Ken Ham, Moses, and Jesus

Ken Ham has posted a reaction on Facebook to an image I shared on my blog yesterday (you can read the comments from his cronies there). I’ll share the text of his Facebook post here and then discuss it:

Come on James McGrath, do you really think stooping to such lows befits a professor at an academic institution?

James McGrath is an Associate Professor in the Religion and Philosophy department at Butler University, Indiana. He has written a number of scathing blog posts against me and Answers in Genesis.

Yesterday he posted (actually reposted from someone else) my photo (see link) with some words that God would supposedly say to me.

I can think of many passages of Scripture to respond to this—but let me share two:

1. The Luke 16 passage about Abraham and Lazarus supposedly paraphrased by McGrath actually states this in verse 31: “But he said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”

James McGrath will not listen to what Moses wrote in Genesis, as he rejects the clear words of Genesis concerning creation in six days, death after sin, global Flood etc—whereas I do believe this written revelation that is the Word of God!

2. “He who speaks truth declares righteousness, But a false witness, deceit.” (Proverbs 12:17)

3. “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment (James 3:1)—and I suggest the rest of James 3 about the tongue should be read.

Here is a link to a previous blog I wrote about James McGrath:http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2013/03/12/intolerant-academic/

I think the ministry of AiG is getting to James McGrath!!

Here’s what I think is most telling:

The first substantive statement he makes is to pick up on my allusion to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, and to write the following:

James McGrath will not listen to what Moses wrote in Genesis, as he rejects the clear words of Genesis concerning creation in six days, death after sin, global Flood etc—whereas I do believe this written revelation that is the Word of God!

First, ignoring the indications within the text about its genre and its use of parallelism, ignoring those details which you do not wish to take literally, and then proclaiming oneself to believe Genesis is appalling.

But that is not the worst part. The parable does not accuse the rich man of having failed to accept that God created the universe, in any particular time period. We can be fairly sure that the Jewish rich man believed those things. His failure to listen to Moses, of which Abraham accuses him in the parable, was a failure to show concern for the poor.

Even with my limited resources, I am ashamed that I have not done more to help the poor. Even on an educator’s salary in the United States, I am in the top 1% globally. (My pastor recently shared with me a link to the Global Rich List. You can click through, type in your annual income, and find out where you stand among human beings living today.) If I were Ken Ham, wasting enormous amounts of money promoting misinformation about the Bible and science, I hope I would not have the audacity to arrogantly proclaim myself to have “obeyed Moses” in the sense that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus talks about.

Ham then quotes a verse without discussion, then another about not rushing to be an educator. The irony is that I do what I do with fear and trembling. I emphasize to my students that my mind has changed as I’ve studied topics, and that they need to look at the evidence, listen to the experts, and draw their own conclusions. Ham does not seem to evidence either the pedagogical approach one expects from an educator, nor the normally career path or qualifications one expects an educator to have. And so his being regarded as a “teacher” seems to be purely a result of his own self-promotion. And yet he quotes James 3:1, without any hint of awareness of the irony, and without any indication that he actually fears being held accountable for what he does and thus considers it crucial to examine himself and take seriously the possibility that he might be wrong.

He is certainly correct that Answers in Genesis gets to me. Young-earth creationism got to me in a bad way in my teens when I foolishly accepted its claims without sufficient fact-checking. It gets to me now in a different way, causing me frustration and dismay as they promote lies in the name of Christianity and distract from the core message of the Christian faith. Ken Ham’s dedication of his life to promoting falsehood should “get to” anyone who loves the truth and is concerned that the Christian faith not be made to look like a religion simply for the dishonest and the gullible.

  • Nick

    Lies, huh? Like he lied about his saddles on dinosaurs crap? http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2013/02/ken-hams-saddled-dinosaurs.html

    Unlike you, James, I was indoctrinated in YEC from 3rd grade on. The more I think about it, the more I feel like it really was a form of abuse.

