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Science and the Bible: Concordism, Part 1

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June 19, 2012 Tags: Biblical Interpretation
Science and the Bible: Concordism, Part 1
"Duria Antiquior," 1830. Watercolor by geologist Henry de la Beche depicting life in ancient Dorset based on fossils.

Today's entry was written by Ted Davis. You can read more about what we believe here.

The word “concordism” is found in neither Merriam Webster nor the Oxford English Dictionary, yet it’s often used in contemporary works dealing with origins. Derived from the word “concord,” meaning a state of harmony, “concordism” has been used sparingly in English for more than a century. However, its prominence today comes from a thoroughly scholarly book written shortly after World War Two by the late Baptist theologian Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture (1954). As Ramm defined it, concordism “seeks a harmony of the geologic record and the days of Genesis,” by which he really meant an old-earth creationist approach.

I am using the term in the same sense. Like Ramm, I don’t regard theistic evolution as a concordist view, even though some TE proponents like to say that evolution can be “harmonized” with Genesis. At the same time, Ramm completely rejected Price’s recent creation and Flood Geology, and he obviously did not consider that view to be a type of concordism either. Why not? On first glance, the YEC view might seem to fall within Ramm’s definition of concordism, and the authors of one of the books recommended in the first column in this series classify it as a type of concordism. However, the harmony sought by YEC proponents comes at the cost of entirely rejecting the standard geologic record, which they replace with Flood Geology. That isn’t what Ramm had in mind by seeking a “harmony.”

Often the concordist view is called “progressive creation,” another term that Ramm used with much approval: “We believe that the fundamental pattern of creation is progressive creation,” he wrote prominently in italics. Indeed, it is sometimes assumed that Ramm invented both terms, “concordism” and “progressive creation,” when in fact he did no such thing. If anything, the latter term is even older than the former, having been used to refer to an OEC interpretation of natural history for about two centuries. The first American author to use it may have been Benjamin Silliman, an evangelical who was appointed the first professor of natural history at Yale by another evangelical, Yale’s president Timothy Dwight. Silliman was the single most influential figure in American science during the nineteenth century. In his Outline of the Course of Geological Lectures Given in Yale College (1829), Silliman spoke of “the progressive creation, life, death and sepulture [fossilization], of animals and plants.” On another occasion he noted how the Bible describes “a successive creation of plants and animals, ending with man,” and that geology “proves this history to be true.”

Clearly, then, the concordist or progressive creationist view has been around for a long time. Let’s examine its main components.

Core Tenets or Assumptions of Concordism

(1) The Bible and science (mainly geology and astronomy) are BOTH reliable sources of knowledge about the origin of the earth and the universe. God has written two “books” for our instruction, the book of nature and the book of scripture. Since God is the author of both “books,” they must agree when properly interpreted.

If this strikes you as worded deliberately to sound like Galileo, you’re right—but only because so many proponents of the concordist view also have Galileo very much in their minds. The basic scheme is neatly depicted in this diagram:

Recall Galileo’s belief that the book of nature, written in the divine and unambiguous language of mathematics, should be used to help interpret the book of scripture, written in the richer but more ambiguous language spoken by the ordinary persons for whom its vital message of salvation was intended. When they accept the evidence for an ancient earth, Silliman and many other evangelical scholars right down to our own day believe they have merely applied Galileo’s logic to a different set of biblical texts.

(2) Scientific evidence, when properly interpreted, is consistent with the Bible, when properly interpreted.

Galileo again: because both “books” are written by the same Author, they must agree. As he said in his Letter to Christina, “the holy Bible can never speak untruth—whenever its true meaning is understood. But I believe nobody will deny that it is often very abstruse, and may say things which are quite different from what its bare words signify. Hence in expounding the Bible if one were always to confine oneself to the unadorned grammatical meaning, one might fall into error.”

What about those who interpret the book of nature? Can they ever be mistaken? Should they ever yield to those who interpret the book of scripture? Evolution was not the source of Galileo’s concerns, but concordists today would give the nod to scripture mainly when it comes to evolution—especially human evolution. Regardless of how much evolution they accept for other organisms, concordists hold strongly to the separate creation of Adam and Eve as the first human beings. They believe that Genesis 1 was intended to be at least broadly historical, even though it does not provide detailed scientific information.

Mainstream conclusions in geology and cosmology, however, are almost always accepted; indeed, Hugh Ross and some other OECs not only accept the “big bang” theory of the universe, they actively promote it as central to Christian apologetics, because it presents us with a universe that is not eternal and that appears to be exquisitely designed as a home for living creatures, including ourselves.

(3) The Bible does NOT tell us the age of the earth.

Two main concordist approaches to resolving the tension between Genesis and scientific dating of the earth have been popular since the mid-nineteenth century: the “day-age theory,” which still has numerous advocates (including Ross), and the “gap theory,” which is now nearly extinct. One hundred years ago, however, the gap theory was probably the more popular option among conservative Protestants, and it remained so until the 1960s and 1970s, when the rapid spread of Scientific Creationism all but relegated the gap view to the dust bin.

