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Month: August 2016

Answers in Genesis Really Doesn’t Like Peter Enns: Accommodation and…Apollinarianism?(Part 2)

Answers in Genesis Really Doesn’t Like Peter Enns: Accommodation and…Apollinarianism?(Part 2)

Yesterday, we began to look at an AiG post from 2012 about Peter Enns and his book, The Evolution of Adam. Today, we will conclude our look at AiG’s post. We are now at the point in the post where AiG finally gets around to fleshing out the title: “Was Jesus Wrong? Peter Enns says ‘Yes.’” You see, one of the points Peter Enns makes in his book is that Jesus of Nazareth was…truly human…with human limitations. Therefore, AiG interprets that as Peter Enns accusing Jesus of being wrong. Let’s flesh this out.

And Then, Enns Attacks Jesus! (Not really…but AiG would have you think so)
At one point in The Evolution of Adam, Enns briefly addresses the argument that says, “Since Jesus refers to Moses writing about him in John 5:46-47, that must mean Moses wrote all of the Torah, because Jesus can’t be wrong.” It is thus assumed by some that if Jesus mentions something, it must be a historical statement; and since Jesus is God, he must be all-knowing and truthful, so therefore he wouldn’t say anything that could be deemed unhistorical. If he did, he’d be lying, and therefore wouldn’t be God.

Enns’ answer is quite logical: just because Jesus is the incarnate Son of God, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t also fully human with human limitations. When referring to Moses writing the Torah, Enns writes, “Jesus here reflects the tradition that he himself inherited as a first-century Jew and that his hearers assumed to be the case. Simply put, that’s how first century Jews referred to the Torah, and Jesus, as a first-century Jew, referred to it that way as well. Jesus wasn’t making a definitive statement regarding authorship—he was simply speaking as any first-century Jew would. This doesn’t mean he’s not the Son of God.

…well, apparently it does according to AiG.

To explain exactly why they feel Enns’ comments are so heinous, AiG claims that the view Enns is putting forth is something called “the accommodation theory,” which basically states that when God revealed His Word, He used the language, culture, imagery, assumptions of that time. In other words, He spoke to them using language they would be familiar with, and thus “accommodated” His revelation to the level of their understanding at the time. This would hold true for both the Old and New Testaments.

JoshuaFor example, in the ancient world, they thought the sun went around the earth, and so throughout the Bible (think Joshua commanding the sun to stand still), that concept is used, even though we know now that, in fact, the sun doesn’t go around the earth. Technically, you could say the Bible “got it wrong” in a scientific sense, but no one makes a big deal about that, because we realize the ancients had no way of knowing about the heliocentric universe—so we won’t hold that point against them, and we’re not going to throw up our hands and say, “Well! We know the earth goes around the sun now! We have to throw the whole Bible out!”

We understand that back then, from their point of view (quite literally!), it seemed the sun went around the earth, so they simply described things given what they knew at the time. We don’t hold their lack of knowledge concerning astronomy against them, and deny the validity of God’s inspired Word because of that.

The same holds true regarding the authorship of the Torah. Jesus referred to Moses as the writer of the Torah because that was the way all Jews of his day viewed the Torah. Jesus’ clear point in John 5:46-47 was that the Torah speaks about him. Whether or not Moses actually wrote the entire Torah is irrelevant and incidental. Sure, Jesus probably assumed Mosaic authorship, just like he probably assumed the sun went around the earth—that lack of factual or scientific knowledge doesn’t mean he’s not God.

…but AiG insists that if Jesus wasn’t omniscient in matters of all historical and scientific facts, then he wouldn’t be truly God. I’ll let them explain:

“The accommodation theory is very popular among liberal theologians and basically asserts that Jesus accommodated (accepted and taught) the various ideas of His day, even if they were wrong. Allegedly, since Jesus was primarily concerned with spiritual matters, He didn’t bother to correct some of their false historical or scientific beliefs because doing so might have distracted from His real message.”

For the record, the idea of accommodation is not an 18th century “liberal” idea. It was acknowledged by men like John Calvin, Martin Luther, and (I believe) St. Augustine. It’s an idea that has been known throughout Church history. But notice what it implied in that quote. Apparently, AiG believes that part of Jesus ministry of the Gospel was to correct any “false historical or scientific beliefs” first century Jews may have had!

AiG’s Biblical “Proof” that Jesus Never Got a Fact Wrong (and a little bit of Biology to boot)
SadduceesAmazingly, AiG proceeds to give supposed Scriptural support for this notion. They cite Matthew 22:29, when Jesus tells the Sadducees “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God,” in order to show that Jesus often rebuked people for holding to beliefs that were contrary to Scripture. They then cite John 2:15-16 (Jesus driving out the money changers in the Temple) and Matthew 23:16-23 (Jesus condemning the scribes and Pharisees), in order to show that Jesus “often reacted strongly to accepted practices” contrary to God’s Word, and therefore, clearly would never “accommodate the errors of His time.”

All of this is problematic at best. First, in Matthew 22:29, Jesus was rebuking the Sadducees’ bad theology regarding a future resurrection; he wasn’t rebuking them for not getting their facts straight. For clarity’s sake, in that very passage, the Sadducees put forth the scenario of a woman being married to seven brothers, and then ask Jesus whose wife she would be in the resurrection. They ask this question as a way of mocking the idea of a resurrection. But in the scenario itself, the reason why the woman is married to each brother over time is because the previous one has died. And in that culture it was expected that if a man dies without leaving behind any offspring, then his brother was obligated to marry his brother’s widow and “raise up offspring” for his brother.

Now, in the ancient world, they had no scientific concept of sperm and eggs. The assumption was that a man “planted his seed” in the woman’s “soil,” much like you plant any seed in the soil. It was assumed that the woman contributed nothing, other than fertile soil in which the man’s seed could grow.

Sperm EggsTherefore, if AiG is correct in its claim that Jesus was about the business of correcting the false historical and scientific beliefs of his day, then why didn’t Jesus correct the Sadducees for their faulty idea regarding procreation? Why didn’t he say, “Your premise regarding raising up offspring for the brother is wrong, because in reality the man sperm has to break through the woman’s egg in order for conception to occur”?

The answer should be obvious. And no, it’s not, “Jesus really knew about sperm and eggs and chose not to go into all that with the Sadducees.” Rather, it’s “Being a first century Jew, Jesus probably assumed the same thing as everybody else at the time did regarding conception, and therefore didn’t know the scientific facts regarding sperm and eggs himself. And that’s okay, because nowhere in the New Testament does it suggest that since Jesus was divine, that he possessed all historical and scientific knowledge for all time.”

Secondly, in regards to driving out the money-changers and condemning the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus was reacting against hypocrisy, greed, and the oppression of the poor, not about mistaken claims about authorship, or other factual mistakes. He wasn’t condemning people for factual errors—he was condemning them for sin. Therefore, for AiG to use those verses to somehow “prove” that Jesus would have never put up with people getting their facts wrong is worse than ludicrous…it is purposely manipulative and deceptive.

Sin = …Not Having All the Right Facts?
Amazingly, though, AiG wasn’t done trying to make its case. It pointed out that some people point to Matthew 24:36 (where Jesus says he doesn’t know the timing of his coming) in order to show that Jesus wasn’t omniscient and therefore had limited understanding. Well, AiG said, Jesus may have had limits to his understanding, but that’s not the same as misunderstanding. From that point on, AiG hammered home their claim that if Jesus was truly God, then he could not have ever stated anything to be factually wrong:

“We can be certain that when Jesus affirmed something to be true, He knew it was true, and He spoke with absolute authority. Jesus never accommodated the erroneous thinking of His day. He always spoke the truth, the full truth, and nothing but the truth.”

“If Jesus taught error, then He would have lied to His listeners, in which case He would have been a sinner. If He unwittingly taught error, then He would have misled His followers, making Him a false teacher. Either option leaves us with a Jesus who is sinful and less than God.”

“Since Jesus only spoke the words the Father taught Him, then to say that Jesus accommodated the errors of His day is to also claim that God the Father made these same mistakes.”

“God cannot lie! To assert that Jesus knowingly told His hearers falsehoods or affirmed something that He knew was false can only be called a lie. To rightly understand the nature of the Scriptures and their inerrancy and infallibility, we must clearly connect these ideas with the character of God. Since God cannot lie, neither can His Scriptures. As the incarnate Son of God, Jesus would not mislead anyone, even though He was a first-century Jew. To suggest that Jesus would lie, even if you try to call it an ‘accommodation,’ is to deny the deity of Christ.”

In other words, Jesus could never had said a factual thing wrong, because even though he looked human and didn’t know everything, he was God, and therefore knew perfectly everything that he did know. Therefore, if he ever taught anything that turned out to be historically or scientifically not true, then he would be a sinner, a false teacher, and less than God. Does that make sense to you?

Let’s look back to his rebuking of the Sadducees regarding the question of the woman and the seven brothers. By not correcting them of their obvious scientific factual error regarding conception, that would imply that he also misunderstood what conception actually entailed, right? And if he did know the modern scientific understanding about conception, but chose not to correct the Sadducees on that point, then that would mean he was “accommodating the erroneous thinking of His day,” right?

It should be obvious that AiG is speaking out of both sides of their mouth. But more importantly, it should be even more obvious that their whole line of argumentation is ludicrous and irrelevant.  Admitting that Jesus was both divine and yet fully human and subject to normal human limitations is not an attack on Jesus, or God the Father, or the Gospel—it’s an acknowledgment of the traditional Christian teaching about Jesus.

Hate to Say it…but That’s Actually Heresy in the Historical Christian Sense of the Word
If you know anything about Church history and the early heresies that threatened it, you should be able to realize that this notion that Jesus was somehow “God in a human costume” was, in fact, a heresy known as Apollinarianism. This heresy taught that Jesus may have had a human body, but had a purely divine nature, possessing all the power and omniscience of God.

ApollinarianismThe early Church councils were quick to condemn any kind of teaching that downplayed Jesus’ humanness in any way. Jesus was not “God in a human body.” Jesus was God. Jesus was a human being. No, we cannot fully grasp how that works, but neither can we afford to deny the fact that Jesus had normal human limitations. To do so is to flirt with heresies that have long been rejected by the Church.

Ironically, at one point in the AiG article, they actually state that the notion of accommodation that Peter Enns makes reference to is actually…you guessed it…heresy. In their minds, saying that Jesus was a first-century Jew with normal human limitations is to “charge our precious Savior with error” and to “accuse the Father of instructing the Son to teach error.” That’s right, in the world of AiG, if you don’t believe that Jesus spoke with factual and scientific perfection at all times, then you are a heretic.

