Rick Phillips has some further good reflections on the Bill Nye - Ken Ham debate here. Phillips recognizes, as does Al Mohler, that debates like this are really not about the science. Ken Ham recognized this and said so in his main argument. Both Creationists/Intelligent Design proponents as well as secular humanists all observe the same data. Darwinists and Creationists may even use the exact same microscope or telescope through which to view the data. The difference in interpretation doesn't come through the microscope lens or the telescope lens. It comes from the fact that they each view all they do through a much more fundamental and ingrained lens, one that is prior to the microscope's eyepiece. That lens is the lens of worldview. The worldview lens is closer even than a contact lens. It never gets taken off at night, the observer never needs to reach for it when they need a closer look, as if it were something they put on and take off like reading glasses. The worldview lens is even closer than the lens of one's naked eye. The worldview lens is a lens that covers both heart and mind and it is something that is so constant and so ingrained that most of the time people are unaware of it unless someone points out the fact of its existence. Even then it is difficult to recognize just how all pervasive this lens is. It truly does affect how you see and understand all things. There is no data point that is not, at least in some way, interpretted through this lens.
The worldview lens of the Creationist is one in which the authority of the Bible, God's Word, his special revelation to humanity, is the ultimate authority. As God and his Word are constant and unchanging, for the Creationist scientific observation must somehow align with what God's Word says. If there appears to be a contradiction between the phenomina we observe and try to interpret in the natural world and the authoritative words of Scripture, then the Creationist assumes that we either misunderstand the scientific data or we misunderstand the words of Scripture or we misunderstand both. Francis Schaeffer taught us this well. We only need to dig deeper in our interpretation of one or the other or both and eventually we will see that the contradiction was only apparent. The Creationist assumes that because both the pages of Scripture and the created universe are products of God's Word, his sovereign spoken words of power, they will harmonize with each other. God spoke both the Bible and the universe into existence (yes, through secondary means, but still through his sovereign spoken word as Creator and Revelator) and so the Creationist presupposes that because God cannot be self contradictory, neither can his special revelation (Scripture) and his general revelation (nature) contradict each other.
The worldview lens that the secular humanist views all reality through is the lens of autonomous human reason. If there is no God, as they assume, then man is the highest authority since man is the most advanced and intelligent of all beings in the world. Man is an authority unto himself. Man is the interpreter of facts and therefore the arbiter of truth (or at least of value and highest preference). When one assumes that God does not exists, there is no area of investigation in the natural realm which is not affected by this foundational belief. One comes to the fantastically complex and incredible universe, which has the fingerprints of an intelligent designer all over it, and dismisses immediately any possibility of a designer or maker. The complexity cannot be a result of an even more complex designer and therefore there must be a different reason for it all. Because to a secularist God is an impossibility, other answers must be found. Thus the changing and shifting theories of beginnings, of origins, each one embraced as concrete fact for a time only to be discarded when some less problematic theory comes along. Theory is traded for theory, each one vigorously defended by all the apologists for secularism, until a new, better, more comprehensive, less leaky theory comes along.
When a Biblical Christian and a secular humanist debate creation vs. evolution, we must recognize that it is not primarily a scientific debate but a religious one. There may be some discussion of scientific data, as there was with Ken Ham and Bill Nye, but all that data was subject and subordinate to the interpretive framework that both men view it through. And that interpretive framework is, at its most fundamental level, a firm belief about the existence of God either one way or another. When a person's most ultimate and controlling and all-pervasive and governing assumption is one about the existence of God, and what one believes about God governs how one views all the rest of reality, we call that religion. And both the creationist and the secularist are, at the most foundational and fundamental level, making a controlling religious assumption. The creationist believes God exists and sees all of nature through that lens. The secularist believes God does not exist and views all nature through that lens. Bill Nye, no less than Ken Ham, is a religiously committed man. It just so happens that his religion has no place for the all-powerful Creator God of the Bible. But that does not make him any less religious than a creationist. Bill Nye was nothing if not an ardent, passionate and faithful adherent to his commanding narrative, that of secular humanistic Darwinism. This narrative he receives from others and accepts on faith since he was not there to see the Big Bang, has never witnessed macro evolution taking place, and has never seen an organism gain complexity and function through natural processes. These beliefs he holds by faith. These are religious beliefs. The atheist secularist would tell you that he doesn't believe in God because he has found no evidence for his existence. But the truth is that the atheist secularist doesn't see any evidence for God because he has chosen not to believe in him.
