Comments on any relevant aspect of this column are always welcome, but in this case it would be especially appropriate for readers to tell us about their own experiences at the Creation Museum.
Thanks for your review of this book. I think it would be a good thing to create an article or pamphlet that gives examples of Ham’s inconsistency with himself. This would be a help to those wanting to ask penetrating questions to those that are taken in by him.
Excellent piece. I will share it widely!
One remark I’d quibble with a bit: “As for the Bible, the Museum certainly emphasizes the Reformation idea of sola Scriptura (the Bible alone).”
I think it’s important to say that it emphasizes a truncated version of sola scriptura. The sola in this Reformation doctrine was not isolated and absolute. For starters, there were 5 solas not just one (so sola doesn’t mean alone in an absolute sense). Also, the Reformers themselves were self-consciously influenced by extra-biblical writings (esp. Calvin, and esp. by Augustine), so sola scriptura does not mean that Scripture is the only book to take seriously. It means that with respect to others sources (such as church tradition) it is to be regarded as the primary authority. Calvin’s openness to “secular” knowledge (in medicine, maths, law, philosophy, etc.) demonstrates this (he continues to affirm a young earth, but this has much to do with the lack of evidence and hermeneutical advances unavailable to him at the time, which in principle he would be open to). Kevin Vanhoozer’s book Biblical Authority After Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity (Brazos, 2016) helpfully unpacks each sola in historical context.
All of this, I think, further undergirds your point that the Museum is a form of cultural control, even attempting to control what biblical authority has to look like.
Thank you for your steady and reasoned review. You are much appreciated in keeping us on track and my hope is that we will continue hear your voice on a frequent basis.
Your thoughts seem right on track, though my inclination is to think the Creation Museum is primarily a force for confirmation bias, as both its location and marketing is geared towards tapping the market of those already in agreement, rather than reaching out.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holy Days!
Thank you very much for nuancing this for me/us, Patrick. I agree with everything you wrote in that comment, above all the part about Calvin relying plenty on non-biblical authors and other sources of information. The book under review mentions Luther specifically, and the point I wanted to stress comes from Alister McGrath’s book about the Reformation (cited by the Trollingers), where he says that Luther wanted everyone to read the Bible for themselves and assumed they would interpret it in similar ways, only to discover that they didn’t, so he had to write his own interpretative works for his followers to use.
@T_aquaticus has reminded us, once again, that good Christians should not be neutral about foolish Christians sounding irrational about the natural world - - which would include museum exhibits of cave men riding dinosaurs, hyper-evolution after animals were released from the ark, and inescapable conclusion that if not a single large mammal can be found in the same rocks as dinosaurs, there is no way to argue that all these animals were alive together - - just 6,000 years ago!
Below is the Augustine quote via Mr. T, along with comments from me. . . .
St. Augustine (AD 354-430)
“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold[s] to as being certain from reason and experience.”
^ ^ St. Augustine’s initial premise is that there is natural knowledge that is, and that can be, “certain from reason and experience” !!!
“Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show … vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.”
^ ^ Here, Augustine thinks Christians should discourage letting Christians spout out in contradiction to the reality of natural knowledge - - because it leads to embarassment when a Christian starts spouting nonsense about the world.
“The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.”
^ ^ Augustine worries that non-Christians will likely think the founders of Christianity also held to such mocked positions regarding the natural world!
“If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?”
^ ^ Isn’t this exactly the situation that we here under the BioLogos umbrella encounter daily!
“Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books.”
^ ^ St. Augustine describes the problem with letting Christians ignorant about science create an erroneous impression of what must be believed to accept the Gospel.
"For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7] "
^^Sounds just like what goes on when YEC’s arrive on these webpages, and start to propound that
God made days without the Sun, and that Evolution is impossible!"
Thanks Ted for your thoughtful and generous review of Righting America at the Creation Museum. Here is a link to our first of two blog posts in response to the review. In this post we provide some additional material from our book that deals with Answers in Genesis (AiG) attacks on BioLogos: https://rightingamerica.net/answers-in-genesis-biologos-and-righting-america-at-the-creation-museum/
Thank you. I have been enjoying your posts in the last year and hope to continue to hear from you
In the last couple of months I have been reading what I can only say is a substantial salvo against Ken Ham and his associates (“The Heresy of Ham” by Joel Edmund Anderson, Archdeacon Books, 2016). I have searched in vain at BioLogos and the ASA for any reference to this work, but I can point you to a review at the “ScienceandCreation” blog by someone who goes by the name Jimpithecus.
Several years ago at a BioLogos meeting in Grand Rapids I remember Ken Wolgemuth (a geologist) making an impassioned plea for some substantial push-back against Young Earth Creationism, i.e. “what were we going to do about erroneous materials flowing to our young people in the Christian church in North America?” The word “heresy” in Anderson’s title might seem a little inflammatory … but having seen the fall-out of YEC among Christian students at my own institution, I think the term is warranted!