Nowhere in Church history is “heresy” ever defined in those terms. But it is defined in terms of any teaching that goes against the traditional teachings of Christ that were passed down by his apostles and clarified in the Church councils. And it was in those very early Church councils where they condemned teachings like Docetism and Apollinarianism for being heresies because they denied Jesus’ full humanity.

Can You Hear Me Now? No? Maybe I Need to Accommodate your Human Limitations…Let’s Let the Word Become Flesh
The post ends with a final condemnation of accommodationism: “To accept accommodationism means that God is not able to use language in a way that perfectly communicates the meaning without embracing falsehoods.”

communicationThink about that sentence. Does that make sense? Or let me put it another way: is it possible for human language to “perfectly communicate” at all times? What does “perfectly communicate” even look like? A linguist would have a field day with the absurdity of this notion. Here’s why: communication involves both a “communicator” and a “communicatee,” if you will: someone who sends a message and someone who receives that message. In order for “perfect communication” to occur, that would require both the “sender” and “receiver” to be perfect. But even if you start with “God the sender” being perfect, the fact is that “human beings the receivers” aren’t perfect—we aren’t omniscient, we aren’t all-knowing, and therefore, we are limited in our knowledge and understanding.

Therefore, this notion of “perfect communication” is an absurdity right from the jump. In order for God to communicate to us at all, He has to become human, get down on our level, and put up with our limitedness and limited understanding. Simply put, He has to accommodate our weaknesses and short-comings in order to communicate at all.

WordAnd isn’t that the point of the incarnation? The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. If you demand some sort of “perfect communication” and deny that God accommodates our limited knowledge in any way, then the fact is, you are denying the incarnation. You are denying that Jesus is fully human.

Let’s be clear: the Bible testifies that Jesus was sinless. It doesn’t claim he never got a fact wrong, and it certainly doesn’t define “sin” as being “getting certain facts wrong” about science or the authorship of the Torah.

Everything in AiG’s article is wrong, from its false claims regarding the Documentary Hypothesis, to its misuse of Scripture and its denial of the Traditional Church teaching about the divine and human natures of Christ. Once again, in their attempts to label Peter Enns a heretic, AiG successfully puts on display a modern form of Apollinarianism.

Answers in Genesis Really Doesn’t Like Peter Enns: Supposed Liberalism and the Documentary Hypothesis (Part 1)

Answers in Genesis Really Doesn’t Like Peter Enns: Supposed Liberalism and the Documentary Hypothesis (Part 1)

evolution-of-adamA few weeks ago, I wrote a couple of posts that discussed the way Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis have misused the term “heresy.” At the time, I mentioned there was one more blog post AiG had written, particularly about Peter Enns, that further illustrated some rather odd (and downright false) claims by AiG. The blog in question was a January 30th 2012 post by Tim Chaffey and Roger Patterson entitled, “Was Jesus Wrong? Peter Enns says, ‘Yes.’”  This post focused on Peter Enns’ book, The Evolution of Adam. To be honest, I don’t feel like it was Enns’ best book. And yes, the title is provocative, and no, I don’t agree with every single point Enns makes in the book. But it is a good book nonetheless, and worthy of consideration.

Now, much of the post in question simply is a rehash of what AiG typical says regarding Genesis 1-11 and anyone who disagrees with Ken Ham. In that respect, one can say that it’s nothing new. Nevertheless, within AiG’s rehashing of the typical YEC talking points, there were a few items of interest that I feel need to be looked at a little more closely.

Man’s Fallible Ideas…and Those Liberals!
The first point the post makes is that there is a danger of “forcing man’s fallible ideas into the text of Scripture,” because that “unlocks the door to compromise.” It then points to examples like “the gap theory” and “the framework hypothesis” that try to “fit millions of years into Genesis” and thus compromise God’s Word with the idea of an old earth. In the midst of this initial discussion, the post claims that many “liberal theologians” have bought into theistic evolution, and that sadly even some “conservative Christians” have challenged “the traditional interpretation that God created man from the dust of the ground,” and have tried to blend creation and evolution.

To this, the AiG post doubles down on insisting that attempts to reinterpret (or as AiG says, “reject”) parts of the Bible will mean the inevitable slippery slope of eventually rejecting things like the virgin birth, and the resurrection and ascension of Christ.

There’s just a few problems with this first point by AiG—it is an ambiguous, rambling mess, it is historically wrong, and it is simply nonsensical.

Let’s begin with the mantra regarding “forcing man’s fallible ideas into Scripture.” Yes, trying to “fit millions of years” into Genesis 1 is wrong, and simply stupid, to be quite frank. It is trying to preserve the idea that Genesis 1 is actually a literal and historical account of creation, and then argue that “millions of years” transpired between each literal day God created. It is “forcing” modern science onto Genesis 1, and it is wrong to do so.

But, contrary to what AiG claims, saying the universe is billions years old is not a “fallible idea,” that people made up—it is a scientific fact that is supported in many areas of science. Rather, the “fallible idea” that gap theorists and AiG both impose on Genesis 1 is the idea that Genesis 1 is conveying scientific/historical information in the first place. We shouldn’t try to “fit millions of years” into Genesis one, as we shouldn’t insist that Genesis 1 is describing a literal six days a mere 6,000 years ago, because Genesis 1 is not a text explaining scientific information.

Incidentally, if you want to get an idea of the size of the universe, take a look at this video. Prepare to have your mind blown:

In any case, AiG then charges that theistic evolution is somehow the product of “liberal theology.” I’m sorry, what does AiG mean by “liberal”? For that matter, what does it mean by “conservative”? I’m sure Ken Ham would respond with, “’Liberal theology’ compromises the Bible and doesn’t read it literally.” But that’s not really much of a clarification, is it? I can see how the conversation would then go:

Me: “Liberal” means not reading the Bible literally? Which parts? Are we to read the Psalms literally?

Ken: Well obviously not the Psalms—they’re poetry.

Me: How do you know? Where in the Psalms does it say they’re poetry?

Ken: It doesn’t. It’s just obvious. You have to know how to recognize genre.

Me: That’s true. And it’s obvious that the genre of Genesis 1-11 isn’t history; it’s that of ancient myth. You shouldn’t read Genesis 1-11 as history for the same reason you shouldn’t read the Psalms as history.

Ken: No, Genesis 1-11 history.

Me: How do you know?

Ken: It’s obvious.

Me: There’s not one thing in Genesis 1-11 that it historically verifiable. On top of that, it has tons of similarities to other ancient myths. The story of Noah’s flood, for example, is clearly patterned after Gilgamesh, and Gilgamesh is clearly in the genre of ancient myth.

Ken: Well, Gilgamesh is a myth, but not Noah. The story of Noah is the original. It was the right copy preserved after Babel. Genesis 1-11 is God’s eyewitness account; it’s not myth. You’re a liberal.

So let’s clarify: Ken Ham’s definition of “liberal” isn’t really someone who doesn’t read the Bible literally, for he himself would admit that there are parts of the Bible that shouldn’t be read literally (i.e. the Psalms). What he really means is that a “liberal” is someone who doesn’t think Genesis 1-11 should be read as straightforward history. And that is quite a problem, because, like I said, there is nothing verifiably historical in Genesis 1-11, and it shares a whole lot in common literarily-wise with other ancient Near Eastern myths.

And to be clear, that is not a “liberal” position. Traditionally, “liberal theology” tends toward questioning the miracles (or even existence) of Jesus Christ, and much of the actual history of ancient Israel. It tends to doubt that what we read in I and II Samuel, Judges, Joshua, and Exodus is rooted at all in actual history. That’s a big difference.

If you cannot tell the difference between a section of Scripture that speaks of Nod, Eden, talking serpents, and Nephilim, and other sections of Scripture that speak of Jerusalem, Egypt, Shechem, Bethel, Nineveh, Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, Sennacherib, Neco, Hezekiah, David, Cyrus (you get the idea)…if you think both are the same genre, and if call those who acknowledge the difference “liberal,” you need to go back to school and learn about genre recognition. It’s not an issue of being “liberal” or “conservative.” It’s an issue of gaining literary competence.

Attacks on the Gospel, and the “Discredited” Documentary Hypothesis
In any case, after those initial comments, the AiG article then proceeds to attend to the task at hand: attacking Peter Enns and his (then) recent book, The Evolution of Adam. Since Enns puts forth the argument that Adam and Eve were not literal, historical people, AiG interprets that as being an attack on the gospel. I’ve written before about how this claim by AiG flies in the face of the way Genesis 2-3 was interpreted in the early Church, so I will not rehash that point again. What I do want to focus on is what AiG next…

TorahIn his book, Enns points out that the Pentateuch as we have it today (i.e. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) was not written down in its final form until probably the Babylonian exile. Before that, the various stories in the Pentateuch probably came from different sources (known in scholarly circles as J, E, P, and D). This is known as the Documentary Hypothesis. Therefore, Enns says, it would be wrong to think that Moses literally sat down and wrote the entire Pentateuch himself, even though the Pentateuch is known as the “books of Moses.”

Now, to be clear, even though scholars might debate specific points of the Documentary Hypothesis (I, for one, have no problem talking about “sources,” but I do have a problem calling them “documents,” because we don’t have them; they are hypothetical and speculative), scholars pretty much agree that the final form of the Pentateuch (along with the books Joshua, Judges, I/II Samuel and I/II Kings) came about during the Babylonian exile. This point really isn’t even debated.

You wouldn’t know that, reading this AiG post. To contrary, the post refers to “the discredited Documentary Hypothesis,” and states, “Despite a wealth of biblical and historical evidence to the contrary, Enns portrays this idea as a given, accepted by any scholar worth his or her salt.”

I’m sorry, but what “wealth of biblical and historical evidence” is AiG talking about? We’ll never know, because it never mentions any. And the reason why it doesn’t mention any is simple: there is no “wealth of biblical and historical evidence” that contradicts the notion that the Pentateuch was finalized during the Babylonian exile.

With that, the AiG post hasn’t even begun to start the real fireworks. The “grand finale” will come tomorrow. You won’t want to miss it.

