It was announced late yesterday (February 5th 2020) that Dr. John Whitcomb had died earlier that day.
Dr. Whitcomb was one of the giants of theology, apologetics, and creationism. In 1961, he and Dr. Henry Morris published the seminal work The Genesis Flood, which looked at the scientific and theological implications of actually believing that the worldwide flood was a real historical event. Many other tributes have already been posted on Facebook and elsewhere paying homage to the legacy that this book, and other works by Dr. Whitcomb, have provided.
I first came across The Genesis Flood in 1978. I had been saved at the age of 15 in early 1977, and by the following year, I had a Saturday job working in The Jesus Family Bookstore in Ashton-under-Lyne, near Manchester, UK. This book, and others like it, became essential reading for me, as I began to absorb the fact that God’s word was true from beginning to end. I also noticed that the shop sold a large number of teaching cassette tapes – many of which were by Dr. Whitcomb. It was on those teaching tapes, played over and over again on quiet Saturdays, that I first heard Dr. Whitcomb’s voice and learned so many of the basiocs that now form the foundation of my own ministry.
During the early 1980s, when I was up at the University of Nottingham, I attended a small baptist church a couple of miles from the university. I think it was in 1983, while I was studying for my Post-Graduate Certificate in Education, that Dr.Whitcomb visited the church, as part of a tour of the UK. I was fascinated by his talk, which was illustrated by overhead projector slides – does anyone remember those? The talk was followed by coffee and cake in the Sunday School room, where we were able to ask questions of the great man. I am sure he had been asked the same questions many times, but all his answers were gracious and thoughtful.
I never expected that I would meet him again. But it was 22 years later that our paths once again crossed. It was in 2005 that I had been appointed as a full-time speaker for Answers in Genesis (UK) – the ministry led from the United States by Ken Ham, whose own moving tribute to Dr. Whitcomb can be read here. Although I was not due to take up my post until September, I was, in July (I think) invited to attend the AiG Mega-Conference at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, VA. One of the most important talks of the week was from Dr. John Whitcomb, entitled The History and Impact of the Genesis Flood. Although I still had my old copy, I wanted Dr. Whitcomb’s autograph, so I picked up a copy from his table and waited in line. When it was my turn, Dr. Whitcomb looked up at my name badge and said “Ah! Paul Taylor! You have just been appointed to speak for Answers in Genesis in the UK!” The fact that one of my great heroes of the faith knew who I was, and what I was doing, made me feel ten feet tall! The rest of his conversation was personal, thoughtful, and of great help.
The last time i spoke to Dr. Whitcomb was by telephone in 2012. By this time, I had moved to the United States and was working in Pensacola with the Creation Today ministry. As always, Dr. Whitomb was gracious and kind. During the conversation, he remarked that he had just installed equipment to record podcasts. He was not just recording them. He had learned al the technology to produce them, and to get them online.He was 88 years old, and had taught himself new technologies, because he was now mostly restricted to his house, but still had an active mind, and much that he wanted to share! What a wonderful example! I also want to be active in ministry into my late 80s, and beyond, should the Lord spare me, and should He tarry. If, like with Dr. Whitcomb, the Lord should impede my movement, then I want to be able to pursue whatever new technologies are available, to bring people the word of God.
John Whitcomb may have slowed down in his later years, but he never really retired. He served His Lord God and Savior to the end of his days. He has now been promoted. It is tempting to say that he deserves it, but that humble man would remind me sharply that none of us deserve glory. It is all from Jesus – the One whom Dr. Whitcomb spent a lifetime serving, pointing others to Him. May those of us who also serve the King follow the example of that fine servant of His – John Whitcomb.