Friday, May 13, 2011

The Great Turning Point by Dr. Terry Mortenson

book cover

The Great Turning Point:
The Church's Catastrophic Mistake on Geology--Before Darwin
by Dr. Terry Mortenson

ISBN-13: 9780890514085
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Master Books
Released: September 28, 2004

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Publisher's Website:
Many people in the Church today have the idea that “young-earth” creationism is a fairly recent invention, popularized by fundamentalist Christians in the mid-20th century. Is this view correct? In fact, scholar Terry Mortenson has done fascinating original research on this subject in England, and documents that several leading, pre-Darwin scholars and scientists, known as “scriptural geologists” did not believe in long ages for the earth. Mortenson sheds light on the following:

  • Before Darwin, what did the Church believe about the age of the earth?

  • Why did it believe this way?

  • What was the controversy that rocked the Church in 19th-century England?

  • Who were the “scriptural geologists”?

  • What influences did the Church contend with even before Darwin’s book?

  • What is the stance of the Church today?

This book is a thoroughly researched work. The history of the Church and evolution is fascinating, and it is interesting to see not only the tremendous influence that evolution has had on the Church, but on society as well.

My Review:
The Great Turning Point is a look at the historical background of an ongoing debate in geology relating to the age of the earth and the origin of the various rock layers. The author explained the intellectual, religious, and cultural context of the debate, including what Bible commentaries were saying about Genesis. He also explained the marks of geological competence in the early 1800s. Personally, I found this section the most interesting.

The second part took a closer look at Granville Penn, George Bugg, Andrew Ure, George Fairholme, John Murray, George Young, and William Rhind. The author gave a short biography for each person and talked about how knowledgeable they were in geology, what they said about geology, their attitude toward the study of geology, their view of the relationship between Scripture and geology, about their writing, and more.

The book contained quotes from the writings of the scriptural geologists and of those against them so you could hear their positions in their own words. The information was well-footnoted so you could see where the quotes and information came from. The language was formal, and a lot of information was covered (information-dense). It took concentration to absorb everything, but it wasn't difficult to follow. If you're interested in this subject, then this book contains some very good information.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from the Introduction
Geologist H.H. Read prefaced his book on the granite controversy a few decades ago with these words, "Geology, as the science of earth history, is prone to controversy. The study of history of any kind depends upon documents and records. For the history of the earth's crust, these documents are the rocks and their reading, and interpretation are often difficult operations."

This book analyzes one such controversy, an extremely important one at that, during the first half of the 19th century in Britain, which has sometimes been called the "Genesis-geology debate." At that time a tenacious and denominationally eclectic band of scientists and clergymen (and some were both) opposed the new geological theories being developed at the time, which said that the earth was millions of years old. These men became known as "scriptural geologists," "Mosaic geologists" or "biblical literalists."

The label "scriptural geologists" is preferred since three of their book titles used these terms and it was the most common label used by their contemporaries and by later historians. However, we need to be aware of the label's liabilities. It has not always been used carefully, resulting in confusion and inaccurate analysis. Calling them scriptural geologists obscures the fact that some of them were competent geologists while others were not (and did not claim to be). Conversely, it sometimes is and was used by opponents to imply, erroneously, that these men all developed their objections to old-earth geological theories solely on the basis of Scripture. Also, at least one of their contemporary critics, an old-earth geologist, also described himself by the same title. Finally, a few of their contemporary critics and several later historians have lumped scriptural geologists together with their opponents under this label. So it is necessary to have a clear view of what they believed.

The scriptural geologists held to the dominant Christian view within church history up to their own time, namely, that Moses wrote Genesis 1-11 (along with the rest of Genesis) under divine inspiration and that these chapters ought to be interpreted literally as a reliable, fully historical account. This conviction led them to believe, like many contemporary and earlier Christians, that the Noachian flood was a unique global catastrophe, which produced much, or most, of the fossil-bearing sedimentary rock formations, and that the earth was roughly 6,000 years old. From this position they opposed with equal vigor both the "uniformitarian" theory of earth history propounded by James Hutton and Charles Lyell, and the "catastrophist" theory of Georges Cuvier, William Buckland, William Conybeare, Adam Sedgwick, etc.

They also rejected, as compromises of Scripture, the gap theory, the day-age theory, the tranquil flood theory, the local flood theory, and the myth theory.Though all but the myth theory were advocated by Christians who believed in the divine inspiration and historicity of Genesis 1-11, the scriptural geologists believed their opponents' theories were unconvincing interpretations of Scripture based on unproven old-earth theories of geology.

Read excerpt from chapter one.

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