Does Ken Ham's Defense of Biblical Authority Lead to Biblical Skepticism? | SES


(Brad Kramer) #1

Key section:

If all of my thinking is skewed by my “fallen” and “fallible” worldview, how can I in principle “let God speak to me to the best of my ability to not try to impose my ideas on Scripture”? Mr. Ham has ruled out that very possibility. If I cannot properly understand reality without starting with the Bible, but the Bible is part of reality, then how can I properly understand the Bible?

Very interesting article. Would love to hear @Christy’s thoughts.

I’ve often wondered about this contradiction at the heart of the “man’s word” vs. “God’s Word” dichotomy that Ham endlessly repeats. As the article points out, if it was applied consistently, then Ken Ham can’t be trusted either, which would contradict his own teaching.


(Chris Falter) #2

In this critical essay, Howe identifies the critical issues that Ham overlooks. It’s a beautiful and compelling presentation. I don’t think Howe gives full due to cultural issues in interpreting and understanding texts, but the points he makes are nonetheless quite valuable.


(Phil) #3

While not supportive of evolutionary creationism, he makes a lot of good points, and I agree with his ideas for the most part. I wonder if his jab at EC was primarily to save face at his institution. It appears he is unaware of thoughts such a Joshua’s which maintain compatibility of a historical Adam and EC, or else just did not wish to acknowledge them.

It is somewhat ironic that the more scientific minded to some extent place more dependence on inspiration and guidance by the Spirit that those tied more closely to the literal text. I often say to myself that we have to look for “Answers in Jesus.”

The author (Adam Tucker) does a good job of pointing out the need for Hebrew and Greek scholars to make sense of the text of the Bible. He then expands on that theme a bit by saying,"Thus, we ultimately get our principles of interpreting the Bible, not from the Bible, but from reality as such. It is because we are able to know truth about physical things that we are then able to understand written words about other things. " Thus we see our dependence on past education, presuppositions learned in school and in religious education from childhood on, and past experiences that color how we see both reality and written text. It is miraculous that we are able to experience the written Word at all, and I say that literally.


(Laura) #4

Nice article. That really honed in on some things I can recognize but would never have been able to put my finger on like that.

I find that sometimes churches are inconsistent on this point too… we will sometimes be so strong on the idea of “just the Bible,” but then when the situation seems to warrant it, are just as free to pull out the “two thousand years of church history” card and appeal to tradition instead. It’s never just the Bible, even when we say it is.

There is a part of me that sympathizes with Ken Ham, and I think Kent Hovind has articulated similar things, the idea that they want someone to be able to just open up the Bible and read it for what it is – taking into consideration, I’m sure, that people have varying degrees of education (or lack thereof) and literacy, and perhaps simply not wanting to see Christianity become “elite” in that respect, and if that’s the case, then I think that’s absolutely a valid concern – I just don’t think their means of trying to remedy it are right.


(Ronald Myers) #5

This is a good article. One incidental point that surprised me is that Ken Ham does not regard himself as a Hebrew scholar. Perhaps this is modesty. For as much time as he spends discussing Genesis, Job and Psalms I would expect him to be literate in Hebrew at the very least and familiar with the Hebrew scholarship enough to know the fine points of Hebrew grammar.


(Phil) #6

Hebrew is a tough language, and Ham’s formal training is as a schoolteacher with a bachelors degree in applied science. His time has been spent not in study but in organizational management and development. His social media writing is often credited to his staff, and no real new ideas have come out through the years, as you might expect. He may have picked up a few Hebrew words here and there, but doubt he has ever spent much time in study, being tied up with speaking engagements and such.


(Christy Hemphill) #7

The article does a good job pointing out the inherent contradictions in Ken Ham’s “man’s word/God’s word” dichotomy.

I don’t quite agree with Tucker’s alternative to Ham’s perspective though.

