Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


Warfield and Antiquity of Man

From: JASA 19 (June 1967): 61-62.                                 Buswell Responds

In the light of J. 0. Buswell, III's rejoinder (JASA, Dec., 1965), my position apparently needs some clarification. When I say that "Warfield's paper is intrinsically bound up with the science of his day", I do not mean logically, but psychologically. Wartield said:

Science does not demand an inordinate period for the life of human beings on earth: this is done only by a
particular school of speculative theorizers, the validity of whose demands on time exact investigators are more
and more chary of allowing. (p. 236)

He reiterates this position often enough in his paper (cf. pp. 245, 246, 249, 250) to make it clear that in his mind anyone claiming a date for the origin of man in excess of 20,000 years was a "speculative theorizer", an inexact investigator, and a doubtfully scientific person, who was doomed to pass away.

On the background of this psychological conviction, Warfield made his statement that "There is no reason inherent in the nature of the Scriptural genealogies why a genealogy of 10 recorded links . . . may not represent an actual descent of a 100 or a 1,000 or 10,000 links." (p.238) He cavalierly made this statement at a time when he felt sure that no one would ever have occasion to take the "10,000 links" literally and rest a defense upon them. To go on quoting this statement then as justification for dating Adam before 20,000 B.c. does violence to Warfield's true position.

On the other hand, Warfield did mean what he said in that the genealogies per se can conceivably, in the abstract, be stretched to infinity. But here again, one is scarcely justified in using his statement in the abstract, apart from the context of the rest of his papernot to mention being apart from the context of the Bible (cf. my original paper and pp. 186-7, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction-Gleason L. Archer).

Warfield also said,

For the whole space of time before Abraham, we are de pendent entirely on inferences drawn from the genealo gies recorded in the 5th and 11th chapters of Genesis. And if the Scriptural genealogies supply no solid basis for chronological inferences, it is clear that we are left without Scriptural data for forming an estimate of the duration of these ages. (p. 237)

He concluded that the "Scriptural data leave us wholly without guidance". You say that this conclusion is independent of the science of his day, and you cite it to contradict the "claim made by Seely and others that there are indeed Scriptural guides and indications for ascertaining the age of man . . ." But this conclusion of Warfield's is a pure assumption on his part. He never tried in any way to prove that there is nothing but the genealogies in Scripture to serve as chronological guides. You cannot use this conclusion then - a mere assumption - to contradict my paper.

The dating of Adam, Cain, Abel on the basis of their associated culture either never crossed the mind of Warfield; or if it did, he completely ignored it in his paper. I believe that he overlooked this crucial question because he was never sufficiently challenged by the science of his day (by solid evidence instead of just .1 speculative tbeorizers") to take the matter seriously enough to make a thorough investigation (to look a little longer and harder) into the ways of possibly dating Adam.

It is true, finally, that dating Adam in the Neolithic age is "one interpretation", but you cannot dismiss it simply by saying it is preconceived and that Warfield held an interpretation that allows Adam to be created 200,000 years ago. I tried to show in my paper that if you place Adam anywhere but in the Neolithic, you run into very difficult if not insurmountable problems. To use Warfield legitimately, you must show how his thesis overcomes these difficulties - but this is, of course, impossible because be never dealt with the issue of the cultural discontinuity between Genesis 3 & 4 and Paleolithic man.

Lulled to sleep by the science of his day, he made statements which abstractly can be used to defend dating Adam in pre-Neolithic times; but even then, the problems that I and others have raised remain. I say then "hiding behind Warfield" because (even if you still do not agree that the science of his day seriously affected the limits and conclusions of his paper) - his paper is limited to the genealogies per se and has no answer whatsoever to the present conflict over the cultural discontinuity between Adam and Paleolithic man.

x I am still convinced that (even if my "one interpretation" proves to be incorrect) Warfield's paper is essentially irrelevant to the modem point of debate. The cultural discontinuity still remains to be explained, and the quoting of Warfield only obscures this issue and prolongs the agony of finding a genuine solution.

Paul H. Seeley,
8001 Cheltenham Ave.
Philadelphia, Penna.