The Ham/Nye debates were my introduction to Ken Ham (and to Bill Nye for that matter). I wanted Ken Ham to be my champion of a biblical view of science, but I just came away unsettled. (See Debriefing the Nye v. Ham Debate)
As I’ve admitted before, I am decidedly not a science guy. I tend to put these things on my back burner and let them simmer, and that is what I did with the debates. Quite some later I came across Hugh Ross and Reasons to Believe. He made sense of the science and the biblical creation account in Genesis. He still does to me, though I tend to take all of these things with a grain of salt because I still don’t know what I don’t know.
I have consciously avoided criticizing Ken Ham because so many Christians love him. And again, I don’t know what I don’t know about the science. But, I am changing on that score too. It isn’t the science that I am chiefly focused on at this point, but something far more fundamental to the Christian faith – the Gospel.
Reading through An Extended Analysis of Ken Ham’s Book “Six Days” (Part 1: Blame the Satanic Christian Academics) by Joel Edmund Anderson on his blog, resurrecting orthodoxy, I came to a realization – Ken Ham is anchoring his faith on something other than the Gospel. In Paul’s words, he is preaching a different gospel.
This realization follows a recent conversation I had with a person who told me that everything else falls apart if we don’t believe in a literal six (24 hour) day creation. His assertion laid heavy on me, not because I feared that not believing it might doom my faith, but that he believes his faith rests on such a tenuous basis. This particular interpretation and application of the Hebrew word, yom (day), is apparently the cornerstone on which Christianity and faith rests, according to this man.
I didn’t realize it then, but now I know that this is the position asserted by Ken Ham and fellow young-earth creationists. To the extent that people are asserting that Christian faith depends entirely on whether yom is to be interpreted as a single 24-hour day, we have to take note. This is not the Gospel that Paul preached. Resting all of Christian doctrine on a singular (and very modern) interpretation of Genesis 1:1-11 seems like an extreme position to me – one that might be akin to some of the 1st Century heresies that Paul battled when he first emphasized the central importance of the Gospel.
Paul was dealing with heretical teachers when he proclaimed to know nothing to the Corinthians but “Jesus Christ and him crucified”. His point to them was that everything else is peripheral.
Paul implored in many of his letters for believers not to get caught up in “vain discussions” over peripheral issues. And Paul was very clear on what the Gospel is. The Gospel, which is of first importance, is this:
“that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures….”
Paul’s warning against those preaching “another gospel” was strong and often repeated.
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
And Paul highlighted how easily people were led astray, even people in the 1st Century who lived within a generation of Christ.
“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.”
I didn’t realize what bothered me about Ken Ham until I read the article by Joel Edmund Anderson. And then it struck me – Ken Ham is preaching another gospel!
His gospel is based on a particular understanding of Genesis. It isn’t based on Jesus Christ and him crucified – the death (for our sins), burial and resurrection of Jesus (for our salvation). Anderson says this:
“Ken Ham—he truly thinks that if the origin of sin isn’t found in two historical people who lived 6,000 years ago, then nothing in the Bible is trustworthy and the very gospel of Jesus Christ is undermined.
“One of the things that the New Testament writers often did was quote and reference countless passages in the Old Testament and show how they ultimately pointed to the fulfillment of God’s covenant in Christ. What one sees with Ken Ham and AiG, though, is backward to this very thing. Ham makes it a point to quote and reference countless passages in both the Old and New Testaments and show, not how they apply to and find fulfillment in Christ, but rather how they supposedly ‘prove’ Genesis 1-11 is literal history.
“Anyone who has taken the time to read Ken Ham’s books knows this to be true. What that tells me, therefore, is that if Ken Ham was honest, he’d admit that his ‘Bible’ really is The Genesis Flood and its literalistic interpretation of Genesis 1-11. For him, the answer to the world’s troubles isn’t Jesus—it’s believing in a young earth.”
As I dig deeper into the Ken Ham version of Genesis, I also find that its roots lie in a very curious place. The Genesis Flood cited by Anderson was co-authored by Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb and published in 1961. That book has been called “the founding document of the creationist movement.”
