Physical Globe Spinning

Introduction to Flood Geology

Wayne Spencer

This article is meant to be a brief introduction to what has become a huge subject--Flood Geology.   What is Flood geology?  It is an approach to Geology that acknowledges the inerrancy of the Bible and seeks to understand Earth’s features in the light of the framework given in the Bible.  The book of Genesis in the Old Testament speaks of a global Flood in the time of Noah that was a judgement on the individuals in the preflood world.  The Bible describes the event as being a little over a year in terms of the time Noah, his family, and the animals were in the Ark.  I believe this Flood was a real event that had far-reaching effects on the entire planet.  This global catastrophe would have taken place somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago.  I also believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years in age, based on both Scripture and science.

Young age creationists have made great progress in recent years in geological and geophysical research into the details of how the Flood happened.  There are many unanswered questions and there are now a variety of views on key questions about how the Flood relates to Earth’s rocks and fossils.  There is generally good agreement among young-age creationists that there is much evidence for the Flood from sedimentary rock and fossils.  Many detailed objections and challenges to a young age and a world-wide Flood have been raised from the scientific community.  If the young age creationist view of Earth history is correct, and I think it is, then there is much about historical geology that needs to be reevaluated and re-written.  It is not necessary to understand all the details of how the Flood took place in order to have reason to believe the Bible.  But it is necessary to explain some of the details in order be credible witnesses to our generation of the certainty and authority of the word of God.

I hope that what follows will be an encouragement to you in your faith and will give some insight into how a creationist framework can help us understand the Earth without Biblical compromise.  The Bible is historically accurate.  And, though it is not written like a science textbook, the information it provides about nature agrees with what we know about the real world.  God has told us there was a great judgement that we call Noah’s Flood.  It was really God’s Flood and He does not want us to forget it.  The evidence for Noah’s Flood is literally right under our feet, from the ocean floor to the top of Mt. Everest.  We have to learn how to recognize it, but when we do, it is a marvelous testimony to God’s greatness and His holiness.  God did not allow the evil in the world to just continue, he did something about it!  He judged the world once and he says in the New Testament that He will judge the world again when Jesus Christ returns, though that judgement will be by fire rather than water.  So, the story of the Noahic Flood is not something to be dismissed.  It has tremendous consequences for geology.

Following is information explaining geological terminology for those without a lot of scientific background in geology.  I would refer the reader to other sources to get a more complete explanation of the evidence for the Flood.  The following assumes the Flood has occurred as outlined in Genesis.  This gives a framework or outline that can be built upon.  The details must be filled in using careful science.  An area in which there has been great strides in secular geological research in recent years is the subject of Earth impacts.  I wrote my ICC papers “Catastrophic Impact Bombardment Surrounding the Genesis Flood” and “Geophysical Effects of Impacts during the Genesis Flood” to suggest an approach that acknowledges the abundant evidence of impacts on Earth without making certain mistakes made by evolutionary science about impacts.   The issue of Earth impacts has been studied a great deal by the scientific community.  This effort has been motivated mainly by the desire to support the concept that one large impact from space about 65 million years ago caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.  There is also significant research today to identify asteroids that come near Earth and assess the hazards of possible impacts on Earth.  My goal is to explain the evidence for Earth impacts in a young-age Flood geology framework, not to explain extinctions.  In a creationist view of Earth history, the aftermath of the world-wide Flood provides a very good explanation for what happened to the dinosaurs.

Important Concepts from Geology

It is important to understand certain terms from geology.  Sedimentary rock is rock that has formed from some kind of sediment.  In many cases it is mud or sand that has fallen out of water and then hardened to rock.  Sedimentary rock can also form from chemical and biological processes.  Calcium and Carbon Dioxide can combine in water to form solid Calcium Carbonate, so this can produce the rock known as limestone.  Limestone forms under water but is not related to flowing water or water carrying sediment particles.  Igneous rock is basically volcanic in origin.  It does not involve particles falling or precipitating out of water but rather comes out of the Earth, from the mantle of the Earth.  Metamorphic rock refers to a variety of types of rock that has come from altering other rock or minerals in various ways.  Usually great heat and pressure are involved in forming metamorphic rock and metamorphic rock can be very dense.  Marble is a form of metamorphic rock.  There are certain special and very unusual metamorphic minerals that are good indicators of impacts from space because they require extreme pressures in order to form.  Sedimentary rocks provide many powerful evidences for the Flood.

Fossils are essentially only found in Sedimentary rock, but not all sedimentary rock.  Sedimentary rock itself argues for the Flood because the large size of the sedimentary rock layers, the size of large boulders moved by water, and other facts point to a global Flood.  There are a number of sedimentary rock layers that cover large areas of North America and are single contiguous layers covering vast areas.  These suggest a very large scale catastrophe.  Many rock formations, though usually explained by evolutionists in terms of processes seen in the present, can be explained very naturally and effectively in terms of the effects of a global Flood.  The Noahic Flood would lead to the formation of many types of large scale geological phenomena unlike anything forming in the present.  Creationist geologists have documented many formations that strongly suggest this.  Fossils can be good indicators of Flooding as well since they may be sorted, they may be aligned in a consistent direction, and the way fossil bones are found often indicates rapid catastrophic burial.  Most fossils are of marine creatures and fossils of marine creatures are found all over the continents, including at the top of many mountains.