The Gap Theory

The gap theory posits a “gap” of untold length between “the beginning” of Genesis 1:1 and the first “day” of creation, starting with Genesis 1:3; the formless void of Gen 1:2 corresponds to this “gap.” Verse 1 refers to the original creation of the earth and the universe “in the beginning,” not to world as we now find it. The fossils represent creatures that populated the original creation. Current living creatures come from a second creation, after the “gap,” when God made them in six literal days, culminating in the creation of Adam and Eve just a few thousand years ago.

Although the creation of humanity matches the traditional biblical chronology—a major reason for the popularity of the gap theory in its heyday—the original creation cannot be dated from the Bible. Whether it happened 100 million years ago (as scientists thought around 1900) or billions of years ago (as scientists thought for much of the twentieth century), does not matter one bit to the Bible. Geologists can say whatever they wish about the age of the earth. The Scofield Reference Bible, originally published by Oxford University Press in 1909, taught the gap theory to generations of conservative Protestants in the English speaking world. The headings alone indicate Scofield’s endorsement of the gap theory, and he waited no longer than the second footnote to spell it out: “The first creative act refers to the dateless past, and gives scope for all the geologic ages.” (NOTE: the date “B.C. 4004" in the middle column refers to the start of the six days, not to “the beginning.” I’ll elaborate on that date in part two of this column.)

As Scofield’s third note shows, the gap theory was usually placed within an elaborate theological structure about the fall of Satan and the angels, based on certain prophetic texts (see below). A full discussion would take us far afield, but something should be said about how gap theorists interpret Genesis 1:2, the crucial verse for their model. Scofield sticks with the King James Version, “the earth was without form, and void,” doing the exegetical work in his notes, but others like to render it as, “the earth became a waste place,”, drawing out the implication (in their view) that God destroyed the original creation, laying waste to it in an act of judgment, leaving us with fossils of the pre-Adamic world.

In some versions of the gap view, the original creation included pre-Adamite people—that is, humans who were not descended from Adam and Eve. This idea that took many forms, some with racist overtones. Perhaps this strikes you as a bit surprising, but in the mid-nineteenth century it was a commonplace conception among Protestants, and not unknown to Catholics either. A prominent example would be The Pre-Adamite Earth: A Contribution to Theological Science (1846), a very popular book by the English Congregational minister John Harris. Historian David Livingstone has written the definitive history of this fascinating idea. For more, see this interview, but there is no substitute for reading the book itself! Let me make an invitation: who wants to borrow a copy and provide their own commentary here?

In all versions of the gap theory, however, fossils are vestiges of the pre-Adamic world, produced when it was destroyed; they are not a record of evolutionary history. All modern animals and many plants were created recently, in six literal days. Despite what YECs often say, there is just no way to see the gap theory as an “evolutionist” interpretation of Genesis!

The "Day-Age" Theory

The day-age theory takes the “days” in Genesis 1 as periods of indefinite length, such that neither the age of the earth nor the duration of any particular period in creation history can be determined from the Bible. The basis for this view is that the Hebrew word “yom” (day) can also mean an indefinite period of time. According to Hugh Ross, the leading advocate of progressive creation today, if the Hebrews had wanted to refer to a long period of indefinite length, they would have used the word “yom.” Thus, he claims to be giving a literal interpretation when he upholds the day-age view.

Numerous varieties of the day-age view have been proposed since the eighteenth century, too many to review here. They all teach that the major kinds of plants and animals were created separately, over the eons of earth history; the fossil record shows reliably which came earlier and which came later. Thus, the creation was accomplished “progressively,” as Silliman held in 1829 and Ross holds today. Ross thinks God performed millions of acts of special creation, but concordists differ substantially among themselves on the magnitude of the number for this.

Concordists mostly agree, however, that the first true humans were Adam and Eve, and that they were created ex nihilo—but, how recently were they created? Can the biblical 6,000 years be stretched far enough to encompass fossils of modern humans (homo sapiens sapiens) dating back perhaps to nearly 200,000 years? Can the biblical picture of Adam’s children living amidst cities and agriculture be reconciled with extensive evidence of humans who lived long before either existed? I’m no anthropologist, but anyone can see the relevance of such questions for this position.

(4) The Flood was a real historical event, but it was not responsible for producing the fossils; rather, fossils are relics of organisms that were mainly here before humans.

The last of the four basic assumptions shared by concordists is that they reject Flood Geology and accept the standard geologic column. Hugh Ross and some others believe that the flood was geographically localized, covering part of the ancient Near East but not the whole globe. This is called the “local flood” view. Biblical scholar Paul Seely briefly assesses this view in light of current knowledge here, but a full discussion of the issues goes well beyond of the scope of this online course. Anyone with appropriate expertise is invited to place comments below. The main point is that the flood has no geological significance for concordists, whether or not it was geographically “local.”

Looking Ahead

Our look at concordism concludes on July 3 with some conclusions about the OEC view and further historical comments. I’ll pay attention to your comments in the meantime.




Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

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George Bernard Murphy - #70536

June 19th 2012

That is very good!

