Theology and Science: Ken Ham debates Bill Nye

Two nights ago, Bill Nye (aka “The Science Guy”) and Ken Ham (CEO of Answers in Genesis) debated live from the Creation Museum. The topic of the debate was whether or not creationism is a valid scientific theory. I think both individuals did a good job, but there was one glaring difficulty I had with the debate. Creationism does not just mean “young-earth creationism.” Yet, it seems as if that was exclusively how creationism was defined. Not totally surprising considering Ken Ham was the debater arguing for creationism (he being a staunch “young-earther”).

Why was I troubled by this? I am a creationist, but of the “old-earth” sort. And, I at least acknowledge there are others in the realm of Christendom who argue some form of intelligent design (Stephen C. Meyer) or theistic evolution (Francis Collins). Personally, I don’t think the evidence necessarily supports a theistic evolutionary perspective due to it’s disservice to Scripture. I also find disagreement with young-earth creationism because of its apparent difficulty with accepting scientific facts as currently stated. However, I do acknowledge that Christian beliefs on the origin debate are larger than young-earth creationism and would like to have the same debate topic (if “creationism” is a valid scientific model) between Nye and a representative of other perspectives in the church.

Old-earth creationism is a perspective that suggests the truth of the Bible and the “truth” of nature are both pointing to the Truth of God. The Westminster Confession of Faith would agree that “the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God” (please note: this statement refers contextually to the role creation plays in revealing God’s existence and goodness, though being insufficient as a means of salvation due to its inability by itself to demonstrate sin in man and the holiness of God). Nature shows the “goodness, wisdom and power” of God. In other words, I understand nature’s message as essentially supportive of special revelation, the Bible. What you will find in nature will not contradict Scripture. Why does this matter? There are certain things we know about nature. For example, we know light travels at 186,000 miles per second (light speed), and we know of stars and galaxies that are billions of light years away. So what? The universe (according to astronomy) can only be as old as the oldest (or farthest) galaxy. But, does an old universe really shake the foundations of the faith? Not even close.

Remember, we exist for God’s glory (Isa. 43:7). Even salvation is ultimately for God’s glory (Jer. 13:11; Ez. 36:22-23). So, it should not surprise us to learn this universe has been singing the excellencies of God’s glory and power for billions of years before we arrived. After all, we are not the reason for the universe. He is. The magnificence of the universe, the sheer size and mystery, should awe us that God spoke it into existence. Yes, for his glory, but here’s a cool thing too. He also did it for our good (Rom. 8:28)! Yes, the stars singing God’s praise for billions of years is for our good. How, you ask? Because the billions of years of praise from the stars helps us remember that we are not the center of God’s world. He is. We are made in his image. And, this is unique to humans, but this does not mean we become top-dog in the universe. No, we are now and always been servants and vice-regents of God. (By the way, starlight is merely one example that might explain an old universe).

Allow me one other thought on science, theology and origins. Suppose God did allow billions of years to create the universe. Why do we suppose God acting slowly is somehow less glorious? Sure. We all agree that God could’ve created the universe in six seconds, six nano-seconds, or literally no time at all. But, why are we so fixated on “quickness”? Let me use an analogy. I have been a Christian for a while now. I’m not perfect yet. I still struggle to pick up my cross. I still prefer self at times. After many years of following Jesus, God’s work in my life isn’t completed (my sanctification isn’t, though my justification is!). Yet, I would never say God is not working in my life. I know he is. I’m a different person now compared to the “me” of ten years ago. Through time (slow time) God has been providentially and gracefully working. See my point? Here is another example. The first mention of the gospel is in Genesis 3:15 where God promises that the seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head. This promise is realized in Jesus life, death and resurrection. Yet, the time between the promise of the messiah and the arrival of the messiah is a few thousand years. Yet again, God was working. Whether God was working through Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Saul, David, Isaiah, Elijah, Ezekiel, Hosea or Daniel, God was working! And, we would never say that during the OT narrative, God wasn’t active. The same could be said of Jesus’ promise to return. He hasn’t returned yet. He said he would do so “soon.” Yet, I would never call Jesus unfaithful (because he has never demonstrated himself to be unfaithful to me!). It is clear my concept of “soon” and “time” is limited to my own life, with me at the center. Does that make sense? Slowness does not equal inactivity!

Theology and science need not be construed as enemies. Actually science (studying the creation) confirms what we learn about God (in my opinion). Let me finish by filling out this idea. Science addresses “how.” How is important, but doesn’t really answer our deepest questions. Consider this example. When my students (mostly seniors) choose a college, they are incredibly unlikely to choose a college based on how a college was constructed (first we cleared trees, then we leveled the land, then we laid a foundation, etc). Who cares…. They do care about “why”. Why is this college more suited for me? See, how only takes you so far. One more example. Most of us know “how” we got here. My parents conceived me. Gross? I never think about “how” I got here when considering big decisions. I consider “why”. I consider purpose… Science doesn’t address purpose, or intentionality. The truth of Christianity does! I will post again on Genesis and it’s ancient Near Eastern context. I think that would be extremely helpful in understanding this paragraph. Ravi Zacharias puts it this way. Naturalism can only explain nature and how it works. But nature doesn’t answer the four basic questions humans really want to know: Where do I come from? Why am I here? Is there a right and wrong? What happens when I die? (Origin? Meaning? Morality? Destiny?) Only one worldview accurately describes reality and answers those questions. That worldview is based upon Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, ” I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Amen.

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2 thoughts on “Theology and Science: Ken Ham debates Bill Nye

    1. Michael,

      Thanks for commenting. I do agree that neither individual was qualified to debate the science. However, I do think they did a fairly good job at articulating another issue, namely that of presupposed worldview and its’ influence on the science.

      During Nye’s opening remarks he said something like the following “Tonight is about two different stories.” He made this statement after telling the story of the bow-tie in his family. I found this to be an astonishing admission simply because it seemed to me to imply there are multiple ways of understanding the past. Ham kept emphasizing the importance of allowing the Bible to clarify our science and worldview. This I also agreed with.

      All that to say, I agree with you completely. Their debating of the science wasn’t as intriguing as the argument going on behind the scenes about their worldviews informing their science.

      Lastly, thanks for the link.

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