In a stunning turn of events, something said by a well-known Christian figure caused a controversy on the Internet last week. In a completely unprecedented series of occurrences, statements made by the fantastic Christian band Gungor in 2012 were resurrected, ripped out of context and exaggerated by uber-conservative propaganda machines — er, I mean, “respected media organizations” — like World magazine and used to fan the flames of a non-existent controversy.
It was all about as unpredictable as tomorrow’s sunrise, and though my wife and I are actually big fans of Gungor’s music, it was normally not something I’d interrupt my vacation to discuss. But then, thanks to a friend on Facebook, I saw Ken Ham’s take, and I just couldn’t help myself.
Not because Ham’s perspective is anything new either. But his views and his tactics are so harmful that I can’t, in good conscience, read such a toxic diatribe submitted in the name of Christ and fail to respond. It would be like coming on the scene of a recent car wreck and refusing to pull over and help.
Read for yourself his latest misleading, condescending and arrogant article. Ostensibly, Ham is responding to a recent blog post by Gungor, in which the group beautifully articulates why they think reflecting the character of Christ is more important than believing God destroyed almost every living thing in a flood a few thousand years ago.
Such a contradiction infuriates Ken Ham, of course. But he doesn’t really respond to Gungor. Instead, true to form, he ignores the valid points that the group makes, twists their words into saying something they never said and, in general, uses the occasion to trot out the same tired old talking points that he’s been using exclusively for decades.
Here are a few excerpts from Ham’s writing that illustrate exactly what I’m talking about.
Michael Gungor studied jazz guitar at Western Michigan University and the University of North Texas. His wife, Lisa, studied music at Oral Roberts University. Neither is a Bible scholar nor scientist. And yet, they are writing as though they know more than people who have spent their lives studying the inerrancy of Scripture and who—in many cases—have come to different conclusions.
No, they weren’t. They were writing as people of faith, who admit to having trouble understanding how a God who never changes could have made mankind, with full foreknowledge of the sinful condition into which we would quickly descend, regret it and try to destroy us, then reverse course again — all the while harboring a separate plan for our salvation that, fortunately, does not involve drowning.
I agree with Gungor; the God of Genesis 6-9 doesn’t really sound like God to me. Actually it sounds more like the nobleman of Jesus’ story in Luke 19 — in other words, a parable, which shows one aspect of God (in both cases, his rather strong views of sin and rebellion), but not necessarily an entirely literal, historical account of God’s complete nature or his true workings in creation.
I could be wrong, and so could Gungor. But so could Ken Ham, too. And since, apparently, this matters to him, I’ll note that he isn’t a Bible scholar either. Nor a scientist.
Nor, for the record, a kick-ass musician and songwriter.
So in other words, man’s autonomous reasoning and what Gungor calls “science” supposedly mean we can’t take the account of the Flood in Genesis as a historical record. But as we’ve explained many times on our website and elsewhere, “science” means knowledge. And there is a big difference between observational science (that builds our technology) and historical science (beliefs about the past—e.g., concerning origins). As you read his post, you realize that what he calls “science” is man’s beliefs concerning evolution and millions of years. So, when Gungor asks why he doesn’t believe in the literal Flood account from Genesis, he is really answering this way: “Because of my autonomous reasoning as a fallible sinful human taken with fallible man’s evolutionary views based on naturalism, I can’t take God’s Word as written in Genesis.”
Beautiful, isn’t it? This old bait and switch is what Ham has made his living on, and he’s elevated it to an art form. In four sentences, he manages to reduce over 200 years of progress in geology, astronomy and archaeology to barely more than blind guesswork — without alienating the technological advances we evangelicals love (otherwise we’d be like the Amish, and they’re kuh-raaazy, amirite?) — and since he used the phrase “God’s word,” he has the majority of his Christian readership nodding along serenely.
Gungor also uses straw men arguments in his attempt to mock those of us who take the Flood account literally. Concerning the distribution of animals after the Flood, he just makes up the idea that Noah built “hundreds or thousands of boats” to hold all the animals “to send to every continent and island,” or that, he states, “God just did it Star Trek style and performed a beam me up miracle to everything.” Of course, all of this is written to misrepresent and make fun of those Christians who hold to a literal Genesis.
Well, I can’t speak for Gungor, but something tells me it was actually written to point out that the theorized forced migration of the ark animals from a single mountain in Palestine to the unique environments all over the world that they inhabit today (most of them separated from the Middle East by deserts, mountains, thousands of miles and oceans) is one of the many major flaws in the young-earth creationism model.
Ultimately, Gungor is declaring that he knows better than what the Bible writer clearly states.
