Editorial | Our Church Order, Psalms, and Hymns
Strength of Youth| "To Teach Them to War": Warfare—A Clear Scriptural Imperative (2)
All Around Us | The Movie: Son of God
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Visit the Standard Bearer Archives to view past issues.
Meditation | Acknowledged To Be Blessed of Jehovah
Editorial | Synod 2014: The PRC Working Together
Letters | Ken Ham Debate
A Word Fitly Spoken | Amen
Highlights of Synod 2014 Photos
Taking Heed to the Doctrine | Revelation, Inspiration, and Infallibility (9)
Go Ye into All the World | The Effect of “The Declaration” on Missions in This Global City
When Thou Sittest in Thine House | A Mother’s Song Exalting Humility
Reports | Classis East Report
Written as a response to Dr. Richard J. Mouw's apology for common grace, He Shines in All That's Fair: Culture and Common Grace, this book examines the theory of common grace in the light of Scripture and the Reformed confessions, challenges its claim to be part of the body of Reformed truth, and proposes an alternative to common grace.
In the light of profound insights of Augustine, following the lead of certain theologians in the Reformed tradition, and on the basis of the Holy Scripture, this book conceives the life of God in himself as fundamentally family fellowship. The fellowship of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit determines the nature of God’s works in the creating and redeeming humanity. The reader of this book will grow in the understanding of God’s covenant fellowship with his people.
It is the season of Synods and General Assemblies. With this post I call attention to the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America and the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. I write about the assemblies of these two denominations in one post because they not only held their assemblies at the same time in the same city (Pella, Iowa) but also because they met together in a joint-session.
At the joint-session the representatives adopted this resolution: “the principle that guides us, and the intention that motivates us, is to ‘act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel [us] to act separately.’” This resolution was adopted after another important and revealing statement was read at the joint session that explained how much the two denominations are already acting together: “Affirming our relationship of full communion, the exchangeability of ministers of the Word and sacraments between our congregations, and examples of new congregations belonging jointly to both our denominations.” Although the two denominations have not merged yet, they are clearly moving on a path that will likely end with a merger.
This is a movement of great historical significance. The split between the RCA and the CRC was necessary when it occurred in 1857. The issues that divided the two denominations were vitally important. Those who started the CRC rightly found it intolerable that the RCA approved of lodge membership, practiced open communion, and contradicted the Church Order by neglecting the practices of family visitation and regular preaching on the Heidelberg Catechism and by introducing hymns that were not approved by the Church Order. There were some other serious issues that divided the two denominations at the time of the split, but these are sufficient to demonstrate that the church fathers who started the CRC had solid grounds for leaving the RCA.
It is important to understand why the CRC split from the RCA because these reasons are not being discussed in 2014 as the two denominations draw closer to each other. The adopted resolution speaks of “deep differences.” But what are these deep differences? I don’t recall them being mentioned during the joint session that lasted over two hours. Some petty differences were mentioned, such as when a Korean participant explained that he thought the division was mainly due to infighting between Dutch people. If the other delegates disagreed with this analysis they did not voice it, but it was evident that a good number of them found this analysis amusing.
If the split was over trivial matters (such as infighting between stubborn Dutchmen) then it was sinful, which is how the split was characterized during the joint session. Dr. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, representing the RCA, favorably used a quote from Pope Francis (!) to characterize the division between the two denominations as from the devil. In their comments many of the delegates indicated they agreed the division was unfortunate and sinful.
But the division was NOT sinful, at least not on the part of the CRC in 1857. The CRC of 1857 is to be commended for breaking away from an apostatizing church to begin a soundly Reformed denomination.
The movement of the CRC of 2014 to seek unity with the RCA indicates that it has fallen into the errors of the RCA. The deep differences that divided the CRC and RCA in 1857 don’t exist anymore because the CRC has fallen into the same errors as the RCA. The CRC approves of lodge membership, tolerates the practice of open communion, and neglects regular Heidelberg Catechism Preaching and the practice of family visitation.