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 3): The Philosophy of Classical Greece: Plato’s Academy…Virtues, Forms, and What’s Really Real

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 3): The Philosophy of Classical Greece: Plato’s Academy…Virtues, Forms, and What’s Really Real

Alfred North Whitehead famously stated that the Western philosophical tradition “consists in a series of footnotes to Plato.” This statement is perhaps a bit simplistic, but is still nevertheless generally true. Plato was a student of Socrates, and the man who preserved Socrates’ teachings. After witnessing the unjust sentence of Socrates carried out in 399 BC, Plato left Athens in disgust, only to return to Athens in 387 BC to found The Academy. It was the first institution in western civilization devoted to education.

The Academy
Raphael’s Painting of The Academy: Plato is the white-haired man in the center-left of the painting, pointing up, signifying his teaching of universal forms.

Plato’s Academy
The focus of Plato’s Academy was the teaching of mathematics, law, and political theory. Underlying all of these things, of course, was philosophy. After all, questions regarding the law and politics ultimately come down to more fundamental questions like, “What does it mean to have a just society? What is real? What is virtuous?” Most of us live our lives never really giving much thought to these questions—Plato did the exact opposite. He devoted his life to trying to understand what was “really real.”

Having lived through the last years, and eventual destruction, of Athenian democracy, Plato asked a fundamental question: “What would an ideal society look like?” The society around him was a mixture of good and bad things, and it eventually crumbled. So Plato asked, “Where does one find the ultimate good?” His answer was this: the world around us and the reality that our senses perceive is merely a cheap imitation and pale reflection of the ultimate reality, or as he called it, the world of forms. This idea can be found in Plato’s famous Allegory of the Cave.

The Allegory of the Cave (And a Shout Out to the Matrix!)
Plato likened this material world of our senses to a cave in which its inhabitants were held as prisoners, chained to a bench facing the back wall of the cave. Behind them was a low wall, on top of which there was a puppet show going on. The puppets were nothing more than representations of the real things in the real world outside of the cave. Behind the wall was a fire whose light shown against the back wall. Since the low wall and puppet show was between the fire and the wall, the shadows of the puppets would flicker against the back wall. Consequently, in Plato’s allegory, the only reality the prisoners had ever been aware of was the one involving the shadows of the puppets flickering against the wall in front of them. What their senses perceived was nothing more than shadows of representations of real things. In other words, their reality was a false reality—a “reality, twice removed,” if you will.

Allegory of the CaveSomehow, though, one of the people escapes his chains. As soon as he turns around, he sees the wall, the puppet show, and the fire, and quickly realizes that they were, in fact, the cause for the only reality he had ever known, and that reality was, in fact, a false reality. Eventually, he makes his way out of the cave to the real world. Quite obviously, his eyes, which had never experienced actual sunlight before, have a hard time adjusting to this new reality. He can only initially look at the faint reflections of things, and not the things themselves. Eventually, his eyes grow accustomed to the real world, and he learns to appreciate the actual things themselves, as they really are, and not the mere reflections or shadows of those things.

Given his new knowledge about the real world, the man feels impelled to go back into the cave and try to free some of his friends. Ironically, though, as soon as he goes back into the cave, he realizes that his eyes need time to re-adjust to the darkness. When he goes to tell his friends about the real world outside, though, they obviously think he’s crazy. The fact that they can actually see in the dark cave better than him further reassures them that he is crazy and ought not to be listened to. Such is the man’s unhappy dilemma: he has seen the real world outside, but has an incredibly hard time convincing those chained in bondage and darkness of the reality of the outside world.

For Plato, this allegory explained the nature of the material world, and the plight of the philosopher. The man who makes his way out of the cave is the philosopher who, through his intellect, learns to contemplate and understand the world of forms and the “more real reality” itself. The people chained in the cave are the mass of humanity, bound to their own senses and passions, and completely unable to even contemplate the existence of a “more real reality” than the flickering shadows before their eyes.

Forms and Universals…and Triangles and Governments
This world of forms contained universals—the reality of things in their perfection, the way they ought to be, and the standards by which we are able to compare any earthly lesser reality. It is the form, or universal, that contains the essence of any given thing. The essence of any given thing is decidedly immaterial, can only therefore be discerned through the intellect, not the senses. After all, everything in this sensory world of constant change is nothing more a shadowy, distorted, and ultimately “less real” imitation of the universals found in the world of forms.

It follows, therefore, that anything that can be discerned by our senses (seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling) simply cannot tell us much of anything of the truth concerning universals. They merely give us fleeting snapshots of flickering shadows. Therefore, the senses can be deceptive. The reality of universals and the essence of a thing can only be discerned through the intellect, through reason. It is only the philosopher, who sees that there is “more real reality” than this concrete and constantly changing world our feeble senses take in, who is able to use his intellect to contemplate the “realer reality” of abstract universal forms.

TrianglesLet’s take a basic example of a triangle to illustrate the concept. One can draw a wide variety of triangles of different sizes, colors, and styles that would be, because they were drawn by human beings, all of varying degrees of perfection, with some being drawn better than others. In that sense, any triangle drawn would have a certain degree of imperfection about it. So how can we still discern them to be triangles if they are imperfectly drawn? The answer is because we all have a mental concept of “triangularity” that makes it possible for us to recognize imperfectly drawn triangles. That mental concept of “triangularity” is not a material thing, but it allows us to recognize triangles drawn in the material world. That mental concept of “triangularity” is, in fact, “perfect,” and it is the standard by which we can discern all imperfect renderings of triangles. Therefore, what is more real and more perfect (i.e. the essence of a thing) is, in fact, that which is immaterial, and that which can only be grasped by the intellect.

Take for another example the concept of government. Some governments are horrible and almost immediately destroy a society, while other governments are better, and actually cultivate a society fairly well—but eventually they crumble too. But although all governments eventually crumble, the reason why some more successful than others is that some are closer to the perfect, universal form of “government” in the world of forms. So why didn’t Athenian democracy work? Plato argued that the Athenian leaders didn’t fully understand what the ideal government and society world of forms really was. Their failure to understand and contemplate the universal form of “just government” led to the establishment of a flawed particular government (i.e. Athenian democracy).

Material Reality’s Relationship to the World of Forms…and What to do About it
So for Plato, this material reality is nothing but a pale, shadowy reflection of the higher and perfect reality of the world of forms. Therefore, the one who is best-suited to rule in this imperfect reality of particulars would be someone who is dedicated to contemplating the world of universal forms—a philosopher-king. Being more in tune with the world of perfect, universal forms, the philosopher-king would know best how to run a society. For Plato, that ideal society would certainly not be like the Athenian democracy he witnessed. Plato’s Republic instead had all the characteristics of an authoritarian social-engineering program:

  1. Instead of a democracy, where just any citizen could have a say in government, Plato’s ideal society would be authoritarian; the philosopher-king knew best, and should not be questioned.
  2. The upper classes would share their women communally.
  3. There would not only be the careful breeding of children, but those children would be raised by the state, namely the philosopher-king and the other government rulers.
  4. Music and poetry would be censored. After all, music and poetry are merely images and shadows of the true form of beauty and reality, and therefore are dangerous. They can inflame the masses and bring about anarchy and chaos.
  5. Private property would be abolished too. The philosopher-king had to have complete and total control of everything in order to shape society according to the world of universal forms.

Plato's RepublicPlato’s concept of some sort of world of perfect, unchanging forms betrayed his assumption that to be perfect, one would have to be static and unchanging. Therefore, Plato’s god was seen as perfect and unchanging in any way shape or form. But that created a problem: what could account for this ever-changing world of particulars? Plato’s answer was that of the Demiurge—a “supreme soul,” that wasn’t Plato’s god, but who was the one responsible for created this world. According to Plato, it was the Demiurge that formed this crude matter into the imperfect particulars our senses perceive that merely reflect the world of perfect Forms.

Plato’s “god” vs. The God of the Bible
Plato’s concept of reality therefore, stands in stark contrast to the worldview of the Bible. (Or perhaps it would be better to say that it was woefully inadequate, for later Christian philosophers would argue that just as Christ was the fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures, he was also the fulfillment of the partial truths found within the pagan philosophy of men like Plato.) First of all, Plato’s Demiurge should in no way be equated with the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Demiurge is, after all, obviously subordinate and subservient to the Forms—he didn’t create the Forms, but rather created this crude matter that merely reflected the Forms. Therefore, Plato’s Demiurge is not the ultimate creator of all reality.

Secondly, like all Greeks, Plato did not believe that the ultimate Creator of all (i.e. God) was a personal being. After all, a personal being changes, and ultimate reality, for Plato, was found the unchanging world of Forms.

Third, Plato’s worldview was ultimately that of a split reality: the “lesser reality” of the particulars of matter and the senses, and the “ultimate reality” of the universal forms. By contrast, what we find in the Bible is an ultimate Creator who is both all-powerful and perfect on one hand, yet is also immensely personal and intricately involved in this ever-changing world of particulars, matter, and the senses.

Plato’s Influence in Christian Philosophical Thought
Nevertheless, Plato’s philosophy was extremely influential on the first thousand years of Christian philosophical thought, not to mention Christianity as a whole. His theory of forms essentially argued (and many would say, proved) the existence of a deeper, “more real” reality beyond the material world of space and time. Not only that, but his philosophy correctly places human intellect and reason on a level above mere sensory perception. For Plato, what is perceived in this material world can only at best serve as a signpost to the “more real reality” of the world of forms. The things in the material world, in and of themselves, mean nothing unless they can be seen in the light of the forms of which they are shadowy reflections. Since human beings alone have the ability to contemplate and reason, that points to the fact that human beings must have immaterial souls that have the ability to contemplate the immaterial forms. And since we’re talking about forms, we should also mention that for Plato, the source of all the forms, and of being itself, was the form of the good. It was essentially the sun in Plato’s allegory of the cave that shined upon everything and made it known.

WordAll of these Platonic philosophical concepts were interacted with and actually used by later Christian philosophers as they strove to translate the Gospel of the Jewish Messiah in terms that the Greek-influenced Roman culture would understand. We can even see this tendency within the New Testament itself. In the very beginning of John’s gospel, we can see John tweaking the Platonic philosophical concept of the Demiurge with his discussion concerning “the Word” (Logos). For John, “the Word” was not only God, but had also become flesh—the Universal Word became a particular human being. Not too many people realize just what a philosophical nuclear detonator John’s prologue really is. Simply put, the Greek philosophical categories of Plato (as well as Aristotle, whom we will shortly discuss) provided the playing field on which the early Christian writers and philosophers proceeded to dominate the “philosophical game” for the next 1,500 years. As Christians strove to understand the nature of God in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ, they used Plato’s theory of forms to help them discuss the reality of God’s oneness, His unchanging nature, and His ultimate goodness.

