Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I don’t usually get involved with this sort of thing, but ...

Prominent Young Earth Creationist, Ken Ham, writes on June 9th on his well-known webpage:

"In this newsletter and in my lectures over the years, I have insisted that Christians who compromise by accepting the idea of an earth supposedly millions of years old (or who are indifferent to whether or not that is even a problem) have greatly contributed to the decline of the church and its influence"

Creationists like this usually mean well and I actually became a Christian listening to a Ken Ham tape! Yes, I've now become an unapologetic Christian evolutionist, but that is another story. But this kind of argument does need a short, sharp 'no'. It is the brand of creationism represented here that is a danger to Christian witness, because it moves the historic Christian faith into the realm of completely implausible quasi-'scientific' subculture, in to a place mocked by a completely (and justifiably) unimpressed scientific community. And Ham's reading of Genesis is not 'the truth', with others 'compromising'. He not only fails to understand Genesis at a literal level (especially Genesis 1:1), he does not know how to read this biblical text i.e. not as scientific statement but as theological imagination meant to evoke worship. Genre is very important, folks.

No, I think true prophetic insight will suggest that, among other things, it is the church's lack of unity and our lack of love for our neighbours that has led to its decline in influence. Ham's proposal is to live in a strange dream world, and if ever Christians need to smell the coffee and live in the real world, now is the time.

Oh, yea, and despite what he says: dinosaurs didn't live at the same time as humans. Besides, once we make that kind of thing central to the Gospel, we have lost the plot.


At 6/13/2009 1:52 AM, Anonymous Mike Beidler said...

Well said, Chris! The more time I spend considering the voluminous amount of evidence for biological evolution (including the evolution of us "greater apes") and the inversely proportionate lack of evidence for a young cosmos, in addition to the textual, cultural, and historical background of the Genesis 1-11 text ... well, let's just say I'm tired of telling myself I need a V-8.

If any group in Christendom is responsible for more people NOT coming to a saving faith in Christ, it would not surprise me to learn that is was the YEC "cult" that wins the prize. To hold such a position in the face of the evidence is, IMHO, intellectual schizophrenia. And it's okay if I call it that, because I was once a sufferer of the malady. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!"

At 6/13/2009 2:04 AM, Anonymous Shaylin said...

In a discussion of Young-Earth Creationism I was actually told once that a literal, Young-Earth reading of Genesis was central to the gospel. Which surprised me, because I'd been under the impression that the death and resurrection of Jesus was central to the gospel.

I mean, I know that we all have the tendency to magnify the importance of arguments and positions we ourselves favor, but too often these folks elevate that tendency to an art form.

At 6/13/2009 2:06 AM, Anonymous psychodougie said...

i wonder how far AiG want us to follow luther? his opinion of the eucharist? his fun-loving anti-semitic paranoia?

tho even he wasn't nuts enough to put dinosaurs above repentance and faith in Christ on the list of things necessary to believe...

At 6/13/2009 2:06 AM, Anonymous Mike Beidler said...

I just read this (literally!) in John Polkinghorne's Traffic in Truth: Exchanges between Science and Theology (p. 8) ...

... by insisting on such absurdities as a six-thousand-year-old Earth, [Young-Earth Creationists] discredit Christianity's reputation for truth and seek to bind burdens on believers and inquirers that are too heavy to be borne.

At 6/13/2009 2:15 AM, Anonymous Cliff Martin said...

Thank you Chris for this post. I'm with Mike ... I personally believe that Ham and his ilk are doing more damage to the credibility of Christianity every day they persist in their unfounded views.

At 6/13/2009 6:43 AM, Anonymous One of Freedom said...

I would say that it is a pandering to the expectations of liberal democracy (as it is currently imagined in society) that has led to the decline of influence. But that includes imposing a modernist penchant for surity upon our readings of the texts. I cringe when folks say that literal creationism is central to the gospel because what the often mean is that there is a test of surity that the texts have to pass to be legitimate and that is a house of cards I love blowing down.

At 6/13/2009 9:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Creationists like this usually mean well and I actually became a Christian listening to a Ken Ham tape! Yes,

Maybe on another post you can explain how did Ken Ham's video caused you to become a Christian.


At 6/13/2009 3:04 PM, Anonymous Drew Tatusko said...

