Ken Ham, home schooling, and theological orthodoxy
From Christianity Today: Creation Museum Founder Disinvited from Homeschooling Conferences
Ken Ham, founder and president of Answers in Genesis, was disinvited from several homeschooling conferences after he criticized a fellow speaker at two Great Homeschool Conventions conferences and on his blog.
“The Board believes that Ken’s public criticism of the convention itself and other speakers at our convention require him to surrender the spiritual privilege of addressing our homeschool audience,” wrote Great Homeschool Conventions conference organizer Brennan Dean in the email dismissing Ham.
“Our expression of sacrifice and extraordinary kindness towards Ken and AIG has been returned to us and our attendees with Ken publicly attacking our conventions and other speakers,” Dean wrote. “Our Board believes Ken’s comments to be unnecessary, ungodly, and mean-spirited statements that are divisive at best and defamatory at worst.”
Back in the mid- to late-1990s, we were a home school family. Our children were in their early elementary years, and I am convinced that my wife gave them an excellent educational foundation. While we were deep into home schooling (which requires the commitment and involvement of both parents when possible) we attended a number of meetings of a Christian home school parents’ group in St. Louis. As I expected, the parents and leadership of this group seemed to be largely made up of young-earth creationists, but due to our strong commitment to both Christ and the Scriptures I felt we still had enough in common with them to make our participation worth while. Over time, it became clear that the leader had a rather authoritative side to her, and that any viewpoint other than young-earth creationism would not be tolerated. The last meeting I was at I remember her warning—perhaps ordering would be a better word—parents not to take their children to the St. Louis Zoo because of the new talking statue of Charles Darwin. I wouldn’t be surprised fifteen years later if some parent were feeling guilty because they did take their son or daughter to the zoo, with possible spiritual damage to the child.
Many Christian home school conventions and curriculum fairs do not allow exhibitors or speakers who teach any sort of old-earth creationism or theistic evolution. That is why it is refreshing that some home school organizations have recently invited a broader range of speakers to their conventions. I first read about the present controversy regarding Ken Ham almost two weeks ago on Dr. Jay Wile’s Proslogion blog, where he wrote An Opportunity for Critical Thinking! Dr. Wile, a young-Earth creationist himself, acknowledges that there has always been somewhat of a diversity within the church regarding the interpretation of Genesis 1, that as a Christian one can believe in an old Earth and still be within the bounds of Biblical orthodoxy, and that it is healthy for home schooled Christian students to be exposed to a variety of viewpoints. Wile pointed out that Ham was quite upset that a Christian home school group would invite a theologian who accepts both an old Earth and evolutionary biology, Dr. Peter Enns, to speak at the same convention that Ham himself was speaking at. Ham wrote the following on his Around the World with Ken Ham blog:
Sadly, one of the speakers also listed to give presentations does not believe in a historical Adam or historical Fall (he will also be promoting his “Bible” curriculum for homeschoolers). In fact, what he teaches about Genesis is not just compromising Genesis with evolution, it is outright liberal theology that totally undermines the authority of the Word of God. It is an attack on the Word—on Christ.
Ham continued to criticize both the convention and Dr. Enns, and eventually it became too much for the convention organizers, and they “disinvited” him from future conventions.
The present controversy has nothing to do with Ken Ham’s outspoken advocacy of young-Earth creationism. The convention organizers specifically state that they themselves are YECs. Ham has always been rather outspoken and passionate, and I don’t think anyone has a problem with that. What hung Ham in this case was the way in which he criticized both his opponents, such as Dr. Enns, and the organizers of the convention. The convention organizers gave their reasons for their decision in their public statement about the situation:
Dr. Ham was removed for his spirit not for his message. As an invited guest, Dr. Ham’s spirit toward our convention was unkind. Dr. Ham’s spirit toward our attendees was not gracious. Dr. Ham’s spirit toward other speakers was unprofessional. In short, a proud, ungrateful and divisive spirit was projected from Dr. Ham. Regardless of the message, Dr. Ham’s approach sullied the atmosphere of the convention.
It wasn’t about Ham disagreeing with Enns or others at the convention, but how he went about doing it.
My personal experience in interaction with Ken Ham has been positive. Back in November, I had wrote a post entitled Ken Ham and I are in complete agreement, in which I applauded Ham for his clear presentation of the gospel of Christ. Somehow Answers in Genesis took notice of this, and Ham responded with Do Old Earthers and Young Earthers Agree on Anything? in which he acknowledged that he doesn’t tie salvation to belief in a young Earth. He went on to state that he viewed acceptance of an old Earth as a distortion of Scripture, but I in no way took this as a personal attack.
Perhaps his passions got the best of him this time.
My hope and prayer is that good would come out of this kerfuffle. Specifically, I would like to see the following happen:
- That there would be a restoration of fellowship between all parties involved that would demonstrate Christian love and forgiveness.
- An acknowledgement from young-Earth creationist leaders that one can be an old-Earther and be thoroughly orthodox in their Christian beliefs. One’s interpretation of Genesis in regards to the age of the Earth or the extent of biological evolution is secondary, or even tertiary, compared to doctrines such as the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, and salvation by grace through faith in Christ. I get rather weary of the if-you-don’t-agree-with-AiG/ICR-you-are-a-compromiser attitude that is often expressed.
Grace and Peace
- Ken Ham’s response: Kicked Out of Two Homeschool Conferences
- Ken Ham and the Homeschoolers: the moral of the story is? — from Questioning Answers in Genesis
- Public Response from Great Homeschool Conventions re: Dr. Ken Ham, Speaking Engagement Canceled
This stirred up a bit of a hornets nest for Wile (the creator of the popular Apologia science curriculum, though he no longer owns the company), as evidenced by the 508 comments (as of this morning) on Wile’s post. Many wrote to support Wile’s “bigger box” view that a greater diversity should be encouraged within the Christian home school movement, but there were plenty of comments such as the following:
Years ago I read Dr Wiles [sic] position statement on vaccinations [Wile is a supporter of childhood vaccinations]. In my correspondence I found Dr Wile to be arrogant and anything but a “critical thinker”. So it comes as no surprise to me that he is in the camp of those who pay lip service to inspiration while supporting those who would undermine it. Frankly, I am happy to see the real Jay Wile exposing himself for what he really is, a fraud.
You are a wolf in sheep’s clothing spreading lies just like the rest of the perishing world. Repent.
It is time heretics such as this Enns fellow and you are silenced. Where do you get your money from anyway? Is someone paying you to blaspheme the Word of God? You know like Richard Dawkins or Larry Krauss? Repent while there is yet time.
I guess one can be a young-Earth creationist and still not be able to pronounce all of the YEC shibboleths correctly.