So what is the cause for division between these like-minded entrepreneurs in Christian education? Well, Mr. Ham was not the only speaker scheduled to speak at this year’s Spring conventions. Dr. Peter Enns—Harvard graduate, former professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, and team member of Biologos—was also scheduled to speak, as well as promote his new Bible-study curriculum for homeschoolers.
In case you are neither familiar with Dr. Enns nor Biologos, I will simply point out that Dr. Enns does not share Ken Ham’s view of the Genesis narrative. He has commented at length on the apparent exegetical problems that arise with reading Genesis similar to contemporary cosmologies and literature of the ancient Near East (i.e. as neither a critical history nor a complete metaphor, but a complicated narrative using both symbols and historical referents). With regard to the YEC position, he argues that one can not satisfactorily ignore the scientific evidence against a young-Earth reading—or abandon scientific method to make the position appear concordant with nature. Rather the answer to a meaningful synthesis lies within honest dialogue between Christians “that is both desperately needed and, in this modern age of science, inevitable.” This conversation involves raising hard questions and challenging traditions that were born in a time when such questions would make little sense. [Further discussion, as well as exegetical challenges to the young-Earth position, can be found in Dr. Enns’ response to Dr. Al Mohler, Jr. here.]
As you can imagine, Ken Ham was not silent about sharing the stage with the kind of person about which his ministry has tried to warn the Christian community. Prior to the scheduled conventions, Mr. Ham criticized both Dr. Enns for his position on scripture and Great Homeschool Conventions for letting Dr. Enns and others like him inside.
And by ‘others’, I mean vendors soliciting homeschoolers with science curriculums that teach Earth history prior to 4,004 B.C.
Both Ken Ham and Peter Enns have published in books, articles, and personal blogs that criticize the other’s position on Genesis, science, scripture, etc. So why was Ken Ham uninvited, while the counter-perspective was unintentionally promoted and GHC’s reputation put at risk? In the words of Mr. and Mrs. Dean, “Dr. Ham was removed for his spirit not for his message.” If you’re not sure what that means, compare the following excerpts from the respective speakers:
“Although I disagree with a literal reading of Genesis 1, I have no personal qualms with those who think differently; indeed there are a number of variant readings I am fine with…” (emphasis added)
“I realize you [Dr. Mohler] may disagree here, and maybe you have a way of seeing literal days where there is no sun [Gen. 1:1-13]. I disagree strongly but that would not lead me to question your commitment to the Gospel.” (emphasis added)
Dr. Peter Enns to Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr. —Posted at Biologos here, July 28, 2010
“For instance…there are a number of people [at the convention] (including speakers) that are associated with the extremely liberal Biologos Foundation—an organization that is dedicated to trying to get people in the church to believe evolution and millions of years as fact.” (emphasis added)
“But at the same time, I praise God for the opportunity, that even in this sea of lies permeating our culture, I am able to teach the truth of God’s Word to many.” (emphasis added)
Posted on Ken Ham’s blog, March 19, 2011
Mr. Ham’s comments would not come as a surprising to anyone familiar with his work, but few that look up to him would think to check out his claims. First, Mr. Ham’s identification of Biologos as a “liberal” institution is equivocal, because the grounds on which he defines it as such are unstated/unproved, and seem rather to work connotatively in his favor toward an audience that identifies liberalism with ‘people that hate Christians’. This is called ‘poisoning the well’ by logicians.
Secondly, Mr. Ham makes it appear that Biologos was built on the motive to persuade Christians not to question Darwinism (or persuade them of any particular facts about nature, for that matter). Rather, their mission is to promote open and honest discussion among Christians concerning the harmony of science and faith without compromising either. This subtle accusation constitutes a caricature of Biologos on the part of Ken Ham.
Furthermore, Mr. Ham does not end his comments with repeated sentiments of disagreement contra the scientific norm. He continued with personal attacks upon Dr. Enns—labelled a “compromiser” by Ham—, in which he misrepresented the motives and questioned the integrity of the former Westminster professor:
“What [Peter Enns] teaches about Genesis is not just compromising Genesis with evolution, it is outright liberal theology that totally undermines the authority of the Word of God…He does not have the same view of inspiration as I do. In fact, he doesn’t have the biblical view of inspiration: ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,’ (2 Timothy 3:16).” (emphasis added)
Again, use of the term “liberal” is vague, and deters the inquisitive reader from following up on the claims since the reputation of the accused is already tainted (i.e. another example of ‘poisoning the well’ by Mr. Ham). On the contrary, while Dr. Enns does not fall completely in line with the ‘traditional view’ of Biblical inerrancy, his view of Scripture by no means undermines the divine authority thereof. Moreover, simply quoting scripture does not constitute an argument, but invites readers to think Dr. Enns feels free to dismiss parts of scripture at will. Since this is not the case, Mr. Ham’s accusations are dishonest. Dr. Enns, like many others—and I would argue, even young-Earth proponents—has simply made the case that God has spoken through men and women of old without ‘correcting’ their mistaken (but not stupid or ignorant) scientific views of the world.