Ham is absurd. There are always nutty hacks and will continue to be in the US - they have always been here. What I don't like is how many people believe the lies that people like this pollute us with.

The decline of influence of Christianity is ambiguous to define since someone like Mohler and Spong will have radically different view of what that actually means. Also depends on what one means by influence.

At 6/13/2009 8:56 PM, Anonymous Doug Chaplin said...

Never mind: all will become clear at the velociRapture

At 6/14/2009 2:13 AM, Anonymous pbhj said...

So God did not create man in his own image? Instead he created a universe with the possibility to generate life forms and one of those, by the random iterations allowed within the design, happened to make mankind.

So why are we special?

It seems, in a old universe with macro-evolution, that we are not special - which would surely contradict the notion that God would appear in the same form as us and be bothered to die for us? Did he die for dolphins too?

[Flamebait, but I think you over simplified]

At 6/14/2009 8:24 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

I'm an ex-young earth creationist. I joined ICR, read their books, rec'd their bulletins, I joined the British Creation Movement, read their books, rec'd their bulletins, subcribed to the Creation Research Society Quarterly, wanted to become a creation evangelist (like Duane T. Gish or Walter Brown), so I studied biology in college.

After college a friend challenged me to read "The Impossible Voyage of Noah's Ark" (a booklet written by a former creationist who cites plenty of young earth creationist sources and that can be found today on the website of the National Center for Science Education) and I also read some articles by Robert Schadewald that pointed out flat earth verses in the Bible and outlined the history of various Christian flat earth groups.

Reading such articles was a first step toward my leaving the Christian fold.

Today I note that even Michael Behe of the Discovery Institute no longer contests the evidence for common descent that arises when the genetics of humans and chimpanzees are compared. Todd Wood, a young-earth creationist at Bryan College has even composed a research paper outlining such evidence of common descent and admits it is problematical for his young-earth beliefs.

Furthermore, there are now books by leading Evangelical scholars who are admitting that the ancient Hebrews held flat earth presuppositions about the shape of the cosmos. The most recent such work, due out soon is The Lost World of Genesis One by Dr. John Walton at Wheaton College (Billy Graham's alma mater). Evangelicals are catching up to where more moderate/liberal scholars already went in the last half of the 1800s concerning the matter of the flat earth passages in the Bible. It's good to see this happening, as well as Evangelical repudiations of the "rapture" madness.

But none of those developments has tempted me to rejoin "the fold."

What is the best book in the world? I'd say that even the best book remains a mere book, and not life itself. Even the best book is one that can eventually bore you, if only through repetition. Be open to the best in every person, every experience and every book, and use your better judgment, built upon a lifetime of your own experiences. Books are not life, and cannot lead your life for you. You must decide. Even Bible believers have to decide which passages in Scripture deserve greater emphasis than others. And if an action commends itself to your conscience you don't need a book to also tell you whether it is "good" or not.

At 6/14/2009 1:45 PM, Anonymous Rev Tony B said...

"So God did not create man in his own image? a old universe with macro-evolution, that we are not special .."

Why is that? I don't follow your logic. We are part of creation, whether or not you take us as the pinnacle of creation or not. Being part of creation doesn't make us any less special - and Paul is quite happy in Romans to see the death of Christ as God incarnate (incarnate in the species which was in his image) as bringing about not only the salvation of the human race but the redemption of the whole creation.

"Created in his image" doesn't say that God is a pentadactyl vertebrate. It says he's Person, and we are made to be personal; the primary attribute of persons is relationship in love. So one of the key ideas for salvation that Paul uses is reconcilation, between us and God, us and each other, us and creation, everything and God, undoing the alienation caused by our sin.

None of this demands either old or new creation. What demands old creation is evidence, and lots of it. All the arguments I've read (apparent age theory, etc) are putting the theoretical cart before the evidential horse. Doesn't work, and doesn't help.

At 6/14/2009 8:39 PM, Anonymous Cliff Martin said...

"So God did not create man in his own image? a old universe with macro-evolution, that we are not special .."

The state of convergent evolutionary science today suggests that the process of evolution quite naturally will find itself moving toward certain predictable outcomes, including sentience and intelligence. So, PBHJ, we have two possibilities.

