A Message from Ken Ham

We’ve all heard the adage “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” But, how often have we seen it? I have personally seen it lived out in its truest sense on a few of occasions, but none so honest, precise and Christ honoring as last night.

I attended a meeting in which Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis (AiG), was the keynote speaker. The meeting was held at a fundamentalist college that is known for its King James Only position amongst other “typical” positions that are popularly associated with fundamentalism today. To my knowledge, Ken Ham has never expressed any specific relation to fundamentalism nor to any denomination, for that matter. Yet, he brought a message that was more important than any denominational barrier. He overlooked whatever differences he had with the hosting school, as did the school with him, and a vital challenge was brought to the direct attention of God’s people.

As I watched, a vital challenge was placed before me.

After the meeting, I pushed my way through the exiting crowd and made a beeline to the book signing table. I had to talk to Mr. Ham. By the time I was two or three people from the front, I had only two thoughts in my mind. The first was the fact that I didn’t have a book for him to sign. That’s an awkward position to be in at a book signing table! The other thought was how thankful I was for Mr. Ham and his message.

There was one central message in all that Mr. Ham had to say – the church is wilting and naturalism is thriving because the overwhelming majority of Christians are incapable of defending their faith and our churches and institutions are doing precious little about it. His sole purpose was to bring the need of apologetics to light and encourage the audience to engage.

After thanking Mr. Ham for his message, I told him a little about my frustration with the absence of apologetics in fundamentalism. He nodded in agreement and told me, “That’s why I’m here.”
Immediately the question hit me, what one of us would have done that for him?

In Essentials Unity

Answers in Genesis is founded upon the firm conviction that “the scientific aspects of creation are important, but are secondary in importance to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” It is their mission to “proclaim the absolute truth and authority of the Bible with boldness.”

Mr. Ham referenced a conversation he had with a reporter who asked about the purpose of Answer in Genesis and the Creation Museum. He simply told him something to the effect that their goal was to prove the scientific integrity of the Bible, ultimately pointing to the authority of the Word of God and to the power of the gospel. The reporter, obviously not a believer, said that Mr. Ham’s response was refreshing compared to the generic response of many Christian leaders who say that their ultimate goal and purpose is social or political. Answers in Genesis makes no apology for having a spiritual purpose and a spiritual goal.

These convictions bound Mr. Ham to us as his audience. He was transparent in showing his love fore our Lord and his desire to spread the gospel. That transparency struck a chord of unity with us all.

In Non-essentials Liberty

Ken Ham does not hold to the KJVO position. That alone is worthy of anathema to many fundamentalists. I actually heard people talking about this after seeing that some of Mr. Ham’s books referenced the NKJV and the NIV. To hear them, it was as if everything else he had said and all of his resources were no longer of great value. The difference was too much to take.

How did Mr. Ham handle the difference? Gracefully. Anyone who is familiar with AiG’s material knows how fluid and consistent their graphic and media presentations are. Everything they do is of the highest quality and tightest precision. Yet, every verse that Mr. Ham referenced, and there were plenty of them, he displayed from the KJV. The difference was not so important that Mr. Ham could not concede in order to get his message out.

Mr. Ham’s conceding was reminiscent of Paul’s attitude in I Corinthians 8:13. There, the apostle states that “…if meat [other Bible versions] make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh [use none of those versions] while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” I highly doubt, however, that many fundamentalists would have done the same for him.

In all things Charity

Encouraging and conceding though it may have been, Mr. Ham’s message was a challenge to the the church and school leaders in attendance concerning the absence of attention that is given to apologetics. There were several references to the attitude of “the Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it” and the inadequacies that result. Mr. Ham got very specific in stating that while he does not advocate getting rid of Sunday Schools, he does advocate “major reconstructive surgery.” The reconstruction he calls for eliminates the attitude that refuses to engage the challenges of the day, declaring them to be irrelevant.

Nevertheless, despite the pointed assertions, Mr. Ham sprinkled the issues with jokes and tongue-in-cheek comments. He turned attention to certain shortcomings, but he did so with an unmistakably charitable spirit. Where he could have railed at our failures, he observed the Christian sensitivity that was required if his message was to be received.

Mr. Ham’s primary message was intended to call attention to the necessity of a renewed engagement in apologetics. However, his spirit in doing so sent a secondary message that taught this fundamentalist a lesson that I pray the Lord never lets me forget. The authority of God’s Word on the hearts and minds of His children is vastly more important than the denominational lines that so often divide them. Where there is a need for correction within the body of Christ, there is also a need for unity, liberty and charity.

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11 comments so far

  1. totaltransformation on

    “There was one central message in all that Mr. Ham had to say – the church is wilting and naturalism is thriving because the overwhelming majority of Christians are incapable of defending their faith and our churches and institutions are doing precious little about it”

    He is 100% correct. The other problem is that saying one follows Jesus, while not entirely fashionable, won’t lead to the same level of opprobrium and rejection as a moron and a knuckle-dragging neanderthal as admitting that you actually believe God created the world and all in it. It is an issue of being comfortable with the world and not standing out.

