YEC's Roots in 7th Day Adventism

(Heather Wentzel) #1

Before I post my question I would like to clarify that this post is not a criticism on 7th Day Adventist, nor about the church, and I have a deep respect for members of the denomination and friends who hold those beliefs.

Recently I have been interested in where the wide spread belief in a young earth and global flood as is presented today started. When I was introduced to these ideas as an adult, I was told by many YEC that this is a historic doctrine of the faith that has always been believed by people who really believed the Bible.

I just recently found a couple articles that claimed that YEC today began by teachings of Ellen White who was a prophetess with the 7th Day Adventist Church, and that general Christians did not hold to these beliefs.

I always like to research the origin of church doctrines and how people come to believe what they believe. I would like to research the history of YEC more. I could write AiG but I expect they would claim they got it straight from the bible (although I have yet to find the verse that says it did not rain at all before Noah’s flood). What are some good resources?

Is Young Earth creationism a new Idea?
(Casper Hesp) #2

Hi Heather, this could be a good article to start with:

@TedDavis addresses the SDA origins of young-earth creationism very well in that article. I’m sure he would be happy to point us to additional resources. --paging prof. Davis–

(Christy Hemphill) #3

There is this white paper too:

(Heather Wentzel) #4

Wow! A lot of good info! Thank you so much!

I guess I could have used the search window for Biologos… my apologies! :slight_smile:

(George Brooks) #5


I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered that claim. The claim I’ve encountered is that despite rains,
there was never a Rainbow until God created the symbol of the covenant that there would not be
another global destruction (caused by him).

(George Brooks) #6


I wonder if it is an over-statement to so strongly connect modern Creationism to the efforts of Ellen White. Obviously, we want to be able to point to the first “famous” efforts for Creationism. But it seems to be incorrect to imagine that without Ellen White there would be no creationism.

My Great Grandfather, the Reverend James Hattrick Lee (in his latter years, one of the founders of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church of Milton, Massachusetts), sent a letter of resignation [dated in the last 2 or 3 decades of the 1800s] to the Bishop Philips Brooks (distant Brooks kin out of Concord, MA, as well as the writer of the words to ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’) - - in which he could not rationalize serving as an official of the denomination, teaching 6 day creation and a flood, when he personally could not defend that position.

I doubt if he would have made such a drastic decision if the Episc. denomination was not rather insistent on Creationism being taught, or at least not challenged.

On Another Note -
Something that hasn’t been mentioned much regarding White’s role is how Ellen White came to her conclusions! She didn’t attempt to defend Creationism only through a careful analysis of the original Hebrew and Greek and so forth.

The power of her conviction came from at least one vision (perhaps multiple visions) ! Below are several texts from an online article (URL link at the bottom).

"We now examine a brief case study of how we today might best interpret Ellen White’s comments on earth history, focusing primarily on the Genesis flood. We need, first of all, to review the source of her information regarding earth history. In at least three places regarding earth history we find White making the following claims:

“I was then carried back to the creation and was shown that the first week, in which God performed the work of creation in six days and rested on the seventh day, was just like every other week.”[27] Regarding the size of pre-flood animals she writes: “I was shown that very large, powerful animals existed before the flood, which do not now exist.”[28] Finally, concerning geology White says: “I have been shown that, without Bible history, geology can prove nothing.”[29]

Thus, her information on the history of the creation and flood came, according to her claims, from divine visions regarding these historical events. "

“. . . . according to Ellen White, if we were to claim that these same fossils show that life forms existed millions of years ago, we would be drawing an unwarranted implication from the field data.”[33]
. . . . according to White, the answer lies in a statement-of-faith claim that “[i]n the history of the Flood, inspiration has explained that which geology alone could never fathom.”[34]

[Concluding thoughts in the article!]
"Explaining some implications of the historical event of the flood, White notes that during the Flood humans, animals, and trees were “buried, and thus preserved as an evidence to later generations that the antediluvians perished by a flood. "

“God designed that the discovery of these things should establish faith in inspired history; but . . . the things which God gave them [i.e., to us humans] as a benefit, they turn into a curse by making a wrong use of them.”[35] These words are encouraging regarding the relation of paleontology and the biblical record as intended by God.”

" In other words, according to Ellen White, Deity encourages the search for and study of fossils, and actually intends that their discovery should help to ground personal belief in the historical reliability of the Genesis account of the creation and the Flood. This forcefully illustrates that White believed that the accounts of Genesis 1-11 are divinely intended to be interpreted historically, and not only theologically."