The Genesis Flood isn’t written in the vein of orthodox Christianity, though. It is a modern (1961) take on The New Geology published in 1923 and written by George McCready Price, a Seventh-day Adventist. Price’s source and inspiration for his book came from “prophetic visions” and writings of Ellen White, the founder of Seventh-day Adventism dating to 1910-1915.
Not only is young-earth creationism as a litmus test for faith very modern (young); its root are found in the prophetic visions of Ellen White.
Price’s book was not well-known outside of Seventh-day Adventist circles until William Jennings Bryan quoted from it in the infamous Scopes Trial in which creationism (generally) and evolution were pitted against each other. Ironically, Williams Jennings Bryan, who was no friend of evolutionary theory, was a “day-age creationist”, meaning that he didn’t believe in a literal, 6-day creation. He would be classified as an “old-earth creationist” today.
Young-earth creationism as a litmus test for faith has questionable beginnings and is a very late development in the world of Christian thought, but most people (me included, until now) might have thought that its roots went back to Genesis itself. Not so. For almost two millennia, followers of Christ have accepted the Genesis creation story as Scripture without the need to resolve whether it happened in 6 twenty four hour days, 6 ages of time, 6 literal days after a large time gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 (the “gap theory”), or other explanations.
Yes, many theories have been asserted over the years, but the Gospel has always remained the Gospel. “Origen outright mocked anyone who thought there was a literal Eden and a literal tree of knowledge of good and evil; Augustine thought the creation was instantaneous; Irenaeus expressly taught that Adam and Eve represented humanity, and that they were most certainly not perfect.” (See resurrecting orthodoxy)
Irenaeus taught that the idea that Adam and Eve and the creation were perfect was a gnostic heresy because nothing is perfect, except God. (See Back to an Early Church View of Genesis) Irenaeus was only two generations removed from Jesus. He learned from Polycarp who learned from John, the apostle. Irenaeus wrote the definitive text on heresies in the early church.
Though many views of Genesis have been expressed in church history, no particular view on the Genesis creation account has ever been a requirement of orthodox, traditional Christianity. None of the words of Jesus or New Testament letters require a particular interpretation of Genesis as a litmus test for faith.
The Ham gospel, however, is anchored to his interpretation of Genesis (which turns out to have its roots in questionable modern visions). Joel Edmund Anderson summarizes is this way:
Apparently though, Ham really thinks that interpreting the seven days of creation as seven literal 24-hour days that occurred in history is a matter of life and death for the gospel. To understand “day” any other way is to undermine the authority of God’s Word, and the result is that “the entire gospel message is undermined.” In fact, Ham even says that to interpret the “days” as “millions of years” is a “much more powerful attack” on the gospel than denying the resurrection of Christ. See resurrecting orthodoxy)
To be sure, the prevalent view of Christians going back many centuries has been to interpret the creation story as six (6) 24-hour days, but that view has never been the only one, and it has never been a litmus test for orthodoxy. No one was called a heretic for holding a different view. Until the Seventh Day Adventists and young–earth creationists no one has so intricately linked the Gospel and faith to the view that Ham asserts. Such an anchor for our faith rests on brittle ground. Paul warned us about anchoring our faith in anything other than Jesus and him crucified.
I am not holding myself out here as an expert on the science. I am not even necessarily saying that the young-earth creationists are all washed up. They could be right about some things. It’s possible that the earth (and universe) really is young after all, though the overwhelming evidence seems to suggest otherwise. The science here is not my focus. I am only looking at the Gospel, and the central message of the young-earth creationists, as I understand it, appears to me to be another gospel.
 1 Corinthians 2:2
 See Vain Discussions . Paul addressed the Colossians about “hollow and deceptive philosophy” (Col. 2:8) that have “an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body” (Col 2.23) which deny the efficacy and adequacy of Christ alone. (See The Colossian Heresy) Paul characterized false teachers to Timothy as people who “have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people….” (1 Tim. 6:4-5)
 “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance….” (1 Cor. 15:1-3)
 1 Corinthians 15:3-5
 Galatians 1:8-9
 2 Corinthians 11:3-4
 Ibid. (Stephen J. Gould per (Schudel, Matt (March 5, 2006). “Obituary: Henry M. Morris, father of “creation science”)