Philosophical Naturalism and the Age of the Earth: Are They Related?

Terry Mortenson | May 19, 2010

Contemporary concern over the negative impact of theories of biological evolution is justified, but many Christians do not understand the stranglehold that philosophical naturalism has on geology and astronomy. The historical roots of philosophical naturalism reach back into the sixteenth century in the works of Galileo Galilei and Francis Bacon. Evolutionary and naturalistic theories of the earth’s creation based on uniformitarian assumptions and advocating old-earth theories emerged in the late eighteenth century. In the early nineteenth century, many Christians sought to harmonize biblical teaching with old-earth geological theories such as the gap theory and a tranquil or local Noachian flood. However, many evangelicals and High Churchmen still held to the literal view of Genesis 1–11. Two Enlightenment-generated philosophical movements in the eighteenth century, deism and atheism, elevated human reason to a place of supreme authority and took an anti-supernaturalistic view of the Bible, holding it to be just another human book. The two movements with their advocacy of an old-earth and their effect on astronomy and geology preceded Darwin and supplied him with millions of years needed for his naturalistic theory of the origin of living things. From this lineage it is clear that geology is not an unbiased, objective science and that old-earth theories, naturalism, and uniformitarianism are inseparable. Intelligent design arguments usually used to combat evolution fail to account for the curse imposed by God in Genesis 3 and are therefore only partially effective. Intelligent design advocates should recognize that the naturalism represented in evolutionary theories began much earlier than Darwin. A return to the Scriptures and their teaching of a young earth is the great need of the day.

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