Ken Ham wants more Australians to be creationists
So he’s bringing his ‘Answers in Genesis’ ministry Down Under
Ken Ham is the modern man who built an ark. Not just any ark; an ark on a biblical scale (literally, it’s built to biblical dimensions). Sitting on a man-made lake in the landlocked state of Kentucky in the United States, the giant boat is seven storeys high, 200m long and the biggest timber-framed structure on the planet.
If anything, such a monumental structure should show that Ken Ham – one of Australia’s most successful Christian exports – is serious about what he is doing, even if the majority of people around him (including some of his brothers and sisters in Christ back home) would see him, his ministry and his theme parks as a joke.
“We have lost the younger generations from the church because … we have compromised God’s word in Genesis.” – Ken Ham
But Ham is not worried about the majority. In fact, he says the church in Australia has been too caught up in majority thinking, which is why it is in decline.
“The whole of the Western world is collapsing from our Christian worldview perspective,” Ham tells Eternity.
“We have lost the younger generations from the church because the church, by and large, hasn’t stood on God’s word, beginning in Genesis. We have compromised God’s word in Genesis. We didn’t teach [our young people] a defence of the faith. We didn’t teach them how to answer the sceptical questions of the day that cause people to doubt God’s word.”
He’s talking about questions like, “How can the Bible’s account of creation in Genesis be true if science has proven the world is millions of years old?” Or “How could Noah get all the animals on the ark?” Or “Haven’t dinosaurs disproved the Bible?”
Ham has dedicated his life to answering those questions. For him, everything does – and should – come back to Genesis. It’s why his ministry is called Answers in Genesis, where you can find his answers to the questions above and plenty more. As a young earth creationist, Ham believes the world was created in six literal days. He disputes scientific findings that suggest the earth is millions of years old.
“There are more six-day creationists in our churches than people think.” – Ken Ham
In 2014, Ham shot to prominence in the media as he took on popular US science commentator Bill Nye in a publicly televised debate. The debate has been watched by millions of people, though most commentators at the time concluded that it had little impact in changing minds.
Ham knows that creationists are “in the minority” but argues “there are more six-day creationists in our churches than people think.” Statistics within Australia are hard to come by. In 2002, the National Church Life Survey said a quarter of pew-sitters in Australian churches believed that God created the world in six literal days. Outside the church setting, research from the University of NSW found fewer Australian university students believe in creationism than ever before. The 2017 study analysing survey results from a 32-year-long annual survey of first-year biology students at UNSW found a slow decline from the 10 per cent of students who believed in creationism in 1986 to less than 5 per cent in 2017.
The United States is a stronghold for creationist beliefs, with over 40 per cent of Americans believing that God created humans in their present form some 10,000 years ago according to a Gallup poll (Ken Ham’s organisation says a strictly biblical view would put the earth’s age closer to 6000 years old). It’s one of the reasons Ham moved from Queensland to the United States to build his theme parks as the focal point for his creationist ministry.
But Ham is planning an Australian comeback in an effort to combat a church that he believes is failing. He is opening an Answers in Genesis office in Brisbane and planning a major speaking tour later this year.
So agree or disagree, we’ll be hearing more from Ham and his science-questioning ways very soon.
“The belief in millions of years does not come from Scripture, but from the fallible methods that secularists use to date the universe,” says a fact sheet on the Answers in Genesis website.
Attempts to ‘fit’ millions of years in the Bible, according to Ham, necessitates the invention of a gap of time that the Bible doesn’t allow if you take Genesis literally and six-day creation as being six literal days.
“In other words,” the fact sheet goes on, “you have to add a concept (millions of years) from outside Scripture, into God’s Word. This approach puts man’s fallible ideas in authority over God’s Word.
“As soon as you surrender the Bible’s authority in one area, you ‘unlock a door’ to do the same thing in other areas. Once the door of compromise is open, even if ajar just a little, subsequent generations push the door open wider. Ultimately, this compromise has been a major contributing factor in the loss of biblical authority in our Western world.”
“… science actually confirms the Bible. And that the Bible’s history is true.” – Ken Ham
The loss of biblical authority prompted Ham to build the Creation Museum in Kentucky in the United States, his first “attraction”.