If the CRC and RCA were seeking to join together on the basis of the Reformed Confessions, and if their joining together indicated a firm conviction of the truths of the Confessions, it would be worth celebrating. But the closer unity between the RCA and CRC in 2014 is the act of two denominations joining hands as they slide down together into further apostasy.
That the RCA has fallen more deeply into error since 1857 is the reason one of its conservative congregations is seeking to leave the denomination. That congregation is the University Reformed Church, located in Lansing, Michigan and pastored by Rev. Kevin De Young. The congregation voted 282-9 to leave the RCA and join the Presbyterian Church in America. Rev. De Young reports that the congregation still belongs to the RCA and the process of leaving could take 6-8 months. The full explanation for why the congregation wants to leave the denomination is not available. But Rev. De Young provides a brief explanation: “From the adoption of the Belhar Confession, to the removal of the conscience clauses related to women’s ordination, to the growing acceptance of homosexual practice in the denomination, we believe the RCA has changed significantly in the last several years. The denomination has moved away from churches like ours. Our request is that we may be able to move too.”
That the CRC is willing to join hands with the RCA indicates then that it has not only fallen into the errors it repudiated in 1857, but it has also walked almost in lockstep with the RCA in adopting or tolerating its more recent errors. Thus, there is unity between the RCA and the CRC. But it is not unity in the historic doctrines and practices of the Protestant Reformation, which means it is not unity in the truth of Scripture, which means it is not true unity in Christ Jesus.
by: Rev. Martyn McGeown
(published in the British Reformed Journal)
Recently, brethren have brought to my attention Phillip R. Johnson’s “A Primer on Hyper-Calvinism.”1 They were offended that he called the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) hyper-Calvinists: “The best known American hyper-Calvinists are the Protestant Reformed Churches.” My initial reaction was to ignore such accusations—I prefer to answer exegetical arguments, and Johnson’s “Primer” does not offer any such arguments. I imagine he does do exegesis, just not in this article. Exegesis is much more than listing texts. Exegesis requires that one dig out of the text its meaning and demonstrate that the text proves what one claims. However, since Johnson is influential, and since he directly attacks the PRC, and since younger, inexperienced brethren may not know how to answer him, I offer this response in a series of editorials.
One paragraph of Johnson’s “Primer” which particularly grieved me was his dismissal of Prof. Engelsma’s book, Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel:
The most articulate advocate of the PRC position is David Engelsma, whose book Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel is an interesting but in my view terribly misleading study of the question of whether PRC theology properly qualifies as hyper-Calvinism. Engelsma does some selective quoting and interpretive gymnastics in order to argue that his view is mainstream Reformed theology. But a careful reading of his sources shows that he often quotes out of context, or ends a quote just before a qualifying statement that would totally negate the point he thinks he has made. Still, for those interested in these issues, I recommend his book, with a caution to read it very critically and with careful discernment.
Johnson makes serious charges against Engelsma. However, he makes no attempt to substantiate his allegation of “selective quoting.” With this in mind, I recently re-read Engelsma’s book. I carefully read all the sources in context, and I e-mailed Johnson to furnish me with some examples of his allegation. Thus far, Johnson—a busy man, no doubt—has not responded. Johnson also fails to mention that John Gerstner, who wrote the Foreword to Engelsma’s book, went on record that Engelsma “carefully defines and convincingly avoids ‘hyper-Calvinism’ himself and clears his denomination, the Protestant Reformed Churches, of so teaching.”2
One might wonder, Who is this Phil Johnson, and what qualifies him to write “A Primer on Hyper-Calvinism”? According to his online biography, Johnson is executive director of Grace To You, the ministry of John MacArthur, a Calvinistic, Baptist, dispensationalist. One assumes that Johnson is either wholly, or almost, in agreement with MacArthur. If this is true, we have a Baptist dispensationalist writing a primer on hyper-Calvinism!3 Johnson identifies himself thus: “a five-point Calvinist, affirming without reservation the Canons of the Synod of Dordt.” Since he, the BRF and the PRC affirm the Canons—and PRC office-bearers (although probably not Johnson) are bound to them by the “Formula of Subscription”—we should find some common ground.
