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Sunday, February 1, 2015

An Opportunity for Critical Thinking!

Posted by jlwile on March 16, 2011

The Southeast Homeschool Convention begins tomorrow, and I have six talks to give. I am excited to go, because the convention is organized by the same group that did the Midsouth Homeschool Convention two weeks ago, and it was a great success. My excitement partially gave way to disappointment, however, when I read Ken Ham’s blog entry from yesterday. Mr. Ham is a speaker at the same convention, but he is obviously upset at the fact that someone who disagrees with him will be speaking at the same venue.

He starts off his blog this way:

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.

Then he gets really nasty. He claims that the speaker, Dr. Peter Enns, doesn’t have a Biblical view of the inspiration of Scripture and that his approach to Genesis and Romans will shock people.

Since Mr. Ham has decided to rip into a well-educated scholar with a publication list that includes such important journals as the Westminster Theological Journal and the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, I thought it only right for another young-earth creationist (yours truly) to offer a different view.

First and foremost, I do not agree with Dr. Enns’s view of the first few chapters of Genesis. For example, unlike Dr. Enns, I think the creation account is best taken as historical narrative. However, I recognize that the Christian church has never been unanimous in that assessment. As the post I just linked demonstrates, even Jewish theologians that lived during the time of Christ did not unanimously agree that the creation account should be taken as historical narrative! Thus, while I disagree with Dr. Enns when it comes to the creation account, I hesitate to call him a “compromiser.” I don’t think Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 – 215 AD), Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 293 -373 AD), Augustine (354-330), or Hilary of Poitiers (c. 300 – 368 AD) were compromisers, and they didn’t view the creation account as historical narrative, either.

Second, Ken Ham is simply dead wrong when he claims that Dr. Enns doesn’t have a Biblical view of the inspiration of Scripture. Dr. Enns doesn’t have Ken Ham’s view of the inspiration of Scripture. However, he clearly has a Biblical view – one that just happens to be different from that of Ken Ham. All one has to do to see this is to read Dr. Enns’s seminal work, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. In this book, Enns lays out an “incarnational” view of Biblical inspiration. He thinks that God entered the world of the Biblical authors and spoke to them directly, using stories and symbols to which they could relate. This is perfectly consistent with 2Timothy 3:16 and is therefore a Biblical view of the inspiration of Scripture.

Now please understand that I do not agree with this view, but to say it is unBiblical is just plain wrong. In fact, when I read Enns’s book, I could not help but think how similar his view of Scripture is to that of John Calvin, who said that God lisps to us when He speaks through Scripture. I disagree with Calvin’s view as well, but I am not about to say that it is unBiblical!

So, unlike Mr. Ham, I don’t think it is sad that Dr. Enns is speaking at the Southeast Homeschool Convention. In fact, I am thrilled to be able to share a venue with such a well-known Evangelical scholar, and I hope to be able to speak with him at length during the convention. I disagree with a great deal of what Dr. Enns says, but that’s what will make the conversation interesting!

More importantly, however, listening to serious scholars who disagree with you is an important part of the process of critical thinking. The only way I can properly evaluate my positions is to listen to those who disagree with them. That way, I can root out any lack of discernment, poor scholarship, or misunderstandings that can lead to bad theology. As a result, I plan to attend all his talks except the one that conflicts with one of mine. In the name of serious critical thinking, I strongly encourage everyone at the convention to do the same! I also strongly encourage you to listen to Ken Ham’s talks. You can come to my talks as well, if you don’t have anything better to do…

One of the reasons I am so excited to be a part of the four Great Homeschool Conventions this year is because of their diverse list of speakers. I don’t know of any other homeschool convention where you can hear such a broad range of Christian views. In my opinion, that alone is worth the price of admission!


624 Responses to “An Opportunity for Critical Thinking!”
  1. Aaron says:

    Dr Wile,

    I would like to know how you believe Ken Ham should have informed others of his belief that Dr Enns’ theology is incorrect and that he would be promoting that incorrect theology at the convention.

