On February 4th, the Creation Museum will host a sold-out debate that’s generating a lot of buzz in the blogosphere. The debate will feature Bill Nye “The Science Guy” versus Answers in Genesis’ Ken Ham on the old “Creation Vs. Evolution” debate. This debate, and the buzz around it has generated a lot of mixed feelings for me– I am one of those people who believe in both creationism and evolution– believing both the Bible and science while rejecting the notion that the two, when properly understood, are somehow completely incompatible.
I don’t believe they are.
I believe both that “in the beginning God created” and that science reveals the wonders of how God did it, and I hold those two affirmations with relatively little friction between one and the other.
On one hand, I feel as if this is a situation of “I’m not entirely on anyone’s side, because no one is entirely on mine“, because I’m not aware that either presenter in this debate holds to the same position I hold– the position I obviously feel is the most reasonable. However, in the grand scheme of things, Ken Ham has pushed my back against the wall and put me in the position where I must actively oppose him, and pray to the sweet baby Jesus that he not only loses, but loses badly.
The reason why I look forward to Ken Ham getting pummeled by a real scientist is that Ham isn’t a creationist in the way I am a creationist. Instead of affirming “yes God created, and I’m open to a life-long process of exploring the mysteries of his creation”, Ken’s position is that of a “Young Earth Creationist”. When we use the term “creationist” it can mean a host of things– just like the word “Christian” can mean Evangelical, Methodist, Anglican, or about 987 other options. However, Young Earth Creationists are more than simply creationists who affirm God was the active agent in creation– they are the fundamentalist brand of creationists.
And, if we’ve learned anything, fundamentalism in any movement is toxic for those members of the group who have a more reasonable expression of their beliefs.
The fundamentalist mindset of Young Earth Creationism doesn’t simply lead to a rejecting of science, but also leads to a rejection of sound Biblical scholarship, meaning they are doubly bad for the rest of us in the group. In short, the Young Earth Creationists add up the ages in Hebrew genealogies in the Old Testament and from that arrive at the assertion that God created the world on Sunday, October 23, 4004 BC. This becomes their starting point and all science is filtered through this (general) date/time-frame (they don’t all agree on an exact date, but arrive in the same general area)– nothing is allowed to contradict the fact that the earth and humanity were basically created yesterday.
Obviously, this is bad science (well, it’s not even science at all). But, it’s also crappy scholarship. What James Ussher failed to realize (he’s the guy who added these ages up in order to arrive at a date of creation- a work from the 17th century), was that Old Testament genealogies were never intended to be comprehensive genealogies that included all descendants of a family line. In the type of genealogy used in the Old Testament, it is completely permissible to use the term “beget” (Hebrew, yalad ילד) to refer to a descendant many generations later.
For example, in the Genealogies of Genesis, were it to say that Thomas ילד (yalad) Benjamin, the Young Earth Creationists would argue that Thomas was the father and Benjamin were the son. By this argument, seemingly you could add the years of one generation to the next and come up with an approximate year or time period of creation. However, biblical genealogies don’t work like that. Instead, it is completely permissible to use the term ילד or other equivalent terms to refer to a later ancestor. Using the biblical model, one could say that Thomas ילד/yalad Benjamin, even if Benjamin were the great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson of Thomas.
Their argument, simply doesn’t work– in the New Testament we see the principle of skipping generations (see the Gospel of Matthew that completely skips generations that were listed in 1 Chronicles.) We also see this truth played out as Jesus is called “Jesus, son of David”. Certainly, we all know his father was Joseph– but since he was of the line of David, it was permissible to call Jesus David’s son– or to say that David ילד Jesus, skipping all the generations in between.
In short, and to be perfectly blunt, trying to date the earth by adding up the ages and names of some people in the Bible is actually stupid. It doesn’t pass basic science, nor does it pass basic biblical scholarship.
Unfortunately, Ken Ham is neither a scientist or a credible bible scholar, so I actively oppose him and side with the science guy who I believe, will more accurately represent how God created the heavens and earth.
Because Ken Ham and the Answers in Genesis people are making you and I look like idiots and therefore are harming the cause of Christ. Try viewing this through the eyes of an outsider: were someone to ask “what is a creationist like?” and you were to show that person Ken Ham, that person would understandably assume that creationists are people who reject 4th grade science and who shouldn’t be taken seriously on anything they claim. Sacrificing such credibility, means that we are at a horrible disadvantage to ever point people to the truth that there (a) is a God that (b) God made everything you see in creation, let alone ever arrive at the most important (c) that this God actually loves you and has redeemed you.
Instead of supporting the Answers in Genesis folks, we ought to invest in ways of showing that science and Christianity are not incompatible, but rather can exist together in relative harmony with one another. Furthermore, by accepting science while still holding onto our faith in God, we enable ourselves to use science to point people to the one who orchestrated this beautiful unfolding of events– however it occurred. For me, as a creationist who accepts science, the more I attempt to understand the wonders of the universe (science) the more I stand in awe of the God who created it all.
In short, as a creationist, I don’t want to be lumped together with the likes of Ham just as like as a Christian, I don’t want to be defined by Fred Phelps.
I actively root against Phelps because he is harming the cause of Christ, and on February 4th, I’ll be actively opposing Ken Ham for the exact same reason.
If either participant in this debate would begin the debate with “God is the active agent who caused creation, let’s try to learn how he did it using science” I would be their biggest ally. However, I don’t believe either side will take this position.
So in that regard, this will be like watching an NFL game when the Patriots aren’t playing– I’m not entirely on anyone’s side because neither side is my team, so I’m more inclined to root for a team I want to lose instead of a team I want to win. I usually pick the team I want to lose by guessing which team could potentially cause the most problems for my side in the future– in years past that used to be the Colts, and today it is the Broncos…
Science is no threat to my cause, but Young Earth Creationism is a threat to my cause.
So, in the case of this debate, I’ll be imagining that Ken Ham is Peyton Manning.
And, I’m rooting for him to lose– and lose badly.
(If you liked this post, please take a moment to like James McGrath’s page dedicated to refuting Young Earth Creationism, here)