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Grand Canyon a battlefield in age-of-Earth dispute
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Grand Canyon a battlefield in age-of-Earth dispute

Grand Canyon a battlefield in age-of-Earth dispute

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Related: Read earlier story about age of the Earth controversy


When Tulsa geologist Ken Wolgemuth stands on the rim of the Grand Canyon, he sees a gorge carved by millions of years of water erosion.

But some people see a canyon cut by an enormous volume of water over a short time — evidence of a cataclysmic flood, the biblical flood of Noah.

The Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, has become a battlefield in the war among some Christians over whether the Earth is a few thousand years old or a few billion years old.

Wolgemuth will be at one of the bookstores on location at the Grand Canyon on Saturday afternoon signing a book he co-authored that supports the traditional scientific view that the canyon was created over millions of years.

He and University of Tulsa professor of geology Bryan Tapp contributed two chapters to “The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth,” among nearly a dozen other authors. Tapp has been a faculty member at TU for 34 years in the department of geosciences.

Wolgemuth, who is retired from the oil industry and does some teaching at TU, said the book was written as a response to the growing “flood geology community,” people who believe in a young Earth and who teach that geology supports their perspective.

Increasingly, young Earth proponents are taking people on tours of the Grand Canyon, using it as evidence of Noah’s flood, he said.

Wolgemuth said that the book was written because the church is divided over the age of the Earth and the geology of the Grand Canyon.

He said books and other teaching materials supporting the young Earth position are “really bad science. ... The vast majority of scientists recognize that the ancient Earth position is valid.”

And he thinks that bad science hurts the Christian church.

“When the church presents God’s creation with misleading information and bad science, the gospel is lost to our intended audience,” Wolgemuth said.

And young people “who are raised on young Earth creationism and flood geology face a serious risk to their faith when they leave home and learn what they have been taught in their church is not true,” he said.

Not all technology-minded people agree.

Jonathan Bartlett, a computer programmer who studied at Oklahoma Baptist University and Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, is a young-Earth creationist.

Bartlett told the Tulsa World in a past interview that he studied the issue carefully after losing his son to a rare genetic disorder.

Belief in an ancient Earth had been his default position, he said, but the closer he looked at it, the more he found arguments for that position to be not as convincing and assumption-free as they seemed, and that a “larger-scale” look at geology supports young Earth creation.

But the controversy is not something people should fight about, he said.

A wide variety of polls shows strong support among Americans for a young Earth, despite overwhelming support among scientists for an ancient Earth.

Gallup polling in recent years has consistently suggested that about 44 percent of Americans believe God created humans in their present form in the last 10,000 years. Lifeway polling, part of the Southern Baptist Convention, found that nearly half of pastors believe in a young Earth.

Wolgemuth said he believes the young Earth movement is a relatively new phenomenon.

“I grew up in a very conservative church, and we didn’t have any of that in the 1950s and 1960s,” he said.

“The Fundamentals,” a series of essays written in the early 20th century to combat a growing liberalism in the church, accepted an old Earth, he said, as did his professors at the evangelical Wheaton College in the 1960s.

The young Earth theology began to gain steam with the publication in 1961 of “The Genesis Flood,” by young earth creationists John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris, and with Morris’ creation in 1970 of the Institute for Creation Research, Wolgemuth said.

In more recent years, the movement has been advanced by Australian-born Ken Ham and his Answers in Genesis ministry. Ham’s ministry operates the Creation Museum in Kentucky and is building a full-scale model of Noah’s Ark, set to open this summer. Wolgemuth said Ham is a “very skilled salesman” and a “loud, brash spokesman for his point of view.”

Wolgemuth described himself as an evangelical Christian who believes the Bible is true and is convinced “that Adam and Eve were real, historical people” but who sees no conflict between the biblical record and the geological record.

The Bible does not put a date on the time of creation, and the geological evidence for an ancient Earth is overwhelming, he said.

He hopes the book will help heal the rift in the Christian church over the issue.

“The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth” was published by Kregel Publications, is available on Amazon.com, and will soon be available at Barnes & Noble, 8620 E. 71 St., Wolgemuth said. It will be at bookstores at the Grand Canyon.

Promotional literature describes the book as a “full-color, Bible-friendly challenge to young Earth creationism.”

Bill Sherman 918-581-8398

bill.sherman@tulsaworld.com

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