30th November, 2007
In late May, US-based Biblical apologetics group Answers in Genesis opened the doors of its $US27 million Creation Museum in St Petersburg, Kentucky. Now six months on, in the first of a two part interview DAVID ADAMS speaks with the group's Australian founder, Ken Ham, about the museum and his views on creationism, evolution and intelligent design...
What's the purpose of the Creation Museum?
“Well, the purpose of the Creation Museum is basically to uphold the authority of the Word of God and to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And the way in which we do that is geared towards this age - answering the sceptical questions of this age that cause people to question...the Bible’s authority. So what we’re really doing is helping people understand the history in the Bible is true, particularly in Genesis 1 to 11 but really all the way through the Bible...(I)t’s more than just a museum about creation or evolution, it’s really a whole walk through Biblical history...”
So, do the exhibits cover Biblical history beyond what’s in Genesis - for example, the exile?
“You can’t do everything, obviously, and this is based on what we call the seven Cs and that is: creation, corruption, catastrophe, confusion - Genesis verses 1 to 11 - and Christ, cross, consumation...So really it’s giving the big picture view of Biblical history from Genesis to Revelation. We do have a particular emphasis on Genesis 1 to 11 because that is the foundational history for the rest of the Bible; that is the foundational history for all doctrine, the foundation history for the Gospel. If you don’t understand that foundational history that involves the origin of sin, the origin of death, the need of a Saviour, why Jesus died and why He’s called the last Adam and so on, if you don’t understand that foundational history, you won’t understand the Gospel...”
ON LOCATION: Ken Ham at the state-of-the-art 5,500 square metre Creation Museum in Kentucky.
"If you don’t understand that foundational history that involves the origin of sin, the origin of death, the need of a Saviour, why Jesus died and why He’s called the last Adam and so on, if you don’t understand that foundational history, you won’t understand the Gospel...”
Your figures show the museum has already had 250,000 visitors in the first six months since it was opened. Have you been surprised by that level of response?
“Actually we reached 250,000 in just over five months...(The figures are) surprising for many people...but for me it’s not so surprising in that I know people are hungry for the truth and they want answers. And also, (with) what we did here, the quality is so phenomenal, so professional, so first class - it’s the sort of quality you’d see at Disneyland or Universal Studios...
"People go back and they bring busloads from their church or they bring their non-Christian friends and neighbours - in fact there’s been an increasing number of non-Christians being brought by their Christian friends - and so I must admit that I sort of expected a tremendous response.
"And it’s not just people from this local area - when we look in the parking lot, the numberplates are from all over America and from Canada and there are people that come from overseas - we just had a pastor fly in from Moldova...so it’s reaching out all over the world.”
It might be suggested that what you present in the museum is simply one possible interpretation of what the Bible says. How do you answer that?
“Well, it’s certainly the literal interpretation of Genesis - in other words, taking Genesis as history...in fact, taking Genesis, we would say, the way Jesus took Genesis. For instance in Matthew 19 when He was asked about marriage, He immediately quotes from Genesis - ‘Have you not read, He which made them from the beginning made them male and female’ and so on. He quotes it as literal history to build the doctrine of marriage. Paul in I Corinthians 15, in Romans 5, quotes from Genesis as literal history, talking about the first man Adam, talking about original sin, talking about death as a consequence of sin. And so by us taking Genesis literally...using the grammatical, historical interpretative method, I believe we’re doing it just in the way the New Testament writers, the way Jesus Himself, gave as an example for us to do. And really, if it isn’t literal history, then we have a major problem as Christians because, without the history involving a real garden with a real tree, with a real fruit, with a real rebellion, and with a real Adam, then what is sin? And if death wasn’t the consequence of sin, then why did Jesus die and why do we die? And why is marriage one man for one woman if there wasn’t a literal man and a literal woman - a woman made from his side?...”
What’s your view on whether someone can be a Christian and believe in evolution?
“Here’s what we would say - in Romans for instance, the Bible says that if you confess from your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved. It does not say: ‘If you confess from your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead and believe in a literal six day young-earth creation, you’ll be saved’. So, in other words, putting a faith and trust in Christ, being ‘born again’ as the Bible defines ‘born again’ is what makes one a Christian.