 I could quibble about parts of it but the main idea that BOTH science and the Bible are authoritative sources of knowledge BECAUSE THEY WERE BOTH WRITTEN BY GOD.


wesseldawn - #70949

July 8th 2012

True, so then science and the Bible should be in ‘agreement’ instead of fighting each other! 

Science studies the earth and tells us what they find there - in that respect they’re only reporting their findings, the evidence which cannot lie. Sure, they can misconstrue certain things if they don’t have all the evidence but they must be doing something right because science has made incredible strides.

The error then (and the reason for the fighting) must be with religion!

Justin - #70541

June 19th 2012

I’m enjoying this series.  I stumbled across Hugh Ross several years ago on the John Ankerberg show.  Having been brought up in a YEC background, I was suprised and actually quite confused to hear an evangelical speak enthusiastically about the big bang! 

I suppose I skipped OEC in my journey from YEC to evolution (It probably isn’t even helpful to frame that as a purely linear progression, though I suspect that it is for some).  I just don’t remember being exposed to it during the time that I was dissatisfied with YEC and searching.  I can see from your essay that it is a very old approach, but has it really had a significant resurgence under Ross?  He seems to be gaining a lot of prominence, and I just don’t remember hearing much about it in evangelical circles prior to his and RTB’s popularity.

Keep these coming.

Justin - #70542

June 19th 2012

An addendum to the above…since I don’t see an edit button.    Changed where I wrote “evangelical” to say “creationist” as I realize that many TE’s are evangelicals as well.

George Bernard Murphy - #70543

June 19th 2012

Justin the explanation tht I like is the one Galileo penned a few centuries ago.

 He said the Bible was “inerrant but recondite.”

Now being a country bumpkin myself, I did not know what “recondite” meant.

 It means something that has meaning but requires special knowledge in order to allow folks to understand the meaning.

 A real good example might be a doctor looking at an X-ray.

 The doctor does not have better vision but he has studied the shadow pattern and derives meaning.

 If a doctor and a layman both look at an x-ray they both see black and white outlines. But the doctor may recognize it as bowel obstruction. whereas the layman derives no information about any diseae process.

 Both see the same visual information but only the person with special education correctly interprets the medical meaning which is RECONDITE…. not invisible,.. but accessible only to the educated.

 As new scientific information becomes available the scriptures must be rescanned to see if it changes the previous understanding.

This is condordance but many people think it is wrong. These people frequently say “scripture interprets scripture”.

 But concordanists [like myself] think that all of the knowledge given to us by God should be used… to understand the recondite verses of scripture.

Nicholas Olsen - #70545

June 20th 2012

Obviously we are RECONDITE if Genesis 1 is meant to be concorded with scientific knowledge. You’d have to argue that God’s intention of inspiring the writer(s) of Genesis 1 is meant to be concorded with knowledge that is gained from Western education in the 1800s onward in humanaity’s time on earth.

I personally don’t see concordism as a bad thing, but im still looking at it with pause.

So far my assessment of it is like a person involved in a crime is innocent of what the police suspect, but to the police…. this person has truthfully confessed some actions look suspicious. Almost like a coincidence that the actions have been factually confirmed, but the conclusion that he is partly guilty is still wrong.

The evidence looks striking but how do we know that this is the intent? Personally i see no way knowing this unless God gives you a revelation of absolute knowledge that He intended this.

George Bernard Murphy - #70557

June 20th 2012

Mr. Olsen I like your statemenent,,,,,“God’s intention of inspiring the writer(s) of Genesis 1 is meant to be concorded with knowledge that is gained from Western education in the 1800s onward in humanaity’s time on earth.”

This seems to be what IS HAPPENING. It is sort of a shocking discovery.

Things like dark matter, only recently discovered, seems to resemble the “light” and “dark “of Genesis 1:3-4 more than the alternation of light and dark  produced by a rotating earth.

Nicholas Olsen - #70585

June 22nd 2012

I only said that would have to argue for God’s intentions, because i do not hold to that statement. It’s only my thoughts of what concordism is.

Mark Edward - #70663

June 26th 2012

Your definition makes sense to me, and it is precisely why I just don’t see concordism as a viable method of interpretation. Science is ever-changing, so today’s concordist interpretation was different from what 100 years ago and what will be 100 years from now.

I just can’t get on board with a method of interpretation that claims whole parts of the Bible (i.e. God’s written revelation) were obscured (i.e. the opposite of revelation) for the majority of history.

Mark Edward - #70664

June 26th 2012

In other words, it’s the same type of thing as Christians who think the end-times MUST be happening right now because clearly the Revelation was referring to the events we see going on around us, despite us having no tangible evidence that the Biblical writers had our current events in mind. This problem has plagued Christians for centuries. Every generation thinks their time is the end-times.

The following is not meant to be insulting, but I see this kind of eschatological outlook, as well as concordism, as chronocentricism and cultural egotism. God wasn’t speaking to 21st-century Americans. He was speaking to ancient Israelites. The simple fact that Genesis One has so many parallels with other ANE creation texts (and not contemporary science books) is telling. Concordism’s foundation is to beg the question.

