Dr. Terry Mortenson holds an MDiv and a PhD in the history of geology. He has lectured in 35 countries and formerly served for 26 years with Campus Crusade for Christ in the United States and in Eastern Europe. He now serves as an author, speaker, and researcher with Answers in Genesis.
Terry grew up in a small, church-going family in southern Minnesota, where his dad was a pharmacist and his mother a nurse. But it wasn’t until the spring of 1972, during his first year at the university, that he trusted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior through the witness of a staff member of Campus Crusade for Christ. A few weeks later, he encountered two books by Dr. Henry Morris and Dr. Duane Gish exposing the lies of evolution and millions of years; from then on, Terry started reading everything he could on creation apologetics.
After graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1975, Terry joined the staff of Campus Crusade (now called CRU) and served for the next four years in campus ministry at Purdue University in Indiana, then Moorhead State University in Minnesota. During his summer assignment on CRU staff in 1979, he heard a lunchtime lecture on creation and evolution by John Baumgardner. (This was before John studied for his PhD in geophysics and became a well-known creation scientist). Terry asked John if he could purchase a copy of his 35mm slides and the manuscript of his lecture. Armed with this resource, Terry started speaking on the subject in his CRU ministry.
In January 1980, Terry was assigned to be the country director for CRU in then-communist Czechoslovakia and moved with his wife (Margie) and 4-month-old daughter to Vienna, Austria. They learned some German, and Terry began to pursue moving with his family into Czechoslovakia as a university student as a cover for his missionary efforts. God did not open a door for them to do that, but Terry found a Czech couple in Vienna to teach him the language. In 1983, due to security concerns, CRU decided to move its Eastern European ministry headquarters out of Austria. Terry and some other staff moved to England. From there, Terry made frequent ministry trips to Czechoslovakia and also tried to develop business activities there that might lead to moving his family into the country, which would make ministry more effective. That plan also did not work as hoped, and in 1989, just prior to the fall of communism, God led Terry and his family (now with five children) back to America for Terry to attend seminary.
During his nearly ten years of covert missionary work in communist Czechoslovakia (1980–1989), he had only one opportunity to give his creation lecture. But the talk and the slides were translated into Czech and used by others in the country. Over the years, Terry continued to study the scientific evidence in confirmation of the truth of Genesis.
Before seminary, Terry had read much creationist scientific literature for over 15 years. During seminary (1989–1992), Terry used every course he could to deepen his understanding of the biblical and theological side of the origins debate and to improve his ability to refute compromised views of Genesis in the church. He also had a few opportunities to speak on the subject. His PhD research in England (1992–1996) gave him time to study this controversy’s historical and philosophical roots more in-depth and to speak in a few schools and churches. [Some evolutionists have questioned Dr. Mortenson’s academic training, especially the validity of his PhD. Please see Dr. Mortenson’s blog post “Regarding My Academic Training” for his response.] During these years, Answers in Genesis became aware of his research, which later led to an invitation to join the AiG staff as a speaker and writer.
After receiving his PhD in 1996, Terry moved with his family of seven kids to Törökbálint, Hungary, where he served on a Campus Crusade team that provided biblical and theological education for Campus Crusade staff all over Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. In the modular one-week courses he taught through translation, Dr. Mortenson had many more opportunities to teach and defend the truth of Genesis 1–11 and was also able to give some public lectures on creation and evolution in secular universities in a number of those countries. Just before leaving Campus Crusade to join AiG in 2001, he had his first formal debate with an evolutionist—the head of the biology department at the University of Tirana in Albania. He’s been back a few times to Eastern Europe since joining AiG.
Like most people, Dr. Mortenson grew up in an education system that taught evolution as fact. During his first year at the University of Minnesota (where he majored in math) and shortly after becoming a Christian, he began to see the fallacy of the idea of millions of years of evolution.
