I did not watch the debate myself although I did follow it on Twitter. I’ve never been to the Answers in Genesis museum myself. I have read a lot of Ken Ham’s quote and seen video of him speaking. I know I’m hardly an expert on his opinion, but I think I’ve encountered enough to understand some major problems with his thought. Without even getting into the science, here are a few:
Bad Bible Study
We could go at the most surface level at point out that Ham doesn’t really know how to study the Bible. We could point out that the Hebrew word yom does not necessarily mean a 24-hour day but simply means a period of time. We could also point out that Hebrew genealogies were never meant to be a detailed history of every generation, even if we do presuppose that everybody in them are literal figures, so we can’t simply add up the numbers of generations to conclude the age of the Earth.
We could go a little deeper than that and point out that Ham has absolutely no concept of genre, or if he does, he seems to think that he gets to dictate which genre a book is despite all evidence to the contrary. For most of Church history, those studying the creation narrative understood it as an allegorical text rather than a literal historical/scientific one. Any biblical studies professor worth his or her degree would also understand that it was written in an Ancient Near Eastern context. It’s clear, I think, from its poetic genre and its context that the concern of the text was to answer the who and why of creation (Yahweh out of love vs warring gods) rather than the how question that won’t even have been asked for another 2500 years (6 days or evolution over a long time).
Bad Approach to the Church
We could point out how incredibly disrespectful Ham is toward Christians who disagree with him on this question that really is peripheral. From what I read on Twitter, Nye repeatedly pointed out that many Christians disagree with Ham’s interpretation. Ham essentially said we aren’t really Christians. This attitude is a disgrace to the body of Christ, of which I am a part just as much as he is. I guess Ham’s literalism doesn’t extend to all of the passages about maintaining unity.
Bad Theological Methodology
If we go deepest, we could point out the biggest problem of all: Ham seems to have built his approach on fear. His primary arguments against evolution is that it will result in all kinds of other things which go against his worldview. This is quite possibly based in a fear (not reverence, but real fear) of God.
When asked what would change his mind, he replied that nothing would. I wonder if this is because he fears God would punish him for his “lack of faith,” by which we really mean less than absolute certainty in a particular proposition about a peripheral issue. On the other hand, Nye said he would change his mind based on evidence. Some skeptics might claim that this is the difference between science and religion. That would be incorrect. It is, however, the difference between science and fundamentalism.
A good theological process shares much with a good scientific process. The specific methods of learning differ – science is strictly observational natural data while theological method as a relational study involves more complicated sources of information – but each when done right are based in a genuine desire to learn the truth. Ham does not have a genuine desire to learn the truth. Instead, he has a genuine idea to reaffirm that what he already thinks is true actually is. That’s a very dangerous place to be in and it is easy to see why he simply ignores any evidence against his perspective. The big problem is that he manages to sell that fear to others, making it clear that we are not good enough and God cannot really love us if we don’t think the same as he does on this particular issue.
To that, I simply give thanks that perfect love, that perfect love which God is at all times in all situations no matter your scientific position, casts out fear. Ham’s fear will never defeat God’s love.