Ted Davis - #70567

June 20th 2012


Ross certainly goes for the big bang in apologetics, big time, but I don’t see anything unique there among evangelicals so I wouldn’t say it’s a resurgance. Many evangelicals who aren’t scientists like the big bang. Perhaps best known here is William Lane Craig, whose debate with atheist philosopher Quentin Smith on this topic is terrific: http://books.google.com/books/about/Theism_Atheism_and_Big_Bang_Cosmology.html?id=n9_n581YWjwC.

Craig is an OEC, not a TE or a YEC, so he fits the theme of this column perfectly.

Rob Forsyth - #70562

June 20th 2012

I think the question of the 6000 year old humanity is one of definitions.  What is truely human? If one were to examine the fossil of a regenerate person who is being made new in the image of God the anatomy of the physical (meat man) will not show obvious signs of the spirit being present.  I am not set in my mind that it happened 6000 years ago but at some point in the past humans began using linguistic thought to experience God’s spirit (and or messengers=angels).  That change had to start with an individual.  And the Bible calls that individual Adam.  From Adam that experience spread to Eve and from them (in broken form) to their descendants.  There may have been fully modern humans in Adams time (although) none of the “beasts” was found to be suitable as a helper to Adam.  The bible seems to claim a special creation for Eve which could mean that there is a special genetic trait that Adam shared with her (literally shared as it was taken from him).  It is also possible as some have claimed that the “divine intervention” in this case was that Eve was from Adams side ie his own family.  Either way the biblical text suggests a potentially testable hypothesis about a family bloodline connected directly to Adam and Eve but which will have interbred extensively with many coexisting human bloodlines.  Adam was, however briefly, a true human who spoke openly and freely with God.  Jesus was a true human.  Mainy other have become or are becoming truely human.  Whatever it was that made Adam a true man we have an opportunity because of Jesus to become true human (possibly in the same way Adam was/possibly in a better way).

Roger A. Sawtelle - #70564

June 20th 2012

G.B.M. wrote:

Things like dark matter, only recently discovered, seems to resemble the “light” and “dark “of Genesis 1:3-4 more than the alternation of light and dark produced by a rotating earth.

Please do not get carried away.  Dark matter has nothing to do with darkness.  It is matter that cannot be observed.

As you have noted on another forum, the important confirmation is the Big Bag, the evidence that the universe has a beginning, which could not have been observed by humans.  However this is basically a theological statement.  If God is God, then God had to have created the universe out of nothing.

The is the foundation of both science and theoology.  Anything in addition to this on the science side if pure gravy, but you are in danger of compromising the theology and the science of Genesis if you push it too far. 

You need to quit or ease off while you are ahead and are on solid footing.  If you stick your head out too far someone might cut it off. 

Theology comes first.  We put ourselves in danger when we try to argue science with scientists where the issues are not important and our arguments are shaky.   

George Bernard Murphy - #70565

June 20th 2012

I have always been puzzled to note that the Bible uses the word “Day” in 3 different ways in Gen 1. 

First you have Gen.!:3-5.

1:3 God said,14 “Let there be15 light.”16 And there was light!1:4 God saw17 that the light was good,18 so God separated19 the light from the darkness. 1:5 God called20 the light “day” and the darkness21 “night.” 

This was during the first phase, [or “day”] of the creation.

If you notice in this case the word “separated” was used to  split the light from the dark.

But if this referred to day and night in our modern sense the word “alternated” would seem more fitting.

 “Alternating"periods are separated,.... on the time axis,.... as  our day and night periods are at present.

 When you say “separates” it sounds more like black and white objects are pulled into different spaces in the same time period. Could the light and dark referred to in Gen 1:3-5 be dark matter as opposed to baryonic [normal] matter?

 With dark matter being such a major factor in our universe today I would be amazed if we didn’t find it mentioned in Gen1.

 God didn’t omit any important stuff, usually.

HornSpiel - #70570

June 20th 2012


I am curious about your main tenets of concordism. They seem fairly close to TE understanding.  a but on closer inspection they do differ. this is how I see it:

(1) The Bible and science (mainly geology and astronomy) are BOTH reliable sources of knowledge about the origin of the earth and the universe.

TE would say the Bible tells us the significance the Why of God’s creating. Science tells us how. The Bible is not a reliable source of knowledge about the origin of the earth and the universe (i.e. of natural history).

I imagine both Concordism and TE would accept the diagram under (1) above and…

God has written two “books” for our instruction, the book of nature and the book of scripture. Since God is the author of both “books,” they must agree when properly interpreted.

However they might differ on how one gets biblical interpretations to agree with scientific conclustions.

Like wise TE and concordism would both agree on the following:

(2) Scientific evidence, when properly interpreted, is consistent with the Bible, when properly interpreted.

However they might differ on what consistent means.

(3) The Bible does NOT tell us the age of the earth.

Of course TE agrees with this but would not see GAP theory or Day-Age approaches useful or necessary for understanding the Bilical message.

(4) The Flood was a real historical event, but it was not responsible for producing the fossils; rather, fossils are relics of organisms that were mainly here before humans.

