Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ron Numbers On Dabney

I glanced at a copy of Ron Numbers' The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design today. I was curious to see if he had anything to say about Robert Dabney. He does, on pages 26 and 30. Here is what he writes on page 26 [emphasis added]:

Even Princeton Seminary's rock-ribbed Charles Hodge (1797-1878), who concluded that Darwinism was atheism because it banished God from the world and enabled one "to account for design without referring it to the purpose or agency of God," conceded the great antiquity of the earth and gave his imprimatur to Guyot's and Dana's interpretation of the days of Genesis as geological epochs. And his disciple Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898), the scourge of evolutionists in the Presbyterian church of the South, withheld judgment on the question of geological ages and a pre-Adamite earth.

Now, to call Dabney Hodge's disciple is simply hyperbole, but that really isn't the biggest mistake Numbers makes. Dabney wrote a paper entitled "Geology and the Bible," in which he makes it clear that geologists have no right to make claims concerning the age of the earth or the doctrine of creation:

“[Geology] is virtually a theory of cosmogony; and cosmogony is intimately connected with the doctrine of creation, which is one of the modes by which God reveals himself to man, and one of the prime articles of every theology.” ("Geology and the Bible," in Discussions, vol. 3, 129)

“For, creation is not only a physical fact; it is a theological doctrine.” ("Geology and the Bible," 133)
Dabney went on to say this about theologians who compromised with the "latest findings of science" (which at the time of his writing would have been the latest findings of geology):

[Those theologians who had thus compromised] had “adopted on half-evidence some new-fangled hypothesis of scientific fact, and then invented, on grounds equally insecure, some new-fangled explanations to twist God’s word into seeming agreement with the hypothesis.” ("Geology and the Bible," 130)
Does that sound to you like Dabney "withheld judgment on the question of geological ages and a Pre-Adamite earth"? Hardly; which makes me question the accuracy of other Reformed theologians that Numbers cites in The Creationists.

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