The Ark Encounter is a controversial attempt to create a monument to what one group of people sees as biblical truth. “We Believe in Dinosaurs” documents the making of the Ark, both before and after, through several different lenses–a creationist working on the project, a geologist opposing it, an atheist protesting it, a woman who speaks in defense of creationism, a business owner hoping it will revitalize the town, a pastor who sees it as too closely uniting church and state, and a young Christian man who’s changed his mind. Recently, I had the chance to watch the documentary on PBS. It’s also available on Amazon.
One thing that makes the documentary so fascinating is that range of voices and perspectives it presents. Doug Henderson is the lead project designer at the Creation Museum and in the documentary he helped design the exhibits and leads a team making animals to go on the Ark, among other things. He’s a fully convinced Young Earth Creationist who believes the world is about 6,000 years old and that a global flood can account for the geologic record of our planet. He admits to having some doubts in the past, but that he resolved those doubts through a firm reliance on what he sees as the correct way to interpret the Bible. One of the most poignant moments of the documentary has him appealing to the camera with the notion that “I’m not crazy” and that he’s just as normal as anyone else, he just believes the Earth is young. It’s a rare, emotionally vivid moment in creation-evolution debates where the facade of certainty is stripped away and, as a viewer, one can witness that these are real people with real concerns. It’s powerful.
David Macmillan used to be a young earth creationist, and even donated enough to have his name on the wall at the Creation Museum. His own journey led him to question the truth of young earth creationism and he points out that it was a questioning of the rigidity of interpretation as well as scientific findings that caused him to change his view. As a viewer, he related to me quite a bit because his journey is very similar to my own.
Dan Phelps is a geologist who thinks the Ark Encounter is anti-science and has done the work to demonstrate it. But he rose to prominence in opposition to the project not because of geological disputes but due to his taking issue with tax dollars being used to supplement the building of the Ark. What was most alarming to him was that the Ark Encounter’s job applications at every level, whether project leader or janitor, required strict adherence to the full statement of faith of Answers in Genesis. This meant not only that atheists need not apply, as his op-ed got titled, but also that no Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, and even many, many Christians need apply either. To have this kind of hiring policy while also getting government money was alarming, and the documentary follows the fight against this government funding. Ultimately, this battle was lost and the Ark Encounter received grants and other aid from both state and local governments, despite claims both that the Ark is an evangelistic tool and the strict hiring practices.
One of the most alarming parts of the film is found when Jim Helten, President of the Tri-State Freethinkers (an atheist organization) who raised money to make billboards slamming the Ark Encounter and Creation museum as the “Genocide and Incest” museum is interviewed for the radio. What’s alarming about this is the way the Christian reacts to the atheist in this encounter. Jim alleges that the Ark implies incest and genocide because the flood kills everyone not on the ark, whether innocent or not, and then that the world has to get repopulated through incest because only Noah’s family was on the Ark. One can debate the nuance (or lack thereof) of Jim’s interpretation, but the Christian on the other end of the line turns around and immediately consigns Jim to hell. He says he’ll pray for Jim to not be in hell, but finally becomes unhinged and says “and there’ll be a million serpents biting your legs for eternity” as though that’s a reasonable response to Jim’s charges and his efforts to put up somewhat inflammatory billboards. Jim points out that he’s being threatened with eternal torture for asking for evidence. It’s another one of the moments that the documentary does so well of creating times to think and reflect and wonder. How is it possible that an ostensibly Christian person would think such a response was justified–and where did the line about the serpents come from?
A major aspect of the documentary is showing the Ark Encounter’s impact on the local community. It’s not clear what explicit promises were made, but it is clear that the people of Williamstown, Kentucky were given the impression that the Ark Encounter would bring a business boom to their community and help revitalize a downtown that Jamie Baker, interviewed in the documentary, said was so slow at times you could almost see tumbleweeds. The documentary covers several aspects of this hope, showing one group singing a song about their excitement related to the Ark Encounter. Just a few years later, that same place is a vacant facade, to go along with all the other places for sale or rent in a downtown that hasn’t been helped at all. One person in the documentary said they were promised shuttles would bring people into town to eat and shop, but that they only rarely see even a car driving through.
It is not clear, again, what promises were made to the people of Williamstown, but whatever hopes were raised have since, apparently, been crushed. The Ark Encounter isn’t helping the community in a monetary way so far as one can tell from the documentary. This, despite the city selling 78 acres of land to the Ark Encounter for $1 and giving them $175,000. This may not seem like a big problem–businesses make promises and bully people into helping them turn a profit all the time. But the Ark Encounter is an ostensibly Christian exhibit! Its staff has to subscribe to a strict statement of faith. One would expect integrity and openness from such people, not attacks on people who question their practices and attempts to block or obfuscate information related to their exhibit.
