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Ken Ham Denies the Power of the Resurrection!

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and anyone who associates with Peter Enns.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It simply isn’t giving historical information.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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