‘Created a creationist’
Interview with theologian Dr John Whitcomb
Author and theologian Dr John Whitcomb says he looks back in amazement at the way God used the book The Genesis Flood—which he co-authored with Dr Henry Morris more than 30 years ago—to spark worldwide revival in creationism.
‘We look back in absolute amazement and humbleness before God for the way he chose a tiny instrument like this to accomplish what we view to be truly amazing and great things in the Christian world’, Dr Whitcomb says.
He fondly recalls the ‘amazing providence of God’ that brought him together with Dr Henry Morris, who is now President of the Institute for Creation Research in California. They met at Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana, in 1953, where Dr Whitcomb was teaching theology and Old Testament. Dr Morris had come to present a creation lecture. ‘God brought us together in a marvellous way’, Dr Whitcomb says. ‘I was preparing a doctoral dissertation, which turned out to be 500 pages long, on everything the Bible teaches about the Genesis Flood.’
Dr Morris at the time was also preparing a lengthy manuscript on the predictable hydrodynamic effects of such a Flood. They combined efforts, which eventuated in the creationist classic, The Genesis Flood, in 1961.
‘We were afraid that the book would not sell at all’, Dr Whitcomb says. Moody Press had rejected the manuscript because they thought it was too long and technical. So Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company decided to publish it.
‘They were overwhelmed, and so were we, at the immediate response to the book—expensive as it was as a hard-back volume.’
Conferences, talks, and requests to speak at churches, schools and elsewhere flowed in from around the world.
It surprises many to learn that in Dr Whitcomb’s early days he was far from being a creationist.
‘I was an evolutionist’, he says. ‘I was taught evolutionary ideas. My father, mother and grandparents were not believers.’
He took courses at Princeton University in earth history, palaeontology and historical geology, ‘to grasp the evolutionary scenario more clearly.’
‘At the end of my first year, and the completion of those studies, by the infinite mercy and grace of God, through the patient, prayerful, gracious witness of a handful of Christian students and a missionary, I came to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour.
‘At that moment I was “created a creationist”. I became a new creation in Christ. Old things passed away, and evolution vanished for ever from my heart and mind.’
There was one problem however. His spiritual instructor at the time taught him the ‘gap’ theory. (The ‘gap’ theory holds that a ‘gap’ of millions of years occurred between the first two verses of Genesis.) But when he began to teach Old Testament at Grace Theological Seminary, the students challenged his basis for believing the ‘gap’ theory.
He read Lutheran scholar Dr Alfred Rehwinkel’s book, The Flood, then met Dr Henry Morris, and began to work out both biblically and scientifically that the only logical way to accept Genesis was the straightforward way with no gaps and no compromises.
Dr Whitcomb says that belief in compromise positions such as the ‘gap’ theory and ‘day-age’ theory has declined dramatically.
‘We are finding in America very few Christian leaders hold the “gap” theory any more. God in a sense phased it out as an inadequate, ineffective attempt to compromise Genesis 1 with the geologic time-table.’
He says the ‘day-age’ theory too, which attempts to harmonize the days of creation with geologic ages, is barely struggling to survive, because it simply doesn’t fit the facts. He says that the only option to accepting the straightforward reading of Genesis seems to have become plain old theistic evolutionism, in which you take Genesis 1 ‘as some kind of poetic, imaginative, visionary presentation of God as Creator with no realistic relationship to chronology, history or science at all.’
Dr Whitcomb believes the strength of the creationist movement is in God-honouring churches where the pastors and pastoral leadership support, explain and teach biblical creationism, and its corollary scientific creationism, to the rank and file of God’s people.
‘We can’t just, as it were, pound away at the major universities and hope they will surrender, or that they will even listen. That does not seem to be God’s way. It’s through the local churches that bring people to the Lord, and ground them in the whole counsel of God, including creationism, that provides the hope for strength and healthfulness in what we call the modern creationist movement.’
Health problems have caused Dr Whitcomb to slow down slightly in recent years. When he was in France in 1989 teaching an extension program in theology in graduate school, he was stricken with phlebitis (inflammation of vein walls) in his right leg, and an embolism, which was nearly fatal.
‘Seventeen days in a French hospital was a marvellous time for God to speak to me about a few things,’ he says.
He now has to be careful to get the right exercise. ‘I thank God that my wife Norma is one of God’s wonderful instruments to help me survive a little longer.’
Dr Whitcomb believes the creationist movement will continue to grow in effectiveness. ‘I feel it will have a bright future to the extent that it recognizes the priority of God’s infallible Word as illumined by the Holy Spirit, rather than mere technical scientific studies—valuable and important though they may be. It always has to come back down to what God has said.’
This is reinforced by his favourite Bible verse—2 Timothy 2:2.
‘That’s the command that God gave through Paul to Timothy—“The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” Notice that it says “the same”, not “less than”.
‘That’s the chain reaction, the dynamic, for world evangelism—if it is handled humbly and reverently and in total commitment.’