[Young-earth creationism is] an attempt to distract from the fact that Christians aren't treating the Bible as the Word of God, taking it literally, or doing any of the other things Ken Ham and others like him claim to stand for - not when it comes to the Bible's teaching about economic and social justice, concern for the poor and oppressed, renunciation of wealth, and most other matters of practice.Those are strong words, and they point to an obvious question that Dr. McGrath is too polite to ask directly: Why have Mr. Ham and his backers seen fit to spend so much money and time building a gaudy pseudo-museum designed to convince people of the scientific accuracy of The Flintstones when those resources could have been much better spent on a worthier cause? After all, Ham proclaims that he's doing the work of Jesus, and Jesus was all about healing the sick and clothing the naked2...but wasn't nearly as hung up on singing asinine songs about dinosaurs as Ham and his cronies.
According to the Christian Website MinistryWatch.com, Ham's Answers in Genesis organization generated over $22 million in revenue in 2007.3 Do you have any idea how much good you can do in the world for $22 million? How many TB vaccinations would that buy? Conversely, how many animatronic cavemen riding dinosaurs would it buy? I have a feeling Ken Ham knows the answer to one of those questions.
McGrath contends, without quite saying so, that Ham is turning the spiritual passions of his followers towards useless ends. After all, a fervent Christian can "stand up for the faith" by spewing forth nonsense about a 6,000 year-old earth without having to think very hard or put forth all that much effort. Actually reaching out to the disadvantaged in a meaningful way or standing up for the rights of the truly oppressed requires a little more work. Meanwhile Ham is leading his followers on little more than a self-righteous snipe hunt. They get to seethe with indignation about all those evil scientists and atheists, but they don't really have to stick their necks out for anyone either. It's a stinging accusation, and I'd be curious to know what Ham's rebuttal is.
Unfortunately, while Ham has responded to McGrath's post, he hasn't worried himself with answering the claims McGrath has leveled against him. Instead, after tossing out a rather meaningless disclaimer that he doesn't consider the authority of the Bible to be "conditioned upon the age of the earth"4, he trots out the tired old "he's not a real Christian" routine and tries to wish McGrath away. Ham quotes extensively from one of McGrath's own entries in which he discusses faith, then huffs that
...I do not know what Dr. McGrath believes about the gospel. It certainly does not sound like orthodox Christianity to me. Sounds to me like some intellectual assent to some aspects of Christianity, but he gets to pick and choose the parts he likes. There is no hint in what he has written that he understands or believes what it means to be truly born-again...Ham also goes to great pains to point out that Butler University also has an atheist professor on staff. He does so to drive home the point that McGrath is from a dangerous outgroup and therefore his position is invalid by fiat. After all, if he works with those evil atheists and doesn't adhere, with no exceptions, to fundagelical biblical literalism, then he can't possibly have a salient point. Sorry Ken, that's not how it works. You still haven't refuted his claim. Why is peddling young-earther nonsense more important to your Christian ministry than doing "Christian" work like helping the poor? We're still waiting for your answer.
Post Script - Early in this post I asked how many kids could be vaccinated against TB for $22 million. The low-end answer, based on figures from the World Health Organization, is that $22 million would provide vaccinations against TB, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, measles, hepatitis B, and Hib for 55o,000 children. But hey, all those robot dinosaurs are cool too.
1.) McGrath kind of reminds of Ken Miller, the Catholic biologist who has worked so hard in recent years to combat the arguments of young-earth creationists.
2.) Well, Jesus was also pretty concerned with following the tenets of Judaism to the letter and preparing for a fast-approaching, cataclysmic divine intervention that never occurred, but those are topics for another day.
3.) Though it also had expenses in excess of $20 million.
4.) Yet Ham goes on to state in the next paragraph "If a person has to reinterpret the clear teaching of Scripture to fit in millions of years (e.g., reinterpreting the days of creation), this clearly undermines the authority of God’s Word." So which is it, Ken? Is the authority of the Bible "not conditioned upon the age of the earth", or does acceptance of an ancient earth "undermine the authority of God's Word"? Make up your mind, man.