Saturday, July 06, 2013

What should a good Christian "origins" science program cover?

Considering the discussion over the last few days, I thought I would attempt a first-draft summary statement of what I think a really quality Christian science program would cover when it comes to origins.

My view: A top-quality science curriculum should discuss the various views and talk not only about the arguments in favor of each view, but about their problems . . . i.e., why advocates of each view are in favor of the view, and why opponents find fault with them. –It can be exceptionally difficult to present all of these positions fairly, but, I believe, fairness is necessary.

Okay. So what views should one cover?

Some typical viewpoints I have seen discussed include these:
  • non-theistic evolution
  • theistic evolution
  • young-earth creationism
  • old-earth creationism.
Some may also throw in a discussion of Intelligent Design.

I think such a list is good . . . as far as it goes.

The problem I find--and I am thankful to Ken Ham and friends at Answers in Genesis for opening my eyes to this matter 14 years ago . . . --The problem I find is how such a list tends to cut out any discussion of the biblical evidence. And it is the Bible that leads in AiG's/Ken Ham's young-earth creationist argument. And, in my mind--again in agreement with Ham and AiG--any curriculum that claims to be Christian needs a discussion of biblical evidence to play a central role . . . at least to the extent that the Bible has evidence to bring to the table.

As a result, I believe a discussion of origins requires quite a bit more nuance than the four (or, possibly, five) options mentioned above.

And so I would like to propose the following divisions for discussion/presentation in a thorough Christian "origins" program:
  • Theism or naturalism? --Clearly, Christians will opt for theism. But the topic of biblical theism v. naturalism and, perhaps, pantheism, needs to be discussed. I imagine this is the place you might want to address the Intelligent Design school of argumentation, though I don't see its success as essential to a theistic worldview, nor its failure as a death knell for such a worldview.
Assuming a biblical theistic viewpoint, then, I believe we need to discuss the following matters:
  • Biblical concordism or non-concordism? Some questions to address: How should we read Genesis 1-3 (let alone 4-11)?
    • Should we look for concord [agreement/peace] between what we read in Genesis 1 and 2 (at least) and how a scientist might describe the beginnings of the cosmos, the biosphere and humankind? [I.e.: Even though the language of the Bible, obviously, isn't going to be scientifically precise in any modern sense of the term, do the biblical descriptions of the beginning of the world and humankind generally match what modern scientists would say? Or, put another way: If we look at the “testimony” of science, should we expect to find that it corroborates what we read in Genesis 1 and 2? (If our answer is YES, then we are concordists. Examples of concordist positions: young-earth creationism; progressive creationism (Hugh Ross); gap theory; day-age theory; etc.)]
    • Should we abandon any attempt to find concord between science and Genesis 1 and 2 and, instead, look solely to science for clues with respect to how and when God created? [I.e.: Even though, based on numerous Scriptural references, we should recognize that God created the cosmos and everything in it, should we read the text of Genesis 1 and 2 as something other than literal history and, therefore, not expect or even attempt to show some kind of correlation to what scientists would have to say and what we read in Genesis 1 and 2? –If our answer to this question is YES, then we are non-concordists. Examples of non-concordist positions: John Walton’s “cosmic temple” interpretation; Johnny Miller and John Soden’s “apologetic against Egyptian mythology” interpretation; etc.)]
  • Old-earth (i.e., billions of years) or young-earth (i.e., 6,000 to possibly 10,000 or maybe even 12,000 years old)? Questions to ask: What are we to believe about how old the earth is? What evidence do we find for how old the earth is?

    NOTE: For presuppositionalist young-earthers like Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, the Bible itself provides much or virtually all of the evidence . . . all of the evidence that really matters. As Tas Walker of AiG expressed it to me back in 1999: “Since we believe the Bible is the Word of God, we start with the Bible. . . . The Bible clearly teaches that the world is young. . . . So, now that we have established that the world is young (~6000 years), we are ready to come to the [scientific] evidence.”

