Book Review - The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah's Flood Explain the Grand Canyon?
by Joseph A. Martinetti, MS


Of our National Parks, the Grand Canyon is the second most visited with 5.5 million viewing its grandeur in 2015. It's no wonder, then, that it would gain the attention of a group of people that want to use its influence to advance their belief in the young age of the Earth.

In 1995, the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) published a book by Stephen A. Austin titled The Grand Canyon, Monument to Catastrophe. Editors Carol Hill, Gregg Davidson, Tim Helble, and Wayne Ranney (Hill et al.), set out to correct the problems that The Grand Canyon, Monument to Catastrophe contained relating to science. Specifically, they, along with a host of other scientists (mostly geologists), wanted to address the way Dr. Austin presented the geologic record of the Grand Canyon, which was misleading.

This book, Grand CanyonThe Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah's Flood Explain the Grand Canyon?, by Carol Hill et al., is a journey through rock and time, from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the top of the Grand Staircase. Meant for the Christian non-scientist, you'll find answers to questions, such as "How old are the rocks in the Canyon?" and "How old is the Canyon itself?" They also discuss whether Noah's Flood carved the Grand Canyon.

The Book

This book's number one objective is to show, through scientific evidence, that Flood Geology cannot explain the historical geological events that created the Grand Canyon, and that the age of the Earth is over four billion years old. When the reader is finished with this book, they can only conclude that this objective has been soundly met. A secondary objective was to discount the YEC view that Genesis is to be taken literally. Here, the authors fall short and do not provide the theological support required to counter the YEC view.

Opening with a Foreword that discusses the recent history of the Grand Canyon, the reader is drawn into a journey of time, beginning with the first humans to witness its grandeur, "Humans have interacted with this deep gorge since prehistoric times," to modern geologists deciphering its history. In an introduction to the coming discussions on the age of the Earth, the authors explain that it "was not until the beginning of the twentieth century that religious opposition began to be voiced against the antiquity of the Earth."

Part One discusses "Two Views" concerning the origin of the Grand Canyon - the YEC view and the modern, or conventional, geologic view. The authors explain that some YECs claim, with a proper biblical worldview, that what we see in the Grand Canyon is a result of Noah's flood, which is termed flood geology. This is the view that the authors are focusing on in this book to show the reader how it cannot explain the geologic evidence or the Biblical evidence for a world-wide flood.
We will discuss the key geologic points that the authors make showing that a world-wide flood has never occurred, or cannot account for the Grand Canyon, but I’d like to take some time and discuss the author’s “Biblical Problems” with flood geology.

While most of what the authors claim regarding the literal reading of the Biblical text are accurate, there is a major interpretation that they rely on which, by many modern theologians, isn’t fully accepted in Evangelical circles. This is the idea promoted by J.H. Walton, PhD, in which Genesis was “not written ‘to us,’ but ‘for us.’” We are to take the Genesis account with “Understanding the ancient (sic) Near East (ANE) mindset.” According to Walton, Genesis isn’t about the structure of the physical world, but about the “function of the physical world.” Upon this concept, the Biblical aspect of how the authors interpret the geologic record is built.
Here is where I part ways with the authors. We can view the text, especially in Genesis One and Two, as written to us – and we can see how it does affirm the current scientific models for the creation of the Universe and of life on Earth. We can do this and take a literal interpretation of Scripture, but that is a subject for another time.

The rest of Part One contrasts the timelines of flood geology and modern geology. Here again, the author’s expertise in geology stand out. The modern geologic model for the formation of the Grand Canyon is laid out. The illustrations are professional and would fit well into any modern geology textbook.
Part Two would serve well as a primer for any college geology course. Emphasis has been placed on sedimentary rocks, sedimentary structures, and depositional environments, since the majority of rocks within the Grand Canyon are sedimentary. Having seen all of these examples in the field (and having many rock examples in my own collection), I’m amazed that flood geologists still try to convince us of a global flood – sorry, I digress, but the geologist in me just wants to scream NO GLOBAL FLOOD! Ok, got that out, now to move on!

