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Month: February 2017

The Nye/Ham Debate (Part 10): This is the End–Rebuttals, Final Thoughts, and the Wicked Servant

The Nye/Ham Debate (Part 10): This is the End–Rebuttals, Final Thoughts, and the Wicked Servant

This will be my final post discussing Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge’s book, Inside the Nye/Ham Debate. I hope these posts, no matter how comical and/or frustrating they have been, have been able to help crystalize precisely the methods, tactics, and rhetoric that YECists like Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis routinely use. And, if I may state right at the start, I think the fundamental problem with YEC (and there are many) is that it truly thinks that scientific questions regarding the age of the earth are core religious issues that are a threat to the Christian faith. Simply put, the only reason Ken Ham rejects radiometric dating, for example, isn’t because he really thinks there is a more convincing way to date rocks; rather, it’s because he thinks old rocks threaten the Christian faith, and therefore, he is willing to pull any and all possible explanations out of thin air in order to try to discredit modern scientific discoveries.

Of course, those “explanations” aren’t explanations at all—they are just more smoke and mirrors that he constantly employs in his arguments. And this is precisely what we see in HH’s take on the final two rebuttals of the Nye/Ham Debate.

Ken Ham’s Second Rebuttal
The first clarification Ken Ham put forth was that YECism was not “Ken Ham’s model,” but rather God’s account of creation. By saying this, Ham is (once again) putting forth rhetoric that insulates him from any criticism, and that perpetuates his narrative that “secularists” are “attacking God.” He wants people to believe this is a religious war, and not a simple scientific question, and so he consistently presents his view as God’s view—to question him is to attack God and the Bible.

Amazingly (once again), HH then claimed that Bill Nye failed to address the debate topic. Again, the topic was “Is YECism a viable scientific model for origins.” And, as we’ve seen, all Bill Nye did was provide evidence for an old earth that would refute the claims of YECism—that, to me, is addressing the topic. But apparently not for HH: “[Nye] changed it to attack ‘Ken Ham’s view,’ but never really addressed creation as a whole to see if it is a viable model of origins in today’s scientific era. …He was more persistent at ad hominem arguments against Mr. Ham” (187).

That should concern everyone. For not only did Bill Nye stick to presenting actual scientific evidence that challenged the YEC claim (which again, was the topic of the debate), but I never once remember him “personally attacking” Ken Ham. The only ad hominem attacks came from HH all throughout their book: “hostile atheist,” “ignorant of science,” “attacking God,” “using the serpent’s tactics.” It is so blatant throughout the book, that to read that above quote is simply chilling to me, because it is so blatantly false.

In any case, the rest of Ham’s second rebuttal was a rehashing of his previous statements: (A) Bill Nye an agnostic and must borrow from the Christian worldview to use the laws of logic; (B) Bill Nye doesn’t know his science well enough to even know the difference between “species” and “kinds” [Side Note: there is no scientific classification of “kinds”—that is something YECists have made up, just like “historical science”]; (C) All of Bill Nye’s evidence of ice cores, tree rings, etc. are assumptions and unreliable because “he wasn’t there” and “one can’t prove the past;” (D) Noah had access to highly advanced technology in the pre-flood civilization that would put our modern technology to shame [Side Note: Again, think about what Ken Ham is claiming!]; (E) Distant starlight isn’t a problem for YECism because AiG has come up with their own models to explain away distant starlight—besides, “there is a God who can easily get light from created stars to earth just like He commanded in Genesis 1:15” (191) [Translation? “Poof!”]

HH concluded their assessment of Ham’s rebuttal as follows: “Mr. Ham’s rebuttal was concise and accurate…. This is what a rebuttal should be” (192).

I’ll let the reader assess the accuracy of that assessment on his/her own.

Bill Nye’s Second Rebuttal
When turning to analyze Bill Nye’s response, HH noted that Nye had said he was unsatisfied with Ken Ham’s responses because they failed to address the fundamental questions of the debate (i.e. is YECism a viable scientific model). HH’s response was: “Mr. Ham completely undercut the very reason Mr. Nye was on stage,” (192), and then proceeded to harp (once again) on the fact that Mr. Nye was an agnostic and couldn’t account for the “laws of logic,” and therefore Mr. Ham clearly won the debate because he “dealt very carefully with the debate topic…” and “Mr. Nye did not do this” (192).

If I may translate this: After Bill Nye provided his evidence for an old earth, and then asked Ken Ham to provide his evidence for a young earth, the response Ken Ham gave was, “I totally gave evidence! You didn’t, you agnostic! Laws of logic! I’m a Christian! I win!”

What can you say to that? I am a Christian, and that reaction personally offends me.

In any case, Nye brought up (again) the 680,000 snow layers that Ham didn’t sufficiently explain, to which HH responded with, “You clearly don’t know the difference between observational and historical science!” Then they said, “Mr. Nye claims to be the ‘science guy,’ but it is Mr. Ham who truly understands the meaning of the word ‘science.’ Mr. Ham taught the audience how to think about the issue correctly” (193). Can you spot the ad hominem attack there? Do you see that Ham never addressed the issue?

And then Nye brought up (again) the mathematical problem YECists have when they claim all of today’s current species came from a mere 2,000 kinds of animals a mere 4,000 years ago—that translates into 35-40 new species per day. HH’s response? “There were only 1,000 kinds on the Ark!” Well, that would make the math even more impossible, wouldn’t it? But HH simply moved on.

Then Nye brought up (again) the extraordinary claim that Noah and his family could have built the Ark by themselves. HH’s response? “To deny Noah was an extraordinary shipwright, Mr. Nye needs a better answer than his opinion” (194). No, if HH is going to claim Noah was trained in shipwright school and used highly advanced technology, HH has to provide evidence, which they do not do.

Nye brought up the fact that the pyramids in Egypt are old than 4,000 years. HH’s response? Those are just man’s fallible dating methods—the pyramids were build after the flood.

And what about Nye’s point that there are millions of deeply religious Christians who do not accept Ken Ham’s YECist claims? HH’s response: “Mr. Nye is deeply religious. Let me repeat that. Mr. Nye is deeply religious” (199).

So what about those Christians who don’t agree with Ken Ham? “…they are acting like humanists on this point. They are mixing two different religions—man’s word and God’s Word. How did God view the Israelites when they mixed their godly worship with the Baal worship in the Old Testament? The Lord was not pleased and often judged them severely” (200). So there you have it, Christians who don’t agree with Ken Ham—you’re acceptance of the reliability of radiometric dating is no different than Baal worship…you’re going to get severely punished. You had better repent.

And finally, Bill Nye made a point that in science, scientists routinely try to make educated guesses about what they should find, based on the evidence that they have. And if something is proven wrong because of new evidence, they throw that discredited idea out and continue to try to understand more about the natural world. Well, HH scoffed at this notion and said, “…biblical creationists don’t have to guess! They already have a revelation from the One in whom are ‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3)” (205).

 Just to make clear, with that quote HH is admitting that YECists don’t do science and, in fact, don’t need to do science, because they believe that Colossians 2:3 is saying that God has given all the relevant scientific information in the Bible. Someone needs to tell them that Paul is not talking about scientific information in Colossians 2:3.

As they always do, HH shows that they base their rejection of science on their gross misinterpretation of the Bible.

Final Thoughts
So there it is: the “analysis” Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge put forth in their book, Inside the Nye/Ham Debate. I’m going to forego the section of the book that dealt with the “question and answer” part of the debate. As you can probably tell, after ten posts, much of this simply gets redundant.

But I do want to touch upon HH’s “Final Comments” in their book, for they truly do sum up what is so wrong with YECism.

Amazingly (once again) they claim that Bill Nye never addressed the debate topic—they even quote the debate topic, and still somehow claim that Nye never addressed it. Therefore, they claim, “By avoiding the actual issue, he lost the debate out of hand” (280).

And then, when it comes to the question of whether or not YECism was a viable scientific option for studying origins, HH says this: “the debate showed that creationists do observational science and even excel at it in today’s modern scientific and technological age” (280). Allow me to show my frustration here, but…

La-di-fricking-da! That wasn’t the debate topic! The debate topic, that you just quoted, was whether or not YECism was a viable model for origins (what you call “historical science”)! So for you to say, “We won the debate because creationists can do observational science and technology,” is simply insane—you are blatantly changing the debate topic! Using your own fictitious categories of  “observational science” and “historical science,” anyone can clearly see that the ability to do “observational science” isn’t evidence that YECism is a viable model for “historical science”!

HH then concluded by quoting Ken Ham that his goal for the debate was to “defend the Christian faith,” and he knew he just did his best to “unashamedly stand on the authority of God’s Word and share the saving Gospel” (283).

Well, as a Christian, I feel it is important to share one’s faith and to stand on the Word of God. But the fact was, the topic of the debate was whether or not YECism was a viable scientific model. And that is something that Ham simply was able to prove.

And, to add insult to injury, HH ended their comments in a truly arrogant and condescending fashion: “For those Christians reading this, please be in prayer about Mr. Nye and his salvation. Be praying for Mr. Nye to repent and receive Christ as Lord. And be praying for those who are not saved reading this book that they will be able, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to see through the false religion of evolutionary humanism in its various forms” (284).

Honestly, such comments make my blood boil. I try to make these posts pointed, direct, and sometimes humorous, but I simply cannot make a joke about such pharisaic arrogance. Of course, I hope Bill Nye comes to the Christian faith, but such comments coming after an entire book where HH’s insults Bill Nye left and right is just condescending and infuriating. I can guarantee you that Bill Nye probably is a little further off from coming to the Christian faith, precisely because of Ken Ham’s condescension and arrogance. When I read that quote, all I can think of is “God’s name is blasphemed among the nations because of you” (Rom. 2:24).

Thus ends my month-long critique of Inside the Nye/Ham Debate, as my way of commemorating the three-year anniversary of the debate. In time, YECism will go the way of the countless other fringe movements that die out, simply because they are not true. Of that, I am sure. In the meantime, though, it is frustrating to see how people can so blatantly mislead, misrepresent, and distort the Christian faith, and do it with such religious zeal and conviction that they are right, everyone else is wrong, and they are being persecuted for their faith.

I’m sorry, but the one with the club who is constantly beating on Christians and non-Christians alike is not the one being persecuted. That’s the persecutor. That’s the “wicked servant” who beats his fellow slaves (Matt. 24:48-49). That might sound harsh, but I think that is blindingly true.

I hope you’ve found these posts informative, worthwhile, and hopefully witty in places. More than that, I hope they have shed light upon the tactics YECist groups like Answers in Genesis routinely use in their debates and arguments.

The Nye/Ham Debate (Part 9): I Like Re-Buttals, and I Cannot Lie!

The Nye/Ham Debate (Part 9): I Like Re-Buttals, and I Cannot Lie!

Yes, the next two posts are brought to you by Sir Mix-A-Lot…not only are they about the rebuttals in the Bill Nye/Ken Ham Debate, but as we will see, the the main tactic of Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge in their book, Inside the Nye/Ham Debate is to try to “mix a lot of stuff up.” Enjoy…

In debates, rebuttals are the opportunity each opponent has (a) to reiterate his/her main argument and (b) address any challenges the other debater levelled at his/her position in the main presentation. In that respect, most things in rebuttals are simply a re-hashing of what has already been presented. Nevertheless, there is the possibility that certain arguments and points are able to get teased out a little bit more.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the rebuttals in the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate, there wasn’t much that Ken Ham was able to tease out regarding his argument that YECism was a valid scientific model for origins, given the fact that he didn’t really ever make an argument in the first place. In fact, his “argument” can probably be summed up as follows: “YEC is based on a special kind of science that isn’t subjected to the scientific method (mirror 1), and that comes from God’s historical science textbook, the Bible (mirror 3). Sure the evidence is the same, but it’s all about the different religious starting points (mirror 4). So who are you going to believe? God, or the fallible, ill-educated, hateful Bill Nye who believes in humanistic mythology (mirror 2)? There’s a culture war going on, and it’s time we fight it (mirror 5)!”

And so, once you lay aside all the mirrors, blow away the smoke, and focus on the topic of the debate, the relevant part of Ham’s argument is this: “Is YECism a valid scientific model for origins? No, we at AiG reject modern science when it comes to this topic. We’ve simply relabeled our assumption that Genesis 1-11 is scientifically accurate as ‘historical science,’ placed it outside of the realm of the scientific method, and have declared that it’s all a matter of religious belief anyway. It’s not about science—it’s about faith.”

So…that would be a “No.”

And given that, what can Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge (HH) talk about for 60 pages in their analysis of the rebuttals of Nye and Ham? Simply put, more of the same, just at a higher volume. Just as Niles Tufnel says in Spinal Tap, they turn it up to “11.”

Ken Ham’s First Rebuttal
In Inside the Nye/Ham Debate, pages 151-167 take up HH’s analysis of Ken Ham’s first rebuttal. In it, they focus on the follow points Ken Ham made:

  • The age of the earth cannot be observed; therefore, it is historical science (mirror 1). And since evolutionists can’t provide human witnesses, none of what they claim is reliable. By contrast, young earth creationists have God as their witness, and He has told us exactly how old the earth is and how He created everything within six literal days—in the Bible (mirror 3).
  • Young earth creationists come to their conclusions about the age of the earth by adding up the genealogies in the Bible (mirror 3).
  • Radiometric dating methods (“which Mr. Nye held to with a God-like devotion”) are inaccurate and unreliable, and are based on mere assumptions of Bill Nye’s false, humanistic religion (mirrors 2 and 4).