Before Johnson gives his own definition of hyper-Calvinism—a five-point definition, which, if true, would make the PRC and BRF three-point hyper- Calvinists—he quotes a dictionary. Apparently, whoever writes the theological dictionaries rules the theological landscape! However, theological dictionaries do not determine theology. The creeds do! They—not theological dictionaries—were officially adopted by the church. The article is by the Anglican Peter Toon in the New Dictionary of Theology.4 The main features of its definition of hyper-Calvinism are (1) an overemphasis on God’s sovereignty with a minimizing of the moral and spiritual responsibility of sinners, (2) an undermining of the universal duty of sinners to believe in the Lord Jesus and (3) the denial of the word “offer” with respect to the preaching of the gospel. This definition is too broad—it includes real hyper-Calvinism (a denial of duty faith) but it muddies the waters by including some theological positions which are not definitive of hyper-Calvinism (avoidance of the word “offer,” an “overemphasis” on God’s sovereignty, etc.).5 Moreover, Johnson defines “offer” as “the sincere proposal of divine mercy to sinners in general.”
Another aspect of hyper-Calvinism, which Johnson rejects, and of which the PRC and BRF are certainly not guilty, is a morbid introspection in the search to know one’s election. The PRC, and especially Engelsma himself, have been very critical of that error. We encourage and enjoy a healthy assurance of salvation (see Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Days 1, 7; Canons I:12-13, 16; R:7; III/IV:13; V:9-13; R:5-6). Hyper-Calvinist churches and denominations “tend to become either barren and inert, or militant and elitist,” adds Johnson—a charge Arminians have made against Reformed churches for centuries, and a charge of which the PRC, by the grace of God, is innocent. By God’s covenant faithfulness, the PRC are lively and vibrant, lovers of the truth, faithful and generous. Godly homes and marriages with large families, a solid seminary, good Christian schools and zealous mission work testify to this. Calvinism for the PRC and the BRF is not “cold, lifeless dogma,” but truth which lives in our hearts and which is our unspeakable consolation in life and in death (Westminster Confession 3:8; Belgic Confession 13). Thus we abhor Arminianism and hyper-Calvinism (as well as other heresies repugnant to the truth as summarized in the Reformed confessions).
Johnson then proceeds to a brief analysis of “common but not quite precise definitions” of hyper-Calvinism—a denial that God uses the means of preaching, fatalism, supralapsarianism and double predestination. Johnson is correct that not all supralapsarians or double-predestinarians are hyper-Calvinists. Indeed, we add that those who deny reprobation are not true Calvinists, but are hypo-Calvinists who fall short of Calvinism (Canons I:15, 18; R:8).
“Some critics,” adds Johnson, “unthinkingly slap the label ‘hyper’ on any variety of Calvinism that is higher than the view they hold to.” This approach, Johnson warns, “lacks integrity and only serves to confuse people.” Did Johnson examine himself before he wrote those words, and before he called the PRC the “best known American hyper-Calvinists”?
Johnson’s proposed definition of hyper-Calvinism has five parts:
A hyper-Calvinist is someone who either
#1 Denies that the gospel call applies to all who hear OR
#2 Denies that faith is the duty of every sinner OR
#3 Denies that the gospel makes any “offer” of Christ, salvation or mercy to the non-elect (or denies that the offer of divine mercy is free and universal) OR
#4 Denies that there is such a thing as “common grace” OR
#5 Denies that God has any sort of love for the non-elect
Denial #1 is ambiguous—what does “applies to all who hear” mean? Only #2 is genuine, historic hyper-Calvinism. Only #2 is condemned by the confessions. Denials #3-5 are not hyper-Calvinism. Johnson may not like or agree with denials #3-5, but that does not give him the right to label them as “hyper-Calvinism.” Is Johnson not, to use his own words, “slapping the label ‘hyper’ on any variety of Calvinism that is higher than the view he holds to”?
We propose to examine the issues of the gospel offer (#3), the gospel call (#1-2) and common grace (#4-5) to see where this charge of hyper-Calvinism may legitimately be laid. This will require several editorials in the next few issues.
The Gospel Offer or Serious Call?
