Monday, June 25, 2012

How NOT To Have A Disagreement

This past March, I was involved in a debate with Tim Chaffey of Answers In Genesis about the age of the Earth. At one point in a discussion with my wife and I after the debate, Mr. Chaffey was making a point about the evidence for Christianity and ended a sentence with the phrase, "we have a lot of reasons to be -" At this point he stopped himself and re-phrased his statement to something like, "we have plenty of evidence for our faith."

Who cares?

Well, if you know the history of Mr. Chaffey's organization and its leader, Ken Ham, you would understand that Mr. Chaffey has probably been instructed not to use the phrase, "Reasons to Believe" for one reason and one reason only -- because it is the name of a "rival" (their characterization) ministry named Reasons To Believe that is headed by Dr. Hugh Ross ... Ken Ham cannot allow his counterparts to even utter the name of Mr. Ross's organization and thereby unwittingly lend that organization credibility. That is the attitude Mr. Ham presents and I think it is sad -- for Mr. Ham, for his followers, and for those who are watching all of us and evaluating the Christian faith by our actions.

I am an Old Earth (OE) Creationist. Mr. Chaffey is a Young Earth (YE) Creationist. What is notable is that we are both creationists. I think that means something. For one thing, it means that we share common ground -- and I have written publicly about that (in The Lookout) here: "Creation's Common Ground." Secondly, it means that we are on the same team. I made that point in my closing statement on the night of our debate. Here is a transcript of exactly what I said:
If you walked in here as a YE enthusiast, I am under no delusion that you have been wildly transformed by the case I have tried to present and that you will jump up after we’re done here proclaiming your new-found realization that OE is true. Please, feel free to do that … but I will understand if you don’t. 
Actually, my goal here has been more modest than that. I hope you will leave here with an invigorated appreciation for this topic and two primary takeaways: 
First, that OE supporters are not the godless, Bible-denying, science-worshipping Evolutionists you may have thought they were when you walked in this room. We are not people who just want to fit in with a secular culture so we can get along. We do accept the authority of Scripture. I hope you’ve noticed that every argument for the OE view I have given begins with what the Bible says. We do believe in the special creation of Adam & Eve just a few thousand years ago; we just disagree about how much time transpired before that. 
Second, Tim Chaffey and I are on the same team. We may not agree about when God created the heavens and the earth but we do agree that He did. I greatly respect and admire Mr. Chaffey for his diligence and faithfulness in defending the biblical worldview unashamedly. That is not an easy thing to do in the culture we live in yet he does it faithfully and he does it well. 
Tim Chaffey and I are brothers in Christ who can engage these ideas in a respectful, civil way and we should do so by seriously considering the views of those with whom we disagree by … 
Challenging their assumptions instead of their motives ... and ... Questioning their conclusions instead of their character. 
Then we can shake hands with one another and get back to the work of defending the truth of Christianity to a world that desperately needs it.
I did not say those things because I was just trying to be nice. I meant them. And so it actually saddens me to write about another debate I witnessed on iTBN that featured: Hugh Ross, Ken Ham, Sean McDowell, Ray Comfort, Eric Hovind, and John Bloom. It is long (almost 2 hours) but it is a great example of the disingenuousness, rudeness and arrogance that is usually displayed by the leadership of Answers In Genesis in general, and Ken Ham in particular. Mr. Ham interrupts, manufactures points that Old Earth (OE) proponents never make, and completely ignores the plain claims that OE proponents do make by inserting words and interchanging ideas that clearly misrepresent the OE position. Don't take my word for it. Watch it for yourself.

In contrast, note the demeanor and respectfulness of Hugh Ross and Sean McDowell as they disagree with Ken Ham. Also, note the kind respectfulness of Ray Comfort who also disagrees with Ross and McDowell on exactly the same issues as Ken Ham, but does so with a polite and courteous disposition. This is a striking juxtaposition of the attitudes that apologists can and should display.