    I wonder if *Ham* has ever considered what it will be like when he faces the stricter judgment of a teacher if he’s wrong in his idolatrous sectarian condemnation of so many other Christians in front of captive audiences of schoolkids.

    • AramMcLean

      It is most definitely child abuse. The bruises may not be on the outside, but the damage done to a young mind, being indoctrinated before their cognitive reasoning has matured enough to know the difference between plausible and impossible, is incalculable. I also crawled and dragged myself ever so painfully to freedom after eight years of ACE ‘schooling’ in a cult-like setting I’d rather forget about. Most of the people I knew from this time have failed to emerge. It is tragic on so many levels, and most certainly child abuse.

      • Nick

        Yeah, we had a similar curriculum to ACE.

      • susanburns

        So that’s what happened to you.

        • AramMcLean

          Susan, if you mean that in the way I think you mean that, then you are without a doubt a complete moron.
          Let me know if I’m wrong.

          • susanburns

            I am going to say probably because it is my guess you have been told many times that you seem very angry about something. I am very sorry that happened to you. You may not now be suffering from cognitive dissonance but transference can be just as detrimental to growth. You are really not angry at these anonymous posters here. You’re mad at mommy.

            • AramMcLean

              I’m not angry, at least not in the way that you believe. I do think teaching children these kinds of lies is detrimental, aye. I also think that grown up people who believe in this nonsense are by default rather idiotic. But anger is not my issue. Though I admit, winding people up does amuse me sometimes :)
              Speaking of transference, it’s funny how disagreeing with ideological people always ends with them thinking you’re angry. Know what I mean, Susan?

              • susanburns

                Not really. Dr. McGrath freely admits that he used to think like these creationists because he was indoctrinated as a child but he never seems to get angry. I used to wonder why he spent so much time rebutting them when their ideology is dying out anyway. But perhaps he is doing it in an attempt to save some young minds from the abuse you experienced. Since I was not indoctrinated it’s hard for me to understand the confusion that results when a child matures and realizes he has been fed a load of crap. It wasn’t until middle school that I met someone who did not accept the theory of evolution. Your anger should be a cautionary tale to all parents who insist their children worship an unseen god.
                (continued)

                • susanburns

                  Having said that, it also important that a child have permission to fantasize and imagine. it is also important that they know how special and wanted they are. At night when they are going to sleep and they ask “where did I come from” it is important that they are comforted. It is not conducive to their confidence to tell them the truth at this point. “Remember those monkeys at the zoo you saw flinging shit?” “You are one of those.” I told my girls I asked the moon and the moon granted my wish. I am so sorry you mother did not get you from the moon.

                  • AramMcLean

                    You just don’t get it do you? Your mind is incapable of grasping that I’m not angry. Not anymore. The fact is I don’t see the point of debating with delusional people. It would be like you debating with some kids who were insisting Santa was real. Just plain stupid.

                    What happened today, if you’d really like to know, is that I was a little bored, saw a funny picture about Ken Ham, and decided to mix it up a bit with some crazy people. Of course I know it’s a waste of time, but sometimes you can’t resist. And the next thing you know you’ve got all sorts of loose ends to tie up and every second person is calling you angry. My mistake. I should know better.

                    So, spare me the five cent psychology Susan. Get off your damn high horse and take a look around at the real world. As far as I can tell McGrath is still some sort of liberal Christian, whatever that means. Good for him, I guess. But I reject all these book-based madnesses owning minds about the world.

                    Why hold onto Christianity as a label and self-definition when it is so obvious that the bible is one of the most heinous books ever written? Why not just call yourself a ‘Jesus lover’ and be done with it?

                    The whole thing is a joke to me. A rather sick joke. And it does frustrate me that so many people continue to hold onto nonsense that any logical person just arrived on planet earth would easily know to be a fraud.

                    Yet here we are, culturally blind, to the point that anyone who tries to show the emperor is naked gets labelled angry. Whereas you prance around thinking yourself tolerant and wise.

