Thou shalt not bear false witness, Mr Ham
Consider the following statements:
All creationists are fundamentalist Christians
All creationists are stupid
Creationist institutions are secretly funded by the Communist Party
None of these are true. The first I mistakenly believed was so, until the existence of fundamentalist Moslems who also take a creationist position was pointed out to me. Substitute "most" for "all" and the generalisation holds: my point is that only religious people of a certain persuasion embrace "creation science", a fact which alone should make one wonder just how scientific it really is.
I don’t believe the third statement, which might best be categorised not so much as a mistake and hardly as a lie, more as a bizarre fantasy. I imagined it being defended along the lines of: it is the mission of Communism to destroy Christianity; creationism makes Christianity look ridiculous; therefore by funding creationist institutions and enabling them to raise their profile, communism may be hoping to hasten Christianity’s downfall. I doubt that any creationist faced by such a charge would bother to take it seriously. The accuser is condemned out of his own mouth.
The second statement is not only offensive but contradicted by evidence. While I hold creationism to be as utterly stupid an idea as ideas get, and while some of its supporters are none too bright - which could be said of any point of view - to claim that they are all deficient in the brain cell department is absurd. Creationists include in their ranks men of great intelligence; that they make such elementary howlers in approaching the book of Genesis, leading to such uproarious conclusions, is all the more extraordinary. One academic to whom I have spoken attributes much of creationism’s support to low levels of education; but that charge will not stick to the likes of Jonathan Sarfati and Douglas Kelly.
So: untruths can be mistakes, delusions, or lies. Which brings me to the case of Ken "Answersingenesis" Ham, whose book "The Lie of Evolution" I dipped into earlier today. Don’t worry, I have washed my hands thorougly since.
Men who call other people liars should be more than usually careful to speak nothing but the truth themselves. His chapter "The Root of the Problem" throws all such caution to the winds, reminding me of Elton John’s justification for pursuing an expensive libel case: "They can call me a fat ugly poof. They can say I can’t sing. But they mustn’t tell lies about me."
Ken Ham libels all non-fundamentalist Christians. His book perpetrates deeply offensive untruths about us, he obviously doesn’t care, and if I had the means and were so disposed I’d sue him to Kingdom come. But here’s the thing: I’m not sure he actually qualifies as a liar. Or even an idiot. He could simply be deluded. But he does not speak the truth any more than [he claims] evolutionsts do. He also claims to be a Christian, so that matters: but it’s abundantly clear that if he is one I am not, nor any other theistic evolutionist. He has mined any common ground there might have been between us. Nothing but all-out victory will satisfy him. And, I suppose, the same goes for me in reverse, I want to see creationism pack its bags and go home: the difference is I’m right, Jesus told me so. OK, that was flippant. Ken owes the Church an apology. That’s deadly serious.
I wonder if Ken would sue if I published that last paragraph? That might be fun.
His overall thesis goes: Christianity is under attack. Its values are threatened by enemies who wish to see it collapse; and foundational to their alternative belief system is a commitment to the theory of evolution; which God’s Word (= the Bible) flatly contradicts.
So far, so conventionally creationist; and so manifestly non-scientific. Where Ham raises the stakes is partly in his accusing evolutionsts, to the last man or woman, of practising a religion which gives them license to attack Christianity; partly in his insistence that the creationist view of scripture is the only one possible. This drives him to lump all creationism’s enemies together: Christian, agnostic, atheist, Moslem, Hindu, we’re all coming from the same place.
In his words
"Evolution is a religion which enables people to justify writing their own rules".
"The real battle is aligned with the fact that these people do not want to accept Christianity because they will not accept that there is a God to whom they are answerable."
