Randall Stephens and Karl Giberson have written a book, The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age, which I haven’t read…but the NY Times has what appears to be a very balanced review. It’s premise is that evangelical Christianity has gone far astray, that within the evangelical stew there is a strong strain of anti-intellectualism and contempt for academia…it is not surprising that Uncle Karl would make note of that, given the way his own views were steadily squeezed out of BioLogos, the site he co-founded, as more literal-minded views took hold.
The reviewer makes the point, though, that evangelicals’ attitudes towards academia are more complicated than the authors make out: that in particular, there is a tendency for many Christians to make an exceptionally big deal out of degrees. Kent Hovind went to a fake college to get his Ph.D.; Jonathan Wells stumbled through a real graduate program to get a degree; Marcus Ross got his Ph.D. in Cretaceous paleontology so he’d have more credibility in his claims that the earth is less than ten thousand years old. I don’t think that really sinks Stephens’ and Giberson’s point, though — evangelical Christians love the mantle of authority that a Ph.D. gives, but despise the substance of it. A person with a doctorate is only revered as long as they reinforce their superstitious prejudices.
But I don’t find all this serious discussion of the book that interesting. What made me laugh was that both the book and the review have infuriated Ken Ham, one of the chief targets of the argument against these evangelical know-nothings. Oh, Ken Ham is spitting mad.
Recently, two AiG staff members reviewed a book entitled The Anointed, co-authored by a writer who is well known for compromising the pagan religion of millions of years and evolution with God’s infallible Word.
If you follow the creationist movement at all, one of the clear messages is that atheists like me might be the imps of Satan, but we’re mostly irrelevant to their concerns. We offer no serious temptations to Real Christians™. No, the real dangers are those heretics who still promise all of the good rewards of Christianity — eternal life, paradise, good buddy Jesus, that sort of thing — yet do so without demanding the rigors and trials of pure Biblical literalism and fundamentalism. They offer an easy route out of their specific sect, and the fear is that they will substantially erode the faithful away.
So Answers in Genesis will take an occasional contemptuous swipe at godless heathens like me, or even Richard Dawkins, but the real enemies and the real targets of their hatred are people like Ken Miller and Karl Giberson. Compromisers. People who try to find a place for Jesus in evolution are especially wicked.
They also cannot comprehend atheism in the slightest, which is why we’ve been relegated to the status of “pagan religion”. Everything is a religion, from church service to lifestyle to beliefs, so everything is dealt with in a great grand act of projection.
Here’s how Answers in Genesis sees the world:
In our modern church today, there are many leaders who have compromised with the pagan religion of the day (i.e., evolution and millions of years—indeed, this really is today’s pagan religion to explain life without God). Sadly, many Christian leaders have been teaching generations in the church to accept this secular worldview and re-write God’s Word (particularly in Genesis) to fit with it.
Yes, as harsh as it might sound, today there are shepherds in the church who are also “wolves”—they have infiltrated the church with their destructive teaching. Now, I am not saying these wolves are not Christians—I suppose the term can fit Christians as well as non-Christians.
One such example is seen clearly in the writings of Dr. Karl Giberson. Until recently, he was a physics professor at Eastern Nazarene College in Massachusetts—probably leading many students astray about the Bible’s authority with his compromised teaching.
Gosh, I’m a little bit jealous — I wish Ken Ham saw me as just as dangerous as Karl Giberson. All I’d have to do is convert to liberal Christianity and start attending church regularly and…ack. No. Not going to happen, too high a price to pay.
Ken Ham and Georgia Purdom also ripped through the book and found errors. These are real errors and represent genuine problems in the scholarship behind Stephens’ and Giberson’s book (if Bill O’Reilly can get slammed for errors in details, then Karl Giberson should, too), but it’s amazing how petty the problems are.
This is a book that attempts to be a scholarly look at “unscholarly” Christian leaders of prominence in America. It is, after all, published by the prestigious Harvard Press. Yet we were surprised to find several mistakes in the introduction and first chapter alone—plus a generally snide tone that is unbecoming of a scholarly work. For example, the authors gave the wrong month for our Creation Museum’s opening (p. 11); they mistakenly claimed that Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, is a young-earth creationist (p. 19); the year given for the first “Back to Genesis” seminar is incorrect (p. 41); and the name of our daily radio program is incorrect (p. 11).
The biggest mistake there is the attribution of young earth creationism to Dobson, although to be fair, Dobson has been a murky wad of BS on the issue, and seems to me to be willing to take whatever objection to science is currently expedient and babble ignorantly about it. He does promote Hugh Ross, the old earth creationist, which indicates that if nothing else he lacks the ideological purity expected by AiG.
And the bottom line is that Ham cannot refute the major thrust of the Stephens/Giberson argument: the evangelical Christian attitude towards science is epitomized by their lionization of unlettered wacky yahoos like Ken Ham, Kent Hovind, and Eric Hovind, and that they’re willing to learn from people with Ph.D.s, like Philip Johnson for instance, only as far as they give them rationalizations for their dogma. This is what the NY Times says about that central issue, and Ham can’t dispute it.
Many evangelicals, Randall J. Stephens and Karl W. Giberson say, get their information on dinosaurs and fossils from Ken Ham, an Australian with a bachelor’s degree from the Queensland Institute of Technology. Ham believes human reason should confirm the Bible rather than reinterpret it, and teaches that God created the world a few thousand years ago. His ministry, “Answers in Genesis,” includes a radio program broadcast over more than 1,000 stations, a magazine with a circulation of 70,000 and the multimillion-dollar Creation Museum in Kentucky. While other evangelicals — for example Francis Collins, the born-again Christian who runs the National Institutes of Health — offer more nuanced perspectives on science’s relationship to the Bible, Ham commands a far larger audience.
It’s entirely true that Answers in Genesis is the most popular creationist organization in the US (he won’t argue with that), and it’s also entirely true that he’s an ignoramus with minimal education in biology. Not mentioned is that, without concern for what letters he has or doesn’t have after his name, he gets all the science wrong, misrepresents the evidence, and willingly confesses that he’s irredeemably shackled to a book of dogma. Yet his is the voice evangelical Christians choose to listen to. And if they don’t like him, they turn to Eric Hovind, another moron for Jesus, or his jailbird daddy, Kent Hovind.
To be fair, they’re stuck in a hard place. I disagree that Collins is more nuanced — he’s just as loony on Christianity as Ken Ham — but that’s the Christian problem. Ultimately, all of the paladins of faith are forced to defend Christianity, which is antique ooga-booga bullshit on toast. When all of your choices are eye-buggingly batty, you can’t use reason to decide among them any more.