eQuest For Truth interviews Dr. Stephen Denton, DVM. This interview as originally published in the 2012 Fall Issue of Equus Ex Nihilo.
1) Why did you want to become an equine veterinarian?
I grew up on a dairy farm in southwest Virginia and was born with a love for working with animals especially cattle, horses and dogs. From a very early age, I knew that being a veterinarian was what I wanted to do with my life. When first attending veterinarian school, I
wanted to be a large animal veterinarian and specialize in dairy cattle work. Yet, as school progressed I developed a love for horses and realized that there was so much more I could do with horses compared to cattle. With horses I would be able to use all my veterinary medical training and utilize the most up to date medical technology available in treating them. After completing school, I went on to do an equine medicine and surgery internship at the Ontario Veterinary College in Canada and from there I have been an equine veterinarian in my home town of Abingdon, Virginia since 1993.
2) What does your typical day as a vet look like?
That is the beauty of being a veterinarian; there is no typical day. I never know from day to day what my day will be like from busy to slow or routine to complex. It is unpredictable.
3) What do you enjoy the most about being an equine veterinarian?
I do believe I am doing what God wanted me to do with my life. I am blessed to have the opportunity to use the gifts God gave me every day, and I truly feel this was God's purpose for me. It's a pleasure being outdoors and enjoying God's creation while helping horses.
4) How did you become a Christian? How did you come to believe in the Bible's accurate creation account in Genesis?
I was brought up in a Christian home and was blessed to have Godly parents. Interested in science from a very early age, as a 13 year old, I watched the series by Dr. Carl Sagan called Cosmos on PBS. This series completed changed my life for a long time. Dr. Sagan appeared to have all the scientific answers about life origins with no God involved. At this point, I accepted Dr. Sagan beliefs about evolution. I stopped going to church for almost 15 years, becoming an agonistic. I still held out that God was there and at times I would catch myself praying to God even though I believed we were all here by chance. All the way through college and my internship, I was outside God's will for my life. I had made some bad personal decisions and was suffering the consequences of those actions. It was then that I started searching for answers, feeling something was missing in my life. My first employer, Dr. Clay Brinson was a strong Christian man and a Creationist. He saw the struggles I was facing and began talking to me about the need for God in my life. I was reluctant to listen at first. Dr. Clay knew it, so he gave me a book to read called Darwin's Blackbox. After reading this book, my eyes were opened. I realized that I had been lied to all through college by my professors. Still, it was hard to accept that all that I had believed so long about evolution was wrong. Yet this was a turning point in my life. I knew I had a Creator and that there was no way evolution could explain why I was here and my purpose in life. I also realized that if I had a Creator; I was then accountable to that Creator for my life's choices and my sins. I started reading my Bible again, got into a good Church, and eventually accepted Christ. So this is how I finally became a Christian at 28 years old. Even though I finally accepted Christ, I still did not completely believe the Genesis account right off the bat. I tried to compromise by saying God did created the universe over billions of years, holding on to an old earth creationist view point. But after studying the issue and being involved with Dr. Brinson and ICR, I quickly became a young earth creationist. For the first time in my life, it all made perfect sense that evolution was not true science but an interpretation. I could still believe in science and believe the Bible was 100% accurate. Groups like ICR and Answers in Genesis have been a great resource of information in helping me understand and accept the importance of believing the Bible from the very first verse.
5) Is the Creation vs. Evolution issue relevant?
Absolutely. It is why I am Christian today. If not for this issue and someone like Dr. Brinson showing me the truth, I still would be blind, living my old life and suffering the consequences of my separation from God. Having a strong scientific background, understanding this issue is what reached me. It is the reason I finally realized that I had a Creator and that I could put my belief and faith in Him. It also is my anchor for when times really get tough. When I have questioned my faith, all I need to do is look around seeing the evidence of God's work in nature and it brings me back to Him. This is why it is so important to teach it to our children at an early age the truth of God's word and to refute the evolutionist claims. I do not want my children to go down the path I did at an early age. It makes all the difference in way you live your life and your worldview if you believe in a Creator that has a purpose and plan for your life, that created you special for a reason, and that loves you personally. People that believe they are here by chance and that there is no purpose or plan for their lives, have no hope. They do not feel loved or special they are just here, and their worldview is completely the opposite of ours.
6) Concerning the horse, give us an example of the Creator's complexity of design that refutes chance, or random processes of evolution.
The horse provides so many reasons to not believe in the theory evolution. Just the complexity of all the horse's systems/anatomy working together, and their perfect design for speed could not have happened by chance. Some of my favorite examples, which are not exclusive to the horses only but all animals and humans have them are: the clotting cascade, the immune system, and the reproductive systems. These are vastly complex designed systems that had to already be complete and in working order for them to function properly. They could not have happened by chance. But one of my favorites for the horse is the design of the horse's hoof. It is a very thin structure that can withstand so much force. It absorbs the shock and redistributes the force to help protect the internal structures within the hoof capsule from damage when a horse is running at high speeds. It is estimated that when a horse's hoof hits the ground at a full gallop it is taking a force of 900 G's. Just standing on the earth we are at 1 G Force but can you image 900 G's. Humans cannot survive G Forces greater than 9 or 10 G's and require special G suits to help protect them, but God has design the horse hoof to be very thin less than an 1 inch thick and still withstand that kind of force. Man cannot design anything that strong.
