Epitaph: Dr. Henry M. Morris, Jr. (1918-2006)
The man considered the “father of the modern creationist movement,” a prolific author, scientist and founder of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), died Saturday night at age 87 after a series of small strokes. An announcement at Answers in Genesis said his mind was sharp till shortly before the end.
Dr. Henry Morris (PhD, hydraulic engineering, Rice University) and Dr. John Whitcomb awakened a slumbering church in 1961 with The Genesis Flood, a book that many have claimed marked the beginning of the modern creationist movement. The book presented convincing scientific evidence against long ages and for a global watery cataclysm. In 1970, Morris left Virginia Tech where he was head of the department of civil engineering, to pursue his creation activities full time. With Dr. Duane Gish, a biochemist from UC Berkeley, Morris formed the Institute for Creation Research. The fledgling work, begun on a shoestring, soon grew into the leading creationist research institute in the world and added a museum and graduate school. Morris and Gish debated hundreds of scientists on college campuses across America and around the world. His 50+ books, unabashedly Christian and literally Biblical but also very astute about science and the history of evolutionary thought, have had an enormous impact on generations of readers.
Gentle and soft-spoken in person but impregnable with a pen, Dr. Henry Morris was still writing things up to his final few days. The breadth and depth of subjects he wrote about is remarkable. His last monthly entry for the ICR newsletter can be read on the ICR Website as an example of his sharp mind at age 87. The work at ICR continues under the leadership of his son John Morris, a PhD in geological engineering. The institute has begun several new research projects including one in genetics, after the recent conclusion of its 8-year RATE project, an interdisciplinary analysis of radioactive dating by 11 scientists.
A little over three years ago, ICR hosted a large, well-attended conference at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa called “Passing the Torch of Creation,” where Morris received a standing ovation after being introduced to speak at one of his last public appearances. He will be missed by all who loved him and his work; indeed, even his pro-Darwinist enemies will probably pay their respects. While denouncing his beliefs, they never could deny his personal character, integrity and influence.1 His many books, along with audio and video recordings, and not least the institution he founded, will ensure that Dr. Henry M. Morris, Jr. will remain near to the creation movement he revived.
1For instance, Dr. Edward Larson, in the Teaching Company series “The Theory of Evolution: A History of Controversy” called Morris a “very sincere, honest and direct person” whose books and institute have had an “enormous influence”; in fact, Larson’s account is remarkable for its lack of any disparaging word about the man whose “naive literalism”2 has been so despised by evolutionists and liberal theologians. This lecture series, by the way, is also remarkable for its fair treatment of the intelligent design movement, and its silence about any conclusive evidence for evolution.
2It should be clarified what Biblical literalism means. Dr. Morris believed that Scripture passages should be interpreted in their plain, ordinary sense when it was clear from the context that the author intended to communicate a historical narrative or factual statement. Morris understood the Biblical “language of appearance” and was well aware of hermeneutical principles for understanding poetry and allegory; he just denied that Genesis 1-11 was such a passage. A recent study of verbs in Genesis 1-2 by Dr. Steven Boyd, team member of ICR’s RATE project, demonstrated that the Genesis creation account does not fit Hebrew poetical style but matches Hebrew narrative verb usage at a 99%+ confidence level.
Dr. Morris demonstrated how one man, committed to God and his word, can make a difference. Almost every creationist leader today is indebted to his life and works. In the 1960s there were very few books on creation. Evolution dominated the textbooks and most churches, intimidated by science, preferred to avoid the issue. Henry Morris’s first small paperback, The Bible and Modern Science, began to change things. Then The Genesis Flood electrified a new generation of college-educated Christians. Liberal churches had long since given in to Darwinism completely, and many Bible-believing churches had capitulated to long ages and uniformitarianism. Assuming that science had proved deep time, they merely tried to accommodate it with compromises like the gap theory or progressive creation.
Morris and Whitcomb demonstrated that it was possible to look at the fossil record and the geological strata in a new way that corroborated the Bible record of a world-wide flood. Not only that, they showed how the scientific evidence was superior to that of the evolutionists. A new army of creation scientists launched into further investigations that continue to the present day. New organizations, like the Bible-Science Association and the Creation Research Society, were formed and numerous spin-off clubs and societies have kept the creation movement growing in strength and extent around the world. Almost all of them can trace some ancestry back to ICR. We hope to have a lengthier bio on Morris for the March Scientist of the Month.
Henry Morris never boasted about himself but always sought to honor Jesus Christ and remain faithful to God’s word. He was aware to the last of the crucial nature of this intellectual battle. The battle has become more heated than ever (see next story). Having passed the torch on to a new generation, he didn’t leave the field, but continued to challenge and encourage others to the end. Dr. Morris has been the Moses of modern creationism. His personal endurance, patience and integrity, and the wisdom of his books, need to inspire a new generation of Joshuas and Calebs to be strong and very courageous, and to take back the land, for good science and the glory of God.