  2. DT on

    Wow, what an opportunity, and what an example! Not only did Ken Ham set an example by catering to our peculiarities, but let’s not forget that PCC really took a risk in having him. I’m sure David Cloud or someone else on a message board will charge PCC with compromise pretty soon. Nevertheless, both ministries have exemplified biblical charity without compromise in this regard.
    Apologetics must have its place in all our ministries if we want to be true fundamentalists.

  3. Paul Zeron on

    I’m not sure your insight is totally on target. I have found that those who have ‘broader’ standards do so because they are not so particular, it is not a problem for them to adjust. A wise Southern Baptist preacher told me once, in love it is better to err on the side of liberality, in doctrine, conservatism. My Fundamentalist pastor brethren who have stricter standards than I do have always maintained warm working relations with me, so take hope that all is not totally lost.
    Your application of 1 Cor. 8:13 might present a false analogy. Can we put anything in the parentheses, like baptism and sprinkling? One could only place permissible things in the place of meat. Certainly, those who are KJO would not find other versions savory.

  4. DT on

    I think you raise some good points. I think it comes down to what you consider a “non essential”. Obviously, if you’re KJVO and believe that is a vital doctrine, you would not insert Bible versions into the parentheses. However, for those of us who believe it is a preference, it fits there perfectly. This would necessitate a conversation about Bible versions and not necessarily the point of the post.

    It is evident that the issue of baptism is much more prominent than Bible versions, and as a Baptist I would not want baptism in that parentheses. However, others wouldn’t have a problem with that, as evidenced by MacArthur’s friendly debate with Sproul, James White’s friendly debate with Bill Shisko, Kevin Bauder giving the commencement address to a Presbyterian school, Ian Paisly making his rounds in the fundamentalist circles, or fundamentalist history in general, in which Baptists and Presbyterians have fought together, much like the scenario we’re talking about here. Baptismal regeneration isn’t even a question – that’s right out. But for those who practice sprinkling/infant baptism as a covenant sign or whatever it’s a different story. Don’t get me wrong, I still think they’re way off the mark.

    All that said, I think what TJ and I love most about Ken Ham’s presence at this school is that it exemplifies what we really want to see in fundamentalism: people putting aside their personal differences to combat the real challenges of the day.

  5. Paul Zeron on

    Mr. Ham’s gentlemanly demeanor certainly is the point to be emphasized. I suppose what caught my eye was the headline of in Non-essentials liberty. I think that one of the challenges we face is, Who is the arbiter of non-essentials?The principle of in essentials unity/non-essentials liberty seems to be helpful until we get down to declaring what are the non-essentials. One man’s garbage is another man’s gold. Maybe we should press the principle of being wise as serpents and harmless as doves, not receiving people to doubtful disputations.
    If I were in a foxhole with a [pick a non-Baptitst Fundamentalist] and the enemy was charging, I would merely shoot with him at the enemy without asking my comrade in arms about his statement of faith. When I go to the voting booth, I hope all the non-Baptist Fundamentalists vote with me. I would pray for Dinesh D’Souza, the non-Fundamental Baptist apologist, as he battles Richard Dawkins in debate. If Billy Graham were witnessing to my lost uncle I would pray for him, too. Different venues call for different degrees of cooperation. Historical fundamentalism didn’t try to decide which things were non-essential. Just because they came up with items that they thought were essential doesn’t mean that all the rest were non-essential. What they really came up with was a set of issues that they thought were absolutely essential. I don’t think that we should try to go the route of trying to come up with a list of non-essentials. Instead, we should try to exercise both wisdom and harmlessness to determine which things are expedient to our purpose.

  6. TJ on

    Sorry for my absence from this discussion.
    “Different venues call for different degrees of cooperation.”
    That statement (as well as the surrounding comments) is exactly the point.
    But what I fear, and what I wanted to brind to mind is that there are a multitude of venues in which fundamentalists have withdrawn all involvment, much less cooperation. I realize that is a generalization, but what makes is so poignant is the fact that at one point it was not that way at all.
    When was last time a fundamentalist wrote a book about Atheism? When was the last time a fundmentalist wrote something about Open Theism?
    Today, the men we refer to as “neo-evangelicals” are the ones raising those defences. Only a couple of generations ago, however, it would have been a fundamentalist that debated Richard Dawkins. Not so today.
    I want to be apart of a fundamentalism that faces today’s challenges as the original fundamentalists faced the the challenges of their day. Granted, we would not say the original fundamentalists were right on everything they taught and preached. However, there were issues that were bigger than the peculiarities that divided them from one another. They did not neglect those issues, but they did get past them just long enough to level one of the greatest biblical counter offences in church history. My question is, why doesn’t that happen today?
    I realize that many of our bretheren consider things such as the KJV issue as more than a nonessential. However, there are certain issues that no one who calls themselves a Christian would say are nonessential. I believe with all of my heart that we should protect the things that make us fundamental Baptists. But, I also believe that we must first and foremost protect the things that make us Christians.
    In the end, the point of my post and the discussion it provoked is that we need to re-engage in the defence of our faith. The foxhole analogy is perfect.
    The enemy is charging and the differences between me and that enemy are so much greater than the differences between me and the guy beside me. So, we fight together.