                    Well, here’s my five cents for you to ponder, Susan. You strike me as an insufferable PC-doer who thinks themselves free and accepting, oblivious to the fact that you remain choked by the chains of archaic beliefs inside your head and heart. You call me ‘angry’ because you are blind to the fact that I am simply speaking reason. You admire the naked emperor, and are baffled as to why I mention his stretch marks and tired old legs.

                    You can have your naked ghost. I have better things to do with my life.

                    • susanburns

                      The only thing you are doing is flinging shit.

                    • AramMcLean

                      Have an open mind, Susan, but not so open your brains fall out, as they say. Perhaps one day you’ll have a greater understanding of just how ridiculous religious belief is. You’ll come back to this post and see it for the reason and logic that it is. Flinging shit? Only from your point of view. In fact, the greatest flingers of shit are the people you’re defending. Respecting their beliefs is akin to respecting the old guy who just needs to masturbate in front of you. But I can see you don’t get it.
                      So, until perhaps you one day do, have a nice life.

                    • AramMcLean

                      ps and with respects to Dr McGrath. (Hello James) As much as I am pleased that he saw through the lies of Creationism, the fact is that he is still indoctrinated in the sense that he still hasn’t seen through the complete fraud that the entire bible is. I know what this feels like.

                      For years I didn’t ‘believe’ in the Christian god. Yet I still carried all the guilt and shame and fear of hell that comes with being indoctrinated as a kid. Low self-esteem, self-loathing, disgust with oneself – these are all results of being raised religious, no matter what ‘level’ of belief you were taught. The bible is a sick book and its doctrines create self-disgust in otherwise beautiful human beings. The idea of ‘sin’ is the greatest lie of all, one that I struggled with for two decades after ‘not believing’.

                      Only when you step back and fully see how ridiculous and man-made religion is – something that is incredibly hard for religious-raised people to do as the fallacies have solidified into fact before their young innocent brains and emotions knew the difference – only when you see just how devastatingly naked and pathetic the entire emperor is, only then can you be truly free.

                      For the truth shall set you free indeed.

                      I wish you all the best, Susan

                    • AramMcLean

                      Dear Susan,

                      I was going to leave our chat at that, but then stumbled on this video just now and thought of you. Powerful stuff.

                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HRCtUiykDeQ

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  Just to clarify, I was not indoctrinated as a child. I encountered this viewpoint as a teenager. And I held it for a few years, until I encountered a clear presentation of evidence that I had been lied to by young-earth creationists.

                  • AramMcLean

                    I just don’t get how you saw through Young Earth, yet you can’t see through the rest of it. I am honestly baffled. You’re so close. So close. What will it take to help you see that your religion is as manufactured as the rest of them?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I wonder whether you assume that I hold views I do not. Have I ever suggested that Christianity was not “manufactured”? Although obviously it depends what you mean by that. Cultural systems of thought are relatively rarely created out of nothing, and more often represent creative reworking of what is already there, often under the influence of a charismatic interpreter.

                    • AramMcLean

                      You believe that Jesus died for your ‘sins’, yes? If so, what is sin? And why do you think we need to be saved from it? Is it not obvious that sin is manufactured?
                      Don’t get me wrong, James. As far as religious people go, you’re my favourite kind. I just don’t get why it’s so hard to make that final leap and let the whole house of cards fall.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      No, I don’t think that. And I do not think that there is any human worldview that is not manufactured. Nor do I think that the house of cards metaphor is particularly useful for any worldviews other than fundamentalist ones. In a healthy worldview, your cards ought to be not only able but expected to be swapped out and replaced when better ones are available, without the entire system being knocked down. But if it falls and you build in its place, you still only have the cards that human beings in our time have managed to produce, some admittedly far better than others.

                    • AramMcLean

                      Based on what you say here, it would seem that we are in agreement. Absolutely we, as human beings, need to be open to changing our conclusions as the evidence changes.
                      I’m glad to hear this from you. Thank you for your thoughts.

            • Dude

              Freud’s theories about transference have been descredited. You need to update your knowledge of psychology.

