Creation of Dry Land
Creation Day Three
As a scientist, these words stand out from the Genesis account with a clarity (perhaps perplexing clarity!VII.01a) and profundity that is second only to the creation of light in Day One. The mental image is exactly right: out of water, dry land arose.VII.01 And again, as with Day One, the accuracy of these words was only understood by geological scientists within the past century, when the concept of tectonic plate movement was accepted as true based on overwhelming evidenceVII.07, after many years of sometimes disparaging opposition to the lone scientist who first suggested it.VII.02 It even appears to be true that the present continents began in "one place"VII.03(called Pangaea) although that may be reading too much into a short statement.
The setting at the start of Day Three is this—both CNS and CNB agree. The primordial earth was covered in a global ocean, with no permanent land to break the ocean surface. A smooth crust had recently (in geological terms) formed on the hot, molten earth. There was a gaseous atmosphere, mostly nitrogen (as today), with a lot of water vapor, some carbon dioxide, but almost no oxygenVII.04. As the earth slowly cooled over millions of years, the water vapor precipitated out of the atmosphere and formed a global ocean that covered the smooth crust to a depth of over 1000 feet.
I say "smooth": the nearby orbiting moon constantly wrenched the Earth's thin crust with strong tidal forces, daily distorting its shape. Ocean tides were sometimes hundreds of feet high -- tidal forces a hundred times more powerful than is experienced today.VII.05 Violent volcanic activity accompanied the wrenching of the crust. Volcanic cones frequently broke the ocean surface, but the exposed cones quickly washed back into the sea because of the monstrous tides, mocking the "dry land" that had briefly been exposed.
Nonetheless, over time, regions of focused volcanic activity resulted in a slight distortion of the smooth crust, and led to extensive tidal shallows, formed from the washed debris of the volcanoes. Here is where the first life began, as described above.
Still, there was no permanent dry land. Over time, massive, slowly moving currents developed in the mantle -- the viscous rock below the crust.VII.06 These currents dragged the crust, which broke into a number of large plates. The plates collided or separated under the tug of the mantle currents. Lines of volcanic activity today trace out these plate boundaries.VII.09 At the collision points, one plate thrusts under the other, and melts as it plunges into the molten upper mantle. The lighter molten material crystallizesVII.10, forming granites. This process forms permanent dry land because the granites that form the base of the continents float over the denser magma that forms the ocean floors and upper portion of the mantle.
The process of continent formation has always been very slow, and it continues today. When the "greening of the land" commenced, dry land had been forming for over 3 billion years.VII.11