I think most TEers would pass on this. the Flood story might be based on a real event but it has more characterisitcs of legend or adapted myth, than history.

Finally I guessi that Ramm’s version of concordism is now rare to nonexistent—if it ever was popular. People have either moved to non-concordist views like TE or to more strict concordism, like Hugh Ross’s.

What do you think?

George Bernard Murphy - #70575

June 21st 2012

Horny I thiink this statement you made HITS THE NAIL ON THE HEAD.


“(2) Scientific evidence, when properly interpreted, is consistent with the Bible, when properly interpreted.”


Why do we need other “isms”

 It is the statement that I believe. Go with it!

Ted Davis - #70578

June 21st 2012

Thank you for all of these good points and the questions (also good) that come with them. In August we will talk about the TE view, and at that point it will probably be clearer to you (and other readers) how I see TE differing with concordism—generally speaking. It’s fair to say that TE could be understood as a very weak type of concordism, or (to put it more positively) TE could be understood as a very general type of concordism, one that (as you noted) does not try to match the Bible closely to science (see the flood and the days of Genesis in your comments). I will also say more about this in July, as part of my column on the Framework view.

I don’t agree that Ramm’s type of concordism is rare or nonexistent today, and I’ll have more to say about that in my next column (July 3) in the historical section.

So, since I’m “teaching” a “class” with this series, I’ll respond mainly by saying, “we’ll cover that later.” I realize that might be a bit frustrating, but we will indeed cover it later and your questions might be even more pertinent then—if they don’t get answered automatically once we do get there.

Fair enough, HornSpeil?

One detail I will spill now, however. Notice that I did not write this for my first main component of concordism: “The Bible and science (mainly geology, biology, and astronomy) are BOTH reliable sources of knowledge about the origin of the earth and the universe.” If you see the difference, you can probably figure out why I don’t classify TE as a type of concordism. This is left as an exercise for the reader. smile.

Gregory - #70573

June 21st 2012

One question Ted: do you consider ‘concordism’ to be an ideology? Sure, it may be fair to say that not all ‘-isms’ count as ideologies, though most do. In your opinion, is concordism one of them?

From Randy Isaac (2007):
“Concordism is an area of “honest disagreement” where ASA does not take a position. Rather we encourage dialogue among adherents of all points along that spectrum of thought.

The main point I want to emphasize here is the difference between concordism and integration of science and faith. The former seeks to equate the interpretation of Biblical passages with scientific observations. The latter seeks to understand the meaning and purpose of nature and science through the eyes of faith on the basis of the revelation of our incarnate, crucified, resurrected Savior.”

Ted Davis - #70579

June 21st 2012


Whether concordism is an “ideology” depends on the implicit definition of “ideology.” If you provide one, I might offer an answer. Without one, I’m in the dark.

Gregory - #70574

June 21st 2012

Let me just add briefly to that and explain why I asked Ted about ideology.

In “Science and the Bible: Five Attitudes and Approaches,” Ted called concordism “a type of creationism.” Personally I view ‘creationism’ as an ideology; it is not ‘science,’ it is not ‘mere Christianity’ and it is biased towards another ideology called ‘biblical literalism’ (which some creationists take as a complementary ally). So I wondered what Ted thought about this and whether or not he agrees to interpret concordism as an ideology.

It may be helpful to consult this piece by Jitse van der Meer at Reformed Academic, for his views of ideology influencing science in which he prefers the term ‘background beliefs’ to ‘ideology.’ http://reformedacademic.blogspot.com/2010/08/ideology-and-science.html

There he calls ideology or background belief “a belief one needs before one can even start to think about the full range of realities…”

HornSpiel - #70577

June 21st 2012

Interesting question. You seem to consider an ideology bad saying” Personally I view ‘creationism’ as an ideology; it is not ‘science,’ it is not ‘mere Christianity’ and it is biased towards another ideology called ‘biblical literalism’ .” Yet the piece you link to indicates we all need ideologies to “even start to think about the full range of realities…” 

I consider this statement idealogical: 

God has written two “books” for our instruction, the book of nature and the book of scripture. Since God is the author of both “books,” they must agree when properly interpreted.

Does that make it invalid, or a faith statement where one can start making sense of reality?

Roger A. Sawtelle - #70580

June 21st 2012


If we say that something must be true, rather than saying it would be expected to be true, it seems to me that this makes it an ideology.

An ideology in my way of thinking is a point of view that one takes to be true and makes everything agree with it.  Non-ideological thinking does expect some things to be true, but is not afraid to examine contrary evidence as well as positive evidence.

In a sense ideology is based on relativism, something must be true because I think that it is true, rather than I am seeking the truth as it is, rather than what I think it must be.

We live by faith in God Who is beyond the world and yet is in the world and is responsible for it.  We do not live by ideology or certain knowledge. 

HornSpiel - #70584

June 21st 2012


I agree that ideology seems to be used in a negative sence becuase it seems to stop one from seeking truth.

