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Vale Dr John C. Whitcomb (1924–2020)

A tribute to the co-author of The Genesis Flood

by CMI staff

Published: 8 February 2020 (GMT+10)
Dr John Whitcomb

Dr John Whitcomb passed from this life on 4th February 2020.

Dr Whitcomb co-authored The Genesis Flood with Dr Henry Morris, the founder of the Institute for Creation Research. Published in 1961, the book spurred on the development of the emerging modern biblical creation movement.

The book inspired many of the older generation of biblical creationists, including Dr Carl Wieland, founder of Creation magazine, Dr Don Batten, Managing Director of Creation Ministries International-Australia, and Dr Tas Walker. Indeed, Dr Batten has shared how reading the book turned his thinking right around, from trying to believe in some sort of long-age creation scenario with a local flood, into taking the Bible’s historical narrative in Genesis ‘as it is read’, that is, in the plain sense, without trying to twist the text to say something else. And many others have a similar story.

Dr Whitcomb did his 500-page Th.D. thesis on what the whole Bible has to say about Noah’s Flood. Meeting up with an expert in hydrology (Dr Morris), in hindsight one of those wonderful heavenly coincidences, resulted in The Genesis Flood. On the 50th anniversary of its publication, CMI’s Russell Grigg wrote: “No other single work before or since has so effectively encouraged Christians’ belief in the historicity of Genesis, and the divine inspiration, scientific accuracy, and authority of the Bible as a whole.”1

The Genesis Flood (50th anniversary edition)

In his early days at Princeton University, John Whitcomb was far from Christ. He came from a non-Christian home and was studying evolutionary ideas of origins. The prayers and faithful witness of some Christians saw him come to faith in Christ at the end of his first year. At that moment he dropped the evolutionary ideas, but his mentor taught him the Gap Theory. He came to realize that this idea doesn’t work, and to see it as “an inadequate, ineffective attempt to compromise Genesis 1 with the geologic time-table.”2

Dr Whitcomb also wrote The World that Perished, The Early Earth, The Bible and Astronomy, and commentaries on Daniel and Esther.

As professor of Old Testament and Theology for over 50 years at Grace Seminary, Winona Lake, he influenced many students, to the benefit of the church worldwide. In addition, he presented many talks and seminars to audiences far and wide. It is hard to overstate the influence of Dr Whitcomb.

He was a quiet, humble man, firm in his convictions, and very encouraging to the workers in the various biblical creation ministries. We will miss him, but we rejoice in the eternal reward that is his.

References and notes

  1. Grigg, R., Turning the tide, Creation 33(3):18–19, 2011; creation.com/turning-the-tide. Return to text.
  2. Doolan, R., ‘Created a creationist’—Interview with theologian Dr John Whitcomb, Creation 16(1):24–25, 1993; creation.com/created-a-creationist. Return to text.