Al Mohler has a very good summary of last night's evolution vs. creation debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. If you missed the debate, you can still watch it here.
Thankfully, this debate was different from many debates between creationists and evolutionists in that it was polite, well ordered and well mannered, never descending into name calling and mud slinging. Both participants ought to be commended, as should the moderator and audience. The same cannot be said for those who have left comments on the various news sites that reported on the debate, or indeed of some of the reporters themselves, and especially many prominent and outspoken atheists who felt Nye shouldn't besmirch the white robes of modern secularist scientism by condescending to the level of debate with a young earth creationist, thereby lending such a one an air of legitimacy and respectability they do not deserve.
In one very important sense, this debate was very similar to many past debates between creationists and atheistic or humanistic evolutionists in that only one side recognized and admitted that they have prior philosophical and faith commitments through which they judge all scientific evidence. Mohler and Ham recognized what was really at issue in the debate, which is the question, by what standard? By what authority do people believe what they do? Ham recognized and was not shy of the fact that, for Christians and indeed for him in the debate, the revelation of God in Scripture is the ultimate ground of authority for mankind. Bill Nye, on the other hand, while basing his arguments upon human reason, did not recognize that he had a prior philosophical commitment to human reason operating in a godless universe and that this presussposition affects and colours all the observable evidence that he looks at. Nye, along with other atheistic materialists, doesn't recognize that he makes just as big a prior commitment to autonomous human reason as Christians do to divine revelation. He doesn't recognize the fact that, no less than with Scripture for Christians, the presupposition that there is no God (or at least that if there is a God, he/she/it/they is irrelevant to nature and natural processes) is the lens through which the atheist views all things and sets the mental categories in which they process all the scientific facts they observe. This presupposition, this prior philosophical commitment, is every bit as much a faith commitment as the one a Christian makes. The secular humanist atheist cannot disprove the existence of God by their own standards of evidence with any more success than they demand observable proof of God's existence from creationists. It is an unprovable presupposition upon which all their understanding is based and through which all reality is viewed. It is taken on faith, and because of that, it is rarely recognized as such by those who claim to know all they do through the exercise of reason. If you make the firm assumption that there cannot be a God before you ever begin your scientific pursuits (or at least if there is a God, he has no role in the function of natural processes in the past or present), you will undoubtedly view all facts through the lens of your prior firm assumption. If you assume the existence of God as revealed in the Scriptures, you will process all data through that lens. In a very real sense, this was far more a religious debate than it was a "scientific" one. But only one of the debaters realized this.
Something Ham was right to point out was that the modern scientific project owes its very genesis and ongoing existence to the Christian worldview. We can reproduce effects in a laboratory, we can reasonably expect to get the same result when we do the same action under the same conditions, we can predict future events based on our observation of past and present events. Nye enjoyed speaking about the predictability of nature and science. But while he (rightly) appreciates it, he has no way to account for it. All this predictability and repeatability is because the universe was created by a Creator who is the same yesterday, today and forever. In a universe designed and created by an intelligent Creator, we would expect order, laws, logic, reasonableness (something Nye liked also to repeatedly refer to). In a universe which came about through random and accidental processes, most of which Nye admits modern science can only guess at, we should not expect to see any of this. We should especially not expect to see such laws and order permeating every single thing to the most basic and foundational level and yet that is exactly what we find. I wish Ham had pushed his challenge to Nye to answer where information, genetic code, biological "programming" comes from in the absence of a Programmer. Only information begets information; only intelligence begets intelligence. Modern science has never yet observed it to be otherwise. I really wish Ham would have focused more of his efforts on this. This is the big gun of the Intelligent Design school and the thing that atheistic evolutionists have absolutely no way of answering.
