Deborah Haarsma
 on October 13, 2014

Ken Ham, We Need a Better Conversation (Perhaps Over Dinner?)

BioLogos president Deb Haarsma responds to Ken Ham’s recent comments about Hugh Ross, and pleads for a more gracious conversation between Christians on issues of faith and science.


While BioLogos specifically promotes evolutionary creation, we are passionate about creating and modeling gracious dialogue with all sincere, Bible-believing Christians from all perspectives on faith and science. We count as friends many Christians on all sides of the origins, and we publish this response in the hopes that it will lead to greater unity. Even though we and Ken Ham frequently disagree, we are bound by shared commitments and we hope that these common bonds can always stay at the forefront of our conversation.

I was troubled to read the recent blog post by Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, about Hugh Ross, president of Reasons to Believe. I have known Hugh for years as a fellow astronomer and a fellow Christian. BioLogos has been in dialogue with Hugh Ross and other leaders at Reasons to Believe, including a public conversation he and I had last February.

To be clear, the views of BioLogos differ from those of Reasons to Believe. The two organizations do not agree on the interpretation of Bible passages; BioLogos typically discusses them in terms of the original non-scientific audience rather than a day-age concordism. However, both groups strongly agree that the entire Bible is inspired by God and is his authoritative word for our lives. The groups also do not agree about the best understanding of the evidence in God’s creation about the development of life—at BioLogos we present multiple lines of evidence for the common ancestry of all species, i.e. that God used natural processes to bring about life rather than a string of separate miracles. However, both groups accept the abundant evidence in God’s creation that the history of the universe and of life is far longer than 6,000 years, and have explained this on their websites. Yes, this long time scale raises questions about death and suffering (which both groups address) but Ham’s summary does not reflect the important distinction between animal death and human death. Neither group would say that evil is God’s fault!

What troubled me most, however, is the way this article attacks the character and integrity of Hugh Ross. Anyone who has met Hugh or heard him speak knows that he is a devoted and humble follower of Christ. Hugh is not “enamored with whatever else evolutionary secular scientists have to say.” He is committed to seeking the truths God has revealed in the Bible and the truths God has revealed in his Creation. Hugh is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met and his PhD in astronomy is well-earned. He is also one of the most humble people I have ever met. To say he “love[s] the praise of men more than the praise of God” is completely unwarranted.

All three organizations love the Bible and strive to follow Christ. While we disagree significantly on how best to interpret the Bible and the scientific evidence, we would agree that these are secondary issues to the gospel. We are all still believers together. Can we refrain from so quickly calling each other “compromised Christians” or flat-out “wrong”? Instead, we could work together to explain our differing positions to the church. BioLogos has begun joint presentations in churches with Reasons to Believe, and have found that Christians are thirsty for this kind of gracious and thoughtful conversation.

All three organizations are also concerned about the departure of young people from the church over origins issues. Each tends to think that the positions of the others are contributing to the problem! But studies have shown that it is the acrimony over this issue that drives young people away. We respect the commitment that Reasons to Believe has demonstrated to gracious dialogue with those of other positions. We completely agree with Hugh Ross that “If we Christians can resolve this issue in a peaceful way it’s going to attract non-Christians to enter into dialogue with us. But if we continue to fight…it turns them off.” Perhaps Ken Ham could join Hugh Ross and me for a friendly conversation over dinner? My treat.

About the author

Deb Haarsma

Deborah Haarsma

Deborah Haarsma is President of BioLogos. She is an astronomer and frequent speaker on modern science and Christian faith at research universities, churches, and public venues like the National Press Club. Her work appears in several recent books, including Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Design and Christ and the Created Order.  She wrote the book Origins with her husband and fellow physicist, Loren Haarsma, presenting the agreements and disagreements among Christians regarding the history of life and the universe.  She edited the anthology Delight in Creation: Scientists Share Their Work with the Church with Rev. Scott Hoezee. Previously, Haarsma served as professor and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin University. She is an experienced research scientist, with several publications in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal on extragalactic astronomy and cosmology. She has studied large galaxies, galaxy clusters, the curvature of space, and the expansion of the universe using telescopes around the world and in orbit.  Haarsma completed her doctoral work in astrophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her undergraduate work in physics and music at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. She and Loren enjoy science fiction and classical music, and live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.