#184…SCIENCE, RELIGION, etc.: “Concordism” Watch your spell-checker balk!



A most useful neologism! It’s earned its place in the sun…



For more use the DOOR.



“Concordism” is isn’t in your dictionary yet, though it’s been used for more than half a century.  Let ADS (us) offer a tentative general definition for Webster’s and Oxford to begin with:  (n) an existing sameness, complementarity, or harmony of two or more ideas, concepts, or patterns, when comparing objects or realms of thought.    –JKII


Compare the red above with the red below.

[Be sure and check the drawing below.]


[What appears below is from “Science and the Bible” Part I  at biologos.org. We’ll refer to more of this later. The red color in our addition.]

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.

Author: John Knapp