I think Mohler could have been a bit tougher on Bill Nye for his repeated straw man scenario. No creationist I am aware of dislikes or shuns technology because of their creationism, yet Nye kept harping on the need for kids to be taught science, to embrace science, to create and invent and to keep the US competitive in the global technology race. There is no creationist that would disagree with the principle of advancing technology (so long as biblical morality keeps up and governs it). But Nye, by repeatedly asserting this, implied that Ham and creationists are opposed to teaching children science, are against technological advance, and would like to see the US stagnate and fall behind the world in their scientific pursuits. PLEASE. That was really a pathetic and very low form of argument, one which Ham answered early on but which Nye insisted til the end to continue to bring up. The fact that Ken Ham was using an Apple computer in a climate controlled building while showing a power point with video clips refuted this silly form of argument, not to mention the examples of young earth scientists who have contributed far more significant inventions to the modern world than the tube in Boeing 747s that Bill Nye engineered.
This debate was between two men who are firm in their worldviews which each of them holds by a faith commitment. One the one hand is worldview of secular humanistic atheism and on the other hand is the worldview of biblical Christianity. Both come to the task of science with prior philosophical commitments, with intellectual commitments they hold by faith. However, only one of them is aware of both his own commitment and that of his opponent. And only one of those worldviews allows for both God's divine revelation of himself and his work in creation as well as logical human reason. The other must of necessity reject divine intervention for the functioning of his system all the while embracing a human reason and logical order which his own system cannot even account for.
A group of United Church of Canada ministers from Ontario have joined Unifor. No, this is not the name of a new gospel-centred ministry within the United Church...the denomination hasn't been gospel centred or Scripture-based for quite some time. Unifor is Canada's largest private sector union, comprised of about 300,000 workers in an amalgamation of the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions. You can read about the details of these United Church ministers joining the union here.
Preaching the gospel and shepherding God's people have not been a priorities for the United Church of Canada for quite some time, at least generally speaking, although I recognize that there are still (probably) a few (fairly) faithful and (largely) orthodox churches still within the denomination (I hope...at least there was 15+ years ago when I was invited to preach in one such church). This new move is indicative of just how far the United Church has fallen. It apparently sees no problem in allying itself with a completely secular labour organization that has a completely different purpose than the church.
When I first heard this story on the radio, one of the retired ministers interviewed complained that for years United Church ministers had no recourse to seek job protection in cases of disciplinary issues or dismissal or to ensure that if their congregations fell apart and their local church closed its doors, they would still have a secure pension. Don't forget the Apostle Paul's instructions to Timothy, after all, to guard the sacred deposit entrusted to him...mind you, he was referring to the gospel and sound biblical doctrine, not his RRSP. One can imagine some minister committing adultery with the secretary, the church board getting wind of this and dismissing the minister, only to hear from the union's heavyweight lawyers the next day. Hey, at GM, Canfor, or Chrysler, you can't fire someone for falling in love with a co-worker and abandoning spouse and kids. If you can't do this on Ford's assembly line, why should you be able to do this to those who lead the assembly of the saints? One man manufactures transmissions, the other transmits spirituality. To Christians for whom the Bible is still authoritative, the problems with this latest move by United Church ministers are manifold and they should be obvious.
The inset quote in the CBC article is dripping with irony. The president of the unionizing ministers, himself a "Rev.", says, "The institutional church wasn't able to do much for us." That about sums up the ethos of the United Church of Canada and the errant message(s) of cultural conformity they have been preaching for many years. When it comes to the mission that Christ gave the church, to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them...and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you...", preaching the gospel of repentance from sin and salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus, calling people to submit to the universal Lordship of Jesus, the eternal Son of God the Father, the United Church of Canada long ago abandoned it. The quote above sounds like it could have been made by people in need of the gospel who, at one time, tried the United Church: "The institutional church wasn't able to do much for us." Indeed, this quote sounds as if it might have been spoken of the United Church by the three persons of the Triune Godhead (something you don't have to believe in to be an ordained minister in the United Church, along with the inspiration of Scripture or the deity of Christ).
Perhaps the saddest part of this article is that the United Church of Canada can't seem to figure out why it is declining so rapidly, shrinking by 20% since 2004, with 50-60 churches closing their doors every year. The the United Church of Canada website claims they are the largest Protestant denomination in Canada according to how people self-identified to Statistics Canada in 2011, but with approximately 479,000 members, and only about 167,000 weekly attendees - and shrinking daily - one wonders if joining a labour union was a strategy for membership growth.
