In my previous post, “I Was the 16-Year-Old Godfather of Answers in Genesis,” I not only told a little story of a paper I had written for a high school Bible class when I was 16 years old, I actually shared a major portion of that very paper. I said it served as a segway into the next few posts I am going to write in which I will be critiquing Ken Ham’s book, Already Compromised, where he argues that most of the Christian colleges in the United States are compromised and backslidden, and in fact present a greater danger to the faith of young people than do “secular-liberal” colleges.
In short, a fundamental staple in the message of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis (as was in my 11th grade paper) is the constant refrain that we are fighting a “culture war” against godless liberalism. Now, as I look back at my paper, I can forgive myself for my arrogance and brashness—after all, such over the top, emotional, self-righteous condemnation of other tends to be part and parcel of being young and stupid. But what was really shocking was that not only did my Bible teacher like and approve the paper, but she positively pushed and promoted it within the school.
And to be clear, I am not necessarily talking about specific stances on certain social issues, but rather about how those issues are addressed. For the record, I still think abortion on demand is wrong, and I still am uneasy and suspicious of many social stances deemed “left” and “liberal.” But the fact is, the way I addressed things in that paper smacked of arrogance, self-righteousness, and spiritual pride. Let’s face it, it can be very intoxicating to fly into a rage and condemn everyone who doesn’t think like you—it gives you a feeling of superiority—we see it every day on Facebook! And it is that very mindset that not only is not productive, it actually destroys both people and societies. C.S. Lewis calls such pride a spiritual cancer, and says that it is the deadliest of all the sins. In Mere Christianity he says,
“How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people.”
Unfortunately, the thing that Lewis called a spiritual cancer is held up as a virtue in our society today, both across the political spectrum, and (sadly) in many segments of Evangelical Christianity—and that is precisely what I see in much of the literature of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis. Ham’s book, Already Compromised, is just another example of this very thing.
Fortunately for me, in the summer of 1986 God tapped me on the should and essentially said, “Hey man, you really don’t know who I am. That ‘god’ you boast about in that paper…it ain’t me.” I’m glad He did that—because I was a potential Ham in the making, and that paper was written with poison, carrying the mindset the more you condemn others, the more people will think are really spiritual and really serious about God.
Getting Familiar with Already Compromised
If I were to summarize Already Compromised, I would have to say this: in it, Ken Ham and his co-author Greg Hall make it clear that since they are really spiritual and serious about God and biblical authority, they feel impelled to condemn Christian colleges who do not agree with them on how to interpret Genesis 1-11 as being “compromised” and even more dangerous that secular universities. The narrative Ham and Hall put forth is quite familiar to those who are familiar with Ham’s organization, Answers in Genesis: this country used to be great and godly, but then Darwin proposed the theory of evolution, and ever since then, church leaders have compromised God’s word (particularly with Genesis 1-11). Consequently, this country is now going to hell in a liberal handbasket as supposedly “Christian” colleges are actively promoting the anti-god religion of evolution.
Now, the book itself is set up in two parts: Part 1—“An Uncertain Sound,” and Part 2—“The Battle for the Mind.” Part 1 focuses on the “conflict” and “war” within the curriculum in Christian colleges, particularly the religion and science departments, and includes the results of a survey that Ham’s associates did of 312 people associated with various Christian colleges. Part 2 focuses on the “challenge” Christians face when dealing with education and the failure (in Ham’s eyes) of Christian colleges to teach a truly Christian worldview.
The book is filled with many of the standard AiG talking points (i.e. observational and historical science) that I have written about before, and so I will not be spending much time discussing them here. What I do want to focus on, though, is the way Ham and Hall shape their narrative and spin their tale for over 200 pages without saying anything really substantial at all. So, without further ado, let’s jump into Ham’s take on the culture war that is raging on Christian campuses…
Conflicts and Curriculums
Ken Ham begins his books with a few brief anecdotes of various hostile encounters he has had with some educators and administrators at Christian colleges in order to make it clear to his readers that those liberal (supposedly) Christian colleges don’t like him. In his other books and blog posts, Ham often tells these ambiguous tales of conflict with “compromised Christians” or “angry atheists,” and I never really know if I can believe what Ham says because they strike me as just plain odd.
Consider the following story he hold in his book, The Lie:
“In one church school in Tasmania, Australia, the official position was to teach evolution with God added to it. The local bishop tried his hardest to prevent my visit to the school, but one of the teachers was allowed to present the creationist position to the class, and he invited me as a special speaker. At the conclusion of my presentation, 69 of the 70 girls surrounded me and verbally attacked my stand on creation. They shouted statements such as: ‘There is no God!’ ‘Buddhism is better than Christianity!’ ‘Evolution is true!’ ‘You can’t trust the Bible!’ ‘The Bible is full of mistakes!’ ‘We are not interested in what you have to say!’” (175).
