earth and Buckland’s report of a recent discovery (in 1826) of an opossum found in the lower Oolite, well below the level it should have appeared according to Cuvier’s theory. Added to this was evidence from Conybeare, Phillips, and Jameson showing that supposedly extinct shellfish and land animals were mixed in recent deposits with the remains of existing species, in contradiction to Cuvier’s theory, but just exactly as the Flood would be expected to produce.93

On Human Fossils

At this time, all the old-earth geologists agreed that human fossils had never been found except in what they considered to be post-Flood deposits. This was stated to be positive proof that there had been many ages of creations and revolutions before man’s creation. Bugg contested, however, that the absence of fossils in a formation did not prove the non-existence of man at the time of the creatures found in the formation. This was because the bones of all creatures that the old-earth theory said were contemporary were never found all buried together and the bones of modern animals contemporary with man were not only found in the alluvial formations where man was said to be found, but elsewhere also.

Bugg also asserted there was fossil evidence of man in the lower strata, but that Cuvier and other geologists had unjustifiably dismissed the evidence (of which he cited a few examples) because it militated against their theory.94 In Bugg’s mind, the best example of this rejection of evidence was the human fossil of Guadaloupe, found in 1805.95 He concluded that this fossil did not support the old-earth catastrophist theory, but corresponded with the expected results of the Flood.

His Argument Against Cuvier

Since, at the time Bugg wrote, Cuvier’s catastrophist theory of the earth was dominant in geology, this is what he primarily criticized. Bugg argued that there were two propositions that needed to be proved in order for that theory of long ages of multiple revolutions to stand. First, “the physical operations in the strata which the assumed revolutions involve, must be consistent with ‘physical and chemical science.’ ” Second, “the evidence of these revolutions arising from the strata and fossil remains, must be so regular, consistent, and uniform, as to admit of no reasonable objection.”96

Before proceeding to analyze these propositions, Bugg insisted that we need to follow three rules in judging the evidence brought forward in favor of Cuvier’s theory. First, to make generalizations from the strata about certain epochs of earth history, the strata must be distinct in character, be regularly and uniformly ordered with respect to the accompanying strata, and be general in extent, in order to prove general (i.e., global) revolutions. Second, if certain fossil species or genera are to prove the theory of the succession of different life forms in different epochs, then they must be universally distributed,97 exclusive to the strata where they are found,98 successive in the order of appearance, 99 and non-recurrent.100

Bugg’s final axiom for evaluating the favorability of the evidence to Cuvier’s theory pertained to the mode of ascertaining the arrangement of the rocks and fossils. Was it based on actual inspection and examination? Since no strata could be exhaustively examined in minute detail to determine what fossils it did and did not contain, probability was the best that the theory could hope to attain. But to attain a sufficiently high probability to vindicate the truthfulness of the theory, the area examined must have three characteristics.

It must appear 1) that a space sufficiently large has been examined, to warrant a probable opinion respecting the rest, 2) that the parts examined correspond with the rest of the strata, so as to make them a fair specimen of the whole, and 3) that those parts accurately exhibit such phenomena, and such only as the theory requires. . . . For if the specimen by which we determine the rest, be itself refractory, how absurd to suppose that a general correct theory can be proved by an erroneous specimen!101

Bugg devoted nearly one hundred pages of Volume I102 to attempting to show, from the geologists’ (mainly Cuvier’s and Jameson’s) own description of the geological facts, that Cuvier’s Theory of the Earth failed the above tests fatally.

Georges Cuvier

Georges Cuvier (1768–1832)

Regarding the space examined, Cuvier based his theory almost completely on his and Brongniart’s investigations of the fossils and strata of the Paris basin.103 By comparing the surface area of the Paris basin to that of the whole earth, Bugg calculated that Cuvier had only examined one twenty-thousandth of the earth—hardly sufficient to erect a theory of the whole earth. But then by comparing the depth of the Paris formation in comparison to the total stratigraphic record, Bugg concluded that Cuvier could have been familiar with only one twenty-millionth of the fossiliferous strata of the globe—again, objected Bugg, woefully inadequate as a basis for a global theory. Additionally, the Paris formation contained strata only above the chalk (i.e., in the tertiary formation) and so was not a fair representative specimen of the strata in general. Finally, as Bugg noted from the writings of geologists, in comparison to other studied basins above the chalk (i.e., under London and on the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England), the strata of the Paris basin did not agree in the number of strata, or their mineralogical content (e.g., Paris didn’t have the London clay, London lacked the Paris coarse limestone, and both London and the Isle of Wight were void of the Paris gypsum). Therefore, Bugg concluded, the Paris basin absolutely fails as a specimen on which to build a general theory of the earth.104