Readers’ comments

John P.
We will be praising God together with Dr Whitcomb one day. I've got several of his books including the one he and Henry Morris wrote. Our Lord raises these people up for His purposes, to spread the Gospel.God's blessings on his family, one day they'll all be reunited again.I'm not surprised he also took Revelation seriously. Bible prophesies are fascinating and as believers we know there are no errors in God's word.
Dan B.
Last Sunday I spoke with a young couple at our church who are sound on creation matters, and asked them separately if they knew about Dr Whitcomb - first asking if they knew who he was. Turned out that neither of them had heard of him, or Dr Morris, or The Genesis Flood - but I can assure you they're fine on Genesis. I was a bit surprised, and at one level somewhat disappointed - but on reflection this is a welcome indication of the maturity of the contemporary creation movement, as there must be thousands more who have benefited from JCW's work despite being unaware of their illustrious spiritual great-grandfather in this matter. To think how this doyen effectively apprenticed many of today's elder statesmen ;) And Douglas J. is quite right. In the 36 years since I acquired TGF (excellent post A-level reading), it seems like there's been a stunning new scientific discovery every decade or so to confirm the truth it defended so ably. Viz: mid 1980s, carbon 14 shows up throughout the palaentological record; mid-1990s, dino soft tissue and all that followed; mid-2000s, Titan and Enceladus team up for a double act from outer space; and grandly, in 2015 Pluto takes the biscuit - fitting that the "star of the god of the dead" rings the death knell for the excuses produced to cover for the other celestial bodies. Who knows what the next four decades will bring! Fabulous times for truth-lovers!!
George Z.
Not only did Dr. Whitcomb take the first book of the Bible literally, helping thousands of Bible students to do the same, but he also took the last book of the Bible literally (as well as all Bible prophecies), contributing greatly to the field of eschatology. Dr. Whitcomb and I are working on a verse by verse commentary on the book of Acts, the first 10 chapters of which have been completed, and the remainder will be completed in time, Lord willing: [link deleted per feedback rules]
Douglas J.
I was in the creation science movement in the '70s, and '80s. As president of the Bible Science Association in Seattle I had the privilege to talk to both Dr. Morris and Whitcomb from time to time. I miss the conventions of the Bible Science Association. I'm in the Philippines still teaching science and it is more exciting these days. Today, I believe there is more information supporting creation than when I spoke in the past. My condolence to the family of Dr. Whitcomb.
Daniel K.
Interesting to see Tas Walker listed among the older generation of biblical creationists. I met him once and he didn’t seem that old!
Don Batten
Tas is actually the oldest of the three mentioned! :-)
Christopher W.
Condolences to his family. His work, the Genesis Flood, had a great impact on my Christian journey
The Genesis Flood was an amazingly influential book, and largely responsible for my own serious commitment to the Word of God. More than anything else, it was the catalyst for the modern Biblical Creationism movement. While I was at Grace Theological Seminary there were dozens of students who testified that, while they were in universities, they finally got answers to Bible critics from the Genesis Flood book. They found out where the authors taught and went to seminary there.
Just a year or so ago I received an email from Dr. Whitcomb - he was 95 years old. John Whitcomb, who was the best teacher I ever knew, and an amazingly intelligent man, would say, “the best we can do is to declare God’s thoughts after him.” He meant, of course, that we can do no better than faithfully proclaim the written Word of God. I always noted that when he taught, he had an absolute conviction that the Bible is the Word of God written.
We need more like him who will give their lives to that same faithfulness.
Frances C.
When I first discovered that creationism existed and became interested, 'The Genesis Flood' was one of the very few creationist books available, so I read it, inspite of not finding geology very interesting. Consequently, I praise God for the generous way in which he raised up this child for the benefit of many like me. I even enjoyed geology a bit more afterwards. Whatever reward we may feel he deserves, right now he will be enjoying far far more by God's remarkable grace.
John C.
I can honestly say that without this man, I would not have become a believer. I listened to his cassette tapes way back in the 1970s where I first heard about creationism and how to properly interpret the Biblical Flood and the fossils. What a gifted speaker and author! I praise God for the life of John C. Whitcomb!
Rodney W.
I spent three very important years under his ministry. His firm trust in the Lord as he taught me systematic theology. I remember asking him about the Gap Theory and his quick reaction and firm teaching of the grammatical/historical interpretation of Scripture has helped me trust our God and His salvation through Jesus Christ. Thank you, Dr. Whitcomb! Enjoy heaven!
Brad H.
Bud's comment about The Genesis Flood having an honored place on his bookshelf (which it does on mine, too), illuminates the impact of Whitcomb and Morris. The book is outdated because many people inspired by it have done the research that has lead to a deeper understanding of what happened in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. In the early 1980s, Dr. Thomas Barnes (Origin and Destiny of the Earth's Magnetic Field), a colleague of Morris and Whitcomb, addressed a small group of young creationist physicists in the oil business. He said, "You guys are the future." I think Dr. Barnes spoke for all of these pioneers in this. Their dream of jump starting a modern creationist movement has become a reality for us.
Donald V.
A point of interest might be that in a "Science 82" magazine article I once read they stated that "The Genesis Flood" was to creationist what "The Origin of Species" was to evolutionist. John Whitcomb and Henry Morris were certainly used mightly by our Lord in our generation.
Bud B.
The Genesis Flood was the book that got me to think about Genesis 1-11 as history as opposed to fable. I credit messers Whitcomb and Morris with my openness to biblical authority.
While there has been a dramatic increase in knowledge supporting the origins of our universe and a global flood, some of which outdated The Genesis Flood, that book still has an honoured place on my bookshelf.

RIP Mr. Whitcomb.
Ian N.
A giant who will be sorely missed. Enjoy heaven.
Matthew M.
I had the privilege of attending a day of lectures on truth from Dr Whitcomb in Sydney sometime back in the 90s. I was very impressed with the content. I remember spending some time talking to him in the queue for lunch. He indeed came across as a humble gentleman with a great love of the LORD, the author of Truth.
Hugh B.
The man of God, in the will of God, is immortal, until he has completed the work that God has given him to do. Dr. Whitcomb has finished his race and now rejoices in his heavenly reward. But we are still blessed by the works he has done, through Christ, to help enlighten people of the truth and reliability of God's Word. May the Lord raise up more men and women, highly educated in the Word, and strongly convicted in the spirit, to boldly proclaim the truth of the entire Bible, to the next generation!

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