I will post this before someone else does. Ken actually wrote about BioLogos twice today, but this one is about The Big Story. Basically, he thinks our presentation of the history of the universe is rank heresy, and worse.
While I was reading this … I could almost feel the droplets of Ham’s frothing enthusiasm hit my cheeks:
“Not surprisingly, the BioLogos organization has a statement of faith that lacks any clear position on the Christian’s future hope. They claim to “believe in the historical death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by which we are saved and reconciled to God,” but with respect to whether Jesus will return bodily, whether hell exists, and whether heaven is a place free of death and suffering, BioLogos has no explicit statement.”
Sounds a lot like the insistent begging for specifics from certain quarters found here on the boards … and the stinging rebukes when they are not found …
I read the AIG page and watched the clips. (I had previously watched the entire video at the Biologos website.)
So much of what Ken Ham and AIG promote on a daily basis saddens me. I guess nothing about this latest tirade surprises me.
I have often asked myself a question circulated among my ex-YEC colleagues: If you could somehow go back in time and engage your much younger self when you were an anti-evolution Young Earth Creationist, what would you say? How would you engage your younger self on concepts not yet learned, virtues not yet matured, insights not yet even possible?
I realize that not everyone here shares that background. Yet we all as believers become aware that each is on a life-path which nobody else in the history of humanity as ever experienced in quite the same way. How do we graciously share what God has taught us? How do we teach what others have not yet learned and may not even be ready for? (Various aspects of life, much like university courses, have prerequisites we must complete and master before we are qualified to fully grasp them and move on to something deeper.)
I know now that so much of what I used to think was based primarily on fear. No doubt I still hold to some opinions which are more fear-based than what I’m aware. In trying to be fair to Ken Ham, I try to understand his fears. (Many fears!) Some of that tendency to fear is actually quite honorable. All of that fear is very human. Yet, “Perfect love casts out fear.” Unfortunately, Ham often seems focused on cultivating as much fear and suspicion as possible. Also unfortunately, both political and charitable fund-raising consultants will tell you that maximizing fear is one of the very best tactics for getting the attention of an audience and motivating them to donate. Answers in Genesis cultivates fear on their webpages but even more so on their donor communications. (Notice how Ham mentions the millions of dollars behind Logos and the funding of the Templeton Foundation. The donor newsletters have already been written and this theme will be prominent.)
I’ve tried to engage Ken Ham over the years on various topics. I’ve been unsuccessful. I have no special wisdom to share.
Well, perhaps it should not be too upsetting, as I often wonder if Ham is heretic, con man, or Christian. Perhaps in the fallen state of humanity, he is a bit of all three.
> Salvation is not about leaving behind our broken humanity or the spoiled created order. Salvation is about becoming human, and as restored human beings in the image of God, bringing the created order to its full glory. Here is how Paul puts it in Romans 8, “The whole creation stands on tiptoe, waiting for the revealing of the children of God . . . in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:18–20, paraphrase) (Vanderzee)
Thanks for putting in this link, Brad. The above quote shows how easy it is to use words that lead others to misunderstand. Ham says Vanderzee is confused. And I think that is a result of Vanderzee trying to use superlative language which is inaccurate. Vanderzee says salvation is not about leaving behind a spoiled creation or broken humanity. Yet, he also says that creation itself will be freed from its bondage. Some of this is semantics. It is related to the ambiguity of the destruction of heavens and earth and a “new heaven and a new earth”. But it misses the significance of the point that humanity is broken, creation is spoiled, and creation decays, and that we will be changed, and we will see something new and unspoiled.
On the one hand he emphasizes that we are not leaving this spoiled earth, and then overstates that we “are becoming human”. The earth is real, but we are not human? Convenient. And confused.
While I don’t often read Ken Ham, I can empathize with him in this case.
Actually I think this article is more fair than some. (The last line about colluding with the anti-christ was a bit uncalled for.)
What Ham doesn’t make clear is that when he is talking to the “church” he is talking to a segment of conservative Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, because that is who counts as the church in his book and those are the only people who listen to him. So it is totally accurate for him to call out what BioLogos presents as heresy for them. It is “opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine of conservative Evangelicals and Fundamentalists.”