In order to determine whether a denial of the gospel offer is hyper-Calvinism (#3), we look at the Canons of Dordt, which are the official, creedal definition of Calvinism. In 1924, when the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) adopted the Three Points of Common Grace, it appealed to Canons III/IV:8. We quote from Articles 8-10:
Article 8: As many as are called by the gospel are unfeignedly called. For God hath most earnestly and truly shown in His Word what is pleasing to Him, namely, that those who are called should come to Him. He, moreover, seriously promises eternal life and rest to as many as shall come to Him and believe on Him.
Article 9: It is not the fault of the gospel, nor of Christ offered therein, nor of God, who calls men by the gospel and confers upon them various gifts, that those who are called by the ministry of the Word refuse to come and be converted...
Article 10: But that others who are called by the gospel obey the call and are converted is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will...
These articles were written in response to the Remonstrants or the Arminians, who submitted their “Opinions” to the Synod. The issue here is God’s seriousness—if the gospel only comes to some, and if God grants faith to only some who hear the gospel, is God really serious in the call of the gospel through the preaching? The Arminians contended that, if God did not intend to give salvation to all, and if Christ did not purchase salvation for all, and if sinners do not have the ability to choose salvation, then God must be hypocritical, insincere and unserious in the preaching, by promising something He does not have and which He does not intend to give.
The “Opinions of the Remonstrants” are very enlightening about what the Arminians understood by the offer of the gospel:
Whomever God calls to salvation, He calls seriously, that is, with a sincere and completely unhypocritical intention and will to save; nor do we assent to the opinions of those who hold that God calls certain ones externally whom He does not will to call internally, that is, as truly converted, even before the grace of calling has been rejected.
There is not in God a secret will which so contradicts the will of the same revealed in the Word that according to it (that is, the secret will) He does not will the conversion and salvation of the greatest part of those whom He seriously calls and invites by the Word of the Gospel and by His revealed will; and we do not here, as some say, acknowledge in God a holy simulation, or a double person.6
Notice that it is the Remonstrants (Arminians)—and not the Calvinists at Dordt—who teach that God has a “sincere and completely unhypocritical intention and will to save” all who hear the gospel. Arminians believe that God desires the salvation of all men without exception. Johnson would have us believe that only hyper-Calvinists deny God’s desire to save all men.
That background greatly clarifies the meaning of the Canons. The key is the Latin word serio. Three times the word serio is used in Canons III/IV:8, translated by various adverbs in our official English version: “unfeignedly [serio] called,” “earnestly [serio] shown” and “seriously [serio] promises.”
What serio does not mean is what the Arminians taught—“whomever God calls to salvation, He calls seriously, that is, with a sincere and completely unhypocritical intention and will to save.” Modern compromised Calvinists, however, such as Johnson himself, do define the gospel call (or offer) that way, as God’s desire to save all or, in Johnson’s words, “the sincere proposal of divine mercy to sinners in general.” Are we to imagine God as a young, lovesick man, earnestly proposing marriage to a beautiful young lady, a proposal rejected by the majority of sinners who hear it as a “sincere proposal of divine mercy”? A disappointed suitor indeed! How could Christ propose to any sinners who are not part of His divinely ordained bride? And how does that differ from the typical Arminian message of Jesus knocking on the sinner’s heart?
About serio (unfeignedly, earnestly and seriously) we can make several observations. First, God is pleased with faith and repentance (“that those who are called should come to Him,” Canons III/IV:8). The good pleasure here is not God’s eternal decree, that which He is pleased to ordain. God is not pleased to ordain that all should repent and believe, for He has not decreed to give all men faith (Eph. 1:11; 2:8; Phil. 1:29). Rather, God’s good pleasure is that which is pleasing in His sight, or that in which He delights, or it is that which He approves in His creatures, and therefore that which He commands in His creatures (such as obedience to the law, faith and repentance). Second, God is serious, in earnest, about this. God is not indifferent to sin and unbelief. God does not say that He does not care whether people believe or not. Will God send preachers but remain indifferent as to whether sinners believe in Jesus? Will God remain unconcerned if sinners despise His Son in unbelief? Of course not! God is so serious about this that He threatens eternal damnation upon those who refuse to believe and to repent!
