Debriefing the Nye v. Ham Debate


Depositphotos Image ID: 22559095 Copyright: TonyTaylorstock

How many people watched the Bill Nye v. Ken Ham, young earth/old earth debate the other night? Apparently, Pat Robertson did, and he thinks that Ken Ham is full of water (as reported by many, including Patheos).

I have to say that I wanted to believe Ham, but it was hard to do. Of course, I do not buy Nye either. Just because one person of faith may not have it right, does not mean the baby should be thrown out with the bathwater (or Noah for that matter).

What is it about people that we want to know everything? We want everything to be tied up in neat bows and make perfect sense. But life is not like that. It just isn’t.

It seems to me in my imperfect opinion that we tend to get ourselves in trouble when we insist on knowing. Not that there is anything wrong with knowledge or with wanting to know things. But wanting to know everything and for all of it to make perfect sense is just asking too much this side of heaven.

We are finite, limited beings. That we know as much as we do is, indeed, remarkable. That we should expect to know it all is something else altogether.

Not that either Bill Nye or Ken Ham professed to know it all; they did not. I get Ken Ham: he takes the Bible for what it says, and he stands on faith that it is true. That is faith I suppose, but the Bible does not say “the earth is 6000 years old”. It could be 10,000. It could be 10,000,000. I, personally, do not think that any of those scenarios matter much in the big scheme of things. I like the exercise of considering what if the world is only 6000 years old. That is kind of fun, but only in a “what if” kind of way. My faith surely does not depend on it.

My faith is in a God that I know exists, not in a view of the age of the earth, even if it is “based” on the Bible. The Bible does contain generations of names from one patriarch to the other, but I am not sure it purports to represent all of the generations from the beginning of time, from the creation, to the time of Jesus. The generational lineage is important to tie Jesus to Jesse’s seed (David) to show the fulfillment of the prophecies, but nowhere is it essential to the faith that all of the generations link up from Adam to Jesus. Even if the link is important, we can take that on faith that there is a link without knowing who begot whom.

It is enough to know that God created the heavens and the earth and all that is seen and unseen. Is it not?

Paul tells us that anyone who is honest and willing knows the truth that God can be known from the creation. Scientists say, “Yes, but it is not provable.” So be it! If a person demands the exact evidence that ties the universe to the fingers of God is demanding the impossible of a finite being. Humankind is but a mist in the atmosphere of time and space. We are the stuff of space, time and matter. God is necessarily Other. Matter, for instance, could not create itself. Something other than matter (something we might call Spirit) would be necessary to create matter. 

It is not within our ken to know it all. Bill Nye was much more up front about the things we do not know then Ken Ham. Ham simply accepts the Bible as the starting point,something which Nye and any materialist simply rejects outright. While, Nye would never admit the Bible as evidence, Ham came off as stubbornly refusing to accept the proof of science. It was a senseless exercise, kind of like having a debate about blue skies with one person who has a black filter and another person who has a white filter.

To be clear, the notion that some accepted theses of science may be wrong, is a valid point. Scientists have been wrong about the science often in the past. I assume we will discover the same thing in the future about the present.  The notion that one should not believe in a God that we cannot prove with scientific evidence carries with it a sort of counter-intuitive arrogance. It’s also futile to expect science, the study of time, space and matter, to prove the existence of a Being that is Other than time, space and matter. 

But, more to the point:

We see through a glass darkly, but then we will see face to face.

Pat answers that tie things up in neat bows, which is what Ken Ham gave us, fall short for an explanation. Ken Ham’s answers smacked a bit of Job’s friends who were soundly reprimanded by God. Job demanded answers from God, but when God responded, Job was prostrated in awe. He did not get his answers, but he got his Answer. God’s presence was all he needed to be satisfied. The rest will have to wait for the face to face…. In the meantime, we simply don’t have all the answers and shouldn’t pretend we do.

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