I think the whole dialogue is complicated by the fact that for over a decade, certain streams of Evangelicalism have become very conversant in a certain post-modern theological frameworks with topics and themes that are not at all familiar to those who have not been reading and keeping up. I tried to summarize them for some colleagues as we were reading a book that presumed familiarity with these ideas, so I copied that below, so you know what I’m talking about. When we talked about these, many of my colleagues (who are well-educated and not Fundamentalist) had never heard of such approaches and perspectives. They were totally foreign and for some people, suspect or unorthodox.
It’s obvious to me when reading Ken Ham and other conservative Evangelical bloggers that they just don’t share even the most basic common ground and vocabulary that many Evangelicals outside their world presume would be well-understood even by those who take a different view. Much of what we publish on BioLogos just doesn’t make sense if your theological framework is focused on saving souls for heaven, dispensationalist premillenial/pre-trib eschatology, and a propositional approach to theology.
[quote] An emphasis on returning to a “robust gospel” that encompasses the whole of “redemption history”: This view rejects the idea that “the gospel” can be reduced to “Jesus died for your sins and so you can go to heaven when you die.” Instead they advocate for a return to the good news preached by the apostles: Jesus, the risen Messiah, is Lord, and his kingdom is coming. They see the whole gospel as beginning with Creation and ending with the final Resurrection or the culmination of the New Creation. They also see the gospel as very holistic and present-oriented, for embodied souls in the here and now, not just disembodied souls in the hereafter.
A focus on redemption of all facets of creation and restoration to shalom: Instead of focusing on just the individual’s relationship with God and resolving an individual’s personal “sin problem” by means of a Savior, this view sees all of creation as affected by humanity’s rebellion and in need of being “set right” or restored to shalom. Sin is seen as the distortion of God’s good creation and all that is antagonistic to his righteous justice that brings harmony and interdependence to relationships. (So societal systems and cultural constructions can be sinful, independent of the individual sinners who perpetuate them.) Throughout redemption history God has been tirelessly working to restore shalom to the antagonistic relationships between God and humanity, between fellow humans, between humans and their inner selves, and between humanity and creation. Eventually perfect shalom will be achieved at the New Creation, when all is set right once and for all under the just and righteous rule of Christ.
A preference for looking at Scripture as narrative instead of a collection of propositional truths, sets of commands, or raw material for the construction of a systematic theology: There is a big emphasis on God’s story, God’s “meta-narrative,” the continuing “grand narrative” of redemption history, history as the “stage” for “theo-drama.” There is an emphasis on actively participating in “the story,” over assenting to certain beliefs and doctrines and over obeying commands. It is through entering “God’s drama” that one is transformed by truth and one begins to believe rightly and act justly.
An emphasis on the fundamental nature of God as relational: With this comes a renewed interest in the Trinity (God at his very nature exists in eternal relationship with himself) and in the communal nature of faith and redemption. The restoration of broken relationships is intimately tied to the concept of redemption. Also there is a big emphasis on the experience of redemption through and in community as opposed to “personal salvation.” There is also a renewed emphasis on the corporate identity of the Church. Jesus is not returning for you (you personally), he is returning for his Bride (you corporately).
The conception of the Kingdom of God as an overlaying dimension of reality that “breaks through” our reality, which at the Resurrection/culmination of the New Creation will consume and overtake our reality and make all things new. The Incarnation is seen as God’s Kingdom (God’s reality) breaking through to our reality in an unprecedented way. The Resurrection and Pentecost are other major “in-breakings.” God’s Kingdom and Christ’s reign have been inaugurated but are still contested in our world. Wherever God’s shalom is restored by the work of his Spirit through his Church, the Kingdom of Heaven “comes” to earth and brings a foretaste (“firstfruits”) of the fullness of the Kingdom to come in the New Creation. This view does not see the faithful as being taken away to Heaven from an earth doomed to destruction at the Second Coming, but they see Heaven coming down to earth, refining and purifying it, and making it new, and Christ establishing his eternal reign in the New Jerusalem, here on earth.