It was at this point, that HH decided to take a shot at any Christian who disagrees with Ken Ham’s YECism. After giving a brief overview of the various other theories (i.e. gap theory, day-age theory, theistic evolution, the framework hypothesis), HH dismisses them all out of hand on the account that all of them admit that there was death of some kind before sin. HH then claims that when God created everything in Genesis 1 and called everything “very good,” that this meant it was a perfect creation. (Of course, the Bible doesn’t say “perfect,” and the earliest of early Church Fathers actually say that such a view of Genesis 1 was a gnostic heresy).

In any case, that doesn’t stop HH from then claiming that belief in an old earth undermines the atonement itself (165). And then, to top things off, HH says this: “Mr. Ham’s response led straight to a presentation of the Gospel. My hope is that these Christians (who have bought into an old earth), will return to the plain teachings in the Bible and stop mixing God’s Word with secular beliefs that clearly contradict God’s revelation and undermine the Gospel by blaming God for death instead of sin” (165).

So there it is: in was to be a rebuttal about the scientific viability of YECism, HH made it a point to call upon all Christians who disagree with Ken Ham to repent.

Bill Nye’s First Rebuttal: More Religion….
Pages 167-187 are then devoted to HH’s attempt to cut Nye’s argument down to size, or rather convince their readers why it is okay to dismiss each and every argument of Nye’s out of hand. They start off by saying that Nye “revealed his allegiance to his ‘god’” (168)—autonomous man, who thinks he can determine truth about origins apart from God; and after that, they once again claimed radiometric dating was fallible and based on “secular assumptions” (mirrors 2, 4).

HH then felt impelled to address Bill Nye’s point that it was problematic that Ken Ham was basing his supposed scientific claims on essentially an English translation of the Bible. Obviously, Nye’s point is that Ham doesn’t even know the original languages of the Bible, and yet he is basing all his claims on his limited understanding of a translation of the original texts. Well, HH interpreted this as Nye was “attacking God’s Word,” and proceeded to claim that not only was God able to guide the original authors to produce the inspired text (which is true, by the way), but that also God was able to perfectly preserve the text—this, though, is…well, false.

I don’t mean to shock anyone, but just look at your Bibles—have you ever noticed the footnotes that say things, like “In the earliest manuscripts, this verse is missing,” or “…it reads this way”? Do you know what that tells you? There is no such thing as a perfect copy or manuscript. We don’t have any. Now, I can assure you that virtually none of the variants found in the thousands of manuscripts we have really amount to anything substantial—but nevertheless, HH’s claim that somehow we have a “perfect copy” that God has preserved for us is simply false.

Bill Nye’s First Rebuttal: The Laws of Nature and the Bible…Again
In any case, HH then tried to tie in the laws of nature to the reliability of the Bible. Now, to be clear, Bill Nye had made the point that what Ken Ham was doing was dismissing what scientists have found while observing the natural world (i.e. basic science), and substituting his claim that the Bible (specifically Genesis 1-11) was giving scientific information. Bill Nye thought that was a mistake—I do too, namely because the Bible simply isn’t doing science in the first place. Simply put, Ken Ham is misapplying the Bible—he is claiming it is addressing scientific issues when it simply isn’t.

HH, though, tried to turn Nye’s comments against him by saying something I simply have yet to make sense of: “Observations made today are not in discord with what the Bible says. Nor are the laws of nature in any conflict with Scripture, but Scripture must be true to make sense of the laws of nature in the first place” (173). And then HH jumped back directly to their “the laws of logic can’t be account for from a naturalistic worldview” canard of mirror #2, prefacing it with, “Take note…that Mr. Nye never did even try to answer Mr. Ham’s devastating challenge…” (173).

I can answer that: because that wasn’t the topic of the debate, and just because Bill Nye isn’t a Christian doesn’t mean he is unable to use his logic, even if he can’t adequately acknowledge where it came from. And as for the previous quote: (1) Sure, observations in nature don’t conflict with Scripture, because the Scripture isn’t attempting to give scientific observations; (2) what does the second part of the quote even mean? Scripture must be true in order make sense of the laws of nature?

Starlight…It’s Not in the Past! It’s in the Present…in your Telescopes!
HH then re-addressed Bill Nye’s statement that when you look at the stars in the night sky, you are actually looking into the past, precisely because the light that you see that has finally made its way to earth, originally came from a star that was millions of light years in the past. This was something I just assumed everybody knew: it takes time for light from distant stars to reach the earth.

Well, surprise, surprise! HH flat out claims that is not true. After actually mocking Nye with, “One would think the concept of past, present, and future would be easy to grasp,” (175), HH then proceeds to explain their logic: “If Mr. Nye goes and looks through a telescope tonight, he is not seeing the past, but instead is seeing the present. Of course he has an assumption that the light he is viewing takes millions of years to reach his eyes—so that’s why he claims he’s viewing the past” (175).

That’s right, HH essentially denies the speed of light. How in the world can they claim the starlight in the night sky we see is actually instantaneous, and did not take time to travel through space? They pretty much butcher Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. Essentially, Einstein, although he agreed that the speed of light is constant in a vacuum, also acknowledged that technically, light can only be measured round-trip: the time it takes light to travel from “point A” to “point B” and back. If it never returns, then technically it cannot be measured. Got it?

Well, HH takes that to mean that since light cannot technically be measured going one direction, that therefore it is possible that the speed of light can speed up in one direction! And then they actually say, “If the one-direction speed of light toward earth is near instantaneous, then we are not seeing distant starlight from many years in the past, but are seeing things like starlight close to real time” (176).

I just have this feeling that Albert Einstein might disagree with that claim…just a bit. And please note, if what HH is true (which it is obviously is not), then they are claiming that the natural law regarding the speed of light can change speeds in a vacuum. Why is this important to note? Because in the very next point HH makes, they accuse Bill Nye of falsely accusing them of claiming the laws of nature have changed: “Mr. Nye has set up a straw man fallacy here. Creationists don’t believe that the laws of nature in the past have changed” (176). They say this right after they argue that the speed of light can speed up or slow down at random.

And, in case anyone takes a breath and realize just how absurd that is, HH quickly pivots to accusing Bill Nye of “being a materialist” whose “religion” cannot account for the consistency of the laws of nature…and “if anyone should believe the laws of nature can change, it is Mr. Nye” (177). AND THEN, they call upon Mr. Nye to repent of his “naturalistic religion!”

I don’t want to sound mean, but the duplicity and hubris of HH is utterly astounding.

Bill Nye’s First Rebuttal: Wrapping Up
In the rest of their “analysis” of Bill Nye’s first rebuttal, HH runs the gamut of accusations, from accusing Nye of being ignorant of “historical science,” of “mocking the account of Noah’s Ark,” of “intellectual schizophrenia,” and of falsely accusing Ken Ham of claiming the Bible is a science text—yet another “straw man fallacy” according to HH.

Now, you might be thinking, “How is that last point a straw man fallacy? Isn’t that exactly what Ken Ham himself said?” Well, amazingly, according to HH…no! Confused? Let me explain: According to HH, Ken Ham doesn’t claim the Bible is a “science text” in the way Mr. Nye means, because the fields of biology, physics, or geology are constantly changing—and those things are what is taught in schools and universities. As Ham has said, “We don’t take the Bible as a science textbook, and that is good because the science textbooks change every year” (181). So obviously, the Bible is like that! The Bible is perfect and never changes—hence it is God’s infallible, unchanging, perfect historical science textbook, not the fallible assumptions and fairytales that pass for “secular science.”

So, what can you do with that? Really…what can you do with that? I don’t even know how to respond. I just find myself staring at that page in disbelief, and silently praying, “Please, Lord, don’t let people be blinded by this!”

Well, I can tell you what HH does with that. After accusing evolution of being an inherently racist philosophy (as opposed to a basic scientific theory), they end their assault on Nye’s first rebuttal with an amazing use of more mirrors. Let me preface this by reminding you that the agreed topic for the debate was “Is YECism a viable scientific model for origins?”

Well, here’s what HH say: “But this is the debate: man’s word versus God’s Word, and here Mr. Nye reaffirmed his religious belief in man being the ultimate authority over God.…Mr. Nye demonstrated what the devil, through the use of a serpent, offered Eve in the Garden: ‘…you will be like God’” (186).

Change the debate topic! Blind people with a literal demonization of Bill Nye and reflect that blinding light off of mirrors #2 and #4!

And scene….catch your breath. Tomorrow, we have the second rebuttals to go through. I’d love to have people leave their comments and respond with their thoughts on this post. Until then…

The Nye/Ham Debate (Part 8): 7 Things to Do, or Do Not do…(there is no try!)

The Nye/Ham Debate (Part 8): 7 Things to Do, or Do Not do…(there is no try!)

Here we come to “Part 8” of my month-long homage to the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham that took place three years ago. The focus of these posts has been the analysis that Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge gave of that debate, in their book, Inside the Nye/Ham Debate. The focus of these posts, though, has not so much been on the actual arguments made during the debate, as it has been on Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge’s (HH) take on the debate. In short, it has been on the “smoke and mirrors” YECist groups like Answers in Genesis adeptly use to avoid addressing challenges to their YECist claims.

In “Part 7,” I summarized HH’s use of these smoke and mirrors in their attempt (a) to delegitimize the scientific evidence Bill Nye gave of an old earth, (b) to distract their followers from the actual topic of the debate, (c) to demonize Bill Nye himself, and (d) to declare a call to arms in their culture war. If you read that post, you no doubt were struck how HH completely dismissed any and all evidence for an old earth as “mere assumptions” and “fairytales.” Fossils, rock layers, ice cores, tree rings, and distant starlight—all received the same reaction: “Was Bill Nye there? It’s all just assumptions; Bill Nye is dishonest and relies on the mythologists of humanistic evolution, and Ken Ham is wise to rely on God’s historical science textbook!”

I ended that post by asking a simple question: “How should a Christian go about addressing the claims of YECism?” In this post, therefore, I want to contemplate that question and offer some reflections.

Personal Stories
Although most of the responses I have received about both my book, The Heresy of Ham, and the numerous posts I’ve written this month on the Nye/Ham debate, there have been a few comments and questions to the effect of, “Why are you attacking a fellow brother in Christ?” Well, believe me, when I wrote my original blog posts on the debate three years ago, I never imagined I would still be writing about YECism three years later. In fact, I wrote about my thoughts on the debate just to clarify in my own head what I felt the fundamental issues of the debate were. I thought I’d write my few posts and move on, focusing on teaching my classes working on finishing up my four-year Worldview curriculum that I hoped to eventually get published.

As things turned out, those posts ended up being used against me by a rather over-zealous YECist headmaster to eventually oust me from my job. Needless to say, my experience over the past three years has made me realize that YECism isn’t just a fringe movement that Christians can amicably disagree about—YECists like Ken Ham do not allow that as an option.

In addition, I’ve also come to realize that most Evangelical Christians have never really thought much about this issue or really think it is all that important. Consequently, many are surprised (like I was) when they realize that there those who are insistent that belief in a 6,000-year-old universe is a core tenet of the Christian faith upon which the Gospel rises or falls.

My friend Ian Panth has recently written on his blog about how quickly YECists demonize you as soon as you let on that you don’t believe the earth is 6,000 years old. Just the other day, a friend of mine from church told me about a recent experience she had in her homeschool group—they were planning to use some YECist science textbook, and when she asked why, they said, “Well, we’re Christians,” and they practically treated it as if it were a salvation issue. And over the past year, I’ve gotten numerous responses to my posts on YECism by people who have been deeply hurt by YECists, particularly Ken Ham, and who almost lost their faith because of the way they were treated.

Simply put, if YECism was just another secondary issue Christians tended to disagree on and felt free to debate and discuss, I doubt I would be writing about it, and I doubt I would have lost my job over it. But the fact is, YECists like Ken Ham feel it is their duty to declare war on fellow Christians who disagree with their YECist claims. If you don’t believe me, just join a YECist Facebook group and say, “I don’t see what the big deal is if you think the universe is 14 billion years old; a lot of Christians don’t read Genesis 1 literally.” Sit back and let the comments come in…and you’ll see.

The reality, though, is the facts of science, proper biblical exegesis, and Church history are not on Ken Ham’s side. That’s a big problem for organizations like Answers in Genesis—and, as I’ve shown in the previous seven posts, you can say that AiG’s strategy can be boiled down to this: “If you can’t debate, obfuscate!” And, if you take the time to slow down and actually pick apart what they say (as I’ve tried to do in this series), you realize that their arguments have more holes in them than Swiss cheese…that has been blown apart by a shot gun.

And if you visit the Ark Encounter, some of the stuff is well, just plain silly: elephants on treadmills on the Ark, powering a pully-system that helps dispose animal waste in the sea? A pre-flood civilization that had coliseums, where giants threw innocent people to the…velociraptors? Noah had access to incredible pre-flood technology that would have put our modern technology to shame? Where is any of that in the Bible? For someone who claims to be upholding biblical authority, Ken Ham certainly has a tremendous ability for telling some incredibly tall tales.

