Ken Ham Cherry Picking Scripture

When I first read Ken Ham’s take on the Nepal earthquake, I decided to ignore it. I thought nobody would take him serious anyway, at least not in my little, Dutch-speaking part of the world. But then some approving comments on Ham appeared on social media. That made me reconsider my initial choice.

The reason is simple. Not only does Ham ignore main stream science, while I firmly believe in the importance of a dialogue between science and theology. But, moreover, his view is problematic from a theological perspective.

Even if we ignore the scientific nonsense in Ham’s article, we have to question his image of God. Ham argues that:

“This global catastrophe (i.e. the Flood)—a judgment on man’s wickedness—completely reshaped the globe.”

So, according to Ham, God punished humanity more than 4000 years ago, thereby changing the material structure of Earth in a way that allows earthquakes to happen. In short, when following Ham’s reasoning we have to conclude that the earthquake in Nepal is the result of a chain of events that has been initiated (well knowing what would happen) by God. That implies that Ham, pretending to follow Scripture as closely as possible (and mistaking a literal reading of Scripture for a faithful one, but that’s another story), not only believes that God punishes humanity, but, more in particular, that the punishment of the Flood continues, even in our days. I might be mistaken, but why then did God place a rainbow at the end of the Flood? Was he making a divine – or, rather, devilish – joke? Or what should we make of it, when God “said in his heart”:

Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

My suggestion is that Ham not only reads Scripture literally, thereby reducing the revelatory nature of the Bible to what humans are able to express, but that he reads Scripture selectively, in order to be able to cling to a wrathful, revengeful God. Why he does this, I wouldn’t know. But I think we should question whether Ham’s image of God is indeed “Christian”. 

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7 thoughts on “Ken Ham Cherry Picking Scripture

  1. “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”

    Ah, a wrathful, revengeful God with post-mass murderers remorse, then? That is so much better, now is it? Definitely worth admiring personality! And the rainbow interpretation you did, that is truly a rock solid piece of argumentation: Check Mate Ken Hamburger, check mate!

  2. Of course, but you cherry pick the bible as good as the next one. In fact, that is not true. That was actually a lousy example totally undermining the point you were trying to make. Also, it seems Ken Hamburger has a lot more rubbish moral to cherry pick from than you, clearly having a hard time finding the occasional good verse here.

    PS. It’s ok if you don’t want to post this comment on your blog. I’ll understand.

    1. By giving an example that does not fit in Ken’s theology, I was trying to show that he only quotes Scripture when it suits his agenda. I would indeed be cherry picking myself, if I implied that my quote represented “the real God, as authorized by Scripture and Tradition”, which I obviously did not do (as that would be in contradiction with Catholic theology, which always maintains the partiality of human God-talk).

  3. I disagree. First of all you do cherry-pick scripture to suit your own agenda and counter his. Why else would you quote the bible and put it next to his? And second, it is my opinion your quote fits perfectly fine in Ken’s theology. And even if you did a better job at finding a verse, you would simply establish a logical contradiction in the bible (of which there are hundreds). This, of course, is the reason he is as right as you are… all cherry-picking to suit ones preconceptions, agendas, indoctrinations, etc.

    1. I explained why I gave a quote from the Bible before. I will try to explain it a bit more, along the way countering your opinion that my quote fits in Ken’s theology. Because that is precisely the point: By offering other quotes I wanted to show that Ken Ham does not do what any good Biblical theology should do. Such a theology needs to take into account the context in which a biblical text is written (i.e.: its time frame, the audience it was originally intended for, its genre, the larger textual frame it belongs to, etc.), not just a quote or two.
      To give an analogy from the climate debate: statistics were used by climate change deniers to show that temperatures were not rising, but falling. Soon, critics pointed to the fact that these statistics were flawed. What the denier-camp did, was cut a small time frame from the total data set. As soon as you expanded the time frame to cover the last 100 or more years, you see global warming happening in the graphs.
      The same can be done in theology: take only a few quotes, and you can build whatever theology you want. But once you start doing exegesis, and once you start engaging earlier theological reflections (what we call ‘tradition’), putting religion in service of your ideology will become more difficult. Moreover, and that is something which Ham also fails to do, a good theology will not only take the context of a biblical text into account, but will also take our current context into account. You cannot take a biblical text and, without critical reflection, distill a bullet list on how we should live today, but you need to think and decide if and how a text applies on your own individual and communal life (some would call this ‘recontextualization‘).

      1. I understand your standpoint. The thing is, when you take everything into account you end up with a huge list of contradictions. There is some real cruelty in the bible and some serious outdated immoral babble, it is just embarrassing. And yes, you find the occasional nice verse as well. But no amount of ‘recontextualization’ will be able to fix the bigotry, you just have to turn a serious blind eye to it, ie. still cherry-picking. I argue, Ken has his context, and his way of ‘recontextualization’ (you will disagree, but ok) that is in conflict with yours. It is not because your ‘recontextualization‘ is by large morally superior, that this makes it by definition more true.

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