by Bill Nugent
When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980 and again in 1982 it spewed forth not only huge quantities of volcanic ash but also sediment and water. These substances were rapidly deposited in the surrounding valleys and while the sediments were still soft the water which poured through the valleys cut a miniature grand canyon. The sediment is already hardening into stone and we now have a geologic feature that looks like it took millions of years to form. It formed in just a few months in the early 1980s!! You can read more about this in the book entitled: Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe by Dr. Steven Austin.
If, when driving along a highway you’ve ever looked closely at the rock layers exposed in a road cut you can see that the layers of sedimentary rock (sandstone, shale, limestone, etc.) are of different colors and are curved and deformed. The deformity of the rock layers indicates that they had to have been deformed while soft.
The deformed sedimentary rock layers were formed by a rapid deposition of water borne sediments that were deformed while soft and later hardened into stone. During a major volcanic catastrophe millions of tons of sediment and water are blown out. As sediments precipitate out of water the heavier particles fall first and make a distinctive sediment layer which, while still soft is subject to being curved and bent out of shape by seismic forces. Seismic shifting often accompanies volcanic activity. Another layer is rapidly deposited on top of the first layer and eventually all layers harden into stone much as in the example of Mt. St. Helens.
Sediment that is laid down gradually over many years as in a river delta do not form neat layers of sediment of contrasting colors but rather is one thick layer of a more or less uniform brown.
We can see that there is abundant evidence all around us that rapid deposition of sediment and hardening of rock occurred at various times in the past. The idea that violent geologic events were the dominant mechanism for shaping the earth is calledcatastrophism. Catastrophism was the majority view among geologists up until Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875) published his famous book entitled Principles of Geology (pub. 1833). This book is considered by many to be the second most influential book (after Darwin’s Origin of Species) on scientific thought in the 19th century.
Lyell introduced the concept called uniformitarianism which is the idea that slow erosive processes shaped the earth over long ages. Uniformitarianism is a major pillar of old earth theory which postulates that the earth is several billion years old and hence old enough to allow for evolution to take place.
There are many geologic features which contradict uniformitarianism and lend great support to catastrophism. Two such features are coal seams and petroleum deposits. Every geologist knows that coal and oil are formed from compressed plant matter. However, plant matter that is laid down gradually quickly rots away. Anyone who has explored the dense, lush rain forests of the Amazon knows that dead plant matter is not piling up anywhere, not even on a river bottom. Plant matter rots away very quickly in the tropical heat and a lush forest yields no thick layer of humus that could gradually turn to coal or oil.
If, however, a global catastrophe such as a worldwide flood occurs and this flood is accompanied by massive volcanoes spewing out vast quantities of sediment, then rapid burial under water borne sediment can occur.
The Bible does indeed describe just such a flood and a clear reference to volcanic activity during the flood is contained in the phrase “the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up” (Genesis 7:11). The lush forests were indeed rapidly buried as the earth spun off its axis and the oceans covered the continents and great volcanoes erupted. Plant matter was buried under sediment and was compressed to form coal and oil many thousands of feet below the surface.
Massive plate tectonics is also thought to have occurred during the flood of Noah’s day. Subduction of continental plates in which a continental plate rams into another plate and is driven down under it could account for some of the deepest deposits of oil. Plant matter on a subducted plate could be driven down five miles or more below the earth’s surface.
That coal seams were formed during human history also accounts for the many discoveries of human artifacts in coal which I wrote about in Defending the Faith #56. Another good resource on young earth geology is the book Fountains of the Great Deep by Leander R. Pimenta.
All this goes to prove the historical accuracy of the first book in the Bible called Genesis. We can trust the Bible in matters of history and also trust it in matters relating to personal salvation through Christ.