Question about uniformitarianism

Ploutos

Puritan Board Sophomore
Friends, it seems to me that many or most objections to a belief in 6 literal days and a young earth rest in a uniformitarian mindset - that we can (and therefore should) extrapolate the laws of physics back to creation based on what we can observe now. If you do away with that assumption, while it doesn't necessarily prove the literal days and young earth view, it does seem to me to remove the "mandate" for alternative explanations of the creation story - whether that's a day-age theory, or a gap theory, or some variant of the framework hypothesis.

But it almost seems too simple. Am I missing something? Are there people who don't hold to a uniformitarian view but still feel as if they must find some alternative explanation for the creation narrative? I've recently read some of Meredith Kline's articles on the topic, and while I admire his creativity and intellect, it really seems to come down to uniformitarianism: our understanding of the Genesis narrative has to be viewed through the lens of what modern science knows to be true not just about the present but about the past. Hence his attempts to rectify science with Scripture are still built on the flawed foundation of scientism. If you take that assumed premise away, it really seems to vitiate the strength of his argument - and likewise for most other non-literal readings of Genesis 1 & 2.
 
The tension that such feel is that they believe science to have given us established facts that contradict the traditional understanding of Genesis. Because the Bible does not and cannot contradict truth in other areas, they then believe we need to reinterpret the Bible. They never consider that the science needs to be reinterpreted because they believe the facts are solid there and not allowing of other interpretation, while the Bible they believe does allow of other interpretations. This isn't about uniformitarianism in their mind--although the theories and "facts" that such science establishes does rest on that assumption, along with other simplifications like the Cosmological principle--but rather the nature of scientific inquiry.

This is wrong thinking on so many levels, but that's another perspective that may be encountered.
 
Friends, it seems to me that many or most objections to a belief in 6 literal days and a young earth rest in a uniformitarian mindset - that we can (and therefore should) extrapolate the laws of physics back to creation based on what we can observe now. If you do away with that assumption, while it doesn't necessarily prove the literal days and young earth view, it does seem to me to remove the "mandate" for alternative explanations of the creation story - whether that's a day-age theory, or a gap theory, or some variant of the framework hypothesis.

But it almost seems too simple. Am I missing something? Are there people who don't hold to a uniformitarian view but still feel as if they must find some alternative explanation for the creation narrative? I've recently read some of Meredith Kline's articles on the topic, and while I admire his creativity and intellect, it really seems to come down to uniformitarianism: our understanding of the Genesis narrative has to be viewed through the lens of what modern science knows to be true not just about the present but about the past. Hence his attempts to rectify science with Scripture are still built on the flawed foundation of scientism. If you take that assumed premise away, it really seems to vitiate the strength of his argument - and likewise for most other non-literal readings of Genesis 1 & 2.

Have you read E. J. Young's engagement/critique of the "uniformitarian mindset"? I found his comments to be edifying when I first read them some years ago:


Note: If you do not wish to read the whole thing, search for his comments on the workings of "providence" at the beginning.
 
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I have not read the E.J. Young piece; I am printing out for perusal over the weekend. Thank you!

9pm edit: I've started reading the Young articles - am halfway through Part 1. Thank you - I am enjoying it! I wish he would translate his footnotes - but that's a very minor quibble.
 
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I finished the first article just now. Fortuitously, my Bible reading this morning was from Revelation.

The article has helped me insofar as it ably articulated that non-literal readings of Genesis 1 generally belie two a priori assumptions: that it simply cannot be taken in a literal manner, and that where there is an apparent conflict between the revelation of Scripture and the revelation of science, priority must be given to the revelation of science. To some extent, I didn't need to read Young to figure that out, because it's apparent to me from Kline's own writings that he brings both of those presuppositions to the table.

And that gets to the heart of what really bugs me about so many "alternate" readings of Genesis 1. It's not so much that they exist; it's the fact that their existence and articulation is driven by this notion that it just simply can't be what it says at face value. This was the stand-out quote to me: "But if we label a first-hand impression naive, we cannot do so merely upon the basis of our own independent and 'autonomous' opinion as to what is naive." (24-5)
 
@Alexander Suarez - thank you for the links. I finished both articles on Saturday and found them immensely helpful. I find Young's arguments far more compelling than Kline's. If memory serves, Kline addressed some of Young's points. I'll have to reread what Kline said in response.

But I don't recall Kline ever addressing, in any meaningful way, the question of a priori assumptions of uniformitarianism and preference for natural revelation as interpreted by science.
 
I didn't intend for this thread to become my journal, so apologies for the stream of posts.

I reviewed Kline's two articles briefly this morning ("Because It Had Not Rained" and "Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony") to refresh my memory on what he said and what my thoughts were.

I approached his writing with some initial sympathy toward his concern over the way the creation debate is sometimes handled by YEC advocates. But he does not, in either article, deal with the assumed premises that lead him to place such heavy exegetical weight on a particular scientific detail that he believes Genesis 2:5 alludes to. He himself states: "The unargued presupposition of Gen 2:5 is clearly that divine providence was operating during the creation period through processes which any reader would recognize as normal in the natural world of his day." He doesn't explain why he feels the need to adopt a uniformitarian view or why he places priority on the revelation of scientific discovery, though based on his writings I can charitably assume he sincerely believed his arguments to be based on unbiased and honest exegesis of the text.

It does not follow from acknowledging some validity to his YEC concerns that one has to adopt his conclusions. In my mind he tries to prove too much.

Circling back to Young's articles, I appreciated them because - and I am not advocating a view so much as stating where I am currently - he does not try to prove too much. I'm less convinced (at this time) of the importance of adhering to a specific view of the earth's age or the length of the creation days, though here too I do really favor a plain straightforward reading; and I liked that Young simply dealt with flaws in the framework hypothesis without trying to "prove too much". I did have some questions about the strength of one or two arguments - the absence of explicit mention of the sun's creation in the Babylonian account, for instance, does seem to undermine the parallel he was drawing - but overall I found that he provided a solid KO to the framework view.

I don't have access to Blocher's "Studies in Genesis One" so I am wondering if anyone here has read it and could speak to it - Kline references it as addressing Young's objections. And, circling back to my original question, I am wondering if anyone can point me to others who explain or defend a uniformitarian premise, or, alternately, provide answers not rooted in uniformitarian or scientistic thinking as to why certain things cannot be, like light before the sun. Why the assumption that such views are naive, that God simply cannot and did not do things in such a way?
 
I didn't intend for this thread to become my journal, so apologies for the stream of posts.

If this thread becomes a journal, so be it. Your thoughts are appreciated by many others besides myself, I am sure.

I don't have access to Blocher's "Studies in Genesis One" so I am wondering if anyone here has read it and could speak to it - Kline references it as addressing Young's objections.

I hope someone answers this. I myself cannot really comment because my work has been in the opposite end of the same pool (so to speak). Science does not indeed declare authoritatively that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. And science has not "proven" the universe is 13.7 billion years old (becoming 17By now I think because of James Webb telescope data, but that is an ongoing drama in astrophysics that would be funnier if it wasn't simultaneously so sad).
 
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