Answers in Genesis Interview of John Whitcomb (final interview?)

John Whitcomb Jr. died in early February. This was probably his final AIG interview. It brought back memories.

I knew the late John Whitcomb long ago. (He died just a few weeks ago.) I always liked him but we avoided some topics. He’s was a very kind, gracious, and generous man on a personal level—although very impassioned when it came to a very tumultuous denominational split and getting himself fired from the seminary faculty for his role in it.

I can’t imagine the younger Whitcomb making some of these bizarre statements from the interview. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Christ-followers have to “show that it’s true” [In his younger years he would have said the Bible’s truth stands on its own and needs no defense] and necessarily know “what it really means”. (I’ve spent a lifetime wrestling with Biblical hermeneutics and I’ve got a long way to go in figuring out “what it really means.”) Is a Christ-follower’s relationship with God in eternity dependent upon being the world’s most accurate Greek and Hebrew exegete? No. Thankfully, hermeneutical skills are not a ranking criterion in eternity.

If I make it to age 91, I hope interviews of me will not be published. I liked John Whitcomb on a personal level even though I eventually ended up rejecting the vast majority of The Genesis Flood (1962, Henry Morris & John Whitcomb Jr.) My uncle loaned me his copy of it soon after it was first published. For some years I considered it the most fascinating book I’d ever read. I suppose on one level I still do. (My uncle lived just a short drive from Whitcomb’s house and I got to know the professor more some years later when I was collaborating with one of his faculty colleagues and I would often visit and speak on the campus.)

The Answers in Genesis article’s introduction includes:

John Whitcomb, one of the towering theologians of our times, . . .

Wow. That’s an over-the-top description, even for fans of The Genesis Flood. As an Old Testament professor at a small denominational (they call it a “fellowship of churches”) pastoral-training seminary, TGF was his only well-known book— very much a “niche” book at that. I don’t know of any top seminary, Bible college, or graduate school in the world in which his writings appear in the syllabus or get assigned in course work. That’s one of the measures of a “towering theologian”. One can always expect AIG to shower praise on those who fit their agenda but that is praise on steroids. (And John Whitcomb always struck me as a humble man. I think he would have been embarrassed by the “towering theologian” nonsense. He would probably have described himself as a humble preacher. I heard him preach several times, although sometimes it was about The Genesis Flood topics.)

As often happens with some types of fundamentalist Christians, John got more “conservative” and even extreme as he grew older. He finally denounced the seminary (for modernist tendencies) where he had taught most of his life and started a rival seminary in Indianapolis. (One of my theologian friends described John as “heading to the right of Attila the Hun” in his later years.) Again, I believe in giving a lot of grace to people as they age. We are all so fallible and the passing years don’t always help.

An interesting topic in the article is that Whitcomb had formerly been a Gap Theory advocate. What isn’t mentioned was that the Scofield Study Bible promoted the Gap Theory and the Co-Editor was Alva J. McClain, who was president of the seminary and was Whitcomb’s professor—who hired him to teach there during and thereafter. (In those days a lot of denominational seminaries had very “in-bred” faculties. It was not rare for a professor to have two or three degrees from the same campus where he taught for years thereafter.) Anyway, to my knowledge just about everybody under McClain was Gap Theory friendly or else they wouldn’t have been teaching there!

The interview article definitely brings back memories. I think it was Doug Block, a geology(?) professor at Wheaton College who spent his Saturday driving down-and-back to/from Winona Lake, Indiana to try and talk Whitcomb out of publishing The Genesis Flood. Block was familiar with Morris’ and Whitcomb’s pseudoscience and was trying to avert a disaster for Christendom.

I too found John Whitcomb impervious to scientific evidence and analysis. He referred most such questions to his co-author, Henry Morris. Enough said.

Ken Ham credits John Whitcomb as a “father” of the Creation Science movement. It saddens me that that is probably true and that the Ark Encounter can be linked to him.