I follow conservative, progressive, and liberal blogs and twitter feeds, believing that reading broadly rather than narrowly gives me the best opportunity to encounter the truth.
So, for the last three weeks or so, after the Ken Ham v. Bill Nye debate, I've been reading summaries of this event that come from very different perspectives. One concludes that "even though I don't agree with Ken Ham's timeline, at least he stands for truth!" Another says that Bill Nye, "exposed the poverty of the creationist perspective as anti-science." Still others think the event was simply a publicity stunt and a coup for Ken Ham because he got to play the role of the silenced minority and thus raise a lot of money.
My response has been to agree with a bit of all of these perspectives. I know, I know, that's the easy way out, but as I consider: the beauty and complexity of the first few chapters of Genesis, the challenges posed to some traditional interpretations of Genesis by broad scientific consensus, the way in which special revelation is meant to interact with general revelation, and as a pastor who wants to teach his people to read and live the Bible well - no sound-bite summary of this debate seems to be adequate.
Ken Ham wants to afford the Bible a special, preeminent place in the life of the church, and that is to be applauded. But, he employs interpretive decisions that are suspect and end up making Bible-believing Christians look like obscurantists who are bound and determined to believe their interpretation of the truth no matter what the facts say.
Bill Nye on the other hand wants to educate us, primarily he wants to educate us obscurantist Christians about what science really teaches. As the argument goes, if we'll reckon with the scientific consensus then we'll have to jettison these faith claims about how God created the world.
But, as our media outlets generally do for us, presenting these two options as the only viable perspectives saves us the trouble of complex thinking - either we can believe that science or the Bible is providing us with the facts and there is no third way.
But you see, scientific practitioners don't do their work in a vacuum where faith is a meaningless abstraction. Nor do the best biblical interpreters cordon off their pursuits from the insights of science. The scientific method is it's own faith commitment and the Bible as special revelation is best read in light of general revelation - of what is discovered as truth outside the Bible.
This should caution scientists from just assuming that their discoveries are THE TRUTH, while at the same time coloring our biblical insights with humility because the Bible doesn't drop down from the sky as THE TRUTH but must be interpreted in light of historical context, the subjectivity of the reader, and inquiry into general revelation.
In a proper quest for truth, neither should get to dismiss the other.
A lack of awareness for our a priori commitments makes us less trustworthy scientists and a lack of appreciation for the insights of our brothers and sisters doing scientific inquiry makes us less nuanced and accurate Bible readers.
So, getting back to the debate, Ken Ham appears to live within a worldview that says, "no matter how air-tight, how peer-reviewed, how broad the scientific consensus is, if it threatens our present interpretation of the Bible, it must be rejected." And, he raises lots of money with this argument because the adherents of this view feel persecuted and that's a powerful incentive to give money.
But, Bill Nye has chosen to debate the "low hanging fruit" in coming to the Creation Museum. He's debating a Christian perspective that few Christians treat seriously as if it represents the whole. He's yet to grapple with people like Alister McGrath, John Polkinghorne, Francis Collins, or Jennifer Wiseman...just to name a few of the serious scientists who profess Christianity.
So, I guess what bugs me is framing this debate as the Bible v. Science, as well as the fact that many "Bible-believing" Christians love to frame the debate this way. There's a lot of fundraising power in pitting the Bible v. Science but that's not actually very biblical way to look at the world.