  2. Owen Daniels says:

    So, can you elucidate the theology that you find murky or less than desirable within AIG? Per your own quote, “While the theology leaves a lot to be desired, the science discussed on this website is pretty solid.” Please try to be precise…

  3. jlwile says:

    Aaron, he should have done it the way other Christians have done it – by concentrating on the theology and not using name calling and a false charge. For example, look how Dr. Geisler noted his disagreements with Dr. Enns:

    Notice not only does Dr. Geisler not engage in name-calling or a false charge, he also stresses that there is nothing wrong with Dr. Enns’s view of inspiration.

  4. jlwile says:

    Owen, AiG believes that the only possible literal interpretation of the Genesis day is a 24-hour day. That is clearly not true. In fact, there are those who think the only possible literal interpretation of the Genesis day is an unspecified, long period of time. I believe that is wrong as well. I think that the best way to understand the Genesis day is a 24-hour day. However, it is clearly not the only literal interpretation. Indeed, there were many in the very early church who saw the days as not 24-hour days.

    Another example would be AiG’s insistence that there could not have been animal death before the Fall. At best, that is an extraBiblical notion.

  5. Pam says:

    If true Scientists debate then Ken Ham and AiG should have spoken at the Midwest Homeschool Convention.

    I heard Ken Ham’s quote from the previous convention and I thought he was speaking the truth in love. He had a direct quote from Peter Enns.

    This was the first semester we used Apologia curriculum. I have huge reservations after reading your statements. I will never know what you believe or what you are hiding in the name of Christian Love.

  6. jlwile says:

    Pam, neither Ken Ham nor Peter Enns are scientists, so I am not sure how your comment applies. However, as the convention states, the problem was not Ken Ham’s view. It was his spirit. Indeed, they replaced him with Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, who has essentially the same view as Ken Ham. Obviously, they didn’t think he was speaking that view with love.

    I am not hiding anything. I am a young-earth creationist and believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. However, I am unwilling to set myself up as the sole arbiter of Truth on such matters, and I therefore try to follow the Scriptures and respect my brothers and sisters in Christ, according to Romans 14:1-9. I am sorry that causes reservations for you, but I strive for God’s approval, not that of people.

  7. Pam says:

    1. JWile said, “Pam, neither Ken Ham nor Peter Enns are scientists, so I am not sure how your comment applies.”

    Who is a scientist and theologian and what qualifications do they need to speak or debate this issue? From the little that I’ve read about on the BioLogos website it seems that the lines blur. Evolutionary Scientist (Phd, I assumed earned) comment on Genesis and theology so therefore I think the issue is extremely important.

    2. JWile said, “the problem was not Ken Ham’s view. It was his spirit.”

    I have a hard time believing that because I heard the tape on Ken Ham’s website. There was also a person that worked for Ken that said they spoke to Great Homeschool Conventions and said Ken would be addressing his concern at their conventions and they agreed that it would be appropriate.

    I think we see this from very different sides of the issue. I want to know where people – authors stand on these issues. As a 6 year Story of the World classical homeschool family these issues are very important to me and I think they should be discussed.

    As as strong Armenian I do not believe it is about Armenian- ism and Calvinism or Wesley and Calvinism. It is about training the next generation of Christian leaders to stand in the public square and give a defense of their faith in Jesus and his Word that will not return void.

  8. keith Blankenship says:

    From what I have seen of Enns’ material, it is merely a recycled version of tired, shop-worn ideas from Barth, Brunner, Bultmann. I am not an “evangelical” but it seems to me that giving the floor to Enns yields the Young Earth premise. Perhaps ken Ham is an evil, vicious man. Yet his critique of Enns was quite temperate.

    It is also curious that Enns has an interest, albeit indirect, in speaking at these conferences, i.e. the sale of the Bauer Curriculum. Further, it is unexplained why Bauer does not use Enns’ surname. I read somewhere that she was a home-school “guru”, but I have never heard or her before. In addition, doen’t Enns receive funding from the Templeton Foundation? What are the theological bona fides of this Foundation?

    In the final analysis, if one yields the premise, one loses the argument. This is a matter of logic. No amount of academic qualification can ever change this basic principle of argument.

