The road to understanding

Engineer, linguist and Bible translator Kevin May tells of his journey

Kevin May, B.E.(Hons), M.A., Dip.Theol., is a qualified electrical engineer and linguist from South Australia, now living in Melbourne, Victoria. He and his wife Wendy were missionaries for Wycliffe Bible Translators. As well, they worked with the Summer Institute of Linguistics serving the Namblong people of Indonesian Papua. They have both been active volunteers with CMI for many years. Kevin shared with Creation.com about how he came to believe that Genesis was real history.

Wendy and Kevin May in 2016 … decades of biblical and creation-inspired evangelism.

At school, Kevin May was always keen on science subjects, and scored well in them. The product of a Christian upbringing, he was only eight, he told us, when he gave his life to Jesus. “But I just came to accept that evolution was fact and things were millions of years old.” Along with others he knew, he thought that “there must be some interpretation that would bring harmony between science and Scripture. We just didn’t know what it was”.

Studying electrical engineering at university, he joined an evangelical group after noticing a power in their lives he felt was lacking in his. The difference seemed to be that—unlike Kevin then—they believed the Bible without reservation.

A particular struggle he had was with the teaching that death entered the world as a result of Adam’s sin (e.g. Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:21–22). Evolution—even just the notion of long geological ages—meant that “thousands of generations of all kinds of creatures had gone by long before mankind appeared”. Maybe the death was somehow spiritual, he pondered; perhaps “mankind had evolved without a soul, and at some point God gave man (Adam) a soul which was subject to death when he sinned”. But the Bible’s statements about death did not seem to agree with that idea.

Kevin says he particularly remembers his physics professor telling him about the immutable Second Law of Thermodynamics, that the entire universe tends to ever greater randomness/disorder. This made atheistic evolution impossible, he realized:

“No random mixture of chemicals could ever spontaneously organize itself to become a living cell. Chemicals left to themselves would break down naturally into simpler substances.”

But he had settled for theistic evolution, with God somehow intervening.

Some early doubts

While still at uni, he read an article in a popular magazine about the rate at which the world’s rivers brought salt into the sea. It gave no way for the salt’s removal, and said that even beginning as fresh water, the sea would have reached its present level of salinity in less than one million years.1

But life was supposed to have arisen in the sea billions of years ago. Kevin said this article left him with an unresolved question, but by itself “it was not enough to change my opinion about the age of the world and evolution”. After all, there was radioactive dating of rocks: “My engineering training taught me that their chemical and isotopic composition could be measured very precisely.” So the dates must be accurate; at the time he knew nothing of any uncertainties or anomalies in the results of such dating, nor of the assumptions (starting beliefs) involved.2

The then recently discovered marine fossils on top of Mt Everest presented another intriguing puzzle for him, awaiting a satisfying solution.

How fossils don’t form

Soon after graduating, he worked at Woomera rocket range in South Australia’s desert north. There he drove past a recent kangaroo road-kill, with crows and eagles starting to eat the flesh. Over the next few weeks, he repeatedly drove past the rapidly deteriorating carcass as scavengers picked it clean, disarticulating and scattering the bones. The bone surfaces were already being eroded by blowing sand. He said:

“It struck me then that to become a fossil, a dead animal would have to be buried suddenly and totally, excluding the attention of predators. Otherwise we would never have the billions of fossilized creatures, huge numbers of them quite intact.”

The standard explanation for fossils was that creatures died and were then slowly covered by layers of sediment over hundreds or thousands of years. The evidence he had seen seemed to contradict it.

Nonetheless, he remained, though somewhat uncomfortably, a theistic evolutionist:

“However creation had happened, the Bible’s straightforward account did not measure up in the light of today’s scientific knowledge, I thought. The scientists must know best … .”

Change of focus

In 1971, Kevin decided to become a translator with Wycliffe Bible translators:

“It continues to surprise me that God will use someone without waiting till that person’s understanding of His Word is mature and their faith complete.”

The bible college Kevin attended to prepare for this did not take a stand on the interpretation of origins in Genesis, so his stance was unchanged. But, he said:

“At least they allowed students to hold to their own interpretation—unlike the Dean of Studies at another Australian bible college years later, whom I heard say, ‘If I find any student believing in a literal interpretation of Genesis, I see it as my mission in life to remove that student from that belief as quickly and painlessly as possible’.”

In this time at college, a friend gave him the transcript of a talk at an Australian university by the late creationist biochemist, Dr Duane Gish of ICR. This shook Kevin’s already uncertain confidence in his position, “But I still couldn’t believe the majority of scientists could all be wrong.”