So What is One to Do? (Or Not Do?)
And this brings me to the main question for this post: “How is a thoughtful Christian to deal with YECism?” Here is my advice:

  1. Don’t bury your head in the sand: Don’t be like I was, and think this is not a big deal, and that honest Christians can have different opinions on this issue. Realize that for the real hard-core YECists, this is an issue of life or death. For them, (as crazy as it may sound), if the earth is 4 billion years old, then Christ died for nothing and the Gospel is undermined.
  2. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a big deal: No, I’m not contradicting myself. What I mean here is that no matter what anyone may tell you, the age of the earth is utterly irrelevant to the Gospel. No matter what anyone might tell you, the reality of human beings’ sinfulness is not dependent upon whether or not there was a literal couple named Adam and Eve. What is a big deal is this: loving God and loving your neighbor; it is sacrificing your life for others; it is caring for those in need; it is developing the talents that God has given you; it is allowing yourself to be transformed into God’s image through the inevitable sufferings that come into your life. “He has told you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). For the life of me, I don’t recall anywhere in the Bible that says “What is good” is to claim that God’s entire gospel of salvation in Christ is dependent on whether or not you think Adam and Eve had a pet dinosaur.
  1. Don’t get nasty and hateful with YECists, even if you find yourself really hurt by them: It doesn’t do anybody any good to ruthlessly mock and denigrate YECists and groups like AiG—it belittles you and it actually helps feed into their narrative that they are being persecuted. That’s not to say that a humorous jibe or and clever quip when pointing out any one of their many outrageous claims is a bad thing. Like in any debate, humor and cleverness is fine. In fact, you need to have a sense of humor when discussing YEC. I mean, look at this picture. Look closely at the animals represented–it really is just funny! There’s a difference between humor and sheer meanness. I realize it’s sometimes hard not to slip into that (I think one time, I told a guy he was dumber than a bag of hammers…not my finest moment). But the thing to remember is that the people who arrested, beat, and handed Jesus over to be crucified were the religious leaders of Jesus’ own people. And part of what He exemplified is the willingness to take the beatings without repaying in kind. And dang it, if you’re a Christian, you’re called to imitate Christ—so even if a nasty comment sneaks out here and there, do your best to curb that desire to repay in kind.
  1. Don’t “play nice” with YECists like Ken Ham: At the same, it isn’t good to just “play nice” and refuse to say anything at any time that might be construed as being mean. Again, if you read through the gospels, Jesus could really take it to the Pharisees at times, and just look at what he did when He got to the Temple! Sometimes, it is right and good to confront someone who is doing something wrong and hurtful. I know a few people objected to the title of my book, The Heresy of Ham, on the grounds that it sounded too confrontational. My response is that it is confrontational! It is challenging the basic claims of YECism in light of the fundamental tenets of the historical Christian faith, and it is calling Ken Ham out on the vitriol that he has put out there in which he savages fellow Christians simply because they disagree with him. Divisive, hateful behavior needs to be challenged and called out. When Ken Ham claims biblical authority, and then turns around and claims that a pre-flood civilization threw innocent people to savage dinosaurs in their pre-flood coliseums, one has to say, “No, that’s not in the Bible.” When he claims that if you don’t believe there are time zones in space, or that Adam and Eve had perfect genomes, then you are a compromised Christian, one has to say, “No, that has never been part of the Christian faith.” Simply put, don’t let yourself be bullied, and stand up to the bully when you see other people getting verbally abused by that bully.
  1. Don’t worry, but rather have faith that truth is revealed in the light: The Catholic monk Thomas Merton once said something to the effect, “There’s no need to defend the truth; you just have to make sure that you bring it to light—the truth can take care of itself.” The number one priority for a Christian shouldn’t be to “defend” anything; it rather should be to shine the light on what is true. If you’re a Bible scholar, shine the light on what certain passages say; if you’re a scientist, shine the light on what certain theories (like evolution) really say…and let the truth speak for itself.
  2. We need to realize that all this debate…is actually kind of necessary: What I mean by that is this: this is how we learn and grow, both individually and as a society. I actually started looking into this whole issue when the Ben Stein movie, Expelled, came out in 2008—it was about the Intelligent Design movement. At first I thought it was a good movie, but then I started to look more closely at it. Now, at that time, I would have said I didn’t think evolution was true—micro-evolution, sure; but macro-evolution? Come on. In any case, I got into a conversation with a guy who had huge problems with the I.D. movement, and to make a long story short, it was because of that conversation that I started to look into the whole creation/evolution debate more, and eventually got to the position I am now: I am a Christian who believes in Christ, and who is convinced that much of the theory of evolution is scientifically correct—if future discoveries change that view, great…it won’t bother me either way. But the point is, it took time for me to research and think things through…and it takes time for anyone to think these things through. That’s how we learn.
  1. Finally, don’t forget that there’s a whole lot more Bible beyond Genesis 1-11. Don’t me wrong: Genesis 1-11 is extremely important, in that it lays out the over-arching backdrop to the rest of the Bible. But we have to remember that Genesis 1-11 is pretty useless if we don’t read beyond it. It’s the back curtain and backdrop, if you will, to the stage of biblical history—but if all you do is stare at the back curtain, you’re going to miss the play going on throughout the pages of Scripture. So by all means, debate creation/evolution and talk about how to interpret Genesis 1-11. I sure do! But don’t neglect looking at the whole biblical story.

I realize this post might have proven to be a tad more dull that the previous ones, but I wanted to lay out these thoughts before I write the two concluding posts about the Nye/Ham debate: the rebuttals and the questions/answers time.

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 46): Enlightenment Odds ‘n Ends–Revolution, Columbus, and the Slave Trade

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 46): Enlightenment Odds ‘n Ends–Revolution, Columbus, and the Slave Trade

The last few Ways of the Worldviews posts have been quite heavy in the philosophy department. And it’s true, the philosophers of the Enlightenment have had a tremendous impact on how we in the modern world even view reality itself: God, nature, religion, the state, the church…you name it. That’s all well and good, but what impact does any of this have in day-to-day life and actual historical events?

Well, as it so turns out, there are a number of odds ‘n ends I have come across over the past few years that do touch upon some of these matters, but that I just am not sure how to fit in to this Ways of the Worldviews series. So, I figured, why not just dump it all into one post, and let it be a bit disjointed and possibly messy? It still is rather interesting stuff…Enjoy…

The Difference between the American and French Revolutions
It is rather interesting that the American and French Revolutions, that happened roughly at the same time in history, ended up yielding such different results. The American Revolution led to the establishment of the United States of America, a Constitution that has lasted for over 200 years, a clear separation of Church and State, and as a result, a flourishing of religious freedom to where America is one of the most religious countries in the world (even if in name only).

By contrast, the French Revolution began in 1789, and by 1792, Robespierre and his Committee of Public Safety had instituted the Reign of Terror. And by 1804, a mere 15 years after they deposed the monarchy of France, Napoleon declared himself to be its emperor. Why such different results?

To the point, I believe it had to do with how each country dealt with the issue of religion. In America, although many of the Founding Fathers were clearly deists and not traditional Christians, they nevertheless respected the right people had to religious faith and the right they had to express their religious convictions. There was an intentional decision for the government to stay out of church affairs—that, incidentally, was the “wall between Church and State” that Thomas Jefferson was referring to. The “wall” existed so that the State could not impose its will on the Church. At the same time, although it was obvious that the Church was not to run the affairs of the State either, there was no objection for religious men and women to express their religious beliefs in public and attempt to convince people in regards to how the State should be run.

In other words, the religious man was free to argue for his religious convictions in the public square, and if his argument was convincing enough, he had just as much a right to try to shape public policy as anyone else. Therefore, in America, deists, atheists, and Christians of all backgrounds were free to contribute in the public square.

By contrast, in France, the focus was not simply to stamp out the monarchy, but to stamp out Christianity itself. Human rights were not “endowed by the Creator.” Instead, the “Supreme Being” was equaled to the sovereignty of the nation and the general will of the people—and so, the basis for democracy in France essentially came to rest, not on the idea that there are certain inalienable rights endowed by God, but rather the idea that human rights are human rights, because that’s what society wants.

Or to put it another way, in reference to Greek philosophy: in America, the idea of particular rights was rooted in the conviction that God, as the ultimate universal, gives those particular rights meaning. Man is created in God’s image—man has dignity, worth, meaning, and rights, because he is the image of the Creator. By contrast, in France, the particular rights were rooted in…what? There was no universal to root them in—“God” was just the “will of the people.” Human rights are human rights are human rights…let the government enforce the will of the people.

And because of that, the revolutionary government of France, ended up slaughtering thousands in the name of enforcing human rights. They decreed that 1792 be considered “year one” of the new age of Enlightenment; they proclaimed “the goddess of reason” in Notre Dame Cathedral, and even paraded an actress, dressed up as the goddess reason, in a procession into the church, held shoulder-high by men dressed in Roman costumes. In short, they attempted to place finite human reason and the will of the people up as the deity that was to dictate human society.

The result was the Reign of Terror, chaos, and then the installment of an even greater dictator than Louis XVI—Napoleon Bonaparte.

Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492—considerably before the time of the so-called Enlightenment. So why talk about Columbus now? Simple: our accepted narrative about Columbus comes from the time of the Enlightenment—and it couldn’t be more wrong. We all know the story of Columbus: he went about trying to prove that the world was round, despite the Catholic Church’s claim that the world was flat. Ironically, in addition to proving the world was round, Columbus also unwittingly discovered a whole new continent. Right?

Wrong. The only reason why such a story has been largely accepted as true in our day and age is certain writers during the Enlightenment put forth this yarn as an attempt to discredit the Catholic Church and to convince people that Christianity was simply an anti-intellectual, superstitious religion. But as I’ve mentioned numerous times in the course of these posts, the Enlightenment had this really bad habit of making things up and telling complete historical falsehoods.

I first learned about this almost 20 years ago, when I saw a BBC special by Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) about the Middle Ages. In one of the episodes he touched upon the common misunderstanding regarding Columbus. You can watch the entire episode here. The specific part about Columbus begins around minute 16.

The fact is that the story of Columbus’ clash with the Catholic Church over the claim that the world was, in fact, round, was a complete fiction, written by Washington Irving in the early 19th century. As soon as Irving published his biography of Columbus, it quickly was snatched up by people who already held an animus against Christianity (or particularly the Catholic Church), and promptly used it as yet another weapon in their arsenal to attack Christianity.

Later on, men like Andrew Dickson White promulgated and embellished the already fictitious story in his attempt to show that there was an ever-raging war between the ignorant superstitions of Christianity and the enlightened, rationalism of science. But the fact had been, and indeed still is, that there had never been a war between science and Christianity. As Rodney Stark points out, “Long before the fifteenth century, every educated European including Roman Catholic prelates, knew the earth was round” (Triumph of Christianity, 274). In fact, as Ronald Numbers points out, “From the seventh century to the fourteenth, every important medieval thinker concerned about the natural world stated more or less explicitly that the world was a round globe, many of them incorporating Ptolemy’s astronomy and Aristotle’s physics into their work” (Galileo Goes to Jail, 31). Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, Albert Magnus—not to mention every single solitary sailor—knew that the earth was round.

Slavery: Enlightenment Thinkers vs. Christian Thinkers
There is one key issue that infected Western Europe and pre-Civil War America that must be addressed: slavery. It was stated earlier that it was Christianity that successfully put an end to the ancient pagan institution of slavery. It was because of the revolutionary Christian conviction that all human beings were made in the image of God, and were therefore created equal, that the ancient pagan institution of slavery was ended. But if that was the case, how did slavery revive in Western Europe? The answer is simple: colonialism. With the discovery of “the new world” came the European push to colonize it in order to expand markets of trade. And what better way to insure high profits than to secure a workforce for virtually nothing—i.e. let’s enslave Africans and send them to work in the sugar cane fields in the Caribbean!

Yet the question thus becomes, “If Christianity had long before condemned slavery as immoral and anti-Christian, who were the people in Europe who advocated for slavery?” Although the full answer is far more complex than can be discussed here, the simple answer is that slavery was promoted and advocated by prominent Enlightenment thinkers. Furthermore, slavery was not only condemned by the Catholic Church from the outset of its revival in the colonies, but it was the tireless work of countless Christian abolitionists who eventually were able to once again, both in England and in the United States, to abolish slavery for the second time in Western history.

One such Enlightenment thinker who advocated for slavery was none other than David Hume. He argued that blacks were “naturally inferior to whites,” and once compared an articulate black Jamaican to “a parrot, who speaks a few words plainly.” Indeed, other prominent men of the Enlightenment like Thomas Jefferson, Voltaire and John Locke all defended the practice of racial slavery. And what was the basis upon which they argued for slavery? None other than human reason, nature, and supposed science—the result was justification for the inhumane practice of slavery, and the subsequent enslavement, torture, and ultimate death of millions of African slaves.

