The history and impact of the book, The Genesis Flood 

Part 2

A guest column by Dr. John C. Whitcomb

September 21, 2005

The Intelligent Design movement

This is the second part of Dr. Whitcomb’s article. Part 1 is available here.

The second countermovement is even more amazing to behold [the first was discussed in part 1 last week]. It is called “the Intelligent Design movement” (IDM), and is dedicated to the proposition that atheistic naturalism and neo-Darwinian evolutionism have completely failed to explain the nearly infinite, irreducible complexity of living things (see, especially, Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution [The Free Press, New York, 1996]). However, ID scholars also believe that evolutionism can be defeated by scientific and rationalistic arguments without any appeal to the Bible or to the Creator of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ. Among the most prominent members of this movement are Philip E. Johnson, former professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley; Michael Denton of New Zealand; Charles B. Thaxton; Stephen Meyer; Paul Nelson; Thomas Woodward; Michael Behe; Jonathan Wells; and William Dembski.

Every Christian should applaud legitimate efforts to restore sanity and reality to the study of ultimate origins. Our public, tax-supported schools in particular need to be purged of evolutionary perversions presented in the name of “science” (see Jonathan Wells, Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? [Regnery Publishing, Inc., Washington, D.C., 2000]). Most of the argumentation of IDM books is, to this extent, on target. The tragedy of the movement, however, is that it deliberately stops short of honoring God’s written revelation on origins, the Bible. In fact, the book of Genesis as literal history seems to be an embarrassment and an unwanted and unnecessary burden to bear in the debate with evolution-oriented scientists.

Dr. Philip Johnson, considered by many to be the leading spokesman for the movement, while saying he is a Christian, puts it this way: “Get the Bible and the Book of Genesis out of the debate, because you do not want to raise the so-called Bible-science dichotomy. Phrase the argument in such a way that you can get it heard in the secular academy and in a way that tends to unify the religious dissenters. That means concentrating on, ‘Do you need a Creator to do the creating, or can nature do it on its own?’ and refusing to get sidetracked onto other issues, which people are always trying to do. They’ll ask, ‘What do you think of Noah’s flood?’ or something like that. Never bite on such questions because they’ll lead you into a trackless wasteland and you’ll never get out of it” (“Berkeley’s Radical: An Interview with Philip E. Johnson” in Touchstone 15:5 [June 2002], p. 41).

Indeed, to assert that the universe is the product of an intelligent Designer is an essential foundation for origins study. But it is only the very bottom rung of the ladder that leads upward to full creation Truth. It is vastly insufficient! To truly honor God and to bring genuine light into the enormously important question of how our world began, one must also believe in the divinely inspired account of cosmic and biologic origins in Genesis 1 and 2 and in God’s record of the magnitude of the Flood in Genesis 6–9. True Christians should be deeply shocked to learn that the Son of God, by whom “all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth” (Colossians 1:16), the One “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3), the ultimate Designer of all life, matter, energy, space and time, has been practically ignored by these who write so eloquently of “the intelligent design” of plants, animals and people.

In response, we humbly insist that it is essential to believe the Genesis record of origins in order to please God. This obviously includes the manner in which living things were created (“full-grown,” with a superficial appearance of history, e.g., Adam and Eve); the order in which things were created (e.g., the earth before the sun and moon; trees before marine life; and flying creatures and whales before reptiles and land mammals); and the duration of creation events (six 24-hour days only a few thousand years ago). Our Lord explained that Adam and Eve were created “at the beginning”—not millions of years after the earth came into existence (Matthew 19:4). Thus, it is also essential to believe that death in the animal kingdom (and massive fossilization) did not occur before the creation of mankind, but was an effect of Adam’s rebellion (Gen. 1:31; and Romans 5:12 in the light of Romans 8:20–23). Trillions of fossilized plants and animals all over the world, with very rare exceptions, can only be explained in terms of the global catastrophism of the Genesis Flood.

The Pharisees, of course, believed in a literal Creation Week and a universal Flood. They also accepted the entire Old Testament as being inspired of God. This was essential as a foundation for faith, as our Lord repeatedly taught (e.g., Matthew 5:18; 22:29; John 5:46); but it was not sufficient to please God! Our Lord said to them: “You search the Scriptures [i.e., the Old Testament], for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39–40). Many Pharisees could quote the entire Hebrew Bible, beginning with Genesis 1:1, but were blind to the Light of the World (John 8:12–20). In the creation/evolution debate today, there is a truly frightening element that is sadly neglected and can lead to someone’s eternal loss.

Our Lord said: “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26; cf. Mark 8:38). If we leave Christ Himself out of the discussion, how, then, can we truly help people who are walking in the darkness of materialistic evolutionism?  We agree that discussions and debates concerning Intelligent Design can (in God’s providence) temporarily catch the attention of unbelieving minds. But saving faith can only come through the acceptance of the “living and powerful” Word of God (Hebrews 4:12) and its witness to the finished work of Christ upon the Cross and His bodily Resurrection from the dead (cf. Romans 10:9–10). 

That is why the apostle Paul ended his powerful presentation of Intelligent Design to the Athenian philosophers on Mars Hill by asserting that the true and living God of creation “now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained [namely, Jesus, concerning whom he had been preaching in the marketplace for several days—Acts 17:16–18]. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (17:30–31). It was because he honored the Lord Jesus in this address that “some men joined him and believed” (17:34). On another occasion, Paul wrote: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). And to the intellectuals at Corinth, he insisted, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16).

Here, then, is the burning question that modern proponents of Intelligent Design must answer: are people believing in Christ as Lord and Savior and experiencing a profound renewing of their hearts and minds as a result of hearing their message?

