Last week, I spent two days touring the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter in Northern Kentucky. These are two Christian creationist theme parks designed and managed by Answers in Genesis (AiG), which promotes the young-earth creationism of Ken Ham, who argues that Genesis 1-11 clearly teaches that the universe was created in 4004 BC over six twenty-four-hour days, and that there was a Global Flood in 2348 BC that is responsible for most of the geological record that we see today.
This denies the modern evolutionary teaching that the universe is billions of years old. This also denies three other Christian views of creation. The old-earth creationists interpret Genesis as allowing for the universe to be billions of years old, so that God's creative miracles occurred over a long period of time. The evolutionary creationists interpret Genesis as allowing for God having originally created the laws of nature billions of years ago, so that God's creative plan could then unfold from the beginning through the natural process of evolution as understood by evolutionary science. Finally, the Christian proponents of intelligent-design theory argue that a purely natural science can prove the existence of an Intelligent Designer without any appeal to the Biblical story of creation, although identifying this Intelligent Designer as the God of the Bible is a matter of personal faith rather than scientific demonstration.
That the Bible provides no clear teaching about the history of creation on which Christians can agree suggests to me the failure of Biblical Revelation to resolve this disagreement among Christians in the creation/evolution debate. So, when I visited the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter, I studied the exhibits to see if they could change my mind by revealing the Bible's clear teaching of young-earth creationism. I had already studied the four AiG books that present most of the exhibits: Journey Through the Creation Museum (2018), Creation Museum Signs (2021), Journey Through the Ark Encounter (2017), and Ark Signs That Teach a Flood of Answers (2017).
Ham's rhetorical arguments conveyed through these exhibits--and also through his writings--did not persuade me that he has found the Bible's clear teaching of creation history. This confirmed my original thought that the disagreement about creation and evolution among Christians shows the failure of Biblical Revelation to resolve this issue.
I know of two serious efforts of Christian creationists to find a Biblical settlement of their disagreements. I will begin by showing how they failed. Then, I will show how Ham also has failed to do this in these two creationist theme parks.
If I am right about this, then one explanation for it would be that the Bible is not a Divine Revelation of God's truth at all. But another explanation would be that the purpose of Biblical Revelation is to reveal the truths necessary for salvation, about which most Christians can agree, and that deciding whether Genesis 1-11 is literal history or figurative storytelling is unnecessary for salvation, and therefore Christians can disagree about that while agreeing about their salvation.
There is another problem with the Revelation of what is required for salvation, however. The Hebrew Bible is accepted as God's Revelation by four major religions: Judaism, Islam, Catholic Christianity, and Protestant Christianity. Obviously, they don't agree about what this Revelation teaches about salvation, which again suggests the failure of Revelation.
FOUR EVANGELICAL PROTESTANTS SEARCHING FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
Six years ago, I wrote a post on a book edited by J. B. Stump--Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (Zondervan, 2017). Four positions in the creation/evolution debate were represented by four leading proponents: Young Earth Creationism (Ken Ham), Old Earth Creationism (Hugh Ross), Evolutionary Creation (Deborah Haarsma), and Intelligent Design (Stephen Meyer). This was the first time that these four people had engaged one another directly. Each of the four wrote a chapter, followed by responses from the other three, and then a rejoinder by the chapter's author.
In John 17, in the Garden of Gethsemane just before his arrest, Jesus prayed to God that all believers would be as one, that they would come to complete unity, "so that the world may believe that you have sent me." It seems that Christians give witness to the truth of Revelation by showing their agreement about that Revelation. In Stump's Introduction to Four Views, he said that a primary purpose of this book was to pursue unity in what Revelation teaches about origins (16). But in his Conclusion to the book, he lamented that this had not been achieved: "I doubt that readers will come away from this book with the feeling that we are any closer to the goal of Christian unity on the topic of origins" (232).
"We are stuck in a messy place. I once asked our two scientists if they saw each other as friends or enemies. I was confident, after all of our time together, that they would agree that they were friends. Todd disappointed me when he answered, 'Not just enemies. Mortal enemies.' I looked pleadingly to gentle Darrel for the correction Todd needed. He failed me too: 'Yes, Todd's right.'" (FH, 163-64)
"In one meeting, Todd expressed his frustration at the deadlock. He had come to know that Darrel is a Christian, but then he said that this 'makes it a thousand times more awkward, because I wonder why the God who convicts me for my position isn't convicting him. I don't know how to answer that question. So it leaves me uneasy.' Darrel answered, 'Like you, I puzzle a little bit: Why doesn't God sort things out for you and reveal truth to you in the way it seems he reveals it to me?'" (FH, 189-90)
Well, yes, that's the point, I would say: The Holy Spirit has failed to convey the teaching of Biblical Revelation to Christians like Wood and Falk, even though they have made the most faithful effort to open themselves to that Revelation.
Or should we consider the possibility that while people like Wood and Falk have failed to accept the clear meaning of Biblical Revelation about origins in Genesis, Ken Ham has succeeded in uncovering the true meaning of Genesis?
Remarkably, even though Ham and Wood both identify themselves as young-earth creationists, Ham has criticized Wood for teaching "young-earth evolution," because Wood has conceded too much to evolutionary science by saying: "There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it."
Whether Ham presents the correct reading of the Biblical Revelation about origins at the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter will be the question for my next post.