“We Believe in Dinosaurs” is a fascinating, challenging watch. It presents many sides, both sympathetic and not, related to the Ark Encounter. I haven’t even gone over several other people who show up in the documentary, and there’s much more there. I highly recommend it to anyone, given its broad range of interests from religious freedom, church and state issues, questions about science and faith, and more.
What options are there in the origins debate? – A Taxonomy of Christian Origins Positions– I clarify the breadth of options available for Christians who want to interact on various levels with models of origins. I think this post is extremely important because it gives readers a chance to see the various positions explained briefly.
What is the relationship between Christianity and science?- An Overview of 4 Views– How should the Christian faith interact with science? Do they interact at all? I survey 4 major views on these and other questions.
Origins Debate– Read a whole bunch more on different views within Christianity of the “origins debate.” Here I have posts on young and old earth creationism, intelligent design, theistic evolutionism, and more!
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.
Just got back from vacation in Washington state. Wow, it is beautiful there! Anyway, I have another round of links for you, dear readers. We have free writings from Cornelius Van Til, a problem for post-Flood models of diversification, C.S. Lewis, and discussion of “male headship.” Check them out and let me know what you think!
Cornelius Van Til free downloads– Cornelius Van Til was an advocate of presuppositional apologetics. I have written extensively on presuppositionalism myself. Van Til is probably the best-known advocate of the method. Here are free readings from him.
The Great Genetic Bottleneck that Contradicts Ken Ham’s Radical Accelerated Diversification– Ken Ham advocates a kind of hyper-diversification after the Flood which allows for the number of species we see today. What
Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on C.S. Lewis– C.S. Lewis is one of the greatest Christian thinkers of the 20th century. Here’s a great post (with infographic!) that gives tons of information on his life and thought.
5 Myths of Male Headship– The concept of “headship” is often a product more of our own assumptions than of the biblical text. Here is a post that shows 5 myths about male headship that are often assumed.
Why Max Lucado Broke His Political Silence for Trump– More Christian leaders need to follow the example of Max Lucado and point out the absurdity of his election cycle and the claims of Donald Trump. One quote from Lucado regarding Trump saying he hasn’t asked for forgiveness: “I can’t imagine that. I’m just shaking my head going ‘How does that work?’ Does a swimmer say ‘I’ve never gotten wet?’ …How does a person claim to be a Christian and never need to ask for forgiveness?”
Women, War, and Evangelicals– A post noting the fact that despite the appeals to “natural law” and the like by complementarians, most Americans–and even plenty of evangelicals–favor allowing women into combat roles. See also my post on the topic.
Debased Coynage– Thomistic philosopher Edward Feser points out the total misunderstanding atheist Jerry Coyne demonstrated regarding some theistic arguments.
Armadillos and Ken Ham’s Hyperevolution Model– Young earth creationist groups like Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis ironically put forward the most optimistic appraisals of evolutionary theory to be found. They just don’t like calling it that. Here’s another evaluation of Ken Ham’s model.
Planned Parenthood and Personhood Parables– A post featuring interesting thought experiments having to do with the rights (or lack thereof) of the unborn as well as discussion of some current events.
I hope I never bore you with my broad selections of posts! I think we have a super lineup here [groaner, I know] with posts on chivalry, the Jesus myth movement, old and young earth creationism, and a Super Bowl ad that is making waves.
Is Jesus a Myth? A Reply to Chris Sosa– A detailed, devastating response to Chris Sosa’s Jesus Mythicism. Historically, the Jesus myth movement is just absurd.
Chivalry, Agency, and Selfless Service– Does egalitarianism kill chivalry? What does chivalry say about agency? These and other questions are addressed in this fantastic post.
Ken Ham’s Biblical Evolution? I Have a book that says otherwise– An incisive critique of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis on post-Flood animal diversification. Quote from the article- “I have a book before me that provides compelling evidence that Ken Ham’s view of Biblical evolution is wrong. That book is the Bible.”
What a Super Bowl Ad Reveals about our Abortion Culture– Russell Moore comments on the Super Bowl ad everyone is talking about–the one that “humanizes” the fetus.
7 Common Myths About Old Earth Creationism– Old Earth Creationism is often misunderstood and mischaracterized by its opponents on either side. Here are some clarifications on 7 common misunderstandings.
I can’t believe we’re almost through January already. If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my awards post for 2015. In this round of Really Recommended Posts, we have messianic prophecy, women in the ministry, evolution and creationism, the Bible, and movies of 2015. Let me know what you think, and be sure to let the authors know as well.
