Date of Award

12-2016

Embargo Period

10-2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

School

Science and Mathematics

Faculty

Education, Business & Science

First Advisor

Associate Professor Dr Kevin de Berg

Second Advisor

Dr Lynden Rogers

Abstract

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has from the early years of its existence reacted to the perceived challenge of geological thought to their nascent theology. In particular, the Sabbath of the fourth Commandment in Genesis 2 and the catastrophic global Flood described in Genesis 7 and 8 were targeted. The nineteenth century Adventist response has been one of shifting focus, changing strategies, and increasing intensity. Ellen White, the church’s co-founder and prophetess, was one of the first to sound a warning on theological implications of geology. Her perception of geology contained many pre-nineteenth century concepts disconnected from contemporary geological thinking. Long-time editor Uriah Smith used external documents, notably Presbyterian writings to guide the Adventist congregation with ways of responding to geological thought as it impacted on their faith. The first authentic Adventist evaluation of geology and its perceived link with evolution by Alonzo Jones took place in the mid-1880s. With his spirited response, Jones criticised geological stratigraphic concepts in order to neutralise the threat of burgeoning theistic evolutionary thought. His searching in the geological literature involved the use of contextomy. George McCready Price next ventured to nullify the established stratigraphic principles of geology in order to justify a single, global flood-based hypothesis to explain all fossiliferous sedimentary formations. To achieve this, he presented from established scientists selected citations out of their intended context. A special case is presented on Price’s questionable use of the reports of American field geologists McConnell and Willis on thrust faults in the Rocky Mountains. Price modified diagrams and failed to convey unmistakable evidence of a dynamic cause of complex stratigraphy to present his case for the global existence of reverse sequences of rock strata. He argued that since the geologists’ evidence for a fossil sequence of life in the rock stratigraphy is so greatly flawed, there must have been a single catastrophic event that better explained this. Adventist engagement with geological thought during this period saw a noticeable increase in the disregard of intellectual integrity. This study argues that intellectual dishonesty is not a valid way to support a preconceived interpretation of the scriptural narrative. History provides several examples where skewed accounts of events due to questionable intellectual sincerity have eventually been corrected. This research provides access points for interested persons to further investigate the historical aspects of the nineteenth century geology and Adventist thought engagement.

Comments

Used by permission: the author

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