    I mention this because, once more, if someone is going to argue against a presuppositionalist young-earth viewpoint, he or she must present strong evidence for why he or she believes the Bible does not teach a young (approximately 6,000-year-old) earth history . . . and/or, even more difficult, convince these evangelicals why the standard formulas of evangelical beliefs about the Bible should be abandoned or reformulated.
    (When I say what I just said, I am referring to such documents as The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics which, in Part 2 of Article XIII, declares, “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly by imposed on Biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.” That certainly sounds good, but how do we know whether a biblical narrative is presenting itself as factual? --The Statement doesn't address the problem. Though The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy does state,
    We affirm
    that Genesis 1-11 is factual, as is the rest of the book.
    We deny that the teachings of Genesis 1-11 are mythical and that scientific hypotheses about earth history or the origin of humanity may be invoked to overthrow what Scripture teaches about creation.
    And the grounds for affirming the full factuality of Genesis 1-11? . . . --I'm sorry. I'm not trying to get into the details of what a solid Christian course in "origins" will cover. But I am trying to tease out at least a few of the ugly/niggly details that such a course--and/or the advocates of certain positions--will need to address.

    My point here was "simply" to show that those who want to argue against a young-earth presuppositionalist view are going to have to address issues related to well-accepted evangelical statements of faith and not only the scientific evidence.)
  • What mechanism did God use to create the earth and all that is within it: Unmediated (“word spoken --[yields]-- thing created”) or Mediated (“word spoken --[creates/establishes]-- PROCESS (some type of evolution?) --[which yields]-- thing created”)? To what kind of evidence can we point for our views?
Once we tease out these four primary questions, we find the following options:

Atheistic Theistic
Evolution Mediated Creation
(i.e., in the current scientific environment,
Evolutionary Creation)
Unmediated Creation

And then, as best as I can understand, these are the theistic options:

Relationship of Scripture and Science
Concordist Non-Concordist
Age of Earth Old-EarthProgressive Creation (à la Hugh Ross)
Mediated (Evolutionary) Creation
(includes Day-Age, Gap, and other
such theories)
Mediated (Evolutionary) Creation
(at least hypothetically)
Unmediated Creation
[I am unaware of any unmediated
non-concordist creationists]
Young-EarthUnmediated Creation
(à la Ken Ham)
[Scientific data w/o
concordist interpretation generally
leads away from Young-Earth view]

If you have any additional suggestions, recommendations, criticisms, or other contributions to make, I would be most grateful for your input!

Friday, July 05, 2013

Not super pleasant (to put it mildly), but educational . . .

My last two posts (here and here) have obviously generated quite a bit of discussion--more, I think, than any posts on this blog have generated before. I am sure it is all thanks to Ken Ham. I didn't particularly enjoy his post, but I thank him for it, anyway. Thank you, Ken.

A strong reason for thanksgiving: The discussions that have followed have helped me to learn; they have enabled me to say some things I have never said before (see the “other matters that I think need to be addressed," below; I have never expressed what I say in items #1 and #2 of these "other matters"; and I think I have never expressed so clearly what I attempt to say in item #3 [again, within the "other matters" portion, below]).

As I read the comments of various posters on a thread in, I felt led to write and post the following:
I received a Google notification that this conversation was happening. So I came over, read many of the posts, and thought I should probably sign up on HomeSchool Reviews so that I could speak. Especially since it was my post to which Mr. Ham was replying.

A few points of clarification:

* SONLIGHT did not call Ken Ham "Pope Ham." *I*, John Holzmann, called him a pope. I did so in my personal blog (a Google Blogger blog) "John's Corner" (

* If my comments reveal my character (or Sonlight's character, if you are determined to drag Sonlight into the matter, despite the fact that the company had nothing to do with my post), I ask that you

1) please look at my response when I was made aware of my wrong-doing. (I have apologized.)

2) please consider the provocations that elicited my inappropriate response. (Mr. Ham has made false statements about me on numerous occasions dating back to 1999. He has made false statements about Sonlight Curriculum as well.)

3) consider whether you REALLY believe my behavior, per se, is (or was) as heinous as some have made it out to be. Let me reiterate: I BELIEVE I WAS IN THE WRONG. I shouldn't have stooped to name-calling. But if you believe my name-calling is as heinous as some seem to believe it was, I am astonished that the Christian homeschooling community has not risen in indignation over Mr. Ham's name-calling and his sponsorship--in his magazine and on his website--of IDENTICAL language to that which I used. (I could talk about OTHER language. But let us focus solely on the “pope” idea. [NOTE: I was not aware of this until I happened to bump into the article yesterday. But . . . ] For IDENTICAL language used by Answers in Genesis, see the article "Evangelical Popes" (


What I have just written speaks, I believe, to the primary matters that seem to be of concern with respect to my POST.

