AS we shall discover together in working slowly through this text, The Book of Revelation is a Trinitarian text. Of course, it does not have the post-Nicene terminology. In this text, one will not find the language of Father, Son and Spirit as one finds abundantly in John’s Gospel and in post-nicene formula. Rather, one will find God, Jesus Christ, and the Spirit which is more similar to Paul’s formulation.
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show show to his servants the things that must soon take place. (Revelation 1:1, ESV)
The Things that Must Soon Come to Pass
The opening verse of this book undermines all interpretations that try to make John’s Revelation a coded history of current events. As Craig Koester helpfully recounts in the first part of his concise commentary Revelation and the End of All Things, there is a long history of misinterpreting Revelation in this way. All such interpretations have one thing in common, the predictions they make never come to pass. Modern dispensationalists now avoid making predictions and so resort to probabilities. This kind of thinking leads to ridiculous concepts like the Rapture Index. So, when John writes that God wished to show his servants “the things that must soon take place”, the “soon” refers to those things that the intended recipients of John’s letter were experiencing and about to experience.
. . . and it’s not Genesis. It’s Culture War.
One might think that the central narrative that drives the apologetic, educational, and evangelistic efforts of the Answers in Genesis (AIG) para-church (or more accurately extra-church) organization is Genesis (or maybe just Gen 1-11). Yet, digging beneath the Christian veneer which presents Ken Ham and adherents to AIG’s version of Young Earth Creationism (YEC) as brave defenders of the Bible and “Biblical” Christianity in an increasingly secular and anti-Christian world it becomes clear that the real narrative core of Answers in Genesis is this Culture War and not Genesis at all.
The driving force behind all AIG activity and propaganda is a merciless campaign with a stark US v. THEM worldview. The US in this war is Answers in Genesis and its adherents with Ken Ham as the de facto general. The THEM is everyone else. The “uncompromising” and socially divisive culture war that has led ironically to many American evangelicals compromising many of their moral principles for the sake of political power — a decidedly unChristian position.
As AIG Canada led by Calvin Smith (formerly of Creation Ministries International) becomes more active in my own country and gains influence among evangelicals, I am concerned that these Christians will imbibe AIG’s Culture War along with their equally problematic reading of Genesis as a scientific text.
AIG’s events are often framed in terms of apologetics training. They offer to teach people how to defend their faith in this increasingly secularized world. Yet, unlike traditional apologetics, the emphasis is not on explaining and defending the gospel (Jesus’s good news of the Kingdom of God) but on defending YEC against “secular scientists” and defending AIG’s peculiar interpretation of the Bible from Biblical Scholarship (including evangelical Christian scholars like N.T. (Tom) Wright, Bruce Waltke, Pete Enns, John Walton, etc.). The best apologetics from Justin Martyr to C.S. Lewis has been rooted in taking the best arguments of one’s “opponents” and presenting the best counter-argument (indeed, this method always results in the best scholarship — iron sharpens iron). Yet, AIG resorts to misrepresentation and caricature in their presentations to win the hearts and minds of those who are genuinely seeking ways to defend their faith and witness to their neighbours.
To be blunt, AIG apologetics is really a way of keeping Christians (especially young Christians) from genuine dialogue and education. The bulwark that keeps this defensive shield in place is fear. Fear that exposure and acceptance of the findings of legitimate scientific discovery (especially evolutionary theory, geology and astrophysics) and modern biblical scholarship that seeks to understand the Biblical texts according to their genre and their original historical context will inevitably lead to the rejection of Christ. This fear shuts down genuine dialogue and prevents Christians from raising legitimate questions. These are the tactics of a cult (perhaps, CULT-ure War) and not the methods of an educator. Neither God nor the Scriptures have nothing to fear from someone asking questions.
As with any other cult, for Ken Ham and AIG, those included in the US are a very small group of Christians relatively speaking as the Them includes the majority of Christians including other Young Earthers who do not embrace AIG’s peculiar interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis (there is ample evidence for this on their website). Of course, this results in the majority of Christians in the world past and present falling on the wrong side of the culture war. In their materials, Ken Ham and AIG frequently refer to Christians as “compromised” who are then described as being on a slippery of slope toward embracing secularism and rejecting Christ.
You can imagine what effect this emphasis on YEC and its being shifted into the place of an essential Christian doctrine might have on individual’s perception of his or her fellow Christians and churchgoers.
AIG assumes that their decidedly modern interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis as a scientific eye-witness and historical account of the creation of the cosmos is the only faithful interpretation of this ancient Hebrew text. Thus, if one rejects their interpretation, then one is ostensibly rejecting God’s authoritative and historical “eye-witness” account of the creation of the cosmos. For Ken Ham, anyone who rejects AIG’s peculiar interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis have placed themselves on the slippery slope that will inevitably lead to denying the historical validity of the rest of the scriptures including the death and resurrection of Jesus.
