Gerald C. Bryant, PhD, Director, Geological Field Institute, Dixie State College presented “…confessions of a conventional geologist” at the 2013 Winter meeting on February 9

Dr. Bryant’s presentation illustrated that the rock record of Earth history is complex and varied, but also very detailed and systematic. It reveals a recognizable suite of processes acting through time to produce weird, wonderful, unique products. This record is replete with catastrophic events; however, attempts to organize those events into the larger framework of a global catastrophe (specifically, the Flood) have not been successful. Though an hypothesis that explains the geologic record of suffering and death as a brief episode of judgment consequent to the fall of man is alluring, from a religious perspective, it does not provide an adequate frame of reference for working with students of science.  Furthermore, the widespread adoption of this hypothesis as an apologetic device, within Adventism, has created an extra-Biblical pre-condition – a stumbling block – for non-Christians in the scientific community who are open to considering Biblical perspectives.

In Dr. Bryant’s experience, Adventists respond to the perceived threats of conventional geology in a variety of ways.  All of these have value, of some sort, but none of them fully relieve the tension between some of our traditional positions and the testimony of modern science.  The approaches that are most often encountered in Adventist congregations across North America include: 1) undermining confidence in science (and that sometimes also includes an eagerness to impute evil motives and dishonest practices to scientists); 2) trumping science with ecclesiastical authority (not uncommon in local churches, either, but it is most evident when it takes place at higher levels of church organization); and 3) avoiding conflicts between science and religious beliefs (whichever form it takes, it appears to be most common among Adventist clergy and other professionals who are trying to focus on more immediate priorities).  Dr. Bryant believes that the final two approaches: 4) extending support and personal guidance to those under duress in doctrine/science conflicts; and 5) clarifying challenges for the next generation of Adventist scientists and theologians; represent the pathway forward as a denomination.  Our teachers are very good in these areas as is the staff at the Geoscience Research Institute.  Dr. Bryant suggested that, as a community, we should nurture students of science, philosophy, and theology who are both competent to engage this debate and mature enough to handle the stress it produces. These students are themselves our best emissaries to the scientific community. Not because they have the inside scoop on natural history; but because they are diligent, have an awareness of human limitations, are able to address an issue from multiple perspectives, and have accepted the discipline of Christ, who enables grace and humility. 

An mp3 audio file of this presentation is immediately downloadable using the Lectures tab on this website.  A CD may be ordered online or using the printable order form under the archives tab above.

(photos by Michael Scofield)

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