In a recent issue of GSAToday Dave Montgomery of Seattle has written an excellent short account of the history of Creationism.

Following all recent scholars like Ron Numbers he traces the roots of Young Earth Creationists (YEC) to about 1900 in the Seventh Day Adventist church, rather than presenting the view that it is a re-incarnation of 17th century ideas. He rightly emphasises that Calvin and Steno were ‘young earthers’ due to limited knowledge rather than a doctrinaire stance. He could have added Archbishop Ussher, who was a wise scholar. As a result, Montgomery understands the gradual awareness in the 18th century that the earth was incredibly ancient, but points out that this was not of religious concern to many orthodox Christians. He stresses that in the 19th century even the most conservative Christians largely accepted geological time and local flood. He could have mentioned that many Victorians still did not accept evolution. The main part of his essay is the rise of YEC, which he presents as NOT coming from the mainstream churches but rather the Seventh Day Adventists, a sect led by Ellen White who had visions of the end and the beginning of the world. He properly gives the foundation of modern creationism as from 1961 with Whitcomb and Morris in more detail and assesses the problems today.

Montgomery has effectively torpedoed the usual Creationist claim that their ‘science’ goes back to the founding of the Royal Society in 1662. The roots of Creationism in fact go back to Ellen White’s ‘prophecies’ in the 1880s.

I particularly liked his final sentence: “How many creationists today know that modern creationism arose from abandoning faith that the study of nature would reveal God’s grand design for the world?” Much will be familiar to most historians of geology but it is good to have a high-quality summary of the history of Creationism, which is far more recent than many think.

Read the full article.