“Thus, according to Ellen White, the only true biblical understanding of the creation and the flood accounts is to interpret them as referring to empirical, historical events which are of interest to the natural sciences. These quotations show us how Ellen White would have us interpret her statements on the Flood today. It seems that she would have us take her flood comments by faith as divinely given insights into the true historical nature of what happened during the Genesis flood.”
[27] Ellen G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy, 4 vols. (Battle Creek, MI:
Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, 1870, 1877, 1878, 1884, 1969), 1:85.
[28] ibid., p. 87.
[33] Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Washington, D.C.:
Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1890, 1958), p. 112.
[34] Ibid., p. 112.
[35] ibid., p. 112.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #7

Ronald Numbers researched this history and wrote extensively of it in his book “The Creationists”. Ken Ham certainly wouldn’t recommend him [Numbers], because it doesn’t put Ham’s variety of creationism in as favorable of a light as Ham no doubt prefers. But nor does it go out of its way to caricature creationists. My own assessment of Numbers (for what it is worth having only read this one work of his) is that he is very even-handed and gives a well-supported account just trying to inform people how things have developed – in other words I think Numbers sheds good light on a subject without raising temperatures except perhaps among those who want facts to look differently than they do. Numbers is apparently an agnostic; something his detractors will find against him, but that is irrelevant to the veracity of his research.

My take on this controversy [of how ‘new’ or how ‘old’ YECism is] is that it comes down to how one wants to define that category and if they are doing so as an opponent or a proponent. YEC proponents will claim that since nearly everybody long ago thought the earth was young, including early apostles and disciples, that therefore YEC is just one historically (and more important: biblically) established continuation of a long-standing tradition. Opponents note that this is no continuity since nobody back then had any reason to ever think otherwise, and therefore YECism is more about how one should understand the relationship between Scriptures and observations of creation and how it works. And in that vein, detractors not only see discontinuity, but even see evidence that the Scriptural writings do not fit well with the recent YEC paradigm.

I tend to agree more with the latter group, but I understand the objections both ways. To me it makes an enlightening contrast between these two groups as I watch how various sides engage with the evidence. Which side casts the wider net looking for information – and is willing to engage with hostile information? Does one side tend to ignore more inconvenient things and ignore challenges? Numbers tends to come through shining in these areas – much more than his detractors so far as I’ve seen.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #8

I should hasten to add [regarding ancients having no reason to question a few thousands years old earth] that of course there were those [Aristotle] who did think of the universe as eternal. But that was another extreme, and I’m not aware of any in-between. Millions of years were not on their radar other than some subset of an eternal cosmos. They had very little in the way of observational evidence to be leaning one way or the other and would lack that for a long time.

(Jay Nelsestuen) #9

In one sense, this is true. Until the scientific revolution, Christians practically universally held to the belief that the earth was less than 6,000 years old and that the deluge of Noah’s day covered the whole earth. This was based on the apparent timeline of events in Genesis. There were no scientific reasons as yet to question this version of history. As an aside, they also believed in a geocentric universe, because the Ptolemaic cosmology was widely believed to be accurate. Copernicus and Galileo fought with the church over that one and won; the church changed its interpretation of those passages which imply geocentrism as poetic or non-literal.

However, young earth creationism and flood geology, as they exist in their modern forms, did not get their start until the late 1800s/early 1900s with Ellen White and the amateur self-taught SDA geologist, George McCready Price. The publication of The Genesis Flood by Morris and Whitcomb (who drew from Price’s writings) in the 1960s marked a major surge in widespread YECism among fundamentalists and evangelicals.

I think this is a necessary distinction to make.

(Larry Bunce) #10

Ellen G. White’s vision of the 6-day creation was published in 1870, a decade after “The Origin of Species,” and a generation after geology had determined that the earth was far more than 6,000 years old. Christian denominations were struggling over whether to reject the evidence or to adjust their interpretation of scripture. She clearly took the first option.

Is Young Earth creationism a new Idea?
(Jay Nelsestuen) #11

And suddenly I read up and notice that @Mervin_Bitikofer said basically what I said. :slight_smile:

(Christy Hemphill) #12

(That it didn’t rain before the Flood)
Well, that’s because you spend every waking hour here instead of on Creationist websites. :wink: I think this idea is part of the “canopy model”

(Phil) #13

That is vaguely what I remember being taught as a child in Sunday School also, but it is a rather bizarre claim, if you consider it to mean light did not refract until the flood. I am sure God took an existing phenomenon and made a symbol out of it.

