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Dr. Andrew Snelling, AiG–U.S., responds to a common misconception that the Bible is silent on geological events.
Without eyewitnesses and with the silence of the bible on geological events, how is Dr Snelling able to interpret anything of geological history?
Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. (Acts 16:26)
For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. (2 Peter 3:5–6)
There are many articles on our website that relate to the issue that has been raised. So in answering the question, I will point out some articles that would be helpful on the subject.
There is a common misconception that the Bible is silent on geological events. Consider the two passages that opened this response—an earthquake and the global Flood certainly had geological repercussions! Also, please note that much of Genesis chapters 1 through 9 relate to directly to geology.
What could be a more significant geological event than the opening verse of the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”? That’s a clear statement about the formation of the earth by the authoritative word of the eternal Creator God. Actually, God goes on to tell us that when He created the earth it was not a hot molten blob as many secularists claim, but instead it was relatively cool (between 0–100°C or 32–212°F) because the waters, as described in Genesis 1:2, were liquid and not vapor or ice.
And by the way, in response to the arbitrary assertion that there were no eyewitnesses, doesn’t the Creator God qualify as a reliable eyewitness? After all, if He is who He says He is, then not only is He the Truth, but He is also the source of all truth. In the creation account we read how God created from nothing all of time, space, and the earth. Then He prepared the heavens with the stars (including comets, planets, galaxies, and more), and He made the earth to eventually be man’s abode complete with water, land, animals, and plants. Throughout this account, we are repeatedly told that God was present to see what He had made, and the Scriptural record is there to tell us what God said He did.
The creation of the earth by God was a stupendous geological event. Two days after He created the earth, “God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear’; and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:9–10). I believe that God gathered the waters on the earth’s surface into ocean basins, uplifted rocks to form a supercontinent and a land surface on which He put soil, and created plants to clothe it.
In just a sentence or two, God thus described another earth-altering geological event. To form and raise a supercontinental landmass from above the globe-encircling waters required catastrophic earth movements. And as the emerging supercontinent breached those waters, the latter would have drained off, scouring the emerging land surface. The erosion would charge those retreating waters with sediments, which would then have been deposited en masse surrounding that supercontinent and spreading out onto the surrounding ocean floor.
As there was not yet any macroscopic life created to live on the earth, these sediments would not have buried and fossilized any macroscopic creatures. So it’s hardly surprising that the earliest sedimentary rocks in the geologic record do not contain any macroscopic fossils. (Please see my article, Thirty Miles of Dirt in a Day.)
If these geological events described in the Bible were not enough, we read of another stupendous geological event that the Bible is hardly silent about—three chapters of the book of Genesis, chapters 6–8, are devoted to describing it. This event is the global Flood cataclysm that engulfed the whole planet in the days of Noah.
In fact, God was careful to tell us a lot of descriptive details about that world-changing geological event. It began when “the fountains of the great deep” were broken up, and continued for 40 days and 40 nights of global torrential rainfall, so that all the high hills under the whole of the heaven were covered. The mountains were covered by floodwaters, and all land-dwelling, air-breathing creatures perished that were not aboard the rescue vessel God instructed Noah to build.
After reading that description, is there any evidence that confirms such a Flood? What evidence would we expect to find? The answer is quite simple: billions of dead things (fossils) buried in rock layers laid down by water (sedimentary rocks) all over the earth. And that’s exactly what we find! Actually, there is a series of seven articles I wrote on the best Geologic Evidences for the Genesis Flood:
For example, the presence of marine fossils buried in rock layers that can be traced vast distances across continents is a great confirmation that the ocean waters have flooded the continents. I encourage you to study this further.
Now back to the question about eyewitnesses. As I indicated earlier, the Bible tells us who the eyewitnesses were of these three stupendous geological events. In Genesis 1 we are told that God was present when He created the earth—and again when He made an original supercontinent with its dry land surface on which He then placed plants, animals, and finally man. The same Creator God was present when He warned Noah about the Flood cataclysm that would come and instructed him to build a rescue vessel called the Ark. God also tells us that He was the one who brought the animals to Noah—and then when Noah, his family, and the animals were aboard, it was God who shut the door.
So again, surely the Creator God, who is the Truth (John 14:6; Titus 1:2), can be trusted to tell us the truth about this geological event called the Flood. Not only was God present, but Noah was also present as an eyewitness to make sure the details were recorded. Noah built the Ark, and Noah was with his family and the animals aboard the Ark. How many eyewitnesses does one need in order to accept the biblical account of earth history and these geological events that shaped the world to make it what it is today? The details have been provided by the all-powerful, all-knowing Creator God, who was the eyewitness and had the details recorded for us. So the issue comes down to trust: either in a perfect God who witnessed these events, or in modern, imperfect humans who didn’t witness any of these historical events.
