Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Review: Already Compromised

Already Compromised is the follow up to Ken Ham's book, Already Gone, that was published a couple years ago. This book is currently making a prominent appearance on the homeschool circuit so it's worthy of an extended comment here. So buckle your seat belt.

First, a preliminary comment: I'm the sort of person who honestly tries to go into any new experience with an open mind, sometimes skeptical but willing to be pleasantly surprised and looking for the good. I'm also the sort of person who isn't afraid to admit I was wrong about my first impression. Basically, what I'm trying to say here is that I didn't go into this just looking for stuff to disagree with. I honestly tried to give it a fair shot.

The idea behind this book is genuinely interesting. Ham and his colleagues surveyed leaders of 200 Christian colleges for their views on science-faith issues. To be more specific, they interviewed people in four key positions: university president, academic dean/VP, science department chair, theology/religion department chair. They talked to 312 (out of a potential 800) people. 223 of these were from schools who belong to the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, and some of the schools were only loosely affiliated with denominations while others required students to make a profession of faith. So keep in mind that we're working on a spectrum of Christian beliefs and commitment here.

There is some good information in the book (assuming Ham is being fair and accurate in his reporting). But like any research, it's important to maintain a firm grip on how the data is being interpreted and applied. In my opinion, that's where many of the book's problems rest.

Ham sets the stage by talking about the great Ivy League schools, such as Princeton and Harvard, that were founded by Christians but have now slipped into liberalism. So the question is, are other Christian colleges headed for the same fate?

I'll cut to the chase here. Ham's answer is, yes. But I'd like to qualify that answer in this way. The chief reason he answers yes is because of his belief that the inerrancy and authority of Scripture ought to be inextricably linked to the age of the earth question. (See my previous post, "Redefining Inerrancy." If you do not understand this fundamental premise, you won't understand what Ham is trying to argue or why he's so upset.) So when you get almost 36% of Christian college leaders responding with Noah's flood being local rather than global, then that's seen as a slippery slope to becoming Harvard or Princeton. Here are a couple examples from the book. (Click to enlarge.)






See the trend?
When asked an open-ended question, there was wide agreement. But when they asked a more specific question, one that revealed the respondent's views on the age of the earth, then there was more disagreement. In Ham's logic, it's not enough to believe in the Genesis account. You must believe in his interpretation of the Genesis account in order to be considered a true believer in inerrancy. Same with the extent of the flood.

One of the more unfortunate parts of the book is that Ham spends an entire chapter naming those Christian colleges and individuals which, in his view, are leading the slide toward the way of Harvard and Princeton. The Southern Baptists are in trouble because of Bill Dembski and his belief in "billions of years and evolution" (really?). The Nazarenes are in jeopardy because of guys like Darrel Falk and the acceptance of theistic evolutionism. William Lane Craig could potentially bring down my alma mater, Talbot School of Theology, because of his openness to an ancient universe. (Aside, Biola has part of its official doctrinal statement a denial in theistic evolution, but Ham doesn't mention that.) Of course, he gets a jab in on John Walton and Wheaton College, as well as several former and present faculty at Calvin College. My mentor, Dr. Jack Collins at the seminary I attend, Covenant Theological Seminary which is part of the Presbyterian Church in America also takes a hard hit.

The bottom line is, if you don't buy into Ham's assertion that inerrancy and the age of the earth are inextricably linked and both first level doctrines, then he isn't going to recommend that Christian parents send students to your college. And just in case you're curious, the book does include a list of colleges that get the Ken Ham seal of approval (read, they only employ young-earth faculty and teach young-earth creationism). For some who frequent this blog, that might become a list of colleges to avoid.