  • jwalker_cht

    did we somehow also overlook that Moses doesn’t seem to have actually written Genesis or any other Pentateuch material?

  • Kristi Outler Byrd

    I home schooled for 9 years. Entire curricula are designed around the Young Earth fallacy. Young Earth creationism is the foundation upon which all subsequent content is presented. “Science” is taught as a series of refutations against evolution. I use the scare quotes because science class becomes a class in Young Earth apologetics rather than a true course in science.

    Anti-evolution remarks and quotes are found within the subjects of history, language arts and even mathematics. It starts to feel like brainwashing after a while.
    This is not just one single curriculum provider; it’s everywhere in the home school world. The message is that there is some grand conspiracy by scientists to squelch the “true” evidence that supports a young earth.

    In many regards, my kids benefitted from their time they spent home schooling. They were able to transition to public school and excel academically. But ultimately I feel that I shortchanged them (in science education, anyway). As they learn actual science, it makes them wonder why Christians are so afraid of science. The fear implies that Christianity is based on a flimsy foundation. Now I have to try and show them a different way. Not easy when I’m still weary from seeing my own illusions slip away.

    Regrets? I have a few….

  • broken

    “Ken Ham’s dedication of his life to promoting falsehood should “get to” anyone who loves the truth.”

    - As if you know “the truth” …

    • localvagrant

      As if you do? What is with you guys saying “James isn’t God!” but acting like Ken Ham is?

  • STR8UP

    Funny, I hear a lot of accusations about Ken Ham and falsehood, yet no one bothers to give a clear example. Inquiring minds want to know…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      When one talks about something all the time on a blog, it is unnecessary to repeat the same points in every blog post. Here are just a couple of relevant links:

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/08/a-liar-twice-over-ken-ham-rushes-in-where-rick-warren-feared-to-tread.html

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2013/03/ken-ham-vs-the-aims-of-universities.html

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2013/02/ken-hams-saddled-dinosaurs.html

      But please do click on the tag “Ken Ham” and read the lengthy interaction I have engaged in. Saying that something has not been said when it has been said over and over is unfair and dishonest.

      • STR8UP

        I don’t think it’s unfair or dishonest to expect to see at least an explanation of why you think Ken Ham lied in the same article you claim he lies in. I don’t know anything about your beef with him, but after looking at your links, I think you failed to provide enough evidence to prove falsehood. It seems like internet ping-pong.

        When I went to Amazon, I noticed that someone else illustrated the book, while Ken Ham authored it. Is it possible that he never saw the illustrations inside of the hardback edition of the book he authored 13 years ago?

        I’m not saying he isn’t lying, just that you are presenting one possibility as truth. I would suggest you try to pin that down before continuing your accusation.

        • Nick

          No, because the Creation Museum that Ham runs has a saddled dinosaur in it as well. You think he doesn’t know what’s in his own building?

          • STR8UP

            Nick, I don’t assume to know if Ken Ham knows every part of his organization, including his Creation Museum. If you had evidence of him SAYING that dinosaurs were ridden with saddles, and then the one referenced above saying the opposite, I would consider that conclusive proof. But there are terms we use such as “creative license” and “artist’s interpretation” that could be in play here, and leaves room for doubt. You are entitled to make your own conclusion about Ham anyway you wish, I’m just saying that I’m not ready to come to the same conclusion that is being put forth on this blog.

            • Nick

              He goes there all the time. There are videos of him giving tours of the museum on youtube.

            • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

              So much fail. No one is assuming anything here. Ham actually endorses this kind of thing, and validating information is available all over the web and in real life.

    • http://profiles.google.com/rbh.third RBH Third

      I’ve toured Ham’s Creation “museum.” It is stuffed full of falsehoods. Here’s one: dinosaurs were once exclusively vegetarian, and hung around Adam and Eve in the garden. That’s flatly false. Every smidge of evidence we have says that the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago (geological and paleontological evidence), and the human species was never reduced to one breeding pair (derived from analyses of genetic diversity in extant humans).

