|Author: Doug Sharp
(1) Invitation by Joshua Gilbert – Creation Science Information Service
(2) A History Lesson in Great Britain
(3) Four Meetings at Kentron, near Pretoria, South Africa
(4) Sterkfontein Caves and Australopithecines
(5) Kruger National Park
(6) Twenty-One Meetings in Durban, South Africa
(7) Indian Ocean
(8) The Dlinza Forest near Eshowe, South Africa
(9) The Need and Mission
Invitation by Joshua Gilbert
Shortly after the first edition of my book Revolution Against Evolution was published in 1986, I received a letter from Joshua Gilbert in Durban, South Africa regarding distribution of copies over there. That began a correspondence and friendship, and I have always enjoyed his letters regarding the need for distribution of creation literature in Africa. He founded an organization called the Creation Science Information Service, and has concentrated on supplying radio broadcasts to stations all over Africa, working with most of the major creationist organizations in the world.
A couple of years ago, we begun work on a project of collecting personal testimonies of creationists to identify the piece of evidence that caused people to become convinced of the truth of the Bible. This is resulting in a book project called Persuaded by the Evidence scheduled to be published in 2006. Joshua put us in contact with quite a number of South African creationists who contributed their stories to this book. He then extended an invitation for me to visit South Africa and deliver the message of creation to various churches there. Since I team up with my brother-in-law Rich Geer when we do our TV show, I asked if it would be possible for him to come as well. I am more of a researcher; Rich is a much better presenter, and together we are a team. We prayed about it and asked God to provide the funds so we could go.
We found that raising the money to go was easier than we thought. We set a date for March 2005, and made arrangements to travel to South Africa.
The day that we left was a harbinger of things to come during the trip. We trusted God to make the way straight for us, and to give us a good trip. But when we parked our car at a friend’s house in Detroit and called a cab to take us to the airport, the cabbie didn’t show up until an hour later. After three anxious calls to the cab company he finally arrived. By that time we were quite late. The cabbie didn’t seem to know what he was doing, and took us to the wrong terminal. When we finally got to the right place, we found ourselves next to last in line. We were told that we were too late to make the flight, except for the fact that the flight was delayed for an hour. There were no seats left, and we were expecting to be bumped, but after about fifteen minutes they came back to us with seats. It wasn’t until we boarded the plane that we realized we had been upgraded to first class.
A History Lesson in Great Britain
The first leg of our journey took us to London, and we took advantage of this by arranging to spend several days with our old high school friend Dale Welch who settled there after spending a career in the Air Force. He has a home in rural Ashill about 80 miles northeast of London. Shortly after we arrived at Heathrow airport, he drove us through Cambridge, which was on the way to his home.
Without doubt, one of the most pleasant surprises of the trip was a visit to the Round Church in Cambridge, where an organization called Christian Heritage presented a unabashed apologetic for maintaining the Christian faith, and supported that concept by pointing out the influence that Christian thinkers had on the world right there at Cambridge. Built in 1130 shortly after the Normans conquered England, this church is the oldest in Cambridge. The fellowship presented the ideas that caused a breakthrough in Christian thinking, starting with Erasmus, who prepared a translation of the New Testament into Greek. At Cambridge, Christians studying the Greek scriptures came to realize that many important doctrines of the church such as salvation by grace were obscured by the Latin text. This influenced Martin Luther, and later William Tyndale who translated the first English scriptures. The political climate with King Henry VIII caused two different camps to emerge, Protestant and Catholic. His successors was Queen Mary who took the Catholic stance, and later Elizabeth who was Protestant. During this time, Christian thinkers at Cambridge espoused the idea that since God created a world that had laws, that scientific inquiry into God’s creation was proper. At that time, science was considered a natural outgrowth of Christianity, and a person to be well educated should study both the written scriptures and the word of God as written in his creation. People like Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell and John Fleming, all Cambridge graduates, were of this school of thought. Psalm 111:2 is written on the Cavendish Laboratory doorway, “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.”