HOWEVER, there are other matters that I think need to be addressed.

* The matter of "compromise" and "error" and, at least as importantly, the "Gospel" and "authority" questions Mr. Ham raises.

1) I would like to note that I hold Mr. Ham in very high regard for his repeated--CONSISTENT--"banging of the drum" about the fundamental issues related to Gospel and authority that can arise if one attempts to correlate a “straightforward” reading of Genesis 1-3 (as Mr. Ham--and, I'm sure, most readers here--would define “straightforward”) with the views of most modern scientists. As Mr. Ham told me about 14 years ago (I'm not going to quote him, because I'm recalling this from memory, and I don't have a perfect memory; but, he said something like), “You will find that there is no solid foundation with an old-earth view. They don't have a consistent view of the Bible. The Biblical narrative doesn't hang together under an old-earth view.” --Something like that.

I have to say that, in general, I AGREE WITH HIM. What I have found is that most old-earthers take the “scientific” view and kind of wave their hands over the Bible and say, “I don't know how it all goes together, but I believe the Bible and I believe science. And so . . . (I am an old-earther.)”

But I have been uncomfortable with such a position.


2) I agree with Mr. Ham that, if someone is going to teach old-earth (creationism or evolutionism or anything else), and they are going to claim to be Bible-believing Christians, then they should deal with the problems. They should address the kinds of things about which Mr. Ham keeps banging the drum. They SHOULDN'T simply “wave their hands.”

As different people in the homeschool community have made clear to me, our view of Genesis 1-11 will affect how we teach history (is there history before 4004 BC . . . or not? Are Adam and Eve to be included in our regular history course . . . or “only” in Bible? . . . If we include them only in a Bible program, aren't we indicating that they aren't part of regular history? Etc.); it will affect how we teach science; it will affect how we teach the Bible itself. . . . --These are not mere “hand-waving” kinds of matters!


3) In the same way that (most of us, anyway!) seem to be able to at least let each other pursue our own beliefs and practices without charging each other with “compromise” and “error” and an unwillingness to bow to the authority of Scripture when it comes to matters like women wearing head coverings in church; or when it comes to how we observe (or fail to observe) the Sabbath; or “dresses only”; or baptism; or the end times; so I believe it ought to be here, with respect to our views on how we should interpret Genesis 1-11.

I am NOT suggesting people should not discuss these matters (anymore than I would suggest we ought not to discuss head coverings, Sabbath observances, our manner or dress, baptism, end-times prophecy, or anything else).

What I am attempting to say is that . . .

IN THE SAME MANNER as we are able to discuss these matters without charging one another with compromise and error with respect to our fundamental view of Scripture (i.e., when we disagree with one another, we don't charge those on the opposite side with the obvious sin of calling the authority of Scripture into question!) . . . so, here, with respect to our interpretations of Genesis 1-11.

I believe we should CHALLENGE each other to think through the implications of our views (like the people who pointed out that a person’s view of Genesis 1-11 is going to impact their view of history). We should raise all of the kinds of issues and concerns that Ken Ham consistently raises. ASK people of another opinion how their views square with the idea (say) of death before the fall. ASK how they interpret Romans 5:12ff. DISCUSS how we view these passages and why.

I believe we do the body of Christ damage when, rather than behaving in this way, we take the far more offensive road and call anyone who disagrees with us “compromisers” or “snakes in the grass.” This shuts off communication. It divides the church. It precludes useful discussion and the opportunity to learn. (Participants on neither side of a “conversation” in which we are being told we are either imbeciles (or such terms; I am thinking of less pretty comments probably more likely to come from the mouth of an old-earther, though I have heard young-earthers use similar verbiage with respect to those with whom they disagree!), or a “conversation” in which we are being told we are “compromisers” (etc.): Participants in those kinds of “conversations” don't usually wind up actually conversing! And we don't benefit one another.)

I want us to provide room for one another to hear each other out, to be challenged, and to grow in the grace and knowledge and wisdom and powerful work of Christ in the world.

Let us, as the founders of the United States once said, “hang together” . . . that we might not “hang separately.”


John Holzmann

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Mr. Ham responds to my “pope” comment. Kind of.