I’m sorry, does anyone believe that that students at a church school shouted out, “There is no God! Buddhism is better than Christianity! Evolution is true! You can’t trust the Bible!” Really? Therefore, when Ham tells about Christian administrators being hostile and confrontational with him, I just have a hard time trusting that whatever happened, happened in the way Ham describes it…if it happened at all.
The Good News, and the Bad News, About Ham’s Survey
In any case, after his brief anecdotes, Ham then announces the good news regarding what his survey discovered: “We were pleased to find nearly 100% agreement on some important New Testament issues” (20): things like the virgin birth, Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, heaven and hell, the second coming, and (of course) the bodily resurrection of Christ. Simply put, Ham’s survey showed that all these Christian colleges they interviewed agrees nearly 100% on the major, fundamental issues of the Christian faith.
But, of course, that would pretty much squelch the notion that these Christian colleges were “compromising” on the fundamentals of the Christian faith now, would it? How can you possibly write a book about how Christian colleges are compromising the Christian faith when within the first few pages in the first chapter, you announce that your own survey shows that Christian colleges are virtually unanimous in their affirmation of the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith?
The answer is easy: change the focus regarding what the fundamentals of the Christian faith are. And that is precisely what Ken Ham does. Immediately after declaring nearly 100% agreement on the New Testament, Ham then says, “But the minute we stepped into the Old Testament, division began to arise. The more detailed the question, the clearer it became that there were serious problems” (20).
So what questions about the Old Testament did Ham ask? Perhaps about King David, the authorship of Isaiah, or perhaps historical questions regarding the Exodus, the history of Israel, or the Exile? Of course not—for Ken Ham’s Old Testament, for all practical purposes, consists of Genesis 1-11, and Genesis 1-11 alone. Open your Bible, put one thumb on Genesis 12, and then go to the end of the Old Testament to Malachi and put your finger there: none of that is a concern to Ken Ham—he ignores it completely. So, when he says, “the minute we stepped into the Old Testament,” he really means, “The minute we focused on the only part of the Bible I ever concern myself with, there were problems because they didn’t agree with me.”
And indeed, that was the case:
- Do you believe in a literal flood?
- Do you believe the flood was worldwide or local?
- Do you believe the Genesis 1-2 account of creation is literally true?
- Do you believe that God created everything in six literal 24-hour days?
- What does your institution teach about evolution?
- Do you consider yourself to be young-earth or old-earth?
And then, related to these questions were questions regarding the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of Scripture. And what is the criteria Ham measures one’s statements on inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility? Why whether or not one believes in a literal six-day creation 6,000 years ago and a literal worldwide flood 4,000 years ago, of course!
And so, when Ham noticed that many Christian colleges affirmed that the Bible was true, inspired, inerrant, and infallible, but that the same percentage didn’t believe in the tenets of young earth creationism (or at least did not actively endorse it in their statements of faith), Ham zeroed in on this point and essentially said, “You see? Some Christian colleges are being deceptive! They say they believe the Bible, but they are engaging in “newspeak” and twisting the words of Scripture!” And then he proceeded to attack and condemn William Dembski (an Intelligent Design advocate), Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke, and (in Ham’s own words) the “theologically liberal” BioLogos Foundation—all because they do not endorse YECism.
And Thus, Ham’s Stage is Set
With the first chapter, Ham has set the stage for the entire book: even though there was nearly 100% agreement on the major issues of the Christian faith set forth in the New Testament, Ham nevertheless rings the alarm bell, declaring that many Christian colleges have “wrong beliefs” about the Old Testament (by which he really means “The Ham Old Testament of Genesis 1-11”). And because there are Christian colleges out there that do not actively endorse Ken Ham’s YECism, Ham tells his readers this:
“Overall, we found that only 24% of the 312 people surveyed answered every question correctly…and these are the ‘good guys’! …Please understand this: if you send your students to a Christian college or institution, three out of four times they will stand in front of teachers who have a degraded view and interpretation of Scripture” (35).
It truly amazes me that so many Evangelicals simply cannot see how thin Ken Ham’s Bible really is. At one point in the book, Ham mentions Thomas Jefferson’s Bible, in which he cut out all the stuff that he didn’t believe—Ham tries to claim this is exactly what “compromised Christians” do with the Bible when they don’t subscribe to YECism. To the contrary, I think Ham is the one who mirrors Jefferson’s view of the Bible, for practically speaking, Ham has “cut out” pages 7-628 of the Old Testament (at least, according to the copy of the ESV that is currently on my desk).
That should concern anyone, especially when Ham is so quick to condemn and question the faith of Christians, based solely on the fact that they don’t interpret the first six pages of the Old Testament in the exact way he does.