Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Perhaps you don't know who either of these two men are. Bill Nye is the former host of Bill Nye The Science Guy, a Disney-endowed, bow-tied Mr Rogers for the science-minded millennial generation. I wouldn't have known who he was, except I've been told I look like him. This offends me. I'm far more handsome and I've never worn a bow tie.
Ken Ham is the Founder of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum. He's an outspoken advocate of Young Earth Creationism and a literal translation of Genesis 1. He's from Australia. Perhaps that's why he likes to hear himself talk.
Bill Nye was there to represent science. Ken Ham was there to represent Christianity. I wouldn't put my stock in the credentials of either of them. Bill Nye has a bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell and three honorary degrees, including one, impressively, from Johns Hopkins. He also has a patent pending on ballet toe shoes (no kidding). Ken Ham has a bachelors degree in Applied Science from Queensland Institute of Technology, and two honorary degrees from Baptist universities. He raised $27 million for his museum. Neither qualifies as an expert in anything other than self-promotion.
Bill Nye denies the existence of God. He believes in the Big Bang, but has no explanation for what caused it. He says we'd be better off forsaking any religious teaching and focusing solely on science. Hamhockey.
Ken Ham denies the Big Bang. He thinks the earth is 6000 years old, that humans hung out with dinosaurs, and that anyone who believes otherwise is a heretic. He has frequently attacked Christians who interpret Genesis 1 as a long period of time. "In many ways these sort of people are more dangerous to Christianity than the atheists," he says. Hogwash.
I love the subject of how the universe began. I find it fascinating to think about and discuss, and every time I do, my faith increases. I'm no expert, but I've read enough on the subject to at least be able to define some of the arguments and form an opinion. There are way too many points to even begin here, but here's what I believe: The universe started with a Big Bang, the earth is really old and finely tuned for life, and a Creator God is the only explanation for any of it. This is a belief system called "Intelligent Design." I also believe the Bible is a majestic and glorious book which always leads to ultimate truth. This is called historic orthodox Christianity. Ultimately, I believe Intelligent Design to be the scientific description of God's universal truth found in the Scriptures, which leads to a personal God, who is Jesus Christ. This is called robust Evangelical Christian faith.
This is why the mere prospect of this debate annoyed me so much. It's a stunt. Nye is a media-friendly atheist with a face a child need not fear. Ham is a media hound and self-appointed spokesman for God and Evangelical Christianity. With Ken Ham speaking for us, Christians risk seeing the beautiful and powerful arguments of more nuanced biblical interpretation buried in the wasteland of pop cultural hash. The public will equate what Ken Ham believes with what all Christians believe, much like they have done with Phil Robertson, or Pat Robertson, or any number of Christian "celebrities" who garner more attention than they merit.
Furthermore, it offends me that Ken Ham finds Intelligent Design to be the enemy of God and often goes "ham" on his fellow believers. I'm fine with those who believe in a Young Earth, but by making Old Earth vs. Young Earth a test of orthodoxy, Ham castigates many of today's most influential Christian theologians, scientists and apologists. (A brief list includes JP Moreland, JI Packer, Hugh Ross, Tim Keller, John Piper, Michael Behe, William Dembski, Hank Hannegraff, and even CS Lewis). http://www.reasons.org/articles/notable-christians-open-to-an-old-universe-old-earth-perspective
So while Ham believes that an Old Earth interpretation of the Bible will lead our children straight to faithlessness, atheism, and hell, in truth, it is Ham and his divisive spirit which risks losing a generation of thoughtful young people who want to believe in a God big enough to handle whatever discoveries science throws their way. As a father, youth pastor, and Christian, I want to teach kids to investigate, not just debate. God can handle it, and so can our kids. In fact, they are the hope for the next generation of scientists who will glorify God with their amazing faith and discoveries.
I'm sure there are opinions as to who won last night, but I think we all lost. Most of today's religious news will focus on Ken Ham and Bill Nye. There are ten thousand more representative stories of our faith being worked out on the planet today. But it's okay. No matter what your opinion of origins, the world has been around a long time and this too shall pass. I remain fully confident that God, who created the heavens and the earth (not to mention strange fellows like Ken Ham and Bill Nye), can handle our most rigorous questions and our silliest posturings. To think anything less of him is baloney.