With a PhD in the history of geology from Coventry University in England and an MDiv from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, Dr. Mortenson has lectured on the creation-evolution controversy in 35 countries since the late 1970s. He has spoken in homes, churches, schools (primary, middle, and secondary), secular universities, Bible colleges, and seminaries. He has also participated in seven formal debates with PhD evolutionary scientists in secular venues in four countries.
He is the author of numerous magazine and journal articles as well as several book chapters. The revised version of his PhD thesis was published as The Great Turning Point: the Church’s Catastrophic Mistake on Geology—Before Darwin (Master Books, 2004), which explains how the idea of millions of years developed in geology and how and why most Christians so quickly made peace with that idea. With a deep burden to reach seminary professors and students, he co-edited and contributed two chapters to the scholarly 14-author book Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth (Master Books, 2008), and he edited and contributed two chapters to the 16-author book Searching for Adam: Genesis & the Truth About Man’s Origin (2016).
As a member of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), Dr. Mortenson has presented seven creation-related papers at ETS annual meetings since the late 1990s. In 2008, he spearheaded the formation of the Creation study group. For the next 12 years, he led the steering committee of the group. Each year at the ETS annual meeting, this group organized three invited papers dealing with Genesis 1–11 in an effort to stimulate thought where most ETS members have either accepted millions of years or at least thought it didn’t matter. He has also manned an AiG booth at the annual meeting, seeking to encourage young-earth creationists and to engage in discussion with those who are unsure about or embrace an old-earth view (e.g., theistic evolution, gap theory, day-age theory, framework hypothesis).
Since 2008, he has also helped to lead an annual, by-invitation-only, seven-day raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon for more than 300 seminary and Christian college professors and PhD students, pastors, and other key Christian leaders from 25 countries and over 120 schools, churches, and parachurch organizations. Terry has also invited young-earth creationists, old-earth creationists, and men who are unsure what to think about the age of the earth. On the trip, they receive teaching from two PhD geologists, a Hebrew Old Testament scholar, and Terry. They present some of the geological, biblical, and historical evidence for Noah’s flood and the young-earth interpretation of Genesis, allowing plenty of time for questions and discussion.
Terry and his wife, Margie, have been happily married since 1976. They have five daughters, three sons, and twenty grandchildren, with another on the way. Besides devoting a lot of time to family, he and Margie (with the help of their kids) have enjoyed (for the most part) fixing up the old houses with character in which they have lived in four different countries. Terry has focused on the structural aspects of the remodeling, whereas Margie has done most of the finishing work. Differences of perspective between doing the job perfectly (Terry) and getting the job finished (Margie) have provided ample opportunities to grow in humility, forgiveness, and appreciation of each other’s different gifts.
Terry likes baseball, American football, and basketball but rarely gets to watch the games. Together they enjoy an occasional classical music concert, going for walks with the dog, playing scrabble, reading books together (for pleasure or for growth in understanding), and showing hospitality to overnight guests from home or abroad.
Having lived or traveled in so many countries, Terry has learned to apply the maxim from a good Ukrainian friend: “Lord, where you lead me, I will follow. What you feed me, help me swallow!” But there have been limits—in 2019 in South Korea, his hosts set wiggling baby octopus tentacles on the dinner table. He ate other things that evening! And, of course, after 10 years of living in England, he always enjoys a “proper cup of English tea” with milk and sugar.
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The authority of Scripture is still under attack today.
All these live talks are very well illustrated to aid understanding. They are generally 60 minutes long, but can be shortened, if need be. Except for the young children’s talk, Dr. Mortenson’s presentations are understandable for people 11 years old and up, regardless of the level of their understanding of science (though scientific arguments are fully documented for the well-trained listeners). But because of the use of lots of pictures, younger kids can also learn much from them. Any of these talks would also be suitable for non-Christians to hear. But especially for those well entrenched in evolution, “Origin of Species: Was Darwin Right?,” “Noah’s Flood: Washing Away Millions of Years,” and “Ape-Men, Adam, and the Gospel” would be challenging and eye-opening.