(George Brooks) #14


I have a completely different “explanation” ! :slight_smile:

I think the claim of no rain until after the Global Flood is a relatively recent development (by recent, let’s say
10 or 15 years?) … which is now being championed because it helps them deal with the "Firmament"

Think of how many times we’ve read posts trying to explain away the word “firmament” … while, in the link you provided me … there’s a page that simply Dives Into this heavenly ocean … head first !!!

"In his classic book The Waters Above, Joseph Dillow lists a number of these accounts that have come to us via the science of anthropology (1981, pp. 113-134.). He contends that Noah and his children would have shared the events of the fateful flood year many times. . . . " “After an analysis of numerous mythological accounts of the ancient earth, Kellogg concludes that many of them tell of a visible water heaven scintillating with light. (Kellogg, Howard, The Coming Kingdom and the Re-Canopied Earth, 1936, p. 23.)”

“In ancient Sumer, the oldest known civilization, there are accounts of a watery heaven that had been separated from the earth. . . . Ancient Indian literature is full of references to a water heaven and of a new sun coming to prominence.”

" The Babylonian histories provide a number of references to a celestial ocean. Ancient Egyptians regarded the heavens as an ocean like the sea on the earth. The sun god traveled through this ocean, which was itself a god named Canopus. "

“The Greek myths featured in the poetry of Hesiod (846 BC) tell of the beginning when there was chaos. From this, the world was created, along with Ouranos (“heaven”). The Magic Papyri equates Ouranos with the firmament, which included the heavenly ocean.”

“. . . The first century Jewish historian Josephus wrote, “After this, on the second day, He [God] placed the heavens over the whole world, and separated it from the other parts: and determined that it should stand by itself. He also placed a crystalline firmament around it, and put it together in a manner agreeable to the earth, and fitted it for giving moisture and rain, and for affording the advantage of dews.” (Flavius Josephus, Antiquity of the Jews: Book 1, 1960, p. 25.)”

(Dr. Ted Davis) #15

Actually Copernicus never fought with the church at all about his heliocentric theory. In the preface to his book, which takes the form of a dedication to the Pope, he briefly alludes to those (unnamed persons), ignorant of mathematics (of which astronomy was a subset), who might raise biblical objections, but he mounts no arguments against them, simply dismissing the relevance of their unlearned objections. That’s it. On several occasions the church positively encouraged him to publish his ideas, and he only agreed finally to do so after being badgered yet again by a devout Lutheran astronomer (Rheticus) who was effectively his one student and by his close friend, Bishop Tiedmann Giese. I am not able to name any Catholic official who publicly objected to his ideas during his lifetime.

(Jay Nelsestuen) #16

Ah, my mistake then.

(Dr. Ted Davis) #17

The two best sources on this (IMO) are Ronald Numbers’ book, The Creationists, and (significantly) Henry Morris partly autobiographical book, A History of Modern Creationism. Morris strongly emphasizes the crucial role that Adventist author George McCready Price played in his own conversion to the YEC view. It’s not too much to say that, by Morris’ own account, he had an epiphany when he first encountered Price’s ideas during WW2.

HOWEVER–it is fully accurate to say that crucial elements of the YEC view were in place prior to Ellen White’s writings. Indeed, it’s known that she plagiarized various authors on various topics, though I don’t recall whether she did on this topic. The “Scriptural geologists” of the 1820s, e.g., held views almost indistinguishable from those of Ken Ham. AiG properly points this out. But, what they don’t tell you is this crucial information: the modern creationist movement is NOT directly descended from the Scriptural geologists. Morris was inspired by Price, not by the earlier authors. And, Morris in turn introduced Whitcomb to Price and not to the Scriptural geologists. That seems like a minor historical point, but it’s really a big piece of creationist history that is all but denied by Ham’s people in what seems suspiciously like a deliberate effort to obscure it, as if they are embarrassed by it.

Now, prior to the late 18th century nearly all Christians accepted a roughly 6000-year-old universe. They had almost no scientific evidence to suggest otherwise–if anything, the scientific evidence gave no date whatsoever for the earth or the universe. Nor did they know very much about ANE history and literature, so they almost entirely lacked any context within which to place Genesis. They didn’t realize that Genesis assumes an ancient cosmology and an ancient cosmogony, while using those common notions to refute the polytheism and pantheism that typically came with them.

