by William Trollinger
William Trollinger, Sr. was a Denver-based petroleum geologist. He died in 2002. While I wish he were still around, I confess that I am glad he did not have to see the openings of the Creation Museum in 2007 and Ark Encounter in 2016, both of which would have horrified him.
While not a fundamentalist in behavior – he drank a little, gambled more, and swore a lot – William Trollinger, Sr. was definitely a fundamentalist in theology, holding firmly to biblical inerrancy: The Bible is without error, and factually accurate in all that it has to say, including when it speaks on history and science. This said, he had no problem squaring a literal reading of Genesis 1 with his geological training. According to Dad, each of the “days” in Genesis 1 referred to an “era” of great length of time. And as he saw it, the Genesis days lined up very neatly with the geologic timetable.
In short, he was an old Earth creationist. In this regard, he was very much in keeping with fundamentalists of his generation. But everything changed in 1961, when John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris came out with The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications. Borrowing heavily (to put it mildly), from the writings of Seventh-day Adventist George McCready Price, Whitcomb and Morris made the argument that: the Earth (actually, the universe) was created in six twenty-four hour days; Noah’s Flood was a global event that lasted one year; this cataclysmic Flood produced all the geological strata that we see today. Voila, a young Earth.
The ideas promulgated by Whitcomb and Morris swept through evangelicalism and fundamentalism with remarkable alacrity. This included the conservative Protestant churches of suburban Denver, including the Baptist church in which I was raised.
My father was infuriated by The Genesis Flood – I will never forget the evening in which he threw the book against the wall of his downstairs study, with a crash that reverberated throughout the house. More than this, he was appalled by how easily his fellow Christians could be duped by the “bad science” of young Earth creationism. So, he created a multi-media lecture – slides and transparencies and charts and more – that he presented to local churches, in which he explained how the basics of geology and the notion of an old Earth fit neatly with a literal reading of Genesis. The photograph above shows one of his charts, with the geologic table on the left, and the “Bible events” of Genesis 1 on the right, with the corresponding verses at the far-right edge.
All this to no avail. Young Earth creationism swept through conservative evangelicalism, in Denver and throughout the nation, to the point that the word “creationism” is now synonymous with young Earth creationism.
But my father never reconciled himself to this reality. I shudder to imagine his response to Ken Ham’s recent post, immodestly and ludicrously entitled “Ken Ham Solves Great Paleontological Mystery,” in which he provides an explanation for 259 fossilized fish which have been
Preserved in the position they were in the instant they died. But how on earth is this possible? Fossil experts are confused, but I’ve solved the mystery! . . . This school of fish was catastrophically buried by water-borne sediments during the immediate aftermath of the global flood of Noah’s day.
Do I hear the sound of a computer being thrown against the wall?
I love this post . . . but I managed to save the computer from destruction. I can’t say the same for my copy of Whitcomb and Morris’ book. Reminds me of a story. William Gwaltney, a fine Old Testament and Semitic scholar used to warn us never to throw away a certain annotated bible . . . someone might find it.