“A shadow of disbelief is still thick over me”1
A boy, dinosaurs, and Christianity2
Published: 27 July 2017 (GMT+10)
Recently Tom Holland, popular author and documentary presenter, wrote an article for the New Statesman entitled, Why I was wrong about Christianity.3 While this primarily dealt with his realisation that Western morality derived from Christianity rather than other ancient philosophies,4 it also provided some very telling information about how dinosaurs influenced his boyhood thinking and subsequent path in life. Speaking further about his article on Premier Christian Radio1 (UK) Holland described his love of dinosaurs as a child and how they fuelled his imagination, seeing them as exciting, large, glamorous, fierce, and extinct. Certainly, dinosaurs were truly magnificent creatures, and those words resonate with many children (and adults) too.
Significantly, Holland recounts how one of his earliest problems with Christianity began with dinosaurs:
“When I was a boy, my upbringing as a Christian was forever being weathered by the gale force of my enthusiasms. First, there were dinosaurs. I vividly remember my shock when, at Sunday school one day, I opened a children’s Bible and found an illustration on its first page of Adam and Eve with a brachiosaur. Six years old I may have been, but of one thing—to my regret—I was rock-solid certain: no human being had ever seen a sauropod. That the teacher seemed not to care about this error only compounded my sense of outrage and bewilderment. A faint shadow of doubt, for the first time, had been brought to darken my Christian faith.”3
Contradictions spoil faith
This is not a solitary story, but a salutary reminder of the power that the secular (evolutionary) view of dinosaurs has on young people. I vividly remember standing at Lipan Point at the top of the Grand Canyon with geologist and anti-creationist Prof. Donald Prothero (see here), listening to him explain how dinosaurs convinced him of evolution and millions of years when he was only four.5
It was, however, very exciting and commendable to read that, in the early 1970s, the Sunday school that Holland attended had a Children’s Bible depicting Adam and Eve with a sauropod dinosaur. But even at the young age of six, Holland recognised the Law of Non-contradiction in action (see Sarfati’s discussion of this in Logic and creation). This states that two opposing views cannot both be true—so dinosaurs cannot have been created on Day 6 along with man, 6000 years ago and, at the same time, have died out millions of years before man evolved. Holland recognised, as should we all, that the two ‘histories’ cannot both be correct (for more on his views, see here). The real question is: What can be done to teach young people the true history of dinosaurs?
Simple stories or apologetics?
The answer is apologetics, and even where young children are concerned. We have to remember not only to teach the history contained within the Bible but also, in a world of disbelief and rejection, how to defend it. The question is really: Did we tell them a nice story, or did we teach it as history and attempt to answer the relevant questions at the same time? For example: Did man and dinosaurs live together? How did dinosaurs fit into Noah’s Ark? Are there any examples of people depicting dinosaurs, such as in ancient artwork? Why are there no dinosaurs alive now?
CMI’s recent documentary, Fallout!, effectively highlights this point. Students who had their questions answered when attending church at home are the ones who are still attending church now. In this modern era, with the internet and a wealth of great creation resources, questions about dinosaurs and the Bible are easily answered (see Dinosaur Questions and Answers). CMI have produced many articles highlighting depictions of dinosaurs drawn by people throughout the ages, such as the sauropods on Bishop Bell’s tomb6 in Carlisle Cathedral, England, or the Stegosaurus-lookalike on a stone carved pillar in Ankgor Wat, Cambodia.7 There is also a plethora of articles on soft tissue, proteins, and even DNA, found in dinosaur bones (see here and its ‘related articles’ links)—all of which blows completely out of the water the idea that they are millions of years old! Among that wealth of resources, CMI’s book, Exploring Dinosaurs With Mr Hibb, is a wonderful source of information for inquisitive young (and older!) minds looking to understand more about dinosaurs and the Bible. The reality is, that with such helpful resources readily available, there need be no ‘shadow of disbelief’ hanging over any child.
References and notes
- A statement made by Tom Holland, Why I changed my mind about Christian history—Tom Holland and Larry Hurtado, Unbelievable? premierchristianradio.com, 8 October 2016. Return to text.
- This article first appeared in CMI-UK/Europe’s Prayer News, January 2017. Return to text.
- Holland, T., Why I was wrong about Christianity, newstatesman.com, 14 September 2016. Return to text.
- Fuller treatment at: Nunn, W., The Bible is the bedrock of civilized society, 3 November 2016; creation.com/bible-bedrock. Return to text.
- Robinson, P., A road trip with a difference! Creationism on trial, 24 January 2013; creation.com/creationism-road-trip. Return to text.
- Bell, P., Bishop Bell’s brass behemoths!, Creation 25(4): 40-44, September 2003; creation.com/bb. Return to text.
- O’Brien, J. & Doyle, S., Did Angkor really see a dinosaur?, Creation 35(2): 41-43, April 2013; creation.com/angkor-dinosaur. Return to text.
I've always thought there was some illogical disconnect between dinosaurs and dragons to which people are just blind. Secular scientists and historians say, and people just accept, that stories of big, sometimes flying, lizards are all just myths and metaphors; then they dig big, sometimes flying lizards out of the ground; then say again that stories of big, flying lizards are just myths and metaphors. So the animals are real but all the stories of them are fake? Yes, they say. But even the global tales must attest to some real animal it would seem. How did the Chinese calendar get a year of the dragon when most of the other animals are just barnyard animals, (except the tiger and monkey)? How did they assign a look and traits to it? How did people in medieval Europe even know how to envision a mythical dragon as a large, sometimes flying, lizard before movies, tv, Internet, art or science museums, or before most people could read a book even on the rare occasion they encountered one? Why would cultures all over the globe separately just invent such an animal? It seems like dinosaurs, far from being a gateway drug to atheism could be another Achilles heel for evolutionists.
I agree that real images of dinosaurs are the most compelling witness, worth a thousand words. Perhaps CMI could make such a book of these images or already has one?
By the way, if I were addressing the question of Behemoth, I would begin by asking if the students could describe the tail of an elephant or hippo. Long, short, thick & powerful or wispy and weak? Once they have responded and the size of those tails fixed in their minds, then read Job and discuss whether those who think an elephant tail is the same as a cedar tree are correct.
After I had first asked them to listen carefully I once read the description of a fierce animal in Job 41 to my High school Sunday school group. Then I asked them, " What animal does that sound like to you?" Immediately the answer was "A dragon!!!" Later one Mum said her 2 were so excited because there were dragons in the Bible. One of those 2 is now a Pastor.
When it comes to dinosaurs, I think it's crucial to point out the historic evidence of human-dinosaur coexistence. Imagery left by many cultures shows that people SAW living dinosaurs and made a record of them. These images should be always showed in bundles when discussing dinosaurs as "evidence" of evolution. Never underestimate the power of the visual.
I totally agree. The visual impact of numerous dinosaur depictions from all across the world spanning millennium are a powerful display of witnesses to the truth of the Bible. There are a number of these already on creation.com which can be viewed using the search facility. I am also currently working on a writing up a couple more, so please do come back and take a look.
I would love to see more animated content for pre-schoolers that depict dinosaurs within a Biblical world view.
Most convincing for me is Job 40 :15-24 where we find a description of "Behemoth", most likely a Dinosaur because this animal had a tail like a cedar. Unfortunately in The Netherlands all translations of this texts speak of "Hippo" which clearly must be wrong because the tail of a Hippo is on average 50 cm and can not be made stiff either.
Also there are no fossils of hippos found that had tails as long as a cedar.