Sunday, February 9, 2014

Ken Ham - Fool for Christ?

I'm not naturally an irenic person, but I've endeavoured in recent months to seek dialogue rather than confrontation with people who present ideas I find problematic.  As I understand it, dialogue takes as its starting point the dignity of the other and the recognition that the other has something worthwhile to contribute to the conversation, regardless of how much one might disagree with her/him overall.

Ever since the Bill Nye-Ken Ham 'debate' last Tuesday night, I've struggled to figure out how I should react to my young-earth creationist brothers and sisters. Setting aside the scientific problems of young-earth creationism, I'm troubled by creationism's unwillingness to engage the biblical text critically and mystically (i.e., in what I consider to be a theologically responsible manner), as well as by its apparent ignorance of centuries of Christian interpretation of the text.  Put simply, I don't comprehend the appeal of creationism.  I really don't.  Nothing about it makes theological sense to me.

This was why I tweeted the following on the night of the debate:
Dialogue presumes that the other has something worthwhile to contribute, but it was not apparent to me that creationism has anything of value to say about God, the origin of the universe, or biblical interpretation.  It seemed to me that Ken Ham's position was so theologically impoverished that it didn't merit comment, let alone debate.

Like I said, I'm not naturally an irenic person

But during the Ham-Nye debate I had a conversation with Michael Dougherty - well, as much as a conversation on Twitter allows - that was very helpful.  Michael expressed frustration with the reaction of many Christians on Twitter to Ham and his ilk, noting that there seemed to be a distinctive Luke 18:11-esque "Thank God I'm not like them" superiority lurking behind the condemnatory tweets; he later elaborated on these thoughts in a piece for The Week that is worth reading.

I think Michael is right.  The easy route is the one that is most tempting, at least for me.  It is the route that condemns Ham outright for expressing opinions in the name of Christianity that I consider to be theologically deficient, and rushes to let everyone know, "Yes, I'm a Christian, but I'm not like that guy right there."  It's a route that disparages for the sake of self-glorification, and it has nothing to do with charity or humility.

As much as I want to condemn or dismiss Ham and others who follow his brand of biblical literalism, to do so is to ignore their dignity, not only as human beings but as Christians.  Is there not something compelling about Ham's willingness to look like the fool for the sake of his convictions, no matter how much we may disagree with, and even argue against, those convictions?  The truth is that Ham's passion led me to assess the degree to which I'm willing to look the fool for the sake of Christ. And I saw that I was lacking.

Can I learn something from my creationist brothers and sisters?  Yes.  While I find neither their biblical literalism nor their understanding of the origin of the cosmos helpful, the truth is that I cannot but be impressed by their willingness to look ridiculous in the eyes of their peers for the sake of what they consider to be issues of ultimate importance.

All Christians are called to be "fools for Christ", which I interpret to mean that the logic of the cross for our understanding of God, human salvation, the church, and our way of being in the world will not make sense to the logic of a world characterized by categories of power and domination.  Ham and his ilk may be 'fools' for the wrong reasons, but I have to admit that they're on to something.

Photo from Wikimedia commons.


  1. Its really all about politics and the religious versus secular culture wars that are very big in the USA.
    Ken Ham is of course an Australian so in some sense he was perhaps acculturated as a Christian in a different emotional milieu than that of the USA Bible believing Christians that he appeals to.
    One of the best books that I have come across re what motivates such Biblical true believers in the USA is Between Jesus And The Market - The EMOTIONS That Matter in Right-Wing America by Linda Kintz.
    It is also one of the scariest books I have ever read.
    Such people are completely beyond any kind of well argued rational argument and/or dialogue.

    An interesting aside, I came across a blog put up by a very conservative Catholic who is also a neurosurgeon and therefore very well educated by modern standards - as good as it gets in one sense. And yet he thought that Ken Ham was superb and won the argument hands down.

  2. Its a simple message - that however God created earth He is before and above all things and deserves the glory, and He will always know more than us if He is infinite and we are finite. We are sinners and Christ died for our sins so that whoever trusts in Him and enters into a relationship with Him is forgiven and has eternal life And enters into a community of disciples who live out a self sacrificing life for others in Jesus name, making other disciples and thanking Christ for His sacrifice and looking foreward to the ressurrection when this fallen world will be done away with. Until then disciples of Christ are to serve others and be salt and light, spreading the good news of God reconciling sinful mankind to Himself. This world fallen and will end someday (science agrees here), and Jesus is the hope for eternity. This is what the disciples taught and they were executed for it, looking ahead in faith to things useen (Hebrews 11)

    Jesus said the world would hate this message and persecute the true disciples. Evolution or not this is the central truth of scripture. If you reject the above statements you have been deceived.