To follow up on that debate, Mr. Ham is now touting an interview (available here) he conducted with Pastor Don Landis afterward. Mr. Ham believes this interview provides a "powerful" demonstration for how to defend the authority of Scripture against those who would deny it. Notice that in saying this, Ham and Landis infer that Hugh Ross and those who would agree with him do not believe in the authority of Scripture. In fact, they go further than that.

At one point, they replay a clip of Hugh Ross from the debate in which Mr. Ross makes a point about the scientific evidence for an old universe by challenging listeners to "remove evolution" from the question for a minute so as to just concentrate on issues of cosmology. Ross does this because Ham and Lewis repeatedly accuse OEs of believing in "evolution and millions of years" as if these are one in the same thing. Ross is simply trying to show that the question of age and evolution are two different issues that should be considered separately. He does not, and has never, defended the idea of evolution. In fact, the positions of Reasons to Believe (Mr. Ross's organization) is specifically anti-evolution.

Yet, Mr. Landis implies that Ross's comment to "remove evolution" is a tacit admission that he accepts it. Landis is appalled by this and wrongly uses it to show that to deal with the likes of Hugh Ross is to deal with a "different creature," which "creature" opposes the character of God by accepting a heresy of "millions of years [that] is an attack on the nature of God." Landis goes on to say that he doesn't "know the hearts" of OE folks but does know that by their actions, they are "enabling an anti-Christ motivation" that "credits evolution and denies God's power." They preach a "different gospel." In summary, Landis charges that "once Genesis is allegorized, spiritualized or handled figuratively, we lose the basis for a New Testament hermeneutic ... and by extension promote the idea that there is no hell, and no literal Adam and Eve."

There is a minor problem with each of Landis's charges here. Every one of them is invalid. In fact, Hugh Ross and Fuz Rana (of RTB), have written extensively in their books and papers in defense of every single view Landis/Ham accuses them of denying. Ham and Landis's analysis is a sickeningly disingenuous conglomeration of disingenuous insinuations that have no business in a debate between fellow defenders of the Christian faith.

This is not what our apologetic discourse should be about. It is not helpful to the debate or to the example we are meant to be to the world.

It is just plain sad.

I am not going to rehash the points with which I disagree with Mr. Ham and his YE point of view. If you are interested in seeing them please read a series of my posts that begins (here) and runs for the entire month of February - March, 2012. Suffice it to say that there is not a shred of evidence beyond Mr. Ham's interpretation of Genesis 1 that supports the idea of a 6000 year-old Earth. Mr. Ham seems incapable of understanding that his view is just that -- an interpretation -- and that all of our interpretations could be wrong.

However, there are two points I would like to make with regard to this situation. They both relate to the main thrust of Mr. Ham's argument -- that the world is fallen and therefore man's capacity to understand God through nature (the study of science) is untrustworthy, but that his interpretation alone represents the true guardianship of Scriptural Authority. Those who disagree with him about this are creating a generation of young people who deny Scriptural authority and are therefore exiting the church in record numbers. In short, it is their acceptance of an OE view that is driving them out of the church.

While I agree with Mr. Ham's unwavering defense of biblical authority (even though he insists that people like me do not), may I suggest an alternate explanation for the youth exodus from the church?

I wonder if Ken Ham would admit even the slightest possibility that his ability to interpret Scripture suffers from the same fallenness as the OE's ability to interpret nature? Apparently, Mr. Ham cannot fathom that to be the case. But let's just go out on a limb and assume that there does exist the possibility that Ken Ham could be wrong. If that is possible, then it would mean that we have a generation of young people who have been taught that to disagree with Ken Ham's young earth view is to deny Christianity itself (notice that Landis refers to the OE view as a "heresy"). They go off to college, find that there is absolutely no evidence to support the YE in the real world, and therefore conclude that the YE Christianity on which Mr. Ham insists they believe is simply not true -- it doesn't match the way the world actually is. Mr. Ham has told them that true belief depends on being YE. Since YE seems to be obviously false, they conclude that Christianity itself must also be false -- and that is the reason they are walking away from the faith in droves.

