So I watched the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye on Tuesday evening. I wasn’t going to. I had other work to do, but I thought I would let it play in the background while I worked. It didn’t happen…I couldn’t NOT watch. And I’m glad I did.
All in all, it went the way I expected, and they made the points I have heard repeatedly. Ken Ham did a great job of framing the question properly. He did not allow for the debate to be “science vs. creationism” or “academics vs. creationism,” providing videos of several respected scientists who believe in a young Earth and the Biblical description of six, 24-hour days of creation.
Instead, he showed that the two options were creation based on the Scriptures, with God being the authority, or naturalism based in human reason, with humans being the authority. This is the true debate, not creation vs. science, but Scriptures vs. reason, God vs. man.
And Bill Nye filled his role. In one point after another, Mr. Nye proved Mr. Ham’s case by relying on reason. “A reasonable man could not believe this” and “I am not satisfied by this,” Nye insisted multiple times, referring to a young Earth, a wooden ark, a global Flood. Whereas Ham consistently referred to the Scriptures, Nye continued to rely on “reason.”
But Bill Nye was not all wrong. In fact, during his one-minute response to an audience question directed to Ken Ham, Nye provided some serious ammunition to his followers. From the archived video at http://debatelive.org (accessed on 2/5/2014), this question was posed to Mr. Ham at about the 2:24:20 mark:
Mr. Ham, do you believe the whole Bible is to be taken literally?
As always, this was followed up by specific examples: What about touching pigskin (football anyone?)? What about men marrying multiple wives? Do you think they should be executed?
Mr. Ham did a great job during the second half of his answer.
- He ably showed that, just as we have laws in America that are limited to America, so Israel had laws that were limited to Israel. Even though they are recorded in the Bible, those laws do not apply to Christians today.
- He showed that the Bible accurately recorded the sins that people committed, and that recording them is not the same as condoning them. For instance, the fact the Bible says that David and Solomon married many women doesn’t make it right.
He should have said that first and stayed on topic. Instead, he started his response like this:
“If it’s history, as Genesis is – it’s written as typical historical narrative – you take it as history. If it’s poetry, as you find in the Psalms, you take it as poetry. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t teach truth, but it’s not a cosmological account in the sense that Genesis is. There’s prophecy in the Bible. There’s literature in the Bible concerning future events and so on. So, if you take it naturally, as written, according to the type of literature, and you let it speak to you in that way, that’s how I take the Bible.”
As soon as he started, I began to watch Bill Nye, and I could see it in his face as he formed his response – the exact response I expected him to bring. And he was right.
“So, it sounds to me, just listening to you over the last two minutes, that there’s certain parts of this document, of the Bible, that you embrace literally and other parts you consider poetry. So it sounds to me in these last two minutes that you’re going to take what you like and interpret literally, and other passages you’re going to interpret as poetic or descriptions of human events.”
If this debate had taken place on a major university campus rather than at the Creation Museum, Nye would have received a standing ovation. I couldn’t bring myself to do that, but I nodded in agreement with him.
In that one statement trying to support a proper interpretation of the Scriptures, I’m sad to say that Ken Ham did the exact opposite.
Ham fell into the trap of what we call “genre interpretation,” that is, interpreting the Scriptures based on the type of literature in which the passage occurs. Basically, Ken Ham told the listening world, “Poetry does not have to be read literally. Prophecy does not have to be read literally. Only History or Historical Narrative requires a literal interpretation.”
And I say he’s wrong. Using that method, what is to keep Bill Nye, or even Ken Ham, from saying, “Well, I don’t think Genesis is Historical Narrative. I think it’s Oral Tradition or Fable or Myth, which means it’s probably exaggerated. We can’t take that literally.”?
I don’t know if Mr. Ham really meant to put it that way or if he just stumbled over it. (Public speaking isn’t as easy as they made it look!) I do know that, if that question were posed to me today, this is my response, and I hope you can respond the same way:
Mr. Goepfrich, do you believe the whole Bible is to be taken literally?
Yes, I believe from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, the Bible is the very Word of God, down to each individual word. The purpose of words is to convey meaning, and if words can mean anything, depending on who reads them, then they mean nothing at all.
Does that mean that every word applies to every person? Not at all. Different sections were given to different peoples. But every word should be taken in the sense it was written – its literal meaning, within its historical context, according to the rules of grammar in its original language. The Bible cannot mean something today that it did not mean when it was written.
Yes, I believe the whole Bible is to be taken literally.
Can you say the same? If so, how are you letting it affect your life?
By the way – the real winner last night? God. Ken Ham presented the gospel of Jesus Christ several times in a clear, respectful way and gave all glory to God throughout the entire program. For that, I say, Well done, Mr. Ham!