  7. kentb on

    DT,

    Interesting post. Question: What is the authority for the phrase, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” It comes from Lutheran theologian and pastor living in Augsburg during the early seventeenth century, Peter Meiderlin. I’m not sure why someone would be more Biblical or Godly if he followed the credo. As you know, we are sanctified by the truth, not popular phrases.

    I just bought four Ken Ham DVDs at his museum. I was in Ohio via Louisville so stopped by. Very impressive place.

    Kent Brandenburg

  8. DT on

    Kent,

    It’s TJ’s post, not mine, so if there’s a problem, it’s all his fault!

    Anyway, you’re right to point out that a catchphrase isn’t the basis for authority. (I thought Augustine coined that phrase. Oh well, I’m not a fan of Augustine anyway) But we believe that this particular phrase sums up a biblical principle. The Bible does talk about things of first importance (I Cor 15 – implying that there are things that aren’t as essential), the fact that we’re all peculiar in some areas, how to handle situations when different people get together (Romans 14, etc), the command to endeavor to keep the unity, and the command to be humble and esteem others better than ourselves. Now, how we apply all these things without compromising truth is the core of the debate about separation within fundamentalism today, and I’m not going to tell you I have the answer. What I do know, is that a man like Ken Ham certainly has a Christian testimony and bears fruit enough to prove it, and stands for about 90% or more of the things I stand for. That few things we differ on may be important enough to separate us from going to church together, but not from being part of a movement that fights against evolution.

  9. TJ on

    Thanks for the support, DT. You didn’t seem to have a problem carrying the conversation prior to Kent’s comment!

    Anyway,

    Kent, thanks for your comments. DT hit the nail on the nail on the head (As much as I hate to admit it). We will be the first to confess that some phrase is no where close in comparison to the authority of God’s Word. DT and I have tried to hold everything in light of Scripture, and I mean everything (e.g. Why I Wear a Suit, Why I Say Amen).
    I did not think very highly of this particular phrase until the I came to the thoughts in this post. Quite honestly, I still only think highly of the phrase insomuch as it prescribes a Biblical principle. If anyone is more Biblical or Godly, it is not because he follows some phrase. They are, however, more Biblical and Godly if they follow the Biblical principle summarized by the phrase.
    You are absolutely right: We are santified by Truth. God’s Word is that truth. More often than not, when we try to summarize Biblical principles into phrases we only minimize the power of Scripture. However, every once in while, a Godly man comes along and says things in such a way that a kid like me can grasp the awsome truth behind it. That is all this phrase is. I apologize if it seemed otherwise.
    Thank you again for your insight. We need that kind of input to keep us in line.
    Also, I was remiss in not thanking Pastor Zeron as well. Thanks.

    Till He Comes or Calls,
    TJ

  10. Kent Brandenburg on

    I don’t know that I’m here to keep you in line, but I was wondering how you would comment, especially in light of what you title your blog.

    I don’t actually separate from Ken Ham because I don’t fellowship with him. I saw him one time about 20 years ago. If I did have to separate from him, I would do that based upon Scripture and it would be because I loved him. I don’t recommend Pensacola for many reasons and they are all Scriptural.

  11. Dan Holt on

    All of this would be well and good if Ken Ham was right about the Biblical account of creation. He is wrong and there is a deadly result lurking to explode in a few years when the proverbial “chickens come home to roost”. When today’s youth (especially those whose faith is not particularly strong and who are not avid students of the Word) get into the real world of higher education and realize that there is no way the universe is 6,000 years old, and hearken back to their Sunday School teachings via Ken Ham and the like, and believe they were taught that the Bible SAYS that the universe is 6,000 years old, they will start to question the Bible in its entirety. Ken Ham, bless his heart, is trying to combat evolution. He thinks that by taking away the millions or billions of years that are required for evolution to be a viable concept, he can discredit evolution. That is why he constantly marries “evolution/millions of years” together in all of his speeches and writings. But there is no conflict between a Biblical view of an incredibly OLD universe, created by God, and true science. Romans 1:20 tells us that through the creation he shows off his ETERNAL power. Please tell me how God would demonstrate his eternal attributes through a young creation? Ham is fighting the wrong battle. As a matter of fact, God, through the Apostle Paul warns us not to debate evolution. I Timothy 6:20 “Oh, Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, AND OPPOSITIONS (debates) OF SCIENCE FALSELY SO CALLED, (7) Which some professing have erred concerning the faith.” Evolution is a false science and is the trap which Satan set a hundred and fifty years ago, just waiting for the church to step into it. The bait is the young earth theology and the church has fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. Pray diligently for the youth that when they discover that this teaching is false they will not just quietly walk away from their faith.


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