A preference for the Christus Victor model of the atonement. Without denying other aspects of atonement theology (i.e. that Christ was a sacrifice for our sins) there is much more emphasis on the victory of Christ over sin, death, Satan, and all rulers, authorities, and powers and the cosmic exaltation of the victorious Christ. The mission of the Church is to bring all things under the Lordship of the exalted and victorious Messiah.
Perhaps going along with the interest in narrative, there is a renewed interest in the councils and creeds and writing of the early church and a focus on returning to the “apostolic gospel,” the message preached by the earliest witnesses. There is a desire to harmonize the message preached by Jesus and the message preached by Paul into the same gospel.
The conception of the Messiah as fundamentally eschatological: The Incarnation, the Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and Second Coming are all seen through the grid of lordship/kingship. There is a focus on Jesus as the risen, ruling King, whose Resurrection points to and proves the basis of hope for the final Resurrection and righteous judgment of all people, where the just will be vindicated and all things will be set right. [/quote]
Excellent summary and a very helpful reminder, Christy!
I will admit that I cringed just a little at some of Rev. Vander Zee’s choices of words and phrases—not because I necessarily disagreed with them but because I was certain of how those choices would be misunderstood by some. Within our faith community, we learn culture as well as concepts and we expect things to be expressed in particular ways. We also learn to recognize “strange cultures” and their strange words. Thus, I wasn’t surprised when I visited the AIG Facebook page and found the complaint that the Rev. Vander Zee “sounds Mormon” and “obviously New Age!”
[By the way, a fascinating example of “insider language” was when Donald Trump tripped on “2 Corinthians” as “Two Corinthians” instead of “Second Corinthians.” If one hasn’t face-to-face conversed with Christians, this kind of fumble is easy to understand. “Native speakers” rarely make such mistakes!]
Rev. Vander Zee’s exuberant expression of praise for the Creator is a kind of art. So I’m hesitant to try and force it into a carefully worded “press release” to diverse audiences. Yet misunderstanding was virtually guaranteed. Imagine how much prose would be necessary to construct a commentary to explain his video narration to fundamentalist audiences. (I’m not even imagining one long enough to convince them of anything but simply to clarify what he was and wasn’t saying.)
Sadly, Ham’s followers are already going bonkers over the video after Ham has basically set the stage for their outrage. After all, he labels it heresy. So any chance for real dialogue has been relegated to “Are you trying to defend a heretic?”
No doubt there is a different approach to eschatology. Many Christians actually do believe in a heaven and a hell, and do believe that a new heavens and earth will only happen through a destruction of the the old. I doubt they are agreed on the exact mechanism for destruction and renewal, but no doubt a new earth will be in the new heaven, where we actually see God. Jesus has a relationship with individuals.
Other Christians believe that human beings will create heaven on earth through their intelligence, innovations, technology, social improvements, possibly by the grace of God.
These are two fundamentally different views of reality. There may be some blending of the two in some cases.
Which view did Jesus seem to support more often or more obviously? That is the question.
I see the great dangers in thinking that if Jesus saves the world, that we as people can be saved as tag alongs. This is like thinking that simply because you belong to or attend a church, or your parents attended a church, that therefore you will be saved from your sins. Clearly, Jesus indicated otherwise.
God does not want our religious sacrifices, nor our outward homages, nor our dressing up of our persons or our language. He wants our hearts, where we seek him first, personally, individually. Maybe, after that, he will pay attention to the rest.
Do you think that is a view some people are advocating? I’ve never heard it.
I’ve heard it often. Expressed in many different ways. In many cases, people do not even have an understanding of what sin really is, but they believe God will not reject them. They’re pretty good people, they believe. They deserve God’s goodness. They visit their grandmother at Christmas and they feed their kids. They attend church at Easter. and funerals. This is the common variety of salvation by association.
The philosophical variety of social gospel, and of emphasizing the redemption of creation while neglecting the personal salvation is another more sophisticated aspect of a similar type of thinking. Remodel the social institutions, “christianize” educational systems, christian labor associations, political parties, etc., while not bad in themselves run the risk of de-emphasizing the personal nature of salvation.