The apostle Peter did not say that we are always to “be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks [us] a reason for the hope that is in [us]” merely through intellectually sophisticated, rationalistic argumentation. He introduces his statement with words which are frequently ignored in apologetic systems: “But sanctify [= set apart, honor, reverence] the Lord God in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:15). It is God’s words, not our words, that can change unbelievers into believers. Saving faith, which every human being desperately needs, “comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:9, 17). This is the only “wedge” that can separate evolutionists from the blindness of sin and bring them to a full knowledge of Christ the Creator of the world and the only Savior of men.

It was precisely this inspired, inerrant and infallible “wedge,” authored by the Third Person of the Triune Godhead, that brought this former evolutionist to a saving knowledge of Christ at Princeton University sixty-two years ago. Thus, while Dr. Hugh Ross and his followers have attempted to reduce the mountain-covering, year-long Deluge in the days of Noah all the way down to a local flooding in Mesopotamia, the Intelligent Design scientists and philosophers officially ignore not only the Genesis record of the Flood, but also the entire book of Genesis and the sixty-five God-inspired books which follow it. (See Henry Morris, “Design Is Not Enough!” [Acts and Facts, July 1999]; the highly significant correspondence between Henry Morris and William Dembski [2005; available through Whitcomb Ministries, Inc., (317) 849-2166]; Ken Ham, “AiG’s Commentary on the ID Movement” [August 28, 2002] and Carl Wieland, “CMI’s Views on the Intelligent Design Movement” [August 30, 2002]. See also, Eric Blievernicht, “The Rhetoric of Design: A Review of Doubts About Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design by Thomas Woodward” [in Journal of Creation 18:3, pp. 46–47, 2004]; and Terry Mortenson, “Philosophical Naturalism and the Age of the Earth: Are They Related?” [The Master’s Seminary Journal 15:1, pp. 71–92, Spring 2004]).


Truly, God’s people around the world must make a huge decision concerning the origin of the world: either we take God at His Word because of who He is, as the God who never lies nor deceives His people; or else, we must surrender our minds to the ever-changing opinions of finite and sinful men who are saying more loudly than ever before: “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” But God gives us His infinite and eternal perspective on such thinking: “This they willingly are ignorant of, that … the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Peter 3:3–6). 

Our Lord Jesus Christ confirmed to us that “in the days of Noah … before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away” (Matt. 24:37–39). Stop to think: Our Lord said that a man named “Noah” survived “the flood” by entering “the ark” when “the flood came and took them all away.”  Could this possibly mean that a regional flooding, which did not need any kind of an ark for Noah to survive, took away only some people? Or, as some Christian men of science believe, all mankind in those days was confined to just one region, so that a regional flood could indeed take them “all” away? But even in such a highly unlikely scenario (i.e., not one person venturing beyond that region or climbing a high hill during the 1,656 years that elapsed between creation and the Flood!), would an “ark” really be needed? Could not Noah and his family, given even a two-month warning (to say nothing of a hundred and twenty years!) have escaped a regional flood? Would all birds, mammals and reptiles in the world have been destroyed by a regional flood?

The bottom line is this: was the Son of God a dependable source of information about the Flood? Could He ever deceive people or be deceived concerning the origin of our world? Was He serious when He said: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Matt. 25:35)? He said to the Jews: “If you do not believe [Moses’] writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:47).

One theologian/scientist has written an entire Master of Theology thesis examining the argumentation of The Genesis Flood book. He pointed out that some of our arguments in support of a global Flood are weaker than others, and confirmed what we had emphatically stated, namely, our book is neither complete nor perfect (!) (Charles Albert Clough, “A Calm Appraisal of The Genesis Flood [Th. M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, May 1968]. But he concluded (p. 67) that our strongest biblical arguments were: “(1) The great depth of the Flood [Gen. 7:19–20] which implies universality by hydrodynamic equilibrium; (2) The great size of the Ark (1,396,000 cubic feet) which indicates that a complete cross-section of living beings were to be saved, strongly implying global destruction; and (3) that the Apostolic interpretation in 2 Peter 3:5–7 confirms this exegesis [see his analysis of this passage, pp. 56–57].”

“Unfortunately,” he pointed out, “there has been no interaction with any of these arguments by critics of The Genesis Flood” (pp. 48, 170).

The final words of Charles Clough’s thesis are as follows: “The Genesis Flood, it is concluded, presents the most influential case within contemporary [Christian] apologetics for traditional exegesis in the face of modern historical science. It offers to evangelicals as thorough a challenge to their historical thinking as The Origin of Species did a century ago” (p. 171).

With all of its deficiencies, then, God has apparently used our book to help thousands of people around the world to take the Bible more seriously in the realms of creationism and catastrophism. It does not require great skills in biblical theology and hermeneutics and exegesis to understand God’s message concerning the depth, extent, and significance of the Flood. Not only has He given us the overwhelming and repeated statements of Genesis 6–9, and the specific words of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 2 and Luke 17, and the clear explanation of the chief of the apostles in 2 Peter 3:3–7, but also the insights of Job 38:8–11, Psalm 29:10, Psalm 104:6–9, Isaiah 54:9–10, Jeremiah 5:22, Hebrews 11:7 and 1 Peter 3:18–20 (see the index in Whitcomb, The World That Perished, for discussions of these passages). Biblical catastrophism, in the final analysis, stands firmly upon the foundation of divine revelation in Scripture, not on the finite and ever-changing theories of men. By the grace of God, may we build our lives and our destinies upon Him, because “the Word of God liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Peter 1:23).

Published: 11 February 2006