Ken Ham Denies the Power of the Resurrection!

Yes, I know, that is quite a provocative and scandalous headline for a post, isn’t it? It’s one thing to take issue with Ken Ham’s claims about science or his interpretation of Genesis 1-11, but should we really question his belief in the resurrection of Christ? Isn’t that to essentially do the very thing so many people are upset with Ken Ham for doing—questioning one’s Christian faith simply because he/she has a different interpretation of Genesis 1-11? I mean, argue science and biblical interpretation all you want, but let’s hold off on accusing anyone of denying the resurrection.

Well, far be it from me to suggest that Ken Ham denies the resurrection of Christ…no matter how provocative the headline might be. Let me be crystal clear: I have no doubt whatsoever that Ken Ham believes Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead. But I came across one of his many tweets earlier today, and it just got me thinking about how Ken Ham, you, I, and probably many people in general tend to view, or more properly fail to view, the resurrection. And yes, in a roundabout way, I think this affects how we view science and evolution (not to mention virtually everything else).

Ham’s Twitter Argument
But perhaps I should first share what Ken Ham’s actual tweet was. It was quite simple, really—just a typical Ken Ham/AiG argument for YEC in less than 140 characters:

God describes death as an “enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26). God didn’t use death to create—death is the judgment for sin.

Ham’s tweet encapsulates a basic argument by AiG that (A) evolution requires millions of years of death to account for the varieties of life we see today in the natural world, but that (B) Genesis 1 tells us that God call His creation “good,” Genesis 3 tells us that death came to Adam and Eve because they sinned, and I Cor. 15:26 call death an “enemy.” Therefore, if evolution is true, then Genesis 1 is a lie, because death would have been part of creation, and God would be calling death “good;” Genesis 3 is a lie, because death would have been occurring for millions of years before Adam and Eve; and I Cor. 15:26 is a lie, because how could death be an “enemy” if it was part of creation from the beginning?

Now, in this post, I am not going to go into a detailed exegetical argument regarding those passages in order to refute Ken Ham’s claims. Instead, I want to expand on what I wrote as a response tweet. When I first read Ham’s tweet, something about it just struck me as odd: “God didn’t use death to create.” Rather quickly, I hit “reply” and tweeted this:

God didn’t use death to create? Mmm…The cross, tomb, then resurrection/new creation! Looks like He CAN use death to re-create!

22 year old Joel at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem (circa 1992)

Rethinking Death’s Role in the Resurrection and New Creation
No, I wasn’t trying to be cheeky with my response (okay, perhaps just a bit!)—I was actually being serious. When I read Ham’s tweet, I couldn’t help but realize that, although what we see in the resurrection of Christ is certainly the defeat of death. But there’s something else: we see the use of death as the means by which new life—Christ’s life—is realized. Simply put, the resurrection of Christ hails the breaking in of the New Creation, and God used death to bring it about.

In the death and resurrection of Christ, we see the power of God on full display: He brings new life out of death and suffering; the New Creation is birthed through the pain of death. And I have to tell you, I’m not sure too many people really get the significance of that. I mean, we should, because it’s all over the place throughout the New Testament:

  • Romans 5:3-5 talks about boasting in our sufferings because ultimately the end result is the realization of the Christian hope…the resurrection of the dead and becoming fully like Christ.
  • I Peter 4:13 talks about rejoicing in our sufferings because we’re sharing Christ’s sufferings, and that we therefore will rejoice even more when his glory is revealed.
  • Romans 8:18-25 equates present sufferings with creation in birth pangs, and what’s the hope when a woman suffering birth pangs? That’s right, a new birth. In Paul’s analogy, that hope is being set free from this present age’s bondage to decay and death.

The entire New Testament bears witness to this very thing: it is through suffering and death than the New Creation is born…and then death will be no more.

This View is Testified to by the Early Church Fathers
And in case we forget, this view of suffering and death is pretty much what Church Fathers like Irenaeus had. I’ve written on Irenaeus before, but essentially, while he affirmed the goodness of creation, he also saw Adam as representative of immature humanity, and therefore as each one of us. Irenaeus saw Adam’s sin as an inevitability, because God didn’t create Adam as perfect—Adam was immature and naïve and, yes, therefore bound to sin. But it was God’s will that Adam (and each one of us) grow into full maturity in Christ through suffering, and yes, even death.