  9. jlwile says:

    Pam, I agree that the issue is important, and I don’t mean to imply you need to be a scientist to comment on it. I was just confused by your usage of the term.

    You might not agree with Great Homeschool Conventions, but they certainly thought Mr. Ham expressed himself with an unkind spirit. He most certainly used an unkind spirit on his blog, calling Dr. Enns a name and leveling a false charge at him. Also, as I said, this has nothing to do with Mr. Ham’s view, as they replaced him with someone who has the same view. That someone even gave a talk entitled “Refuting Compromise,” in which he adamantly presented the incorrect view that the only literal interpretation of Genesis requires 24-hour days. The conference had no problem with that talk, at least as far as I could tell.

    I agree that you should know where authors stand on issues that are important to you. However, such discussions need to take place as Romans 14:1-9 tells us, not using name-calling and a false charge!

  10. jlwile says:

    Keith, no one is even implying that Mr. Ham is an “evil, vicious man.” Indeed, I have commented several times that he is a man of God who loves the Word. Unfortunately, he critiqued Dr. Enns with name-calling and a false charge. That is not appropriate in any Christian forum.

    I am not sure what you mean to imply with Dr. Enns’s interest in speaking at the convention. Virtually everyone who speaks at these conventions has an interest. I have a science curriculum, Dr. Bauer has a curriculum, Mr. Ham has a whole series of books that are purchased by homeschoolers! If you removed all speakers who have something to sell to homeschoolers, there would not be hardly any speakers at the convention.

    I am not sure why you think Dr. Bauer should use Dr. Enns’s surname. Dr. Bauer uses the surname of her husband, Peter Bauer, who has a Masters of Divinity and is a pastor. Peter Bauer is not Dr. Peter Enns.

    Dr. Enns is a senior fellow at BioLogos, and Biologos receives funding from the Templeton Foundation. However, the theological bona fides are not relevant, since the Convention strives to meet the needs of all Christian homeschoolers, not just the ones who pass some theological purity test.

    Accepting the fact that other godly Christians who love the Word interpret it differently from you is not “yielding the premise.” It is following Romans 14:1-9.

  11. keith Blankenship says:

    I stand corrected on the Enns-Bauer relationship. It derived from some faulty information I received from another forum. I thus extend my apologies to all concerned.

    As far as the issue of having a pecuniary interest in the Conference, I was not aware that this was typical. Although we have used home education exclusively with our five children, I have never attended a Home-school conference.

    This controversy appears to have gotten heated, and thus has attracted the attention of home-schoolers who are not part of the evangelical milieu. Apologies to anyone I have offended.

    My concern about yielding the premise is not based merely in logic, although I believe logic precedes science in the sense that if one cannot reason, it is impossible to understand empirical data.

    Historically, the decline of the so-called mainline churches was preceded by a denial of the historicity of, inter alia, Adam and Eve. Thus it is not a new controversy. I believe that in a sense a collective memory of this decline fuels the current controversy.

    Major denominations affirm that Adam and Eve were historical individuals. I am thinking of the LCMS, ELS and WELS. It appears that Enns is saying they are wrong. From an early age Confessional Lutherans are taught to be suspicious of pietists and the Reformed. What would you say to them? I know that to many Baptists, Pentecostals and others Lutherans are not “Godly Christians”, yet surely evangelicals would acknowledge that Lutherans have worked hard in the field of Creationism (i.e. Alfred Rehwinkel) and have maintained a firm Creationist stance despite many pressures. Are the Confessional Lutherans wrong?

    I suppose that at this conference it is not necessary to have doctrinal unity, accordingly Templeton and Bio Logos are accepted. I apologize if I have misunderstood this. Of course a good effect of this controversy is that it helps parents know which curricula to purchase and which to steer clear of.

  12. jlwile says:

    Keith, I most certainly don’t think the Confessional Lutherans are wrong to hold to a firm creationist stance. I hold to a firm creationist stance! Indeed, I am probably more firm than most evangelicals, because I believe in 24-hour Genesis days and a young earth. That’s not the issue. The issue is how Christians are supposed to deal with other Christians with whom they disagree. According to Romans 14:1-9, it is not with name-calling or a false charge. Given that the convention was made to minister to all Christian homeschoolers, not just the ones that meet some theological purity test, it is important to keep that Scriptural imperative in mind!