      • http://profiles.google.com/rbh.third RBH Third

        sub

    • jwalker_cht

      one needs only a basic understanding of science followed by a review of any of Ham’s “creation science” apologetics to realize that he is either ignorant of science and somehow conveying his ignorance as fact or that he is lying and perpetrating a massive fraud for his own gain.

  • Philip Bruce Heywood

    Below is part of a comment published on the site of the Rev. Danny Nalliah, relating to a discussion panel at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

    (Nalliah is creationist without entertaining either the dogmatic young earth angle or the spiritist ‘atheist’ angle. I add a home school comment after this extract from my comment published by Rev. Nalliah.)

    “Is it the land of the lotus eaters where everyone who lands there falls down asleep? Feels like an opium den. I would have tried to wreck the place. The BBC presumably is no better. Religion, the opiate of the masses. Alfred Wallace openly declared that Nature is powered by spirits, T.H. Huxley wrote that Nature could of its own power ‘make leaps’ (he wrote it in latin or something), Darwin was a dropout theologian torn between his clear minded wife and Wallace/Huxley; Al. Gore we now learn from one of the learned commentators (NOT Danny) has something written on his wrist about Jesus (is that what was said?) whilst advocating “science” that by implication contradicts the entire Christian world view whilst spreading fear: and Lin Hatfield Xio Ping or whatever her name is for the Australian Greens is chummy chumming the descendants of murderers and church exterminators over in China, where according to her own fairytales she plans to live because that is where freedom and harmony are to the fore – not here in nasty Australia, where there are malicious hooliganists committing malicious hooliganisms, such as Rev. Nalliah. After China she is moving to Pakistan.

    Lord preserve us from religionists. God save the Queen and save us from eternal slumber, opium religion. If truth is to have a hope in this country, it will be RUA that publishes it.”

    Additional note re. home schooling. I used the A.C.E. program modified according to personal taste and found the arrangement tolerable. Their science input is partly o.k. and partly out-hams Ham. That is their problem, not K. Ham’s. It’s a free world and if people are so much in need of a fairytale view they will find the fairytale. This fixation with A.I.G. mystifies me. The ‘secular’ world’s fixation with Nature being God and its own creator is not so mystifying because Animism/Spiritism is basic to most world religions.

    Arr “Did we somehow also overlook that Moses doesn’t seem to have actually written Genesis or any other Pentateuch material?” Possibly. Does this mean God was not involved, or something? Maybe Balaam’s donkey wrote it, which could mean it might not be supernatural?

    • jwalker_cht

      the point that you missed in my comment is that Ken Ham claimed Moses wrote the book of Genesis, which is a questionable assertion at best but one Ham expects his audience to adopt fully as fact.

  • Psalmriter

    Mr. McGrath, forgive me if I am mistaken. I thought you were a teacher of New Testement scriptures, and yet the only scriptures I see being quoted are by Ken Ham? Are you saying that Ken Ham lies because he uses scripture? You explain the rich man’s failure to believe Moses was his lack of concern for the poor. Luke 16:27-34 ” Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ” It looks to me in context the concern was a warning about the place of torment, not his lack of concern for the poor. So isn’t Christ using this example more to show the importance of believing Moses? What about John 5:46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.” Or Luke 24:27 “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” So are you calling Ken Ham a liar for standing on scripture? Is that not what Jesus did, stand on Scripture?

    • Pseudonym

      I am not James McGrath, obviously. However, I’ve never heard him say that Ken Ham lies because he “uses scripture”.

      For my part, Ken Ham lies because he utters untruths which any person who honestly looks at the evidence would recognise as untruths. He lies about sicence, he lies when he abuses scripture, and he lies when he makes God out to be a liar.

      Standing on scripture is good. Stomping on it is bad.

