Thursday, February 06, 2014

I am Ken Ham

I didn't watch the Nye-Ham debate on NPR. At first I thought it was an article in The Onion and didn't believe it was for real.

Because NPR is radio, right? I didn't know they had a television.

Then everyone started tweeting and texting and Facebooking about it, which was the signal to me that THIS MATTERS, WE ALL HAVE TO TALK AND CARE ABOUT THIS.

Which is why I'm now posting something on my blog, because if I don't, I'll miss a cultural moment.

Here are some things I don't think. First, I don't think Ken Ham ruined Christianity for the rest of us. "The rest of us" are fully capable of ruining Christianity on our own... we do it all the time.

I also don't think the "science guy" saved science. He won by 92%, which is kind of like a recap of last Sunday's Superbowl win. A football game where only one team took the field. A debate, and only one person showed up.

Finally, I don't think any of us really know. In terms of the origins of everything we can touch and taste and smell, we have invested quite a bit of philosophical and religious and scientific inquiry into offering a report on how it all came to be. We all make our truth-claims based on those resources that convince us. Ken Ham clearly thinks the Bible (as he understands it) is the most accurate tool for understanding the world and how it came to be. In fact, the Bible (as he understands it) is the only tool he finally relies on.

Bill Nye on the other hand is a fan of science. Here comes science, y'all. It's cool and reliable and has the double advantage of producing string theory AND the iPhone 5s.

But a debate on NPR with Bill Nye and Ken Ham (and as an aside, do any of us want to talk about the Ham of the Bible, brother of Shem and Japheth, because I for one would love to hear a debate between Ham and his brothers on the nakedness of Noah! Genesis 9:18)?

The whole thing is a set-up. Ken Ham is the straw man to knock down, and he let himself be stuffed willingly, apparently, for his cause.

This is why, as a Christian who honestly believes that evolutionary theory and Christian faith don't need to debate because they are on the same team in the search for truth, I declare:

I am Ken Ham.

It would be far too easy for me to identify with Bill Nye the science guy. I'm an NPR listener, after all. I like science. I like rhymes. Siding with Bill Nye, well, that's easy for me.

And heck, all of us who are "liberal" or "progressive" or "Catholic" or "Eastern Orthodox" Christians already identify with the pro-science side of the line, and have this almost irrational fear of being identified with "fundamentalists" or "evangelicals" or "conservatives" or "Christians."

So, if I am going to be a Christian. If I am going to love my neighbor, be a fool for the sake of Jesus, portray my neighbor's actions in the best possible light, be merciful, be just, be kind... I have to say.

I am Ken Ham.

Ken is attempting, to the best of his ability, to reconcile his commitment to the way he understands truth (and truth proceeding from divine Scripture), with the world as he experiences it. This is not something to ridicule. This is something to love. In the end, he might be wrong. In the end, we can still be kind.

We can admit that we chase conjecture, and foolishness, and odd foundational notions, all the way to their very end in all kinds of ways. We are all Ken Ham.

We do not need to take sides. And if we do take sides, I'm clearly going to side with the guy who has a pet dinosaur. Because dinosaurs are awesome.

Addendum: A friend wrote, "Hey Clint, Good article, but there is a minor point that might need some fixing. The debate wasn't on NPR or sponsored by NPR. It was sponsored and set up by The Creation Museum and broadcast from there. Ken Ham set it up himself. He wasn't goaded into it, but was the initiator. He has done this type of debate at least a dozen times. This time it was with someone famous. Nye entered into hostile ground, so to speak, not Ham. The audience was loaded. The Creation Museum is in a serious cash flow problem, so this was part publicity."

Fair enough. So I add:

I am Bill Nye.


  1. Augustine wrote:

    Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

    The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?

    Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

    - See more at:

    1. Augustine nails a key point. Remember what Scripture is actually about -- "the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven" -- and what it is not -- creationism, science or politics.

  2. No need for "ridicule." However, a strong, collective and respectful disagreement with Mr. Ham's views is in order - to oppose like-minded efforts supporting laws to teach "creationism" in publicly funded schools. (TX, IN, TN, LA, Fl, GA, WI, OH, CO, UT, AZ, OK, AR; See "Map: Publicly Funded Schools That Are Allowed to Teach Creationism," Chris Kirk, Jan 26, 2014, Slate.)

  3. Two cents from an orthodox LCMS Lutheran:

    God made all things.
    Therefore God made the laws of science.
    Since God made the laws of science, there can be no conflict between God and science.
    God said that he created the world in six days. He did not specify "24 hour" days.
    God said that he created man from the dust of the earth in his image. He didn't say whether or not there was some gorilla dung DNA in that dust or exactly how long he took to create man.

    Bottom line: Science does not, cannot, and will not contradict God.

    Let your children study science. Let them study evolution. Teach them the creation story. Teach them that is was a real historical event. It happened just as God says in his Word. Teach them that we will see how both fit together perfectly...some time in the future, whether here on earth or in heaven.

    The evangelical and Baptist 24 hour Creationists need to get off this subject and go back to preaching the Gospel. (And by the way, they should send their children to a good LCMS school.) :)

    1. Clarification: the TRUE laws and facts of science do not, cannot, and will not contradict God.

  4. Nice post, Clint. Thanks for keeping the focus where it belongs.