  13. keith Blankenship says:

    I certainly appreciate your willingness to answer my questions. I am not sure why I weighed in on this Ham v. Enns issue at all, except that it seemed to represent a recurrence of theological issues of the past. Really, it isn’t a battle for Lutherans and other confessional protestants at all, but rather an inter-family conflict amongst those in the Pietist/Baptist/Reformed world. So it is really none of my concern. Thus I will return to Luther, Mueller, Walther and Gerhard, and of course old Rehwinkel. I think we are truly, as Luther said once, of a different spirit than you. This makes me sad, but if it couldn’t be reconciled during the reformation, it is surely silly to believe it can be now.

    I came to your blog because we are using, quite profitably, one of your textbooks in teaching our children science. Thank you for your hard work on this text. It is a blessing. May the Peace of the Lord rest upon you.

  14. jlwile says:

    Thanks for your kind words regarding my book, Keith. I agree that this is a recurrence of the past. Indeed, even the earliest church fathers were not in agreement on the creation account, which is why I consider it patently absurd to think that we can suddenly state for certain what the creation account means. I truly hope we are not of different spirits. Certainly different theologies, but not different spirits!

  15. Tahara says:

    Thank you for this post…I totally agree with you on this and am happy to see I am not the only one who has felt this way…

  16. jlwile says:

    Thank you, Tahara. I do think there are a lot of Christians who think this way, because there are a lot of Christians who take passages like Romans 14:1-9 very seriously.

  17. Mrs D. says:

    Dr Dr Wile,
    How can you say 2 differing views are Biblical? If one is Biblical then the other is not. If one view is scriptural, then the other is unscriptural. There is no getting around that. I can understand if someone says they do not know which is correct, until they study the Word more, but they would still obviously understand that both opposing views could not be scriptural.

  18. jlwile says:

    Mrs. D, two differening views are both Biblical if they are both consistent with the Bible. They can be different and Biblical at the same time if the Bible can be interpreted different ways on the issue. For example, while I am an Arminianist, I would not call Calvinsists unBiblical, because the Bible can be interpreted in a way consistent with Calvinism.

    Now, of course, two differing views cannot both be true. Thus, even though different positions can be Biblical, they cannot both be true. As a result, we must believe the one we think has the most Biblical support. At the same time, however, we must be humble enough to realize that our interpretation of the Bible can be flawed and, as a result, our interpretation of the Bible is not equal to the Truth.

  19. Kate says:

    Dr. Wile, I have almost completed three of your science books and have learned alot, but I respectfully disagree with you on this matter. We cannot misinterpret the Bible on accident, the Holy Spirit will make sure we understand God’s Word correctly. I don’t believe it is arrogant to say, I know how the earth was created and that Jesus rose again. It says it in the Bible and that is what the Holy Spirit tells me. If what I believe is true, than all other interpretations are false. I don’t claim to be correct on all Biblical matters, but Genesis is a huge foundation and we need to be unanimous!

    I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Ham speak at the AiG Family Apologetics Conference last summer. I enjoyed four of your lectures at the Southest Homeschool Conference, where I also heard Dr. Enns. I agreed and disagreed with some of the things Dr. Enns said. Mr. Ham stated in his blog that Dr. Enns had fallen away from the truth, and that we need to pray for him. Mr. Ham rebuked a fellow Christian gently, but to the point, which is what the Bible tells us to do.

  20. jlwile says:

    Kate, thank you for your comment, but I will have to disagree with you. The church has never been unanimous on Genesis, so there is no reason to think it will suddenly become unanimous now. In addition, the very fact that the church has been unanimous on the major doctrines of Christianity and not on Genesis demonstrates that the interpretation of Genesis is not foundational. If it were, there would not have been such disagreement on it throughout the history of Christendom.

    In addition, Mr. Ham did not gently rebuke Dr. Enns. He called him an unwarranted name and leveled a false charge. That is not only far from gentle, it is far from proper. We need to pray for all concerned in this matter.