“So, in one sense, we can say ‘Well the issue of evolution and millions of years doesn’t matter’...It doesn’t affect your salvation in that sense but what I would say is this: what it does affect is how you use Scripture and how those around you, therefore, will be affected by how you’ve used Scripture. Because if you’ve taught your children and people around you - your church, if you’re a pastor - that you don’t have to take Genesis as written, you can take man’s ideas from outside the Bible of millions of years of Darwinian evolution, you can reinterpret the days, you can reinterpret the flood, you can reinterpret the meaning of death...
“If you’ve reinterpreted the Bible there...you unlock the door for the next generation to start to say ‘Well, if you can’t take this as written and this is not real history and you can reinterpret it, then why can’t you reinterpret other parts of the Bible?'...So to us it’s an issue of Biblical authority and we have never said and would never say that if you believe in evolution, you can’t be a Christian. There are many Christians who believe in millions of years. That won’t keep them out of heaven but we would say it would sure affect the way you view Biblical authority and the way others can be influenced by you...”
The idea of “intelligent design” has recently gained traction in some circles. Where do you place that?
“You have to distinguish between intelligent design argument and the intelligent design movement. We use intelligent design arguments - we use them here in the Creation Museum; arguments about the structure of DNA and our genes or the structure of the eye or the structure of the ear...in fact we have one room called the Wonders Room where we have 15 videos dealing with intelligent design aspects of the universe and of life. So we use intelligent design arguments just like the intelligent design movement.
“But the intelligent design movement is not a Christian movement...Some in that movement actually would believe the same way we do about Genesis but there’s a lot that don’t. A lot of them would believe in millions of years. As a movement, they are not talking about a history to explain life, like we would talk about a history concerning creation, concerning sin and death, concerning the flood, the tower of Babel. They’re not dealing with that, they’re not dealing with the Bible.
“Really the sole purpose of the intelligent design movement is they’re against naturalism. They’re really telling people that there’s an intelligence behind the universe but they’re not saying who that intelligence is and they do leave intact every aspect of evolutionary thinking, in other words, evolutionary geology, biology, astronomy and anthropology...because all they’re saying is that naturalism does not explain the universe alone; that there has to be an intelligence behind things...
“(T)he problem that we would have with the intelligent design movement is that...if you point someone to an intelligence but don’t tell them who that intelligence is, they won’t be looking for the real God...(W)e’ve got to remember that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word. So, even though the intelligent design movement has some good arguments with regards to intelligent design, we would say that if they’re not on about the Word of God, ultimately as a movement, they will not have a great affect on the culture. And I don’t believe that they will...”
12th December, 2007
In part two of the interview, Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham talks to DAVID ADAMS about the definitions of science, the origins of Answers in Genesis and future plans for the museum...
One of the criticisms commonly levelled against Answers in Genesis is that the organisation simply picks and choses from science what supports its worldview and ignores that which doesn’t. What’s your response to that?
“When people say that to me, I say ‘OK, let’s first of all define what you mean by science?‘ because when people use that word, what do they actually mean? If you look up a dictionary...the root word for science is knowledge, having knowledge, and what we’ve got to understand is that there is a big difference between knowledge gained by observation using our five senses...(and) knowledge concerning the past. Creationists and evolutionists all have the same present world - we have the same animals, we have the same plants, we have the same fossils, everything before us is the same. But when you’re dealing with knowledge about the past...what we try to explain to people is that creationists and evolutionists both have belief aspects about the past which are not testable with operational science; belief aspects concerning, for instance, the origin of life.
“We would say ‘God created all life - God created the first man and woman’. An atheistic evolutionist would say ‘Non life gave rise to life billions of years ago and over millions of years ape-like creatures eventually gave rise to people’. So we have two different accounts of history but we all have the same people in the present and we all have the same fossils in the present and we all have the same animals...We can’t scientifically, in an ultimate sense, prove the creation account of the Bible but we sure can confirm it using observational science. So we use the same observational science but we have different, what we call, historical science..and when you’re talking about history, you’re talking about interpreting what’s in the present in relation to the past. And that’s what you can’t scientifically, absolutely, prove.”
So there’s always a bit of faith involved?
“Absolutely. You know that Bible tells us that without faith it’s impossible to please God...There’s a faith aspect because we are finite creatures. To help people understand, I often use the example of a forensic scientist. When a forensic scientist comes into a room where there’s been a murder, he’s got certain evidence and he’s got to try and interpret that evidence in relation to the past to try and come up with what happened, who killed who, how did it happen. And forensic scientists can get it right and they can get it wrong because there could be one little piece of evidence that they don’t have that could change their conclusions.