But the word serio certainly does not mean that God earnestly desires the salvation of all hearers. It cannot mean that, because God did not elect all to salvation (in fact, He reprobated many of those who in time hear the gospel); Christ did not die for all men (in fact, God has nothing to offer the reprobate who hear the gospel); and the Holy Spirit does not work graciously in the hearts of all hearers to regenerate them and work faith in them (in fact, the Spirit hardens many who hear the gospel).7 Since the Triune God does nothing for the salvation of the reprobate—He neither elects, nor redeems, nor regenerates them—how could He, then, in the preaching of the gospel desire (even seriously, ardently and passionately desire) the salvation of the same reprobate?
Such is the confusion of the modern “Calvinist.” Such was not the confusion of Dordt, and a rejection of that confusion does not make one a hyper-Calvinist, Johnson’s “Primer” notwithstanding.
to be continued (DV)
1 Phil Johnson, “A Primer on Hyper-Calvinism” (www.spurgeon.org/~phil//articles/hypercal. htm). As an illustration of how accessible this article is, google “hyper-Calvinism.”
2 John H. Gerstner in David J. Engelsma, Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel (Grandville, MI: RFPA, repr. 1993), p. vii.
3 Phil Johnson, “Who is Phillip R. Johnson?” (www.spurgeon.org/~phil/bio.htm).
4 Peter Toon, “Hyper-Calvinism,” in Sinclair B. Ferguson and David F. Wright (eds.), New Dictionary of Theology (Leicester: IVP, 1988), pp. 324-325. However, Toon is a hypo-Calvinist (see his Born Again: A Biblical and Theological Study of Regeneration [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1987]) and even in his dictionary article he speaks of “the universal duty of sinners to believe savingly in the Lord Jesus with the assurance that Christ actually died for them” (p. 324), contrary to the truth of particular atonement! The same dictionary notes that Augustine (p. 636) and Gottschalk (p. 259) denied that God desires to save the reprobate, yet they are not called hyper-Calvinists! Not only did the New Dictionary of Theology publish a hypo-Calvinist author and article defining hyper-Calvinism, but it has N. T. Wright promot ing New Perspective on Paul ideas in his treatments of “Justification” (pp. 359-361) and “Righteousness” (pp. 590-592), over against Reformed teaching on this article of a standing or falling church.
5 We need not fear an over-emphasis on God’s sovereignty. Writes Engelsma, “Had Toon charged Hoeksema with an exclusive emphasis on the sovereignty of God, so that he denied or minimized the responsibility of man, we would have to take Toon’s charge seriously. Since the charge is that of ‘excessive’ emphasis, we can ignore it. For it is impossible to emphasize the sovereignty of God excessively, especially as regards the sovereignty of grace. Stand before the incarnation, the cross, and the wonder of regeneration, and try to de-emphasize sovereign grace. The ‘charge’ that a theologian excessively emphasizes sovereign grace is in fact the highest praise that one can give that theologian, praise that identifies him as a faithful servant of the gospel of the grace of God in Christ Jesus … Not in an emphasis on God’s sovereignty but in a denial of man’s responsibility must the characteristic flaw of hyper-Calvinism be located” (Hyper-Calvinism, p. 200).
6 Peter Y. De Jong (ed.), Crisis in the Reformed Churches (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformed Fellowship Inc., 1968), pp. 226-227; italics mine.
7 John Piper, another modern “Calvinist,” understands this, which is why he argues that Christ died for all men in some sense, in order to make it possible for God to make a bona fide “offer” of salvation to all men, a scheme which has no basis in Scripture and which certainly falls foul of the Canons of Dordt (especially II:8-9; R:2-4).