1) God as I envision him, using a remarkable plan to forge mankind by creating an awesome DNA language, stepping back, and watching his uncanny handiwork unfold. Wow! or,

2) God as you envision him, apparently incapable of creating using what appears to be random natural processes, and needing instead to special-create human beings.

Which God demonstrates the greater, more awe inspiring creative genius? And why, please tell me, is man less "special" under scenario #1?

At 6/15/2009 1:58 AM, Anonymous Mike Beidler said...

I'm with Cliff: a God who, as the Alpha and Omega, front-loads the Big Bang with all of the laws necessary to create the abundance of life we witness today, is a God who inspires awe within me.

What doesn't inspire me is a God who pulls a rabbit out of his hat just because the laws he created couldn't accomplish what he so desired.

At 6/15/2009 3:33 AM, Anonymous jimgetz said...

Humourously enough, I actual stopped believing in any kind of creationism (young earth or old earth) and embraced an evolutionist paradigm while attending a Ham led forum.

At 6/15/2009 4:43 AM, Anonymous Cliff Martin said...


Interesting. My rejection of YEC began at a seminar led by Don Chittick (who lectures for AiG and ICR). I asked some honest questions about star light. He answered me (completely failing to make any sense at all!) condescendingly, belittling the very question. I decided then and there to begin my "reinvestigation" of origins.

To thinking persons, special creationists can indeed be their own worst enemies.

At 6/15/2009 5:16 AM, Anonymous pbhj said...

I find the notion that God had humanity in mind when ex-nihilo he created the energy/matter that would expand to form the Universe (aside from questions of whether this is the actual mechanism of creation) ... I find this notion too Newtonian to leave sufficient room for freewill.

As Mike Beidler says, it's not just about DNA but about the ultimate start of creation and establishing the structures there necessary to create life.

But it's not just creating life - if we're just part of life then I don't see how we can be considered special enough to be God's people - it's about putting the right amount of spin on some energy fluctuation to create in me now the ability to construct this argument.

Or, it's some form of running start or intermediate (or continued) intervention that provides ad-hoc alterations (as viewed from a temporal position, in 4-space the alterations are static of course).

To be specific Cliff Martin, under #1 we're _just_ part of the creation, awesome as it still is, but just a part of it and not a central part anymore than any other event resulting from random fluctuations/aberrations.

Thanks for your helpful thought-out comments.

@Rev Tony B: shouldn't it be didecadactyl? And yes, I've always considered "image" (eg Gen 1:27) to mean image and not "approximate relational analogue".

At 6/15/2009 9:28 AM, Anonymous Terry Wright said...

Doug, you've made my day - and it's still only 8.28 am!

At 6/15/2009 2:02 PM, Anonymous Cliff Martin said...


Thank you for your response. It is refreshing to encounter a creationist who thinks deeply about these question!

But did you notice? First, you object to the idea of God using natural process because it is too deterministic. Then you object because it is too random. It can’t be both! In my view, we are the result of a carefully crafted process that uses randomness. I share your objections to a Newtonian reality ... and I think we can agree that Quantum Physics has pretty well dispelled that notion.

Have you read Richard Colling’s Random Designer? The title says it all. Why do we think it is beyond God to use a random system to create beings in his image? I might also suggest that you check out the principle of evolutionary convergence. I am currently reading The Deep Structure of Biology. Written from a secular point of view, this anthology on convergence clearly illustrates how predicable the course of evolution is. It is reasonable to posit, the authors suggest, that if life arose on another planet, we should expect to find intelligent biped human-like beings that would resemble us in many ways. Convergence is just one currently developing mechanism whereby God might have created you and me using naturalistic evolution.

I wish you and I could spend an afternoon together. I would love to describe for you how this scenario solves many more theological problems than it creates, at least for me!

At 6/15/2009 9:51 PM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

To the creationists...

If God created man directly out of earth, then why did God construct human DNA so that 98-99% of it would look like that of the DNA of a chimpanzee including non-functional DNA regions and genes that no longer function in primates like the non-functional genes we share with primates that no longer produce Vitamin C, or hundreds of genes that no longer enhance our sense of smell, genes that do not function in primates, but which do function in non-primates.

