by Daniel Davidson
A journey in science, medicine and Christian ministry
A young John Leslie arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah in the winter of 1974. It was to be the first time he had come into close contact with the Mormon Church, but it was the beginning of an exciting and unexpected journey.
He was there to begin working on his Ph.D. in Experimental Pathology at the University of Utah, where he would study with a renowned expert on blood vessel formation.
He had been exposed to Christianity as a child by his parents, and knew a basic set of Bible stories, but not much more. When he was a teen, his parents divorced and John felt disillusioned and confused about faith.
John began to do a bit of reading to try and understand Mormonism. The first book he picked up was a critique of Mormonism written by a Bible believing Christian. Reading this, John was forced to think about his own beliefs and realized that he knew very little.
But he knew that he needed God and he knew that Jesus had something to do with it—and that's what John told God as he came to that place of committing his life to Him. It was a transforming experience he acknowledges. "I knew something had happened to me, but I wasn't sure what it was," John recalls.
But one of John's professors knew what had happened so he began to mentor John. John learned that he had indeed been transformed—'born again' by the power of Jesus Christ, the Creator of the universe.
This had intellectual as well as spiritual consequences. John saw the world of science in a new light. As a new Christian and a new graduate student, delving into the study of biology, he began to see the wisdom and grandeur of God in creation.
John thrived in the research-intensive world of graduate school, even co-authoring a paper in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. He also met his future wife, Barbara, in the research lab. They were married in August 1980, John received his Ph.D. in December of that year, and then they headed to Australia, where John had a research fellowship at Monash University.
It was in Australia that John heard a speaker on biblical creation, a representative of an organization that was later to become Creation Ministries International. John had already come to appreciate the world as God's handiwork. But he had not thought much about how or when God created.
He had always been taught that evolution was a fact and hadn't questioned it. Until hearing this presentation, he had not known there was a way of thinking about origins apart from the evolutionary model. But after this, he began to rethink his position from both Scripture and science. As John says now, "I went from being a default evolutionist to a diehard creationist."
John became convinced that Darwinian evolution was ultimately not based on science. Instead, he came to see it as a non-Christian 'faith system' that was itself trying to provide answers for the meaning of existence. He began to see the genetic code as particularly persuasive evidence.
On the one hand, the failure of evolution to account for this fundamental building block of life demonstrated to him the bankruptcy of evolutionary theory, while on the other hand, the incredible design evident in the genetic code testified to the glory and wisdom of God.
of the body
complex”Then, in 1985, another door opened: medical school. He headed back to the US and earned his M.D. degree and had both internal medicine and paediatric residencies, becoming Board certified in both. This all confirmed his awe of the Creator's handiwork—and provided him with new reasons to reject evolutionists' claims.
"For evidence of design, you can pick the cell, you can pick the organ, you can pick the body as a unit," John says. "Every organ of the body is incredibly unique in its design and highly complex. The one that I find most fascinating is the hearing and balance mechanism of the ear."
John explains the intricate relationship between the bones in the inner ear, the pressure balance maintained in the ear drum, the way in which air vibrations are converted to electrical impulses, and the nerves which transmit these to the brain. This system poses real problems for evolutionists: "Any mutation you can imagine in just about any component of the complex structure of the organ would bring it down," John says.
In recent years John has studied biblical archaeology which allowed him to study the Bible more closely. One of the areas he has looked at was the worldwide flood.
"Linguists talk about the characteristics of a 'true narrative'," John explained. "In my paper, I looked at how the Flood account in Genesis displays those characteristics."
So is there good reason to believe the Flood account? John's answer is an emphatic "Yes". Looking at the way the biblical narrative is put together, and the way it intersects with everything we know about the world, we have every reason to trust the Bible.
Whether we look at biology, geology, or anthropology, the Flood fits with what we know about the world. "In anthropology, for instance, we see that all the major areas of the earth have people groups with a flood account with basic common characteristics: A god who is displeased by sin and evil but preserves a man or group that has the god's favour. They are sealed into some craft, protecting them, while a flood is sent to punish the others."
While he originally thought that he might practise medicine overseas, it turned out to be closer to home, as he served people in rural and disadvantaged areas in Oklahoma and now in New Mexico.
"I loved the research I pursued, understanding how the creation worked," John says, but medicine was fulfilling on a whole different level. "It put me right in the middle of people's lives, helping them to address not only their physical problems, but their emotional, social, and spiritual problems."
As a Christian, John sees this as a great challenge and a wonderful opportunity. As a doctor, he also sees the importance of understanding the consequences of sin and the Fall. This makes it possible to understand how sickness, pain, and death came into God's creation: "God made a good creation in the beginning, but now due to sin, things are falling apart."
An understanding of creation and redemption provides hope.
As a doctor, John says, "My job is to alleviate suffering," following Christ's example while on earth. This job points forward to our ultimate hope—full restoration through the fulfilment of Christ's work, as He brings about a new heavens and a new earth. •