By contrast, it was Christians who were speaking out forcefully against the practice of slavery right from the outset. In his book, Christianity on Trial, Vincent Carroll tells us that in 1774, John Wesley wrote Thoughts on Slavery, and “posed a rhetorical question to the captains of slave ships: ‘Do you never feel another’s pain? Have you no sympathy? …When you saw the flowing eyes, the heaving breasts, or the bleeding sides or tortured limbs of your fellow human beings, were you a stone or a brute?’” (32). Incidentally, Wesley was no fan of David Hume.  He called Hume, “the most insolent despiser of truth and virtue who ever appeared in the world.”

And then there was George Whitefield. Carroll tells us that Whitefield “went so far as to ask whites to consider the children of slaves as equal to their own. ‘Think your children are in any way better by nature than the poor Negroes? No! In no wise! Blacks are just as much, and no more, conceived and born in sin, as white men are; and both, if born and bred up here, I am persuaded, are naturally capable of the same improvement’” (32).

There was also John Newton, the former slave ship captain who eventually repented of his sins and became a follower of Christ. He wrote perhaps the most famous hymn in history, Amazing Grace. He greatly influenced William Wilberforce who, along with William Pitt, eventually was able to abolish the slave trade throughout the British Empire. It was because of his deeply-rooted faith in Christ that Wilberforce dedicated his life to the betterment of humanity. He famously said, “Almighty God has set before me two great objectives: the abolition of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.” His dream was initially realized when Parliament voted to make the slave trade illegal throughout the British Empire, and then was finally realized with the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1834. Over the course of his career in Parliament, Wilberforce introduced countless anti-slavery bills that brought him nothing but scorn.

In fact, early on in his political career, he was ridiculed for trying to “impose religion” into public life. Carroll tells us that Lord Melbourne sneered at Wilberforce and said, “Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade public life” (36). Nevertheless, his persistence, along with the ground-swell of support from Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians, eventually was able, for the second time in Western history, to put an end to slavery.

Of course, while Wilberforce was able to end slavery in the British Empire without firing a single shot, the United States ended up having to fight a war over the issue. Slavery was established in the colonies in Virginia in 1619. Almost immediately there were Christians who objected to the practice. Sadly though, as the practice became firmly entrenched in the colonies, even Christians came to be split on the issue. Even though Quakers actually banned anyone who was involved in the slave trade from church membership, a large number of Baptists in the south came to endorse supposed biblical justifications for slavery.

Despite the fact that from the days of the early Church, Christians had always opposed slavery, after a few generations, southern Christians had simply adapted to the slave-culture of the south, and sought to justify the truly horrible practice with passages from the Bible (Lev. 25:44-46; I Cor. 7:20-24; Eph. 6:5-8; I Peter 2:18-21). This certainly was a tragedy. But we must not falsely assume that it was Christianity that encouraged the slave trade and the continuation of slavery in America. In fact, the leading abolitionists in America were non-other than evangelical Christians, predominantly Baptists and Methodists. In fact, the reason why there are considerably more predominantly black Baptist and Methodist congregations around the country, as opposed to Episcopalian, Presbyterian, or any other denomination, is because it was Baptist and Methodist churches who led the abolitionist movement. Consequently, it is no wonder why so many black people and former slaves ended up joining those denominations—they were the ones who helped secure their freedom.

And the Indians…
Christians in America didn’t just concern themselves with the plight of black slaves. Vincent Carroll writes that Christians also “organized the most determined effort of the early nineteenth century to defend Indian rights: a national campaign against President Andrew Jackson’s brutal plan to confiscate the Cherokee Territory in Georgia and expel the natives from their land” (196). In addition, “It was evangelical missionaries, too, who defied the law against residing on Cherokee lands and choose to be arrested at the point of bayonets in order to push the Indians’ case before the U.S. Supreme Court” (196). And finally, “The Cherokee bill was controversial to begin with only because of the evangelical campaign, a grassroots effort that came within five votes in the House of defeating Jackson’s scheme” [Trail of Tears] (196).

The point should be obvious, throughout the history of America, it was Christians who led the way in striving for the freedom and fair treatment of “the least of these”—be it black African slaves or Native American Indians.

Next on the “Ways of the Worldviews” series: we’re journeying on into the 19th century—what I call “The Age of the Modern Nephilim.” If you don’t know what that is, check back in a few days.

Inside the Nye/Ham Debate (Part 7): Unleash the Kraken! (i.e. How AiG Dismisses the Evidence and Attacks its Opponents)

Inside the Nye/Ham Debate (Part 7): Unleash the Kraken! (i.e. How AiG Dismisses the Evidence and Attacks its Opponents)

In my past six posts reflecting on the Nye/Ham debate of three years ago, I focused on how Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge (HH) “analyzed” the debate in their book, Inside the Nye/Ham Debate. Specifically, I looked at how discussed the five-minute openings of both Bill Nye and Ken Ham, and then how they elaborated on Ken Ham’s 30-minute presentation. My essential metaphor has been HH’s use of “smoke and mirrors” to obfuscate the actual issues regarding the creation/evolution debate, and to instead convince people that evolution is the same thing as atheism, and that there is a culture war to fight.

In the next couple of posts, I will now focus on HH’s “analysis” of Bill Nye’s 30-minute presentation, but I want to do it in a rather different way than the other posts. Now, it is virtually impossible of me to adequately cover every detail of HH’s 70-page critique of Bill Nye’s presentation. I found reading those pages to be both surreal and frustrating. I imagine that if you ever have gotten into an extended debate with a YECist acolyte of Ken Ham, you will understand: diversion, personal attacks, bizarre claims from left field, random Bible references that come out of nowhere (and have little or nothing to do with the actual original context of that particular verse)…it goes on and on until you feel your head spinning. Not to sound unkind, but those kinds of “debates” end up being an incoherent mess spoken with a certainty and conviction that does not match the rhetoric.

In any case, in this post I want to do something different. Instead of trying to rationally explain how irrational most, if not all, the critiques HH gives of Bill Nye in their book, I am going to give you a taste of it. After all, if there’s one thing to realize about the arguments of YECism, it is this: the power of their argument does not come from well-reasoned and articulated points about either science or the Bible. The power of their argument is found in the sheer volume of invective, condescending statements, and hysteria. It wears opponents down, and by doing so, it gives the impression to their followers that they’re winning the argument, when in reality, they are just putting a strobe-light and a mirrorball into their fun house of mirrors, and blinding everyone.

Overview of Bill Nye’s Arguments
That being said, a brief overview of what Bill Nye argued is necessary. Basically, Nye put out a number of scientific arguments that point to an old earth, thus refuting Ham’s claims for a young earth. In addition, Nye also raised specific questions regarding Ham’s claim that there was a world-wide flood 4,000 years ago, and that the story of Noah was a historical event. Nye’s arguments ranged as follows:

  • Fossils in Kentucky are evidence of an ancient earth
  • Ice cores in Antarctica are evidence of an ancient earth
  • Bristlecone pine trees have 9,000 rings, and thus are older than 6,000 years
  • How can plant life survive underwater for an entire year?
  • The impossibility for all the various rock layers to settle so quickly after the Flood
  • The fossil record is evidence of evolution and an ancient earth
  • How could animals get to Australia from the Middle East, a mere 4,000 years ago?
  • The impossibility of the millions of species today to have developed that quickly from the animals that came off of Noah’s Ark, a mere 4,000 years ago
  • The impossibility of one man and seven family members to build an Ark
  • YEC’s lack of predictive ability
  • In order for YEC to be true, natural laws would have had to change in the past
  • The distance of starlight points to an ancient universe

There were numerous other sub-points made, but overall, the above list sums up Nye’s presentation. And as you can see, they were specific scientific arguments that are worth addressing in an honest fashion. That, though, is something HH chose not to do. So without any further adieu, I present to you my summary of HH’s 70-page critique of Bill Nye’s presentation in one post…enjoy…(actual quotations will be italicized). [Please note: I am writing as HH…these are not my opinions!]

Ham and Hodge Go on the Offensive: Changing the  Topic, Fossils, Ice Cores, and Pines
Well, right out of the gate, Mr. Nye showed he was not playing fair. He “immediately changed the agreed topic of the debate (Is creation a viable model or origins in today’s modern scientific era?) to something else (Does Ken Ham’s creation model hold up? Is it viable?)” (81). Let’s get one thing straight, this isn’t Ken Ham’s model…it’s the biblical model that God told us. How dare Mr. Nye devalue creation!

In any case, Mr. Nye first talked about the fossils in the rock layers here in Kentucky, and he claimed that they were, in fact, millions of years old. Someone untrained might have thought Nye gave a devastating argument…but of course he did not! He just merely assumed what he claimed he was proving. Not only that, he clearly didn’t understand creationism: Noah’s Flood laid down all those rock layers!

Then Mr. Nye tried to convince people that the ice cores in Antarctica had 680,00 layers, and therefore that showed 680,000 winter-summer cycles, hence 680,000 years. Wrong! Ice cores don’t come with labels on them! Here in Kentucky you can get multiple ice layers in one winter! He’s just assuming that each cycle represents a year. Just assumption and guesses…that proves nothing!

And what about the Bristlecone pine trees that have 9,000 rings? Mr. Nye would like you to believe that proves they’re 9,000 years old. Wrong! That’s just an arbitrary claim and more assumptions! Many trees can have multiple growth cycles and multiple rings in the same year. Mr. Nye can’t prove that those trees got only one ring per year—he’s just assuming that. Now, “the bristlecone pines, with its dry climate, doesn’t readily afford multiple tree rings, but to assume the climate has always been identical to that of today is without warrant, even by Mr. Nye’s standards” (87). It’s just all fallible assumptions—God’s historical science textbook (the Bible) tells us that the Flood causes massive changes in weather patterns. So no…those trees prove nothing, other than the fact that Mr. Nye is using man’s historical science to battle God’s historical science.

HH on the Global Flood, Rock Layers, Skulls, and Kangaroos
And then Mr. Nye tried to say that claiming a global flood could lay down all those different sediment layers in a short time was unreasonable. Well, that’s just him claiming his own authority and questioning God! Concrete (“which is in reality artificial rock”) can solidify very quickly—who’s to say that couldn’t have happened with the rock layers after the flood? Was Bill Nye there? No, he was not!

And then Mr. Nye showed a bunch of different skulls on a slide, and tried to argue that you can’t really tell which ones were human or ape. Well, “this was a very poor attempt by Mr. Nye to intimidate people into believing his evolutionary view. Anyone can quickly show a slide depicting lots of skulls, claim this is evidence of evolution, and move on! That was a very unfair tactic by Mr. Nye, and not becoming of someone truly wanting to debate the issue of origins in a carefully thought-out way” (95).

And then Mr. Nye mocked YECism by asking, “How could animals from the Middle East make their way to Australia?” Well, there could have been a land bridge; or they could have floated to Australia on driftwood. Why can’t creationists come up with models based on their beliefs? Mr. Nye will never accept them, though, because he just wants to mock the Bible!

He also pointed out that if kangaroos travelled from the Middle East to Australia, then why are there no fossils found anywhere on the route from the Middle East to Australia? Well, “just because one doesn’t find the fossils of animals in an area doesn’t mean those animals didn’t live there. …Not finding fossils someplace is not a good indication that they never existed there…” (97-98). Clearly, Mr. Nye’s assumptions are not reasonable at all!

HH on Kinds, Species, Noah’s Ark, Ancient Technology, and the Fossil Record
Mr. Nye then totally claimed Mr. Ham said something he never said. Mr. Nye said that Mr. Ham said there were 7,000 kinds of animals on the Ark. Mr. Ham never said that! He said there could have been 8,000! But it could have been as few as 1,000 kinds…in any case, that’s Mr. Nye for you! Just blatantly misrepresenting things! He didn’t even know the difference between “species” and “kinds!” Clearly, he didn’t do his research. “The more I listened to the debate, the more I realized that Mr. Ham’s understanding of the nature of science and the origins issue was way above that of Mr. Nye” (102).

Mr. Nye then mocked the Bible by saying it was not reasonable to believe that Noah and his family could have built an Ark. Well, how does he know that Noah wasn’t an expert shipwright? After all, he could have studied for 500 years before he built the Ark! Besides, the ancient technology of that time was probably pretty amazing; unfortunately, but the time of the Age of Exploration, much of that knowledge had been lost. In addition, Noah could have hired workers; men like Methuselah and Lamech could have helped. We just don’t know.

But Mr. Nye won’t accept this, because he’s relying on autonomous human reason—he’s a materialist, and he has no basis for the laws of logic and reason! He has to borrow from the Christian worldview! How dare he try to make a logical argument against God!

Then Mr. Nye asked, “How could only eight people take care of all those animals on a floating zoo?” Well, “I want the reader to understand that Mr. Nye’s accusation implying bad treatment of animals is one tactic used by skeptics against those who believe the account of Noah’s Ark in the Bible” (110). Noah would never neglect those animals! Mr. Nye’s accusation was just a vicious attack.

This is the actual illustration the book gives to argue for AiG’s view of the fossil record and rock layers.

After that, Mr. Nye tried to convince people that the Geological Time Scale is true, and that all those fossilized animals were buried in sediment millions of years apart. Well, that is just an evolutionary story based on Mr. Nye’s worldview and religion of naturalism. We look at those same fossils and say they were all laid down during Noah’s Flood. Same evidence—different interpretation! Why can’t our beliefs be taught as science too?

