This past week, a much publicized debate occurred between Bill Nye, the popular ’90’s TV icon known as “the Science Guy,” and Ken Ham, the CEO of the “Answers In Genesis” organization that maintains a website presence with a staff of scientists of their own. The subject of the debate was, as is always the case, in the form of a question. The question that was debated in this instance was “Is creation a viable model of origins.“ As expected, both of these highly intelligent, educated men presented their positions well. Mr Ham remarked that this type of debate has occurred much less frequently since their popularity 30 years ago or so. What he didn’t say was that the reason is largely because the atheists and agnostics have increasingly avoided these debates because they usually did not do so well. It sometimes works out that way when you go up against the truth.
I understand there were no moments when one of the debaters was totally embarrassed by the other. To my knowledge, there were no mass baptisms following the debate. Neither were there mass closings of churches due to loss of faith. And I suspect that most of the people who watched or listened to the debate did not change from non-believer to believer or vice-versa directly afterward. Those who look at the evidence of the natural world in such cases (on both sides) do so with their own presuppositions and an epistemology that they are mostly committed to; and most of them usually leave with their original worldview mostly intact.
Don’t get me wrong – I love apologetics. I have spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours studying apologetics, and will likely continue to do so until the day that I die. The more I study – the more evidence from the natural world that I examine, the more certain I become of what I already know to be the truth: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” It is the same for bible study. I have read the entire Bible – all of it at least once; and I have spent countless hours studying it. And something occurred to me a long time ago. I am convinced that it is not possible to read and study – and I mean TRULY study – the Bible with an open mind and not realize that it really is the word of God. Take one of the caveats out of that sentence, and yeah maybe. But really study it with an open mind, and I do not believe you can miss knowing that Romans 1:19-20 nails it:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
But I really don’t like watching debates any more. In fact, I did not watch very much of this past week’s debate. There, I’ve said it. Fortunately, there is no apologist’s registration card or anything that I now have to surrender. But it’s true. Now, I did tune in to pieces of the recording, and heard much of what I expected. I have read and listened to media about a great deal of what “AnswersInGenesis.org” publishes on their website – and I agree with most of it. Their scientists are top-notch, everything is peer-reviewed, and I love reading it.
And Mr. (Dr.?) Nye was quite eloquent in the segments that I saw. He did use a couple of the emotional plea bits that we have come to expect from non-believers arguing their position. You know the type of statement – “you (Christians) seem to think all of the other faiths (some of them much older than your Bible) are all wrong.” To his credit, he didn’t use the old “are you saying my dear sweet mother is going to hell?” bit that Dan Barker used in a debate a few years ago. But like other debates I have seen in recent years, I just didn’t feel good watching it. I do still listen to one debate that I have probably heard 50 or more times – “The Great Debate” between the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen and Dr. Gordon Stein in 1985. Dr. Bahnsen gave us what I believe was the greatest example of defending the faith of our time. I really never seem to tire of it – because, to me, it was a masterpiece.
But these other debates just make me sad. And I don’t mean just a little bit. They truly get me depressed; and it’s not hard for me to figure out why. Bill Nye was made in God’s image too. To hear and watch a man with such a brilliant mind (who truly believes in what he is saying), and know that if he continues on the path he is on that he will be lost – that just really hurts my heart. It would be different if I could just believe that he was some sort of monster – an evil man. But I happen to believe that the opposite is true – that he is probably a very good man. He, no doubt, has a family that he loves and who love him; and I am sure that he is good to them. No, I just cannot bring myself to truly dislike the man. And so, the debate makes me sad for him. And sad for all of the others who applaud his efforts to show that only idiots believe the Bible is the word of God.
Something else that makes me sad about it is motivation. I can’t help wondering why those who claim not to believe in God feel the need to evangelize people. It just seems that they feel the need to convince themselves, and that by convincing as many other people as possible, they can feel more confident in their own unbelief. After all, if absolutely nobody but Bill Nye was an unbeliever, it would be hard for him to keep that belief very strong. What I think that Bill Nye – and others like him – just don’t get, is that our (the Christian’s) motivation has nothing to do with anything like that. They seem to believe that we are all about imposing our beliefs on others needlessly. They cannot understand that we evangelize because we want to share something very good with others – and that our desire to help others get to heaven is genuine. That’s it, folks. No ulterior motive.
And so, I have said a few prayers for Bill Nye, and for those who believe as he does. There is always hope. And that is one of the answers to the question of why I continue to study apologetics so hard; and why I will engage in casual debate myself. The most important reason is, of course, 1 Peter 3:15: “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
And then there is the hope that we have for those who are lost. I must get over the sadness, and thank the Lord that it is not my job to judge. I also thank Him that it is not my responsibility to see to it that every person I meet becomes a believer. Those who simply will not ever believe are spiritually dead, and I cannot raise the dead. It IS my job to speak up, though. It IS my job to try to “plant the seed” of truth any time I have an opportunity. God will take it from there, and I am truly thankful for that.
I find comfort often by thinking of it this way. In the beginning, before sin came into the world, everything was very good. In the end, no matter who is saved and who is lost, God is still in control, and He will make it all very good again. That is where faith truly comes in. I still have to learn to trust Him more.
(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.