The auditorium darkened, lightening flashed across a projector screen, thunder roared over the loudspeaker and artificial rain fell on hundreds of school children this morning during a recreation of the biblical flood, eliciting laughter and screams from the students.
The simulation was part of Celebration of Creation, a free community event held this week at Seventh-day Adventist world church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.
The family-friendly event runs November 29 to December 2 and celebrates the biblical account of creation with a series of evening lectures from leading scientists for adults, and daytime workshops and presentations for kids.
Celebration of Creation is part of the Adventist Church’s renewed emphasis on promoting biblical creation. At a church business meeting in 2010, Adventist world church leaders voted to reaffirm the Adventist fundamental belief in a “literal, recent, six-day creation” they say is recorded in the Old Testament book of Genesis. Leaders are also currently in the process of clarifying the church’s doctrinal statement on creation.
But beyond doctrine, church leaders say the study of origins resonates with the human need for belonging.
“All of us need to know where we came from,” said Williams Costa Jr., Communication director for the Adventist world church. “God created us; we belong to Him.”
Celebration of Creation includes a screening of a 20-minute nature film, “The Creation,” shot during filmmaker Henry Strober’s four-year journey around the globe. Scenes of nature accompany music and a narration of the Genesis creation story during the film.
Daytime workshops at the event are geared toward elementary-aged children. Kids enjoy posing with an animatronic Stegosaurus dinosaur before finding their seats in the auditorium at world church headquarters.
Singer and dinosaur sculptor Buddy Davis from the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, shares stories and songs about God’s creative power. Christian cartoonist Dan Lietha leads children in a dinosaur-drawing workshop, and Guide magazine nature columnist Rich Aguilera brings the biblical flood story to life.
Aguilera also uses changes within breeds of dogs to demonstrate a lack of evidence for so-called “transitional” species. As dozens of dog breeds multiply on screen, he asks, "Does anybody see a hippo up here? Does anybody see a tomato? No. All we see is variety. God created variety. Do you guys all look the same?"
“Let’s see if we can pet him,” Aguilera says of a boxer-bull, one of the newest breeds of dog. As he reaches toward the screen, the dog barks unexpectedly and jumps toward the audience. "Well, I guess we shouldn't pet the dog -- at least not that one," Aguilera says amid laughter.
The evening lectures feature four nationally recognized speakers, including pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, author of the book, “Gifted Hands,” and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.
“I feel very fortunate to have had so many experiences with God in my life that I have no doubt of His existence and influence,” Carson said. “He is the source of all wisdom and is available to anyone who seeks Him. It’s hard to imagine my life as a neurosurgeon without the guidance of The Almighty.”
Other keynote speakers are Milton Brown of the Georgetown University Center for Drug Discovery, Dr. E. Albert Reece, dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Tim Standish -- who holds a doctorate in environmental biology and public policy -- from the Adventist Church’s Geoscience Research Institute.
Standish said a close study of nature reveals that organisms thrive through mutual cooperation, not competition, as proffered by evolution. Standish said Charles Darwin’s belief in “survival of the fittest” has had a “profound impact” throughout history, driving Marxism, Fascism and genocides such as the Holocaust.
“Contrast this mindset with the Biblical view of humanity,” Standish said, citing texts indicating that humans are created in the image of God and are equal in His eyes.
“Life would not exist without fundamental cooperation. Everything is a team job,” Standish said during his November 29 keynote. “It’s only when we see the system broken in some way that we see struggle and competition.”
Reece said the natural world reflects the power and vision of an ultimate Creator.
“The enormity, complexity and precision of creation is one of pure amazement, and affirms the work of an awesome God,” he said.