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I recently posted some thoughts on reading Genesis like an adult. Ken Ham disagreed, and so posted a response, “Peter Enns Wants Children to Reject Genesis.”

Ham’s well-known chosen method of settling differences with Christians seems to be: attack first and ask questions, well, never. This is especially true when in comes to reading the creation story in Genesis as a literal depiction of historical events.

For Ham, the gospel hangs in the balance, and any disagreement with him is de facto a disagreement with the Bible and God himself. You are, therefore, “the enemy.” Gray is not a color on his rhetorical palette.

Given his well-publicized track record, I think it is fair to ask whether in Ham’s universe it is possible, (1) to be Christian, and (2) disagree with him on Genesis. Sadly, I suspect not.

But if in Ham’s mind is it actually possible to be a follower of Jesus AND disagree with him on Genesis, I would suggest that his engagement of his Christian opponents be more shaped by his acknowledgment of their shared Christians bond.

Now, of course, all Christians (at least that I’ve ever come across) in tense moments will fall off the wagon, so to speak, and forget themselves and say something they regret later. But, normally (hopefully) that doesn’t go on for long, and Christians will recommit themselves to acting like Christ once they realize it. Ham, however, has made those regrettable behaviors into a deliberate “ministry” strategy–and, what is far worse, encouraging his followers to do likewise.

One need only read the title of his recent post to see the problem, “Peter Enns Wants Children to Reject Genesis.” What I say in my post is that adults should not read Genesis like children do. That, I think, is a rather different point, not a subtle difference. But Ham’s “Enns wants to harm your children as he clubs baby seals” approach aids his ultimate goal–to score points by discrediting those who fall on the wrong side of his all-or-nothing ideology.

In other venues, this is called propaganda.

Ham’s tactics read more like political ads than how Christians should speak to each other: painting the other in a wholly negative light; employing highly charged rhetoric; quickly labeling his opponents and misrepresenting them to dismiss them more effectively; bullying; and generally not being a very good listener. His rhetoric is also marked by supreme self-confidence that he speaks for God, and is punctuated by the passive-aggressiveness move to ask his followers to “pray” for the person in question.

Ham has made a sub-Christian pattern of behavior into a way of life.

Along with the rest of us, Ham must try to live a life shaped by what Jesus taught and what the Bible as a whole has to say about the words we speak (or type), what we entertain in our minds, and harbor in our hearts. This is a difficult task, to be sure, but Ham does not seem to have taking the log out of his own eye on his daily spiritual warfare to-do list.

Ham, with all his zeal for “obeying the Bible,” would do well to turn that same relentless focus on himself, to do a bit of spiritual inventory, and to recall that what Christ requires of us first, foremost, and always, is a mark of love and humility. Lest, as Paul reminds us, even if we move mountains and have all manner of knowledge, we are hollow and useless–just a noisy cymbal.

If Ken Ham is willing to consider acting as Jesus commanded, I would like to make a concrete suggestion.

For one week, whether in print, in a blog, or in a public presentation–try to disengage old patterns of behavior and create new ones.  

Feel free to disagree, but don’t take cheap shots, don’t label, don’t demonize, don’t besmirch anyone’s good name, don’t assume the worst of others and model that same behavior for your followers.

Rather, assume that you may have something to learn from others, that you may be wrong on some things, and perhaps that one need not be right 100% of the time to be a true follower of Jesus. 

Don’t be quick to take offense when you feel provoked. Ask, rather, the good and wise God to gift you with patience, and to see that reasoned discussion with other Christians is not “compromising the gospel” but a way of living the gospel.

Work to preserving the good name of your opponents, even as you disagree. Be charitable, avoid slander, and promote the good name of others. 

None of us is perfect, but the question I have for Ken Ham is, “Would your ministry cease to exist if you lived this way?”

I suppose that is a question we all must ask of ourselves in one way or another. But right now, I’m asking Ken Ham.


Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.