One of the most influential thinkers from this group was William Paley, whose Natural Theology influenced the thinking of many generations. Another Cambridge Christian, William Wilberforce, fought for the abolition of slavery. But the influence of Darwin that came later, caused a division in the thinking of Cambridge theologians and scientists. Many came to believe that Darwin’s influence dispelled with the need for God.
The presentation by Christian Heritage obviously lamented the influence that Darwin had on the spiritual life of the church, and while we were at Round Church, we had a very pleasant conversation with the young lady who was giving the tour. We saw that not only the displays and talks gave a strong apologetic for the Christian faith, we also saw a video for sale explaining Michael Behe’s intelligent design arguments. Rich and I had much in common with the people at the Round Church, and found that their perspective from the history of Cambridge was a valuable contribution to our knowledge. I encourage everyone to visit their web site at http://www.christianheritageuk.org.uk/.
Dale took us to many of the historic sites in Cambridge and also the next day we toured the sights in London. We had the opportunity to stomp on the graves of Charles Darwin and Charles Lyell, ironically buried in the foundation of Westminster Abbey. (I didn’t realize Lyell was buried there too). It was quite evident that the Christian faith was alive and well in England, and that many still have a strong apologetic for the Christian faith rejecting Darwinism. However, for the most part, it is apparent that the formal Anglican church no longer holds much relevance to Britons. At St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, where Prince Charles and Diana were married, we viewed an evening service. The attendance was pathetic. I’ve had larger turnouts in my home Bible studies.
Four Meetings at Kentron and Pretoria, South Africa
After our brief tour of London, the next day we boarded the plane for Johannesburg. One of the participants in the Persuaded project, Dr. Hennie Mouton, invited us to stay with him and his family at their home in Centurion. He works for a defense company as a electronics engineer, and it was at Kentron where he has organized a group of Christians who regularly hold noon meetings, Bible studies, and creation talks. The three meetings at Kentron, interviews with various creationist writers, and the church meeting in Pretoria with Rudolf Steinberg were most intense for Rich and I, as those who attended for the most part had advanced degrees. The questions we got from this group were quite penetrating, but in all we were well received in these meetings, and the group was enthusiastic for the message of creation. Dr. Mouton has done an excellent job as a leader in preparing these scientists as apologists for the Christian faith. We interviewed Dawid Jansen Van Rensberg, Leon Kay, Rudolf Steinberg, Bert Quinn, and Herbert Exner. Each of these testimonies are being edited for use on the Revolution Against Evolution TV show.
Since this group was quite advanced in their knowledge of the creation evolution issue, we decided to base our talks on topics that may not be familiar to South Africans. First of all, we had a talk prepared where Rich and I told about our personal testimonies, the moment and particular pieces of evidence that persuaded each of us of the truth of God’s creation. I told of my experiment attempting to join amino acids together to form proteins, and related how it produced non-biological brown sticky goo. Rich’s testimony was quite different, coming from a course he took in Biblical archaeology and several events that took place in his life where God made himself known in a personal way.
The second talk was about the top ten evidences for creation, and the third had to do with the geology of Arches National Park; how to explain it in a creationist world-view. We found here, as well as in Durban, the most-asked questions in South Africa had to do with the origin of races, where Cain got his wife, and how dinosaurs fit into the Bible. These three questions superseded all others, especially since the church in South Africa has had a history of teaching the “gap” theory, with variations of which that talk about ape-men whose descendents were not of Adam, and some racist implications that this theory produced. It was a revelation for most of them to understand that there is no reason scientific or biblical to believe this, and that all races are one blood descended from Adam and Eve. The answer to the question of Cain’s wife is a simple one. Cain married a sister or close relative, and since the law against such arrangements was not given until the time of Moses, there was no problem with this. Since God created man perfect in the beginning to live forever, there was no accumulation of negative mutations to cause harmful recessive traits to be expressed as the result of intermarriage. These questions have a scientific explanation as well as a biblical creationist explanation.