Next, Bugg turned his attention to the fossil shells in the strata. He reminded his readers that Cuvier’s essential principle in his theory was that the species and genera change with the strata (i.e., the animal nature changed with the chemical nature of the depositing fluid), so that species and genera gradually disappeared or became increasingly similar to living species, as one moves up through the strata from the most ancient to the most recent. Accurately quoting Jameson from the appendix to Cuvier’s Theory, Bugg then argued that this was contrary to the geological facts. For example, two different mineralogical formations, the London clay and the Paris limestone, contained the same fossils. The four different fossiliferous strata of the transition formation, the lowest such strata in the geological record, in general all contained (in intermixed fashion) the same fossil species, which were very similar to living tropical species. He also quoted the article on “Organic Remains” from the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia105 to the effect that many fossils appeared throughout many of the strata and that formations of the same mineralogical content in different places had different fossils. Finally, he quoted from Cuvier himself that the same species occurred in different strata, that many strata contained a mixture of land and sea creatures, and that shellfish species could not indicate more than one revolution because the slightest change in the chemistry or temperature of the water could change the species and there was at the time still a great ignorance of testaceous animals and fishes. These facts, Bugg charged, were fatal to Cuvier’s theory. He believed this was precisely the reason that Cuvier abandoned shellfish as indicators of earth history and instead focused on fossil quadrupeds as the basis of his theory.106

Cuvier said that his whole theory depended on his ability to accurately identify and reconstruct a species of quadruped on the basis of a single fragment of bone.107 But Bugg contested that even in Cuvier’s own field of expertise he displayed the most fallacious reasoning. For example, Cuvier believed that carnivores would have the limbs for pursuing their prey, the jaws to devour it, the claws to seize and rip it, the teeth to cut and divide the flesh, the intestines to digest the flesh, etc.108 “But,” said Bugg, “even a child knows that carnivorous dogs, wolves, and hyaenas have no such claws.” Cuvier said that a cloven hoof footprint would be proof positive that the animal to which it belonged was a ruminant.109 But Bugg cited Moses (Lev. 11:7) to remind his readers that pigs divide the hoof but do not chew the cud. He seriously questioned therefore why anyone should reject the biblical history to accept Cuvier’s theory of revolutions in earth history, based on extinctions which he had inferred from his fossil reconstructions.110 Very similar criticisms of Cuvier on this matter of his species reconstructions (even of a ruminant) from a single bone were made by John Fleming, an old-earth and tranquil Flood proponent and prominent Scottish zoologist. Like Bugg, Fleming cited the example of a pig to contest Cuvier’s “silly gasconading.”111

Bugg rejected Cuvier’s argument for extinctions because of the imprecise definition of a species, the lack of knowledge of the whole world to declare positively an extinction, and Cuvier’s too limited view of variation within the created kinds. He concluded his discussion as follows:

From all we have seen of the change in animals since the Deluge, it seems impossible that M. Cuvier can prove that a great portion of the fossil bones of animals which he has examined and pronounced extinct, might not vary so much as those vary from the bones of existing animals, by climate, food, and change of place, in the course of four or five thousand years. But upon the proof of this point the whole system hangs.

Again. Analogy even from M. Cuvier’s own pen is against himself. We remember with respect to fishes, how he stated that the species might easily be driven away, or even changed, only by the “temperature” of the water. What then should hinder the extreme variation of heat and cold on land from producing the same effect?

But even were the globe to be drowned now, not the least evidence from analogy could be derived to M. Cuvier’s system. For we find different animals in almost every country. Were these then to be imbedded where they are, it would be the highest possible absurdity for any naturalist who should examine a small space, like the Paris stone quarries, for instance, to pronounce upon the state of the globe from such a specimen.112

Continuing on, Bugg presented evidence, again largely from Cuvier’s and Jameson’s own statements, that the fossil quadrupeds in fact were not situated in the strata in a way that supported the notion of successive revolutions. First, he argued that the strata of the Paris basin were not distinct and well defined by Cuvier, that he often spoke in ambiguous terms about where the extinct genera, extinct species, and existing species were found. Nor were the strata regular in their situation relative to other strata and uniform or homogeneous in their composition. Neither were they all extensive enough to warrant the generalizations made. Finally, species were not always confined to one particular formation. Bugg argued that the evidence proved that all the strata of the Paris basin were of contemporaneous formation.113