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 2): The Philosophy of Classical Greece (479-323 BC): A Very Brief Look at Socrates–Democracy, Tyrants…and the Unexamined Life

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 2): The Philosophy of Classical Greece (479-323 BC): A Very Brief Look at Socrates–Democracy, Tyrants…and the Unexamined Life

Pericles QuoteAround 500 BC, a major political shift occurred in Greece. After the defeat of the Persians, the Greek general Pericles (495-429 BC) led Athens into a golden age. It was this time that Greek democracy was introduced and flourished, if only for a short time. In 404 BC, at the conclusion of the Peloponnesian War, Sparta effectively kicked Athens in the teeth, took over control of the Aegean Sea, and put an end to the great democratic experiment of Athens. In its place, Sparta imposed an authoritarian oligarchy known as the Thirty Tyrants. 80 years later, with the death of Alexander the Great, the period of Classical Greece came to an end.

One of the benefits of Greek democracy is that it allowed the freedom of independent thought in the realms of politics, the arts, and philosophy. After all, democracy entails different people giving their opinions about things concerning the nation, and then working together to come to some sort of compromise and solution. In order for democracy to work, there has to be increased freedoms, so that the populace can voice their views.

That being said, Athenian democracy was not the same kind of democracy we have in America today. In Athenian society, the only people allowed to participate in the actual democratic process were males above 30 years old. Women and non-citizens had no voice in the democracy. Furthermore, because democracy involves more people than just a dictator to decide how the nation is run, it was necessary that many of those male citizens over 30 had to spend most of their time debating politics—and therefore there was in increase in slave labor to do the work the citizens didn’t have time for. All in all, only about 20% of the Greek population were actually citizens who were able to have a say in the government.

Nevertheless, a little bit of freedom and democracy is better than none at all, and it was because of that freedom that there was an explosion in the arts and philosophical thought. It was during this time of classical Greece that the great Greek playwrights Sophocles and Euripides wrote their plays; and it was during this time (albeit during the time of the Thirty Tyrants) that the great Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle made their mark.

Socrates (469-399 BC)
Socrates lived his entire life during the time of Athenian democracy…well, almost. Given his habit of questioning authority, it should come as no surprise that it was a mere five years after the end of Athenian democracy and the imposition of the Thirty Tyrants that Socrates was arrested and put on trial. The charge? Refusing to acknowledge the gods of Athens, and leading the Greek youth to question authority.

Probably the real reason why Socrates was put on trial, though, had something to do with his argument regarding justice. Socrates taught that “justice” could not simply be whatever those in power said it was, so that the so-called “justice-system” would be nothing more than a manipulative tool to serve the interests of the powerful. Instead, he argued that there must be a real standard of “justice” that could be used to evaluate the actions of all men, the poor and powerful alike.

Death of Socrates JacquesLouisDavidSuch teaching probably didn’t sit too well with the newly established Thirty Tyrants who sought to impose their will by force. If there’s one thing a tyrant cannot stand, it is the claim that he is accountable to a very real standard of justice and morality. Not surprisingly, Socrates was found guilty, and his punishment was death. He was forced to drink hemlock, and subsequently died in 399 BC.

Belief that some sort of moral standard for justice exists, and the determination to use one’s intellect and reasoning powers to question things in order to come to a better understanding of the truth of reality—that is what got Socrates killed. Moral standards that hold everyone accountable and a rational desire for the truth are not things that are valued by corrupt and authoritarian tyrants. Nevertheless, even when faced with the threat of death at the hands of such tyrants, Socrates still held to his conviction that, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Whether it was through questioning and dialoguing with others (something called “dialectic”), or taking a cold, hard look within, and daring to “know yourself” (i.e. introspection), the quest for understanding the truth regarding the nature of reality is something deeply rooted within the very nature of human beings. There is something within us that simply is wired to search for the truth. Unfortunately, at the same time, we see a different dynamic at work as well: those who have abandoned the search for truth are often those who lust only for power—and they will do everything within their power to deny others the opportunity to discover the truth.

Ken Ham’s Accusation that Peter Enns is a Heretic: An Ironic Condemnation of Himself

Ken Ham’s Accusation that Peter Enns is a Heretic: An Ironic Condemnation of Himself

Yesterday, I wrote about the response Troy Lacey of AiG gave to the question, “Can someone promote heresy and yet not be a heretic?” This question had been asked because someone was confused by Ken Ham’s criticism of Peter Enns, where he accused Enns of spouting heresy, but then turned around and said, “I’m not calling him a heretic.” Lacey never bothered even defining what “heresy” actually was, and instead responded by basically lifting three biblical passages from their context and falsely claiming they were about heresy. His conclusion was, “Yes, one can spout heresy but not be a heretic…look at Peter, look at Apollos, look at the people Elijah complained about.”

My conclusion about Lacey’s response was simple: it was irresponsible and careless.

Peter Enns Continues to Promote Heresy!
In this post, though, I want to take a look at the April 20, 2013 post by Ken Ham about Peter Enns that originally initiated the question about heresy. The title leaves little to the imagination: “Enns Continues to Promote Heresy—Sponsored by Baptist Church.” And in the very first paragraph, Ham pulls no punches:

“Theologian Peter Enns rejects a literal Adam and literal Eve and a literal Fall. Thus he has destroyed the foundation of the gospel. Peter Enns also does not believe the book of Romans deals with the gospel or that God through Paul refers to a literal Adam back in Genesis.”

Origen-vs-Ken-HamNow, the first sentence is actually correct: Enns doesn’t believe in a literal Adam and Eve, and therefore he doesn’t believe that a literal Adam and Eve ate a literal piece of fruit and literally “fell” from a state of perfection. I, for one, am in agreement with Enns on this point…and so are a number of early Church Fathers like Origen and Irenaeus to name just two.

Therefore, when Ham concludes that therefore Enns “has destroyed the foundation of the gospel,” this becomes quite problematic—how can Enns be destroying the foundation of the gospel when the historical witness of the early Church demonstrates that not only did the early Church not teach that belief in a literal Adam and Eve was “the foundation of the gospel,” but that many of them didn’t believe in a literal Adam and Eve and “fall from perfection” themselves?

Secondly, it is beyond shocking that Ham would accuse Enns of not believing the book of Romans deals with the gospel. It is one of those statements that simply defies logic. Of course Romans deals with the gospel; of course Enns believes Romans deals with the gospel. He just doesn’t believe Paul is making a historical argument that Adam was a literal person. Enns argues that whether or not Paul believed that Adam was a literal person of history is pretty much irrelevant to the theological point he was making in Romans 5. Somehow, though, Ham interprets this to mean Enns doesn’t believe Romans is about the gospel. Again, that simply makes no sense.

In any case, this condemnation at the beginning of Ham’s post stemmed from the clear fact that Ham was infuriated that he got banned from a homeschool convention because he had publicly attacked and condemned Enns, who was at the same homeschool convention, promoting his own curriculum. That homeschool convention dropped Ham, but retained Enns. What is a guy like Ham to do? The answer is easy: write equally nasty blog posts and ramp up his attacks on Peter Enns…

…and anyone who associates with Peter Enns.

Beware of Scholarship! It Undermines God’s Word!
In the case of Ham’s post, that “anyone” was Pastor Rodney Kennedy of First Baptist Church in Dayton, Ohio. Kennedy’s church was hosting a convention, and Enns was the keynote speaker. Kennedy had said the conference was aimed at offering other explanations than six-day creationism. He clearly stated that science has shown the universe is 14 billion years old, and that the Bible did not refute the big bang theory. He wanted to strengthen the faith of believers by showing them that there were alternatives to young earth creationism.

After pointing out that he had found the following statement on the church’s website, “We study the Bible along with the gift of critical scholarship through the ages. Literalist interpretations are left to others,” Ham wrote, “So its not surprising at all this church is sponsoring this conference that undermines the authority of God’s Word and the gospel.”

C.S. LewisIf that is not a blatant rejection of education and scholarship, I don’t know what is. With that one statement, Ken Ham makes it clear that he opposes informed scholarship of the Bible and that he equates informed scholarship with undermining that authority of God’s Word and the gospel. This rejection of scholarship reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity: “God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you, you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all.”

One of the things that has always enamored me to Christianity, beginning with the first time I read Mere Christianity in high school, was not only how intellectually challenging it was, but also how fearless it was. I didn’t have to fear challenging myself intellectually; I didn’t have to fear reading about other religions; I didn’t have to fear asking tough questions, because I could take Jesus Christ at his word, “If you seek me, you will find me.”

Yet, sadly, when it comes to the likes of Ken Ham, all I see is distrust of education and critical scholarship and fear…of everything.

And No Ham Post Would Be Complete Without “It’s Not a Salvation Issue, but…”
In any case, Ham then insists that a historical reading of Genesis 1-11 isn’t a salvation issue, but it is a gospel issue. As I’ve said before in other posts, this is just pure double-speak, for the gospel is about salvation. Instead of dwelling on this, though, Ham makes the odd claim that if evolution were true, then that would be blaming God for death and evil (i.e. animal and plant death would have been happening before human beings existed), instead of blaming our sin on Adam.

Responding to this could take a book, but let me just offer these two observations. First, let’s get even more “biblically literal” than Ham, and let’s note that the Bible does not say that animal and plant death are the result of Adam’s sin. Read through Genesis 2-3—it’s just not there. It says (A) Adam will die because of his sin, (B) his toil of the ground would be frustrated by thorns and thistles. Therefore, to be clear, the Bible doesn’t say thorns and thistles came into existence because of Adam’s sin.

Second, I can’t help but notice Ham thinks it’s legitimate to blame his own sin on a figure in the past. In a sense, he’s doing the very thing Adam in Genesis 3 is doing—blaming someone else for his own sin. The point of Genesis 3 isn’t to give us someone to blame our own sin on; the point is to declare that we are Adam and Eve. The story of Genesis 3 is the story of each one of us—that’s what we do, and that’s why we need salvation.

Simply put, Genesis 3 highlights human beings’ natural state and the obvious fact that we sin. So yes, understanding Genesis 3 is important to salvation, in that it lays out and explains the human condition, and it also emphasizes God’s commitment to redeem and work through human beings (who are made in His image) to ultimately defeat death and transform His creation.

It simply isn’t giving historical information.

And speaking of “historical,” then there is “Historical Science”
And then there is Ham’s obsession with “historical science.” He takes issue with Peter Enns comment in an article that he wondered if Ham “made up” the term “historical science.” Ham was clearly upset by this, and went out of his way to say that “even Enns’ friends at the compromising BioLogos organization” acknowledges “historical science,” even posting a link to a BioLogos article on it (we’ll just leave Ham’s snarky “compromising” accusation alone).

