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.