From lampooning ‘loonies’ to shouting ‘creation!’
Former atheist scientist tours USA
22 June 2004
Dr David Catchpoole.
Dr David Catchpoole, plant physiologist and formerly an ardent atheist from Australia, recently completed a speaking tour of the USA—ministering to Christians in churches, pointing them to the Creator and the authority of His Word.
After David became a Christian (nearly two decades ago), he still believed the universe was billions of years old. So it’s not surprising that he was shocked when, seven years ago, his church actively promoted [a CMI] seminar. (At that time, David mentally derided [creationists] as ‘a bunch of loonies’!) But now David himself writes and ministers on behalf of [CMI–Australia], passionately spreading the same message.
I had the privilege of hearing David’s striking testimony while he was here in the States.
‘Science is all about facts’
An avowed atheist when he first went to university, David expected to be immersed in a world of hard facts—safe from foolish speculation about the spiritual world. But he got his first shock when he arrived on campus. A professor told incoming students, ‘80% of what you’ll learn is wrong, but we don’t know which 80%.’
What David didn’t realize is that a heap of speculation goes into interpreting the distant past, which scientists cannot observe or repeat (see ‘It’s not science’). He was still an ardent evolutionistic atheist when he went to Indonesia to do field research work for his Ph.D. David was amazed to find that everyone in that country was religious and believed in the spiritual realm—including scientists.
While there, he got desperately sick with typhoid and faced a personal crisis. At that critical time, he remembered the words of some Christian university students, who had witnessed to him earlier, telling him to cry out to God if he ever faced a crisis.
So he called out to God, ‘God, it sounds strange even saying your name, because I’m not sure you even exist. But if you can hear me and get me out of this mess, I’ll be a Christian for the rest of my days.’ David says the Lord heard his childlike bargain, and he in turn began attending church regularly.
Death in the garden
After earning his Ph.D., David began working as a plant physiologist and science educator, specializing in tropical agriculture and horticulture. However, for a decade Dr Catchpoole struggled to reconcile popular evolutionary beliefs with the Bible, until attending [a Creation Ministries International] seminar in 1997.
At first he thought to himself, ‘Why is my sane and rational church promoting this bunch of loonies?’ But he decided to go anyway.
The illustration below was particularly effective. For the first time he came to grips with the impossibility of believing in a good God while believing that He used millions of years of death and suffering to bring about the ‘very good’ world of Adam and Eve.
Finally, David realized that God made a perfect world, and death is an intruder who invaded this world after Adam’s sin (see Why is there death and suffering?). At last he had a satisfying answer to the question that had troubled him since becoming a Christian who still believed evolution: how could a good God rule over such an evil world?
At the same time, he now had an answer for another difficult question: why did Jesus Christ have to die if death preceded Adam’s sin? The answer? Death and bloodshed came because of (hence after) the sin of the first (disobedient) Adam, and so the shedding of blood in death by the (obedient) last Adam, Jesus Christ, will overcome the consequences of this sin and make things right in the end.
Shouting a new message
David now eagerly proclaims the whole truth of God’s Word, joyfully sharing the exciting message of the Creator and Savior. He works full-time as a research scientist for [Creation Ministries International] in Brisbane, Australia. He travels extensively speaking on the creation/evolution issue, as well as serving on the editorial team of Creation magazine.
You can read several of Dr Catchpoole’s articles online. Echoes of Eden, for instance, tells the amusing true story of a lion that loves and mothers baby antelopes. The June 2004 issue of Creation includes David's articles ‘Zenkey, Zonkey, Zebra Donkey!’ ‘A Tale of Ancient Toothpaste’ and ‘Catching a Kinkajou’.
Behind every enjoyable article, however, is an obvious, underlying passion, to honor the merciful Creator who saved such a ‘hopeless’ atheist from certain destruction. No matter how fun or interesting, every piece has the same ultimate goal: to encourage readers to turn to the Creator and shout, along with David, ‘Creation is true! The Creator can be trusted to save us, just as He said!’
Creation a side issue?
Here is some feedback from Dr Catchpoole’s recent US ministry.
‘I always had so many questions about dinosaurs, the Flood, where the fossils came from and the age of the earth. You’ve answered them all!’
‘After hearing you at church this morning I bought a whole stack of books to take to a family reunion [some hundred miles away] today. My father had never seen anything like them before—he got excited, because here were answers to questions he’s wanted to know for years! And I’m so glad I came back real quick for tonight’s session—tremendous!’
From a boy about 12 years old: ‘In the last few months, I’ve been really having doubts about whether I could trust the Bible. There was one question in particular that bothered me—and you answered it this morning.’
‘I always get so frustrated that people won’t listen when I try to tell them about Jesus. But now I see Genesis is the key!’
The truth of Genesis is the key missing ingredient in the life and witness of most Christians today. The Gospel is still powerful, and able to convince hardcore atheists, once they see that God’s Word explains how there could be so much suffering in a world created by a loving God.
Would you join us in getting this message out to others?