Thursday, February 18, 2010

E. G. White and G. M. Price

Perhaps no figure in the current creationism debate in our churches is more important than George McCready Price (1870-1963). Because his credentials were undistinguished he is not a household name, but his proposals currently loom large, even dominant, among those who endorse young earth creationism.

After the “Golden Age of Geology,” roughly the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Price may be termed a true reactionary. He rejected almost all geological evidence, interpretations, and scientific advances of geology in that era, returning instead to the 144-hour, recent creation views most ancient church fathers held prior to the scientific revolution. The early church leaders had no access to modern scientific methods and the discoveries which resulted.

Price’s family was Seventh-day Adventist. He endorsed the writings and beliefs of Ellen G. White (1827-1915), founder of the Adventist Church. Walter Martin described her as “one of the most fascinating and controversial personages ever to appear upon the horizon of religious history.” She wrote prolifically, detailing her trance-like visions, such as one in which she was “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.”

White also believed that after the flood of Noah had subsided, exposing rotted carcasses of pre-flood times, God buried the debris by causing “a powerful wind to pass over the earth…in some instances carrying away the tops of mountains like mighty avalanches, forming huge hills and high mountains where there were none to be seen before, and burying the dead bodies with trees, stones, and earth.” The debris was turned into oil and coal, according to White, which God later ignited to produce “earthquakes, volcanoes, and fiery issues.”

Historian Ronald L. Numbers has stated, “White’s authoritative descriptions of times past made most Adventists, including Price, unwilling to entertain interpretations of Genesis, such as the day-age and gap theories, that allowed other fundamentalists to accommodate the findings of historical geology.”

In an upcoming post I will detail how the beliefs of George McCready Price lingered for decades and finally surfaced in the full blown young earth creation paradigm which has blossomed into popularity in fundamentalist/evangelical circles since 1960.

Contemporary young earth creationists may be surprised to learn, as evangelical historian Mark Noll states, that “…during the century before the 1930s, most conservative Protestants believed that the “days” of Genesis 1 stood for long ages of geological development or that a lengthy gap existed between the initial creation of the world and a series of more recent creative acts…” It is likewise surprising that the proliferation of 20th century scientific discoveries have failed to budge staunchly held views that the earth is a planet only 6000 years old and that the book of Genesis abides no other interpretation.