First, I don’t think he deals with the essential question of “how is the Bible authoritative”? It seems like he would pretty much agree with Ham that the Bible’s authority lies in its words somehow, and our job as Christians it to somehow possess the truth of those words. I think this is a problematic position in light of soft postmodernism or perspectivalism that almost everyone accepts nowadays.

Almost everyone is going to grant that the way we interpret words is influenced by our cultural worldview. We can’t ever completely step outside of our perspectives and gain that “worldview neutral” objectivity that he mentions. If biblical authority resides in the words and therefore in our interpretation of the words, it can be deconstructed just like anything else. I still haven’t found anything I think addresses biblical authority better than this 1991 lecture by N. T. Wright. Part of his proposal is the idea that we move away from seeing the point of Scripture and it’s authority being knowing true information and instead see its authority in terms of how God uses it to shape his people to act righteously in the world. The point of it all is not to know “what Scripture teaches” it’s to know God. The Bible is authoritative not because it passes some kind of objective truth test, but because God, the source of ultimate authority, speaks through it and relates to us, and uses it to change our lives.

I agree with Tucker that it is incoherent to say we get our worldview from Scripture. (“How do I know my current worldview is not skewing my thoughts about what the Bible says? If I do not currently have a “biblical worldview,” how can I ever arrive at one if I have to start with the Bible in order to know anything properly?”) We get our worldview from our world (which, depending on our communities, may be more or less influenced by ideas people have gotten from Scripture). Then God (through Scripture) challenges that worldview to bring it more in line with his reality.

Tucker poses the question: “How then can we overcome these issues and say, in agreement with Mr. Ham, that we can know the truth about God and what He teaches us in His Word?” He affirms we cannot totally escape our perspectives (which are fallible) but also that objective truth exists and is knowable. I have no argument with that. I really like his assertion that we don’t start with God’s word or man’s word, but with reality. However I don’t really understand or resonate with his idea that logic is the key that unlocks reality for all cultures everywhere.

Really? Logic? “Furthermore, it is also undeniably the case that things like the laws of logic apply equally to everyone in all places and at all times. The laws of logic are the same for everyone regardless of their worldview.” Well, that may be true, but logic needs propositions to work on, and propositions rest on presuppositions or “givens”, and I think you would be hard pressed to show that all cultures everywhere are going to come up with the same givens. Logic may adjudicate between true and false propositions once your givens are established, but it’s not going to help you evaluate your givens, and those are what worldviews are all about. Yes, we all live in the same reality, but we don’t all share the same concepts about that reality.

I think logic is the wrong place to hang your hat in this debate. I’m not a philosopher and epistemology is an intimidating subject, but I don’t think we arrive at knowledge/truth via logic. Logic seems to me to be a way of manipulating and organizing and evaluating what we already know instead of a way of discovering something new. We experience the world and that gives us concepts. Our concepts then form an ongoing feedback loop with our experience. Some experiences challenge or expand our concepts, but our concepts also make sense of our experiences.

For example, I was reading the other day on NPR about this study on taste. Some college students were given clear flavored soda and asked to identify the flavor (grape, lemon, orange, apple). They did great. But then the “wrong” color was added to the soda (purple lemon and orange grape) and students could no longer correctly identify the flavors. The concept that yellow goes with lemon was so strong that it changed their perception of reality. They insisted they tasted lemon because it was yellow, even though it was grape. Even when they were specifically told what was going on, they could not do what Tucker suggested and “know truths about aspects of reality” by using laws of logic to “take the glasses off and see reality for what it is.”

We all bring some powerful “yellow equals lemon” presuppositions to Scripture, and I don’t see how logic is going to help us taste it right.


