Thoughts on the Human Origins Debate and Culture Wars
Recently, I have had my great admiration for the popular author and blogger Rachel Held Evans deeply questioned. I was told that although she was an eloquent and beautiful writer, her ideas were incompatible with scripture and that I should be very careful about exposing myself to human thoughts that run contrary to God’s Word. It felt like a small taste of what Rachel must experience on a regular basis from other evangelicals, and it wasn’t an experience I enjoyed very much—although I must admit that the person I was speaking with inspired me to remember that God’s word always has the authority (as I noted in my previous blog post).
However, after watching Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate about creation vs. evolution last night, I feel the need to express why exactly I appreciate Rachel’s perspective so much. Just like I told the friend I had the aforementioned discussion with, I love Rachel’s writing because it is so inclusive. She offers room for disagreement and never claims that her word is the final word, or even worse that her word is God’s Word. She writes with a tremendous amount of humility, respect, and faithfulness both to scripture and to this modern world we live in. She helps me make sense of things that otherwise seem impossible to reconcile, and for that I am infinitely grateful.
All right. I’m done gushing now; let me get back to my purpose for writing this post. This morning I was perusing all the various reactions to the debate, and as often happens when I’m reading internet articles, I ended up following a rabbit trail to articles written a few years ago on the human origins debate and the Bible. In the articles I dug up, Rachel and Ken Ham were essentially responding to each other’s statements about the authority of the Bible and what it means for the historicity of the creation account.
On his website, Ken Ham posted this article, which I found to be infuriating. It was loaded with buzzwords and buzz phrases that really got under my skin and reveal the reality of Ham’s agenda. He describes evolution as the “indoctrination of our age”, essentially dismissing it as a religion and not a science that has no scientific plausibility and a plethora of harmful effects on my generation. Ham also laments that Rachel “has no doubt been led astray by compromising church leaders”, despite the fact that she is very clear in her book and on her blog that honest research into the science of evolution led to the position she has adopted, and that her change of mind had little to do with what liberal church leaders were teaching her.
Speaking of the word liberal, Ham also makes this harsh statement: “the BioLogos website indoctrinates people in rank liberalism”. BioLogos is an organization founded by the head of the human genome project, Francis Collins. The website offers an exploration of theistic evolution, and how we can understand that evolutionary science points to the immanent and awesome power of our God. The scientists at BioLogos simply hold that science and religion are completely capable of compatibility. There is nothing rank or liberal about it—Ken Ham is simply projecting negatively saturated political ideology onto a science organization.
What bothered me the most about Ham’s article was his avid devotion to fighting a culture war over this his beliefs. He concludes his article with this remarkably antagonistic statement: “Well, Rachel, I have news for you. Your generation is not ready to call a truce in this battle in the culture wars; in fact, we are finding more and more people are getting enthusiastically involved in fighting the culture war by standing uncompromisingly and unashamedly on God’s authoritative Word.” Whether you agree with Ham or not, I think it is quite safe to say that his words are divisive, one-sided, and completely committed to keeping battle lines intact.
And here I circle back to why I have so much more respect for Rachel Held Evans than I do for Ken Ham, even though it has been suggested to me that her ideas are not “firmly grounded in Scripture.” She answers Ken Ham’s accusations in this blog post, which she concludes with this wise statement:
“I am not asking Ken to change his interpretation of Genesis or even his devotion to it. If he believes it is the best interpretation, then he should continue to commit his outstanding energy, creativity, and resourcefulness to promoting it. I respect his conviction and I count him as a brother in Christ because, at the end of the day, Ken and I agree on what’s most important —that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.
All I am asking is that he honor this common bond and join me in making peace, in acknowledging that there is enough room in Christianity for both of us and that we can talk about this issue without our weapons drawn. We don’t need a Church in which everyone agrees on the age of the earth. We need a Church that is committed to the Apostle Paul’s instructions that “if it is possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18).””
This is a far cry from Ham’s devotion to a culture war, and serves to illustrate the fundamental difference in these two ideologies. Ham says the entire Christian faith depends on a literal interpretation of Genesis. Rachel says such things as differing ideas on biblical interpretation are peripheral to our commitment to unity as a body of Christ. There is room for a truce, room for conflicting ideas to put down their weapons and join each other in communion. Why is that so hard to accept?