Most of those we spoke to had never seen Arches National Park, so they were quite impressed with the geology there. In my presentation I showed pictures of several of the more famous of the 2000 arches in the park, and gave them their dimensions. But at the end I showed them a photo of an arch in Valley of Fire in Nevada, and you could not tell from the perspective how large it was. I asked them to guess the size of it. Many of them guessed as much as 35 meters or 100 feet, but in reality it was only 25 cm high. I had taken it from a close-up. My point was that without key pieces of information, such as a proper reference point, it is possible to make invalid conclusions based upon the evidence you have. This is true for much of the “science” that appears in evolutionary discussions. Key pieces of evidence missing, such as the starting ratio of parent-daughter elements when a rock is formed, can cause erroneous dates. This applies to most of the cases where long ages are calculated for the age of the earth.
Sterkfontein Caves and Australopithecines
One of Hennie’s Kentron friends, Koos Van Der Westhuyzen, took us to the Sterkfontein caves, which are located just northwest of Johannesburg (see http://www.cradleofhumankind.co.za). These caves are the site of several different discoveries of australopithecine fossils, particularly those named “Mrs. Ples,” dated by evolutionists at 2.3 to 2.8 million years old and “Littlefoot” dated at 3.3 million years. This site has quite a history, starting with Dr. Raymond Dart who encouraged his student Dr. Robert Bloom to excavate the site. Dr. Dart was the discoverer of the “Taung” skull. Now it occurs to me that it is interesting that the margin of error of 500,000 years for Mrs. Ples (from their calculations) is about 21%, and the difference between the ages of the two fossils is between 500,000 and 1,000,000 years. This raises a couple of questions about the dating methods used, and their accuracy. If these two fossils are indeed up to a million years in difference in age, why hasn’t the geology and flowstone inside the cave reflect that kind of great age? Much of the cave has no flowstone at all, and even where flowstone is evident, the formations are not large.
The Littlefoot fossil is of particular interest, as this fossil is one of the very first to be unearthed to show the structure of the feet and hands. Johansen’s Lucy fossil lacked the extremities, and the structure of the foot was made to look human in reconstructions. This foot appears more arboreal in nature with an opposable toe, suggesting that the australopithecines were simply a variety of extinct ape, as creationists have been suggesting all along. I am hoping that the creationist group in Pretoria undertakes a study of these fossils at Sterkfontein. It would be of real interest if the researchers at the site were confident enough of the results of their studies to allow creation scientists to participate in their dig and allow a critical analysis of their dating methodology.
I was also interested to see that the exhibit at Sterkfontein included the skull cast of Broken Hill man. Dr. Jack Cuozzo had the opportunity to examine this specimen, and found it to have a bullet hole in the skull. Dr. Cuozzo’s study is one of the many definitive creationist works on the subject of early man, and his book Buried Alive is required reading for creationists. See his web site at http://www.jackcuozzo.com. As I review the evidence at Sterkfontein in the coming months, I will add more details to this part of this page.
Kruger National Park
Dr. Hennie Mouton and his wife Ellison took Rich and me to Kruger National Park for three days of exploring and watching big game. Koos Van Der Westhuyzen also came along with us, and our little group had loads of fun. The first things we saw as we crossed the bridge into Kruger were two elephants near the river. Rich gets out and runs to the bridge without considering that he might be in danger of being trampled should the beasts get feisty. I had the dilemma of whether to run after him and call him back, knowing if I were too loud, I would spook the elephants. I finally got his attention, and it was a good thing. The elephants were about 100 yards away, and the car was 300 yards away. To make matters worse, as Rich was videotaping the elephants, the gate to the park closed. We had to wait for a ranger to escort us to Skukuza, where our cottage awaited. But even then, the trip there was rewarding; we saw a hyena cross the road in front of our car.
Our cottage in Skukuza consisted of two round bedrooms connected by a kitchen. Ellison is a fantastic cook, and we enjoyed several wonderful South African meals on the braai, or barbecue. We were treated to ostrich meat on a shish-kebab, and rolls browned on the braai, split open steaming hot, then served with chutney and cheese. Just beyond the lapa, our thatched-roofed picnic area, was the fence that separated us from the Sabie River. We could hear hippos snorting and bellowing during the night. It was also very dark, and we had an excellent night to view the Southern Cross, Alpha Centauri, and the Magellanic Clouds.