Jesus said clearly, that not all who say “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of the Father. There will be a separation of good fish and bad fish, of wheat vs chaff, or grain vs weeds, of branches bearing no fruit, good soil vs bad soil, good servants vs bad servants, bridesmaids who are ready vs those who are not. Jesus said my kingdom is not of this world… strange isn’t it, since the people he came to save were from this world.
His redemption came not through power and might, but by self-sacrifice, by humility. Not by reforming institutions, but by reforming individuals.
This is completely new to me. Who is advocating this? Has this come from some best-selling book from the “Religion & Spirituality” section of the bookstore?
I don’t really keep up with populist literature so the names of some authors would be helpful.
That’s reassuring. You must be doing something right.
I beg to differ with you there. You are describing folk theology of people who have absorbed ideas from a variety of cultural sources and then presenting it as if actual theologians are just dressing up folk religion and making it more sophisticated. That’s not at all an accurate assessment of the climate of NT studies and post-modern theology. Plus you seem to be confusing 19th century mainline social justice theology with the current post-Evangelical social justice emphasis even though they have different takes on salvation, eschatology, the church, and the Kingdom. You might not like their conclusions, but the NT scholars de-emphasizing the personal nature of salvation, or insisting salvation is more than assurance of heaven when you die are basing their theology on biblical scholarship, not public opinion polls.
Right, and it sure does complicate things when we have totally different concepts of what “kingdom” means doesn’t it? The kingdom is not of this world, from my perspective, means that the Kingdom does not follow the rules and paradigms and power structures of our worldly institutions. Jesus’ kingdom turns the world (the economies, justice systems, cultural expectations, relationships, heirarchies, etc) on it’s head. Do you really think Jesus was referring to another physical place? It’s kosmos we are talking about here. We are called out of the kosmos (worldly way of life and order of things) in one sense, but we still live in the kosmos in another sense.
The idea that Jesus’ death on the cross redeemed all humanity, and therefore everyone is automatically saved, was the basis of the Universalist movement in the 19th century. The Universalist Church merged with the Unitarian Church in 1961 to form the UU Church.
The Wikipedia article on Universalism cites 1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive. The Universalists put special emphasis on the word “all” in this and other NT verses about salvation.
Universal salvation is neither synonymous with universal redemption nor, in the view of many evangelicals, the necessary consequence of it. Arminian theologians, for example, believe in universal redemption but not in universal salvation.
Grace and peace,
EDIT: Fixed typo
Sorry if you got this impression. Yes I am describing a folk theology, and then making a parallel with a type of social gospel. But I am not saying that one necessarily derives from the other. Rather, I am suggesting that they are variations of the same thing. Nor am I confusing mainline social justice with post evangelical social justice. Social justice that de-emphasizes personal relationship and personal salvation is the same problem no matter whether it is mainline or some other derivative. Social justice that derives from personal salvation is different than social justice that attempts to replace personal salvation.
Scripture is clear that pure religion is to look after the widows and the orphans, which is an endemic command throughout much of the old testament prophets. But also endemic is that our works will not satisfy God… He wants our hearts. This is reemphasized in the new testament by Jesus and the apostles. Yes, salvation is more than assurance of heaven, since it results in obedience here on earth also. But Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you, and when I come back I will take you with me, for where I go there you will be also.” Revelations also emphasizes the newness of heaven and earth. The judgement is a prevailing theme in Jesus words, in the epistles, and in the book of revelations. (I don’t know how to understand your reference to “public opinion polls”. You were the one who said you had never heard of such things… I did not reference any polls, nor even give any stats or percentages.)
Certainly that is true. But this also means that there is another place, another kingdom, as referenced to by Jesus when he said he would prepare a place. Even though Christians live by different rules, note the pacifists, the martyrs, those like Daniel who will not bow down to images, yet we are in this world. Even the church in this world, usually lives by the rules of this world, either by choice or by force. A kingdom of Christ in this world, without the promise and reality of another world separate from it, would be a weak, pathetic kingdom. We see today at a certain level, that kingdom is declining rather than increasing… we see this in reduced church attendance at least in Europe and North America, and we see it in the demoralizing immorality of “Christian lands” and their leaders.
