Seven Individual Portraits

We have considered the historical context of the British scriptural geologists. They wrote at a time of incredible change. Politically, monarchial government was moving in the direction of representative democracy. The Industrial Revolution was bringing an explosion of new technology, thereby helping to elevate the social status of science. Reason was being raised to the place of supreme authority in determining truth, and deists and atheists were openly or subtly challenging the Christian world view. This had an effect not only on scientific assumptions and methodology, but also on biblical scholarship and faith in the Scriptures.

In the early 19th century, science and scientists were just beginning to become specialized in the way that we know them to be today, and the study of geology was still very much in its infancy, more as a “gentlemen’s avocation” than as a profession. Though in Britain there were strong defenders of Christian orthodoxy among both high churchmen and evangelicals, liberal theology was slowly penetrating and transforming the churches. And after several centuries of close ties between geology and Scripture, the study of the rocks and fossils was being divorced from the study of the Bible, resulting in a departure from the dominant, traditional interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis.

We are now prepared to consider individually seven of the scriptural geologists. They are presented roughly in the chronological order of their writings on geology. After we have looked at each of these men and his arguments, we will then be in a position to make overall comparisons, summarize their common objections to the old-earth theories, and draw general conclusions about the nature of the debate in which they were engaged.

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