Not speaking in any official capacity or anything, it’s my impression that the leadership of BioLogos sees the mission primarily as convincing people that they can have the science they love and love Jesus and the Bible too. Convincing people who are content in their YEC view that they are wrong is not a major focus, the goal is more to convince them that EC believers should have a place at the evangelical table. So people who have made it their goal in life to fight YEC ideas as dangerously pernicious (like Joel) are on somewhat of a different trajectory. BioLogos is interested in gracious dialogue with YEC brothers and sisters in Christ, something which is harder to promote if you start from the position that they are heretics destroying the American church. We don’t really appreciate all the accusations of heresy and insinuations of being in league with Satan that Ken Ham launches in our direction, but there is a concerted effort not to respond in kind. So that might be part of the reason you won’t find Anderson’s book as a recommended resource, though undoubtedly there is crossover between our readership and his. James Kidder (Jimpithecus of your review) has written articles for BioLogos in the past.
I would like to second what Christy wrote. Looking at the Trollingers’ blog, it seems that they are not interested in constructive dialogue with YEC Christians, but in demonizing them. Here, for instance, is what they said at the American Atheists’ Convention (August 25, 2017):
The Creation Museum is not about the actual biblical text any more than it is about science. Instead, it is about using the young Earth creationist Bible as a tool in the process of constituting its evangelical and fundamentalist visitors as Christian Crusaders who must fight a culture war against atheists and secularists and feminists and progressives and liberals and those who identify as LGBTQ.
Well, they certainly ticked all the politically correct boxes, didn’t they? No wonder they were well received. For my part, I believe that Christians should side with Christians. (The Trollingers are Catholics, like myself.) Even if the Creation Museum has a very “binary,” black-and-white notion of truth, and even if the people who run it say uncharitable things about those whom they disagree with, they are still our brothers and sisters. As far as our world outlook is concerned, we have a lot more in common with them than we do with atheists and secularists.
I should mention one more thing: the Creation Museum is pro-life. Whatever you think of their way of promoting their message, that should surely place them on the side of the angels:
As Ken Ham puts it:
Humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). And because of this, all human life has value. Those with disabilities or an extra chromosome aren’t worth less—they have the same value as any other image bearer, and their lives deserve to be saved and the parents deserve to fully understand any decision before they make it.
In response to gbrooks9:
It is only fair to mention that St. Augustine was a YEC. He expressly taught that the world was 6,000 years old (City of God, Book XII, chapter 12); that creatures of all kinds were created instantly at the beginning of time; that Adam and Eve were historical persons; that Paradise was a literal place; that the patriarch Methusaleh actually lived to the age of 969; that there was a literal ark, and that the Flood covered the whole earth; and he vigorously defended all of these doctrines against skeptics in the fourth century (yes, they existed back then, too), who scoffed at them. The curious reader can confirm what I have read by consulting St. Augustine’s City of God Book XIII and Book XV.
St. Augustine was not a “progressive” in his scientific or exegetical views, but a moderate. He was much more conservative than the allegorist Origen, whose views he reacted against by insisting on the truth of the literal as well as the allegorical interpretation. Had Origen’s views on Scripture been adopted by the early Church, much of the heartache felt by Christians in response to the scientific discoveries of the last 200 years could have been avoided. (I should point out that even Origen wasn’t always a consistent allegorist: believe it or not, he was also a YEC - see Contra Celsum, Book I, chapter 19 - and he stoutly defended the historicity of Noah’s ark - see Contra Celsum, Book IV, chapter 41. Still, his approach to Scripture was more flexible than St. Augustine’s.)
But would St… Augustine defend these positions today with all of the scientific knowledge we have today, and the amount of misinformation and dishonesty that it takes to defend YEC? That’s a question that needs asking.
Good question, even pagans were probably young earthers at that time. Though quite honestly no one really thought much about it, as it was not a burning issue.
We are all guilty of appealing to authority on occasion, as that is a debate technique that works in public forum, but still to appeal to Augustine as to his beliefs about the physical universe is probably not as valid as appealing to his philosophical principles, which are somewhat more relevant to present day thought.
It seems uncharitable to dismiss our argument about the Creation Museum as “politically correct.” More than this, it does not address the substance of our argument. At the heart of Righting America at the Creation Museum is a very careful (reviewers have called it “measured”) description of what is going on at the museum. And the quote provided here is actually a descriptive statement regarding what we found at the museum. As we detail in the book, we were stunned to discover a remarkably cavalier approach to “the actual biblical text,” including the “inconsistent use of translations and . . . creative editing; the lack of ellipses indicating where text has been removed from a passage; the failure to provide relevant context for the passages that are displayed” (_Righting America_136). But all this makes sense when one realizes that is not the biblical text that is the focus of the museum, but instead one very particular interpretation of that text, an interpretation that includes a commitment to YEC and Christian Right culture war politics.
