Charity in all things

Bill Nye Ken Ham debate

Now that the debate billed as a kind of clash-of-the-titans has finished the real curiosity for me is found in reading the write-ups.

When I first heard that Ken Ham was going to debate Bill Nye I was intrigued.  I was intrigued and I was sad.  Given the worldview state of the modern media, Ham had little chance of getting a fair representation no matter how admirably he defended his position.  He was going to be given the same treatment that William Jennings Bryan received in the famous but dramatically inaccurate dramatization of the Scopes Monkey Trial, “Inherit the Wind.”  The current worldview of the media is heavily slanted in favor of Nye’s philosophical naturalism which most often manifests itself as scientism, the view that real knowledge is only possible when attained through the scientific method.  This is, of course, a self-defeating worldview, but that doesn’t much matter to its most dedicated adherents.

In any event, now that the debate has come and gone it seems that I was partially wrong.  Ham’s presentation is being reviewed about like I thought…but not by anyone in the mainstream media.  It seems that some of his most vocal critics are actually fellow believers who count themselves far too culturally relevant and scientifically astute to buy into something so primitive and narrow-minded as creationism’s literal reading of the Bible.  Indeed, if the opinion coverage in just the ABP is any indicator (see articles here, here, and here), there were as many Christians embarrassed by his position as there were secularists entertained by it.

While I don’t share in Ham’s views on creation, I respect his position as one which desires to defend the integrity of the biblical text.  Personally, I find the arguments of the intelligent design (ID) movement to be more compelling and scientifically credible than I do the arguments of young earth creationists like Ham.  (I have written more about this here and here.)  Fortunately, our beliefs about the length of time creation took are not going to be the final determinative factor for our gaining entrance to the kingdom of God.  I think there is even going to be grace for the Christians who have embraced some form of theistic evolution even though I find that position to be both a philosophical and a theological train wreck.

For fellow believers, however, to react with such shame and vitriol against someone like Ham for defending what has been the dominant position of Christians for 2,000 is troubling.  Should we not rather applaud him for being willing to defend the worldview which prizes God as the author and sustainer of creation over and against the worldview which sees this world as a purposeless trick of chance.  We may disagree with his particular theological and scientific approach, but let us stand shoulder to shoulder with him against the view that God had nothing to do with it as is represented by Nye.

The reality is that in spite of dismissals to the contrary, there is a battle going on for the hearts and minds of our children and young adults.  The pro-Darwin (and anti-theist) folks are absolutely determined to see the thoroughly secularized, neo-Darwinian explanation for why the world looks the way it does today have an absolute monopoly in every institution of learning across the country.  This is particularly true in the academy as Ben Stein’s 2008 documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” amply demonstrated.  Any suggestions that Nye’s neo-Darwinism be treated as anything other than firmly established dogma are greeted with aggressive attempts to dismiss, censor, or simply silence them.  And if any holes should be exposed in this scientific dogma or if any parts should be challenged by contrary evidence…well, those just need to be taken on faith.

What all this boils down to is a clash of worldviews: Christian theism versus philosophical naturalism.  These two are absolutely mutually exclusive of one another and have radically different cultural outworkings.  Oh, and only one worldview is able to offer answers to the question of how we got here that are able to ring consistent with both the findings of modern science and the conclusions of good philosophy.

We may not agree on the mechanism of creation, but as Christians let us stand firm on the fact that God did it and left nothing to chance in the process.  And when men like Ham step up to defend this, let us hold fast to Augustine’s admonition to have charity in all things.  Instead of complaining about his handling of the text (which even if bordering on too literal for some folks is unquestionably committed to the integrity of the text), or treating him like a conspiracy theorist (whose theories in this case seem suspiciously accordant with reality), or chastising him for asking the wrong questions in search of proof of faith (which is supported a great deal more by the best evidence than some critics might expect), let us applaud his courage to knowingly step into the line of fire and join him in vigorously defending the Christian worldview.

Jonathan Waits

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About the Author
Jonathan is the pastor of Central Baptist Church in Church Road, VA. He's the husband of one beautiful woman and the father of three active boys. A graduate of Denver Seminary, he loves connecting the dots between the Christian worldview and culture.

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  • Rick_K

    What this boils down to is a clash of world views: those who seek truth by humbly following the evidence to wherever it may lead, and those who dogmatically believe that they already know the truth regardless of the evidence.

    The world views were well summarized in the debate. When asked at the end “What would change your mind or cause you to change your position?”, the debate participants answered:

    Bill Nye: “Evidence!”
    Ken Ham: “Nothing!”

    Yes, that is a clash of world views. And it is a critical, fundamental and important clash. The Ken Ham worldview already knows the truth, cannot be convinced, and is immune to evidence. Such a world view is incompatible with an evidence-based justice system, is incompatible with government by an informed democracy, and is incompatible with the advancements of science.

    There are billions of people on this planet who can reconcile their religious faith with a worldview that allows for evidence and whose minds are still open to the possibility of change. I’m sorry that Pastor Waits is incapable of such reconciliation, but he should not project his failings on the rest of Christianity.

    • Jonathan Waits

      Rick_K, I appreciate your thoughts. I agree with you that a clash of those two worldviews is at play here. My disagreement comes at the point of deciding who to assign to which side of that clash simply because Nye professed a willingness to change his beliefs in light of acceptable evidence whereas Ham refused to do so.

      While men like Nye make a public show of professing their allegiance to the evidence, their criteria
      for what counts as convincing enough is often sufficiently small that what they really mean when asked the question is: “Nothing!” On the other hand, have you considered the possibility that Ham has examined much of the evidence available and found it sufficiently lacking that he is simply that confident in his own conclusions?

      As for my own reconciliatory capabilities in this matter, had you spent more time interacting with the
      substance of my blog before jumping to assumptions you would surely have noticed that my defense is not of Ham’s position. I disagree with him on many counts. Rather, I defend his willingness to stand up
      in the public square and defend the Christian worldview. As Christians, let us commend that boldness
      even where we wish for a more moderate voice.

      The fact is, I have analyzed a great deal of the evidence regarding the origin of life and have found the interpretations of neo-Darwinists like Nye to be both sorely lacking and often hopelessly rooted in an a
      priori commitment to philosophical naturalism—the very same flaw for which you criticize me if from the opposite direction. On the contrary, I find the intelligent design movement’s explanations of the evidence to be far more compelling, scientifically credible, and easily reconcilable with the Christian

      Now, if all this still seems to you to be a failing on my part that I am somehow projecting, so be it. But, do please make certain you are interacting with all the facts before drawing further conclusions. Again, I really appreciate your comments and engagement with me. Blessings as you continue wrestling through these complex issues yourself.