Perhaps however, on a more positive note, one could say: Ideology is to philosophy as theory is to science. It is a lens, a paradigm, part of a worldview that allows one to interpret the world. Although it may not often change, if it proves inaedaqute for coping with life or making sense of the world, one may modify or even abandon it.

Rather than trying to live with out an ideology, it may be truer and nore honest to understand and admit to having an ideology.

The difference between people may be at what level they hold their ideology. “God is good and God is love” is a deep ideology that can be the foundation aod a stable and thoughtful life. “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it” is a shallower ideolgy that is a recipe for conflict. It does not recognize the complexities of biblical interpretatoin, or human communication in general for that matter.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #70586

June 22nd 2012


I understand what you are trying to do.  You are trying to rescue ideology from its negative connotations by making it mean something like “world view.”

I prefer to oppose ideology with “faith,” in part because many people completely misunderstand what faith is.  Faith is the opposite of certainty.  Certainty is living by sight, what we know to be true.  Faith is living by faith, what we think is true. 

Faith seeks truth, while ideology seeks certainty.  This is a fine distinction, but very important that we must not give up.

Even Paul said, “If Jesus Christ had not risen from the dead,” implying that this was a possibility, not that he believed it, but it was still a remote possibility that this might be true, because honestly we do not really know all the facts.

Dunemeister - #70595

June 23rd 2012

“Faith is the opposite of certainty” except for the faith described in Hebrews, where it is the “assurance of things not seen.”

Roger A. Sawtelle - #70603

June 23rd 2012


I looked up the word for “assurance” as used in this passage in a Vine’s. 

It speaks of a “freedom of mind and confidence” that comee with trusting in God.  

Again I am pointing to the difference in believing in our understanding of God and how God works in the world, and trusting in God and allowing God to do things in God’s way. 

There may be a fine line between these two, but as long as we remember that we are not God and we cannot tell God how to run the universe because of our predilections about waste and efficiency, etc., we should be okay.       

Ted Davis - #70593

June 23rd 2012

Let’s move past the “ideology” questions, please; I don’t see where that discussion is advancing understanding of the topic. What other things would readers like to talk about?

Merv - #70597

June 23rd 2012

Ted, you mention that of the two historical currents of concordism (gap theory and day-age theory) that the former one is no long held by many people.  According to Wikipedia, 70% of U.S. protestants are creationists [YEC]  Of the remaining 30%  it would be interesting to know how they break down on these views.  I had trouble finding statistics on how many of these U.S. protestants (or anybody!) would be OEC.  Perhaps this may due to confusion or disagreement over whether OEC is really a subset of evolutionary creationism (EC ).  It seems to me it could be a subset other than that they reserve Adam and Eve as specially created humans –thus rejecting common descent at least on the singular point of human origin.


Ted Davis - #70630

June 25th 2012

I agree with you, Merv, that the statistics (in multiple polls) are not easy to intepret. YEC organizations portray the OEC view with (I believe) deliberate inaccuracy as a type of “evolution,” and this has to contribute to the confusion, but it’s not the whole story. Sometimes it can be very hard honestly to assess where to classify a given view—as an OEC view or a TE view; as an ID view or a TE view. We have to keep in mind that our categores—including mine—are intended to aid us in understanding the actual situation, not to be imposed on the actual situation as a necessary framework within which everything must fit neatly.

Your point about human evolution is particularly well taken. In my scheme, concordism cries out for the separate creation of humans, but one could define concordism differently without distorting the issues.

GJDS - #70616

June 23rd 2012

 “… concordism “seeks a harmony of the geologic record and the days of Genesis,” by which he really meant an old-earth creationist approach.”

I am finding it difficult to understand the activity that is meant by “concordism”. If people wish to make the meaning of Genesis similar or in some way consistent, with geological records, then they will have a great deal of difficult work, which I think will fail. The reason I say this is simply because the words and sentences used by these two different enterprises cannot be made similar.

Perhaps it may be useful to ask why people feel compelled to try and do this. I suspect that many take the atheists view that if geological records are sufficiently accurate, then the Bible is wrong and a waste of time. Note, I said atheists would say this. My response is, “what else could they say?” Their position is to find ways NOT to believe in God. They will use, and do use, anything they can come up with to do this. Surely this is not a compelling reason to enter into such an enterprise!

This again poses another question. Why would someone of the faith need to seek a similar account from Genesis with that provided by geology? This is a more difficult question, as it may go to personal points of view on what is true or otherwise. Maybe it is a matter of faith, as in Paul’s time, eating meat offered to idols was seen as a profoundly important matter. Note, this was hardly a point of view, as all Jews were forbidden to worhsip idols - thus a matter of profound significance to them. Paul shows that it was not the meat was changed, nor the pointless worship of idols that mattered, but how faith may be strengthened.

If this is the right approach to this question, than Ted, I ask, how would people’s faith be strengthened by ‘concordism’? I cannot come up with an answer to this; perhaps you can.

Ted Davis - #70631

June 25th 2012

Each person must speak for herself/himself, GJDS. I can’t say why concordism will strengthen (or not strengthen) any person’s faith; it’s a highly individual matter. However, I would venture to say that many concordists are attracted to the conceptual simplicity and beauty of an idea that seeks the unity of truth.

