Forty years ago, May 18, 1980, we were attending the Sunday evening service at Faith Bible Church in Libby, Montana. (Yes, back in the day, churches did have Sunday evening services!) This time of year in Montana it doesn’t really get dark until around 10 p.m., but that evening it became eerily dark early and as we left the church, we noticed that the ground and our cars were covered with a layer of gray ash—how strange! I guess if we had been listening to the news that day we would have known that at 8:27 a.m. Mount St. Helens in southwestern Washington had erupted. In five minutes the 9,677 foot peak had lost 1300 feet of its top, the ash plume reaching 15 miles into the atmosphere, depositing ash across a dozen states. It was the most catastrophic and deadly volcanic event ever experienced in the United States. The event had the force of thousands of atomic bombs, destroyed 234 square miles of forest land and killed 57 people along with all the wild life in the area affected. More than 3.3 billion cubic yards of rock and ice, moving at speeds exceeding 150 mph, tore the side of the mountain open, unleashing a devastating steam blast. Some 680 million cubic yards of material hit Spirit Lake, causing a huge tsunami that ripped across the hillsides north of the lake, shearing off an estimated one million fully grown trees, may of which ended up in the floor of the lake.
“For nearly 150 years prior to the eruption, strict uniformitarianism reigned supreme in geology. Every geological process was thought to proceed as slowly as those observed today. Erosion and deposition were seen as steady, methodical processes requiring vast amounts of time to make a substantial impact” (“Mount St. Helens, Living Laboratory for 40 Years,” May, 2020 issue of Acts and Facts from The Institute for Creation Research). In 1980, Mount St. Helens not only dropped ash over 12 states, it also “dropped an outdoor laboratory in geologists’ laps, forcing them to accept catastrophic events as major contributors to Earth’s overall geologic story. They now have to accept the evidence that catastrophic events made major impacts on the rock record and that the normal everyday processes of deposition and erosion contribute very little” (Ibid). The geologists observed that laminated deposits can be produced quickly. For example, one deposit at Mount St. Helens resulted in the creation of a 25-foot-thick finely laminated unit in a matter of hours.
Secular science has used the slow deposition and erosion processes observed presently as an argument for an earth that is several billions of years old. For decades, people have been indoctrinated with the (false) notion that enormous periods of time are necessary to explain rock layers and rivers, such as in the Grand Canyon. Mount St. Helens demonstrated that erosion and deposition can be much, much more rapid than taught by secular science. “The eruption’s steam blast, ash flows, and volcanic mudflows rapidly changed the landscape surrounding the volcano and its waterways. After a small subsequent eruption on March 19, 1982, a mud flow from melted snow and ice flowed down the North Fork of the Toutle River Valley, carving a new canyon up to 140 feet deep. This ‘Little Grand Canyon’ is an approximately 1/40th-scale version of Grand Canyon, demonstrating the rapid scouring power of water” and how the global Noahic Flood and the power of the receding waters had ample water and power to carve canyons and erode mountains in a short period of time, indicating the earth is much younger than secular science has postulated.
As we consider the amazing changes that took place in a matter of hours as a result of the Mount St. Helens eruption, just think about what happened with the Flood of Genesis which covered the entire earth. Scripture states that “all the fountains of the great deep (subterranean waters) burst open, and the flood gates of the sky (the water-vapor canopy that surrounded the earth) were opened” (Gen. 7:11) as the Flood began. This breakup most likely included worldwide volcanic activity that continued all over the earth for 150 days (Gen. 7:24; 8:2). Imagine the devastation! And then, consider the changes made to the earth as the waters receded, causing tremendous erosion. In order to provide room for all the water, God lowered the ocean floors and raised up the mountains (Psa. 104:6-9).
“When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, it destroyed every living thing around it. Gas, ash and rock, heated to over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, sterilized a 60-kilometer square area, leaving a gray lunar-looking landscape, devoid of plants and animals. Within a year, the first plant life had started to return. The recovery of the Mount St. Helens area was a wonderful living laboratory to investigate how ecosystems and species respond to and recover from major disturbances. Today, the 40-year-old zone is a lushly treed forest” (Ibid). Plants, insects, birds, and animals have reclaimed the devastated area. Noah and his family undoubtedly witnessed the same kind of rapid recovery in the years following the Flood.
The Apostle Peter, in his second letter, prophesies that “in the last days, mockers will come…saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the foundation of the world” (II Pet. 3:4). Uniformitarianism is the modern name for the doctrine prophesied by Peter, the philosophy that “the present is the key to the past.” No supernatural cause (such as God!) is needed. But, such people are willfully ignorant of the overwhelming evidence for dis-continuity, especially Creation and the Flood. Peter goes on to write: “For when they maintain this (the teaching of uniformitarianism), it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded by water” (vv. 5,6).
If we only look at the present as the key to the past, we get an erroneous picture of reality. We need to consider the Biblical account of Creation (to make from nothing, resulting in “appearance” of age) and catastrophes such as the global Flood, as the lens through which we observe the world around us. It makes so much more sense when we “Go Back to Genesis” as the Institute in Creation Research always shares in their snippets on Christian radio. The eruption of Mount St. Helens gave us a great example of that from which to learn.