Tag Archive: John Whitcomb

A Pictorial Explanation of How Some Creationists View the Pre-Flood World

Creationist believe the earth is 6,020 years old. Based on a literal interpretation of God’s divine science textbook — the Bible — creationists believe God, 4,000 or so years ago, sent a worldwide flood that killed all life on earth except Noah and his family and the animals on the Ark. Many creationists believe that the world after the flood was very different from the one before. Those of us who came of age in the Fundamentalists churches of the 1960s and 1970s  likely remember preachers and conference speakers waxing eloquently about the “science” of the book of Genesis. Forced to stick to a literalistic interpretation of the Bible, these promoters of the creationist myth said that prior to Noah’s flood the earth was protected by a water canopy that kept the earth in an Edenic state. This perfectly controlled environment kept plants living without rain and allowed some people to have lifespans exceeding 900 years. (See Genesis 1:6-8, Genesis 2:6, Genesis 7:11)

Yesterday, my friend James McGrath posted a graphic that perfectly illustrates the vapor/water canopy theory.

earth before the flood

Enlightened creationists — an oxymoron — will scream foul, reminding me that most creationists no longer embrace the canopy theory. Fine, but I suspect that many older creationists still embrace the theory.  This theory is hardly “ancient” history. I heard preaching on it in the late 1980s. Every Evangelical preacher I knew owned copies of  Henry Morris’ and John Whitcomb’s 1960 book, The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implication and Morris’ 1976 book, The Genesis Record, A scientific and devotional commentary on the book of beginnings. These two books, along with a King James Bible, were all Evangelical preachers needed to explain the universe.  What have creation “scientists” discovered that would cause creationists to now abandon the canopy theory? Or is the real issue that believing it makes them look like illiterate hillbillies? Craving acceptance by the larger religious community or desiring validation from the science community, creationists have abandoned a theory that was central to interpreting Genesis for much of the 20th century. Creationists are front and center in the attack on gay Christians who reinterpret the Bible to support their belief that God/Bible does not condemn homosexuality. How is abandoning the canopy theory any different? Did the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God change? How dare creationists abandon their interpretation of the Bible just because it makes them look illiterate!

How I Answered Science Questions When I was a Baptist Pastor

intelligent design

As a Baptist pastor, how did I answer science questions? The short answer is…I didn’t.

I was five years old when my parents joined Tim LaHaye’s church, Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego, California. I would remain associated with the Evangelical church for the next forty-five years, pastoring churches in Texas, Ohio, and Michigan. Whether as a church member or as a pastor, the world I was a part of was insulated from secular science. I rarely had someone ask me a science question and the reason for this is quite simple. I believed and taught others to believe:

  • The Bible is the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God.
  • The Bible, in most instances, is meant to be read literally.
  • Genesis 1-3 accurately, literally records HOW God made the universe and everything in it.
  • If science conflicts with what the Bible says, science is wrong and the Bible is right.
  • Questions and doubts are the works of Satan.
  • Certainty of belief is a sign of faith and maturity.

We had our own science books and scientists. My favorite Evangelical “scientists” were Henry Morris and John Whitcomb. Morris had a degree in engineering, Whitcomb a degree in theology. Even though their books contradicted accepted scientific facts, they had a high view of Scripture and accepted the Bible as the final answer to every question, so their books carried great weight in many Evangelical circles. I have no doubt that if I was still a pastor I would have taken church groups to the Creation Museum so they could see the “proof” of our creationist beliefs.

The children in the churches I pastored  were insulated from the world. Many of the children were home schooled or attended private Christian schools. Children were not encouraged to go to college, especially a wicked secular college. The highest calling for a woman was to marry a godly man and bear children and the highest calling for a man was to become a preacher or a missionary. All other vocations were considered inferior.

rod and staff science book

Rod and Staff Publishers 8th Grade Science Book

From 1983-1994, I pastored Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. For five of those years, we operated a tuition-free, church-member-only, Christian school. We used Rod and Staff science textbooks, books that emphasized the young earth creationist point of view. Rod and Staff is a Mennonite/Amish book publisher.  My wife and I also home schooled our children. We used Rod and Staff textbooks to teach science to our younger children.

I have very little science training. I took a general science class in 9th grade, biology in 10th grade, and biology in college. My college biology class was an absolute waste of time. No lab. No experimentation. The teacher, a local pastor, read to us from a biology book published by a Christian book publisher. The only thing I remember from my college biology class (the same class my wife took) was the teacher’s lecture on not marrying outside of your class, religion, or race. He was quite bigoted and racist.

The few times I was asked a science question that challenged my creationist beliefs I replied:

The BIBLE says…

This was the answer I gave for almost every challenge to what I taught.

The BIBLE says…

THE BIBLE SAYS really meant:

This is my interpretation of the Bible, my interpretation comes straight from God, my interpretation is final, so shut up and get back to serving Jesus.

There are thousands of churches and pastors who hold similar views. We are one of the most scientifically advanced nations on earth, yet, at the same time, we are quite ignorant about basic scientific fact. We can thank religion for our collective ignorance.

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