We very much appreciate BioLogos’ determination to reject the culture war binary presented by the Christian Right. And to go further, we have to say – and as we witnessed at the American Atheists convention (where we were quite up front about our Catholic commitments) – that we know a good number of atheists and secularists who seem quite “Christian” in the Sermon on the Mount/Matthew 25 sense. We can’t simply dismiss them as our enemies.
Thanks again, Ted, for your review of Righting America at the Creation Museum. I am attaching a link to our second blog post regarding the review, in which we argue that Ken Ham’s opposition to racism, while perhaps marking him as a leader among white evangelicals on this issue, remains confined to abstract statements that do not really get at the specifics of racism in American life: https://rightingamerica.net/evangelicals-racism-and-ken-ham/
Good points. I guess my thought is that at least it is progress from the point we were at 20 years ago. It is interesting to see the close relationships AIG has with fundamentalist universities that banned interracial dating and such until fairly recent years, but again, it is heartening to see the changes in their policies and attitudes. A close friend of mine’s granddaughter who happens to be black is attending Liberty this fall.
Certainly more needs to be done, and Mr. Ham is in a position to do it, so your criticism is valid, but we can rejoice at the progress made. I suspect that the driving force in the rhetoric from AIG is the preservation of their political (financial) base. Sad.
In their book, the Trollingers have a very reliable and important section about some of the colleges on the “approved” list at AiG. You can’t get on that list unless you enforce a requirement that faculty in all fields must endorse YEC creationism. A book reviewer can’t talk about everything in a book, obviously–readers have to get the book for themselves if they really want to know everything that the authors say–so I didn’t mention it. Liberty is there, but Cedarville University is their paradigm example, quite properly so, since (as they point out) Ham has a special affection for it.
And thank you, Bill, for the linked reply to the view I briefly offered here on Ham and racism. I will have more to say about that in another column next year. I take your point that Ham’s opposition to racism is “remarkably abstract,” since we don’t see him on picket lines and he doesn’t write about it every day. Perhaps some would also say the same thing about my own opposition to racism, since I don’t carry signs and don’t talk about it often, but I didn’t devote three years of my life to teaching science to kids from North Philadelphia for minimal compensation for no reason. Politics perhaps comes in at this point, but unlike many other “public intellectuals” (I fear that is the appropriate term, however haughty it is), I try to steer clear of politics at every opportunity: it’s far too divisive nowadays, and IMO the truth is just as likely to be an early casualty in secular political wars as it is in culture wars involving the origins controversy. Your book goes pretty far into the politics of creationism (the title is pertinent), and to the extent that I don’t in my review maybe I’m doing people a disservice. I will have a little more to say about this in that other column, which won’t focus on your book, though perhaps I will cite it if relevant.
As for Ham’s leadership vs racism in conservative Protestant circles, I don’t know whether you know the widely circulated tract he wrote for AiG back in the day when tracts were still read, “Where Did the ‘Races’ Come From?” I’ll feature it in that future column. Suffice it to say that the three Australian authors pointed their fingers at those American evangelicals who opposed “inter-racial” marriage. Look for more on this in a couple months.
I agree. My best friend from graduate school does not believe in God. One of his children became an evangelical Christian in high school and graduated from Wheaton, while another graduated from the non-theistic Unitarian seminary in Berkeley. If the gospel message is true, then God loves all four of the people mentioned in this paragraph. I don’t engage in culture wars partly for that reason: it’s hard to identify “enemies” in the context of the gospel. Jesus even commanded us to love our enemies, not to hate or vilify them.
At the same time, I do regard certain ideas held by individuals (whether those individuals are atheists or believers) as things I strongly oppose. In the abstract world of ideas where I spend far too much of my life, I do find some genuine enemies of the truth (as best I am able to see it), and I do what I can to debunk them and limit their influence. Two of those ideas are New Atheist claims about science and religion and YEC claims about science and religion. Much of my work here aims at both.
The most important of all Greek natural philosophers was Aristotle. His ideas dominated Western scientific thought down through the 17th century, when his works finally disappeared from university curricula. In his view, the Earth was eternal and uncreated; ditto for humans and other living things. That did become “a burning issue” in the thirteenth century, when his belief in the eternity of the world led to formal condemnations of his books at the University of Paris (the second oldest university in Europe) and one or two other places. At that point, science professors at Paris could be excommunicated for teaching the eternity of the world as if it were true. Since that university had been chartered by the Bishop of Paris, continued to be supervised by that office, and also had the greatest faculty of Christian theology in the world, such a ban made perfect sense. It might even be comparable to the de facto ban on teaching creationism at (say) Harvard or Berkeley today. In both instances, the educational authorities do their best to keep heresy at bay.