Actually, please permit me to ask a return question. How many eyewitnesses were there to see the breakup of Rodinia (a proposed supercontinent) or the formation of the Appalachians? Were there any geologists present on the earth to see the eruption and extrusion of the flood basalts of the Deccan Traps? Of course, we can see the Appalachian Mountains today and the basalts of the Deccan Traps, but there were no eyewitnesses to these events.
So how can someone today know for sure how—and at what speed—these events occurred? Without any eyewitnesses, one would be forced to make assumptions about the past operations of geological processes. Some people may appeal to radiometric dating methods, but these methods are based on unverifiable assumptions (see my articles about those assumptions: Radiometric Dating: Back to Basics and Radiometric Dating: Problems with the Assumptions). Secularists must assume so much that cannot be verified by eyewitnesses who were present to see the earth’s past history. So why would anyone trust their conclusions?
How would anyone know if the movements of the earth’s crustal plates have always been at the slow rates they are occurring at today? Actually, a team of earth scientists, who trust God’s eyewitness account of earth history and the details that are recorded in the Bible as a reliable description of the unparalleled geological events that shaped the earth, have been able to show that plate motions in the past were catastrophic and that the mechanism for the global cataclysmic Flood mentioned earlier was catastrophic plate tectonics. You can read about their model and its explanatory power in their paper and in my articles on our website—see Catastrophic Plate Tectonics: A Global Flood Model of Earth History, A Catastrophic Breakup, and Can Catastrophic Plate Tectonics Explain Flood Geology?
I and others have written about these details at great length. Indeed, let me urge you to read my two-volume set Earth’s Catastrophic Past: Geology, Creation and the Flood, which scientifically expounds and defends the details of earth history and the geological events that God has described in detail in the Bible. That book is readily available through our online bookstore. Other resources, including DVDs of my lectures (such as Geology: A Biblical Viewpoint on the Age of the Earth and Rock Strata, Fossils, and the Flood), are also available from the same source.
In closing, I would like to remind you that the Creator God of the Bible actually revealed Himself to us when He walked the length and breadth of the land of Israel in human flesh. I am, of course, referring to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible declares, including the testimony of Christ’s earliest followers, that all things were made by Him as the Creator (John 1:1–3; Colossians 1:15–17).
Indeed, Jesus demonstrated in front of eyewitnesses that He was and is the Creator when He turned water into wine instantly, when He took five loaves of bread and two fish and multiplied them by creating more bread and fish to feed thousands of people with lots of scraps left over, when He defied gravity and walked on water, when He commanded a storm to cease and it did, when He healed a man who had been born blind so that He could see again and understand what he was seeing, and when He on several occasions brought dead people back to life again. Moreover, one man had been dead for four days so that his body stank, and he had been buried in a tomb, yet Jesus brought him back to life again! And all of these things were done in front of eyewitnesses to testify that these events occurred exactly as they described them. How many eyewitnesses does one need?
Creation geologists like me are able to interpret geological history because the Bible is not silent about geological events. And those geological events have been attested to by the most reliable eyewitness of all—the Creator God, who in front of eyewitnesses walked on this earth in human flesh to reveal Himself and demonstrated His credentials.
No, the problem is not the earth’s geologic history: it is a spiritual problem. Many people doubt God’s eyewitness testimony because they have refused to acknowledge that the Creator God exists, that He made us, that we have rebelled against Him, and that we are accountable to Him for our rebellion (called sin). Just as the Bible has clearly described the earth’s history, it has described the root cause of man’s problems: his rebellion against God. And yet, God has demonstrated His love for man, whom He created, by coming to us in human flesh, living among us, and showing that He was and is our Creator. But then He took upon Himself the designated punishment for our rebellion against Him, namely, dying on our behalf in our place on the Cross. And to further establish His credentials and demonstrate His power, and to offer us hope, three days later He rose from the dead. He was bodily resurrected, and openly declared Himself alive among hundreds of witnesses. He thus conquered death, so that when we put our trust in Him, He can offer us a changed life now, and a future eternal life with Him.
I challenge you to read the Bible with a mind and heart that is open to allowing God to reveal Himself through its pages.
(Dr.) Andrew Snelling