After last night’s debate on origins between Ken Ham and Bill Nye, the tempting question to ask is, “Who won the debate?”
I suspect that both evolutionists and creationists will claim victory by their representative in the debate.
But for the believer in Christ the debate isn’t about winning and losing. It was encouraging to see and hear that believers have credible scientific answers to the claims of evolution. Certainly we claim the account of the Scriptures, and that is sufficient for us. Yet there are additional scientific answers that support the account of creation in Genesis 1. That was helpful for many believers to hear.
Yet the believer must be careful not to put his hope in a debate “victory” and must not be discouraged by a debate “loss.” The battle for creation (or any other debate with non-Christians) is not won with evidence. This is a spiritual battle and it can only be won with spiritual weapons. While evidence for creation or the life of Christ or the resurrection may play a part in moving people towards faith, but evidence itself does not produce salvation. People are changed by the movement of God’s Spirit in their hearts, changing their rebellion against Christ to allegiance to Christ.
This was Jesus’ instruction to Nicodemus in John 3: “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (v. 8). It is the Spirit of God working in the life and mind of an individual that will produce salvation, not an overwhelming weight of evidence.
You see the issue of salvation is not a matter of being convinced of the Genesis account of creation, but of being convinced of my sinful condition that I am incapable of changing and thus my further need for a Savior. (This is why I was delighted to hear Ken Ham repeatedly introduce the topics of sin, Christ, the cross, and salvation.)
This was profoundly illustrated to me several years ago when someone sat in my office and asked me a series of questions about canonicity and the reliability and authority of the Scriptures. After answering a number of his questions, I finally asked him a question: “If I can prove to you beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Scriptures are reliable, authoritative, and inerrant, will you believe?”
“No,” was his reply.
“Then your question isn’t really about canonicity. Your question is about who is authoritative and whether or not you are willing to submit to Christ.” And that is true of all evolutionists as well. If they are presented with credible evidence and yet remain unwilling to repent of their sin, then the issue isn’t evidence, but the heart. And that is why believers must be careful not to be too hopeful about the outcome of debates like this. Transformation only happens when the Spirit of God awakens minds to comprehend the truth (1 Cor. 2:14-16; 2 Cor. 10:5; Eph. 6:10-21).
This issue about authority was made clear near the end of the question and answer section of the debate. Ken Ham was asked a question about whether he would change his position on creation if it was demonstrated that the age of the earth was more than 10,000 years old. His response (I don’t have the exact quote) was that what was compelling and convincing to him was not evidence but Scripture; the authority that is determinative for him is God and His Word. In contrast, Bill Nye responded (again, I don’t have the exact quote) that what is determinative for him is what he can see and measure and validate and predict. So in that question the fundamental distinction between the two men was revealed: one embraces the authority of God and His Word and rejects the suppositions and reasonings of man as being inadequate; the other embraces the reason of man as authoritative and rejects the Word of God as being inadequate.
The presuppositions of the two men could not be more different and that is why a debate like last night, while interesting and at some levels informative, is in itself inadequate to change a man. For a man to change (and become a believer in Christ), he must be willing to affirm that he is not ultimate and authoritative but that God is ultimate and authoritative. Man is not to be worshiped; God alone is to be worshiped.
And that leads to one final observation. What was at stake in this debate?
For Bill Nye, what was at stake in this debate was the future of America. His exhortation (which he made several times) was something like, “We must embrace the evolutionary scientific model because that will produce superior technology and inventions to the creation scientific model and will allow America to remain a leader in the world in scientific innovation and not be out-competed.” (Aside: if the evolutionary model is true, then why should we be concerned that America stay at the forefront of scientific innovation; shouldn’t we be content that the “fittest” survive and thrive, even if it isn’t us?)
On the other hand, for Ken Ham, what was at stake in this debate was the personal future of any who reject Christ with the result that they will have to pay for the penalty of their sin for all eternity in Hell. Bill Nye had a temporal goal while Ken Ham had an eternal goal. Bill Nye is concerned about tomorrow; Ken Ham in concerned about eternity. Bill Nye is convinced that when he dies there is nothing else; Ken Ham is convinced that when he dies there is everything else.
Followers of Jesus Christ do well to remember those differences. Watch the debate (it is still available here; and a post-debate discussion will be hosted by Answers in Genesis tonight at 7:00 pm [CST] here). Encourage non-believing friends and family to watch the debate, and watch with them. But don’t be confused about what is at stake. Our goal is not to see unbelievers only affirm the creation account or only give it credibility. When talking with non-believing evolutionists, move the conversation to every man’s wicked and sinful condition, the holiness of God that will judge every sin, for no man’s adequacy to stand before that judgment (Ps. 1:5-6; Rom. 3:10-23), and for the provision of Christ to save men from God and His judgment (Rom. 3:24-26).
This is what the debate was ultimately about. One man loves Christ and the other hates Christ and loves himself and his accomplishments.