Already Compromised is not an academic, impartial treatment of statistics. It is a biased editorial and propagandized use of data. (How's that for blunt?) It is geared toward Christian parents who are afraid of their children becoming a statistic and losing their faith in college. If you know how to read around Ham's propaganda, some of the findings his team reports are intriguing. And I agree with Ham that there is reason for concern. I think there are some Christian colleges who are in danger of becoming liberal. I just don't happen to agree with Ham's barometer for detecting the problem (beliefs about the age of the earth) so I don't agree with his solution either (send your child to a young-earth college). Old-earth creationism is not the problem; theistic evolution might be a contributing factor in some situations to the problem; and young-earth creationism is not the solution. I do think Ham is right about the fact that the doctrine of inerrancy, including the historicity of the Bible, is a dividing line between conservatives and the slide into liberalism, but I don't agree that inerrancy should be tied to the age of the earth. That's where Ken Ham and I part ways.

So there you have it. This ride has now come to a full and complete stop and you may unfasten your seat belt. If you can get a copy of the book from your church library (probably located right next to their copy of Hugh Ross' books), it might be work a quick skim.

14 comments:

Kathy R said...

Mr. Ham's work could be useful ... Is there any way we can find out this list of Ken Ham approved colleges (to avoid) without having to buy the book?

Theology Mom said...

Kathy,

I have added a link above.

drokkon said...

I haven't read the book, but I can completely understand the logical fallacy employed that has rendered the argument invalid.

Unfortunate, since I am myself a young earth creationist. I do frequent this blog, but only because I appreciate intelligent analysis and really don't hold anything about people who believe differently about things that can't be known. :)

However, the slipping of Christian schools into liberalism is an epidemic (if for reasons other than Ham would argue). My wife is a graduate of Calvin College, and between her description and that of people I know who work there, Calvin is a bastion of liberal thought and politics. I can't speak to the seminary itself, but we won't be sending our children there.

On that note, however, politics are more my hot button issue, so I'm sure I'll be lobbying for nothing less than Hillsdale College. ;)

Theology Mom said...

I think there are legitimate concerns about some Christian colleges falling into liberalism. But I also think Ham is overgeneralizing the problem and not necessarily using the correct barometer to detect the problem.

One issue that I didn't discuss in the review (largely because I couldn't figure out where to put it) is the confirmation of Hugh Ross' observation that the theology faculty at Christian colleges are usually much more resistant to creation and open to evolution than the science faculty. This seems backward to me, but the AiG survey found the same result. So I'm thinking there might be something to Hugh's anecdotal stories in this regard.

Thanks for your kind remarks.

Virginia Peterson said...

Thanks for the review. I imagine that people who don't know about RTB's view see no choice but theistic evolution in rejecting YEC.

So am I a biased church librarian because I don't have any Ken Ham books next to my RTB ones? :) So far there's been no complaints either way (although there are three RTB books taken out I can't seem to get returned!)

Anonymous said...

If I were interested in a Christian college for myself or my kids, I would simply insist that the college hold to the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy & creation (old or young earth). Because I come from an old earth point of view, I could argue from the Bible why that point of view is a better interpretation than a young earth point of view. But if the college has a low regard of the Bible or has a closed mind about only evolution, there's no hope in arguing.

Theology Mom said...

Virginia;

Let me know if you need replacement books or want new books. I have a pile of them in my office.

KB

Chinagirlsmom said...

My husband and myself are both graduates of Calvin College and do not agree with the statement "Calvin is a bastion of liberal thought and politics". My sons will be attending there as well.

The main thing that parents need to be sure of before sending their children to any college, is that they are grounded in the Bible and their faith is strong. If not, their faith will not remain strong anywhere.

Sherry C said...