He knew though that he needed to have full confidence in the reliability of God’s Word “in order to translate it with integrity and a clear conscience”.

Kevin May and others head out for a hike during a field training course at Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea, in 1975.

Namblong men at Sarmai Atas in 1981 help Kevin with his translation work.

Kevin hands out a translated account of the Christmas story to two men of the Namblong people. Kevin worked with the Summer Institute of Linguistics in the Indonesian province of Papua during the 1980s.

Light dawns

Then, while waiting for visas to be issued for his and Wendy’s overseas posting, a visiting pastor, active with the first creationist organization in Australia,3 spoke at their church on creation.

Kevin says:

“It was life-changing. The preacher spoke of the Flood of Noah in terms that explained how the vast quantities of sediments could have been deposited all over the earth by immense flows of water, modified and disturbed by volcanic eruptions, subsidence and uplift, including mountains.

“I had not until then realized the size of the forces that would be unleashed in such events; my engineer’s mind could at last see that it was possible for the record in Genesis to be true. Quick burial of vast numbers of intact living things would account for rapid fossilization. The marine fossils on high mountains, and the short maximum age shown by ocean salinity, all made sense now. I went home from that meeting jumping for joy, thanking God that His Word really could be trusted after all!”

Kevin continued:

“I knew there were still unanswered issues, but the balance had swung the opposite way. No longer were the problems of the biblical account outweighing those of evolution over long ages. Whatever problems remained were lighter than the assurances that the Bible’s account is trustworthy.”

Having to wait for more information to become available to resolve a problem no longer made him think the Bible was unreliable. Because of this sea-change in his thinking, he said, “I could now go out and translate the Scriptures with a clear conscience, confident they were truth, just as Jesus said [e.g, Matthew 5:18].”

He avidly sought out all the creation literature he could get, even though not much was available compared with today’s wealth of material:

“But there was enough to confirm to me that a six-day creationist’s stance is the most intelligent, satisfying, and scientifically realistic one.

“I rejoiced that I no longer had to leave my brains outside when I went to church. I could love the Lord my God with all my mind now, not just my heart and my strength [Mark 12:30]. I was liberated from the contradictions I had lived with for years, and I didn’t have to force re-interpretations onto the Bible that really didn’t fit or make good sense.”

Creation confirmed

Nearly four decades later, much new information has come to light, which Kevin told us has all confirmed his stance. Examples he gave included dating tests on volcanic flows yielding results in the millions of years despite being historically recent,4 and coal and diamonds with measurable amounts of carbon 14, indicating they are only thousands of years old.5 Dr Werner Gitt’s work on information6 has been powerful for him, too, as has geneticist Dr John Sanford’s book7 “clearly showing that creatures are not being advanced by evolution at all, but are heading to inevitable extinction”.

Sad that the evidence for creation is not heard more widely, Kevin said:

“It seems it is being suppressed, lest anyone should hear and turn to God for salvation (Matthew 13:14–15). Instead, we are constantly fed a diet of false information about millions of years of evolution, slighting of God and the Bible, and ridicule for those who truly believe in Jesus our Lord. It is as Jesus said (to paraphrase Matthew 7:13–14)—the way to destruction is broad, and many go that way. The way to eternal life is narrow and hard, and there are few who find it.”

Nonetheless, there are many indicators in the Bible (e.g. Matthew 7:7) that those who are open to His truth will find it, and we’re very thankful for the example of Kevin’s life and testimony.

Published: 25 October 2016

References and notes

  1. Today, even allowing for all known ways of removal, that maximum age for the ocean is still only some 62 million years, see creation.com/salty. Return to text.
  2. See e.g., Snelling, A, Radioactive ‘dating’ failure, Creation 22(1):18–21, 1999; creation.com/nzvolcano. Return to text.
  3. The Creation Science Association (CSA) of South Australia, incorporated in 1977, publisher of the first two issues of Creation magazine (in 1978) and one of the two bodies that then merged to become what is today Creation Ministries International in Brisbane, Australia. Return to text.
  4. E.g. ref. 2, also the radiometric dating section of the Q & A on creation.com/dating. Return to text.
  5. See creation.com/diamonds (followed by refutations to technical objections). Return to text.
  6. Gitt, W. et al., Without Excuse, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, GA, 2011. Return to text.
  7. Sanford, J., Genetic Entropy, FMS Publications, 4th Edition, 2014. Return to text.