The Relationship between Theology and Geology or What Right Does a Christian Have to Criticise the Conclusions of Science?

It is an objection that requires an answer: what authority do you, as a pastor or believing Christian, have to criticise theories of geology (or for that matter, any subject to which science speaks)? Robert Dabney replied to that question in the late 19th century in his Systematic Theology. Interestingly, this was during a time in Darwin’s theory of evolution and Lyell’s theory of uniformitarianism were taking hold of (or had taken hold) the scientific and theological world. Thus his words are still relevant today, especially as they address not merely the particular teachings of a scientific discipline but the philosophy that under girds it. This brief excerpt[1] highlights the use of: 1) logic & 2) appeal to the nature of education. Logic being the domain of all men and instruction (not merely dictation) being the object of education, one wonders, as Dabney does, what accounts for the rigid beliefs of its adherents (past or present)?

“Not a few modern geologists resent the animadversions of theologians, as of an incompetent class, impertinent and ignorant. Now I very freely grant that it is a very naughty thing for a parson, or a geologist, to profess to know what he does not know. But all logic is but logic; and after the experts in a special science have explained their premises in their chosen way, it is simply absurd to forbid any other class of educated men to understand and judge their deductions. What else was the object of their publications? Or, do they intend to practice that simple dogmatism, which in us religious teachers, they would so spurn? Surely when geologists currently teach their systems to boys in colleges, it is too late for them to refuse the inspection of an educated class of men!”[2]

1Which is well worth reading in its entirety:
2. Dabney, Robert L. Systematic Theology. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985, page 256. 

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