Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ken Ham and Reformed Perspective

Many of our readers also read Reformed Perspective or are at least aware of it. It is a monthly magazine to which many members of the Canadian Reformed churches look to for guidance and leadership on matters of Christianity and culture. The following is a Letter to the Editor I submitted after receiving the September issue.

Recently, Reformed Perspective has been recommending books by Ken Ham. The latest is Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it. According to Sarah Meerstra [“Nota Bene: News worth noting”, v. 28, n. 11 (September 2009), p. 5, under “Why young people leave the church”], it claims that “When children are taught to doubt the historical truth of the Genesis account...the entire authority of Scripture is questioned [and] young people come to question the truth of the Bible and its relevance for their lives.” Of course, Ham (a charismatic and dynamic young-earth creationist [YEC] evangelist) is referring to the notion that one must defend at all costs the YEC agenda which claims that Genesis 1 must be regarded as teaching the technical chronological details of our material origins. The standard rhetoric includes a reference to Psalm 11:3: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The implication is that if we doubt their approach to Genesis 1, we might as well toss out the whole Bible.

It is well known in Christian higher education circles that creationism can indeed lead to a crisis in a young person’s life. However, YEC itself is the problem. Many who grow up with YEC and then in their college and university education begin to see its all-too-clear failures to grapple with the scientific evidences of an ancient creation are ill equipped to handle the tension, and dispense with YEC and along with it Biblical faith in its entirety, because YEC requires of its followers a particular interpretation of Genesis 1. There are even tragic cases of suicide triggered by this tension.

It should not be, though, that the truth of the Bible is questioned when scientific evidence is considered; it is instead the authority of leadership who promote YEC which should be questioned. Must we really tie ourselves to a particular way of linking Genesis 1 and science? Must we seek scientific evidence for what we think are the scientific details of the Genesis record? Why does the YEC approach have so much draw, even in our own Canadian Reformed circles, when we have instead a rich heritage of pursuing the careful analysis of the historical, textual, and cultural context of Scripture (including Genesis 1), relying on the redemptive historical hermeneutic approach, and letting Scripture interpret Scripture? Thankfully, many Reformed academics have written excellent books from a Reformed perspective which can help restore intellectual, scientific, and theological vitality, including C. John Collins, Vern Poythress, David Snoke, Tim Morris & Don Petcher, W. Robert Godfrey. It is to these that we must turn, not to authors like Ken Ham.