As does any Christian who reads any part of the Bible and interprets it other than what its most “natural reading” implies (which is all Christians). But it sure sounds sinister when Ham levels the accusation at one person in particular, doesn’t it?
To his first point, the writers of the Bible did not believe the earth was flat. Scripture repeatedly affirms the spherical shape of our planet. For example, Isaiah 40:22 mentions the “circle of the earth,” while Job 26:10 talks of a “circular horizon on the face of the waters”—put there by God Himself!
I just thought this was funny. Now pay attention, Ken: This is a circle. It’s two-dimensional (which is a fancy word for “flat”). This is a sphere. It’s three-dimensional (“not flat”). The ancient Hebrews had a word that meant “sphere”; the author of Isaiah used it in regards to a ball, but no biblical writer ever used it to describe the earth.
What’s more, the layers in the fossil record appear to have been deposited by the Flood waters in a certain order, with single-cell fossils buried first and land animals buried last.
Yeah, except for dinosaurs. Not a single one has ever been found buried above sea mammals like whales or dolphins. I guess the Flood really hated the dinosaurs.
The fact that we descended from Adam and Eve is a divine revelation from God, found in Genesis. Now, certainly observational science confirms this. For instance, the Human Genome Project (2000) found that all humans belong to one race.
And that the vast majority of our DNA structure, including noncoding segments and endogenous retroviruses, is almost identical to those of animals that were supposedly distinct creations.
I could go on and on, but here’s the key:
Gungor states, “I would be very surprised to find a single respected and educated theologian or biblical scholar that believes that one MUST read Noah’s flood completely literally down to the last detail to be ‘orthodox.’ That’s crazy!”
But, even Friday and Saturday of this week, the Creation Research Society is hosting a conference here at our Creation Museum. This meeting features leading scientists, with PhDs in geology, biology, astrophysics, and so on, as well as scholars with qualifications in theology—and all are biblical creationists! And of course, AiG employs PhD scientists and trained theologians who certainly believe God’s Word in Genesis.
Ham repeatedly describes Gungor’s thoughtful, self-effacing post as a “rant,” a “mocking rant,” and (his favorite) “an attack.” He describes Gungor’s views of Genesis as “a denial of Genesis” and “not trusting God’s word.” But Gungor never said that Genesis doesn’t matter, that it’s false or irrelevant. They, like me, simply believe that it wasn’t meant to be taken literally. You know, like Psalms. And most of the illustrations in Proverbs. And Revelation and the other books of the prophets. And the parables of Christ. And anything else in the Bible that doesn’t make sense if you take it literally.
Ham’s criticism, then, is a blatant logical fallacy. Just because someone believes a story is not meant to be taken literally doesn’t mean the story has no value or is even untrue. I don’t read the parable of the prodigal son literally, but that doesn’t mean I believe it’s untrue. To the contrary, it is a sublime expression of God’s love and forgiveness through the good news of Jesus Christ.
It’s the same with the creation accounts and the flood story in Genesis. They convey deep and important, even foundational, theological truths about God, man and the relationship between the two, and reading them as history or a kind of parable doesn’t change that at all.
So, just to be clear, Ham’s reaction is the equivalent of someone accusing me of “not taking God at his word” because I don’t read the parable of the prodigal son literally.
For all these reasons and more, Ken Ham’s theology is just terrible. By that, I don’t mean that I think it’s unbiblical. I do, but it goes further than that. What I really mean is that what Ken Ham and his multimillion-dollar “ministry” teach is divisive, destructive and so far from the gospel of peace and unity that they should be rightfully condemned as blasphemy. The ultimate conclusion and consequence of their teachings, intentional or not, is to tear the body of Christ apart.
His goal in this piece, obviously, is to whip up his devotees into a righteous fury against other, sold-out believers, who happen to have a different view of a dozen chapters of scripture. If anyone can explain to me how that’s in keeping with any of Christ’s instructions for his followers, I’ll shut down GOE right now.
This kind of stuff used to make me angry. Now, it just makes me sad. Sad, because these tactics are so shallow, so manipulative, so self-serving, and so few people seem to care. It’s like we Christians prefer to hate on each other then actually try and do what the Bible tells us to do.
I know people will say I have a log in my eye, that I should give Ham a break if I really cared about unity. And maybe they’re right. I’m no saint (and I’m also not a Bible scholar or a scientist). But I do know this: The most important thing in the universe is the gospel of Christ. I see that come through, clearly, in the music and writing of Gungor, but I don’t see it at all in the work of Ken Ham.
If, in the end, I’m wrong, I’ll be wrong with Michael Gungor. Ken Ham can keep his convoluted, cherry-picked and highly selective understanding of what it means to be a Christ follower.