(Wookin Panub) #8

Quote: “My fear, however, is that when it comes to defending biblical authority, Mr. Ham’s zeal clouds his rational judgement”

I find this statement very interesting. The writer claims to not be dogmatic on the issue but goes on to say, because of Ken Ham’s position on biblical authority, that his RATIONAL judgment is clouded. I am willing to bet this writer would take issue with the doctrine of the trinity, and yet, there is more definitive evidence in scripture that the earth is thousands of years old than Jesus is God, or for that matter; the trinity (a term not even in scripture)


(Wookin Panub) #9

EXACTLY!!! Which is why we go BACK to biblical authority “solas scriptura”. You have actually proven Ken Ham to be right on the issue. Scripture is the only thing we can trust.


(Christy Hemphill) #10

Why would you be willing to bet that a staff member at Southern Evangelical Seminary, whose statement of faith affirms trinitarian orthodoxy would take issue with the Trinity? Don’t answer that, it’s a total tangent to the discussion at hand.


(Brad Kramer) #11

That @Wookin_Panub just had a typo and meant to say “not take issue”


(Christy Hemphill) #12

Ahh, that makes more sense then.


#13

That’s true, especially since the Church Fathers had to decide which books were actually inspired Scripture. In other words, just what is the Bible? There were plenty of manuscripts besides the 27 books we now recognize as canonical circulating in NT times in NT times and later before the NT canon became fixed . (e.g. Protoevangelium of James, Gospel of Thomas). (Even St. Luke himself mentions this fact.) And consider this: is the canon a list of inspired books or an inspired list of books, or an inspired list of inspired books? The canon closed at different times in the East and the West. During the reformation, Martin Luther nearly canned the letter of James, but thankfully it remained.

And what to do about the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books? The Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Russian Orthodox Churches have some variation in which books are in the Apocrypha, and they regard these books as inspired, a second canon. Anglican/Episcopal Churches (maybe others?) regard the Apocryphal books as valuable for study but not for doctrine, and they may be read in the church if desired. Thanks to English/American Puritanism, these books aren’t included in many Bibles. Maybe you haven’t heard of them or read them.

One of the reasons that Protestant reformers rejected the Apocryphal books is that they were written in Greek, and not Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament books. But in more recent times, starting in 1896 with the discovery in Egypt of the text of Ecclesiasticus (Sirach)
we do have many of these books in Hebrew. Go figure.


(James McKay) #14

He didn’t say that it was Ken Ham’s position on Biblical authority that was clouding his judgment, but his zeal. Remember Proverbs 19:2: “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.”

On the contrary, it’s the other way around.

There is no evidence whatsoever that the earth is only a few thousand years old, and vast swathes of evidence that it is far, far older. The age of the earth is determined first and foremost by measuring things, yet every single claim of evidence for a young earth that I’ve ever seen plays fast and loose with the basic rules and principles of measurement — often to the extent of disregarding the entire concept of measurement altogether.


(Laura) #15

That’s true… growing up Baptist, I don’t think I ever heard the apocrypha mentioned, and didn’t read anything from it until I was an adult. I guess at some point I have to trust that the Holy Spirit has seen that the necessary books were included, but I also understand that different groups within Christianity will draw that line in different places.


#16

I should mention that when the canon of the OT and NT for Christians was being formulated, the Jewish canon had not closed. And it’s still somewhat of a mystery as to what happened when they decided on it.


#17

And we have lost some of the books of the NT that surely would have been canonical!


(Ronald Myers) #18

Thank you for the comment. If Hebrew is difficult because of the alphabet and lack of cognate words, that just takes practice. If ancient Hebrew is hard because of the different (i.e. non Indo-European) thought patterns then it is all the more imperative to study it before being the major proponent of a highly publicized intellectual edifice based on details of this text.

This discussion inspires me to try again to learn Hebrew


(Chris Falter) #19

Hi Beaglelady- The canonical NT documents are widely regarded as composed in the first century. The Protoevangelium of James is definitely from the middle of the 2d century, and the Gospel of Thomas’ date of composition is essentially unknown (anywhere from mid-first to mid-third century).

Best,
Chris Falter


#20

Yes, most were of much later provenance. But many books were circulating when the canon was being debated–that’s what I should have said.