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Alvin Plantinga, the Compromiser?- A Call to Christian Charity in Disagreement

AlvinPlantingaThe young earth creationist Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis recently wrote a blog post critiquing eminent Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga on a number of levels. I’d like to offer a brief analysis of his comments.

Calvin College

Ken Ham doesn’t like Calvin College, where Plantinga once taught. About the school, he says:

Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is one of the most ardently compromising Christian Colleges in the US that continues to lead so many young people astray in regards to the authority of Scripture beginning in Genesis.

Harsh words! Of course the reason that Calvin College is said to be a “compromising” college is because it doesn’t follow Ken Ham’s specific interpretation of Genesis as a necessity of Christian faith. By not holding to a position that the Earth is only about 6000 years old, Calvin College gets added to the blacklist of “compromisers.” This kind of name-calling is unbecoming Christians, but that unfortunately hasn’t stopped Ham and his followers.

Plantinga and Science

Ham takes issue with Plantinga’s words on whether science and Christianity may coexist. Following the link to read Plantinga’s own words, one reads:

[Those who believe in a conflict between science and faith] are thinking of evolution plus naturalism, which is the idea that there isn’t any such person as God or anything like God … evolution doesn’t say anything about whether there is such a person as God or not…It’s a metaphysical add-on they are importing into the scientific notion of evolution.

Ham believes that because of this, Plantinga is “equivocating” science and evolution. However, it can hardly be argued that evolution is not the reigning paradigm in biology. Thus, it is not so much equivocation as it is using terms as they are commonly understood. But that aside, the key point is that Plantinga surely seems to be correct. If one does not pair metaphysical naturalism with evolution, it poses no challenge to the existence of deity.


Now, the nuances of whether evolution may be reconciled with Genesis or not aside, the real question is the appropriateness of name-calling because other Christians believe in a different interpretation of Genesis. Ham wants to keep the focus on the alleged “utter contradiction” between evolution and Genesis, but he does so by elevating his specific interpretation of the Bible above any other view and even above Christian charity. For Ham, there is no need to engage with fellow Christians in a meaningful manner. Instead, he simply dismisses fellow Christians as compromisers and sees that as enough for his followers to ignore any complexities in the debate.

Of course, going back to the issue that Ham wants to frame: the alleged conflict between science and religion, I think that it is vitally important to allow charity in interpretations of Genesis. God’s word is infallible, but human interpreters are not infallible. Instead of lashing out at other Christians because they hold a different view than we do, perhaps we should work to reconcile with and learn from each other.

Ken Ham’s post is just a single example of the constant stream of vitriol spilled out by certain groups against those with whom they disagree. I myself have been called a compromiser, an unbeliever, a follower of Satan, someone who is working to undermine the faith, etc. by people who disagree with me. Why not start the discussion rather than pouring out insults? Why not seek to work together and, if necessary, debate the issues instead of using such nasty language about others?


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Christian Philosopher Says Science Doesn’t Oppose Faith– Read Ken Ham’s post for his own perspective and words on the topic.

I do not own rights to the image of Alvin Plantinga. I found it with an image search and could not find any original rights attribution. I am using it under fair use.



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