Regarding the fossils, Cuvier’s theory required that extinct genera were lower in the strata than extinct species, which were in turn lower than existing species and that these three kinds of fossils (extinct genera, extinct species, and existing species) were never intermixed.114 Bugg argued that even one example would be fatal to this theory.115 He cited Jameson’s comments about an existing species of roe which had been found with an ancient genera (the palaeotheria) in limestone near Orleans, France.116 Jameson said that Cuvier explained this anomaly by suggesting that the exact species of roe maybe is only discernable from parts that had not been discovered. Bugg replied:

It is quite clear that this explanation is equally ruinous to modern geology, with the fact itself. For if this roe cannot be distinguished by the parts which have been discovered, the very pretense of all M. Cuvier’s science—to discover a genus or distinguish a species by half a bone—is absurd; and he had no more claim to regard on the assumption of anatomical knowledge, than other men.117

Bugg then spent the next 15 pages documenting, often from Cuvier’s and Jameson’s writings, other examples of extinct species or genera intermixed with the fossil remains of existing species, all quite contrary to Cuvier’s theory.118

Finally, in his attempt to expose the contradictions and fatal weaknesses of Cuvier’s theory, Bugg recorded Cuvier’s own revealing admissions of his ignorance119 (see this footnote) about the stratigraphic locations where his Paris fossils had been found and even the correct species identification of the fossils, the two critical factors on which his theory of successive epochs was built. After several long quotations from Cuvier, Bugg vehemently objected, using some of Cuvier’s own words:

This “theory” then, which is to establish a new philosophy and change the faith of Christians, is built upon “vague and ambiguous accounts,” not on knowledge “personally” acquired, respecting the situation of “fossil remains,” but on the information of persons ignorant of the subject, and “still more frequently” upon no “information whatever” !!!120

So, in summary of Bugg’s argument against Cuvier, he contended that the area and depth of geological phenomena upon which Cuvier based his theory was too incredibly tiny to justify the grand generalizations about earth history which completely subverted the “plain teaching of Scripture.” Furthermore, Cuvier’s own admissions of ignorance about critical details related to the strata and fossils, which he did investigate, made his theoretical inferences exceedingly suspect, in Bugg’s mind. Also, even in Cuvier’s own book with Jameson’s lengthy endnotes, Bugg saw abundant evidence of the complete fallacy of the theory: geological facts that refuted the theory, contradictions, and extremely faulty logic.121 Finally, Cuvier invoked many miracles to explain revolutions and creations of the past, without any basis in scriptural revelation, while at the same time insisting on referring everything to the laws of nature.

An analysis of several chapters in Volume II would reveal that Bugg had very similar arguments against Buckland’s interpretations of the fossils found in limestone caves, such as the famous one at Kirkdale.122 In both cases, Bugg concluded that although Cuvier and Buckland attempted, with apparent sincerity, to defend the Flood, they in actuality did the opposite: by limiting its effects to a relatively insignificant part of the geological record, they denied it.

Bugg’s book was totally ignored by the geologists at the time, particularly the clerical geologists, such as Buckland, Sedgwick, and Conybeare. His critics in the non-scientific journals were apparently all non-geologists.123 The only “review” I could find in the scientific journals was a brief statement by “R.C.T.”124 to a reader, who, as “an Admirer of Buckland,” was concerned about the impact of Bugg’s book and wanted a geologist’s response. This author declined to present any refutation of Bugg because “it is wasting words and time to combat with ignorance and prejudice.”125

A number of facts raise doubts, however, whether this was the real reason for R.C.T.’s lack of critique. First, Bugg was making a biblical response to Buckland’s and Cuvier’s theories which openly purported to defend the biblical flood and recent creation of man. Therefore. Christian old-earth geologists should have been able and willing to bring biblical and geological arguments against Bugg’s criticisms of the catastrophist theory that so many in the church were embracing.

Secondly, several prominent old-earth proponents were criticizing Cuvier’s theory, sometimes with very similar arguments to Bugg’s. For example, Constant Prevost, a leading French geologist, had opposed Cuvier’s interpretation of the Paris basin since as early as 1809. Prevost argued that the marine and freshwater fossils did not depict a succession of alternating environments, but rather contemporaneous lateral deposits in a river-fed saltwater gulf.126 Geologist John Phillips argued that Cuvier’s theoretical conclusions only applied to limited districts, not to the whole earth.127

Uniformitarian Charles Lyell favored many of Prevost’s interpretations of the Paris basin, and assigned the whole basin to one great epoch. He used some of the same objections to Cuvier’s theory that Bugg raised.128 William Whewell, a very prominent old-earth scientist and historian/ philosopher of science, agreed with Bugg (probably unknowingly) when he wrote in 1837:

We know that serious errors were incurred by the attempts made to identify the tertiary strata of other countries with those first studied in the Paris basin. Fancied points of resemblance, Mr. Lyell observes, were magnified into undue importance, and essential differences in mineral character and organic contacts were slurred over.129