A real world-wide Flood would produce much volcanic and metamorphic rock as well.  There are unresolved questions as yet about the how these rocks relate to the Flood for particular cases.  However, it seems clear that much volcanism would take place during and after Noah’s Flood.  Many creationists also believe that the dust, ash, and gases input into the atmosphere following the Flood by large volcanic eruptions would affect climate for years and cause a post-flood ice age.  A post-flood ice age appears to explain effectively the evidence for glaciers in North America, Antarctica, etc. within a young age time frame.  Michael Oard, a meteorologist and ICR graduate, has done some excellent research on the idea of a post-flood ice age.  The evolutionary approach to Earth history says that there have been many ice ages through history.  There is now evidence that the facts used to argue for multiple ice ages can be explained by submarine landslides and debris flows.  This means that underwater debris flows during a global Flood could form sedimentary layers that could be mistaken as glacier or ice age related.

Noah’s Flood would have been a dramatic violent event accompanied and followed  by many different types of catastrophic regional events.  There would be tsunami waves that would devastate coastlines, these are formed from earthquakes and Earth movements on the sea floor for instance.  Though it is not completely clear, there may be indications in Genesis that there was one continent and one contiguous ocean prior to the Flood.  One approach to Flood geology, known as Catastrophic Plate Tectonics, proposes that the large supercontinent began breaking up at the beginning of the Flood and continued during the early stages of the Flood for some period of weeks to months.  Another approach some creationists take is to say that the supercontinent broke up after the Flood.  This approach could have advantages for explaining how living things could spread out across the Earth after the Flood.  But, the Catastrophic Plate Tectonics model has some very solid research behind it from paleontology (study of fossils), geomagnetism (Earth’s magnetic field and its history of changes), and geophysics (from computer models of the Earth’s interior).  I lean toward the Catastrophic Plate Tectonics model for the Flood.  It is not certain but it is the best model available in my opinion.  Today there are several competing models among creationist geologists for explaining how the Flood took place.  This is an exciting area of ongoing research.  I think the primary motivation of this research should be to correct modern science on issues of origins, not to “prove” the Bible.  Still, there are many exciting confirmations of the Biblical view of history in today’s Flood Geology.

An interesting question for creationist geology has always been where did the water come from for the 40 days and nights of rain mentioned in Genesis.  Evolutionist Earth scientists will eagerly point out that there is not enough water in the entire atmosphere today to make rain able to continue for that long.  The traditional answer to this has been the idea of a “vapor canopy” in the preflood Earth.  This would be a layer of the atmosphere with a large amount of dissolved water vapor.  This would not be clouds, so it would be transparent, though some creationists have incorrectly described it as clouds.  The Institute for Creation Research in California has been researching the atmospheric physics of vapor canopies.  Thus far, the idea has not been ruled out but one conclusion seems clear, that any vapor canopy could not contain enough water to provide 40 days of rain.  If that much water were present in the canopy it would produce a powerful greenhouse effect that would make Earth completely uninhabitable at the surface.  But, a thinner canopy with less water could exist in a stable manner between Creation and the Flood and would aid in providing a healthy near-tropical climate all over the world before the Flood.  A thin canopy then would not explain the rains but would shield from cosmic rays and would help explain why there is fossil evidence of tropical plants in areas now described as arctic, such as in Antarctica.  In the Catastrophic Plate Tectonics model, vast amounts of molten magma on the ocean floor would vaporize large amounts of water, which would cause rains.  Another possible source of rain water is impacts from space into the ocean.  It seems clear that some type of geological process must have put large quantities of water into the atmosphere that led to the rains.  These models of the Flood are meant mainly to help understand the natural effects of the Flood and its implications for geology.  They are not intended to explain away or deny the supernatural.  There must have been some supernatural intervention by God in Noah’s Flood in some way in order for it to be a divine judgement.

Some creationists today believe there was no vapor canopy in the preflood Earth.  Dr. Walter Brown, a retired Air Force Engineer and MIT graduate, is an example.  He has an interesting model of the Flood known as the Hydroplate Theory.  His model says there was a layer of liquid water under the crust of the Earth, that was essentially global in the preflood Earth.  Stress and pressure caused it to break out during the Flood through Huge linear fractures in the crust that now form the mid-ocean ridges.  This water under the crust then ejected out in giant eruptions of superheated steam.  He suggests this is what the Bible refers to as the “fountains of the great deep.”  In Browns model, the separation of the continents began during the early part of the Flood, but most of the separation took place after the Flood.