We need to just state the obvious: evolution is no different than Greek mythology. “Really, Mr. Nye’s evolutionary belief is nothing but a human fairy tale about origins similar to the Greek myths” (122).

HH on Scientific Predictions, Natural Laws, and the Big Bang
And then, Mr. Nye started to harp on “predictions,” and how YECism doesn’t make scientific predictions. He had the audacity to say, “Ken Ham and his followers.” Let’s be clear, “it is not Ken Ham and his followers, but rather Mr. Ham and fellow followers of the Bible” (125). Anyway, why is Mr. Nye so hung up on predictions? He’s a materialist! “Why would his religion with the teaching that nothing is immaterial include a concept like predictability, which is not material? This is self-refuting for the materialistic worldview that Mr. Nye has been professing” (125).

But if you want to talk about predictions, the Bible is full of them—they’re called prophecies. So why do evolutionists reject biblical prophecies and rely on “the failed ‘prophecies’ or ‘predictions’ by secular scientists (e.g., dropped transitional forms, changing evolutionary ideas), and yet keep coming back for more (125)! It’s a spiritual issue, really—they are sinful and are in rebellion against God.

And can you believe it? Mr. Nye again accused YECists of saying that the natural laws have changed. “Creationists do not say that natural laws have ever changed. Mr. Ham said this. …he couldn’t understand what Mr. Nye was really saying here, as it didn’t make sense” (126).

Mr. Nye also tried to point to various dating methods, like radiometric dating, in an attempt to “prove” that there are rocks that are millions of years old. Well, you can’t trust radiometric dating. “Uniformitarian dating methods simply assume something has been uniform in the past—that is, unchanging” (139). Besides, radiometric dating is just filled with assumptions, and are just unreliable.

With that kind of absurd accusation, it shouldn’t surprise you that Mr. Nye believes in the Big Bang. But you know what the Big Bang is? It’s just an unprovable assumption. In fact, it is a disprovable assumption, because the Bible gives a different view that disproves the Big Bang! The Big Bang says that stars came before the earth; but we know that’s not true! Some Christians try to say God used the Big Bang, but that creates more problems. “If Christians attempt to force the Big Bang into the Bible, they have to say that God’s Word in Genesis in regard to the creation of the earth and the sun is totally wrong! (129).

And by the way, that means that the stars aren’t expanding because of the Big Bang—we know they are expanding because God is stretching them out. Just consider Isaiah 42:5: “Thus says God the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out…” There are lots of other verses just like that: all giving accurate, scientific information about the universe. “On the basis of God’s Word, Christians would expect to find the heavens stretching as well as evidence of it having been stretched. This stretching is a great confirmation of what was predicted based on the Bible” (133).

Speaking of stars, Mr. Nye then made an outrageous claim that the elements (as in the table of elements) were created when stars exploded! “Has anyone observed this? No. Has anyone repeated this? No. So at best, this is mere wishful thinking to try to tell a story about how they believe elements came about” (136). All it is, is fairytales! “Once upon a time,” those secularists say, “Once upon a later time…and an even later time!” It is all simply fiction! “It is stories, on top of stories, on top of stories. [Mr. Nye] is deliberately mixing historical science and observational science together and calling them one word—science” (137). It all is just as ridiculous as Greek mythological stories! “So whose arbitrary stories should be trusted—those of the Greek mythologists or the modern humanistic mythologists?” (138).

Sure, Mr. Nye tries to point to distant starlight as supposed “proof” that the universe is 14 billion years old—but how does he know that? It’s all just a bunch of assumptions. Genesis 1 says God created light on Day 4, and that was about 6,000 years ago…case closed. God could have created light in transit, the speed of light could have been much faster in the past [Writer’s Note: Reflect back on HH’s insistence that they don’t believe natural laws change], or there could be time zones in space. Who really knows? Was Mr. Nye there? Who are you going to believe? Mr. Nye and his humanistic fallible fairytales, or God’s historical science textbook, the Bible?

HH and Their Conclusion about Bill Nye
Well, Mr. Nye concluded that “Ken Ham’s creation model” is not viable. AGAIN—it’s not Ken Ham’s creation model—it is the Bible! In any case, “Although Mr. Nye brought up hosts of points, he really didn’t present anything that would be construed as remotely devastating to creation” (154). It was all just a bunch of assumptions, poor research, and assertions that were simply wrong.

Mr. Nye probably knew how pathetic his points were—that’s why he used the Skeptical Method in hopes of discrediting the Bible. “However, a careful check of his claims uncovers that he was not able to poke holes in the creation model built on God’s revealed Word” (154). It was like Mr. Nye took a gun, fired off a bunch of shots, but they were all blanks—and all he could hope for was that perhaps Mr. Ham would be rattled by the noise.

But of course, Mr. Ham wasn’t rattled at all! He was truly wise to ignore all that noise “and instead concentrate on teaching the true nature of science and relating the worldview conflict that was being acted out before the eyes of the worldwide viewing audience” (154).

Whew…to Conclude
So, let me, the actual Joel Anderson (not my “inner HH”), just ask: Was that convincing, or was that rather frustrating to read? Did HH convincingly address Bill Nye’s scientific arguments, or did they essentially dismiss every single one, out of hand, as “assumptions and fairytales”? Did you see the dizzying use of the five “mirrors” AiG employs in their arguments? Can you see through the smoke?

I know this post was rather long, but I wanted to put it all together in one post, so that you can have a taste of the unrelenting barrage of pseudo-science, ad hominems, and manipulative rhetoric that went on for 70 pages. In my next post, I will offer my thoughts and observations on what I illustrated in this post. After reading this, though, ask yourself how would you go about addressing any of this?

And indeed, that gets to the deeper question about all of this “creation/evolution debate”: How should a thoughtful Christian go about addressing these kinds of claims by YECism? Trust me, I know how frustrating it can be, especially when you get sucked into a debate with someone who continually parrots what is laid out in this post. I’ve probably said a few things in the heat of the moment I shouldn’t have.

So, what is one to do? What is the best way to go about it? That’s for next time.

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 45): Immanuel [you] Kant [be serious]

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 45): Immanuel [you] Kant [be serious]

In this brief post today, we will look at Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the philosopher who really “changed everything.” Now, I am not an expert in Kant, so I will simply do my best to outline some of the basic ideas he put forth…at least the one’s I understand. The key thing to realize about Kant is that he changed the way the West tended to view reality itself. He was the one who took a meat cleaver to reality and chopped into two different parts. In his Critique of Pure Reason (1781 AD) he argued for a complete split in reality: the noumenal realm consisted of ideas and thoughts, whereas the phenomenal realm was the realm of material things, science governing the latter realm, and religion governing the former.

Now, people always realized that there was a difference between the “spiritual world” and the “material world,” but never a complete distinction into two different airtight compartments. At the very heart of the Christian faith was the idea that “the Word became flesh,” that God had become man–the spiritual world was made known through the material world. The Nicene Creed declares, “We believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible“–there was one reality, and the spiritual world and material world were both vital parts of that one reality. But with Kant, came the idea of two realities, playing by two different sets of rules.

The Giant Coin Machine
He further argued that there were twelve categories of understanding within the human mind. Think of it this way: imagine the mind as a giant coin-collecting machine, with twelve different slots that sorts twelve different types of coins. If you dump a load of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and eight other kinds of coins, there are mechanisms within the machine that can sort out the coins into their proper categories. This is what Kant argued happens within the human mind. Our senses are like the “coin collectors,” and they dump all the different “coins” (i.e. anything they take in through the senses) into the mind, which then sorts out all the varying “coins” into their proper categories.

Kant also gave his own definition of “enlightenment”: “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Dare to know! Have courage to use your own understanding! That is the motto of the enlightenment.”

Simply put, Kant argued that to be truly enlightened meant to allow one’s reason to function autonomously, without any regard for any authority on any given issue. Now obviously, everyone should use his/her own reason in order to understand the world better; and obviously, it is immature to blindly accept what an authority figure tells you about something. But the idea that it is a wise and mature thing to completely disregard any “guidance from another” is, ironically, extremely foolish and immature, if not sophomoric. True enlightenment is not the reliance on your own autonomous reason, without any consideration of what others have said, without any humility to realize that you might not know everything. True enlightenment is using your own reason, interacting with what others have said, and accepting the guidance of those who have gone before you, and having the humility to admit your own autonomous reason, when left to itself, is going to be woefully inadequate for understanding the world.

Morality…Just Think About It
In his later work, Critique of Practical Reason (1788), Kant extended his praise of autonomous reasoning to morality. He argued that morality itself is not dependent upon some sort of “divine authority.” Instead, he argued that morality is based on, you guessed it, autonomous reason. Simply put, one should do the moral thing, not because some divine ruler in the sky tells one what is moral and what is not, but rather because one uses his/her autonomous reason to come to the conclusion what the moral thing to do is. Morality is self-evident, if only you’d think about it.

It should be self-evident that this simply not true. Ask a conservative and a liberal, both with the same education, about what is moral, and I can guarantee you that you will get different answers. Why? Because morality isn’t always self-evident; it’s not just a matter of using your reason to think about it. Furthermore, I would argue that Kant’s (and I suspect many others’) very concept of morality is somewhat flawed. Kant (and many others) seems to think morality is simply a matter of legal rules, either dictated by a divine authority in the sky, or as objective as a scientific fact (like gravity) that anyone can just “figure out” if one studies enough.

I would like to suggest that morality cannot be seen solely in terms of legality, and it certainly cannot be viewed in the same way scientific facts are viewed. Morality, at its heart, is relational. As many biblical scholars will tell you, even the Torah, at its heart, is rooted in the covenant relationship between YHWH and Israel. When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus himself says, “Love God,” and “Love your neighbor”—all the legal codes are essentially just commentary on those two things.

Kant on Christianity, Doctrine, and Sin
In his work, Religion with the Limits of Reason Alone (1793), Kant depicted the heart and soul of Christianity as being nothing more than moralistic deism: belief in an absentee sky god, and adherence to moral rules in order to be good little boys and girls. For Kant, Christianity was certainly the most ethical of all religions, but nevertheless all the doctrines that made it distinctive (i.e. the Trinity, the divine and human natures of Christ, the sinfulness of humankind and the need for salvation, etc.) just had to go.

Although Kant readily acknowledged the existence of evil in the world, he argued that it could, in fact, be overcome. People just needed to trust their autonomous reason to deal with the problem of evil. Related to this was Kant’s understanding of the origin of sin. Looking at the story of Adam and Eve, Kant denied that it was a historical account of the origin of sin in the world. For Kant, “the fall” didn’t happen “back then and there.” For Kant, Adam represented everyman, and therefore the story of “the fall” of Adam was a depiction of what every human does to corrupt its disposition.

In this respect, Kant’s reading of Genesis 3 is actually somewhat similar to that of Eastern Orthodoxy. But where Kant clearly veered from any semblance of Christianity’s understanding of the fall, was that he concluded “salvation” was not something that God initiates to save a hopelessly fallen human race. Instead, Kant argued that a “rational response” to the state of humanity was for each one of us to figure out (using our autonomous reason) what we must individually to do essentially merit God’s assistance. Call Kant an Enlightenment version of Pelagius, if you want, for essentially, Kant changed turned Christianity into a “pull yourself by your moral bootstraps” religion.

And indeed, many people today who have little or no knowledge of how the Enlightenment changed how people in the West thought about religion and morality, simply parrot the sort of ideas about religion that Kant put forth: “I try to be a good person, so I’m sure that if there’s a God, I’ll go to heaven.”  Ever heard that kind of thing before? Well, it’s not Christianity…

Is this probably a rather inadequate take on Immanuel Kant? Perhaps…but it’s the best I can do!

The Nye/Ham Debate (Part 6): The Mirrors are in Place…Cue the Smoke! (Ham’s biblical predictions that aren’t predictions; plus: giants and dinosaurs in a pre-flood coliseum!)

The Nye/Ham Debate (Part 6): The Mirrors are in Place…Cue the Smoke! (Ham’s biblical predictions that aren’t predictions; plus: giants and dinosaurs in a pre-flood coliseum!)

In my last two posts about the analysis that Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge (HH) gave regarding Ken Ham’s main presentation at the Nye/Ham Debate three years ago, I set out five set talking points that Answers in Genesis (AiG) routinely uses in most of their debates and articles. These talking points, though, actually aid in distracting people from focusing on the issue at hand. I equated their methods to smoke and mirrors. The five talking points I likened to the mirrors, and I can guarantee you: read any amount of material from AiG, or watch any talk Ken Ham gives, you will see virtually everything being reflected off these mirrors.

That being said, there still is the smoke to deal with—and that is what we will be looking at in this post. The “smoke” is unlike the mirrors, in that those are the set talking points; the “smoke” is any kind of argument or unique point Ken Ham makes that, upon closer inspection, isn’t an argument at all. Often, upon closer look, it doesn’t even make much sense.