Building museums and life-sized arks is not something Ham says he envisioned for himself. When he was 10 years old, he committed his life to be a missionary for the Lord. Despite being raised in a Christian household in Queensland, Ham says he was always encouraged to think for himself.
“My parents weren’t ones who just said ‘believe the Bible’. I was taught to go out and search for answers, to not just accept what everyone else is saying but to test things,” says Ham.
Ham was taught to “be like a Berean”, the noble Jews in the Book of Acts who received the the gospel message “with great eagerness” and “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what [the Apostle] Paul said was true.”
It’s a framework that has made him sceptical of anything that doesn’t allow him to say, “that’s what the Bible says.”
The Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter were built to help others say just that with some authority says Ham.
“We’re making the Bible come alive. We’re answering the questions people have, helping them understand that science actually confirms the Bible. And that the Bible’s history is true.”
The problem is that there’s plenty of Christians who don’t think Ham’s answers stack up.
“[The Bible] is not authoritative about cosmology because it does not set out to be a scientific text.” – Chris Mulherin
Chris Mulherin, executive director of ISCAST, a network of Christians working in science and technology, says the debate over evolution versus young earth creationism “almost always” comes up when he is asked to speak about science and faith in churches and schools.
“It is a problematic issue for many Christians and also for those who are not Christian. Many simply think that ‘I believe in science so I couldn’t be religious,’” Mulherin tells Eternity.
But Mulherin argues that it is possible to reconcile the Bible with science if we don’t view the Book of Genesis as an account of how everything came to be, but rather as an expression of important ideas about God’s intentions for the world. He says we shouldn’t expect the Bible to answer specific scientific questions, like how old the earth is or how many days it took God to create the cosmos.
“Commonly, people speak of the authority of the Bible in all matters of faith and doctrine. In other words, it is not authoritative about cosmology because it does not set out to be a scientific text. And of course, the converse is true; a biology textbook is not an authority on morality or theology.”
In an article on The Conversation in 2014, Mulherin outlined the categories of “creationists”:
- those who believe in a young earth, like Ham;
- those who believe in intelligent design (the earth is old but certain features of the universe are best explained by an intelligent cause, not natural selection); and
- theistic evolution, the belief that God is ultimately responsible for life, the universe and everything, but accept evolution as the best explanation of the science available (though without accepting the naturalistic philosophy that often accompanies it).
Mulherin, and a majority of scientists who hold Christian beliefs, hold to theistic evolution.
Perhaps a more practical outworking of Ham’s young earth creationism is the way he thinks about climate change. Ham argues there is no cause for alarm about global warming, especially when it comes to an increase in carbon dioxide levels, because it is a “natural phenomenon” that has been operating for thousands of years, not a man-made occurrence. Temperature histories, he argues, are imprecise and unreliable and built on an evolutionary history of the world and an evolutionary time scale. God is in control, not man. And carbon dioxide is God-created and good for the planet.
“There is no viable justification, either biblically or scientifically, for limiting the generation of CO2 or restricting logging of forests,” Ham says in a discussion on climate change on the Answers in Genesis website. For Ham, God has given humans dominion over the earth, and the earth will not cease until Christ returns. He does not accept that humans are causing immense environmental damage: “We use [the earth] for man’s good and for God’s glory. We don’t want to abuse the environment, but we do want to use it.”
“Ham flies in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused global warming.” – Chris Mulherin
Mulherin wants none of that. “Ham flies in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused global warming. Climate science is not based on one thin line of evidence; it is robust, and the majority of experts in the field are in broad agreement. But of course none of them can prove it to the sceptic because that is not how science works. Science is like the law court: it’s about evidence ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, as weighed up by those who have dedicated themselves to the field of study in question. Of course CO2 is God-created but so is food, and we all know that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.”
Yet, says Mulherin, there are things on which he can agree with Ken Ham: “That Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour. And that he calls us all to follow him.”
Ham says he still loves those Christians who tend towards an evolutionary view of the world.
“I’ve never said that if you do not believe in creation in six literal days, in a young earth and so on, that you cannot be a Christian. Salvation is not conditioned upon what people believe about the age of the earth.
“Of course I love Christians who believe in evolution. But I will not compromise my position. I will stand boldly on it.”