Surprisingly to me, yes, there was an article by Deborah Haarsma in which she discussed “historical science.” What should not be surprising, though, is that her definition of “historical science” (i.e. we can come to a fuller understanding of the past of the natural world by projecting back the constant natural laws we observe today), bore little to no resemblance to Ham’s definition of “historical science” (i.e. beliefs about the past that cannot be tested, repeated, or observed, and therefore need to be taken on faith, based on the assumption that Genesis 1-11 is God’s eyewitness testimony about how He created everything 6,000 years ago).

So sure, one could say Enns was careless a bit in his comment about never having heard the term “historical science” before, but at the same time, one has to concur with Enns on this point: when it comes to Ham’s definition of “historical science,” yes, he pretty much made it up.

Ham’s Conclusion
The title of Ham’s post claimed that Enns was promoting heresy. In his conclusion, Ham comes back to that charge, and states,

“Enns’s treatment of Scripture related to biblical creation is appalling—in fact, it is heretical. Once you reject a literal Fall of man, then your teaching is heretical. Now, let me be clear: I am not calling Dr. Enns a heretic. But he has a very low view of the Word of God and some of his beliefs are certainly not a part of orthodox Christianity and thus are heresy.”

Adam and EveSo to be clear, according to Ken Ham it is “heretical” to reject a literal “fall of man” (which he means belief that there were two historical people who had a perfect genome, but who “fell” from that state of biological and spiritual “perfection” when they ate a literal piece of fruit). To reject that belief is (A) to have a very low view of the Word of God, and (B) to not be a part of orthodox Christianity.

Ham is simply wrong on both counts. First, the witness of the early Church clearly shows Ham’s view of Genesis 3 wasn’t the view of early Church. They didn’t view Adam and Eve as “perfect,” and they certainly had no concept of a “perfect genome.” They viewed Adam and Eve as naïve and childlike. Therefore, it is hard to believe that the early Church, the people who preserved and eventually formed the biblical canon of Scripture, somehow “had a very low view of God’s Word,” simply because they didn’t have the view of Genesis 3 that Ken Ham does today.

Secondly, and this flows from the previous point, since this was that testimony of the early Church, it is blatantly obvious that belief in a “perfect” couple and a literal “fall from perfection” wasn’t the traditional, orthodox Christian belief concerning Genesis 3. Thus, Enns’ view of Genesis 3 is actually more in line with the early Church and traditional Christianity than Ham’s view.

And thus, in a stunning instance of irony, Ham’s attempt to accuse Enns of heresy by appealing to the history of traditional, orthodox Christianity actually proves Ken Ham himself to “not be a part of orthodox Christianity.”

There is one more article that further illustrates AiG’s obsession with Peter Enns and their misuse of the term “heresy,” but that must wait for another day.

 

Answers in Genesis Can Use “Heresy” as Well…or more properly speaking, they MISuse the term “heresy”

Answers in Genesis Can Use “Heresy” as Well…or more properly speaking, they MISuse the term “heresy”

HHEarlier this month, I came out with my book, The Heresy of Ham, in which I take a long, hard look at young earth creationism against the backdrop of, not only science, but more importantly, Church History and Biblical Exegesis. I argue that merely thinking the earth is only 6,000 years old, or merely thinking that Genesis 1-11 is straightforward history, or merely not believing the theory of evolution—none of that is “heresy.” What is heresy, though, is insisting that belief that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that Adam and Eve were two historical people is foundational to the gospel. I further argue that this is precisely what organizations like Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis does.

That being said, though, I make it clear that I realize that “heresy” can be a loaded and inflammatory term. Therefore, I spend a considerable amount of time early in the book, looking at what “heresy” actually means in light of Church history, and explaining precisely what I mean by “heresy.” Because the term “heresy” can be such a loaded word, the responsible thing to do is to be very careful with it, and use it in a very specific manner. One cannot be careless with the term “heresy.”

…except, of course, if you are Answers in Genesis.

Down the Heretical Rabbit-Hole
A few days ago, I was thumbing through my Twitterfeed, and came across an AiG tweet of an article from three years ago entitled, “Can Christians Promote Heresy?” Since I have just published The Heresy of Ham, I thought it would be interesting to see how AiG used the term “heresy.” Well, that short article referenced another blog post from April 20, 2013 that Ken Ham had written about Peter Enns, entitled, “Enns Continues to Promote Heresy—Sponsored by a Baptist Church.” And that blog post referenced another post from January 31, 2012 entitled, “What Jesus Wrong? Peter Enns Says, ‘Yes.’

I had wanted to just look at one article, but I found myself ushered into a web of articles, all accusing Peter Enns of heresy. It turns out that about five years ago, Ken Ham was effectively dropped from a home school convention because during a previous convention he had publicly attacked Peter Enns, who was also at the convention, promoting his own home school Bible curriculum. The organizers felt that Ham had been extremely hostile in his remarks about Peter Enns. The result, as I found out reading these articles and blog posts, was a litany of Ken Ham’s doubling-down on his comments.

To be honest, even though I have done a whole lot of reading and writing about Ken Ham over the past year, reading these articles and blog posts still was rather jarring. I knew AiG didn’t like Peter Enns (I wrote a number of posts on their treatment of his book, The Bible Tells Me So), and I vaguely knew about Ken Ham being dropped from a home school convention a few years ago, but I never really bothered to find out what exactly happened. I didn’t know it was over Ken Ham condemning and calling Peter Enns…you guessed it, a heretic.

In any case, the articles and blog posts were rather fascinating, rather predictable for AiG, and rather disturbing for one main reason: AiG is as careless with the term “heresy” as it is with the facts of Church history and the Bible itself. After reading these articles and blog posts, it is obvious why so many Christians are so apprehensive about using the term “heresy”—people like Ken Ham are extremely irresponsible in their misuse of the term, and they wield it like a club to bludgeon their perceived enemies.

You can read the articles for yourself, but for our purposes here, let’s look at how AiG demonstrates how not to use the term heresy.

Can Christians Promote Heresy?
The article that piqued my interest was by Troy Lacey, and it was entitled, “Can Christians Promote Heresy?” It was a response to a question someone had sent to AiG about Ken Ham’s April 20, 2013 blog about Peter Enns. The question was straight forward. The questioner noticed that Ham accused Enns of promoting heresy, but then turned around and said he wasn’t calling Enns a heretic. Therefore, the simple question, “How can you promote heresy without being a heretic?”

Clearly, the questioner was confused by Ken Ham’s double-speak and wanted clarification. The answer Troy Lacey gave astonished me as a biblical scholar. It highlighted the highly irresponsible way in which AiG goes about using the Bible.

Peter and Paul: Galatians 2:11-18
PeterPaulLacey’s basic answer was, “Yes, one can spout and promote heresy without being a heretic.” In order to back up this claim, Lacey pointed to the Bible, specifically to Galatians 2:11-18, where Paul talks about how he confronted Peter over the fact that Peter did eat with Gentiles when Jews from Jerusalem came to visit Antioch. Lacey wrote, “Did not Paul condemn Peter (and Barnabas) of hypocrisy and teaching by example a works-based salvation, which was a form of heresy? Yet they obviously were not heretics but Christians—and Peter was appointed as an apostle.”

What’s the problem, you may ask? Everything. First, Lacey, completely misunderstands and misrepresents what the situation with Peter and Paul was. Yes, Paul confronted Peter over his hypocrisy, but he didn’t accuse Peter of heresy. Peter’s problem was that although he knew God had accepted Gentiles who put their faith in Jesus, he chose not to eat with them when certain Jews from Jerusalem showed up in Antioch, thereby confusing the Gentile believers and, simply put, probably hurt their feelings. Peter was being kind of a hypocritical, insensitive jerk to the Gentile believers, but he wasn’t “teaching a works-based salvation.”

To be clear, being a hypocrite in that situation is not heresy.

Apollos: Acts 18:24-26
Lacey then pointed to Acts 18:24-26, to the situation with Apollos, a Jew who had known only the baptism of John, and who was told about Jesus by Aquila and Priscilla. Lacey stated:

“And what about Apollos? Doesn’t Scripture also exhibit him as an example of incomplete teaching through ignorance? Although he knew Scripture and taught it, he did not have a full knowledge of Christ. Paul taught in Galatians 1:7–9 that any other gospel except the one true gospel was false and not to be received. In effect, due to ignorance, Apollos was not teaching the whole truth and counsel of God, which again could be viewed as heresy.”

Again, “incomplete teaching through ignorance” is not heresy. The situation with Apollos had nothing to do with heresy, but Lacey doesn’t care. It’s in the Bible, he can use it to serve his purposes, therefore it’s fair game.

Elijah: I Kings 19:13-19
ElijahLacey then gave a third “biblical” example, that of I Kings 19:13-19, where Elijah had gone off to Sinai and complained to God Jezebel had killed all His prophets, and that there was no one left in Israel to worshipped YHWH…but Lacey puts it slightly differently: “Elijah did this by claiming that everyone except himself was a heretic, but God corrected Elijah and told him that there were still many loyal believers to Him.”

Let’s be clear, Elijah was upset because most of the people in the northern kingdom of Israel had become worshippers of Baal. And it’s true, YHWH assured him that there were still 7,000 left in Israel who were faithful to Him. But…worshipping Baal is not heresy; it is worshipping a false god. Lacey falsely portrays worshipping Baal as, I would have to guess, an “Israelite heresy”?  That is nonsensical. That would be like calling Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Greek mythology a “Christian heresy.” They’re not heresies—they are different religions that worship different gods.

But again, Lacey either doesn’t care, or he’s just too lazy to take the time to understand and define what heresy actually is. As Alister McGrath states in his book, Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth, heresy should be understood as “as a form of Christian belief that, more by accident than design, ultimately ends up subverting, destabilizing or even destroying the core of the Christian faith.”

If you are going to use the term “heresy,” you should take the time to use it correctly, precisely because it has been so misused in the past, and is therefore a potentially toxic term. But as I’ve come to realize about AiG is that they are extremely irresponsible in virtually every area of science, Church history, and biblical exegesis. That sort of irresponsible behavior has, as McGrath as defined heresy, ended up subverting, destabilizing, and destroying the core of the Christian faith.