Ken Ham’s Supposed Predictions
One of the things that HH highlight in their book, Inside the Nye/Ham Debate, was the part of Ken Ham’s presentation in which he explained that there is observable evidence (i.e. observational science) that confirms predictions based on the biblical creation model (54). He then listed six predictions: intelligence produced life; the kinds of animals; a global flood; one race; the Tower of Babel; and a young universe.

Now, I’m not going to critique every detail in these claims, other than perhaps a passing comment. But what I do want to draw your attention to is the blown smoke right at the beginning: Ken Ham’s claim that observational science confirms the predictions of a biblical creation model for origins. Do you see the problem? Ham had already argued that observational and historical science are two completely different things, and that historical science is not subject to the scientific method because it cannot be tested or observed. Yet somehow, he then turns around and claims that observational science can confirm historical science.

Secondly, let’s just be honest, Ken Ham’s supposed “predictions” aren’t predictions.

  1. Intelligence produced life: “Because the Bible is true, we expect to see evidence that life was created by an intelligence” (55). Ham then points to DNA, and then to the law of biogenesis that says life cannot spring from non-living things.

Well, okay…but how is that a prediction? That’s not a scientific prediction.

  1. After their kind: Ham claims that when Genesis 1 says that God created the animals “according to their kind,” that he was classifying them with a scientific category. Then he points to the fact that dogs produce dogs, and says, “So this prediction in biology based on the Bible is confirmed” (56).

I’m sorry, what is the prediction? Genesis 1 isn’t making a prediction; it’s stating that God created all kinds of animals—that’s all. Not only that, but “kinds” is not God’s scientific classification of animals. That is something that YECists have simply made up.

  1. A Global Flood: Genesis 6-9 speak of a global flood; Ken Ham believes it was a literal global flood about 4,000 years ago. What is the observational evidence that confirms this? Two things: (A) “Most cultures around the world have a Flood legend that contains similar elements to that in Genesis” (57); and (B) the fact that there are fossils in rock layers all over the world.

Now to be sure, Point A is interesting. But it isn’t observable scientific evidence of a global flood. As for Point B, fossils buried around the world isn’t evidence of a singular global flood; it’s evidence that fossils have been buried as a result of flooding, and there have been many local floods all over the world that have resulted in buried fossils. Again…this isn’t evidence of a global flood 4,000 years ago. And Genesis 6-9 isn’t a prediction.

  1. One Race: Here, Ken Ham makes two astounding claims. First, that evolutionary theory is inherently racist; and second, that the Human Genome Project “confirmed the Bible’s account of human history when they announced their findings to the world” (61)—that there was definitively one human race; all human beings were genetically related. Ham thus concludes that the evolutionary prediction was false, and the biblical one was true.

But let’s be clear: yes, there were some racists who tried to use evolutionary theory to justify their racism—but that doesn’t make the theory itself racist. There were also racists who tried to use the Bible to justify their racism—but neither Ken Ham nor I would think of throwing the Bible out simply because some racists distorted it. The same holds true for the theory of evolution. And second, regarding the Human Genome Project, Ham fails to mention one tiny thing: the Human Genome Project conclusively proved that the human race goes much further back than 6,000 years. If anything the HGP conclusively proved Ham’s claim that human beings have been around only 6,000 years to be absolutely false.

  1. The Tower of Babel and Languages: HH claim that the “biblical framework” tells us that Adam and Eve were preprogrammed with an “original language,” and that this original language survived until Noah’s flood. It was only after Babel that different languages came into being. All that obviously comes from a literalistic/historical interpretation of Genesis 1-11. The problem is that linguists will tell you that language has been around a lot longer than 6,000 years. And so, HH’s response is this: linguists are a part of the secular humanistic community, and they have just “made up” this story of the gradual development of languages. HH then equates linguistics with Greek mythology, and claims “an unbelieving secular community has refused to allow God in the door. So they must come up with stories to try to explain languages naturalistically” (63).

And there you have it: linguistics are secular humanists who have shut the door on God; and linguistics are no different than Greek mythology. Why do they equate the two? The answer should be obvious: they can’t actually address the findings of linguistics, so they have to attack the academic field and denigrate it by calling it “mythology”—and then they can just equate linguistics, as well as science, as something no different than “pagan mythology.”

And do I need to point out that I have no idea how any of that can be considered a “prediction” that confirms the biblical account of origins?

  1. A Young Universe: The gist of Ham’s “evidence” for this is quite simple. The universe is 6,000 years old, because that’s what we can calculate in the Bible: 5 days (first 5 days of creation) + 2,000 (total the genealogies from Adam to Abraham) + 4,000 years (from Abraham to present day). There you go: Ken Ham’s “evidence” of observational science that confirms predictions based on the biblical model is…the Bible?

Now please, don’t take this to mean I’m mocking the Bible—I most certainly am not. I’m just pointing out the absurdity of what Ken Ham did: he pointed to the Bible as the “observational scientific” evidence that confirms the prediction based on the biblical model.

What? Again, where is there a prediction in any of that? I thought observational science was the technology that can be observed and repeated by the scientific method—where is the observational science in any of that? Let’s face it: Ham’s “scientific evidence” that the biblical model for a young earth is correct can’t be the Bible—you can’t point to the thing you’re trying to prove as proof of that thing you’re trying to prove.

Bonus Material: Newsflash, the Earth’s Not Flat
As crazy as that example of circular reasoning is, HH mention something at this point that made my mouth drop to the floor. They wanted to respond to Bill Nye’s statement that scientists can show the earth isn’t flat, and they can show the earth isn’t 10,000 years old. HH wanted to make crystal clear that YECists are not flat-earthers.

Now, before you breathe a sigh of relief, though, I need to share you the reason they give as to why they are not flat-earthers: “The Bible makes it clear that the earth isn’t flat, in plain language…” (65). And what is the plain language? It’s Isaiah 40:22 (“It is He who sits above the circle of the earth…”), and Job 26:10 (“He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters…”).

The Ancient Near Eastern Understanding of the Universe

What makes this claim so incredible is that in their attempt to prove the Bible is scientifically accurate, HH has quoted poetry. Not only that, but a circle is not the same thing as a globe. The picture both Isaiah and Job are describing is that of the ancient Near Eastern concept of the universe: the primordial waters below (often associated with Sheol); the flat circle of the earth resting on top of the primordial waters, held up by subterranean mountains or pillars; and the heavenly dome above them. Think of it like putting a snow-globe on top of one of those fake coral reefs that jut out above the water in your fish tank. Or just look at the picture provided here.

That was the ancient concept of the universe: a circular earth resting on primordial waters, with the heavenly dome above. Those verses are not talking about the earth as a globe! And yet, HH confidently trots these verses of poetry out as evidence that the Bible is scientifically accurate! And let me just emphasize, that it would be wrong to think the above ANE picture is an “inaccurate scientific understanding” of the universe,” because it wasn’t a scientific understanding of the universe in the first place. “Science” was not even a real category of understanding at that time, at least not in the same way it is today. It simply a poetic/metaphorical description based on the limitations of what they saw.

There’s still more! They even make sure to mention the idea of pillars. They say, “Poetic passages such as Psalm 75:3, which refers to the ‘pillars’ of the earth, were also used to derive the false view of a flat earth. Commentators…rightly point out that this is figurative for a firm foundation set by Christ” (66). I’m sorry…what? Psalm 75:3 actually says, “When the earth totters…it is I who keep steady its pillars.” The psalm itself refers to the earth tottering on its pillars! And yet, somehow, HH can say with a straight face, “It’s about Jesus,” and move right on!

And then they have the audacity to conclude: “By using observational science, we have been able to study the earth…and see that it is indeed round, circular, or spherical, thus confirming the passages in Isaiah and Job” (66). But Isaiah and Job aren’t claiming the earth is a globe, so the scientific discovery that the earth is round doesn’t confirm Isaiah and Job, because Isaiah and Job are reflecting the ancient Near Eastern cosmology of their times…and that’s entirely okay!

If it seems I am more worked up over their comments on this point than the others, I am. Science is not really my area of interest—the Bible is. And when I see such a blatant misuse of the Bible, it really annoys me.

Conclusion
In any case, as can be seen in these six supposed “evidences,” none of them are predictions. Bill Nye had made the point that what makes a valid scientific model is its ability to make scientific predictions. Ken Ham came back with these “evidences,” none of which were scientific…or even predictions.

That is a whole lot of smoke.

And to finish thing off, HH decided to reflect all that smoke off their reliable mirrors: it’s all a worldview conflict and a battle over belief about the past. And after saying Bill Nye was openly an agnostic and a humanist HH said, “Well, I have news for Mr. Nye…he has deeply held religious beliefs in secular humanism (man is the supreme authority in existence!) He views his thoughts as being greater than God and His Word. …Clearly Mr. Nye believes himself to be greater than God” (70). And then, of course, HH equated Bill Nye with the serpent of Genesis 3.

It’s amazing how far a lot of smoke regarding non-existent predictions and accusations of your debate opponent essentially be Satan, reflected off the various mirrors in Ken Ham’s fun house, can take an organization like Answers in Genesis.

By side-stepping every scientific challenge, making up a fictitious definition for a fictitious category of science, re-defining science as religion, and then appealing to poetic passages in the Bible as “evidence” for their scientific claims…I’m sorry, the fun house isn’t too much fun. It actually becomes quite disorienting. When you twist people’s minds up that much, you can tell them anything, and they’ll believe it, because they’re convinced everything you say is a fundamental part of the gospel.

And when I say everything, I mean everything. Even new dioramas being installed at the Ark Encounter that claim to depict biblical account of the depravity of the pre-flood civilization, complete with coliseums, giants in quasi-Romanesque gladiator gear, and innocent people being thrown to….no, not the lions…but to vicious dinosaurs.

I don’t recall any of that being in my Bible. For that matter, I don’t recall a lot of the stuff at the Ark Encounter being in my Bible. I can only conclude that it’s a different gospel, one of smoke, mirrors…and gladiator games with dinosaurs.

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 44): More on the Enlightenment–Two Brief Notes on Voltaire and David Hume

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 44): More on the Enlightenment–Two Brief Notes on Voltaire and David Hume

Today’s post will simply provide a few brief observations about two more Enlightenment thinkers: Voltaire and David Hume.

Voltaire, Natural Religion, and Self-Evident Truths
Along with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire (1694-1778 AD) was another major philosophical voice of the Enlightenment in France leading up to the French Revolution. And like Rousseau, Voltaire harbored a deep-seeded hatred of organized religion, namely Christianity as embodied in the Catholic Church. He found any and everything related to religious belief to be irrational foolishness, useful for only one thing: to be used as kindling in the great revolution that wiped out Christianity. Or as Voltaire himself said, “Wipe out the infamy!”

In place of organized religion, Voltaire espoused what he called, natural religion—the over-arching moral principles that the entire human race has in common. Simply put, Voltaire believed that morality was just a part of the natural order, and therefore was common to all human beings, just as one’s ears or eyes were. For Voltaire, “The only gospel one ought to read is the great book of nature, written by the hand of God and sealed with his seal. It is as impossible that this pure and eternal religion should produce evil as it is that the Christian fanaticism should not produce it.”

The problem, of course, for men like Voltaire, is the faulty notion that morality is self-evident. Thomas Jefferson, for example, wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” Well, are they? If one travels around the world, one will quickly find out that the moral truths that were so “self-evident” to men like Jefferson and Voltaire, are not, in fact, so “self-evident” as they supposed. For all the corruption and faults of the Catholic Church, and for all the corruption and divisiveness brought about by the Protestant Revolution, the Christianity that both Catholicism and Protestantism attempted to proclaim and live out had a tremendous positive impact on Western culture.

In fact, Christianity shaped Western culture so thoroughly that men like Voltaire and Jefferson just assumed that the moral teachings of Christianity were simply “self-evident” and derived “from nature.” Nothing could be further from the truth. As Tennyson wrote, “nature is red in tooth and claw”—what is, in fact, self-evident is that nature is not moral. It cannot give moral direction. It was the teachings of Christ that raised the human race up, above the barbarism and “natural” beast-like behavior that characterized much of the pagan world.

Therefore, for all its faults, the Church bore witness (and indeed continues to bear witness) to a Christ-like morality that elevates the natural man to a son of God. As we will see, the emerging philosophy of the Enlightenment that falsely attributed morality to the natural world and rejected Christianity outright ended up putting Western culture on a path—a return path—to the barbarism, and “natural” beast-like “morality” of the pagan world.

David Hume, Deism, and Miracles
As Rousseau and Voltaire were busy writing the propaganda of the so-called Enlightenment in France, David Hume (1711-1776 AD) was busy in England. He basically argued that miracles do not happen, because the natural world is completely governed by natural laws. Therefore, miracles, as understood to be violations of the laws of nature, where impossible. Furthermore, since the natural world was all that existed, the disciplines of theology and metaphysics were useless endeavors that should be “committed to the flames.” Instead, the only kind of genuine knowledge was to be found in mathematics and the experimental disciplines.

The effect of men like Hume was that there arose in Europe at this time the idea of deism. It was sort of a “kinder and gentler” form of religion (at least that’s how it was portrayed). It acknowledged that there was a creator God, but it turned around and denied that the creator God had any direct dealings with the human race. As N.T. Wright puts it, deism was simply a re-packaged form of Epicureanism. It taught that the creator God built the universe much like a watchmaker makes a watch—complete with natural mechanisms (i.e. natural laws) that keep it running along smoothly. Therefore, there simply is no need for the creator God to interfere with his creation. And since he doesn’t interfere with his creation, the notion of “miracles” was concluded to be irrational nonsense (as Hume went about arguing).