“Forensic science has resulted in people being put in jail only to have found, years later when they’ve found new evidence - such as DNA, that the person was innocent. So that circumstantial evidence, even though it looked powerful, was actually interpreted in the wrong way. That’s what we’ve got to understand in regard to the creation/evolution issue. In regard to ultimate origins, we’re like forensic scientists, we’re looking at the evidence of the present and we’re to reconstruct the past.”
“So there’s always going to be a faith aspect but...we would say for one who starts with the Bible, it’s not a blind faith...Christianity is an objective faith because we can use the science of the present like genetics or the science of information to confirm that there’s an intelligence, to confirm that one kind of animal can’t change into a totally different kind (it’s doesn’t mean you can’t have changes within a kind)...You can’t say ‘proved’ because we’re finite beings and we don’t know everything and haven’t always been there - we’re not like God who is infinite in knowledge and wisdom outside of time. Therefore there’s always going to be a faith aspect.”
You’re an Australian who co-founded Answers in Genesis back in 1994. Can you tell us a little bit about how that came about?
“My wife (Mally) and I first moved over to America 20 years ago this past January. It was 1987 and we and our children moved over here. One of the things that we recognised was America was the centre of the Christian world...and the centre of the business world, the financial world, of world power. We recognised that if you’re going to get a message out around the world, America was really the place to do it from. And so, just over 20 years ago, we came over as missionaries to America with a message for the church - to call the church back to the Word of God.
“Going back before that...before I resigned from being a school teacher (in Australia) in 1979, I had been a teacher for five years in public schools. While taking students to museums on excursions, it really frustrated me that they were always from an evolution-as-fact, atheistic, perspective and I had this real burden for a creation museum. Myself and one of our board members at the time...prayed that we could build a Creation Museum - this was on the road from Brisbane to the Gold Coast. The Lord didn’t answer that prayer in the way that we asked and nothing seemed to happen.
“So I came over to work with the Institute of Creation Research in California for a few years which was then the biggest creation organisation in the world. After I’d done what I set out to do there, instead of returning to Australia, I still had this real burden for a major creation museum. (We realised) that with a population 300 million, America could support a venture like that, so we looked for a place that would be central to the population and has a big international airport. That particular year, when we founded Answers in Genesis, Cincinnati, was (rated) as the most liveable city in America. Cincinnati is in Ohio but it’s right on the Ohio River and just across the river in northern Kentucky, which is considered part of the greater Cincinnati area, there’s a big international airport. It was only 10 miles west of one of the busiest north-south corridors in North America...and is within a one day drive of two-thirds of America’s population and a two hour flight of 80 per cent of the population.
“And so...we set out to start an organisation (through which) we could build a major creation museum. When we started Answers in Genesis...we had no money to build a creation museum. We stepped out in faith and told the secular media, ‘We’re going to build a Creation Museum’. They said: ‘Where are you going to get the money?’ and we said, ‘God will provide it because we believed He’s burdened us to do this’. We just moved forward - it was like the Israelites conquering the Promised Land - little by little and we had all sorts of struggles and problems...(and) here we are today with the Creation Museum open and Answers in Genesis the largest creation worldview apologetics organisation in the world, reaching out around the world in all sorts of ways...”
Do you plan on opening any further Creation Museums elsewhere?
“To rebuild a place like this somewhere else would cost an awful lot more money because so much was donated - so much time and expertise...We’ve been told that to build it somewhere else would cost at least $100 million. But here’s what’s happening - we’ve had people come over from different countries who’ve come forward and said they want to build a creation museum in their country; there are people who want to build mini-creation museums across America; (and), we’ve even had churches ask us whether there is a mini-creation museum we could design for them in a room within their church. What it’s really doing is stimulating people to want to build creation museums elsewhere around the world and I think what we’re going to see is more of that sort of thing happening in a big way.
“We want to expand what we have here - in fact we’re going to convert our warehouse into a 1,000 seat auditorium and eventually we want to build a 3,000 seat auditorium. We have plans for expanding the museum exhibits and making this a real teaching centre for the Bible in many creative ways...”