I agree with you, incidentally, that any effort to make Genesis match geology too closely is not likely to succeed. I share your view that the languages of science and the Bible are too different. We both apparently agree with Galileo about this.

Gregory - #70624

June 25th 2012

You asked me to provide a definition of ‘ideology,’ Ted, in order to enable you to answer the question of whether or not you consider ‘concordism’ an ideology. What is most important for this series is your definition of ‘ideology,’ not mine. To me, ‘concordism,’ like ‘creationism,’ is an ideology.

As a scholar working in the realm of ‘science and religion,’ no doubt you (should) hold a particular view of what ‘ideology’ means (and doesn’t mean).  I’d be glad to offer a more detailed definition for you than I did in the ‘What is scientism?’ thread with Thomas Burnett (“the systematic ordering of ideas”), but I’d hoped (and still wish) he would engage the topic of ‘scientism’ and ‘ideology’ in his thread, given that he is a philosopher. Frankly speaking, I’d rather hear what you have to say about ideology wrt concordism and creationism - since these are being deemed as faulty approaches to origins - than to feed my thoughts to you, as a humble student (according to the style of the series).

For both of your strategies at BioLogos I believe it would be extremely helpful to address this topic of ideology head-on. But please, if you feel ‘ideology’ is not important in the least, not worth discussing, would you at least tell us why?

In regard to not seeing “where that discussion [of ideology] is advancing understanding of the topic,” let me offer you a different vision. Without addressing ideology, talk of ‘creationism’ and ‘concordism’ is a much flatter exercise. If ideology is not confronted then I believe the lesson (“five basic attitudes and approaches to origins”) will stop short of its potential. Confronting ideology can advance understanding of the topic by showing where responsible science or responsible exegesis turns into exaggeration, overstatement,
embellishment, even idolatry or fetishism.

It may be, Ted, that by involving ideology more directly, you could achieve your goal in this series more clearly. I’ve met many North Americans who have banished ‘the science of ideas’ because they absolutely abhor (like responsible post-Cold Warriors) Karl Marx and Marxism (another ideology) or were turned off by Horkheimer and Adorno’s definitions of ‘ideology.’ This way of thinking, however, rejects a crucial key to understanding what ‘creationism’ actually means, if it is looked at as an ideology that has spread out in the USA.

BioLogos Foundation supports the over-coming of ‘creationism.’ That seems to be part of its guiding mission. But without addressing ‘ideology,’ Ted, how far can this well-intentioned and planned series go toward aiding that mission?

Ted Davis - #70632

June 25th 2012


My mission in this series is to educate, whether or not it aids a particular “ideology.” My disagreement(s) with the YEC view should be clear, but I’m not dedicated to its overthrow. IMO, the evidence against a “young” earth is (as I’ve said) overwhelming. If I can’t persuade any YECs of that, then I can’t persuade them. It’s enough if I can shed some light on the subject. Far too many corners of the internet produce far more heat than light (in politics as well as in religion and many other topics). Let there be light!

Gregory - #70625

June 25th 2012

Thomas wrote: “It is only when people rely on a particular vantage point too heavily (or even exclusively) does it become an ideology.”

Would you not say, Ted, that people who rely ‘too heavily’ on ‘finding concord’ between the Bible and natural science become ‘concordists’? Otoh, people who seek concord appropriately between science and the Bible are therefore not ‘concordists.’ Iow, ‘concord’ is not necessarily a dirty word and seeking ‘harmony’ can be a laudable goal in this conversation.

To suggest that ‘concordism’ is a type of ‘creationism,’ as you have Ted, means that ‘creationism’ is the master category or defining position. Instead, is it not possible that ‘creation’ is what ‘concord’ qualifies (as in evolutionary creation) and that *everyone* who seeks harmony between their understanding of scripture and modern natural science is looking for ‘concord’ or ‘concordance’ of one kind or another?

Thus, the main question becomes: what pushes a search for harmony into an ‘ideology,’ justifying the particular term ‘concordism?’ Could scientific concord with creation not solve the problem of concordism by establishing responsible limits wherein harmonising is or is not preferred?

I am encouraged by your participation at BioLogos, Ted, and look forward to the coming posts in this series. In any case, I think it would be helpful to hear your views of ideology if you are willing to share them.

GJDS - #70642

June 25th 2012

Reply to Ted #70631

I agree that “conceptual simplicity that seeks the unity of truth” is a goal that would provide a great service to all of us. It is within this spirit that I suggest seeing a purpose in Genesis that shows how the language and ‘way of speaking’ that has resonated throughout the ages becuase it proclaims an eternal truth. My contribution to this useful discussion is to suggest that the language of science cannot achieve this. Science has, for the past few centuries, been placed in a privilidged position becuase it has corrected error held over from past simplified ideas of nature. With this however, the greater ‘story’ appears to have been diminished because, in my personal view, the Bible was used in the past to somehow add to the view we have held on nature.