Kruger National Park is a game preserve about the size of the state of Delaware. Near the southernmost part of the park, Skukuza is one of the largest camps and the facilities are quite modern. From there, we followed the road along the Sabie River to the Lower Sabie camp, which is just a few miles away from the Mozambique border. Along the way, the wildlife was quite plentiful. It had rained the day before, and there were many animals about. The impala were quite plentiful, though our hosts tricked us into thinking that we were seeing something quite special. After expending a goodly portion of our videotape filming impala, when we saw our fourth herd of about 50, we realized that they were pulling our leg. There are over 114,000 impala in the park.
The objective of many who visit Kruger is to see the “big five,” the elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo and leopard. Of these, we saw elephants, lions and buffalo. At one time, Hennie had to stop quick as an elephant was crossing the road. We stopped at Nkuhlu, where there is a concession stand, and we could see a crocodile in the river. Several unlucky picnickers were robbed of their lunch by the monkeys in the trees.
But the most productive spot we found for wildlife viewing was near the Lower Sabie camp where the river was dammed. There were about 40 hippo in the river, and a dozen crocodiles on the river bank. Several hippos were out of the water and we saw one charge a warthog, and then we saw the big warthogs chasing the little ones. It was quite a show. We also had the privilege of seeing a couple of rare wild dogs.
The bird life was quite abundant. We saw fish eagles, which have a white head and dark body. The hadedah ibis makes a laughing sound, hence its name. One very beautiful bird was called the lilac breasted roller.
When we got back to camp, as we were eating our dinner, a whole family of about 20 mongoose crawled under the fence and paraded their way along the edge. Just then, a large cat of some sort, about four feet long, charged at the mongoose, but the fence was in the way. From its size, it could have been an African wild cat or a caracal.
The next day, as we were leaving the park on the Napi Road just before we got to Pretoriuskop, we saw quite a number of cars in a traffic jam. A pride of lions had killed a giraffe the day before, and the carcass was about 30 feet from the road. There were two lions in view when we were there, but the day before, according to some witnesses, there were as many as 13 lions at the site.
Twenty One Meetings in Durban, South Africa
Just before we left for Durban, Dr. Mouton took us to the Voortrekker Monument, which told the story of South African history in relief, carved in marble all along the inside walls of the monument. My observation of this is that it was the first time I had ever heard the history of that nation. It is simply something that isn’t taught in American classrooms.
We arrived in Durban courtesy of Kulula Airlines, a flight arranged by Joshua Gilbert on their domestic airline. Joshua took us to his home and proceeded to lay out the speaking schedule he had arranged for us. We were amazed that he had so many requests for our message that on several of the days, he had to split Rich and me up to go to two separate meetings. A couple of days he had four meetings scheduled.
While we were there, and after we spoke, additional requests for our talks came in, making twenty one talks total. Unfortunately we had to turn down several requests, as we could not schedule them before we left. We were treated very warmly by the congregations to whom we spoke, and in many cases they arranged special meetings for us during the week we were there.
Rich and I had several PowerPoint presentations prepared, and as we gave our presentations, we quickly found out that the one we had on the top ten questions we receive as creationists went too long, and that the top ten quickly got distilled to the top three or four. For each audience, we prayed about which presentation to use. For some, this was their very first exposure to teaching about young-earth creation, and the questions were quite lively. We found that a great number of the congregations and pastors, especially from the Indian Pentecostal churches, had been taught the gap theory, and for these folks the questions had to do with the origin of races, where Cain got his wife, and how dinosaurs fit into the Bible. We thought that the three meetings we had with the Indian pastors we the most productive, as we could see how our explanations freed them up to teach the Bible as true from the very first verse. We also were introduced to the finest of Indian hospitality and food.
