The Great Turning Point

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. With illuminating attention to detail, Mortenson discusses:

  • The men who invented the idea of millions of years
  • The beliefs of the “pre-Darwin” church regarding the age of the earth
  • The origins of the gap theory, day-age theory, local flood theory, etc.
  • The “scriptural geologists” and their arguments against old-earth geological theories
  • The real source of the idea of millions of years (it is not science)

This book details the early 19th-century origin of the idea of millions of years and the Christian men who opposed that idea.


It has been said that history repeats itself, because we learn from history that people don’t learn from history! Dr. Mortenson has thoroughly documented the work of the Bible-believing geologists in Britain in the 1820–1840 period who resolutely resisted those inside and outside the church who placed human reason above divine revelation, thus undermining the Scriptures and the Christian gospel. These men were the roots of the modern creation movement. Not surprisingly, the arguments from the Scriptures, the geologic evidences debated, and the tactics of the scientific establishment have not changed in almost two centuries. This is a must-read for all Christians, who need to be informed so as not to repeat the mistakes of our forefathers in compromising the clear teaching of Scripture about creation and the Flood as the true history of the earth and thus the only basis for geological inquiry.

Dr. Andrew Snelling

College and seminary students would benefit much from reading the compilation of individual biographies as well as from consideration of the thorough survey of the historical background in which these men lived and studied. Some readers will be challenged and find it a valuable resource tool, others will perhaps pick it up from time to time just to dip into the biographies for a quick reminder of how men of God observed their world with their Bible in hand.

Dr. Trevor P. Craigen
Assoc. Professor of Theology
The Master’s Seminary

I read Dr. Mortenson’s book and frankly could not put it down because at last I found a scholarly work that I as a minister with no training in geology or science in general could comprehend. This book makes a valuable contribution to an area that has not been explored very much. I can see it being helpfully consulted by seminary professors, college instructors, pastors, and interested lay people.

Dr. Jack C. Whytock
Pastor and theologian
Moncton, New Brunswick

The Great Turning Point deals very carefully and comprehensively with the crucial era of historical geology in the light of the Genesis record: the early 19th century. Many evangelical scholars today have ignored the original source materials and have therefore misunderstood the Genesis-geology controversies of that generation, and thus of ours as well. This outstanding volume will go far to set the historical record straight.

Dr. John C. Whitcomb
Theologian, author, and conference speaker

Galileo, Bacon, Newton, Cuvier, and Lyell are all familiar to students of the history of science and geology. However, Penn, Bugg, Ure, Fairholme, Murray, Young, and Rhind (all from the 19th century) have remained virtually unknown until Mortenson’s revealing historical analysis. The Great Turning Point provides a new look at the Genesis-geology debate that cannot be ignored.

Dr. William Barrick
Prof. of Old Testament, Dir. of Doctoral Studies
The Master’s Seminary

If your high school students (or you!) need a break from the relentless secular “wisdom” of every credible scientist in all ages adhering to the idea of an earth millions of years old, Dr. Mortensen’s book is a great lesson in the true history of science. It thoroughly explores the origin of replacing God’s Word with man’s wisdom using geological hypotheses. The lives of seven scientists who did not depart from the clear teaching of Genesis are chronicled. Read this book, written in language understandable to the lay reader, to be able to refute those who would say that creationism teaching is just a side issue.

Monica Cook
Home-schooling mother
General Editor, The Old Schoolhouse

In the midst of the current creation-evolution debate, several misconceptions cloud the issue and detract from careful reflection: (1) The theory of evolution was first articulated with the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859. (2) Not until Darwin’s “discovery” did some people read the Genesis accounts of divine creation and the Noahic flood in less-than-literal ways. (3) By the first part of the 19th century, no scientifically responsible person held to the historical truth of the biblical accounts of creation and the Flood. (4) Prior to the rise of the young-earth creation movement and the intelligent design movement during the last part of the 20th century, no scientifically and philosophically credible responses to the theory of evolution over millions of years had been offered by Christians. Terry Mortenson thoroughly addresses and definitively dispels these misconceptions by focusing on the British “scriptural geologists” from the first half of the 19th century. For anyone interested in the debate over evolution (and especially over the age of the earth) and the history of Christian responses, The Great Turning Point is must reading.