Sir Charles Lyell has been attributed with the phrase, “The present is the key to the past.” This idea is called uniformitarianism. Since this idea is contrary to the flood geology view (flood geologists have to ascribe almost all sedimentary rocks to the Flood), the authors focus in on how geologists use present geologic processes to understand the history of past geologic processes recorded in the rock layers. Also in Part Two, we are introduced to relative and absolute dating methods.
Relative dating methods include fossil assemblages (groupings of various fossils commonly associated with each other) found in various localities not physically connected. Thus, rock layers miles apart could be considered of the same relative age based on the fossils found within those rocks (biostratigraphy). Other methods are described.

Contrary to the YEC view, radiometric dating techniques have both accuracy and precision. Radiometric dating techniques provide the absolute dates. Using radiometric dating, we can then give absolute dates to the sedimentary rocks. Other topics in Part Two discuss the missing rock layers, plate tectonics, and metamorphism. Again, the author’s knowledge and experience in these areas comes through with an understanding that any layman can grasp.
Part Three focuses in on the fossils of the Grand Canyon. Discussions of animal, plant and trace fossils are included in three separate chapters, and they are all excellent. There is one topic that the authors discussed which I’d like to bring to the forefront – microscopic spores and pollen. Having tried to extract microscopic seeds from sedimentary rock, I know a little of the tedious methods that are applied. Strong chemicals, such as hydrofluoric acid (HF), are used. Let’s discuss what we should find in the geologic record concerning spores and pollen.

If there was a global flood, you would expect a thorough mixing of all the seeds, spores, and pollen. Otherwise, you’d expect to see specific layering from simple to more complex and variations depending on the environmental conditions of the time. What is found confirms the modern geologic view of the Grand Canyon – that it was formed over millions of years and not by a catastrophic flood.

One note about fossils is that the authors are very careful not to mention evolution in any part of their discussions. You’ll notice they stick to “faunal succession” to describe the increasing complexity of organisms through time. This was done, I believe, so as to avoid driving a wedge between the authors and Evangelicals who accept an old Earth view, yet question evolutionary processes.

Part Four discusses the carving of the Grand Canyon and gives evidence for the modern geologic view that it was carved over millions of years. Part Five is a conclusion that brings together all the other components from the book. Here, they explain how the Grand Canyon is not the result of a Global Flood, but also conclude that the Earth cannot be 6-10 thousand years old.

Conclusion Top of page

Grand CanyonThis book is a must for anyone that wants to understand why YEC, and specifically flood geology, are inconsistent with modern science. The authors are specifically reaching out to non-science minded Christians in an effort to share their expertise, specifically in geology. Although I believe the book is weak on theology (probably because the majority of authors have some association with or are favorable of BioLogos and the theistic evolution view), it is an excellent book for anyone who wants a broader understanding of modern geology.

Other Resources Top of page

A Matter of Days by Hugh RossA Matter of Days by Hugh Ross

Dr. Ross looks the creation date controversy from a biblical, historical, and scientific perspective. Most of the book deals with what the Bible has to say about the days of creation. Ross concludes that biblical models of creation should be tested through the whole of scripture and the revelations of nature.

Peril in Paradise: Theology, Science, and the Age of the Earth Peril in Paradise: Theology, Science, and the Age of the Earth by Mark S. Whorton, Ph.D.

This book, written for Christians, examines creation paradigms on the basis of what scripture says. Many Christians assume that the young earth "perfect paradise" paradigm is based upon what the Bible says. In reality, the "perfect paradise" paradigm fails in its lack of biblical support and also in its underlying assumptions that it forces upon a "Christian" worldview. Under the "perfect paradise" paradigm, God is relegated to the position of a poor designer, whose plans for the perfect creation are ruined by the disobedience of Adam and Eve. God is forced to come up with "plan B," in which He vindictively creates weeds, disease, carnivorous animals, and death to get back at humanity for their sin. Young earth creationists inadvertently buy into the atheistic worldview that suffering could not have been the original intent of God, stating that the earth was created "for our pleasure." However, the Bible says that God created carnivores, and that the death of animals and plants was part of God's original design for the earth.

A New Look at an Old EarthA New Look at an Old Earth by Don Stoner

Don Stoner looks at the age of the earth from a scientific and biblical perspective. He presents much more evidence that is not presented in Creation and Time.

The older version of A New Look at an Old Earth is available online
Last Modified October 26, 2016


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