Compromised Christians?

| By Douglas Swartzendruber

Though I support the mission and projects of the BioLogos Foundation, I decided to watch Ken Ham's State of the Nation 2 address to hear his concerns about the project. I learned about Mr. Ham’s grave concerns for this nation. I was surprised to hear that Ham directly attributes many of our country's woes—from abortion to pornography to gay marriage to evolution curriculum to euthanasia to President Obama’s policies— to a failure to uphold a literal reading of Genesis.

In his State of the Nation, Ham suggested that BioLogos’ founder, its personnel and its supporters are among a large number of “compromised” Christians—who are compromised because they interpret Genesis differently than Mr. Ham.

He also noted that BioLogos President Darrel Falk and Vice President Karl Giberson are compromised Nazarenes who are participants in the destruction of the church.

Further, I learned that BioLogos-types who accept evolutionary science are part of a plan by atheists such as Eugenie Scott of using compromised Christians to advance secular humanism, evolution and Darwinism as the new national religion, expunging Christianity from what had previously been a Christian nation founded on the Word of God.

I certainly learned a lot of new things. But probably most of all, I was sad.

Here is a man of considerable influence, lecturing to an adoring crowd, presenting an hour of untruths, half-truths, and faulty reasoning mixed in with enough truth to give the impression of veracity and authority.

Beginning with the myth of the United States being established as a Christian nation through his foundational claim that if you do not read the Hebrew Scriptures as he does, you will be unable to properly read the Gospel, Mr. Ham weaves an engaging but flawed message.

Although Mr. Ham has stated that all of our society’s problems are the result of sin, it seems quite apparent that he believes evolutionary science is a prime mover in leading people into sin. Further, he cautions that if one cannot believe Genesis 1, one might not believe anything in the Bible. While there are certainly answers in Genesis, they are not necessarily those found through Ham’s organization Answers in Genesis.

The error of Mr. Ham’s approach to interpreting Genesis was presented in great detail 1600 years ago by Augustine. Many current writers expand upon Augustine’s thoughts and likewise critique the so-called literal interpretation of Scripture.

My friend and colleague Richard Hughes, author of Christian America and the Kingdom of God and Myths America Lives By notes that:

millions of conservative Christians in the United States read the Bible through a variety of American perspectives that are utterly foreign to the biblical text. And they read the Bible in this way because they so often identify the kingdom of God with the United States of America. Based on that conviction, many confuse the principles of the Bible with the principles of the Constitution, biblical morality with capitalism, defense of the Christian religion with militarism, and fidelity to the kingdom of God with patriotism.

Similarly, in his review of Harvey Cox’s book, The Future of Faith, César Baldelomar states:

Cox argues that fundamentalists are biblically irresponsible. He discusses how believing in a literal interpretation of the Bible became “a kind of litmus test of whether one was a ‘real Christian.’” But which Bible do fundamentalists believe in? And how do they interpret the Bible they believe in? These questions prompt Cox to take us on a journey through the three worlds of biblical interpretation to reveal the several contradictions inherent in the scriptures. Rather than dismiss these contradictions, literal biblical readers should acknowledge them and engage the world behind the text, of the text, and in front of the text. Moreover, learning Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and Latin can help the biblical reader overcome meanings that are lost in translation.

It is interesting that Ken Ham and Richard Dawkins are delivering the same message from disparate perspectives – one must choose between having Christian faith and accepting evolution. You must be either anti-evolution or anti-religion. Christians who accept evolution are “compromised” and atheist/agnostic evolutionists who are not anti-faith are “accomodationists.”

I believe that BioLogos and like-minded folks are following a third way, one that I would describe as that of discerning Christians who believe that knowledge and understanding of the natural world should not be a threat to faith. They need not be mutually exclusive.

Although Mr. Ham would consider me a compromised Christian, [along with Augustine, the BioLogos folks, Hughes, Cox and many others], I do not accept his criteria for being a real Christian. I do not doubt his sincerity, but I do believe that his time, energy, passion and resources are misguided.

Rather than hinging an understanding of the life and teachings of Jesus on Genesis 1, I look to Matthew 25:31 and following, which I believe is the only time Jesus talked about how we would be judged - “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”


About the Author

Douglas Swartzendruber

Douglas Swartzendruber retired from full time university work in August after having served at Pepperdine University as a professor of biology and associate dean of the undergraduate college and at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs as a professor of biology, chairman of the biology department, and interim dean of letters, arts and sciences. Swartzendruber is now heading up the BioLogos curriculum project for Christian schools.