Conclusion
At the end of his article, after completely twisting three different Bible passages, Lacey then brings things back around to Peter Enns, and says,

“Regarding Peter Enns, God alone knows his heart; we can only condemn his teachings as false like Paul did with Peter. We hope the Lord will correct his errors and lead him to repentance, and then that Dr. Enns will hold fast to God’s Word and teach it accurately. We rebuke his teachings out of love and hope for those rebukes to be instructive.”

In typical fashion, we find the AiG’s trademark passive-aggressive condemnation: “We’re not saying he’s a heretic, we’re not saying he’s not a Christian, only God knows; we’re just rebuking his teachings out of love…he needs to repent!” And then, Lacey invokes Proverbs 13:18, 15:32, and 27:6, all which basically say that people like Enns need to heed their rebuke.

So, not only did Lacey not define what heresy actually is, he lifted three different passages from Scripture, none of which had anything to do with the actual concept of heresy, then twisted them and claimed they actually were about heresy, and then accused Enns of being a heretic

…but no, he’s not necessarily a heretic; only God knows his heart; but he’s teaching heresy and needs to repent, because he doesn’t agree with us.

An article like this is why I think Answers in Genesis and YEC is so dangerous. It’s not that they are misrepresenting and actually denying actual science (although they certainly do); it’s that they are actively involved in twisting Scripture—this is not just a matter of opinion; this is actual fact. Galatians 2, Acts 18, and I Kings 19 have nothing to do with heresy, and to present them as dealing with heresy is absolutely a twisting of those passages.

And I haven’t even gotten to what Ken Ham said in his own posts. That will have to wait for another day.

 

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 1): Ancient Greece–Frolicking with the gods on the shores of the Aegean Sea

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 1): Ancient Greece–Frolicking with the gods on the shores of the Aegean Sea

We are going to begin our semester-long journey through Western culture in ancient Greece. We all know the names of philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, but my guess is that beyond name recognition, not too many people know much about what these men actually taught. And far less probably are familiar with the other philosophers of the time who also are quite important.

An Overview
Fortunately, since I am not by any stretch of the imagination an expert in ancient Greek philosophy, our overview will be fairly basic, and hopefully, easy to read and understand. So let’s start with somewhat of an overview of the period. In the Greco-Roman Age, there was a mixture of religion, politics, and philosophy that was clearly reflected throughout the culture.

  • Politically in Greece, the democracy experiment under Pericles (495-429 BC) soon gave way to the 30 Tyrants and eventually Alexander the Great. Later, in Rome, the collapse of the republic gave way to the Roman Emperor. There was always a tension between democracy and dictatorship, with the dictatorship eventually winning the day.
  • Philosophically, the issues centered on what is real: universals or particulars. This philosophical question impacts the very question, “What is man, and what is his relationship to the natural world and to the gods?”
  • Religiously, there were various cults and formal political rites to appease the gods.

At the end of this time came the rise of Christianity, which obviously rearranged the furniture, so to speak:

  • Politically, it proclaimed Jesus to be both Christ and Lord. This threatened Roman society, both its god and Caesar himself. The Christians proclaimed equality under the Lordship of Christ.
  • Philosophically, the early Church Fathers used Greek Philosophy to explain the significance of Christ: the resurrection, the Spirit, the Church. The question, “What is real?” was answered with “That which is in Christ, so that God can be all in all.” In short, Christianity preached that the universals had been revealed in the particulars, so as to open the door to where particulars can be taken up into the life of the universals.
  • Religiously, Christianity re-worked Jewish models from the Temple for worship.

AcropolisNow, the roots of Western civilization can easily be traced back to ancient Greece. Although, as it will be seen, the Roman Empire, Second Temple Judaism, and Christianity all put their respective stamps on Western civilization, ancient Greece was where Western civilization effectively began. From its architecture and literature to its philosophy and its concept of democracy, ancient Greece’s impact on modern Western culture still affects us today.

It shouldn’t surprise us to see that within ancient Greece there was an all too familiar mixture of religion, politics, and philosophy. Right along with the worship of the Homeric gods of Greece, there was the thriving philosophical schools of thought inspired by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle that often ridiculed the very idea of the gods of Mount Olympus. While some Greek philosophers went so far as to deny the existence of the gods altogether, most seemed to hold on to a conviction of some sort of Prime Mover, or Divine Logos, who was ultimately behind creation and human existence. What is further interesting to note is that this curious interplay between belief in the gods and classical philosophy took place within a culture experienced both democracy and tyranny. Just like today, the worlds of religion, philosophy, and politics were not separate worlds at all: they were the main influencers within an ever-evolving ancient culture.

But before we get too ahead of ourselves, perhaps we should first survey the historical landscape of ancient Greece so that we can get our bearings and understand how and why so much in ancient Greece still impacts us even today. To get our minds around the contributions of ancient Greece, we first need to divide it up into three general time periods.

Archaic Greece: Of gods and goddesses (800-500 BC)
HomerThis was the time period that was heavily influenced by the writings of Homer, namely The Iliad and The Odyssey. No one knows for certain when Homer lived and wrote his epics, but most agree it was sometime between 1200-800 BC. Homer’s impact wasn’t that he just wrote some famous stories. His two major works essentially defined Greek identity and culture. The story of the Trojan War and the story of Odysseus weren’t just stories about some war, or about some general trying to get home; The Iliad and The Odyssey was the story of the Greek people: constantly fighting against the unpredictable, petty, and violent gods as they strove to live out their lives.

Given that, a few things need to be said about what Greek mythology really was saying about the gods, mankind, and the general purpose of life. The Greek (and later Roman) gods were what Francis Schaeffer called nothing more than amplified humanity. Basically, that meant the gods were just as petty, vicious, lustful, jealous, back-stabbing, hateful, and pretentious as human beings could be, but with one essential difference: they had super powers!

What this all meant was the gods were extremely dangerous if you ticked them off. But this led to another problem. Let’s say you had to kiss up to Poseidon because you had to go on an upcoming sea voyage, but at that time Poseidon was having a spat with Zeus—well then, if Zeus saw you making a sacrifice to Poseidon, he might get jealous and then do his best to make your life as miserable as possible while you were at sea. This dynamic can be seen in both of Homer’s works, The Iliad (about the Trojan War), and The Odyssey (about Odysseus’ struggle to return home after the Trojan War).

Greek GodsNeedless to say, the Greeks were terrified of the gods. Even if they felt that they had successfully pleased one god or goddess, they could never be too sure if they had not angered another god or goddess. Imagine living in an extremely dysfunctional family in which incest, rape, beatings, manipulation, and jealousy was the norm…and oh, all the adults had guns, locked and loaded! “Dangerous” and “fearful” don’t even begin to describe that kind of reality.

Such was essentially the Greek worldview at that time. For that matter, that was the basic worldview of most ancient cultures. Life was dangerous and chaotic, and the gods of the ancient world reflected that dangerous and chaotic reality. Mankind was at the mercy of the gods, and the gods were certainly not loving, honorable, and good. They were dangerous and powerful, like a mafia boss, and they had to be paid off if you wanted to survive in their world.

The Rise of Greek Philosophy: The Dilemma of Universals vs. Particulars
While the masses were thoroughly pagan in their fear and enslavement to the gods, a revolutionary movement took place in Greece around 600 BC: the rise of Greek philosophy. “Philosophy” means “the love of wisdom,” and what we saw at this point in ancient Greece was the one of the first attempts in history to use human intellect and reason to truly understand reality as it really was. It is interesting to note that the rise of the philosophers in Greece almost coincided perfectly with the emergence of Buddha, Zoroaster, the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, and the Jewish Exile into Babylon, during which time much of the Old Testament was written down, collected, and organized.

Although many, if not most, of the Greek philosophers still believed in some sort of deity or deities, the chief characteristic of Greek philosophy was a reliance on, and belief in, the supremacy of human reason. It was rational autonomy, and not any placating of warring gods, that was the key to “the good life.” As Andrew Hoffecker in Revolutions in Worldview states, to the Greek philosophers, “…reason, not the fear of the Lord, was the beginning of wisdom; reason itself became something of a god—though they did not describe it as such—an object of ultimate allegiance, and the ultimate standard of truth and falsity, of right and wrong” (6).

The goal of the Greek philosophers was obviously to come to a rational understanding regarding the nature of reality. Very quickly, though, a fundamental problem became apparent: the relationship and difference between the inherent oneness of reality and the ever-changing aspect of reality. To put it more simply, “How does one account for the seemingly irreconcilable realities of change and permanence, and which one is the more fundamental basis of reality?” This philosophical question that began with the Greeks and has been at the core of all philosophical arguments ever since is the question regarding the relationship between universals and particulars.

In the years leading up to what is known as Classical Greece, the philosophical arguments concerning the question of change vs. permanence, can be crystallized by a reference to four early philosophers. Concerning the question as to whether there was either a material or immaterial basis to all reality, Thales of Miletus (6th Century BC), by stating that the underlying principle of all reality was water, clearly thought that the basis of all reality lied in material things. Water is a material substance, and it is in a constant state of movement and flux—hence, so too is all reality.

At the opposite end of the spectrum was Pythagoras (572-497 BC), who argued that it was numbers that were the underlying principle of all reality, and thus emphasized the unchanging, immaterial basis to reality. Say what you want, but numbers do not change—four bases on a baseball diamond will always be four bases; furthermore, numbers are not material substances. Hence, the basis for all reality lay in that which is immaterial and unchanging.

Related to these two philosophers were Heraclitus (535-475 BC) and Parmenides (515-450 BC). Heraclitus (much like Thales of Miletus) declared that permanence was an illusion. His famous saying of “You can never step in the same river twice,” emphasized that change was the universal feature of reality. Parmenides (much like Pythagoras) declared that it was rather change and diversity that was the illusion. What our senses perceive simply cannot be trusted.

These types of questions might seem somewhat pointless to some, but when you think about it, such questions open the door to contemplating what is really real—what is “reality” after all? Our senses perceive that we live in a universe that is undergoing constant change—this much is true. There’s no denying it, unless, of course, you are going to discount the very senses that allow us to perceive the universe in the first place. On the other hand, though, our minds have the ability to intellectually grasp unchanging realities as well. Numbers are always numbers, for example.

So what is the basis for understanding fundamental reality? Is it ultimately immaterial or material? Is there a unified oneness to reality, or does the truth about reality lie in diversity and constant change? With this philosophical conundrum briefly articulated, in my next post we will turn our attention to the age of Classical Greece, and to the rise of the great philosophers: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

That’s the Ways of the Worldviews (A Book that Will Be Blog Posts This Year!)

That’s the Ways of the Worldviews (A Book that Will Be Blog Posts This Year!)