1776 is an important year for citizens of the United States of America. In particular Americans celebrate July 4, 1776 as the birthday of the nation. 1776 is so important to the nation’s existence that it is easy to understand why many Americans are interested in studying the historical events that took place that year in years surrounding the American Revolution. The year 1834 is of similar significance for members of Reformed churches, especially those that trace their heritage to the Netherlands. Any Reformed denomination with Dutch roots that adheres to the Reformed confessions likely owes its existence as a confessional denomination to the church Reformation that took place in 1834. Because the Reformation of the church is so much more important than the formation of an earthly nation, members of Reformed churches ought to be more interested in the history of 1834 than US citizens are in 1776. And if you are interested in 1834 it is my pleasure to introduce you to Mr. Marvin Kamp’s book, 1834: Hendrik De Cock’s Return to the True Church.
1834, the title of the book, is the year sixty-eight members of the Reformed Congregation in Ulrum signed a document entitled Act of Secession or Return. By this act these Reformed believers separated themselves from the government sanctioned Reformed Church in the Netherlands and formed a new congregation that was (re)committed to the principles of the 16th century Protestant Reformation. In the first 239 pages Marvin Kamps deftly explains and analyzes the events that resulted in faithful Reformed believers leaving a false church in order to begin a new true church of Jesus Christ. Kamps appropriately focuses on Hendrik de Cock, the pastor of the Ulrum congregation in 1834, whom God used almost single handedly to spark a momentous Reformation of the church commonly referred to as the Afscheiding in Dutch or Secession in English. The last 251 pages contain seven very valuable appendices, which would be worth purchasing and reading on their own. These appendices contain important historical documents Kamps translated from Dutch into English.
The first part of the book is a must read for Reformed Christians. Kamps explains why the Reformation was doctrinally necessary. The State Reformed church had become doctrinally corrupt. Did you know that the only Reformed church in existence in 1834 allowed people to deny the doctrine of the trinity and of the divinity of Jesus Christ? Did you know that this denomination that rejected Arminianism at the Synod of Dordt in 1618-1619 was thoroughly dominated by Arminianism by 1834? Did you know that Reformed ministers could graduate from seminary without even reading John Calvin’s Institutes in the 1800s? By 1834 you could not find in the Netherlands a Reformed denomination that bore the three marks of a true church set forth in the Belgic Confession Article 29! Kamps explains how in 1834 God formed anew a true church that bore these three marks.
1834 is a must read for you if you are a Reformed Christian because it explains your history. It explains from a historical point of view why your denomination exists. It explains the doctrinal and church political issues that are important to the Reformed faith. It explains why it is so important to defend and uphold the Reformed confessions—they were lost once before, they could be lost again.
The book is written in a way that is accessible to most readers, including teenagers and maybe even preteens. I highly recommend that they be assigned to read the book at home by their parents or in school by their teachers.
Finally, I would like to mention that the book is also available in both the epub and mobi digital formats. In either the hardcover or electronic format I highly recommend the book.
(Article written by Rev. Clay Spronk from the May 15, 2014 issue of The Standard Bearer)
On February 4 “the science guy” Bill Nye, representing the evolutionist perspective, and Ken Ham, representing the creationist perspective, debated the question, “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” The debate was live-streamed on the Internet and watched by a large audience. I didn’t find any reports about the size of the audience, but I assume it numbered in the thousands. If you did not see the debate yet, you can watch it for free for a limited time at debatelive.org, and I recommend that you do so.
Ken Ham believes in the biblical account of creation. He believes that the book of Genesis is a historical book that records the actual history of how God created the heavens and the earth. He believes that God’s work of bringing all creatures into existence took place over the span of six ordinary 24-hour days. Ham is the founder of answersingenesis.org, a website devoted to teaching and defending the record of God’s act of creating the world found in the book of Genesis.
Bill Nye is an unbelieving scientist. During the debate Nye did not say he had no religion, but he argued that religion should be divorced from science. He views the world from a purely naturalistic perspective. God had nothing to do with the origin of the world. And God has nothing to do with the development of the world. The universe started with a Big Bang and has developed over billions of years through the process of evolution. Nye stated several times during the debate that evolution is a process by which complexity is added to the universe. By means of evolution, simple non-living things have become more complex living things. Thus, all things in the world (rocks, plants, animals, and humans) have a single origin. Ken Ham accurately described Nye’s position as “molecules to man” evolution. Human beings should look not only at monkeys as their ancestors, but rocks and trees as well.
