Two major events occurred this past spring that brought back poignant memories of my years in Virginia: the massacre at Virginia Tech and the home-going of Dr. Jerry Falwell.
As you may know, my father served on the faculty of Virginia Tech as Chair of the Civil Engineering Department from 1956 to 1970, during which time the department came to national prominence. I majored in civil engineering there, graduating in 1969. The tragic shootings this spring occurred in the same building where my father's department was located. The images of the campus and interviews with the faculty reminded me of the roots of the modern creation movement.
Research for the seminal work The Genesis Flood took place at Virginia Tech's university library. This book catalyzed the entire creation movement and resulted in numerous speaking opportunities. As the book gained acceptance and influence, the idea of a creation study and promotion group began to take shape. This led to the founding of the Creation Research Society in 1963, and ultimately the Institute for Creation Research in 1970.
However, this kind of notoriety was not welcomed by the faculty. A witnessing Christian was bad enough, but a creationist? Several efforts were made to have my father removed, but his department was one of the most successful on campus, publishing influential papers, receiving noteworthy grants, and producing quality graduates. Because of tenure, there was no acceptable way to oust him. And so, his books kept pouring out, and the creation movement continued to gain ground.
The liberal First Baptist Church in Blacksburg, which our family attended, was so alarmed by the rapid growth of my father's Sunday School class that he was removed. No tenure there. So he and several others started Harvest Baptist Church, which still flourishes and has an effective ministry on campus.
As anti-creation academic pressure mounted on campus, he resigned his post and partnered with Dr. Tim LaHaye to launch the new Christian Heritage College and its research branch, the Institute for Creation Research. The "embarrassed" Virginia Tech faculty actually threw a party to celebrate his departure. Since that time, Virginia Tech has been a bastion for evolution teaching. While it is not possible to claim that evolution teaching itself was responsible for the recent actions of a madman, one can't help but wonder if a distorted view of man as an evolved animal played a part in the deranged killer's actions.
One frequent guest speaker at Harvest Baptist Church was a young preacher from Lynchburg, Jerry Falwell. My father would also speak at Thomas Road Baptist Church, and over the years the two men forged a deep friendship that bore much fruit. Dr. Falwell remained a strong creationist, and even at the time of his sudden death in May, the ICR Graduate School and Liberty University were exploring ways to jointly sponsor graduate training and research in creation science.
Often Dr. Falwell would include creation in his preaching, and he insisted the university retain an emphasis in creation apologetics, in spite of adversarial accreditation demands. I remember the two times I was scheduled to debate Dr. Stephen J. Gould on national television. Both times Dr. Gould backed out at the last minute, refusing to debate another scientist. Not willing to legitimize creation, he insisted the program find a preacher for him to debate. Dr. Falwell was more than willing, knowing the evolutionist ploy to couch the debate as religion versus science. Not only did he uphold the "gospel of Christ" (Romans 1:16), but he took every opportunity to reference ICR's scientific work and contributions.
Throughout his life, Dr. Falwell remained a good friend of creation ministry and a partner in the work of Christ. My brother, Dr. Henry Morris III, and I traveled to Lynchburg for Dr. Falwell's memorial service, where many thousands gathered to celebrate a life well lived in the service of the King.
Looking back, I am reminded of both triumphs and tragedies, but remain in awe of God for His sovereign control. I long for, as I'm sure you do, the glorious return of our great Creator, Redeemer, and King to set things fully right.
*Dr. Morris is President of the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Morris, J. 2007. Sweet Home Virginia. Acts & Facts. 36 (8): 3.