And the old-earth zoologist John Fleming wrote a critical review of Cuvier’s Theory.130 He argued that Cuvier revealed a great ignorance of geological facts. Like Bugg, Fleming pointed out that Cuvier’s and Jameson’s stated facts about the location of fossil shells in the Paris basin contradicted Cuvier’s theory about the fossils changing with the strata. He also considered Cuvier’s conclusions to be far too general given the skimpiness of the quadruped fossil evidence. Finally, like Bugg, Fleming felt that the area of the Paris basin was far too small to justly and safely erect a theory of the whole earth. So then Bugg did make some very substantive criticisms of Cuvier’s theory, contrary to the conclusion drawn by the Christian Observer that “all the scientific journals hold the same language, plainly stating, that the reason they do not answer Mr. Bugg’s book, is, that there is nothing in it to answer; nothing really tangible and solid.”131 Clearly, something else was the cause of the silence.


Bugg was not opposed to the study of geology. For the most part, he accepted the geological facts as he argued against old-earth interpretations of those facts. Though he agreed with his opponents that the Bible was not a science textbook, Bugg was convinced that, since it was the infallible Word of God, it provided a general framework for interpreting geological phenomena and reconstructing earth history, and that within this outline of a recent creation and global flood (which he believed had produced most of the geological record) there was plenty of latitude for speculation about the details. By focusing on accepted geological facts and what appeared to him to be the old-earth geologists’ logical contradictions, unproven assumptions (e.g., about the extent of variation within species), and invocation of unwarranted miracles (i.e., multiple creations), Bugg attempted to show that the old-earth catastrophist theory was fatally flawed. He engaged in this controversy, because he firmly believed that the authority and sound interpretation of the whole Bible, the gospel, and the spiritual and moral future of the nation would be undermined and the character of God slandered by the old-earth theory, regardless of the sincere intentions of its authors and defenders to the contrary.

Bugg clearly stated that he engaged in this debate because of his love for the truth.132 He perceived there was a battle going on. But it was not science against religion. He had no antipathy to the pursuit of knowledge about the physical creation by the method of experimentation and observation. Rather, he saw it as a battle between the Christian faith and ancient heathen, atheistic ideas, which were being revived primarily by continental philosophers and were penetrating the Church.133 This battle was really only a part of a long-standing strategy of Satan to undermine faith in the inspiration and infallible truth of Scripture, a battle especially intense in the minds of the young men training for ministry at British universities.134

Bugg further argued that the old-earth theory reduced the creation and Flood to very insignificant events (contrary to the biblical description), making them part of an indefinite series.135 By ignoring and in effect rejecting the Fourth Commandment in Exodus 20:8–11 in order to introduce immense time into Genesis 1, old-earth proponents were also introducing a dangerous mysticism into Bible interpretation. The Mosaic narrative professed to be history, said Bugg, and to take it figuratively opens the rest of Scripture to such non-literal interpretation. Out the window then would go the doctrines of the temptation, the Fall, and the redemption of man, thereby destroying the gospel. Gone too would be the basis for keeping the Sabbath and worshiping the Creator, as well as obeying the rest of the Ten Commandments. Missions to the Hindus would also be undermined since their own view of earth history meshed well with the old-earth geological view of many revolutions over millions of years; so they would not want to convert to belief in a book which they deemed less reliable than their own.136

Bugg was a bold preacher and contended firmly for what he believed all his life. His attempted defense of the gospel in his works on baptism and regeneration in opposition to the views of some leading clergymen, his efforts with other ministers to influence a change in the laws regarding the arbitrary dismissal of curates, his battle with an unspecified, but very debilitating illness,137 the fact that he wrote the book in the face of expected opposition, and his own statement about being tolerant of other’s views on “non-essential” but uncompromising on “fundamental doctrines”138 (which he considered Genesis to involve), all would seem to indicate that this passion for truth, especially the truth of Scripture, was indeed his primary motivation for writing on geology.

The Great Turning Point

Many people in the church today think that “young-earth” creationism is a fairly recent invention, popularized by fundamentalist Christians in the mid-20th century. Is this view correct? Answers in Genesis scholar Dr. Terry Mortenson presents his fascinating original research that documents a different story.

