For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to visit the Grand Canyon.
In the mercy and kindness of God, I got to go on a trip for Christian Leaders with my good friends Andy Naselli and Jason Derouchie, and I have definitive proof that my new friendship with Mike Wittmer has changed his life.
A few logistics and some stray comments before I attempt to combine words to get across the four big things I want to say about the trip: The expedition was made financially possible by Answers in Genesis, Canyon Ministries, and The Master’s Seminary. I don’t know who the donors were (each of us received a $3,300 scholarship), but I hereby register my gratitude for their generosity.
Let me also say that if you’re looking for a way to contribute financially to a Bible teacher or Christian leader having a great time on the river with Christian brothers discussing the age of the earth, the flood, and the Canyon, this is a great cause.
Or, if you’re looking for an exciting and educational vacation, why not plan a trip through the Canyon? You won’t find a better guide than Tom Vail of Canyon Ministries. The man knows where to find a shaded campsite, how to run a rapid, how to explain the Canyon’s geology, how to relate to all kinds of people, and even how to cook a birthday cake down there on the river. I’ve heard he catches rattle-snakes if they enter camp (seriously–thankfully no need to this time), and the power of the gospel is heard in his testimony and seen in his actions. Go to the Canyon Ministries website to book your trip.
We entered the river at Lees Ferry, and we helicoptered out 190 miles later, just past Lava Falls. I had never ridden in a helicopter. I had never been white water rafting. I had never been to the Grand Canyon. I had never slept under the open heavens–no tents necessary with no bugs and clear skies. I never imagined I would eat so well on a rafting trip.
I had no idea the Colorado River was so cold–47 degrees–and wouldn’t have expected bathing and doing laundry in it to be so easy (ok, it took a couple days to get used to the shiver-inducing cold of the water). Nor could I have imagined that the Little Colorado River would look like the clear blue waters of the Caribbean, or that flash flooding upriver could make the water of the Colorado look like Chocolate Milk. Willy Wonka would be proud.
I had no idea that the connections between the geological evidence about the formation of the Canyon and the Genesis flood were so strong.
I’m hoping to go back with my wife and kids (once they get old enough) and as many other family members as possible.
My four big take-aways from the trip have to do with the immensity and beauty of the Canyon, the relationships strengthened and formed, the power of the flood, and the joy of homecoming.
Immensity and Beauty
If you want to feel small, high thee up on that ledge above Deer Creek Falls that leads to Upper Deer Creek. Jason Derouchie has nerves of steel. He was standing right next to that ledge! I was with Mike Wittmer trying to get as close to the cliff sloping up behind it as possible. Eventually we agreed it was better not even to look at those guys who were so close to it. Especially when Nate started mocking us by acting like he was going to lunge off the ledge. Crazy. I was claiming Psalm 121:3, “He will not let your foot be moved.”
But from that ledge you can see a long, long way, and it’s Canyon as far as eyes will go. Enormity. Immensity. And it goes a lot farther than weak human eyes take in.
I wish my words were as beautiful as the Canyon’s splendors. It’s a place worthy of poets. Pictures can’t do it justice, but my sweet wife checked out several picture books on the Canyon from the local public library so she and the kids could have a glimpse of its glory.
At the end of the trip we received Tom Vail’s book, Grand Canyon: A Different View. When she saw it, my lovely wife said, “This is what I was hoping for from the books we got from the library; these pictures are far superior.” Its message is, too.
The size of the place is awesome.
At one point you’re a mile deep from river to rim. As you pass through the Upper Granite Gorge and the Middle Granite Gorge (we choppered out before the Lower Granite Gorge), you’re in canyons within the Canyon, and the walls of granite rise so steep and high that the outer rim cannot be seen.
It is big. And it is beautiful. Variety, radiance, harmony, wholeness: glory seen there.
Thirty-two men on two boats rafting down the Colorado River. Away from wives, kids, and work responsibilities. No cell phone signals, no laptops, no blogs, twitter feeds, or facebook pages. Walls of rock rise on either side of the river. Eat. Raft. Eat. Raft. Hike. Raft. Eat. Sleep on a cot on a piece of sand in a bend of the River. When you wake up you’re with the same guys ready to sit on the boat again for hours. Plenty of time to talk. Long conversations punctuated by blasts through drenching rapids.
That’s a recipe for relationships, especially when the men are Christ-following and eager to serve.
What a blessing to walk through life with Christian brothers. There is indeed a unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There were four men from the UK, an Australian, and Americans from California and Virginia, Minnesota and Georgia, and a bunch of places in between. It was a blessing to strengthen old friendships and start new ones.