For most of my Christian life, I saw YEC as a marginal and relatively insignificant issue. Yet, organizations like AIG and Creation Ministries International
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. (Revelation 1:1-2, ESV)
“Revelation”, the common english translation of the greek word “apocalypsis” (αποκαλυψις) which opens this text, is such a familiar term that its basic meaning is almost lost to our ears and eyes. Similarly, the term “apocalypse” has come to refer to any large-scale catastrophic event that threatens the extinction of humankind and life as we know it i.e. zombie apocalypse. (Pace Rick Grimes et al.)
But slow down and listen to the text. John’s first readers did not have this linguistic and cultural baggage hanging on these terms. They were not dispensationalists. There was no such thing as guns or atomic bombs. They had not heard of global warming. John and his early readers had their own linguistic and cultural milieu which shaped their understanding of the term “apocalypse” and the other terms, allusions, and images John uses throughout this prophetic letter to the Christian communities in first century Asia Minor. Like learning a new language, it takes some mental effort and yes some reading and research to understand and interpret an ancient text, including those included in our Scriptures.
Learning to Hear What John has Written
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (Revelation 1:1-3, ESV)
Are you excited by this news? Are you appalled by this news? Are you angered by this news? Are you totally confused by this news because what’s “Answers in Genesis”?
Whatever your reason for clicking through to my blog, welcome. I hope you find my posts on this organization and the linked resources helpful and informative as you prepare for the arrival of Ken Ham and his Fantastic Ark in the Great White North.
Whether you are a churchgoing Christian like me, an atheist, agnostic, or come from an other faith tradition, you should become familiar with Answers in Genesis and the possible implications for its official arrival in Canada.
What is Answers in Genesis and Why Should You Care?
In the wake of the allegations against Judge Roy Moore, many American evangelicals are pulling out the defences, excuses, and verbal acrobatics that they used in the face of the myriad sexual allegations against then candidate Donald Trump, especially in the wake of the Access Hollywood recording in which Trump confesses his predatory habits and even identifies the approaching female host as a potential victim should the opportunity arise. Alongside multiple accusations of inappropriate sexual advances, Moore has been accused of assaulting women as young as 14 years old. The accusations against Moore come amidst a wave of such allegations that hopefully reflect a sea change in American culture that will allow women and girls to come forward more quickly and while the cases may still be prosecuted. I hope this trend in the U.S. spills across the border into Canada as well.
As they do in relation to Trump, many self-professing American evangelicals are taking comfort in and finding refuge behind ill applied biblical passages to diminish the voices of Moore’s accusers and maintain their loyalty to the Republican Party. In a culture in which being Republican and being an evangelical Christian are often treated as synonymous, one’s loyalty to the party now trumps (pun intended) one’s loyalty to creed or historic standards of Christian morality. For many people (including some white male evangelical Christians like myself), the level of hypocrisy is so patently obvious that I’m surprised it does not produce a detectable stench. If I read the Psalms and prophets correctly, it is a stench in God’s nostrils.
When a religious news site carried an interview with Eugene Peterson in which he was pushed on his views on homosexuality and during which he said that under some circumstances he might officiate at a same-sex wedding, Christian cyberspace went into overdrive.
I stayed quiet because, as a friend, I wanted to process the implications of such a statement and perhaps have the chance to contact him directly; but mainly because, knowing the man and trying to discern the context of the original interview, I fully expected a clarification or retraction to follow, as indeed it did.
Predictably, after his retraction, certain groups and individuals were as quick to prejudge his motives and insult him, as other people had been to denounce and condemn him a few days previously. But far and away the most ludicrous accusation is that Peterson was motivated by the threat of Christian publishers to…
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Last week, I intervened when a white male was verbally harassing a Muslim man in a coffee shop. I grew up in a bi-racial home, I lived in Texas for eight years and I have never witnessed such overt prejudice in my life.
I heard the bully loudly spouting some offensive nonsense before I realized that his seemingly generalized comments had a specific target. When he turned from issuing general statements to asking direct questions of someone, that’s when I first noticed the Muslim man.
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IN his Hexæmeron, a Lenten series of homilies on the six days of creation, Basil of Caesarea provides us with his interpretation of Genesis 1. In contrast to the default practice of reading Genesis 1 metaphorically or allegorically, Basil insists upon a literal reading of Genesis 1.
As I am writing this series of posts, in the season of Lent, I plan to proceed by giving each Homily its own separate post. Hopefully, at the end of this series, I will be able to write a post summarizing the Hexameron as a whole and its relation to modern YECism. So, what you will see in this series of posts is my own grappling with Basil’s exegesis of Genesis 1 as kind of a running but far from exhaustive commentary.
You can find the full text of Basil’s Hexameron and other extant writings of the Church Fathers on CCEL.org. Continue reading “Ham-Handed Hermeneutics VIII: The Hexæmeron of Basil of Cæsarea – Preface”