Did Moses really write about Jesus?: A look at Messianic Prophecy in the Torah– An excellent post highlighting a number of biblical prophecies about the Messiah found throughout the Torah.
Prominent Biblical Scholars on Women in Ministry– It continues to amaze me how willing some are to dismiss any nod to egalitarianism as clear rejection of biblical authority and teaching. I do not believe that merely mustering names is enough to prove a position (the list of complementarian scholars is quite long), but the fact that so many clearly biblical thinkers have held to the egalitarian position should give pause to those who make this claim. Here’s a list of just a few such scholars.
Dodging Darwin: How Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter is Slowly Embracing Evolution– “That which we call a rose…” is the essence of this post. As Ham and other young earth creationists decry evolution, they have been slowly embracing forms of it that go beyond the wildest dreams of modern evolutionary biologists. This post highlights the inconsistency of the Answers in Genesis answer to evolution.
Admit it: Some of the Bible is Hard to Believe– We should not sugarcoat the tough passages in the Bible. Here’s a good post that addresses an approach to problematic passages.
An Assassin, White God, and Fury Road- The Top 10 Films of 2015– Think Christian has a post highlighting major worldview-level issues found in several films from 2015.
We have already made it to December! Can you believe it? I can’t. That doesn’t mean I won’t keep delivering the goods, however! This week we have posts on women in the early church, dinosaurs and young earth creationism, an evil god?, the theology of Star Wars, and the Planned Parenthood shooting. As always, let me know what you think–and be sure to let the authors know as well. Also, because it’s already snowed a couple times, we’re switching back to the snowy owl to bring our post, Hogwarts style.
A Theology of Star Wars– Star Wars Episode VII comes out soon. I bet that’s news to you! I may or may not have my tickets to an early showing. The world will never know. Anyway, here’s a free e-book (sign up to newsletter required) on Star Wars and Christian theology. I haven’t gotten through the whole thing yet, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far.
Four Myths about Women in the Early Church– The topic of women in the early church is quite interesting. I’ve only read one book on the topic, but I’d like to explore further. This post highlights some myths about women in the early church that are largely taken as givens. In the debate over women in the church and home, it is important to get our facts straight.
Is an Evil God as likely as an All-Good God?– Edward Feser analyzes Stephen Law’s (in)famous “evil God challenge,” in which Law alleges that the evidence for the existence of God cannot bring us to a good God, so an evil God is just as likely. I have analyzed Law’s argument myself, and I believe I demonstrate that the assumptions behind his argument would yield radical skepticism if held consistently.
Why Pro-Life Advocates are not responsible for the Planned Parenthood Shooting– Some have alleged that the recent, horrific attack on a Planned Parenthood building can be blamed on the pro-life movement. Here is an analysis of that ad hominem attack vs. pro-life advocates that gets at the heart of the issue.
Where did all the Dinosaurs go? Ken Ham’s Climate and Human Induced Dinosaur extinction hypothesis– Young earth creationists must deal with the evidence we have about dinosaurs and their lives. Here is an analysis of Ken Ham’s hypothesis regarding what happened to all the dinosaurs after they purportedly survived a global flood alongside humans.
My apologies for missing the “Really Recommended Posts” last week, we just moved to Iowa and it was a very hectic week. We’re back in action now with a list of great reads for you. Be sure to let me know what you think, and let the authors know as well!
Dear Ken Ham: About Those Kangaroo Fossils…- Ken Ham’s response to why we don’t find kangaroo fossils from Ararat to Australia is another example of poor reasoning. Here, a response is offered to his argument.
So you think you understand the cosmological argument?– A lot of mistakes are made when evaluating the cosmological argument. Here’s a post by Edward Feser that explains several of these mistakes and answers some criticisms of the argument.
Think the “Billy Graham Rule” would have saved Tullian? Think again– There has been much commentary on the sexual infidelity of a fairly prominent church leader, Tullian Tchividjian. A lot of it has focused on how he should have stayed separate from women in general and avoided being along with women, as the “Billy Graham Rule” argues. But what does this say about women and men? Read on. My thanks to a friend on Facebook for sharing this.
Sci fi, free will, and the problem of evil– what might the resonating themes about free will in science fiction have to say about reality? Here, Clay Jones analyzes several aspects of science fiction with an eye for a greater metanarrative. My thanks to a friend on Facebook for sharing this.