I found the debate between these two men fascinating. Both men demonstrated that they have a vast knowledge of God’s wonderful creation. They discussed layers of ice with atmosphere trapped between them, the distribution of fossils in layers of rock, the expansion of the universe, the 2nd law of thermodynamics, radiometric dating, and many other fascinating subjects. Ham and Nye were very sharp and clear in their presentations, so that even children could follow along (mine did until they had to go to bed).
The two men asked each other profound questions. Ham asked Nye how he accounts for non-living things becoming living things if life did not come from God. He asked him how he accounts for the laws of logic and of nature if they were not created by God. Nye asked Ham how he can believe the earth is only 6,000 years old since scientists have discovered rocks and other things in the world that appear to be over 6,000 years old. He asked him how there could have been a flood 4,000 years ago when there are trees scientists estimate to be over 9,000 years old. Wouldn’t those trees have died during the flood?
Sometimes both men were unable to answer the questions posed to them. Nye was asked by one of the audience members where the atoms came from that produced the Big Bang. He admitted that he did not know where matter came from. He also admitted that he could not explain where consciousness came from—that is, from his evolutionist perspective he could not explain how consciousness developed from unconscious matter.
Ham admitted that he could not answer certain questions about why the earth appeared to be older than 6,000 years old (I wished that he would say something about God building age into the creation, but he never did). He could not explain why there were 680,000 layers of ice in the arctic north, which many scientist claim would have taken 680,000 years to form at the rate of one layer per year. He mentioned that there are plausible theories that explain how those layers could have formed at a much quicker rate than one layer per year, but he readily admitted that they were only theories. Ham also admitted that he could not explain why different types of fossils in the layers of rock in the Grand Canyon were not mixed among each other in all of the layers. Several times during the debate Nye referred to these fossils in the rock layers of the Grand Canyon. He explains the fact that different types of fossils are not mixed among the layers as the result of the layers forming over a long period time. If the Grand Canyon was formed during the Great Flood, he claims the fossils should be mixed among all the layers of rock. Ham admitted once again he could posit only theories for why the fossils are not mixed.
It is interesting that both men were unable to answer certain questions. But more important is the reason why they were not able to answer those questions. Nye was not able to answer questions about the origin of matter and of consciousness because he rejects the authority of the Bible. When Nye admitted he could not answer these questions because science does not provide an answer, Ham responded by saying, “there is a book” that answers these questions, it is called the Bible.
The questions Ham was unable to answer were different. They were questions that cannot be answered by science and are not answered by the Bible. They were questions that Nye could not answer, even though he claimed he could. Ham convincingly explained why science cannot answer every question by distinguishing between “observable” science and “historical” science. Observable science is science based on what human beings are able to see. In observable science, scientists are able to establish definite facts. Scientists are able to explain how evaporation works because they can observe it. Historical science is science that attempts to explain things that were unobserved by human beings. In historical science scientists are not able to establish definite facts by means of normal scientific investigation. Scientists might suppose that ice layers in the arctic north took 680,000 years to form at the rate of one layer per year. Or scientists might suppose that the Grand Canyon’s layers took millions of years to form. But these suppositions cannot be established as facts because no scientist was present to observe the formation of the ice layers or of the Grand Canyon. This means that when Ham said he could not give definite answers but only posit theories about what happened in the past in these instances, he was being honest. And when Nye claimed he knows for a fact what happened in the past, he was being dishonest.
Ham’s honesty extended to admitting his beliefs could not be scientifically proven either. Why does he believe the earth is 6,000 years old? Why does he believe that a flood once covered the whole earth? Why does he believe that Noah survived the flood in an ark? Ham openly professed that he believes these FACTS because they are revealed in the Bible.
Nye was honest about his rejection of the authority of the Bible. He repeatedly ridiculed Ham’s insistence that Scripture is the only proper basis for understanding the origin of the universe. He refused to view the Bible as the word of God. He referred to the flood as Ken Ham’s flood, and to the “kinds” mentioned in Genesis 1 as Ken Ham’s kinds, refusing to acknowledge that the flood and kinds spoken of in Genesis are of God.
