Ken Ham, Evolution, and Theological Bullying

Ken Ham’s (Answers in Genesis) upcoming debate on evolution with Bill Nye “the Science Guy” is bringing in quite a bit of attention.

Jonathan Ryan, who blogs at Geek Goes Rogueis covering the debate for Patheos. He has posted a few thought provoking interviews leading up to the big event, including his most recent conversation with Ken Ham himself.

When asked a question concerning his recent statements against progressive Christians (i.e., theistic evolutionists), Ham stated,

“…it needs to be understood that we are not saying that salvation is dependent upon what you believe about evolution, the age of the earth, and so on. Salvation is conditioned on faith alone. However, we are emphatic that taking ideas from outside the Bible (such as billions of years and molecules-to-man evolution) and using them to reinterpret God’s Word is a major authority issue, as it puts fallible man’s words in authority over the Word of God. It’s also a gospel issue in the sense that when Christians allow for millions of years of fossils before humans, that means death, disease, thorns, suffering, and bloodshed existed before sin!  It would also mean God calls diseases like cancer, which some bones in the fossil record exhibit, is ‘very good.’”

I get the logic behind his problems with accepting evolution’s implication that there was death before “The Fall.” It’s a difficult, challenging question—one with which any Christian who accepts evolution must wrestle. (They do: e.g. here and here)

But, for Ham, any belief/interpretation that is different from his own is an “attack on Scripture.” (This is a very common reaction from Ham and the AiG crew…think I’m exaggerating? Just search the word “attack” on the AiG website and you’ll get 10 pages of links to articles about how they are being attacked.)

This paranoia drives him to go as far as calling fellow Christians (if I could put more emphasis on that, I would) “more dangerous to Christianity than the atheists.”

For Ham, Christianity is a war of us vs. them.

Us = the faithful literalists

Them = everyone else

One reason I started this blog is to create space where we can wrestle with difficult theological/biblical issues. I am edified when I am challenged, so I want to provide such edification for others. I think we can use Ham as an example of how not to have an edifying theological conversation.

Ham’s statement here is exactly the kind of thing that is detrimental to the unity and health of Christianity. It’s one thing to disagree with someone and to point out why you disagree. It is another thing entirely to cut off all conversation and label others—especially people who love Jesus—as enemies of Scripture.

This is not an issue of the authority of Scripture. This is not a gospel issue. This is an issue of one’s interpretation of Scripture.

Rachel Held Evans has an excellent and challenging article in which she states:

“One need not discount the inspiration and authority of Scripture to hold one’s interpretations of Scripture with an open hand.”

If we don’t recognize our own fallibility—even in understanding what might seem clear in Scripture—we run the risk of denying Scripture by holding our own interpretations on equal ground. That’s a very dangerous—and Pharisaical—place to be.

Truth be told, Ham is not the first to call another interpretation an “attack on Scripture.” Christians use this all the time. When people don’t know how to disagree or if they simply have no respect for others, they shut down the conversation. But, it is arrogant, divisive and, frankly, hurtful. It should be called out for what it is: theological bullying. It is an attempt to hold on to power and put down anything—and slander anyone—that would take it away.

Face it. Evolution is a threat. Not to the Christian faith or to the authority of Scripture, but to Ham’s life work. Whether or not it is true, it is virtually undisputed among secular scientists and is only disputed by a very small group of Christian scientists. For anyone to have their life’s work rejected so vehemently would be scary for anyone.

It’s easier to demonize others and turn them into enemies than to agree to disagree or to open your mind to the possibility that you were wrong (much less admit it).

But, for the sake of unity in the Body of Christ, I think we need hermeneutical humility. We need to stop viewing theology as a war. We need Christians in prominent places (such as Ham) to recognize and affirm those of us who love Jesus and have a high view of the authority of Scripture—yet, hold a different interpretation of certain passages.

Ken Ham needs us, and we need Ken Ham. We need theological counterparts to challenge us and ask the difficult questions. We need people who will not let one side monopolize the Bible and dictate their interpretation as the One True Interpretation. We need to dialogue and debate and synthesize. We need to put down our weapons and make ourselves vulnerable. We need to submit to—and learn from—one another.

UPDATE 2/22/14:
See part 1 and part 2 of my post-debate response.

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2 responses to “Ken Ham, Evolution, and Theological Bullying

  1. Fundamentalism is essentially a reaction against liberalism of the 19th C. People like Strauss claimed that the Life a Christ was a metaphor. Against this ‘everything in the Bible is metaphor’ fundamentalists insisted that ‘nothing in the Bible is metaphor’.

  2. Pingback: The Evangelical Castle | Tylor Standley·

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