“Creation vs. Evolution: Why It Matters”
This is the most important talk and should be used in the first meeting (usually this would be the Sunday morning worship service[s]) in a multi-lecture venue or if Dr. Mortenson is speaking only once at the venue.
Many Christians today think that the question of origins (and especially the age of the earth) is an unimportant side issue, which can distract us from focusing on Christ and the gospel and over which we can just “agree to disagree.” But is this correct thinking? Dr. Mortenson presents some of the biblical, theological, and scientific reasons for believing that this issue is a vital topic for every Christian, because what ultimately is at stake is the authority of Scripture and the gospel.
“Biblical Creation: Strengthening Your Defenses”
For 200 years Christians have been told that the Bible is just not clear about the length of days of Creation and the age of the earth. This presentation presents the biblical evidence for young-earth creation and then looks at some of the objections that have been raised by laymen, pastors, and Bible scholars against the young-earth view. Objections include the following: that Genesis chapter 1 is not a historical narrative to be taken literally; that too much happened on the sixth day for it to be 24 hours; that Genesis chapters 1 and 2 are contradictory creation accounts; and that the Bible is not a science textbook. Your grip on the truth of Genesis will be tightened as Dr. Mortenson carefully examines these and other objections with an open Bible.
This presentation is available to watch at https://answersingenesis.org/media/video/creation/biblical-creation/ or on Answers.tv.
“The Origin of Species: Was Darwin Right?”
Dr. Mortenson presents some of the overwhelming scientific evidence from biology and paleontology that Darwin’s theory is false. He shows that evolutionists have used misleading arguments to convince us that the fossils, natural selection, and mutations prove evolution. In fact, the evidence supports the biblical account of God supernaturally creating distinct “kinds” of plants and animals (with genetic information for variation within each kind, but not the ability to change into different kinds). The relevance of this issue to our everyday life is explained at the end.
This presentation is available to watch at https://answersingenesis.org/media/video/evolution/origin-of-species/ or on Answers.tv.
“Ape-Men, Adam, and the Gospel”
Evolutionists work hard to convince us that man evolved from ape-like creatures, and an increasing number of theologians and other Christian leaders believe this falsehood. Consequently, some of those Christian leaders are also teaching the church that there never was a literal Adam and a literal Fall, but that this does not affect the truth of the gospel. Using both scientific evidence and the Bible, Dr. Mortenson exposes the lie of human evolution and the disastrous consequences with respect to racism, morality, and the gospel as a result of denying the literal truth of Genesis.
“Millions of Years: Where Did the Idea Come From?”
To really understand what is wrong with belief in millions of years, we need to go back to the early 19th century and study the origin of this idea. This unique and interesting lecture, based on Dr. Mortenson’s PhD research, will clearly show that the idea of a very old earth was not the result of just letting the rocks and fossils “speak for themselves” but rather comes from antibiblical worldviews (or philosophical assumptions) being imposed on the geological evidence. The talk explains the key men who helped develop the idea of millions of years, the various ways that Christians responded, and the subsequent consequences of the church’s compromise with millions of years. Even non-Christians would find this lecture thought provoking.
This presentation is available to watch at https://answersingenesis.org/media/video/age-of-the-earth/millions-of-years/ or on Answers.tv.
“Noah’s Flood: Washing Away Millions of Years”
This lecture first explains some of the biblical evidence that Noah’s Flood was a unique, historic, global, catastrophic flood. Then Dr. Mortenson discusses some of the geological and fossil evidence for this event. It will be shown that the idea of millions of years did not and does not come from the rocks and fossils but rather from anti-biblical worldview assumptions used to interpret the geological evidence. Included will be brief discussion (understandable to lay people) of why Christians should not accept the millions-of-years dates derived from radiometric dating methods.
This presentation is available to watch at https://answersingenesis.org/media/video/bible/washing-away-millions-of-years/ or on Answers.tv.
“Dinosaurs: Have You or Your Kids Been Brainwashed?”
This is especially good for junior and senior high kids and adults, but younger kids will benefit also.