The “flood geology” view was not nearly as common as the “young” earth piece, but in the late 17th century it was influentially advanced by John Woodward, who was perhaps the greatest fossil collector of his generation. Woodward sought to explain how so many marine fossils ended up in rocks high on terrestrial mountains: a great puzzle at that time. So, he postulated that the flood did it. Etc.

A major specific example of the state of opinion at the time: Robert Boyle entirely accepted the chronology proposed by Archbishop Ussher (4004 BC for the creation), who had been a good friend of Boyle’s father. But, I can’t recall ever seeing a reference in Boyle to an idea like Woodward’s (Woodward’s book didn’t come out until a few years after Boyle died).

(Heather Wentzel) #18

wow… all the good info here. Thank you so much!

(Mervin Bitikofer) #19

Would it be accurate or fair to say that White, or Price himself was influenced by these earlier Scriptural geologists? --and that in this indirect way they are progenitors for modern YEC?

(George Brooks) #20


Excellent information regarding the importance of Geologist George McCready Price in the trajectory of Creationism !!!

(The Ellen White attributions usually miss the fact she used direct revelation from God to be convincing within her denomination. )

Ted, let me pull out the nitty gritty items that make the arc of the man’s life (courtesy of Wikipedia, link at bottom):

o Price was born in Havelock, New Brunswick, Canada [1870].

o His father died in 1882, and his mother joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

o Price attended Battle Creek College (now Andrews University) between 1891 and 1893.

o In 1896, he enrolled in a one-year teacher training course at the Provincial Normal School of New Brunswick (now the University of New Brunswick), including some courses in mineralogy.

o Price taught at a series of small-town schools from 1897 onwards, including at a high school in Tracadie between 1899 and 1902.

o In Tracadie, he socially met Alfred Corbett Smith (head of the medical department at a local leprosarium), who loaned him scientific literature in his possession.

o Since he believed that the Earth was young [the source for this belief could have been White’s denomination!], Price concluded that geologists had misinterpreted their data.

o In 1902, Price completed the manuscript Outlines of Modern Christianity and Modern Science before leaving Tracadie to serve brief stints as an Adventist evangelist on Prince Edward Island and the head of a new Adventist boarding academy in Nova Scotia.

o In a response to a plea from his wife, the Adventist church first employed Price as a construction worker in Maryland. He then was principal of a small Adventist school in Oakland, California, before becoming a construction worker and handyman at a newly purchased Adventist sanitarium in Loma Linda, California, where he published Illogical Geology: The Weakest Point in the Evolution Theory in 1906.

o In Illogical Geology, Price offered $1000 “to any one who will, in the face of the facts here presented, show me how to prove that one kind of fossil is older than another.”

o From 1907 to 1912, Price taught at the Seventh-day Adventist-run College of Medical Evangelists, now known as Loma Linda University, which awarded him a B.A., based partially on his authorship and independent study.

o From 1912 to 1914, he taught at the San Fernando Academy in San Fernando, California, and from 1914 to 1916 at Lodi Academy, Lodi, California.

o Beginning in 1920, Price taught at Pacific Union College, Angwin, California,] where he was awarded an M.A. (described by Ronald L. Numbers as a “gift”).

o From 1924 to 1928, Price taught at Stanborough Missionary College in Watford, England, where he served as president from 1927 to 1928.

o From 1929 to 1933, he taught at Emmanual Missionary College (now Andrews University) in Berrien Springs, Michigan from 1929 to 1933.

o From 1933 to 1938, he taught at Walla Walla College near Walla Walla, Washington/

o EPILOGUE: “While Price claimed that his book-selling travels gave him invaluable “firsthand knowledge of field geology”, his “familiarity with the outside world” remained rudimentary, with even his own students noting that he could “barely tell one fossil from another” on a field trip shortly before he retired.”

o In 1943, he moved to Loma Linda, California, where he died 20 years later at the age of 92.

1] Price was more conservative in his views than Old Earth creationists such as William Jennings Bryan, Harry Rimmer or William Bell Riley.

2] Contrary to Bryan, Rimmer and Riley, Price rejected the idea of a local flood and insisted on a pure literal 6-day creation consisting of six 24-hour days.

3] He felt that Riley’s day-age creationist views were “the devil’s counterfeit”. Price was equally dismissive of Rimmer, and his gap creationism for most of his career.