Dr. Gregg Allison
Assoc. Prof. of Christian Theology
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary


So many people made possible my Ph.D. research (upon which this book is based). Without them I could not have produced this book.

I would like to thank the very helpful library staff at the Bodleian Library (particularly Mr. Richard Lindo, Mrs. C. Mason, Mr. Richard Bell, Mr. W.H. Clennell, and Miss Jackie Dean), the Radcliffe Science Library in Oxford, and at the London British Library. Their assistance was invaluable, not only in making use of the library facilities and resources, but in locating some hard-to-find sources about my subject matter.

I am also indebted to the librarians at several other libraries and museums outside Oxford. Ms. Susan Bennett at the Elgin (Scotland) Museum, Mrs. Jane Pirie of the archives department of Aberdeen University Library and Miss A.M. Stevenson, the archivist at the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, supplied me with biographical information on William Rhind. Mr. Harold Brown at the Whitby Museum and Mr. Paul Ensom at the Yorkshire Museum in York provided a little treasure of biographical information on George Young. The Kettering Library staff sent me a very helpful recent article on George Bugg, and Mrs. Jill Crowther at Hull Central Library supplied some details about his death. Thanks are also due to Mr. Gary Archer at the Leamington Spa Library for tracking down the death notice on George Fairholme and to Mr. Andrew Martin at the Royal Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh for information about Fairholme’s home parish. In addition, Mrs. Waveney Jenkins of the Isle of Man and Mr. Gerald Fairholme of London, two living relatives of George Fairholme, were enthusiastic in their help to this foreigner by providing access to private family papers related to their great, great grandfather. Mr. and Mrs. Jane Farr, the present owners of the former Fairholme estate near Gordon, Berwickshire, also contributed useful information.

I appreciate the help of my two oldest daughters (at that time teenagers), Sara and Anna, who worked hard in typing many of the long quotes included in this work. Our financial survival during the Ph.D. research would have been impossible without our many friends in America and England who believed in the importance of my research enough to financially support us so that I could study full-time. Also helpful were the grants from the Sandy Ford Foundation and the Christian Scholarship Foundation, both in America.

Because our house in Guildford, England, was small and our family was large and we were on a tight budget, I would never have completed this research without the gracious and free provision of a place to study and write, first in the home of the late Mrs. Dorothy Jelley and then (when she had to move into a nursing home) in the home of Dick and Helen Battersby. I am indebted to the Steve Daughtery family for letting us live in their beautiful and spacious house at incredibly low rent, when we had to vacate our first home eight months before completing my Ph.D. thesis and to the Adrian Peckham family who took us in for the last few months when the Daughterys found a buyer for their house.

In the process of transforming my thesis into a book, I very much appreciate the work of the editors of the Technical Journal (now simply TJ, the Australian creationist journal which previously published many chapters of my thesis) and to the staff at Master Books, especially Tim Dudley, Jim Fletcher, and Judy Lewis.

My last expressions of gratitude to fellow humans go to the five people who were most helpful in the research for this book. First, my two Ph.D. supervisors, Prof. Colin Russell and Dr. Gordon McConville, patiently worked with me as initially I produced some abysmally poor writing. In their own unique styles, they wisely guided me when I was a bit perplexed about how to proceed and they provided encouragement and advice, along with strong and specific criticisms, to stimulate me to do my best in research and in writing. I am also grateful for the challenging oral Ph.D. exam administered by Prof. John H. Brooke and Dr. Paul Marston, and for their insightful criticisms which led to revisions that strengthened the thesis before its final approval. Of course, I take full responsibility for the deficiencies and errors which yet remain and for the conclusions in the finished product.

I also must and gladly want to express my deep, deep gratitude to my dear wife, Margie, who has served, loved, encouraged, and supported me in innumerable ways. She also read every part of my thesis and this book, sometimes more than once, and gave valuable suggestions for improvement. I could not have completed it without her.

Finally, I acknowledge my gratitude to God, who graciously provided for me and my family during the research, and who, I have no doubt, guided me in my study. To Him be all the glory!

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