The unity of truth is a large and attractive enterprise, but I think we may be inclinded to confuse this with a synthesis (which I suggest is a common activity in the sciences) to provide a ‘made up’ truth (generaly a hypothesis). It is the same trend, I suggest, of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, which would generally provide a self-referential idea of the truth. I am not suggesting concordism is necessarily such an activity; rather I am suggesting that the attempts to ‘make the Bible scientific’ may be such an activity.

Thus my comment is not to impact on personal choice regarding faith, but to try and make a distinction between a general view regarding faith and biblical accounts, and discussions on and from outcomes of science.

Eddie - #70650

June 26th 2012

Ted Davis:

I thank you for this educational series.  I have a question to ask about the current column.

I want to make sure I understand the terminology.  On a superficial view, I would have thought that “concordism” was a broader term, and “old earth creationism” a narrower one, so that “concordism” could embrace more than just old earth creationism.   Yet you have come close to identifying “concordism” with “old earth creationism.”  So, could you confirm or clarify:  are they completely identical?  If we drew a Venn diagram with one circle for each, would the circles be right on top of each other?  Or are there types of concordism which are not old earth creationism, and vice versa?  If so, could you give some examples?

Ted Davis - #70660

June 26th 2012

Welcome to Biologos, Eddie—I see you are new here. Your point is very well taken. One can define concordism as a broader category than just the OEC view, and some authors probably use it in this way. I’ve taken Ramm’s approach, partly b/c his views were so influential on many evangelicals for a long time. Ramm himself spoke of at least two general types of concordism, as follows: “If we believe in the divine inspiration of the Scriptures and in the pictorial-day interpretation of Genesis, and in the general truthfulness of modern geology, we are then driven to the theories of moderate concordism and progressive creationism.” (his italics)

As this quotation implies, Ramm liked the “pictorial-day” view, which he regarded as moderate concordism. I will say a bit more about Ramm in my column on the Framework view, where this will come up.

Ramm did not believe that the day-age view worked, and this addresses the question asked by GJDS: “We feel that if we are to make the [biblical] record speak scientifically of the creation of God we discover that it does not speak in sufficient detail.” and in my next column (Concordism, part 2), I will mention very favorably the work of geologist Davis Young, who went from being a YEC (as an undergraduate) to writing a book endorsing the day-age view (as a young professional geologist) to giving up the day-age view because the details didn’t work.

From what I’ve said in this column, necessarily an over-simplified view of things, it might appear that concordism exists/existed in just two forms, the gap and day-age versions. That’s not really true. There are various forms of concordism. Perhaps even TE could fall into this category, depending on the definition, but I don’t see it that way myself. For me, and I think also for many others, concordism requires that early Genesis is at least somewhat historical, whether or not the “days” are seen as strictly sequential. Concordism does try to map geology onto Genesis to some degree. Ramm put it thus: “By moderate concordism we mean that geology and Genesis tell in broad outline the same story.” That, IMO, rules out TE.

I hope this helps, and I invite further questions if it doesn’t.

Merv - #70656

June 26th 2012

I’m not Ted and look forward to the clarifications he offers as well—but I think I understand how “concordism” and “OEC” might seem or actually be so closely identified.

Concordism implies a concern to be aligned with both Genesis 1 and with scientific understandings—hence the term.  To be aligned with scientific understandings these days is to accept deep time (i.e. this excludes “creation science” from being considered legitimate science which, rightly or wrongly, the vast majority scientists have done.)  So if one will be “concording with” science, they will be accepting deep time.

And the thing being concorded with:  Scripture implies that the person so engaged is concerned to see that this matches with understandings of Genesis 1 passages.  It would be impossible for anybody other than a creationist (in the loosest sense of that label) to trouble themselves about this, so they must be in that camp also.    ...which makes them an OEC, does it not?

I would go on to add that being in both camps above, I qualify as an OEC using this criteria, and yet I am not a concordist.   In fact, all TEs would qualify (for OEC) under this scheme.  So if my descriptions stand, that would imply that concordism is a subset—even a small one—of OEC.


Merv - #70666

June 26th 2012

Ted, your reply to Eddie catches me by surprise.  You hold concordism out as the broader category—one that includes OEC.   Which is the opposite relation I would have guessed (indeed did propose in my earlier reply above.)

So who or what would you put forward as an example of being a concordist but not an OEC? 


Ted Davis - #70672

June 26th 2012


I said that “one can define concordism” as a broader category than OEC, but I’m not doing that here. I’m using Ramm’s conception of it, which I think is equivalent to OEC. I simply don’t want either to *appear* too dogmatic about this, or actually *to be* too dogmatic about this. I’ve tried simply to define the term as I’m using it, as clearly as I can. If someone wants to make a case for concordism in a broader sense than Ramm used it (and I am using it), that’s fine. It will bring no objections from me.

For Ramm, “concordism” that wasn’t “moderate” was basically the day-age view. Moderate concordism, where he put himself, was pretty similar to the historical version of the framework view, which is up next in this series. There are also non-historical versions of that view. To the best of my knowledge, Ramm never mentions the framework view by that name, but he presents views pretty close to it in a very positive light.

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