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  1. Unless otherwise indicated, this biographical section is based on the most extensive biographical material I could find: Rosemary Dunhill, “The Rev. George Bugg: The Fortunes of a 19th Century Curate,” Northamptonshire Past and Present, vol. VIII, no. 1 (1983–84), p. 41–50.
  2. During the years 1818 to 1831 he apparently lived in Lutterworth, though what he did with his time and how he maintained himself is unclear. He made some attempts to appeal his dismissal from his curacy in Lutterworth, but his Christian principles prevented him from going so far as to bring a case to court. See ibid., p. 46. During the first half of these years he clearly spent time reading, thinking, and writing about geology in preparation for the publication of his two-volume work in 1826–27.
  3. Both servants were girls and were 18 and 19 years old respectively at the time of Bugg’s death, according to the 1851 census return for Hull.
  4. In addition to Dunhill, see also J.A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigensis (1940), I: p. 437.
  5. George Bugg, The Key to Modern Controversy (1843), p. x. Here in 1843, as he refuted Pusey’s tractarian views of baptismal regeneration, he said that he had more than 50 years of experiencing the life-changing effects of spiritual regeneration through repentance and faith in Christ.
  6. George Bugg, Scriptural Geology, II: p. 351. Here, in 1827, he wrote (in probable reference to his conversion), “[I have] lived nearly 40 years under the full and firm belief that the Scriptures are strictly and literally true.”
  7. George Bugg, Spiritual Regeneration, Not Necessarily Connected with Baptism (1816) and The Key to Modern Controversy, or the Baptismal Regeneration of the Established Church Explained and Justified. Bugg’s doctrine seems to be the same in both books. He had a very polemical style, though in the first he explicitly said that he was not attacking Mant personally, but only his erroneous doctrine (p. vi-vii, 171). On the other hand, in the second, Bugg considered Pusey to be a Romanist in disguise and a false prophet in the Anglican Church (p. vii-xi).
  8. Peter Toon, Evangelical Theology 1833–1856: A Response to Tractarianism (Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1979).
  9. Bugg was also respectful in his response to a fellow Anglican, Reverend J. Cunningham, who in Bugg’s view misrepresented both the debate and the debators (Bugg and Mant) on baptism. See George Bugg, Friendly Remarks on the Rev. J.W. Cunninngham’s Conciliatory Suggestions on the Subject of Regeneration (1816).
  10. Bugg’s assessment of his dismissals received confirmation from the anonymous The Curate’s Appeal (1819). This 177-page book went through a second edition the same year and a third appeared in 1820. It was penned “under the direction of a committee of clergymen, and is approved and sanctioned by an increasingly numerous body of divines, both incumbents and curates, but especially the former” (from the preface, p. iii). Although most library catalogs list this book as Bugg’s work, Bugg clearly indicated in Hard Measures (1820), page 42, that it was written by others who were fully acquainted with and referred to his cases of dismissal.
  11. Michael B. Roberts, “The Roots of Creationism,” Faith and Thought, vol. 112, no. 1 (1986), p. 28. From personal conversation with Roberts on December 15, 1995, it is clear that he was led astray by the fact that a pamphlet entitled Four Letters from a Unity Man (1847) is listed in leading library catalogs with the other works by Reverend George Bugg. However, Roberts overlooked the fact that the anti-trinitarian author of these letters (also named George Bugg) was a farmer from Horbling, a town in which Reverend George Bugg never lived.
  12. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 78–79 and II: p. 333.
  13. George Bugg, The Country Pastor (1817).
  14. George Bugg, Plain Statement of an Unusual Case of Prosecution, Biggs v. Bugg (1835). The problems with Mr. Biggs were solved out of court and Bugg does not appear to have been guilty of any wrongdoing in the handling of the money for Mrs. Biggs. See Rosemary Dunhill, “The Rev. George Bugg: The Fortunes of a 19th Century Curate,” Northamptonshire Past and Present, Vol. VIII, No. 1 (1983–84), p. 47–48.
  15. The Book of Common Prayer: Its Baptismal Offices, Catechism, and Other Services Explained and Justified, in an Address to the Churchmen of Kettering and Its Neighbourhood (1840). The work does not bear his name, but it is attributed to Bugg by the Northampton Central Library.
  16. Christian Observer, vol. XXVIII (1828), p. 235–244. I could discover no reason why his book itself did not identify him as the author.
  17. John H. Overton, The English Church in the Nineteenth Century: 1800–1833 (1894), p. 52, 81, 86–87.
  18. Rosemary Dunhill, “The Rev. George Bugg: The Fortunes of a 19th Century Curate,” Northamptonshire Past and Present, vol. VIII, no. 1 (1983–84), p. 42.
  19. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 126, 173, and many other places.
