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The Curse of Ham


The Curse of Ham

Karl Giberson

(I am doing a terrible job with posting daily. I must do better.)

Sometimes I think the culture war between the “trust only science” demographic and the “trust only the Bible” demographic, is simply not resolvable and will eventually lead to “two Americas,” one educated and populated by demoralized liberal Christians and secularists, and the other fundamentalist and populated by anti-intellectuals working hard to avoid thinking. To a degree Randall Stephens and I outlined this trajectory in The Anointed.

I was reminded of this today when I open my email to discover that Ken Ham has attacked Randall Stephens in a piece titled “What does this Nazarene University Professor Believe?” This piece, a response to our recent article in Religion Dispatches, is interesting for several reasons:

  1. Ham’s ire is now directed primarily at Randall, even though he has not been the primary critic of Ham’s young earth creationism.  The “professor” in the title is Randall this time, not me.  He says he hopes that “every Nazarene understands what this Nazarene professor believes—and therefore we assume his beliefs are being transmitted to the students he teaches and influences.”  I am convinced that Ham is refocusing on Randall rather than me for one reason: He wants his troops to start pressuring the administration at Eastern Nazarene College to get rid of Randall, just as his troops applied pressure for the college to get rid of me.  Alas, this is the way that “gatekeepers of truth” operate. Lacking confidence that their ideas can stand on their own, they look for ways to push their critics out of the conversation.
  2. In the second place, after claiming we are taking cheap shots at him, Ham explains that “one of the main reasons for the appearance of this article is to push their new book.” This is a strange claim.  In the first place, the boost in sales that comes from publishing one article doesn’t provide much financial incentive.  But, more importantly, public intellectuals—including Randall and I—engage culturally significant ideas by writing books and articles. Does Ham think that every article in every magazine is really an advertisement for the authors’ books in disguise? And then—amazingly—Ham gives links to his books!  “I also urge you to obtain our book Already Compromised,” he writes, “it is a real eye-opener into what is being taught in Christian colleges in the USA.” Randall and I have published many pieces related to our book but never have we included such a shameless encouragement to purchase our book.
  3. And finally, after saying we took  “cheap shots” at AiG [Answers in Genesis] and me” in referring to his approach as “anti-intellectual” Ham concludes his article with what has to be the most common and obvious example of anti-intellectualism in the fundamentalist movement—the quoting of proof texts, out of context, to argue that Biblical truth is timeless and unchanging.   “God’s Word is for all people for all time,” he writes. “It stands for eternity.”  Here are some of the examples he uses to make his point that, for example, we must continue to believe that the earth is 10,000 years no matter how thoroughly scientific evidence refutes that idea: 
    • “Now, O LORD God, the word which You have spoken concerning Your servant and concerning his house, establish it forever and do as You have said.” (2 Samuel 7:25)
    • Remember His covenant forever, The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations. (1 Chronicles 16:15)
    • “And now, O LORD, the word which You have spoken concerning Your servant and concerning his house, let it be established forever, and do as You have said.” (1 Chronicles 17:23)
    • He remembers His covenant forever, The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations. (Psalms 105:8)

Ham appears to think that the Psalmist was arguing that the ancient science of the Bible must never be modified. And that a collection of books not yet written would also contain inerrant ideas. And that a committee of church leaders (Catholic leaders, gasp!) would inerrantly collect, edit, and translate these yet-to-be-written books. 

And, of course, the circularity of an argument in which Biblical statements are used support the idea that Biblical statements are inerrant poses no logical problems of any sort. But this is certainly not anti-intellectual.  Somehow, Ham has found a path around that problem that has plagued logicians ever since Aristotle noted it centuries before Christ.