Though I was too tired to actually watch it, last night Ken Ham and Bill Nye debated one another at the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky. Personally, I didn’t think the debate was the best idea, but it did have the advantage of setting the starkest contrast possible. If we take a book like Gerald Rau’s Mapping the Origins Debate, Ham and Nye (or #HamOnNye if you want to scroll through Twitter comments) are opposite ends of the spectrum. Given the fact that it is very difficult to persuade someone they are wrong in this area, it didn’t see like a fruitful endeavor (as is true of most debates). They are the extremes in the discussion, so naturally a conversation between them is going to generate some sparks.
Ok, so I guess I see why they had the debate.
Rather than comment on the debate proper (which I haven’t seen and don’t particularly plan to), I thought I’d do some heavy link sharing. This is a conversation I have a vested interest in as I was quite the young earth creationism (YEC) crusader in undergrad. Later, I learned Hebrew and studied ANE backgrounds, and moved toward a more old-earth view (but still would not classify myself as a theistic evolutionist). I would have more or less agreed with Ham on his reading of Genesis (which is a reading of Genesis that takes the Bible seriously, not the reading of it). My perspective has changed, but before getting to that, here are several recaps you might find helpful (the first includes full video):
- Denny Burk’s brief thoughts
- Albert Mohler’s full length article treatment (he was there)
- Ed Stetzer’s pre-debate write-up at Christianity Today
- Aaron Armstrong on the role of presuppositions (thanks for the graphic Aaron!)
Overall, I’d have to say I’m more interested in the discussion itself than the content of the debate last night, mainly because I don’t agree fully with either debater. I’m kind of somewhere in between the two. So for instance, here is a rundown of how I read Genesis 1 from back in my time in seminary. I might change some here and there, maybe even pick it back up with Genesis 2 in the future:
- Thoughts on Genesis
- Genesis: Backgrounds (A)
- Genesis: Backgrounds (B)
- Genesis 1: Introduction
- Genesis 1: Structure
- Genesis 1: Days 1-3
- Genesis 1: Days 4-6
- Genesis 1: Concluding Thoughts
- Genesis 2: Introduction
I think this is a much better contextual understanding of the early chapters of Genesis. It has the benefit of being mute on the age of the earth, which is a theologically irrelevant question. For more on that, here is R. C. Sproul’s answer to the age of the universe, which Keith Mathison wrote an eBook commentary on.
As far as the scientific aspect goes, it is perhaps a little known fact that I taught high school biology and anatomy for a year. This allowed me to review the scientific aspects of the question of origins post-seminary. The results are captured in these two posts:
In light of that, I think the much more significant discussion is the historicity of Adam. It is a much more theologically important question, and unlike the age of the earth/universe, there are Christian worldview implications involved (as Albert Mohler would say on The Briefing). Unlike other in-house Christian debates like the days of Genesis (which Albert Mohler and Bryan Chapell briefly debated at TGC), the historical Adam overlaps with scientific inquiry. It is also where interpretations of the Biblical account, no matter how you take it, directly contradict the interpretations of modern science (notice I’m pointing out interpretations in conflict). For me, this was where the line was drawn because a) the Bible seems pretty clear about direct special creation of man, and b) the scientific evidence of common descent as it relates to man is less than compelling. I just didn’t see anything in the data that would compel me to accept that man evolved from lower life forms unless I was already committed to a naturalistic worldview and so didn’t have any other explanatory options. If nature is my Bible, then I’ll structure my “religion” accordingly and probably follow the “high priests” even into logically folly.
Other Christians see it differently. Case in point, Peter Enns (most notably in The Evolution of Adam), and Denis Lamoureux (the first contributor in Four Views on The Historical Adam). Still, there are others who have a background in science, but argue in favor of Adam’s historicity (see the other 3 contributors in the Four Views book, as well as Collins’ full length book, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?, and Vern Poythress’ Redeeming Science). I tend to find myself siding with the latter groups, and see their readings of both the Genesis narratives and the scientific evidence to be the most compelling.
Although I haven’t changed much, my views have certainly evolved in the past decade. What hasn’t evolved though is my worldview. While I might not agree with Ken Ham’s approach, I have more in common with him than Bill Nye. I think that’s worth keeping in mind regardless of how you answer the origins question and relate Genesis and modern science. This is certainly a discussion I like to keep tabs on, and something I may do even more reading on in the future.