In a few weeks Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis will do a live debate with Bill Nye. The actual event sold out in almost no time, and thousands have registered for the live stream. It will certainly be a spectacle, as two of the most visible and popularly-accepted voices of origins will share the stage. Criticism has been lobbed, with Nye’s camp believing that his debate with Ham legitimizes and gives creationism an audience, especially that the debate will be held at the Creation Museum rather than a neutral site or a university campus. This isn’t the first debate, nor will it be the last. Creationists like William Lane Craig, Doug Wilson, and others have shared the stage with evolutionists like Richard Dawkins and Chris Hitchens. Nye has certainly made his impression felt and his view on creationists is not vague.
What should we make of debates like this?
- It provides an opportunity to engage the culture – Paul spoke at the center of Athenian culture, Mars Hill, in Acts where he engaged the pagan culture of his day by interacting with their authors, dialogue with their teachers, and pleading his case to answer the great question of the Areopagus: “Who is the unknown god?” We must, as the Church, speak into the culture to provide the perspective that comes from the regenerative power of the Gospel. We believe the gospel speaks into issues of sexuality, marriage, questions of life, wealth, work, and origins.
- It brings both sides together – It’s very easy to lob hand grenades over a blog or social media, it’s an entirely different issue when you have to be in physical proximity with each other. Perhaps the best example is the friendship between Doug Wilson & Chris Hitchens. These discussions & debates provide a face to the issue in a time where we too quickly hide behind the laptop. The fact that true & genuine friendships can arise from these is proof that God is about the business of reconciliation.
- The issue of truth can be brought up – Pilate asked one of the most fundamental questions in history: What is truth? When we argue about preferences or personal taste, there are few implications. I can’t stand pepperonis on pizza, but that has no bearing on existence. Whether or not one is a fan of _____ means nothing to the cosmic order. But if the central issues of truth and reality are on the table, the consequences are long-reaching. It becomes the discussion of the most important thing – truth. There is no way for both to exist equally, and without being truly true, the ‘other’ position must collapse on itself.
You can sign up to watch the debate online here. I’m not sure what will happen from this debate. Ultimately I feel it will not be an issue of winner and loser, because the gospel does not allow us as Christians to have a “we win, you lose” mentality. The vs. in the title of the debate is bothersome, not because these views shouldn’t be discussed, but because we must approach and embrace our engagement of the culture as a mission, not a street fight. Neither participant will change their mind, the crowd will be a decided home-field advantage for Ham, and the blogsophere will blow up with responses, rebuttals, and reactions in the aftermath.
To quote Ravi Zacharias, “Behind the debris of these solemn supermen, and self-styled imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one, because of whom, by whom, in whom and through whom alone, mankind may still have peace: The person of Jesus Christ. I present him as the way, the truth, and the life.” Regardless of the result of the debate or the position people may hold on the age of the earth, how we got here, and what we’re to do, one central issue remains – we are sinners separated from God and are in need of a Savior. Christianity speaks to that in the person & work of Jesus Christ, and that provides the starting point for a cohesive and comprehensive worldview that answers the most fundamental questions of existence.