      • Psalmriter

        First off, obviously it’s not obvious that you are not James McGrath when you use the name “Pseudonym”, but I will assume you are not. I hear that Ken Ham “lies” about science, and scripture, but no one has shown an example of an out and out lie (to speak falsely or utter untruth knowingly, as with intent to decieve). So, Ken Ham quotes scripture as it is written, and is said to “lie”, how then do you quote scripture and be truthful? How does he make God out to be a liar? That is a strong statement, when did he do that? So you want to look at evidence honestly? Take a walk down the Grand Canyon. Or take a raft trip down it. Anyone can do it, and see for themselves the astonishinlgy thick layers of sedimentary rock. In many places you will see all of these layers of sandstone and limestone bend 90 degrees without breaking. No signs of erosion between them. You can see it for yourself, you can reach out and touch it. No metamorphing of the lower layers, just a smooth bend. How did this happen? If it took millions of years for each layer to form, how did the solid rock bend without breaking? Some as yet unknown process was able to make the rock soft during the uplift event? Or were the layers still soft when the uplift occurred? How could they remain soft for such a long period of time? We do not see that happening today, it does not take that long for sediments to harden. Isn’t it obvious that they had to be layed down quickly, and were still soft during uplift, then the layers hardened together? Look at the evidence honestly, I mean it, take a vacation and go look for yourself, and while you do, listen to this song: http://www.reverbnation.com/psalmriter/song/15810841-it-is-you while you work out the science. Honestly.

        • Matt.w.m

          Quotes scripture as it was written?! You know the scriptures weren’t written in english right?

          How does he make God out to be a liar? He uses a fallacious hermenutic on the bible, that’s how. And don’t act so shocked that James would make that accusation. Ken Ham has spent his WHOLE LIFE telling Christians that think differently to him that they are making God out to be a liar.

          Here is my main problem with what you are saying. If you trust the bible SO much, then why are you arguing with science. Come at us with some biblical scholarship. Prove to me that your reading of the bible is correct before you back it up with your science (a science that is only shared by people with your biblical interpretation.)

        • jwalker_cht

          sedimentary rocks become quite plastic under heat and pressure. it is not inconceivable that they could bend at quite sharp angles during an uplift event occurring over many, many years without displaying evidence of cracking or fracturing. http://earthsci.org/education/teacher/basicgeol/deform/deform.html

          as for the statement that rock layers in the Grand Canyon exhibit no sign of erosion between them, this is not correct. many of the layers show clear signs not only of erosion but of soil deposition and animal burrows. http://letterstocreationists.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/paleosol.jpg

          the fact that one cannot readily reproduce some geological or cosmological process within the bounds of one’s kitchen is not an indication the generally accepted science describing this process is “bad”.

  • Philip Bruce Heywood

    Yes, I take the point about Moses writing or not writing GENESIS. It’s the book of Moses whether Moses wrote it or not and also the book of every lover of truth, from Adam, through Jesus Christ, to you and me if we search after fellowship with its Author. The Spirit of prophesy is not dictated by determining exact identities.

    Whatever Ken Ham and other like-minded dogmatic dogmatists are doggying about, they can not advance because they have scant regard for the ways and workings of this same principle of inspired revelation. It’s almost beyond belief. Were it not that I have actually encountered the man in person, (for about ten minutes, far too long when you are trying to communicate with the impossible) I would be at a complete loss. I have encountered devotees of other convinced ‘biblical’ sects (at the front gate or on the street corner) and I can try to understand? As for science, education, and responsible scholarship? — just forget it. Perhaps these people have an understandable alibi. H. M. Morris was a scientist of some sort and authoritatively led them astray from the beginning? He simply tore out the verses in GENESIS that were not to his liking. He tore them out by not tearing them out whilst tearing them out, if you know what I mean.

    • jwalker_cht

      so the point I missed from your previous comment was that you were trying to discover whether I was intent on trashing Genesis entirely due to controversy over its authorship. the answer is “no”. I, like you, find the subject matter much more valuable than the question of who wrote it (although, identifying who wrote it can reveal good information about context).