The National Post ran a very telling article about the United Church of Canada's deification of liberal causes over against their abandonment of all things distinctly Christian. In their rush to embrace every new liberal band wagon and societal trend of the increasingly godless culture around it, everything from gender-neutral language in Scripture and worship, egalitarian all-roads-lead-to-light interfaith dialogue, syncretism with every form of new age spirituality, same sex marriage and ordination, embracing abortion, ultra-egalitarianism and extreme feminism, pro-Palestinian advocacy, to "climate justice" and decreasing humanity's carbon footprint, the United Church of Canada has become a champion for every cause but the one that Jesus called the church to in the first place. They no longer identify even a minimum requirement of what someone must believe to be part of the "church", and so they have really become no true church at all. To be ordained a minister in the United Church of Canada, you don't even have to believe that God actually exists. Some of their ministers self identify as atheists or "post-theists" (clearly a much trendier way of saying you don't believe in God). So, if there need be no God of the church, then this is no longer the church of God. Of course, one only has to read the above National Post article to see that there are many individuals within the United Church that still hold to enough remnants Christian orthodoxy to be outraged at some of the more overtly liberal and non-gospel related shenanigans within the church (here's another example if you need more). One wonders why there are still so many such folks within the denomination.
In their passion to be universally relevant, the United Church has long ago made themselves irrelevant for those who need the gospel of the cross of Christ, which is everyone. Indeed, they no longer know what the cross of Christ even means. The ironic thing is, many people to whom the United Church is trying to appeal recognize it's attempts at universal relevance as the very factor that makes them irrelevant. How are they any different from any number of other advocacy organizations, except perhaps some candles and a stained glass window or two? The United Church has exchanged the glory of the immortal God and the eternal truth of the gospel for the fleeting pleasures of an ever-evolving-cultural-relevance-flavour of the day. As C.S. Lewis once said, "Whatever is not eternal is eternally irrelevant." He wasn't speaking of the United Church of Canada, but he sure could have been.
Fifty years ago today, C.S. (Jack) Lewis died. That same day President John F. (Jack) Kennedy was assassinated. Aldous Huxley died on that day as well. All three men left a legacy and have had an enduring influence but it is open for debate as to which one has had more impact since their deaths or who will have more impact on succeeding generations. I'd argue that thus far it is Lewis who has had the biggest influence and that this will increasingly be the case. Of course I think the history books will continue to give most attention to JFK - he was a very popular president and the leader of the free world during a goodish chunk of the Cold War, and he did preside over a period of particular cultural and societal upheaval and unparalleled technological innovation. But when I talk about who will have the most enduring legacy, I am not referring to how much ink each man will get in history text books. Huxley too was a very influential person whose thought extended very far beyond the book for which he is most well known today (A Brave New World). His skill as a writer and critical thinker ensure he will not soon be forgotten. If reckoning only by total word count in history texts, I am quite certain Lewis will continue to come in a distant third. But I am not primarily defining ongoing influence and impact by the total tonnage of material written by professional historians and biographers or doctoral students.
If examined in terms of present-day and future impact, I believe that Kennedy and Huxley will decrease whereas Lewis's influence will continue to grow. I believe this to be the case for many reasons, chief among which is the fact that Lewis wrote on Jesus Christ and the Christian faith, subjects of eternal relevance. But another main reason I believe in Jack Lewis's ongoing influence in the world is because he wrote some of the best, most endearing and most enduring children's books ever written: The Chronicles of Narnia. Kennedy shaped much of the political world which followed his time at the helm. Huxley of course continues to be an important voice in societal and political philosophy and cultural criticism. But Lewis wrote stories which have repeatedly helped shape the souls of the children who read them, most of whom grow up to read these same stories to their children. As children read these stories, they are brought into a greater understanding of the nature of God, themselves, creation, sin, the cross and resurrection, courage, justice, grace and mercy. Kennedy and Huxley may continue to influence the thoughts people think in their heads, but Lewis will go on nurturing fat souls, joyful hearts and budding imaginations. And these are the things which shape people, and the their futures, most.
Jonathan Parnell over at Desiring God has some great thoughts on being the kind of father to our children that God the Father is to us, especially when they are the kind of children that we often are to our heavenly Father. You can read those thoughts here.