  20. Ibid., II: p. 352–353. He remarked on the infallibility of Scripture several other times (II: p. 20, 272, 351).
  21. Ibid., II: p. 99.
  22. Ibid., II: p. 348; Christian Observer, vol. XXVIII (1828), p. 430–431.
  23. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, II: p. 349.
  24. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 129.
  25. Ibid., II: p. 39–41.
  26. Ibid., II: p. 47–48.
  27. Ibid., II: p. 57.
  28. Ibid., II: p. 82–83.
  29. Ibid., I: p. xii.
  30. He cited no writings by Copernicus or others to support this view.
  31. Christian Observer, vol. XXVIII (1828), p. 237.
  32. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. xii–xiv.
  33. Ibid., I: p. 10. Quarterly Review, vol. XXIX (April 1823), p. 142–143.
  34. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 132.
  35. Ibid., II: p. 12.
  36. Ibid., II: p. 18.
  37. Ibid., II: p. 351.
  38. Ibid.; Christian Observer, vol. XXVIII (1828), p. 237.
  39. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, II: p. 118.
  40. Christian Observer, vol. XXVIII (1828), p. 312.
  41. Ibid., p. 647.
  42. Ibid., p. 433; Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. xii, 17, 204; II: p. 307, 322, 330, 352.
  43. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, II: p. 321.
  44. Ibid., I: p. 56. The Christian Observer, though at this time not absolutely convinced of the day-age or gap theory, was clearly leaning toward the latter and did not like Bugg’s strong criticisms of Buckland and Cuvier. From 1827 to 1829 it published a number of letters to the editor by Bugg and his anonymous opponents, none of whom gave any indication of being geologists.
  45. Christian Observer, vol. XXVIII (1828), p. 242; Bugg, Scriptural Geology, II: p. 330. Regarding Bugg not questioning Buckland’s motives, see also Christian Observer, vol. XXVIII (1828), p. 433.
  46. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 78, 83.
  47. For example, see Christian Observer, vol. XXVII (1827), p. 738–740.
  48. Christian Observer, vol. XXVIII (1828), p. 237–238. Similar remarks appear in his Scriptural Geology, I: p. 6–7; II: p. 304–305.
  49. Christian Observer, vol. XXVIII (1828), p. 308–309.
  50. Ibid., p. 242. Several times Bugg complained that the geologists merely assumed their theory was correct in spite of contrary geological evidence: Scriptural Geology, I: p. 259, 272; II: p. 311.
  51. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, II: p. 99, 107, 128, 247, 287.
  52. Ibid., II: p. 291
  53. Ibid., II: p. 308–315, 332.
  54. Ibid., I: p. 117–118.
  55. He is speaking of revolution in terms of geological catastrophe of regional or global extent, not in terms of its movement around the sun.
  56. Ibid., I: p. 48–59.
  57. Ibid., I: p. 134–137.
  58. Ibid., I:p. 115–116.
  59. Ibid., I: p. 150–151.
  60. Ibid., I: p. 151–152. He also objected to what he considered to be the atheistic notion that Adam was a barbarian and that man has since advanced in perfection. Instead, Adam was created perfect with extensive wisdom, by which he named the animals, and man and the rest of nature with him have degenerated since the Fall. See also ibid., II: p. 315–316.
  61. Buckland’s words, correctly quoted by Bugg, were that “Moses confines the detail of his history to the preparation of this globe for the reception of the human race.” See William Buckland, Vindiciae Geologicae (1820), p. 24.
    A few years later, John Phillips remarked similarly, “The historic records of man’s residence on the earth are, for most parts of the globe, utterly incomplete; so that, but for the Jewish Scriptures and other documents of eastern nations, we should be in danger of attributing to the human race an origin too recent by thousands of years. Now, as all historic records end, for each country, with the surface, terminate at some point of man’s history posterior to the preparation of that tract for his residence, we see how far more ancient than the historic date of the human race is the series of productions which lie below the surface.” See John Phillips, Treatise on Geology (1837), I: p. 10.
  62. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 26–29, 60–68.
  63. Ibid., I: p. 29, 62, 103–107; II: p. 307; Christian Observer, vol. XXVIII (1828), p. 239–240.
  64. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 108–109.
  65. Buckland, Vindiciae Geologicae, p. 23.
  66. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 142, 157.
  67. Ibid., I: p. 109–112.
  68. Ibid., I: p. 143–149.
  69. Ibid., I: p. 109, 139; II: p. 43–48, 278–279.
  70. Ibid., I: p. 142.
  71. Ibid., I: p. 318–319.
  72. Ibid., I: p. 40, 47, 71, 88; II: p. 322.
  73. Buckland, Vindiciae Geologicae, p. 18–21.
  74. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 79–80, 113.
  75. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, II: p. 10–11.
  76. Ibid., I: p. 69–88, II: p. 1–18. The quote is on I: p. 79.
  77. Ibid., II: p. 69–71; Christian Observer, vol. XXVIII (1828), p. 368, 429–431.
  78. Bugg was using “replenish” as is found in the King James version of Genesis 1:28. Contrary to its use in modern English, “replenish” previously meant simply “fill,” rather than “refill,” and therefore it was an accurate translation of the Hebrew verb.