Thus, Ham was right when he explained that the main difference between himself and Nye is what they view as the ultimate authority. He explained that there are only two options—one must either bow to the authority of God (and His Word) or to the authority of man. Ham’s creationistic perspective bows to the authority of God. Nye’s evolutionistic perspective bows to the authority of man.
The debate demonstrated that the fundamental difference between a creationist and an evolutionist is spiritual. The difference is: faith vs. unbelief.
After the debate some Christians who accept the claims of evolutionary science that the world is billions of years old and that monkeys are the ancestors of humans attacked Ken Ham as “unscientific” and “fundamentalist.” One theologian, Peter Enns, claimed Ham did not come off very well and did not have any response for Nye’s explanation of scientific “facts.” Enns believes in Nye’s molecules to man theory of evolution and believes that it is unscientific and a poor representation of Christianity for Ham to reject it. And though Enns expressed doubts about Nye before the debate on Twitter, afterwards he praised Nye’s scientific acumen. For Enns the difference is that Nye is a good scientist and Ham is a poor scientist.
However, during the debate Ham proved himself to be a very knowledgeable scientist. He also played videos from renowned scientists to prove that creationists are as capable of scientific investigation and discovery as evolutionists. And Ham did respond to all of Nye’s “scientific” claims that seemed to support the theory of evolution. Ham explained very clearly that he does not accept the authority of scientists to explain what happened in the past, especially when the explanations of scientists contradict the Bible. The essential difference between the two debaters is that Ham is a believer and Nye is not.
Ham did not cast Christians in an unfavorable light as unscientific bumpkins. I was not at all embarrassed by the way Ham represented the Christian faith. As I was watching the debate I cheered as I heard Ham affirm the authority, infallibility, and inspiration of Genesis, and of the whole Bible. I cheered as I heard Ham faithfully explain the natural meaning of the opening chapters of Genesis, that God created the heavens and the earth in six 24-hour days.
I blame the many so-called Christians who accept the evolutionary claims of scientists that contradict the Bible for misrepresenting and distorting Christianity. Many and influential are the Christians who are more interested in defending and promoting molecules-to-man evolution than they are in defending the veracity of the Bible. They bring shame to the name of Christian by accepting that death existed before the fall into sin, that Adam (if he existed at all) descended from monkeys, and every other silly man-made belief that is part of the theory of evolution. It seems that evolution is taking over the church. So I am thrilled that a large audience was exposed to a man with the courage and conviction of faith to stand for the plain truth of God’s Word concerning the origin of the world.
I also rejoice that Ham explained the significance of Genesis for Christian morality and for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why don’t we view people as animals? Why don’t we support the killing of old people and fetuses? Why is homosexuality wrong? Why is marriage a lifelong bond? How did sin come into the world? And why do we need the Savior, Jesus Christ? Ham explained, we find these answers in Genesis if we take it as it is, the word of God. He stood before thousands of people, including many members of major media outlets, boldly asserting the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ!
My children asked me a couple of times, “Who won the debate?” That is often a subjective question. But for those who believe that God created the world in six 24- hour days exactly as He says in Genesis 1, who believe in the supreme authority of God’s Word, and who love to hear the beliefs of the Christian faith confessed and defended, there is no doubt Ken Ham was the winner.
When You Pray (by Herman Hanko) - 192 pages, hardcover
How many Christians can say that they have "mastered" the art of prayer? Probably no one. Yet over the years of one's life, a person can make progress in praying. Hanko shares meaningful lessons he learned from growing up in a covenantal family and community and tells the specific benefits of praying to the sovereign God of the universe, who knows our sins and weaknesses but loves us still.
In the Sanctuary (by Herman Hoeksema) - 116 pages, paperback
Using the perfect model prayer given by Jesus, this book teaches the requirements of a true prayer. The author explains that because prayer is given to us by the Holy Spirit and because it is a time of fellowship with God in his sanctuary, we must pray in a God-honoring way.
Posted July 22, 2014
Posted July 22, 2014