NOTE: I write here on my own account. This is my personal blog. I am and have been largely disengaged from Sonlight Curriculum for over five years. I am still a co-owner. I do take an interest in the company's success. I also seek to stand by my wife, the president of the company, who is still involved—very involved—on a day-to-day, strategic and detailed basis. I hate it when men like Ken Ham come along and make false claims about Sonlight, the company of which my wife is president and the curriculum she has written and whose content she oversees.


I received an email notice about a comment on my last post at 1:18 this afternoon. Then another, moments later. And a third seven minutes after that. And a fourth 13 minutes later. . . .

“Whoa! Someone must have posted about my post!” I thought. “I wonder who?”

By 3:15, I had received eight notices. And then I got a phone call from some people at the Sonlight Curriculum office: “Ken Ham wrote a response to your blog post , and now people are commenting on our Facebook page. They think Sonlight wrote something about Mr. Ham, but, obviously, we didn't. It was you. . . . And we don’t know how to respond. . . .”

I said I would have to look at what Mr. Ham wrote . . . and look at the posts on the Sonlight Facebook page to see what, if anything, I could or should write in response.

I found that Mr. Ham concluded the opening paragraph in his post with a question: “Why would [John Holzmann] name-call like this?”

It’s “funny” that he would ask such a question, considering our (his and my) long history.

ANSWER TO KEN HAM’S QUESTION: It has to do with his repeated bearing of false testimony against me and against the company that I happen to have co-founded (still co-own, and, as a co-owner, still take an interest in). It has to do with the fact that his repeated and very public false testimonies against me and against Sonlight Curriculum over the years have quite successfully consigned the company my wife heads and of which I am part-owner to some rather searing flames of public disapprobation.

In essence, as far as I can tell, Ken Ham's behavior—and the effects of his behavior—are very much like those of the medieval popes. And so I spoke of him in such terms.

It has been my longstanding belief and attitude that most evangelicals nowadays are able to agree that—even though they may strongly differ on matters like baptism or eschatology—they grant fellow believers space on these issues. They grant that these brothers and sisters might possibly have some good reasons to view the Bible’s teachings on these subjects from alternative perspectives.

But granting space is not Mr. Ham’s way. At least not when it comes to his interpretation of Genesis 1-11. After all, from his perspective, he isn't really interpreting Genesis 1-11; he is "merely" telling you what it means. Because he knows what it means.

Kind of the way the Pope, apparently--at least when speaking ex cathedra--infallibly knows and speaks the Truth.

Kind of.
And so I referred to Mr. Ham as a kind of pope.

It is my understanding that popes have—or had—the power of life and death over those they ruled. Based on the decisions that the popes made, someone’s teachings could be declared heretical. And if someone’s teaching was declared heretical: woe unto him! He was a social outcast at best, a dead man at worst.
And it seems that that is the kind of power Mr. Ham wields. He speaks . . . and people (and companies) pay some very heavy prices, whether Mr. Ham speaks accurately or not.

Yep. Being cast into the outer darkness of the evangelical Christian homeschool community as I and Sonlight Curriculum have been by Mr. Ham and those who follow him . . . on the grounds of his quick-to-condemn say-so alone: It’s pretty hard to take.

I pray you never get caught crosswise with someone who has as much clout in the public sphere as Ken Ham obviously has, someone who might misrepresent you and your views as Mr. Ham has repeatedly misrepresented me and Sonlight Curriculum through the years.

IN CONCLUSION: Please forgive me for failing to honor Mr. Ham the way I, myself, would want to be honored. I believe he acts like a pope and bears a lot of the power of a pope (whether he is fully aware of that power or not). But I certainly didn't need to call him a pope or speak of him--as I did--as "Pope Ham."

I would like to beg forgiveness for failing to act with appropriate graciousness. My failure in this regard has no justification

At the same time, I would like to appeal to a few of the people who have (appropriately) called me on the carpet for my behavior to please appeal to him to publicly apologize for and, in future, refrain from the egregious and repeated name-calling and false testimonies he has made (and, obviously, as of a few weeks ago, has continued to make) about me and/or about Sonlight Curriculum. (In case you are unaware, you can see a relatively decent summary of his history in that regard here; actual history begins with the sentence that begins, It was very obvious that; but don't ignore this additional post, either. Do a search for Remember the first article Answers in Genesis published that referenced me? That really does give you the first part of the story.)