  79. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 158.
  80. Ibid., I: p. 219–227, 315–319; II: p. 24–25, 32–37, 275–302.
  81. Christian Observer, vol. XXVIII (1828), p. 370.
  82. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, II: p. 38, 71–72.
  83. Ibid., II: p. 284–285.
  84. Ibid., II: p. 299–301.
  85. Ibid., I: p. 160–172.
  86. He rejected Penn’s notion that the sea and land had changed places during the Flood (ibid., II: p. 61, 68, 85–88). Because the Bible says the Flood covered all the mountains, he concluded that the Flood covered the 28,000-foot-high Himalayas.
  87. Ibid., II: p. 84.
  88. Ibid., II: p. 61–62.
  89. Ibid., II: p. 63–66, 77–81.
  90. Ibid., II: p. 69–71.
  91. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, II: p. 88–108.
  92. However, he did not attempt to explain the vast remains of plants in the form of the coal measures, concentrated in the lower part of the geological column.
  93. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, II: p. 109–133.
  94. Ibid., I: p. 265–270; II: p. 290.
  95. Ibid., I: p. 282–312. Charles König, “On a Fossil Human Skeleton from Guadaloupe,” Philosophical Transactions, vol. CIV, Part 1 (1814), p. 107–120.
  96. Ibid., I: p. 181.
  97. In other words, they should exist in every part of the world where animals exist and the strata to which they are peculiar are found.
  98. In other words, they should not be intermixed with the remains of other animals which supposedly lived in another epoch.
  99. In other words, the same sort of fossils should not be found in successive strata, but rather different species and genera should appear in different strata.
  100. In other words, as we move up through the strata, lower fossils should not reappear in the upper strata, but rather new species and genera should appear after the extinction of the lower ones.
  101. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 187.
  102. Ibid., I: p. 189–281.
  103. Georges Cuvier, Theory of the Earth (1822, fourth edition), p. 177–178.
  104. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 191–199.
  105. I attempted to confirm the accuracy of this quote, but did not find the encyclopaedia to which Bugg referred. I presume it was the 1813 edition of the named text, as listed in the National Union Catalogue.
  106. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 200–211. Regarding the differences of the rock formations and the similarities of fossils seen in the London, Isle of Wight, and Paris formations, Lyell agreed with Jameson. See Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology (1830–33), III: p. 18–19.
  107. Cuvier, Theory of the Earth (1822, fourth edition), p. 5.
  108. Ibid., p. 90–91.
  109. Ibid., p. 89–90.
  110. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 212–218.
  111. John Fleming, “On the Value of the Evidence from the Animal Kingdom, Tending to Prove That the Arctic Regions Formerly Enjoyed a Milder Climate Than at Present,” Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, vol. VI (1829), p. 279–280, and “Additional Remarks on the Climate of the Arctic Regions, in Answer to Mr. Conybeare,” Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, vol. VIII (1830), p. 69–70.
  112. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 228–229.
  113. Ibid., I: p. 232–253.
  114. Cuvier, Theory of the Earth (1813), p. 109–111.
  115. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 255.
  116. Cuvier, Theory of the Earth (1822, fourth edition), p. 374.
  117. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 257.
  118. Similarly, in discussing the discovery of recent animal remains with ancient ones, the old-earth geologist Robert Bakewell said, “Such instances should lead us to receive the evidence from animal remains alone, with much caution.” See Bakewell’s, Introduction to Geology (1838), p. 406–407.
  119. Cuvier’s words from his Theory of the Earth (1822, fourth edition), p. 111–113, which triggered Bugg’s response, were as follows. “It must not, however, be thought that this classification of the various mineral repositories is as certain as that of the species, and that it has nearly the same character of demonstration. Many reasons might be assigned to shew that this could not be the case. All the determinations of the species have been made, either by means of the bones themselves, or from good figures; whereas it has been impossible for me personally to examine the places in which these bones were found. Indeed I have often been reduced to the necessity of satisfying myself with vague and ambiguous accounts, given by persons who did not know well what was necessary to be noticed; and I have still more frequently been unable to procure any information whatever on the subject. “Secondly, these mineral repositories are subject to infinitely greater doubts in regard to their successive formations, than are the fossil bones respecting their arrangement and determination. The same formation may seem recent in those places where it happens to be superficial, and ancient where it has been covered over by succeeding formations. Ancient formations may have been