Why I Believe the #CreationDebate Was an Eternal Success
Answers in Genesis has released a report with the official number it believes watched the debate between founder Ken Ham and evolutionist Bill Nye. Their best estimation reveals that approximately five million people watched the debate around the world; though they also believe the number could be as high as ten million. The statistics for website hits, trending on Twitter, and overall reach are impressive and you can see them here.
But while these numbers are indeed impressive and show that the world is interested in this very sensitive subject, there was more to this debate than purely arguing over origins.
Steve Golden wrote an article at the Answers in Genesis website with, what I believe, is the key to the purpose of this entire debate. He wrote:
“The media is split on the issue. But the overarching victory for Christians in this debate is that the gospel of Jesus Christ was shared with the millions of people watching the debate…Biblical creation is not a salvation issue, meaning that belief or disbelief in the literal history of Genesis will not save a person. Eternal life is conditioned upon faith in Jesus Christ alone.”
As I watched the debate I made more than one remark on social media that it seemed to me that Ken Ham was using this worldwide platform to share the Gospel. On more than one occasion Ham spoke about sin, and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. I couldn’t help but think to myself what great stewardship this was of his opportunity to speak to the world.
Not everyone agrees with my sentiments, that much was clear. I found it a little disappointing to see so many Christians upset over Ken Ham’s “performance” during the debate. I have no doubt that Ken Ham is not a debater in the mold of William Lane Craig or other great debaters. He’s just not. And certainly someone like William Lane Craig would have done a far better job debating. That is, if “winning” the debate was the ultimate goal.
But as any seasoned leader knows, sometimes you can “win” an argument but in reality you lose. I can’t help but wonder if Ken Ham was content to be considered the “loser” of this argument for the sake of the Gospel and the opportunity to share the message of Christ with a worldwide audience. He knew from the beginning that he had no chance of changing Bill Nye’s mind. So why focus on that rather than sharing the Gospel with the millions watching?
This brings to mind the question, if you were in front of a global audience and had just one chance to share anything you wanted with them, what would you say? Would you talk about origins or would you share Jesus? Maybe I’m too simplistic in my thoughts. Some of my theological and academic friends are far more intelligent than I am about such things. But I can’t help recalling Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:1-2:
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
No one would doubt that the Apostle Paul was a skilled speaker, communicator, and debater. After all, it was Paul that marched up Mars Hill and engaged the philosophers of his day. But even Paul knew that at times there is a need to lay aside such debate and discussions and simply share Jesus.
To be frank I don’t think Ken Ham did the best job as a debater. While I appreciated his respectful, civil tone throughout the debate, even as Nye at times sounded condescending and patronizing, Ham did not come across as a highly trained, skilled debaters. At times I wondered why he didn’t discuss the fine tuning of the universe and human body. For me those are two evidences of an intelligent, loving Designer and Creator that are hard to dismiss. The laws of science itself are also a great testimony to creation. (Something cannot come from nothing.)
But as I watched the debate I could not help but be proud of the fact that Ken Ham was sharing the Gospel repeatedly with millions across a global audience. And I thought perhaps God has afforded him this opportunity because He knew Ken Ham would steward it in this way.
The origin of the world is an age-old argument that will never end. Even among Christians there is division as some are content to adhere to an evolutionary belief (theistic evolution) and believe the world is millions of years old, while others believe in the Young Earth Creation model. Personally, I’m a young earth creationist. I don’t see theistic evolution as plausible in light of the millions of years. I believe if God is able to speak all things into existence (creation ex nihilo) that God can create a fully matured earth right from the beginning. But the reality is that the debate will never end.
It is also a reality that, as Ken Ham has said, what a person believes about the origin of all things is not central to salvation. In other words, it is possible to be an evolutionist and a Christian. Knowing this it becomes obvious that origins take a lower priority to the Gospel. So if origins are not as imperative as the Gospel to the salvation of a person, then the greater priority for a worldwide audience of millions is not facts about origins, but the Gospel.
If this is true, didn’t Ken Ham “win” the debate in an eternal sense?
Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I am all for excellence when it comes to doing anything in the name of Christ. Anyone who knows me knows my standards are high, sometimes impossibly high. I want to serve Jesus with excellence in everything I do. With my efforts to do all things with excellence I know I am guilty at times of “missing the forest for the trees.” I can view something and think it wasn’t done well or could have been better and I forget that Gods “strength is made perfect in [my] weakness,” (2 Cor. 12:9). Maybe God wasn’t looking for an orator, or a skilled debater to defend creation. Maybe God was looking for a willing servant that would share the Gospel with a worldwide audience in fear and trembling from a humble heart.
While I believe Christians need to “be ready always to give an answer” (1 Pet. 3:15) when we are asked about biblical matters, I also believe that God uses our efforts, no matter how feeble, for His glory. I am learning not to criticize the efforts of others as harshly as I recognize God’s ability to use the efforts of willing servants beyond what I can comprehend.
Overall I enjoyed the debate. Not because I expected Ken Ham to “destroy” bill Nye, as some hoped for, but because the Gospel was shared and people around the world began engaging one another. I had the pleasure of talking with an evolutionist an ocean away about origins. I don’t know that I changed his mind and he certainly did not change mine. But the mutually respectful conversation was a blessing to me as I was able to share my faith with him. What can God do with that seed? What can God do with the millions of seeds planted as a result of the debate?
I don’t know this to be a fact, but I am convinced that this was an effort to share the Gospel disguised as a debate.
A pastor I’ve known since high school remarked that people don’t come to trust the inerrancy of Scripture first. They come to faith in Jesus Christ and through redemption and sanctification come to trust the inerrancy of the Bible. Believing this I’d have to say that Ken Ham is a faithful steward of the Gospel and the platform he has been given, he just spent nearly three hours sharing the Gospel with Bill Nye and millions around the world.
In what universe could that have happened otherwise?
The video below is the debate in its entirety. Feel free to watch and share with others. If the video doesn’t appear automatically, please refresh your browser.