If you take Genesis 1 literally it's like God created all the beasts of the field and then when it came to creating man He said, "Hey, the day's almost over and I still haven't created human beings, lucky thing I had some extra chimpanzee-primate genes in my back pocket so now all I have to do before the day ends is fiddle with these chimp genes a tiny bit in order to create human beings to function as my gardners in this paradise."

So, God made it LOOK like evolution took place.

Behe, one of the few Ph.D. biologists at the Discovery Institute, agrees the evidence is compelling for common ancestry.
Michael Denton, ex-Discovery Institute member, also agrees the genetic evidence for common ancestry is compelling. Neither of them attempt to deny such evidence.

At 6/19/2009 9:05 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi pbhj,
Thanks for your comments!
I think your comments may inspire me to write a blog series on why I left the creationist fold - and I would love to read your thoughts if I do that.

But just a quick thought on one of your points, as I am presently writing a short commentary on Romans. You write:

"It seems, in a old universe with macro-evolution, that we are not special - which would surely contradict the notion that God would appear in the same form as us and be bothered to die for us? Did he die for dolphins too?"

Christ dies for us while we were still sinner - not becuase we were "special" but becuase he loves us. And did he die for Dolphins too? I think Paul's argument in ROmans gives a clear answer: yes!

The significnce of teh death of Christ, teh faithfulness o Christ as the revelation of God's rightouesness leads to teh redemption of the cosmos (trace the line of thought from Romans 1-8) - a point I an elaborate on if it needs it.

Thanks for your friendly objection!

torcant, I was a teenager when I first listened to Ham. He inspired me to beleiev the bible could be "literally" true. With this basis I could listen again to God and soon began a living relation with him. In othe words, I now believe false props got me there, but either way I got there in the end!

At 7/02/2009 5:17 PM, Anonymous Mark said...

I have just completed reading your blog, Chris, Ken Ham's newsletter, and all of the comments. First off I appreciate everyone's comments and commend everyone for having a spirit of gentleness and teachability. This is so refreshing.

In response to Ken Ham's assertion that any view of creation, other than the one he, and other YEC's, holds, is the reason for the decline of the church and its influence is an incorrect placement of blame.

First of all the church is to be a body, a community. But the church today is anything but a body or community. I liken the church today to a body that has been dismembered with parts scattered everywhere; each part believing it is the "body", when it is only a part. How can this provide any influence?

Why is this so? Is the church to blame? I believe it is to blame. There are too many squabbles over issues, beliefs, "truths" that have little or no foundation in Biblical texts. There are too many "us vs them" in the church today: Pre Trib or Post Trib or No Trib; Young Earth or Old Earth or Evolution; and on it goes....

Enough is enough folks...this does not honor the LORD GOD...this does not draw anyone toward His Truth...this has to stop.

This being said, leads to the next thing that I believe has contributed to the decline of the church and its influence today, namely hypocrisy. The church has too many hypocrites saying one thing all the while doing another; appearing to be sweet and kind, while being evil and vindictive.

There are too many christians wounding christians; too many in the church that believe that they are right, while all others are wrong, and if anyone is hurt in the fray, say those that disagree with them, it is their own fault if they get hurt.

How is this honoring to Christ? How does this influence young people in America? Should they want to join the church?

The World is watching the church. The World is not the Enemy. It is the church's opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. However the church, somehow, adopted a war mentality, which does not welcome anyone.

But the war mentality has gone on for far too long. We are not soldiers in a battle against the World; we are ambassadors to the World. We are God’s representatives that need to build bridges of love, care, and compassion with no hidden agendas; so that once relationships have been established God’s Truth may be shared. This is how the church is to influence and impact the World.

The decline of the church and it's influence in the World today does have something to do with creation vs evolution. Creation vs evolution is just one of the issues that the World sees as a foolish distraction from much more pressing things that should be addressed by the church.

Two of those pressing issues should be the church's dismembered body and its hypocrisy; than maybe the church will have the influence that God desires.

At 7/09/2009 5:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I find strange is that science continues to find out how wrong they are or were about things that were once considered fact, and have to always change because of new evidence or understanding...carbon dating is obviously something that can't be trusted.

Who knows if the creation account is literal or not, but reading all the scriptures, I'd rather believe it than the ridiculous wisdom and knowledge that man spews out trying to justify the evolution of man from whatever...


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