transported into new situations by means of partial inundations, and may thus have covered over recent formations containing bones; they may have been carried over them by debris, so as to surround these recent bones, and may have mixed with them the productions of the ancient sea, which they previously contained. Anciently deposited bones may have been washed out from their original situations by the waters, and been afterwards enveloped in recent alluvial formations. And, lastly, recent bones may have fallen into the crevices and caverns of ancient rocks, where they may have been covered up by stalactites or other incrustations [sic]. In every individual instance, therefore, it becomes necessary to examine and appreciate all these circumstances, which might otherwise conceal the real origin of extraneous fossils; and it rarely happens that the people who found these fossil bones were aware of this necessity, and consequently the true characters of their repositories have almost always been overlooked or misunderstood. “Thirdly, there are still some doubtful species of these fossil bones, which must occasion more or less uncertainty in the results of our researches, until they have been clearly ascertained. Thus the fossil bones of horses and buffaloes, which have been found along with those of elephants, have not hitherto presented sufficiently distinct specific characters; and such geologists as are disinclined to adopt the successive epochs which I have endeavored to establish in regard to fossil bones, may for many years draw from thence an argument against my system, so much the more convenient as it is contained in my own work.” Slightly reworded, these same admissions were made in 1831 in Cuvier’s revised edition of his theory, which appeared as the introductory “Discourse” of the 4-volume Researches on Fossil Bones (1834, fourth edition), I: p. 68–69.
  120. Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. 276.
  121. The justness of Bugg’s criticisms may be indicated by Cuvier’s opening remarks in the preface to his 1831 revision of his theory: “The first edition of this work, published in 1812, is nothing more than a collection of Memoirs published successively by the Author. . . . From this mode of publication, many of the chapters remained incomplete, others had been composed of various fragments written at different times and in contradiction with each other. It was not possible to arrange them all in a order sufficiently methodical.” See Cuvier’s Researches on Fossil Bones (1834, identical in this statement to the 1831 edition), I: p. 16.
  122. Bugg made no reference to the analyses of Buckland’s interpretation of Kirkdale Cave done by Granville Penn or George Young.
  123. For example, Christian Remembrancer, vol. VIII (1826), p. 530–532; Christian Observer, vol. XXVII (1827), p. 738–740; vol. XXVIII (1828), p. 98, 311–312, 628–631, 750–755; vol. XXIX (1829), p. 647–648.
  124. This was probably the geologist Richard Cowling Taylor (a fellow of the London Geological Society, or FGS).
  125. Magazine of Natural History, vol. II, no. 6 (1829), p. 108–109.
  126. DSB on Prevost.
  127. John Phillips, Illustrations of the Geology of Yorkshire (1829–36), I: p. 23.
  128. Lyell, Principles of Geology, III: p. 240–256. Like Bugg, Lyell argued that 1) the lowest formation of strata attributed by Cuvier to be a freshwater deposit “is not only of very partial extent, but is by no means restricted to a fixed place in the series”; 2) in the great coarse limestone formation, marine, terrestrial, and freshwater shellfish species were mingled together; 3) in the gypsum and marl formations, the strata repeatedly alternated with a limestone, which in Cuvier’s reckoning was placed below them, and 4) shells of the various freshwater formations from the lowest to the uppermost strata were virtually all the same species.
  129. William Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences (1837), Vol. III: p. 538.
  130. New Edinburgh Review, vol. IV (April 1823), p. 381–398.
  131. Christian Observer, Vol. XXIX (1829): p. 648.
  132. At the beginning of the work, he wrote that his “sole aim has been to elicit truth, and confront error” (Bugg, Scriptural Geology, I: p. xv). He concluded with these words about himself: “Truth he values above all things. But the truths of the Bible alone, have the keys of ‘eternal life.’ He will, therefore, esteem it his greatest honour and happiness, if, before he go to be judged by that word, he shall have done any thing which may tend to illustrate its truth, to unfold its correctness, or to shew its importance” (Scriptural Geology, II: p. 355).
  133. Ibid., I: p. 113, 277; II: p. 310.
  134. Ibid., I: p. 11; II: p. 344.
  135. Ibid., I: p. 89–98.
  136. Ibid., II: p. 328–329, 332–344; Christian Observer, vol. XXVIII (1828), p. 239–241.
  137. Ibid., II: p. 353–354. Bugg said this illness increased during the writing of the book and at times brought the work to a complete halt with no hope of it resuming.
  138. Bugg, Friendly Remarks on the Rev. J.W. Cunningham’s Conciliatory Suggestions on the Subject of Regeneration, p. 46.


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