The bible says to put no confidence in princes, and our battle is with powers, principalities and rulers of this dark world. It is a battle. We do not expect a marvelous transformation of the present world, even though we are right to point out Christ, and what is right and good. Wars never seem to cease, the poor we always seem to have with us (as Jesus said), defeating one disease seems to result in new diseases filling the vacumn, and immorality increases, abortion is rampant, sexual promiscuity, divorce, are not declining in any absolute sense. If Christ’s kingdom is of this world, it is not looking good.
Of course, we live in this world. Who says we don’t. But there is a certain degree of truth to the song that “this world is not our home”. We all know we will die, and we know that those who die are living somewhere else, as we will, and for much longer than we live here. Nevertheless, this is no excuse for living badly while we are here.
Having recently been involved in discussions on this with a preacher who was disavowing the predestination and the irresistable grace of Calvin, I merely summed it up this way, which I believe is scriptural, and consistent with the overall message of scripture. God’s grace is sufficient for all, but will not apply to all, because it is not received by all. The preacher prefers to say that Jesus died for all, even though he is not a universalist. But he means the same thing. In every sermon and in every bible study, he quotes John 3:16, and often also mentions John 3:18-19.
I’m very well-versed in the traditional Evangelical theological framework and I’m actually not interested in arguing which one is better or more “biblical.” The point I was trying to make, and that you are making for me, is that conservative Evangelicals are not equally well-versed in newer streams of Evangelical thought that have been informed by NPP studies, and the current interest in Gospel studies and Jesus as Messiah, Lord, and King. This is unfortunate because it creates disconnects where people think they are talking about the same thing when they are not, think they need to defend orthodoxy when orthodoxy is not really being challenged, and overall it leads to misunderstandings and gross misrepresentations of what other people are saying. From what I have observed working with international Evangelical groups, the language of the newer framework is increasingly being used in vision setting documents. (For example, here, here, here, here) It is increasingly becoming a weird American Evangelical fetish to be obsessed with inerrancy, skeptical or negative toward social justice and skeptical or negative toward community rather than individual orientation.
Weird? who cares? a fetish? well. Obsessed? judgemental or what… Inerrancy does not address figurative language vs literal understanding directly. Even if not holding to inerrancy, the difficulty of figurative vs literal still remains. The reason for skepticism towards social justice at a political level, is the lack of acknowledging Jesus as Lord at the same level. As a result, to distinguish between the social justice of communists such as Marxists who deny God, and the true social justice which acknowledges the willing sacrifice of Jesus, becomes difficult. This is not weird, but understandable. Many of those who are skeptical of social justice are not the last to help out with soup kitchens, or to take in and care for unwed mothers, or to donate money for World Renew or Mennonite Central Committee or World Vision or Compassion Canada humanitarian efforts. That is just as much social justice as a state welfare system, but using a different method, and sometimes even supported by the state funds.
An orientation toward community is usually evident for almost all those who attend church, which they usually identify as a priority community of faith, regardless of kingdom theology. This community becomes extended towards those in need even outside that community, as a response to eg. Jesus parable on the good samaritan, on which I just heard a sermon in an Alliance church last Sunday.
I think that sometimes identifying what they are against politically, some of the evangelical churches have left mistaken impressions that they do not care about the poor, or about community, but in reality they always have.
Jesus as Messiah has always been their main focus. Lord of life has been there for dedicated christians. But king of everything has been missing not just in evangelical circles but also in mainline churches, where the dualism of faith and works, or religion and the rest of life has always been a constant temptation. The effect of Sunday often did not last past sundown, and what happened in a church building often contrasted strongly with what happened in the workplace.
Community cannot exist without individuals, and individuals do not do so well in isolation. It is a matter of degree, not a matter of contrast. The individual relationship with Christ will determine the reliability and the value of the community. So it is not an either or, neither a less or more, but a both-and.
Moreover, such fetishists seem to have no idea that their theology is so far removed from the rest of Christianity, because they are generally the same people who never leave the US but somehow know that it is better than every other nation of the world in every respect.
But MOST of “those who are skeptical of social justice” do none of those things.
I think that Jesus as Messiah is far less important than following His teachings over, say, Paul’s, which anyone who views Jesus as Messiah should be doing as a matter of course anyway, but that’s not what we see.