These quotes deny the integrity of all who oppose creationism, a common move by its contemporary apologists: Henry Morris could be more gracious. If I believe in evolution it’s not because I have studied the evidence and found it persuasive. That cannot be, because Ken has read his Bible, therefore "knows" evolution cannot be true and doesn’t need to study the evidence: there isn’t any. So I must have some other reason for accepting Darwinism, and it’s not even that I have made the honest mistake of assuming that the overwhelming majority of scientists know what they’re talking about; no, it’s because I am looking for a religion with which in my fallen state I am more comfortable than with true, Bible-believing Christianity.
Besides being untrue, that is a gross insult, for which one might account in a number of ways:
Ignorance: Ken has actually never met, sat down with, read the works of, a scholarly theistic evolutionist and considered that, mistaken though such a person might be in his eyes, his views spring from real Christian commitment just as intense as his own.
Bafflement: Ken has done exactly this and still finds theistic evolution such a perplexing point of view, as crazy perhaps as I find his, that he needs to find some way of making sense of it and "evolution is an alternative religion" is his best shot.
Cocksure bigotry: Ken is a bruiser who likes dishing it out; he knows he’s going to offend any non-fundamentalist readers who trouble to pick up his polemical outpourings and just thinks tough, they won’t agree with me anyway so I might as well slag them off.
Blissful unwareness: Ken has no idea how much unjustifiable offence he is giving, because from within his bubble it simply stands to reason that he is on God’s side, so anyone who’s against him is against God.
None of which quite entitles me to call him a liar, although I do wonder who Ken is writing for: it feels very much like preaching to the converted. He certainly is not pitching to persuade Christians from the mainstream denominations that he has a case worth considering. You don’t make converts by insulting their present convictions.
Then we have
"If the Bible is not the infallible word of the One who knows everything, then we have exactly nothing."
"If evolution is not true the only alternative is creation."
These are attempts to marginalise firstly non-fundamentalists, secondly evolutionists of all religious convictions and none, by setting up absolute black and white alternatives.
My instinct is then to write: a moment’s thought should be enough for anyone to realise that both these are false dichotomies as crude as they come. What about: either Shakespeare is the greatest writer of all time, or he couldn’t even put a sentence together, which is it? or, if smoking does not cause lung cancer the only alternative is demon possession? There are many, many views of the Bible other than Ken Ham’s; if Darwinism collapses tomorrow it will be because a better scientific theory has taken its place, not because scientists have suddenly gone crackers and mistaken Genesis 1- 11 for a piece of history. But Ken has obviously given this a great deal more than a moment’s thought and still the penny hasn’t dropped ... or has it? Again, let’s consider.
Assuming, on the basis of circumstantial evidence, that he is not a complete moron, he can only be forcing the issue by way of these simplistic either/ors because
- he is sincerely convinced there are no in-between possibilities: there is no dimmer switch, the light’s either on or off
- he has an immature personality that prevents him recognising or coping with shades of grey; or
- he is telling whoppers: he knows the world is more complex than this and hopes his readers will forgive him a specious argument, it’s all in a "good" cause.
But others can force the issue too, Ken: so here’s my pitch.I do not accept your description of the Bible. I was taught theology by liberals who loved their Scriptures, as I do and never could if I were still held captive by fundamentalism. Am I left with exactly nothing? Hardly. I have wonderful stories to ponder, whose historical truth does not matter to me and if it does to you that’s your problem; I have the Psalms to worship with [and set to music], prophetic poetry to expand my imagination. I have the teachings of Jesus to which I am committed as an ordained minister of the Church, I have Paul to lay the foundations of Christianity as a belief system, and I could go on. That is not even approximately nothing; you say that if I’m not a fundamentalist the Bible is worthless to me. I declare to you the opposite: fundamentalism devalues the Bible by idolising instead it of recognising it for what it is; a collection of writings drawn from one particular culture through which God speaks universally. That is my firm conviction as a mature and educated Christian which you would deny me the right to hold. Well, I deny your right to tell me I may not hold it. I say that your statement about the Bible is false because there is an infinite range of options between your two extremes: so are you mistaken, are you deluded, or are you lying about your brother in Christ? Will you confess your error?