Vale Dr John C. Whitcomb (1924–2020)
A tribute to the co-author of The Genesis Flood
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
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.