The Creation Debate We Need

Ken Ham, creationist debater extraordinaire, has again thrown down the gauntlet. This time, Ham has challenged conservative evangelist Pat Robertson. More than watching Ham battle Science Guy Bill Nye, America needs to hear this debate between conservative evangelical Protestant creationists.

Apparently, according to Mr. Ham and the folks at Right Wing Watch, Robertson has been taking pot-shots at young-earth creationism lately. On his television show The 700 Club, Robertson recently announced, “You have to be deaf, dumb and blind to think that this Earth that we live in only has 6,000 years of existence.”

As he has done recently with other conservative colleges such as Calvin and Bryan, Ham wondered pointedly if Robertson’s colleagues at Regent University really support Robertson’s old-earth position. Ham asked if the school followed Robertson in “compromis[ing] the Word of God with the pagan ideas of fallible men.”

Ham offered to debate these issues with Robertson. As Ham put it,

I wonder if Pat Robertson would be prepared to discuss these issues with me or one of our AiG scientists on the 700 Club? Or maybe in some sort of debate format at Regent University? We are certainly willing to do that…. I wonder if Pat Robertson, who is allowed to state these things so publicly through CBN will agree to have his statements publicly challenged and tested!

Both conservative religious folks and outsiders like me would benefit from such a debate. We outsiders would learn more about the issues that matter to creationists. None of us were particularly surprised by the arguments Bill Nye put forward. But many of us would be enlightened to hear the reasons for and against belief in a young earth, since both sides would be arguing from a relatively similar religious perspective. We outsiders could learn about the kaleidoscopic world of creationism. For some people, this might be the first time they heard that not every creationist embraces the idea of a young earth.

And evangelicals would benefit enormously. After all, belief in a young-earth as creationist orthodoxy is a very recent phenomenon. As historian Ron Numbers demonstrated so powerfully, until the second half of the twentieth century, belief in a young earth was restricted to a relatively small percentage of conservative evangelicals. At the time of the Scopes trial in 1925, for example, leading fundamentalists differed in their beliefs about the age of the earth. At that time, no one looked askance at anti-evolutionist leaders such as William Jennings Bryan who believed in an ancient earth. Only with the publication of Henry Morris’ and John Whitcomb’s creationist blockbuster The Genesis Flood did young-earth creationism become a dominant theme in conservative American evangelical thought.

Many young evangelicals these days don’t know this history. They often assume they must either accept the doctrine of a young earth or abandon their religion entirely. A debate between two conservative evangelical leaders would demonstrate the possibilities.

 

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3 Comments

  1. The debate America needs, but not the one it deserves?

    Would be fascinating to see this happen (as a non-American, non-Christian, non-conservative observer) and to see how the anti-creationism crowd react to it. My hunch is that it’d be dismissed as comparable to arguing about angels and pins, but I think they/we could learn a great deal about how to speak to creationists on their own terms from this.

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  2. I’m not convinced Robertson’s position is coherent or consistent enough to debate this. He’s had Ray Comfort on his show several times in recent years, and there’s still a Ray Comfort page on the 700 Club website. One explanation is that he’s an old-Earth creationist, but I think he may just be vacillating between positions depending on which way he thinks the wind is blowing.

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  3. There really is no debate to be had; Creationism is fiction, fantasy and laughable. We know how to scientifically measure time, see stars lightyears away, orbit the Earth and have touched down on the Moon. We have deep space probes sending pictures of younger galaxies and stars as well as the dying ones that have been around since the big bang.
    You would think by now we would have discovered some piece of physical evidence which proves the factual existence of anything written in the bible.

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