  • Johnny Walters

    Uhm, the “parable” of the rich man and Lazarus isn’t a parable. Thus, logic demands the reader either accept it as history or as fiction. If you want to assume that there can be epistemic certainty of a rational universe that makes itself available to rational minds (i.e. assuming science is the only way to have knowledge about the origin of the universe), only to have those “rational” minds explain away the revealed Logos in the scriptures (i.e. demythologize scripture and symbolize truth claims in Genesis and in the gospels), don’t claim that this attempt is any more than a tumble headlong into a Kierkegaardian leap of faith, an existential tryst with the holy (or hell-y, since there’s really no way of verification) that may or may not be substantive, is ineffable, and is lacking the rational alignment with the purposeful, well-designed universe. Christian neo-orthodoxy is bankrupt, and those who hold on to it are simply trying to place on life-support the last vestiges of an outmoded, ineffective and useless thought system built on man as its center rather than God. Atheists such as Dawkins are right to maintain that theistic evolutionists are sentimental at best, and fools at worst. Christians who don’t get the importance of a moral realism, and who don’t understand that that moral realism has the book of Genesis as its foundation–Christians who lack a sufficient basis for their beliefs other than their own existential experiences will continue to lose purchase on the slippery rock face of societal decline.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I’m sorry, I am not sure that I grasp the points you are trying to make and how they relate to the post. Is there some reason to prefer “fiction” to “parable” as a term, when in fact parable and fiction overlap? And what did you mean by “moral realism” and why do you prefer it to Jesus’ core teaching of a subjective morality based on placing yourself in the shoes of another and doing to them what you would want done to you in that circumstance – i.e. empathy?

      • Johnny Walters

        Sorry for being less clear than I meant to be. It seems to me that the tendency for modern Christians to attempt intellectual honesty, often at the expense of–to borrow Wittgenstein’s language–a plain rendering of biblical language (Ken Ham, et. al.) rather than a demythologization (Bultmann and Jesus Seminar) and a reinterpretation of the forms, symbols and functions (K.Barth) and a redefinition of a personal God who acts in time-space into an “Ultimate Concern” (P. Tillich). While these theologians clearly have very different starting points from each other, the end result of their notions of the Divine are safely synchronous with theistic and atheistic evolutionary accounts of the origins of the universe. Ken Ham, whose notions you clearly find repulsive, has a view of the revealed Logos in Christ both declared and confirmed in the revelation of written scripture. This is in opposition to, yes, current scholarship both in the fields of science and textual criticism/exegesis. However, his insistence on a mutually referent Logos/Scripture may be seen as naive realism, but it shouldn’t be seen as insidious and “sinful”. That’s my real point–that a neo-orthodox boot-strap levitation of starting with reason and intellect that isn’t anchored in the revealed Word of God, is bankrupt of any real usefulness. That is, perhaps, one large reason why many former sanctuaries are being repurposed as coffee houses, apartments, art studios, and other non-ecclesia uses.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          The linking of Bultmann and the Jesus Seminar seems odd to me, since the latter is more aligned with the classic liberal view that Bultmann argued against, i.e. the idea that one could strip away a cultural husk and be left with a core of eternal truth. The lumping of all liberal views under the heading of the Barthian term neo-orthodoxy likewise puzzles me. But be that as it may, the twisting of Scripture and dishonesty about evidence perpetrated by young-earth creationists, and their insistence that one must choose between what they claim is the “revealed world” and mountains of evidence from the study of the natural world, might also have something to do with church decline.

