Reflections on the Life of Adventurer and Creation Scientist Dr. John Morris

by Mark Looy on January 29, 2023
John Morris

Shot at on several occasions, robbed of expensive gear by marauding thieves, attacked by vicious packs of Anatolian wolf-hounds, and then struck by lightning, which paralyzed him for hours—all on the same trip! The harrowing account still lingers in my mind 50 years later as I recall the college lecture Dr. John Morris gave in 1973 that recounted his journey to eastern Turkey the previous year. As you might surmise given his multiple flirtations with death, John was not on any vacation. His journey was one with a purpose: to find the remains of Noah’s ark on the slopes of Mt. Ararat. If discovered, it would be the greatest archaeological find in history and would confirm a major account of biblical history.

His journey was one with a purpose . . .

My friend, former colleague, fellow church member, and ping-pong opponent Dr. John Morris passed away today. He was 76.

After several trips to Turkey, John of course was never able to find the ark. Most famously, he had scoured Ararat’s massive, crumbly rock Ahora Gorge where ark sightings had been reported, almost losing his life many times in the ordeal. John’s earthly life was to come to an end fifty years later in a Dallas-area hospital.

John’s ark exploits were chronicled in his book Adventure on Ararat (1973). Based on his book, he began giving lectures on Noah’s ark and the flood. He earned a PhD in geological engineering with the purpose of eventually studying how Noah’s global flood reshaped the earth’s surface. John sought to build on the monumental, classic work The Genesis Flood (1961), coauthored by his father, Dr. Henry Morris, with theologian Dr. John Whitcomb. It was father passing the baton to son, as both sought to bolster the case that geology confirms the Bible’s account of the flood. John would go on to write several books, including The Young Earth, and countless articles and devotional essays. John had an encyclopedic knowledge of the many ark expeditions conducted over the years. Read one of his ark-related articles, “Has Noah’s Ark Been Found?”.

John Morris

One of John’s first lectures on his ark search was given to dozens of awestruck students (me included) at Christian Heritage College, the San Diego-area school his father cofounded. He was something of a “big man on campus” due to his death-defying adventures. And more than one young lady was noticed swooning over this handsome young explorer. It was Dalta, however, who would ultimately catch his eye while John was earning his PhD at Oklahoma State. They married in 1977. John leaves behind three children and 14 grandchildren. His father, recognized as the founder of the modern creationist movement, passed away in 2006.

John Morris and Ken Ham

Dr. John Morris and Ken Ham (2018) at the room inside the Creation Museum named after John’s father, Henry, and the other coauthor of The Genesis Flood, Dr. John Whitcomb.

John and Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham spent seven years traveling across America conducting “Back to Genesis” seminars that I was privileged to organize for the Institute for Creation Research. The tandem often drew huge crowds. The three of us also produced the radio feature “Back to Genesis,” which grew to a network of more than 1,000 radio outlets. John succeeded his father as president of ICR and served in that role until 2020.

Ham said this about his former seminar partner and dear friend: “I first met John when I visited ICR from Australia in the early 1980s. I then invited him to speak at one of our major apologetics conferences in Australia. When we moved to the USA in 1987 to work full-time at ICR, I developed a close relationship with John. We had great camaraderie as we traveled the nation speaking at many conferences, impacting hundreds of thousands of lives for the Lord.”

John leaves a special legacy in the development of the modern creation-apologetics movement.

Ham added: “There’s no doubt John leaves a special legacy in the development of the modern creation-apologetics movement. He will be greatly missed, but he is now enjoying that eternal reward with his Savior.”

John’s heart was all about proclaiming biblical truths, starting in Genesis—and the gospel message most of all. In his 1973 Ararat book, he wrote that he went to a highly dangerous part of the world so that non-believers “might come to know Jesus Christ as personal Savior and that the faith of Christians might be strengthened.” That passion for apologetics and evangelism stayed with him until the end of his highly accomplished life: one that affected so many other lives.


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