Irenaeus makes it clear that all this—the sin, the suffering, and death itself—was all part of God’s salvation plan before the creation of the world. Christ didn’t come into the world because God’s “original plan” got screwed up by Adam. Christ came into the world because this whole thing has been God’s plan all along. As Irenaeus says, the very nature of Christ is that of a Savior, and therefore a savior needs something to save.

Or to put it another way, when we look at Genesis 1:26-27, God created human beings (i.e. Adam) “in His image”—we are to be His representatives in the created order, and we are to act as (a) kings over the created order, (b) priests of the created order, and (c) custodians of the created order. The thing, though, is that because we are not born “perfect,” that means we are not fully “like” God yet. As the Orthodox Church puts it, we are created in God’s image, but we are not yet “according to His likeness.” To become like God is to become like Christ, and to become like Christ entails suffering as Christ did, because the way Christ the Savior saves us is through suffering and death.

Or to put it yet another way: the suffering and death of Christ explains to us the reason for suffering and death—and the reason for suffering and death is to bring about the resurrection life of Christ so we can be fully mature in Christ, and therefore be according to God’s likeness. And once that happens, death will be no more because there will be no more purpose for it…kind of like what Paul says about the Torah (re-read Romans 6-8, and note what it says about the purpose of Torah, and its relationship to death).

Now, Back to Ham…
So therefore, when I looked at Ken Ham’s tweet, I realized that he is ultimately wrong: God does use death to create. This is testified to both in the New Testament and in early Church Fathers like Irenaeus. Suffering and death are inevitable parts to this creation; they are part of God’s plan of salvation revealed in Christ to grow us up into His likeness; they are this creation’s birth pangs that will ultimately result in a new birth and a New Creation in which suffering and death no longer have any role to play.

Now, I imagine Ken Ham might say, “Well, sure, through Christ, God used suffering and death to bring about the New Creation, but they only came into existence after Adam sinned. Before he sinned, there was no death or suffering, because he was created perfect.” Well, to that, all I can say is that not only does science and evolution refute that claim, but so do the early Church Fathers, and so does the Bible itself.

Think about it. If Adam and Eve were perfect, super-intelligent, and all-wise (and let’s not forget in possession of a perfect genome!), then how could they have been tricked by a talking serpent? The whole story in Genesis 3 drives home the point that they were naïve and child-like, and therefore not fully mature, and certainly not perfect. And the reason that is so is because the description of them is the description of us as human beings. As Irenaeus said, Adam sinning was an inevitability, just like our sinning is an inevitability.

But now I’m starting to wander a bit. You can read my full treatment of Irenaeus starting here. Allow me now to wrap up my thoughts…

Conclusion
Perhaps one of the most astounding things to learn about the early Church is how the historical reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ caused the early Christians to re-evaluate everything, and see everything in a different light. The Jewish Scriptures? They reinterpreted them in light of Christ’s resurrection reality. Greek Philosophy? Christian philosophers essentially Christianized Greek philosophy and showed how the resurrection of Christ provided vast new insights into reality itself. And what about science? Long before the Scientific Revolution, all throughout the “Middle Ages,” Christian monks were making advances in scientific discoveries that laid the groundwork for the eventual Scientific Revolution, that was, incidentally, brought about primarily by Christians working in the fields of science.

The resurrection of Christ isn’t just some odd, historical claim that cannot be conclusively verified, but that you have to say you believe actually happened if you want to go to heaven. Too often, though, that’s precisely how we treat it—as just another claim you have to “take on faith” in order to avoid hell. But when we do that, when we reduce it to just a “fact” we have to say we believe happened, what we are essentially doing is denying the true power of the resurrection.

Yes, I believe the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact. Yes, I believe it really happened. But because I believe it really happened, I can’t allow it to be treated as just another “fact,” for that fact changed everything. It changed how we view suffering and death, and ultimately it changed how understand the created order itself.

If Jesus’ disciples were able to shine the light of the resurrection on the Jewish Scriptures and reinterpret them in that light, and if early Christian philosophers were able to shine the light of the resurrection on Greek Philosophy and reshape it in that light, we should be able to do the same thing with modern scientific discoveries like evolution.

Christian scientists even though they are bound by the same descriptive laws and scientific methods that all scientists are bound by in their observations of the natural world, they do not believe that the natural world is all that exists. Christians believe there is a God beyond nature who has made Himself known within history, in the person of Jesus Christ. And so, although Christian scientists would be wrong to inject “God” into their descriptive work of science, they (as all Christians) are able to contemplate their scientific findings in the light of the resurrection of Christ.