Wouldn't the possibility that Ken Ham's fallen nature allows the further possibility that his interpretation of a YE could be false? And if there is even the slightest possibility of that, wouldn't it be wise and prudent to treat those on both sides of the argument respectfully -- like actual brothers in Christ -- instead of playing the childish, small games he plays? Wouldn't it be wise to demonstrate some humility and respectfulness in debates such as the one we see above instead of resorting to the condescending, interrupting, bullying tactics he prefers? Wouldn't it be better to "challenge their assumptions instead of their motives and question their conclusions instead of their character."

If that were the case, we all would actually be on the same team. We would encourage every Christian and every seeker to feel free to look for answers in Genesis -- to find that those answers really do give us good reasons to believe -- and to have no fear of being able to say so because we might accidentally legitimize someone else's view.

Now that would be a breath of fresh air ...

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Go-To Guy In Christian Apologetics

An informative interview that is worth taking the time to listen to. Greg Koukl, in my humble opinion, is the best, most down-to-earth, practical and effective Christian apologist in the world. If you are interested in apologetics of any kind, watch his videos on YouTube and read his books and web-based material at http://str.org

 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

No Longer A Testbed (pun intended)

Way back in the dark ages (May of 2011), I wrote about the disturbing trend that was developing within the military elite of turning the most vital institutions into "testbeds for cultural experimentation." Little did I know that only 13 months later we would be celebrating "Gay Pride Month" at the Pentagon.

In related news that hits me close to home, here is what is going on at our nation's service academies (one of which is my alma mater):
At West Point, the alumni gay advocacy group Knights Out was able to hold the first installment in March of what is intended to be an annual dinner in recognition of gay and lesbian graduates and Army cadets. Gay students at the U.S. Naval Academy were able to take same-sex dates to the academy's Ring Dance for third-year midshipmen.
Now, isn't that sweet?!

As one Marine put it:
"When I volunteered for the Marine Corps, the military expelled homosexuals. A decade later, Bill Clinton ordered that we ignore homosexuals as long as they kept their sexual preferences a private matter (Don't Ask, Don't Tell). That was OK because few if any of them were in combat units. Last year, Obama and his Leftist congressional cadres obliged the military to endorse open homosexuality (Do Ask, Do Tell). This decision had nothing to do with military readiness and everything to do with political pandering to a loud special interest group. This week, Barack Obama decreed that my Marine Corps would officially 'celebrate Gay Pride Month.' The next step will be to set quotas for homosexuals in the ranks, and to offer marriages and same-sex benefits. I'm preparing for retirement after more than 30 years of service to my country, and more than a few scars to prove it. It grieves me to leave my beloved Corps in such a state ..."
As Francis Shaeffer used to say, "what was unthinkable in one generation becomes thinkable in our generation ... and commonplace in the next." This Marine's point is well-taken. It took 13 months to go from debating the wisdom of allowing open homosexuality in the military to publicly promoting it. How long does anyone think it will be before we have quotas for homosexual promotions and leadership positions?

Without our sovereignty and security we will soon be unrecognizable as a nation. The Constitution is very specific in setting out how our government will defend that sovereignty in Article I, Section 8:
Clause 10: To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
Clause 11: To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
Clause 12: To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
Clause 13: To provide and maintain a Navy;
Clause 14: To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
Clause 15: To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
Clause 16: To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
I know it is not currently fashionable to cite the Constitution when trying to make a point about how the our government should work but, nevertheless, it seems quite obvious that our military is supposed to have only one charge -- to provide for the national defense in the ways outlined above. This means that for every minute and/or dollar that is spent planning and encouraging nonsense like "Gay Pride Month," the military's ability to carry out it's actual mission is degraded and we are therefore more at risk ... and that is before we ever get to discuss the amoral and unnatural environment the military is creating for itself in the process.

If you would like to read a detailed analysis of the impact this is having, check out Mark Alexander's article on PatriotPost (here). But let's suffice it to say that I was absolutely mistaken last May when I suggested the military was becoming a "testbed for cultural experimentation." It's not a testbed. It's a venue for cultural celebration. Thank you Mr. Panetta, and Mr. Obama for uncovering the deficiencies in my previous claim.

I stand corrected.
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