Of course, we must point out that the way in which the so-called Enlightenment set up the argument regarding the possibility of miracles was an example of loading the dice from the get go. Enlightenment thinkers defined the very issue in a way that the biblical writers would never have recognized. Let’s tease this out…

The first assumption deists had was that the created order is a giant mechanism (like a watch). Science has now showed such a view of the natural world to be woefully inadequate. There is more going on in nature than these so-called Enlightenment thinkers could ever imagine. What we call “natural laws” are really just descriptions of what we’ve been able to figure out. Therefore, to equate all of nature with something like a machine is to vastly over-simplify the complexity of nature. Simply put, the so-called Enlightenment thinkers depicted “natural laws” as mechanisms that govern nature, rather than explanations for what we can observe in nature: explanations are far different than mechanical laws.

This leads to the second assumption. Since they believed nature was governed by these “natural laws,” by limiting their definition of reality to the material world alone, they assumed that nothing could go against these “natural laws.” Therefore, to claim that Jesus healed lepers or was raised from the dead was to claim something that went against these “natural laws.” And since deists didn’t want to deny God altogether, they simply shoved him to another corner of the universe, and said that God couldn’t (or wouldn’t) violate the “natural laws” that he set up.

This leads to the third assumption. Deists assumed that God had nothing to do with his creation. He wound it up like a watch and then left it to run itself. They viewed “creation” as something that happened “back then and there.” What they failed to notice (and it should be blindingly obvious to anyone who cares to see) is that creation is on-going.

Simply put, if the natural world is nothing more than a wound-up watch, then the deists are right: there is no need for God to “interfere” and hence no rational basis for miracles. But if the natural world is much more complex than a watch, and if creation isn’t just a “back then and there” one time phenomenon, then the deist depiction of God as an absentee landlord is woefully naïve and inadequate…

…and that opens the door to reconsidering “miracles,” but in a different light. Instead of seeing Jesus’ healing of a leper or raising from the dead as a “miracle” (i.e. a supernatural violation of mechanistic “natural laws”), perhaps we should see such things as examples of deeper mysteries and goings-on within nature that we do not understand. In fact, it should be noted, that the word “miracle” is not even in the Bible. What is translated as “miracle” literally means “dynamic deed.” The ancients did not view the natural world in the same mechanized way as the people of the Enlightenment did, and therefore they did not see so-called “miracles” as “miracles” at all—they didn’t violate “natural laws.” They were unique demonstrations of God’s power within the natural world—yet God’s power was understood to be constantly manifest.

Tomorrow, I am going to introduce you to Immanuel Kant.

Inside the Nye/Ham Debate (Part 5): The Last Three “Mirrors” of YEC’s Debate Tactics

Inside the Nye/Ham Debate (Part 5): The Last Three “Mirrors” of YEC’s Debate Tactics

In my last post, I began to point out five specific talking points/tactics that are routinely used by young earth creationists. We see these in play in both Ken Ham’s debate with Bill Nye and the book by Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge about the debate, Inside the Nye/Ham Debate. I equate these talking points with smoke and mirrors, for they serve, not to actually make a positive argument for a young earth, but rather to obfuscate the issues and dismiss any and all scientific discoveries that challenge Ham’s claims. I covered the first two mirrors in my previous post; I want to touch upon the other three mirrors in this post.

The Third Mirror: Genesis 1-11 is God’s Historical Science Textbook
The third “mirror” Ken Ham and AiG employs whenever the argue for YEC is the claim that Genesis 1-11 is God’s eyewitness historical account of the origin of the universe, and is therefore conveying accurate scientific information.

Claiming that Genesis 1-11 is essentially historical is not anything that uncommon—a lot of people assume that. What is uncommon, though, is the relatively new claim made my YECism that Genesis 1-11 is conveying accurate scientific information. And what is absolutely astounding is the lengths to with they go in order to make that claim. In order to get to the point where he can argue that Genesis 1-11 is “doing science,” Ken Ham has to jump through a number of hoops: he must claim there are two kinds of science, and then claim historical science is just about belief (Note: if you define something as not being subject to the scientific method, then it is not science. If you say, “This kind of science is belief based on one’s religious worldview,” then it is not science.)

In any case, this is where the third “mirror” comes into play: the Bible is God’s “historical science textbook.” It is important to realize that Ham is not saying that Genesis 1-11 is “science” in the way most people think (i.e. the study of nature that is subject to the scientific method). He has already split the realm of science into two distinct categories, and has already claimed that his belief that Genesis 1-11 is conveying accurate information as to how the world, indeed the universe was formed, is scienceGod’s historical sciencethe kind of science that the scientific method can’t touch…the kind of science that is belief.

In fact, Ken Ham positively brags that Genesis 1-11 isn’t the same kind of science as “secular science,” because “secular science is always changing, but God’s Word never changes.” Of course, the reason why science is always changing is because scientists are learning new things about nature, and are thus constantly learning more—that’s what makes advances in learning about the natural world possible.

Furthermore, Ham is simply misunderstanding the biblical passages that talk about God’s Word never changing—simply put, it is not talking about how the Bible gives accurate scientific information. But this is the kind of thing that happens when someone comes up with his own definition of a special kind of science, and then couples it with very poor biblical interpretation, and verses ripped out of context.

The Fourth Mirror: Same Evidence, Different Interpretations based on Different Starting Points
With the first three “mirrors” in place, Ken Ham’s fourth “mirror” allows him to shoot down every and any piece of scientific evidence that refutes his YECist claims: it’s all about different starting points, and any information that points to an old earth or evolution is just based on secular/humanistic assumptions.

And sure enough, HH praises Ham in the book for making this very claim in the debate: same evidence, but different interpretations. Thus, according to Ham, it “actually becomes a worldview/religious debate” (53). And voila! Ham has taken what was to be a debate over whether or not YEC is a viable scientific method, and has turned it into a religious debate. And once he does that, he can then bring in the fact that his starting point is God’s infallible Word (i.e. God’s historical science textbook), but that “secular scientists” have a starting point of “man’s fallible word” (i.e. religious naturalism).

Starlight pointing to an old universe? Nope—your starting point is an assumption the universe is old, and you clearly are in rebellion against God; Ken Ham’s starting point is Genesis 1—God’s historical science textbook. The various dating methods that point to an ancient earth? Nope—you just are starting with the assumption the earth is old, and you are mocking Noah; Ken Ham’s starting point is Genesis 6-9—God’s historical science textbook.

No matter what the evidence is, Ken Ham simply dismisses it, claim it is all based on assumptions, and say his famous, “Were you there? I have a book written by God who was there!”

By strategically placing those first four mirrors throughout his presentation and books, Ham has not only made it possible to never actually address any scientific evidence that challenges his YECist claims, he also sets the stage to argue for his real agenda: the culture war. That is the fifth mirror.

The Fifth Mirror: The Religious Culture War
The fifth mirror is really what all the other four mirrors are angled to, for it reflects Ham’s real concern. Arguing for YECism is simply a means to this end. And indeed, the last few pages of the chapter are devoted to it.

After blowing a lot of smoke into the debate (the smoke will be looked at in the next post), Ham brought his 30-minute presentation to a close by hammering home what his real concern and real agenda was: fighting the culture war. For he is convinced that evolution and claims of an old earth are systematic attempts by secular humanists to undermine the Bible and to encourage immorality in the culture.

Now to be sure, I do believe there is a significant culture shift going on in our society that is disturbing; and yes, I think the more our culture succumbs to the secular thinking of the Enlightenment, the more our culture is going to disintegrate, for the Enlightenment worldview is rooted in philosophical naturalism, and is decidedly hostile to Christianity.

It is just that none of that is rooted in scientific discoveries regarding the natural world or the age of the universe. But this is Ham’s foundational point to his entire organization and life’s work: in order to save the culture, we must convince people that Genesis 1-11 is scientifically true.

To be clear, what will save the culture is the Church bearing witness to Christ, caring for the poor and needy, living out cruciform lives that are willing to lay down their lives for others, and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in people’s lives as they see Christians bearing the image of Christ. Trying to convince people that Genesis 1-11 is a special kind of science that isn’t subject to the scientific method, and attacking anyone who isn’t convinced of such an argument is not going to save the culture because it’s not true.

Ham’s Grand Finale: Marriage, Death, and Clothing
In any case, in a debate that was focused on the question of whether or not young earth creationism was a viable scientific model for origins, Ham concluded his presentation by talking about how “biblical creationism” is vital for Christian doctrine, and then calling for Christians to fight the culture war.

Ham’s first concern was marriage. Obviously, there is a controversy raging in our current culture about gay marriage—I am not going to wade into those waters. But I do want to point out the curious claim by Ham that marriage is a doctrine. Yes, the Bible clearly assumes marriage is between a man and a woman; yes, throughout all of history and all cultures, up until the later part of 20th century Western society, marriage has always been between a man and woman—but marriage isn’t a doctrine; and for that matter, the reason why marriage has always been understood to be between a man and a woman isn’t because the Bible says so, and it certainly is not dependent on whether or not there was a historical Adam and Eve.

Simply put, the argument for traditional marriage is not dependent on whether or not Genesis 2 is about two historical people.

Ham’s second concern was with sin, death, and Christ’s atonement. Yes, the Bible is clear: Christ came, suffered, died, and resurrected in order to cleanse us from sin and conquer death itself: that’s the salvation message. But apparently, Ken Ham believes that is all contingent on whether or not Genesis 2-3 is literal history. He objects to evolution because that would mean there was death in the world before Adam, and that would mean God didn’t create a perfect world at the beginning.

As HH writes, “If death had been around for millions of years prior to sin, then death would be very good and perfect, as God described everything He made as ‘very good.’ This would undermine the very reason for Christ’s atoning sacrifice” (78). If evolution were true, HH claims, then “we would expect to see death in heaven” (78). Therefore, “Believing in millions of years undermines the atonement—and undermines the WORD. As Christ is the WORD, not believing the WORD is an attack on Christ” (78).

Now, theological question of death is a serious one, but HH’s claims are riddled with problems. I’ve written about this issue in other posts (here and here), but to make a quick point, early Church Fathers like Irenaeus, did not teach that God created a “perfect” world or that Adam was created “perfect.” In fact, he said that such a teaching was a gnostic heresy. Simply put, they taught that suffering and death, while obviously not good, are still inevitable parts of this creation, and that it is through suffering that we grow into maturity and the likeness of God, as Christ demonstrated and now empowers us to do through the Holy Spirit.

Simply put, Ham’s premise is wrong: “very good” does not mean “perfect,” millions of years does not undermine the atonement, and it certainly isn’t an attack on Christ. But in any case, notice the effect of the rhetoric used here: HH is telling their readers that being convinced of what astronomy, biology, geology and genetics have discovered is to attack Christ. That is a scare tactic if there ever was one. In a debate over whether or not YECism is scientifically viable, Ham is telling people that they are in danger of hell if they doubt his YECist claims.

The final “doctrine” Ham mentions is…clothing. Now, I do not see how clothing is a doctrine, but nevertheless, when discussing this part of the presentation, HH states, “Clothing is a biblical doctrine. Originally, man had no shame in a perfect created order” (77), but because of sin, we now have shame, and that’s why we wear clothes.

Ham is wrong on two counts:

  • His assumption that God created the world and man “perfect.” To a point, the Bible doesn’t say that, and the early Church Fathers didn’t teach that.
  • His assumption that Genesis 2-3 is to be read literally as history, and not metaphorically.

In any case, you might be asking, “What does this have to do with the culture war?” Well, Ham is concerned with the increase of nakedness in our culture. I for one have not seen naked people walking our streets, but apparently, Ham is alarmed over nakedness. Apparently, Ham believes that if we don’t teach Genesis 2-3 is literal history, then more people are going to start walking around naked.

I just honestly don’t get that.

And Finally…
By the time we get to the last two pages of HH’s analysis of Ham’s presentation, we are light years away from the debate topic. Here are the points they made:

  • There is a bias against creationists in public schools
  • The origins debate isn’t a scientific one, but a religious one: “It’s a battle over religion—that of God or that of man: Christianity versus humanism” (78).
  • Public schools are forcing the religion of atheism on students
  • Public schools “arbitrarily define science as naturalism and outlaw the supernatural” (79).
  • Ken Ham showed “the implications of the secular religion that is being forced onto students and the subjectivity or arbitrariness behind it” (79).
  • In a secular worldview, you have gay marriage, euthanasia, and abortion.
  • A literal/historical reading of Genesis gives us the doctrinal basis for “clothing, truth, honor, logic, science, medicine, knowledge, morality, kindness, helping the elderly and diseased” (79).
  • In a secular worldview “everything is meaningless and nothing really matters” (79).

And after all that, HH concludes: “Creation is the only viable model of historical science confirmed by observational science in today’s modern scientific era” (79).