The Geologic Column

A major controversy between creationist geologists today is over the question of the meaning of the standard geologic time table known as the Geologic Column.  This chart breaks up the evolutionist view of Earth history into various time periods.  How it has been arrived at is also controversial, but it comes from correlating rocks and fossils from one location to another across the Earth.  Rocks are classified or identified as representing one of these time periods based on the type of fossils found in them.  Certain fossils called index fossils are used by geologists to identify these rock classifications.  If all the layers shown in this geologic chart were present in one place it would be a very thick section of rock.  A creationist who goes by a pseudo name of John Woodmorappe has studied the geologic column and compared it to what is actually present in Earth’s rock layers.  He found there are actually a few locations, very few, on Earth where all the layers are in one place in the order shown in the chart.  However, this is an extreme exception.  Over most of the Earth, many of the layers are missing.  There are some cases where the layers may be out of order.  One unresolved question is how much order is present in the fossils.  How much are they really in the order given by the Geologic Column?  Creationists have documented examples of fossils in the wrong strata.  This means that they do not fit the sequence of events given by evolution theory due the type of rock they are found in and the assumed ages for that rock.  A world-wide Flood, however, would produce various sorts of order and disorder in the rocks and fossils.  The rock and fossil record in the real world is much like what one would expect from a global Flood.

There are several different views today among creationist geologists about the significance of the Geologic Column.  It is important to note that fossils begin in Cambrian rock, below Cambrian there are no fossils (except for the boundary of the Cambrian in some cases).  Traditionally this Precambrian/Cambrian boundary was considered the line marking the onset of the Flood, where organisms on the ocean floor began to be buried.  Today, it is now realized that the picture is really quite complicated and so the preflood/Flood boundary as well as the Flood/post-flood boundary are both difficult to determine.  In a given location the boundaries may be determinable but there are difficulties in correlating rock layers in locations widely separated from each other, such as across continents.  So, there have been different views of how to interpret the Geologic Column from a creation point of view, even among well qualified creationist geologists.  Some would say that the Mesozoic strata, known for dinosaur fossils, coal, and plant fossils represents the late stages of the Flood year.  Others would put the Mesozoic after the Flood.  Today a number of creationist scientists suspect the Flood/post-Flood boundary is later in the rock record, such as near the top of the Cenozoic or possibly in the Pliestocene.  This view would mean that more geological structures were formed during the Flood and less was formed after the Flood.  Creationists are finding that a better way to understand Earth’s rock layers may be in terms of events (Flood and post-flood) rather than with any kind of time scale chart.

Following are some definitions that may help the reader understand the creationary literature on geology.  I would be glad to correspond with anyone personally if I can help answer any questions.

Tectonic - Refers to some kind of movement of Earth's crust, uplift, lateral motion as in some earthquakes, or some form of warping of rock layers. Often used to refer to movement of the continents or uplift of mountains.

Breccia - Rock made up of fragments welded together by some other material, such as lava for instance. The fragments can be quite large.

Radiometric Dating - A technique for determining the ages of various materials. Carbon Dating measures amounts of Carbon-14 and Carbon-12 and calculates an age based on the rate of conversion of one form of Carbon to the other.  Carbon dating is only used to date objects up to a few tens of thousands of years in age. Other radioactive isotopes are used to date rock.  Potassium/Argon dating is another common technique used to date volcanic rock (basalt).  Radiometric dating techniques cannot be used on sedimentary rock.

Pascal - This is a metric unit for pressure. 1 Pascal is a very small amount of pressure, equivalent to about one one hundred thousandth of an atmosphere. The prefix "mega" means one million times, the "giga" prefix means one billion times the value.  Automobile tires give inflation pressure figures in kilopascals (kpa).

Phase Change - This is usually used to describe a change between solid, liquid, or gas states of matter.  It can also refer to a change in the arrangement of atoms in a mineral.  When the atoms in a mineral rearrange into a different three dimensional arrangement (which can take up more or less space) this is also called a phase change.

Meteor - an object seen streaking across Earth's atmosphere is a meteor. Commonly called a "shooting star."

Meteorite - an object that remains intact after falling through Earth's atmosphere.

Asteroid - Rocky objects in the solar system, most of which are found in the region between Mars and Jupiter. They vary widely in shape, size, and in the nature of their orbits.

Comet - Comets are objects which orbit the Sun in very long elliptical orbits.  Comets are made up of a rocky core probably with large amounts of icy and other very volatile compounds around the core.  They have been described as "dirty snowballs."  Comets are not necessarily very coherent bodies.  They travel very rapidly and would break up or possibly even explode if they passed through Earth's atmosphere.

Carbonaceous Chondrite - a class of meteorite which contains some carbon and some organic compounds. These objects are made up of large amounts of aluminum, magnesium, and certain other metals but they also have a large water content. They contain little iron or nickel but have various materials that are considered "volatile," that is, they boil away easily.

Wayne Spencer

Creation Education Materials

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Irving, TX 75015-3402