7) Have you ever been challenged by other veterinarians or other Christians for Biblical creationist beliefs?
Several of my old professors have felt disappointed in me for my beliefs. Other colleagues have dismissed me or just avoided talking with me about the subject. I feel some believe I have rejected all scientific reasoning, and that I cannot be logical anymore. But the saddest point is how my Christians hold this belief as well. And I have had more Christians challenge me than colleagues. They believe God used evolution and long ages to create the universe and all life. That he started the so call ball rolling and then set it up to evolve. But they miss the whole point of why Christ came here and the reason He died for our sins. They doubt God and his Word. They do not understand the Fall, and the first Adam's sin and why the second Adam "Christ" had to come and die to repay the sin debt. They do not understand that if there was death and disease long before Adam ever sinned then we would not have had a need for Christ. And without Christ we have no need for the Christian faith, and the Bible has no meaning. That is why it is so important to believe the Bible from the very first verse.
8) How many Biblical Creationist veterinarians do you know?
I know two.
Dr. Brinson who helped me with becoming a Christian and a creationists, and a new colleague that I met at an equine conference a couple of years ago.
9) Tell us a little about your family?
This may be the hardest story to tell. One thing to remember is that when you become a Christian it does not mean life is going to be easy and without challenge.
Eleven years ago, I met my wife Angela at church when I was teaching a bible study on Creation. We got married and life was perfect. My business was booming and we were expecting our first child. In 2003, our first son Caleb Stephen Denton was born. In 2005 we were expecting my second son Luke Andrew Denton. About a month before Luke was born, Caleb had developed an enlarged lymph node under his ear. The doctors said it was nothing to worry about. Yet, the lymph node kept growing and spreading. Two weeks after the birth of Luke, we received the tragic news that Caleb, age 2 ½ years, had a malignant tumor called Rhabdomyosarcoma and his prognosis was not good. Radiation and chemo therapy started immediately. Only a week later I was returning home to work while my wife and two sons stayed at the University of Virginia. The second day home I received a call from one the doctors saying that our newborn Luke your son had a serious heart defect requiring immediate surgery or Luke would not live.
Can you image having one 2 year old son with cancer and a 3 week old newborn that needed immediate surgery to save his life? The good news is that UVA found Luke's heart defect before it caused heart damage. Also, one of the best pediatric heart surgeons in the world was available to perform the surgery which completely corrected Luke's heart. That was the miracle in all that was to come. Still, we lost Caleb one year later at the age of 3 ½ years old.
Never have I questioned my faith more than when we lost our son. A year and half after Caleb died we had our third son was born, Evan Caleb Denton. He was very healthy at birth but 3 hours after his birth, Evan had a stroke and was in intensive care for 2 weeks. They told us he would probably not have full use of his left arm or leg. Yet, as the neurologists examined Evan for a full year, they released Evan, saying that he had made a full recovery with no limitations. We got our second miracle. Luke is now 7 years old and Evan is 5. They are perfectly healthy and are both now in school.
For the last 9 years, I have seen many struggles and challenges to my faith. At times I was very angry at God especially after my third son's tragedy. I felt God had abandoned me. How much more could I take? Why did all my three sons have to suffer and have challenges? I could not see the miracles of Luke and Evan's great recoveries at that time. I only focused on the loss of Caleb and their illnesses. It has been a long battle.
Now I am more fully starting to see God's hand working in those times of challenges. I know that my only hope in life is to keep my Christian faith. It is the only way I will see Caleb again. Luke and Evan are doing great and my wife and I are so proud of
them. But no one can fill Caleb's place. There will always be a void in our lives. Still, we hold onto the hope God has promised us, longing for the day we will be reunited with Caleb in heaven.
When I have questioned at times why does God allow such suffering, I return to the Biblical answer. It is all part of the Fall of Man and that is why being a creationist and believing the whole Bible is so important. You can understand this was not God's intention but the Fall of Man, and that is why we need a Savior, Jesus Christ to free us eternally from this world of death, pain and suffering.
10) As a practicing veterinarian and a Christian that has endured hardship and family tragedy, how would you encourage our readers of the importance of staying anchored in Christ?
-Christ is our only hope. Without our belief in Christ we have no hope. That is why I feel so sorry for people that do not know Christ. They are blinded, lost and without hope. How do they handle these challenges when they face them? I still think sometimes how life can change in an instant. One day my life was perfect and my business was booming and within 6 weeks one son had cancer, the other had a serious heart defect, and I could not work at my practice for 2 months while my sons were in therapy or recovering from surgery. I could have lost my practice and my way of providing for my family. But by God's grace my clients, friends, and colleagues donated money and time to keep my practice up and running. It was amazing! I was given enough money, almost to the exact dollar amount, to keep my practice operating until I could get back to work. God provided in my hardest time. It is hard to see God's hand when you are going through so many challenges but sometimes you just have to stand back and look and sometimes you can only see it when you are on the other
side. As a Christian, it has been the Creationist in me that has kept me going and believing in God when I have faced life's challenges. Even in my greatest challenges of doubting God, when I would look around at nature or the animals in my everyday work, I knew we did not get here by chance. We have a Creator. That is my anchor. That is what keeps me hanging on to the hope that is inside of me. My wish is that
everyone can know this hope that is inside of me: to know Christ, to believe that He is our Creator and that we can trust the Bible from the very first verse.