Let me make just three points:

  1. None of those points had anything to do with the debate topic.
  2. By making those statements, Ham has essentially convinced his followers that if someone is convinced by modern science (of course, he’d say, “If someone believes evolution,” because he wants to convince people it’s a religious issue, not a scientific question)—that they are therefore brain-washing nihilists who are for gay marriage, euthanasia, and abortion, etc.
  3. And finally, the last statement made was not proven at all…at all.

But this is the point of the five “mirrors” employed by Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis: to avoid answering actual scientific challenges, to demonize anyone who challenges his YECist claims, and to frighten his followers into thinking that evolution = atheism = attacking Christ = moral degeneracy = ultimately hell.

I’ve had countless debates with YECist Ham acolytes, and these five “mirrors” come into play every time; and every time, it is obvious that they are convinced that I am anti-Christ because I disagree with Ken Ham. It is ultimately sad and tragic. They are so caught in this mental loop that just bounces everything off of these five “mirrors” that they cannot see anything else.

It reminds me of what Leah Remini has recently said about her time in Scientology. She said that when you are in it, you are so convinced that the fate of the universe hinges on your devotion to Scientology, that you are willing to accept the most outrageous and illogical claims Scientology makes, and you actually convince yourself that anyone who criticizes Scientology is an insidious enemy, not only to Scientology, but to humanity itself. You can’t think straight, and you actually believe that all the problems in the world go back to Lord Xenu and brainwashed thetans attaching themselves to people’s bodies.

In my book, I argued that YECism is essentially a heresy, but it wasn’t necessarily a cult. The more I think about it, though, I think it just might have all the markings of a cult. Now that I’ve pointed out the mirrors of YEC tactics, in my next post, I will discuss the smoke of YEC that HH puts forth in their analysis of Ham’s presentation.

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 43): The Enlightenment and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Is it too much to say he’s the devil?)

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 43): The Enlightenment and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Is it too much to say he’s the devil?)

When we speak of the Enlightenment, we are primarily speaking of 18th century Europe. After 200 years of religious wars throughout Europe, the men of the Enlightenment had had enough of religion, particularly of Christianity. The “godfathers” of the Enlightenment, men like Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Spinoza, had laid the foundation upon which later men like Voltaire and Rousseau built.

Like all other movements, the Enlightenment was a mixed bag. Anyone who attempts to portray the Enlightenment as completely bad, with no redeemable qualities to it is either ignorant or just lying. At the same time, though, modern day “Enlightenment enthusiasts” who depict the Enlightenment as a glorious recovery of the golden age of Greece and Rome are equally deluded. Before we get into a full-out analysis of the movement as a whole, we must first look specifically at the major thinkers of the Enlightenment, and consider their impact on history.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778 AD)
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was one of the most highly-influential thinkers of the Enlightenment, and his thought still impacts the world today. Even people who know next to nothing about Rousseau have imbibed many presuppositions that stem from the Rousseauean-Enlightenment worldview. Yet when studied against the backdrop of thinkers like Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Spinoza before him, Rousseau signals a definitive break with the past. Unlike those men, who believed that religion, however irrational and idiotic it might be, could still be used to further the stability and power of a secular ruler, Rousseau unequivocally declared that such trash was irredeemable. He actively said that it was high time that the trash of Christianity be taken out, thrown away, and replaced with a completely “secular religion.”

The Anti-Genesis Myth
In order to establish a foundation for such a “secular religion,” Rousseau ironically made up his own “Genesis myth,” or more properly, an anti-Genesis myth regarding the origin of mankind. Simply put, in order to bolster his claim that what was needed was a completely secular and anti-Christian religion, Rousseau actually borrowed the creation myth in Genesis and subsequently completely twisted it to suit his own ends. As a quite note of clarification, “myth” should not be understood as just “fairytale” or “untruth.” Properly understood, a “myth” is simply a kind of story that attempts to lay the foundation for any society’s particular worldview. It is not a story that is meant to be taken as literal history, but it shapes the way people view history. It addresses metaphysical questions of meaning and purpose, but it doesn’t put forth actual history.

In any case, Rousseau wrote about his own vision of Eden in order to elaborate what he personally felt was the natural state of mankind. In his Eden story, Rousseau put forth the idea that human beings were not made in God’s image, precisely because there was no God to begin with. Rousseau reasoned that how could human being be made by a non-existent deity, let alone be made in the image of a non-existent deity?

Furthermore, according to Rousseau, his “Adam and Eve” (i.e. original humanity) were not naturally rational creatures; they were instead feeling creatures who instinctively lived according to their natural appetites. They weren’t concerned with some sort of “afterlife;” they just lived for the moment. Not surprisingly, according to Rousseau, they were not religious creatures either. Rousseau’s Adam simply lived in a state of blissful idleness, just lounging around in paradise. Rousseau put it this way, “His desires do not exceed his physical needs, the only goods he knows in the universe are nourishment, a female, and repose; the only evils he fears is pain and hunger.” In other words, in Rousseau’s view, the original, natural, and therefore ideal state of mankind was that of a hedonistic, free-loving hippie who gives no thought to tomorrow.

And when we say “free-loving,” we mean free-loving! Rousseau longed for a return to his own version of an Edenic-paradise, where men and women simply indulged in sexual gratification whenever they wanted and with whomever they wanted. He dreamed of a place where there was no such thing a romance, marriage, or family life—he wanted just one big non-stop orgy of sex and indulgence! Rousseau believed that things like romance, marriage, monogamy, and family were the results of a very peculiar “fall.”

Mankind’s “fall,” Rousseau said, was not due to sin, or violating the commandments of God. No, mankind’s “fall” was the development of civilization itself. Therefore, as Benjamin Wiker states in his book, Worshipping the State, “According to Rousseau, our ‘fall’ is this: we have become social, moral, cultural, artistic, rational, political animals—and that is why we are miserable. We have lost our natural simplicity, trading for a thousand artificial and destructive superfluities that come with advanced civilization” (173). This is what Rousseau meant when he famously penned the line, “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains!” For Rousseau, it was civilization, with all its rules and obligations, that took away man’s freedom to do whatever the hell he wanted.

The Social Contract: Force People to Be Free…and Have Lots of Sex
The question naturally becomes, “What is a hedonistic, free-loving, anti-establishment hippie like Rousseau to do?” Rousseau’s answer just might astound you—he proposed that an entirely new political order be imposed on society in order to force people to be free. Does that sound fundamentally self-contradictory? It should, because it is. But that didn’t stop Rousseau…and that didn’t stop the radical revolutionaries of the French Revolution that Rousseau inspired—but more on that later. For now, it should be noted that Rousseau envisioned a completely secular government to impose what he called a “civil religion” that basically said, “Nothing is off limits, except the attempt to define limits!”

And what did he define as that exception? Christianity, with all its moral laws concerning what is right and wrong. Simply put, Rousseau said that Christianity had to go, so that a new civil religion could impose the view that anything ‘natural’ is good, and that the ‘highest good’ is for each individual to gratify his/her own desires without restrain, completely free from anything that might tie them down or impinge on that freedom.

In addition, according to Rousseau, since sexual gratification was the primary purpose of sex, not procreation, it shouldn’t matter with whom you had sex…but certainly not just one partner. The more, the merrier—men or women. Endorphins and orgasms were the ultimate aim of sexual activity, so heterosexuality, homosexuality, promiscuity, even bestiality—all was well and good in Rousseau’s worldview, because whatever you desire is natural, and whatever is natural is good…and no state or church should ever tell you otherwise. From that mindset stems the logical conclusion that marriage and family are unnatural as well. For marriage imposes the unnatural imposition of monogamy, and family imposes the unnatural obligation of parenting. How can you be happy, chained to one partner and being forced to raise little brats? There’s a world of sex waiting for you!

So goes Rousseau’s view of the natural (and preferred) state of mankind. And so goes Rousseau’s view of the purpose of the state: to encourage hedonistic libertinism, and to actively suppress any moral, social, or religious code that attempts to articulate any standards of right and wrong. The state is there to protect mankind from the “evils” of freedom-denying religion. This is what we find in Rousseau’s Social Contract.

It was Rousseau’s Social Contract that served as the broad outline for the French Revolution’s “civil religion.” We must remember that when Rousseau wrote, “…whoever refuses to obey the General Will shall be constrained to do so by the entire body; which means only that he will be forced to be free,” what he was advocating was the annihilation of the Christian religion, by force if necessary. If the “general will” was one of Rousseauean hedonism, and if someone (i.e. a Christian) objected to such hedonism, on the grounds it was sinful, that person would be “forced to be free”—i.e. forced to repudiate Christianity. Why? Because Christianity tried to impose moral limits…and that, for Rousseau, was the only real evil—it had to be stopped, by force.

Yearning for the Days of Sparta—We Don’t Want No Separation of Church and State
Not surprisingly, Rousseau was a fawning romantic for the times of ancient Sparta, the primitive Teutonic peoples, and the Roman republic. I mean, what guy doesn’t get amped up when he sees movies like 300? The testosterone-infused macho-masculinity of ancient war-loving cultures can be, from the outside, very appealing. Simply put, it is quite sexy to talk of killing in battle. But men like Rousseau seemingly really wanted to return to those days. In fact, was men like Rousseau who were responsible for the modern narrative that depicts Christianity as the cancer to culture, and the thing that destroyed the glorious golden age of classical Greece and Rome.

The ironic thing to note is that, despite modern claims that the idea of “separation of church and state” was an Enlightenment idea to combat the tyrannical church’s attempt to create a Christian theocracy, the fact is that the godfathers of the Enlightenment (like Rousseau) argued that the problem with Christianity was that it separated religion from the political sphere. We must remember that in ancient Rome the religion that bound the Roman Empire together was the imperial cult that worshipped Caesar as a god. To fail to do so was to be unpatriotic and a traitor to your country.

In light of that pagan mindset, it was Christianity that first attempted to distinguish “the City of God” from “the city of man.” This was this very thing that Rousseau railed against. He wanted a revival of the ancient world of classical Rome, in which the only “religion” was the political religion of the empire. For Rousseau, Jesus was the problem: “It was under these circumstances that Jesus came to establish a spiritual kingdom on earth. By separating the theological system from the political system, this brought about the end of the unity of the State, and caused the internal divisions that have never ceased to stir up Christian people.…when the cross chased out the eagle, all Roman valor disappeared.”

What’s more, Rousseau actually praised Islam for being able to fuse together again political and religious power. It should, therefore, come as no surprise to find that it was during the time of this so-called Enlightenment, when men like Rousseau began their “media blitz” against Christianity and the Catholic Church, that we begin seeing depictions of the Crusades as “evil and barbarous Christians attacking and killing innocent and noble Islam.” Of course Rousseau would say that—not only did he object to Christianity for separating political and religious power, he clearly supported Islam’s ability to wed the two together. So yes, if you have the assumption that the Crusades were an example of a zealous and militant Christianity lashing out in Islamophobia, congratulations—you’ve unknowingly imbibed Rousseau’s propaganda.

Rousseau: Machiavelli 2.0…Eradicate Christianity Altogether
Rousseau took Machiavelli’s vision to the next level. Whereas Machiavelli’s The Prince was a manual for rulers, and whereas Machiavelli taught that rulers shouldn’t be bound by the rules of Christianity but should rather use Christianity to rule over the ignorant masses, Rousseau believed that Christianity should be completely gotten rid of, and that the entire populace should embrace the “truth” that Machiavelli thought should only be given to the rulers. Rousseau taught that all of society should throw off the shackles of Christian morality in order to become truly free: “Christianity preaches nothing but servitude and dependence. Its spirit is so favorable to tyranny that tyranny always profits from it. True Christians are made to be slaves. They know it and are scarcely moved thereby; this brief life is of too little worth in their view.”

Rousseau argued for a state-marriage as a “civil contract” (as opposed to a holy sacrament), and therefore would not allow the Church to have any power over marriage. Simply put, Rousseau said, “We should no longer allow priests or pastors to conduct marriage ceremonies. We should no longer allow the Church to issue marriages in the first place. Make marriage a civil contract, regulated by the State alone.” Make no mistake, Rousseau’s vision was that of the entire eradication of the Church from public life. He said, “…whoever dares to say there is no salvation outside of the church, should be chased out of the State, unless the State is the church, and the prince is the pontiff.” Yes indeed…the tolerance of Enlightenment-inspired thinking!

Even though Rousseau’s rhetoric clearly impacted both the American and French Revolutions of the late 18th century, the American Revolution did not really completely buy into Rousseau’s vision. Rather, it was the French Revolution that actually attempted to “go full Rousseau,” if you will, and work out his vision completely. The differences cannot be more clear: the American Revolution gave us George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, the Declaration of Independence, and the freedom of religion; the French Revolution gave us the Reign of Terror and Robespierre, a man whom Benjamin Wiker described as this supremely odd combination of being “…at once austerely virtuous and entirely savage” (174).

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was not a good man. He advocated for the forcible eradication of Christianity; he promoted sexual libertinism; he yearned for a society in which politics was the civic religion; and he engaged in a propaganda campaign that completely re-wrote history and thus plunged Western culture into ignorance about the past. We are still suffering from Rousseau’s Enlightenment indoctrination, and it seems we are inching ever closer to his vision. That should be alarming to every clear-thinking person.

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