Back in the Fall of 2007, I started teaching Biblical Worldview at a small Evangelical Christian high school in Alabama. The headmaster essentially gave me free rein to develop an entire four-year Worldview curriculum from scratch—and I did just that. I created an Old Testament Worldview class for the 9th grade (i.e. basically OT Introduction), a New Testament Worldview class for the 10th grade (i.e. basically NT Introduction), a Church History and Theology class for the 11th grade, and a class I titled Worldviews and World Religions for the 12th grade—the first semester being an overview of Western culture, civilization, and philosophy.

003345Since my background was in Biblical Studies, the 9th and 10th grade classes weren’t that hard to put together. But when it came to things like Church History and Philosophy, let’s just say I had to do a lot of personal study and reading in those areas. In any case, in regards to my 12th grade class, I had to start somewhere, so I decided to use Francis Schaeffer’s book, How Shall We Then Live? I remembered reading it on my own early in college—it basically gives an overview of how Western culture and philosophy has developed ever since ancient Rome. I figured that would be a good “introduction” to Western culture and philosophy to high school seniors.

I ended up using that book for my eight years at the school, but with each passing year, the more I read and studied Western culture and philosophy on my own, the more and more I tended to disagree with many of Schaeffer’s views and claims. I found it somewhat simplistic in a number of areas. Since Schaeffer was such a devotee of Reformation Calvinism, his book gives (a) a very passing glance at early Church Christianity, (b) virtually no consideration to the rich legacy of Orthodox/Byzantine Christianity, and (c) an overly-negative view of Medieval Christianity, while (d) spending way too much time glorifying the Reformation, and virtually ignoring some of the key tragic consequences of the Reformation.

And so, year after year, I started providing supplements to Schaeffer’s book. My goal was eventually to write a high school-friendly introduction to Western culture and philosophy, and possibly get it published one day. As things turned out, I am no longer teaching high school, and am now teaching Old Testament at the college level. Although I learned a tremendous amount about Western culture during my years teaching that class, and although I even was able to bang out a very rough draft of the book I wanted to write, I highly doubt I will ever get around to ever finishing that book idea.

Nevertheless, I DID do all that writing, and I really do find that topic quite fascinating! I have decided, therefore, over the course of this next semester, to occasionally post various excerpts from my rough draft. Hopefully, I will be fortunate to get feedback from anyone who reads the posts.

History and Story-Telling
So allow me to just start off in this initial post with a few thoughts on the very idea of “history.” Let’s be clear on one thing: there is no such thing as “objective history.” All history is, in a sense, an exercise in storytelling. When you think about it, this should not be surprising. After all, anytime someone writes a book about some historical event or time period, that person is essentially trying to make a point about that event or time period. And since that author cannot possibly include every fact and every detail about a historical event or time period, he must choose what facts and episodes of that event or time period he will include in his book. So he selects and chooses the details, he arranges them in a certain way, and he attempts to convince the reader that his particular take on that event or time period is convincing, more true, or makes better sense than other attempts to explain that event or time period.

In effect, he is attempting to make his story about that particular historical event the most convincing way in which that historical event is understood. He hopes that his story is accepted above all other stories regarding a particular historical event, that his interpretation is more convincing than all others. But at the same time, since things in the past either really did or didn’t happen, some histories that are written are much more illuminating and truthful than others. Just because I say there is no such thing as objective history, doesn’t mean I am saying that “everything is relative” or that “there is no such thing as truth.” All I am saying is that anytime anyone writes anything about a history event, that person is going to have a limited perspective. Therefore, that person (hopefully) will do the best he can to articulate his perspective on that historical event, and (hopefully) that attempt will bring the past into clearer perspective for the reader.

And so, I am going to tell a story. In this story I am going to try to give my take on the major historical, theological, philosophical, political, and cultural events and time periods in Western history over the past 2,500 years. I want the reader to be able to say, at the end of this book, “This is where Western culture has come from, these are the major events and people that have shaped Western culture, these are the things that have gotten us to where we are today as a culture, and these are the issues of the 21st Century that Christians will have to wrestle with and address if they are to continue to be the prophetic voice that Christ has called them to be.”

The False Enlightenment (and Evangelical) Worldviews
EnlightenmentNow, for the past 200 years increasingly secular Enlightenment thinkers have successfully controlled the narrative of the history of Western society. Their narrative of history, though, has been far from honest. In fact, it has been purposely misleading and deceptive. The basic narrative goes something like this (I’m sure you’re familiar with it):

The ancient pagan society of classical Greece and Rome was a golden age of learning, philosophy, innovation and the arts. Yet when Constantine became the emperor of the Roman Empire in 325 AD, he cunningly seized upon the minority religion of Christianity and used it as the vehicle to destroy his opponents, crush all other largely pastoral and tolerant pagan faiths, and unite the empire under his iron grip. Christianity thus became the oppressive, irrational, superstitious, intolerant religion that destroyed the glorious ancient pagan societies of Greece and Rome, and ushered in over 1,000 years of intellectual, scientific, philosophical darkness over medieval Europe.

It wasn’t until the Renaissance when, aided by the rediscovery of those ancient classical authors of Greece, that the oppressive grip of the Church over Europe began to loosen. And then, with the coming of the Enlightenment, the dark stranglehold of the Church was broken, and a new era of progress, liberty, rationality, and science began to dawn across Europe. Yet, Christianity, being that hateful intolerant beast, continued to fight the emerging enlightened society that brought about secularism, logic, and science, and we are still witnessing the ongoing warfare between science and religion in issues like “creation vs. evolution.” “Religion,” we are told, is just part of human evolution, and that we are witnessing human society evolving away from religion, for it no longer holds any benefit to the human condition.

Does that sound familiar? Well, virtually everything in that narrative is wrong. Critical thinking people would rightly be wary of such a simplistic and over-generalized depiction of the past 2,500 years of Western history and civilization. I could probably write an equally over-simplistic worldview that has come to dominate modern American Evangelicalism: (A) Early Church = Good; (B) Roman Catholicism = Bad; (C) America was originally a Christian nation; (D) then the Supreme Court took prayer out of public schools, and the next thing you know, we have abortion and evolution, and Barack Obama! (Yes, I know, that is entirely over-simplistic, but that’s the point).

In reality, history is never simple, and is always complex. History is not a static, easily deciphered and clear progression from one point to another. There is an ebb and flow to history, a give and take, where one event is the culmination of countless smaller, seemingly unrelated and unforeseen events; and that event, in turn, spawns countless reactions and unintended consequences. Consequently, trying to understand how we got to where we currently are in our society is really, really hard and really, really time consuming. The posts I will share over these next few months are simply my attempts to understand these very things.

What to Look for…
The basic eras I will focus on are the following:

  1. The Greco-Roman World (500 BC-325 AD): This will focus on Greek Philosophy, Roman Culture, and the early Church within Roman culture
  2. The Byzantine Age (325-1054 AD): This will focus on the era during with Eastern Orthodoxy was prominent.
  3. The High Catholic Age (1054-1500 AD): This will focus on the rise of Catholic Church, from the time of the Great Schism, through the Crusades, and up to the Reformation.
  4. The Age of Revolution and Reform (1500-1800 AD): This will focus on the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Counter-Reformation, what I call the “Secular Revolution,” along with the Scientific Revolution.
  5. The Modern Age (1800-1900 AD): The rise of modern philosophy, the industrial revolution, evolution, and liberal theology.
  6. The Age of Fragmentation and Fundamentalism (1900-Present Day): Just think of what happened in the 20th century—there will be a lot to address.

That’s quite a lot to cover, but hopefully I’ll be able to put a lot of it into perspective. I’ll continue to write on other topics as well, from Young Earth Creationism to Biblical Studies. But I’m going to make a concerted effort to present my reflections on Western culture over the next semester.

The Heresy of Ham Has Arrived…at the Ark Encounter!

The Heresy of Ham Has Arrived…at the Ark Encounter!

It has been ten days since I last posted anything. It’s that time of year, getting the kid ready for school, etc., where some things get put on the back burner. In any case, I have a little bit of time tonight to share a short post.

HH at the AEJust the other day, a friend who had purchased my book, The Heresy of Ham, had also made the trek to Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter, and was kind enough to send me quite a picture: my book had arrived! Needless to say, I am simply going to have to put that picture in a frame. If anyone else happens to visit the Ark Encounter, I would love it if you sent me a similar picture as well!

At this point, though, what else really can be said about Ken Ham’s Ark, or highly dubious claims of young earth creationism regarding science, Church history, and the Bible? Over this past year, I’ve written over 80 posts on Ken Ham and young earth creationism, I’ve now written a book about it…what else can be said?

Well, for this post, I thought I’d elaborate on something that I briefly mentioned in one of my posts about my visit to the Ark Encounter: let’s revisit Ham’s speculation about Noah’s waste removal system that he developed for the ark.

If you visit the Ark Encounter, you’ll see a lot of “explanatory notes” next to many of the exhibits, describing what things “could have” been like, or how Noah “might have” done this or that, or what “probably” was the case. In other words, to support his claim that there really was a giant ark built by a man 4,000 years ago that housed thousands of animals, including dinosaurs, for about a year, Ken Ham resorts to imaginative speculation and, well, fiction.

  • How did Noah know how to build a giant boat? He obviously went to Shipwright School in the pre-flood world.
  • How could he alone have built such an Ark? He didn’t—he hired pagan workers.
  • And getting down to some practical matters, how was Noah, his wife, his three sons and three daughters-in-law able to deal with all that animal excrement for about year? Simple, Noah’s son Ham designed an ingenious waste-removal system for the Ark. And, as you can see, it is apparently elephant-powered.

All of that is admittedly highly imaginative, but let’s cut to the chase—none of it is actually biblical.

The History of…the Methane Digester?
To be clear, Ham’s ingenious waste removal system was not drawn up 4,000 years ago by Noah’s son. It was drawn up by another Ham, back around 2012. But in addition to this “waste removal system,” Ken Ham thought up another device that Noah and his sons could have invented. On the Ark Encounter website, there is an article from August 24, 2012 that describes how Noah and his sons were able to deal with all the piles of manure that would obviously quickly mount up on the Ark with thousands of animals.

This short article mentions that Noah and sons could have obviously dumped it overboard, or perhaps used it a compost to enrich the plants that they had brought on board, or maybe Noah just let it all pile up on the bottom deck.