What a gift is friendship, yea, brotherhood–sweetened by the knowledge of the true and living God, faith in his Son Jesus Christ, and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
That massive and beautiful Canyon was cut by water. A lot of water moving fast. A catastrophic amount of water. It’s stunning, really, to look at the Canyon and imagine how much water moved through there. Sea water, no less, as evidenced by many, many fossils of salt-water critters.
Anyone who has read the opening pages of my recent book knows that I love guided tours. Even better than some device with a recording is a live tour guide who is a good teacher and likes to answer questions. Andrew Snelling was our live and in person geologist through the Canyon. You can check out his writing in short or long form. In addition to Andrew guiding us through the rocks, Bill Barrick was there to guide us through relevant passages of Scripture. What a blessing to be taught by these men.
We had many discussions of the age of the earth as well, and Terry Mortenson took the lead in these. I’m a convinced young-earther who thinks that flood was global. As World magazine’s books of the year demonstrate, this is a hot topic. Some have recently advocated the idea that what threatens fidelity is not the idea of an old earth but of theistic evolution. With that I’m sympathetic, and I also think the Preface to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is relevant to this dispute, as it shows men humbly contending earnestly for the truth. For this we should strive as we engage old-earthers (among whom, apparently, we find Augustine, Thomas Chalmers, C. H. Spurgeon, B. B. Warfield, James M. Boice, and Wayne Grudem).
Consider the attractive power of the earnest humility expressed in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. In the Preface the framers begin by asserting the significance of the issue:
We see it as our timely duty to make this affirmation in the face of current lapses from the truth of inerrancy among our fellow Christians and misunderstanding of this doctrine in the world at large.
Then a few lines down there is this challenging graciousness wrapped in an invitation to continue the conversation:
We offer this Statement in a spirit, not of contention, but of humility and love, which we propose by God’s grace to maintain in any future dialogue arising out of what we have said. We gladly acknowledge that many who deny the inerrancy of Scripture do not display the consequences of this denial in the rest of their belief and behavior, and we are conscious that we who confess this doctrine often deny it in life by failing to bring our thoughts and deeds, our traditions and habits, into true subjection to the divine Word.
We invite response to this Statement from any who see reason to amend its affirmations about Scripture by the light of Scripture itself, under whose infallible authority we stand as we speak. We claim no personal infallibility for the witness we bear, and for any help that enables us to strengthen this testimony to God’s Word we shall be grateful.
Amen. May the Lord give us grace to engage in these disputes with a similar spirit.
The waters of the Colorado are powerful, as can be seen in this clip (note how the guy seated front left has his hat knocked off his head when the water rushes over him, and enjoy Derouchie’s fist pumping enthusiasm when he has passed through the waters):
All this water, however, does not appear to be now widening the river’s banks or deepening its channel, which seems to indicate that the Canyon was cut by a catastrophic, unprecedented, and unrepeated flow of water. My mind can barely begin to imagine the fury of the raging waters of Noah’s flood. Praise God that Jesus was baptized in the flood-waters of God’s wrath so that those who trust in him are delivered, as Noah was in the ark.
My gratitude to those who made the trip possible runs deep. I’m thankful for those who made it financially possible, but the deepest waters of thanksgiving flow toward my family. My sweet wife rejoiced in the opportunity to hold down the fort with our four kids, and my heroic dad came to help while I was away. The deep channels of their sacrificial love caused soaring heights of joy when I finally got home. I am the most blessed husband and father in the world.
To have that woman throw her arms around my neck.
There are pleasures that can only be felt in this permanent, exclusive, monogamous, comprehensive, interpersonal, organic union of one man and one woman called marriage.
My sons prepared for my arrival with a note taped to the door of our home, “Dad’s Home, Yippee!” And they made a lap-book of the Grand Canyon. Is it possible to describe what I felt when those three boys, 7, 5, and 3 years old, clambered out of the van and sprinted down the sidewalk at the airport to fling themselves into my arms? I hope they have sons like themselves, and I hope the Lord gives them each a wife like their mother. And then there was the joy of that wobbly five month old baby girl, with her bright-eyed smile and delightful pre-word baby cooing.
The Canyon was enormous and beautiful. The friendships renewed and formed full of joy and promise. The thought of the flood-waters of judgment that cut those rocks, leaving beauty in the wake of destruction (ahem, God’s glory in salvation through judgment) evokes praise for the Maker of the mountains. Coming home to my sweet wife and our four little ones is like stepping into a dream come true.
And all of it is mercy.
Cue organ to blast out the Gloria Patri:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, amen, amen.