Krista, thanks for maintaining a cool, even-handed, unemotional perspective on this issue. I really appreciate the fact that you never seem to fall to the personal mocking and personal attacks that can be so easy (and so ugly) among Christians who disagree. I was raised in a very strictly conservative Christian home and have attended both public and private schools. I am a staunch supporter of Biblical inerrancy, as I know you are, too, but is so obvious to me, from even the limited amount of research that I have done, that the original Hebrew text allows for a variety of interpretations of what the little word 'day' means. I am still doing my research and learning, rather than taking yours or anyone else's word for how I believe, but I just don't see any faith-shattering issues regarding the length of the six days of creation, just like 'the day of the Lord' or 'in the days of Noah' or whatever. Thanks again for handling this book review so well. I would be interested now to read the book myself.

D. K. Stangeland said...

Great review. I appreciate your willingness to look at the facts and use those as your baseline as opposed to personal bias. I think most Christian colleges are in danger of slipping into liberalism. That is why we are teaching our students to think critically for themselves. This is the best way we know to instill values and a personal ability to weed out the nonsense. I can state for a fact that teaching a young earth perspective in no way keeps a kid from losing their faith. That's just silly.

PS: We visited the Field Museum yesterday and it was wonderful to discuss the exhibits with our young students after gaining so much knowledge from RTB. I am looking forward to more experiences like that in the future.

Theology Mom said...

Thanks all for your thoughtful comments. I agree with you, D.K., that teaching critical thinking skills is key. That's not an easy task, however, and much of what passes for "critical thinking" in many homeschool circles is, in my candid opinion, propaganda and indoctrination.

Keep fighting the good fight of faith all you Christian parents.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Adam was a real man—the first man and a literal Adam. To say otherwise is to undermine Scripture and thus attack the Word, which is an attack of the person of Jesus Christ, Who is the WORD.

These compromising Christian academics need to fall on their knees before a Holy God and repent of their attack on the Word.

Anonymous said...

I had wanted to comment on part of this, but let it slip by so when you re-posted in regards to Mr. Ham's Facebook posting, I thought I'd come back here and mention another resource on the topic of youth leaving the church. It's a book called Souls in Transition that is the second general book published from the National Survey of Youth and Religion.

They've now been following the same group of young people for over five years (second book based on the survey at the five year mark).

The factor that correlates most with a child continuing in being observant? Their parent's level of commitment during their teen years (as defined here from 13 to 18). To me this is comforting, but there is a scary part which is they divide people into four levels of attendance and the top two are called "Devoted" and "Regular Attenders." The lower category (Regular Attenders) have no where near as high a level of children continuing in their faith.

The next two highest factors are how often the children prayed and read their Bible in a month. The highest level was pretty low (say around once a week).

The caveats is that of course as sociologist they can only base conclusions on observation and not any real knowledge of faithfulness. But they are able to use observations made when the children were teens to see what they do as young adults.

Pat, the Handmaiden ;)

Anonymous said...

I go to Calvin College where old earth creation and evolution are taught almost exclusively.

I would like to comment on the argument of whether or not a school's stance on the Genesis 1&2 debate should be considered indicative of the school's level of liberalness.
Sorry if this is written poorly. It's very late after a very long day.

Calvin teaches a lot of things you would probably consider liberal (parts of Proberbs were taken from the pharaoh Amenenope's book, God inspired "divine editing" of the Scrptures several times, etc.)

It is my belief that these teachings all stem from a general distrust in Scripture, and reliance on other, outside sources. My professors and friends will look to science, history, philosophy, to learn about things. Only after they have the "answers" do they look at what the Bible says. If they don't match, the Bible gets labeled "corrupted" or resigned to "only theological truth."

I cannot know, but I suspect that the first instance of this occurrence was through the acceptance of evolution. It is very widely supported and may have seemed logical to those in charge of the school.

But once you start doubting one thing, you can doubt everything. (in this case, at least). If I doubt the literal nature of Genesis, why should I believe the story of Jonah? If I doubt Jonah, why should I believe Paul's conversion experience?

These are crude examples, given on too few hours of sleep. But do you see my point?

Once you open yourself to doubting Scripture and redefining it's relationship to you (total truth v. only religious truth), you are in a position to forsake true Christianity altogether.