Review: Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity… and Why it Mattes by David Kinnaman– This is a book I really enjoyed, though I share some of the concerns raised in this review. It’s worth reading the review to get an overview of the book’s content and some of the issues it raises. If I may be permitted a somewhat brief story here:
This was actually a pretty formative book for me when I read it some time ago (6+ years?). I remember finishing the book and feling supercharged to try to spread the truth of Christianity in a winsome manner. And quite seriously minutes after I finished and felt this supercharge of missional energy, a man showed up at the door of the house I was staying at at the time (a pastor’s house) and said he needed spiritual help. He entered the house right when I cracked open the door and kept saying he needed prayers.
I prayed with him and then thought he was going to leave, but he would not. He kept looking at the cat and saying he wouldn’t hurt a cat, and that he’d tried to kill himself a couple times that night by speeding and going through stop signs. I kept a short distance between he and I because he seemed clearly disturbed in some way.
Finally he did leave, answering the prayer I was saying over and over in my mind to God to protect me. I called the police but nothing ever came of it that I know of.
I’m still not sure how or why that happened, and I’m hoping I made an impact, but I don’t think I’ll know until the hereafter.
But I can’t help but think on it once in a while and wonder if what I did made a difference; if somehow that was God leading someone who needed help to where they needed to be.
Another sleep-deprived Really Recommended Posts here! Also, did you know that you can still have allergies when it is -10 degrees Fahrenheit and snowy? I’ve mastered that. Anyway, this week we have posts about Ken Ham, egalitarian marriage, teaching kids critical thinking,
6 Things Egalitarian Marriage is Not– Too often, people who critique the egalitarian position argue that egalitarian marriage means men and women are assumed to be exactly the same or that it is unbiblical. Here are some answers to some misconceptions about egalitarian marriage.
How I’m Teaching my 6-Year-Olds to be Critical Thinkers– Natasha Crain continually writes awesome posts for teaching apologetics in family settings. Here, she shares some tips for teaching critical thinking to your youngsters.
Ken Ham Ascribes Motive to Your Crime– Psychoanalysis of opponents on hot issues is not something we should engage in. Unfortunately, Ken Ham, a prominent Young Earth Creationist, continually assigns motives to those with whom he disagrees.
If Humans Evolved from Apes, Why Do Apes Exist Today? – Look! I can agree with Answers in Genesis, the prominent young earth creationist group, on something! This is a really bad argument that I have, unfortunately, seen many Christians using. Don’t do it.
Eclectic Theist– Did you know I have another web site? I do! On it, I review books, talk about Star Trek, food, tennis, economics, (and more!), and dive into all kinds of random interests. Check it out!
The 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.
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?
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.
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy
Another week, another look at some of the most interesting posts on the web. Here we have posts on the Game of Thrones and Philosophy, Joshua 10 and the meaning of the sun standing still, creationist Ken Ham, abortion, and ways your kid might be learning an oversimplified faith. As always, I’d love to read what you think of the posts! Be sure you leave a comment when you go visit to let the authors know your own insights. We have an owl post edition today because it’s cold.
6 Ways You May Be Raising Your Kids with an Oversimplified Faith– We are charged with raising our children in the faith. That doesn’t apply only to parents, but to the entire Christian community. How might we combat the simplistic image of faith that many children have? Check out this great post (and site) from Natasha Crain, and be sure to follow the site for some awesome posts on Christian teaching for children.
Biblical Credibility and Joshua 10: What does the text really claim?– Joshua 10–the passage about the sun ‘standing still’ in the sky has long drawn criticism from non-Christians for various reasons, primarily scientific inaccuracy. Here, eminent scholar John Walton (seriously one of my favorites) explains the text of Joshua 10 in light of other Ancient Near Eastern literature and the way it would have been understood in its time.
Scott Klusendorf Defends the Pro-Life View on the Unbelievable? Radio Show– Recently, Scott Klusendorf–a wonderful pro-life teacher and advocate–debated Mara Clarke on the subject of abortion. It was interesting to listen to this debate and see how the sides played out their arguments. Check out this post to get summary and commentary on the debate.
“You Win or You Die” (from Game of Thrones and Philosophy)– Whatever your view of the appropriateness of “Game of Thrones” (and we must note there is much objectionable content in it), there is no denying its current popularity. Check out this post from Anthony Weber which discusses some issues related to the philosophy of the series.
The Never-ending Debate: Ken Ham’s Obsession with Bill Nye– Some time ago, Ken Ham debated Bill Nye on evolution, the age of the earth, and more (see my summary and commentary on the debate here). Ken Ham has not let this public debate sit, and continues to utilize it to produce creationist material and muster the troops, so to speak. Is this a bad thing? Is it helpful? Let’s here your thoughts. Here is a post analyzing some recent trends in his organization regarding Bill Nye.