  21. Ted Davis says:

    I admire your courage, humility, and gentleness, Dr. Wile. Very much. Thank you for demonstrating a deep commitment to truth and honest inquiry–for without honest inquiry there is no discovering truth.

    I want to address the larger issue here, relative to the approach to the origins debate taken by Mr. Ham and some other advocates of creation science. Let me note the title of a recent book by Jonathan Sarfati: Refuting Compromise: A Biblical and Scientific Refutation of “Progressive Creationism” (Billions of Years) As Popularized by Astronomer Hugh Ross. The quotations and the parentheses are in the lengthy subtitle as given.

    In this particular book, as in Mr. Ham’s comments about Dr. Enns, the word “compromise” or “compromiser” is of course meant to be a pejorative, not a compliment. Although I don’t share Dr. Ross’s particular approach to interpreting Genesis (he advocates the “day-age” view), there can be no doubt that Dr. Ross’ many books and videos have been very helpful to many Christians who want to understand science better, especially as it relates to the Bible. His apologetics ministry, Reasons to Believe, is IMO a much better resource for lay Christians (by which I mean those who do not have strong backgrounds in science) than any of Mr. Ham’s web sites. And, his love for God and the church are sincere and strong. A few years ago, when Dr. Sarfati’s book was published, it was part of a larger assault on Dr. Ross’s views by individuals who regard Dr. Ross as yet another “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” to borrow an oft-used phrase that has been repeated on this thread. This is simply a ridiculous charge to make, and IMO only reflects poorly on those who make it.

    The basic problem, as I see it, is that for Mr. Ham it seems to be his way (that is, his interpretation of Genesis and other texts) or the devil’s way. That is no way to approach an issue as important as this. As Dr. Wile has pointed out, there has never been a consensus on how to interpret early Genesis, and Mr. Ham is in effect using the label “compromiser” to dismiss (he hopes) the legitimacy of nearly all of the best Christian authors of the past 150 years or so, let alone some of the most influential Patristic writers (including Augustine). Even the authors of the “doctrine” of biblical inerrancy–Warfield and the Hodges–would not have agreed with Mr. Ham’s standards for avoiding the charge of “compromise.”

    Let’s try a little thought experiment, to see how unhelpful this label really is. I used to hear Dr. R. C. Sproul lecture several times every year at various conferences. At that point, he was an “old earth” creationist. A number of years ago, Dr. Sproul changed his mind and endorsed “young earth” creationism. So, let me ask this: at what point did Dr. Sproul cease to be a “compromiser”? Was it the day he came out for the YEC position? the day before? the day before that? If his views prior to that point were in all other respects identical to his views after that point, then did changing his opinion on the age of the earth ipso facto make him suddenly no longer a “compromiser”?

    Dr. Ham believes that a major cause of the faith crisis that inflicts a large number of Christian young people, once they leave home and go to college, is having so many churches that don’t teach “young earth” creationism. Well, I do wonder about that. He seems to think that, if all of the churches stayed strictly with “young earth” teachings, then the youth would be less inclined to wander away later on. He does not seem to consider the possibility that it might be a good idea to teach young people *without disapproval or charges of “compromising”* about several of the many interpretations that Christians have held about creation passages, in order to *avoid* giving them the idea that it must be Mr. Ham’s way or the devil’s way. When you give people a single box and the facts won’t fit into it, you’re only encouraging them to drop that box. And, if that’s the only box they know of, their faith is likely to go along with it.

  22. jlwile says:

    Excellent comment, Ted. Thank you for taking the time to write it!

  23. Ted Davis says:

    As the home schooling movement continues to grow in size, it will continue to bring into it an increasing number of Christians who want to educate their children about multiple perspectives on origins specifically and on science and the Bible generally. Families in this category might be interested in knowing about a new online resource designed just for them:

    The person who edits the blog, biologist Douglas Hayworth, has just added a column about the Enns-Ham-Wile dispute:

    I hope this is helpful for many families.

  24. Enelson says:

    Thanks so much for your post. This is the most balanced and best I have read on the current controversy.

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