One of the Indian pastors wanted to argue with me concerning our treatment of the gap theory, as he had a Dake’s Bible with commentary. I explained to him that a commentary needs to be treated differently from the Bible itself; that it is an opinion of a man, and not the word of God. I referred him to the book Unformed and Unfilled by Weston Fields, available from Answers in Genesis.
We also arranged for Joshua and his wife Indira to give their testimonies as part of a Revolution Against Evolution TV show. Indira’s testimony was quite phenomenal, as she grew up in a Hindu family that was haunted by a poltergeist. This evil spirit would torment them audibly, follow them through the city, pick up things and throw them, set them on fire, and on one occasion it transported her younger brother and sister 20 kilometers to another part of the city. This strange phenomenon was witnessed by many people and was recorded in the newspapers.
Her family’s deliverance was due simply to a neighbor Christian family who ministered to their physical needs, and through the influence of that family, the oppression began to wane, until it subsided altogether. Through this, her entire family became Christian, and it is remarkable that the Christian testimonies of most Indians who were once Hindus involve the miraculous. Twelve percent of the Durban Indian population are Christian, and there is a great move of God among these people. Joshua tells that the concern about this among the Hindus is such that often they adopt Christian songs in their worship.
Though the majority of meetings Joshua arranged for us were with the Indian congregations, we also spoke at several Afrikaans churches. On Sunday, Rich went to one church, and I spoke at two different Afrikaans churches. The entire service was in that language, except for my presentation. We also had a meeting at a Christian school where the children were from Zulu families. At this school, we shared our personal testimonies, part of the Persuaded by the Evidence book project due to be published next year. These youngsters, age 12 and older, provided the biggest challenge in terms of questions asked. They wanted to know about predestination, if God sends people to hell, and many questions of that sort with which Christians all over the world struggle. I hope that our response to them was satisfactory. With over 300 young people at that meeting, it was very impressive to us that they responded so well, and that they were trying to think through these issues. We had to answer many of them by assuring them that God is just and fair, and through times where we may not understand his ways, we have enough information to where we can trust him with our lives.
One morning, we did not have any meetings scheduled, so Joshua took us exploring the beach on the Indian Ocean. We arrived at low tide, and we could see many sea creatures in the tide pools. The sea was up with about five to six foot waves, and there was quite a bit of shipping in the area. Rich and I also ventured into the water a little bit, enough to say that we swam in the Indian Ocean. Joshua pointed out to us that many Hindus come to the beach to pray, and leave their saris at the spot where they pray.
The Dlinza Forest near Eshowe, South Africa
After we were in Durban for a week, Joshua scheduled a free day where we took a trip up the coast into Zulu land, and we visited a fellow, Denis Eckard, who was a creationist and a honorary wildlife researcher at the Dlinza Forest near Eshowe. This is a rain forest area, quite small. In fact, the town of Eshowe is built around the forest.
The forest features a boardwalk that takes you up into the canopy of the trees. Denis told us a story of the ecology of this area that was quite fascinating. There is an endangered bird that lives in this forest called the Spotted Thrush. The nests of these birds are considered easy pickings for monkeys and normally they would not be expected to do very well. But in this forest there are Crowned Eagles that would feed on the monkeys. It has however, been observed that the monkeys tend to stay out of the forest and congregate on the verges. In that way, the Spotted Thrush survives .
The Need and Mission
I am still attempting to absorb the entire impact of this trip. The people we met, the places we saw, were overwhelming, and I will be continuing to update this web page as I remember more details. I will also add photographs later.
The need to hear the message of creation is great in South Africa. We hope that our trip will open up more opportunities for creationists to speak. We were well received everywhere we went, and we believe that South Africa is ready for more creationists who are willing to raise their own funds to come and speak. The number one question we got when we spoke was concerning the origin of races. It was our pleasure and honor to be able to tell them that it is both Biblical and scientific to believe that we are all of one blood descended from Adam, and that there is no reason to believe that one race is superior to another. We pray that we will have an opportunity to return someday.