But then the article proposes something quite…ingenious. They could have developed a “methane digester.” All they would have needed for such a device was “a simple airtight container to hold the manure, the proper bacteria, and a way of piping the resulting bio-gas to places where it could perform useful work—like a heating, cooking, and lighting inside the ship.”

It goes on to speculate that they could have used “hollow reeds” from the rubber tree to act as the gas pipes, and that these pipes could have also provided “reliable gaslight” to illuminate the interior of the Ark—after all, the inner recesses of the Ark must have been pretty dark!

The article ends by saying that the Ark was designed 4,450 years ago, “when mankind was still highly intelligent (Noah’s ancestor, Adam, possessed a nearly perfect brain as God created him), and Noah could easily have mastered this simple technology.”

That’s quite a claim, isn’t it? Adam possessed a “nearly perfect brain”? I don’t remember that being said anywhere in the Bible. I do remember, though, that the early Church Father Irenaeus wrote a book back in the second century, entitled, Against Heresies, in which he clearly states that one of the heretical teachings of the Gnostics of day was that they claimed Adam was “perfect.”

It’s all quite fascinating. If you go to the Ark Encounter and read the exhibits, you should come away with a curious feeling. Think about this: aside from the Ark itself, and the names of Noah, Shem, Japheth, and Ham, what else in the Ark Encounter is actually supported by the Bible?

Answer? Not much…no Shipwright schools, no methane digesters, no dinosaurs, no “one ice age that lasted for 200 years immediately after the flood, right before the Tower of Babel.”

Not…a…whole…lot.

In order to try to convince people that the Flood Story is a historical account, Ken Ham has resorts to imaginative fictions as his “evidence,” and he has made claims that are verified in Church history as being heretical.

And the Saddest Part…
When you think about it, the saddest part of all this is that I am sure Ken Ham would attempt to convince everyone that posts like this one, or books like The Heresy of Ham, are “attacks on the Bible,” and are “mocking biblical authority.”

Let me be clear: the exact opposite is the case. The only one making a mockery of the Bible is, in actuality, Ken Ham. The only one undermining the actual message of stories like Noah’s Flood is, in actuality, Ken Ham. The only one actually distorting the stories of Genesis 1-11, with all his talk of perfect brains, shipwright schools, methane digesters, and dinosaurs, is in actuality, Ken Ham.

By insisting that the flood story in Genesis 6-9 has to be historically accurate in order to be true, Ham has ended up focusing on fictitious speculations, and has actually drawn people’s attention away from the inspired message of the story of the flood, and to logical absurdities that make God’s Word look ridiculous.

No, posts like this and books like The Heresy of Ham are not attacking or mocking the Bible; they are defending the integrity of the Bible against people like Ken Ham who are setting it up as a mockery in the eyes of the world.

No matter how many creative ways Ken Ham thinks up how to shovel excrement to support his claims, the fact remains that shoveling excrement is all he is really doing.

I’ll take the Bible instead.

My Visit to Ken Ham’s Creation Museum: Down the Rabbit Hole (or should I say Velociraptor Hole?) (Part 2)

My Visit to Ken Ham’s Creation Museum: Down the Rabbit Hole (or should I say Velociraptor Hole?) (Part 2)

In my last post, we left off in our journey through Ken Ham’s Creation Museum right where he had just transitioned from the claim that people date dinosaur fossils according to their given “starting point” assumptions as to how old the universe is, and had pivoted to the display that talks about how the Bible is the “starting point” to understanding the big questions about life, meaning and human destiny.

Thus at the Creation Museum, one literally “turns a corner” from an initial display that presents the fallacious claim that geologists, astronomers, and biologists come up with their conclusions based solely on their preconceived biases regarding the universe’s age, to a display that claims the Bible is the starting point in one’s quest to discover life’s meaning—something, however true, that nevertheless has no connection to scientific questions regarding the age of the universe.

But for AiG, it does, for their fundamental claim—the very reason for the Creation Museum itself—is that if Genesis 1-11 isn’t historically and scientifically accurate, then the rest of the Bible, society and morality itself, will go out the window, and there is no meaning or morals at all. Society is on its way to hell in a handbasket.

So get those handbaskets ready. Welcome to the dystopia of Ken Ham…

Hell in a Handbasket
IMG_20160711_130416535
What we see in the next exhibit is the result of questioning young earth creationism: moral decay in society. Or as one of the signs said: “Scripture Abandoned in the Culture leads to relative morality, hopelessness, and meaninglessness.” And then another: Scripture Compromised in the Church leads to scripture abandoned in the home.”

Along with these signs are images of things like a giant wrecking ball crashing into a church, graffiti, riots, drugs, drinking, and small displays that depict dysfunctional family in various situations family breakdown. Why is little Jimmy uninterested in the sermon, and is instead eating peanuts while the pastor is preaching? Because the pastor is telling his congregation that Genesis 1-11 is only a “story,” and therefore isn’t important.

The message is clear: our society is in a mess because “secular scientists” and “compromised clergy” are telling people that the Bible isn’t true. But let’s face it, what AiG really is referring to isn’t Scripture as a whole, but more specifically, their insistence that Genesis 1-11 must be historical and scientific. That’s a huge difference. Saying Genesis 1-11 isn’t in the genre of history is not the same as saying it’s not true. But you’d never know that by listening to Ken Ham.

In any case, this part of the exhibit reminded me of those “hell houses” that many ultra-Fundamentalist churches put on during Halloween. In this case, all the horrors of modern society are traced back to rejecting AiG’s claim that Genesis 1-11 is historically accurate and scientifically true. The whole display was an example of fear-mongering wrapped up in bad biblical exegesis and bad science: comical and disturbing at the same time.

But There is Good News…Well, Sorta…
No, what comes next isn’t the Good News of the resurrection of Christ that is on display. It’s a giant recreation of the events in Genesis 1-11, starting with the Garden of Eden, complete with Adam and Eve frolicking with…yes you guessed it…dinosaurs, who were busy eating fruit.

But soon after seeing a display of Adam and Eve being tempted by the serpent, my friend and I entered “Corruption Valley,” which was essentially the Cain and Abel story…and a dinosaur.

Before you get to the life of Adam and Eve outside the Garden, and the eventual murder of Abel by Cain, you pass by…you guessed it…a velociraptor. But unlike the dinosaur in Eden who was eating fruit, this one was feasting on flesh—according to AiG, the dinosaurs of Eden suddenly became savage meat-eaters soon after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, a mere 6,000 years ago. Nevermind the fact that nowhere in the Bible does it say velociraptors became vicious meat-eaters as soon as Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, according to YEC logic, this had to be the time dinosaurs started eating flesh. Why? It’s all about starting points! When you ignore modern science proper biblical exegesis, and insist that the universe is only 6,000 years old, dinosaurs have to fit somewhere!

IMG_20160711_132100658In any case, after the Cain and Abel display, we arrived at what one might call “The Prototype to the Ark Encounter.” In the next room we found ourselves in the interior of the ark, complete with an animatronic Noah discussing the building of it, as well as “pagan workers,” discussing how Noah was a religious fanatic, and how they were just building it to get paid. Of course, if this scenario of AiG had really happened (i.e. Noah hiring pagan workers to build the ark), the last thing they would accuse Noah of being would be a “religious fanatic.” Pagans worshipped many gods, and had idols that represented them. They would have seen Noah as a veritable atheist: an invisible God, with no idol to represent him? That’s no god…at least it wouldn’t be to an ancient pagan culture.

But those are just some inconvenient details that completely undercut AiG’s fanciful (and unbiblical) claims regarding Genesis 1-11.

IMG_20160711_132211633We got though the ark room, and in the next room we found some rather cool models of the ark, complete with animals making their way in, two by two: elephants, giraffes, lions, bears…and, you guessed it…dinosaurs. The problem, of course, is that not only does the Bible not mention dinosaurs, according AiG’s own claims, animals like modern elephants, giraffes, bears, and lions would not have existed at that point.

Again, just some more inconvenient details…

IMG_20160711_132222307…and I won’t even bother going into detail of the display of the ark at sea, along with scores of people on a nearby mountain time, being consumed by the floodwaters (although a few are being mauled by tigers). Bodies everywhere…

And That Was It….
Although there were a few other side exhibits, the main exhibits were done. Ian and I made our way to the bookstore that was filled with merchandise and books, all touting the YEC doctrine of a young earth and dinosaurs in Eden and on Noah’s Ark. I noticed that one of the books, written by Ken Ham’s son-in-law Bodie Hodge, was entitled World Religions and Cults. I opened it and found there was a chapter on Eastern Orthodoxy. I’m not sure if Hodge thought it was another religion or a cult, but skimming the chapter it was pretty clear—he felt something was really wrong with it because Eastern Orthodoxy relies on Church Tradition along with the Bible.

IMG_20160711_134813779
How can you tell the difference between humans and apes? Human skeletons read their Bibles.

Imagine that. Eastern Orthodoxy isn’t truly Christian because it values Church Tradition and practice. I wasn’t really surprised, though. I had just spent a couple of hours being told that Beowulf was historical, that dragons in folklore and literature were based on dinosaurs, that scientists just make conclusions based on their own biases alone, that dinosaurs were vegetarians in Eden, that dinosaurs started eating meat shortly after that, and that dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark. And then there was this display…

…by the way, did I mention the dinosaurs? Because at the Creation Museum, it seems to be quite important that to be a faithful, Bible-believing Christian, one has to believe dinosaurs are in the Bible, even though they aren’t.

Conclusion
There you have it. In these five posts on both the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum, we have gone down the velociraptor hole, and have been witnesses to a very bizarre wonderland indeed. I know that there are some who are absolutely enraged with Ken Ham and AiG, with both the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum. I, though, am not.

Yes, I’m enraged at how so many young earth creationists and biblical literalist treat and condemn any and everyone who dares question them. That is the very reason why I wrote my book. Such things need to be brought to light.

But the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum doesn’t enrage me. Both simply bewilder me. If you listen to the videos I took (they can be found in this post as well as my Ark Encounter posts), I’m sure you’ll be able to tell in my voice how much I found it all so humorously ridiculous. You simply can’t be mad about it—it’s too funny.

To be sure, one visit was enough for me. I’m glad I had the experience, though. It’s one thing to write about Ken Ham, AiG, and YEC from afar; it’s quite another thing to inspect their work up close. And what can we conclude? Simple: YEC is false and Ken Ham is wrong. Time will bear this out. All we can do is patiently, and perhaps with a bit of humor, keep bringing the truth to light.

IMG_20160711_135138259On a positive note, the gardens at the Creation Museum were beautiful. I thought I saw Claude Monet.

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