This popular talk shows people that evolutionists really don’t know how dinosaurs came into existence or how they went extinct, and that they have no real evidence that they evolved into birds. Rather, the Bible gives us the truth to know how and when dinosaurs were created and why we find their bones fossilized in rock layers. The connection of the dinosaurs to the gospel is also made clear. This well-illustrated presentation will help kids and adults recognize the evolutionary brainwashing on this subject.
“Big Bang: Exploding the Myth”
In a way that is understandable for lay people and teens, Dr. Mortenson presents many scientific and biblical reasons why we do not need to bow the knee to the big bang idea or any other hypothesis of cosmic evolution (and the associated billions of years). Instead we can and should believe the Genesis account of the origin of the universe.
“Genesis: Key to Evangelism Today”
This talk explains how the teaching of evolution all over the world has kept many people from even being willing to listen to the Bible’s gospel message, much less to believe it. The creation-evolution controversy is not an irrelevant side issue, but is foundational to evangelism at home and on the foreign mission field at this time in history.
“How to Think About Origins”
This is especially good for junior and senior high kids and adults, but younger kids will benefit also.
This lecture challenges children to think, and motivates them to become better informed so that they are not deceived—and so that they can more boldly witness to their evolutionized friends. Dr. Mortenson begins by explaining the significant difference between operation science and origin science, and the role of assumptions in the interpretation of the scientific evidence regarding origins. Then Dr. Mortenson gives a number of concrete examples from biology, paleontology, and geology to illustrate this and expose the erroneous and misleading “evidence” that evolutionists present. The goal is to exhort the audience members to build all of their thinking on the Word of God.
“The Seven C’s of History”
This is especially good for kids ages 5–12, but parents will learn too!
“The Seven C’s of History” (Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross, Consummation) help us remember the big events in history to understand the world we live in. This illustrated presentation will focus most of its attention on the first four Cs. The kids will have lively interaction with Dr. Mortenson as they learn vital truths related to the gospel and confirming the truth of Genesis chapters 1–11.
Intelligent Design and the Intelligent Design Movement
In this lecture Dr. Mortenson begins by explaining and illustrating arguments that use design in nature to point to a designer and that such arguments are consistent with biblical teaching that creation reveals the existence and character of God. Dr. Mortenson also shows how leading evolutionists deny this obvious fact. In the second half of the lecture, he defines the Intelligent Design Movement and identifies some of its leading scholars, and then presents his assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of this religiously eclectic movement.
This presentation is available to watch on Answers.tv.
Inerrancy and the Undermining of Biblical Authority
This lecture begins with a discussion of some of the wonderful statements in the 1978 "Statement on Biblical Inerrancy" and the 1982 "Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics" produced by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. But then Dr. Mortenson points out the problematic wording in some of the affirmations and denials in those documents, which open the door to the acceptance of millions of years, explaining how an estimated 90% of the 307 signers of those statements could also still hold to their acceptance of millions of years. Dr. Mortenson then discusses new efforts to defend inerrancy as the Scriptures are increasingly under subtle attack within the evangelical world today. But as in 1978, so today many of the most outspoken and passionate defenders of inerrancy continue to undermine the Bible’s authority (and therefore its inerrancy) by their compromise with millions of years (either by encouraging the church to accept one of the old-earth views [gap theory, day-age theory, Framework Hypothesis, etc.] or by ignoring the issue and teaching the church directly or indirectly that the age of the earth doesn’t matter). To illustrate the point, some of the writings of Dr. Norman Geisler are analyzed. Dr. Mortenson concludes that only the young-earth creation view of Genesis chapters 1–11 truly and consistently upholds the inerrancy and supreme authority of Scripture on the question of origins.
This presentation is available to watch on Answers.tv.
Dr. Mortenson’s 14-topic series in “Answers University” at Answers.tv covers many of these topics in greater depth than he does in a church seminar. With each topic he also recommends, books, articles or DVDs for further study to really equip you to teach others.