          • Johnny

            If truth has no objective referents, then can’t Ken Ham’s truth be truth to him and simply not truth to you? Why the intolerance of his account of things? If two incompatible claims are postulated–yours and his– and if Ken Ham really believes, naively some would claim, intentionally deceitful as you claim, in his world view, then wouldn’t a more consistent position on your part be that you merely disagree with him, not that he’s flat out wrong? What is it that you are saying determines truth? It appears to me that you are relying fairly heavily on the your subjective experiences and your quite impressive academic record of scholarly research. It would seem to me that you regard those elements as enough to sort out the truth. If that’s the case, then couldn’t it be that you are potentially boot-strapping your truth claims, and a more proper approach to Ham would be simply to express your discontent with his positions? On the other hand, Ham maintains an Aristotilian ‘A is not non-A’ position in regards to truth claims, and it appears to me that you explain away the truth claims from scripture as something other than truth claims. Thus, I don’t doubt your academic clout; I simply am looking for an account of your epistemology.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              What leads you to believe that there is no such thing as objective truth? Perhaps it is that assumption of yours that is the problem. I believe that we can investigate evidence and draw reasoned inferences from it, and it is the evidence of Scripture and the natural world that are the problem for Ken Ham’s stance.

              • Johnny

                That could be a fair assessment. It’s just that you either have to accept the truth claims of scripture as truth claims, or as something different in order to reconcile them with the conflicting sense data that the external world provides. And the problem with reinterpreting truth claims in scripture as something other than what they appear to be without putting language on the shelf and humpty-dumpty-ing our way into the rabbit hole of whatever we want the words to mean–that’s the whole crux of the issue, with major sociological ramifications.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  How do you determine that points of cosmology on which Genesis and the Enuma Elish agree are part of the former’s “truth claims” as opposed to the assumptions of its ancient author?

                  • Johnny

                    That’s a fair question, considering there’s a flood and a fall (Enkidu) and even a code of morality. But couldn’t those be derivatives?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Yes, it is possible that Genesis is derivative of those earlier works. But there is no reason to posit that it derives directly from them. And either way, I’m not sure that that in any way affects the point I made.

                    • Johnny

                      And vice-versa. To put it another way, couldn’t Hammurabi, not to be confused with Ken Ham, be derivative of the Mosaic law as revealed in the Torah? If this is a possibility, I think that it could very much affect the point you made. If the assumption is that the author(s) of Genesis JEPD knew of preexisting cosmology, then clearly their work is derivative of non-Jewish sources. If, however, their points of cosmology were indeed revealed–and there is nothing that I can see that would necessarily prohibit this, and, of course,this is the question begged in Ham’s Genesis arguments, could it not then be possible that the other codes/mythos are derivatives of the revealed codes in scripture? Anyway, I do not disregard your arguments or discount your position that, as far as I can tell, I don’t agree with concerning Ken Ham’s status in Christendom. I simply believe that Ham’s arguments are consistent with his belief in a hermeneutic in a plain interpretation of scripture, a Kurt Wise-sque approach. While I see Ham calling out what he believes is the destructive nature of his philosophical/theological opponents, I don’t see him as maligning them the way your blog appears to do to him.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      If we feel free to simply assume that late texts are earlier than ones which can safely be dated earlier, we are headed straight into young-earth creationist territory, making the evidence conform to our assumptions rather than vice versa. I assume that you would rightly object if someone did that in support of a Dan Brown style argument that Gnosticism represents the original Christianity and the NT texts are derivative of it. Would the same principles of evidence and reasoning not apply?

                    • Johnny

                      Well, sort of. I suppose that Dan Brown isn’t the best parallel to draw considering his antipathy toward orthodox Christianity, and whereas the parallel with what he does with the text–impose an unfounded theory on the more likely scenario– is the point I think you are making, Ham would make the point that it would be Brown’s clear disbelief in the cardinal tenets of the faith that would cause his derivative theory to be suspect. Thus, I suppose the same principles of textual evidence would on some level apply, but not on all levels. Ham would make the point (he does, I have heard it directly) that no one enters a data set without assumptions/bias. Thus, it would seem to be of utmost importance to choose the right set of presuppositions/assumptions. Anyway, Cheers. Thanks for the thoughts; if Christians can’t dialogue, we’re a lost brood.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      My response would be that rarely do we get to simply choose our presuppositions – some are put in place by parents and others who may be well meaning but misinformed. And so being open to having our assumptions challenged seems at least as important if not moreso. Otherwise the truth becomes accessible only to those who are fortunate enough to have the right upbringing.

                      Thank you for the stimulating discussion!


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