Sure, such contemplation admittedly isn’t “scientific,” but that’s okay—there’s more to life than just science. And although I am not a scientist, what I’ve learned about the theory of evolution over the past few years has been fascinating, not simply because of what it has discovered and what it can explain convincingly. It fascinates me because I’ve come to realize that what we can observe in biology, geology, astronomy, and genetics bears witness to what the resurrection is all about: the natural processes we observe in the natural world mirror the reality of salvation, resurrection, and the New Creation.

In Christ, God uses suffering and death to bring about new life and the New Creation. That’s at the very heart of the Gospel, and we see this very thing, by means of analogy, in the natural world.

Ken and me…

So yes, Mr. Ham, God does use death to create: that’s the testimony of the resurrection of Christ. I’m not saying you don’t believe in the resurrection, but it seems to me you view it as not much more than a fact. That’s okay, I think too many of us tend to also view it as not much more than a fact. I think we’d all be better off to open our eyes to the transformative power of the resurrection. It’s not just a door to the hereafter; it is the key to understanding reality itself.

Like I said earlier, everything is transformed in its light, even our understanding of suffering and death.

10 Comments

  1. Great essay, Joel. Perhaps we could even say that God works through all sorts of evil — natural disasters, conflict, disease, and even death, to bring about His good will, that He uses the darkness of the world to accomplish good. Perhaps it could be said that He used Joseph’s brothers’ actions to save many lives, the Assyrians to purify Israel, and Jesus death to provide salvation. Is it how He works, actually making evolution a picture of His divine nature?

    1. Yes, I completely agree. In this “first creation” of the natural world, suffering and death exist–and God in His providence use them to bring about salvation and new life in Christ, and eventually the New Creation. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us to see that very type of thing happening on the natural level with what we’ve discovered with evolution.

  2. Ephesians 1:4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—

    No Ken, before God Created, man was pre-destined to come to the Father through the death and resurrection of His Son. To claim any other way, Adam and Even achieving their own salvation through obedience, is to deny the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.

    1. OEC speaking here, not a YEC. But I just found that comment a little…problematic. You assume that because people post-fall are predestined to come to God through faith, that Adam and Khava (Eve) were predestined to fall. Which doesn’t seem to follow.

  3. Joel you seem so uncertain about what you believe. Jesus quoted from Genesis. Did he get it wrong? Most OEC end up having their own kids turn away from Christianity because the Bible doesn’t supposedly line up with that unpopular world view. Don’t do this to your son. Why not change your view to YEC which has more success in holding kids in the faith. Or has your son already left?

    1. Actually Chad, a big reason so many young people are leaving the Church is because they have been brought up being taught that YEC is more important than the resurrection of Christ, and that if you believe the earth is older than 6,000 years, then you are undermining the faith. Simply put, young people leave the church because men like Ken Ham tell them they have to if they don’t believe his claims.

      The Bible is not giving scientific information about the age of the earth. To claim it does is to misinterpret the Bible; and to claim that YEC interpretation is a fundamental tenet to the faith is to twist Scripture and to go against the entire historical witness of the Church.

  4. Thanks for your post Joel and I like your blog.

    My take on the tweet is that Hamm is using Jesus’ death to buttress or “prove” his approach to Gen 1-3. This seems very similar to the entire YEC enterprise. For example, I recall Joel Duff pointing out some time ago that AIG doesn’t study dinasours out of a love for learning about dinasours. Rather, it seems they study dinasours in order to “prove” their YEC model.

    Larry Schmidt

    1. I can more fully explain my above comment. Joel Duff was commenting after attending both a YEC and a “secular” dinasour presentation. The kids left the YEC presentation with a way to use dinasours to support the YEC model. The kids left the secular presentation having learned something about dinasours.

      Isn’t that how YEC approach their entire project?

      Larry Schmidt

      1. Yes indeed, to say AiG has an agenda is an understatement. I pretty much came to that same conclusion in my book. Everything they do, they to do buttress their approach to Genesis 1-11, but even their take on Genesis 1-11 isn’t the real issue. For them, it’s all about fighting the culture war: (A) If they can “prove” their YEC model, then (B) that will “prove” Genesis 1-11 is accurate and the Bible is authoritative, so that (C) people will have to obey the Bible and (D) we’ll save our culture.

        Now, of course, the Bible is inspired and authoritative in what it teaches; but it’s not teaching science. But Ham’s whole agenda hinges on that false assumption.

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