This might cause discomfort to some young-Earth Creationists, but I believe it actually reveals the beauty of God’s revelation. If the Genesis narrative were written in a way that was scientifically concordant, we might ask, “concordant to which science?” Those that work in scientific fields understand ‘science’ as dynamic, thus any attempt at scientific concordance within the inspired text would leave centuries of readers clueless as to the real meaning and render the narrative obsolete after a certain point. Yet God spoke in such a way that readers from all generations could understand the simple message and be drawn to the Gospel: the creator God, who brings light and life out of darkness, has made a covenant with man, through which He will be shown faithful in the end, though man sought to be a law unto himself and despised the blessings of the covenant.
Mr. Ham later attempted to justify his comments through the following analogy:
“If I saw a child playing with something harmful (e.g., poison), but thought it would be unloving to stop the child from doing this and warn them, I would not be doing what a concerned Christian should…There are many dangers within the church, including those created by Christian leaders who detrimentally affect our children and their faith in the Lord and His Word. It would be very unloving of me not to warn parents about this situation.”
I would guess that now Mr. Ham understands how many Christians feel about his own teaching children that humans and dinosaurs coexisted, fossils were formed ~5,000 years ago in a worldwide catastrophe, the Earth’s glaciers accumulated and receded within half a millenium, tectonic plates moved hundreds of miles in several months, mountain ranges—including the Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alps, etc.—were formed during such tectonic rearrangement, all living species today are descended from the survivors of the Flood, most species developed through evolutionary processes (speciation) while repopulating niches left vacant by said Flood (because they couldn’t have all fit on the Ark), and that radioactive decay rates accelerated by nearly 1-million fold in the past just because…otherwise we couldn’t explain radiometric dating. But as Dr. Russell Humphreys has noted, this accelerated decay had no serious impact on Noah’s health (and those aboard the Ark) because otherwise we wouldn’t be here to discuss it.
My intention is not to mock Mr. Ham, whom I believe to be sincere in his defense of what he perceives to be God’s message. Rather, I am pointing out that certain members of the Christian community (myself included) view Mr. Ham’s approach to the Bible and Earth history as potentially dangerous to “our children and their faith in the Lord and His Word”, because those children will at some point have to reconcile the fact that the creation does not corroborate a young-Earth position. Since we believe this constitutes an unnecessary stumbling block to Christians, we also find ourselves compelled to warn others about the situation. But unless we speak with love, respect, and understanding—and with willingness to engage the counter-perspective in honest dialogue—our respective warnings will fall on deaf ears, and rightly so.
In the end, Mr. and Mrs. Dean are vindicated by their own, most brilliantly constructed words, found near the end of their position statement:
“We believe Christian scholars should be heard without the fear of ostracism or ad hominem attacks. Furthermore, a well-rounded education is not possible without knowing and understanding all sides of an issue. Such a process will, understandably, confirm one in their conviction or persuade them to make a change. But, again, that is the nature of debate and education.” (emphasis added)
I applaud Mr. and Mrs. Dean for their integrity in such a bold move. I say this not because I disagree with Ken Ham on this issue, or agree with Peter Enns, for that matter—my heart is wholly bound to neither. Whatever your own position may be on the Bible, creation, or even homeschooling, I believe Mr. and Mrs. Dean deserve recognition for elucidating the very heart of education, which requires, at times, uncomfortable confrontation with those who may challenge your own convictions. After reading the position statement, I am not at all surprised that homeschooling produces some of the more active and profound thinkers in our society.
And so the moral of the story is?
In my opinion, the greatest obstacle to uncovering truth is our own pride. No matter how strong our convictions, if we would seek to silence the ‘opposition’ through censorship, then our unstable foundation will become evident, and earnest seekers of truth will take notice. At this point, it matters not whether Mr. Ham’s position is correct. In preventing open dialogue and attacking the man rather than the argument, his own words have been rendered ineffectual.
Is there anyone that cannot relate to this example on some level?