Did Ken Ham Misrepresent Tim Keller on Genesis 1 and 2?

A couple of weeks ago, Ken Ham, President of Answers in Genesis, wrote a blog post accusing Dr. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer NYC, of misrepresenting the views of young-earth creationists. In one of Dr. Keller’s articles for the BioLogos Foundation, he says:

Many secular and many evangelical voices agree on one ‘truism’—that if you are an orthodox Christian with a high view of the authority of the Bible, you cannot believe in evolution in any form at all. New Atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins and creationist writers such as Ken Ham seem to have arrived at consensus on this, and so more and more in the general population are treating it as given. If you believe in God, you can’t believe in evolution. If you believe in evolution, you can’t believe in God.

Ken Ham believes that his own views have been misrepresented in that he does not believe that, “If you believe in God, you can’t believe in evolution. If you believe in evolution, you can’t believe in God.”

You can read the rest of Ken Ham’s post at the above link.

Today, a PCA pastor, David Wallover, has written an article in response to Ken Ham’s post in which he accuses Ken Ham of having misrepresented Dr. Keller’s teaching on the relationship between Genesis 1 and 2. For reference, Ken Ham wrote the following:

Pastor Keller is quoted as saying that he takes Genesis 2 literally, but not Genesis 1. In a teaching session on Genesis 1 and 2, Keller claims that Genesis 1 and 2 contradict one another and says that Christians can do either of the following: they can believe that Genesis 1 and 2 contradict each other and an “idiotic editor” put them together in the Bible, or Christians can adopt his perspective that Genesis 1 is a poem, while Genesis 2 is historical.

Ken Ham gave a link for the teaching session.

Pastor Wallover wrote that Ken Ham’s summary misrepresents what Dr. Keller said in his teaching session:

Now, did Keller misrepresent Ham? He may well have; I do not know, not being privy to the entire discussion. Even after reading the remainder of the article, I am not entirely willing to give Ham the benefit of the doubt as to the accuracy of his summary of Keller’s statements about Ham, given Ham’s inaccurate summary of Keller’s position at the outset.

So, I decided to listen to the talk by Dr. Keller and decide for myself if Ken Ham’s summary was accurate or not. Here is a transcription of the relevant portion of the talk (beginning at 3:54):

In Genesis 2, it’s very clear that God followed a natural order. There’s a place where it says that there was no vegetation yet because it hadn’t rained yet. There’s a place in Genesis 2. I read a whole article from our old, Old Testament professor, Meredith Kline, years ago, I read an article on Genesis 2:4, “Because It Had Not Rained,” or maybe it’s 2:6. And Meredith Kline asked the question, he says, if Genesis 2 says that you had to have rain before you had vegetation, but if you go back to Genesis 1 you have vegetation before you have the sun and the moon, therefore, before you have weather. You have day 3 which means you have vegetation but day 4 you don’t have weather yet. If Genesis 2 says that God did things in a natural order, that He didn’t do vegetation until there was rain, but in Genesis 1 we have vegetation before there was rain, then you actually have this choice before you. You can either believe that Genesis 1 and 2 contradict each other and that we can’t trust the Bible. Alright? That somebody wrote Genesis 2, and somebody wrote Genesis 1, and some idiotic editor just slapped them together. And they totally contradict each other and that’s the way the Bible is. It’s just this compendium, right? Or you can believe that Genesis 2 is historical reporting and Genesis 1 is a poem. That’s your only two. This is one of the reasons that I do not believe that Genesis 1 can be taken literally. Because if you take it literally then you have a Bible that contradicts itself. Because the order in which God makes things in Genesis 2 contradicts Genesis 1. Now critical scholars have have all along have always said sure that’s because the Bible is just plopped together by different people, it’s a bunch of different legends, sort of like a compendium of myths. But if you believe that the Bible is true then you have to believe that they’re two different literary genres. You have to. And that’s one of the reasons I do not take every part of Genesis 1 literally is because if I do it undermines the authority of the Bible. … (6:35) Genesis 2 is historical reporting and it contradicts Genesis 1 unless Genesis 1 is a song.

Did Ken Ham misrepresent Dr. Keller’s teaching on Genesis 1 and 2? I’m not so sure.

4 thoughts on “Did Ken Ham Misrepresent Tim Keller on Genesis 1 and 2?

  1. ben inman says:

    I appreciated Ham’s article (though it is tediously long and a bit blow-by-blow, if you aren’t a fan). I appreciated it for asserting charitable catholicity.

    The relevant quote from Keller sets Dawkins and Ham at the ends of a spectrum but equally dogmatic about the ability to hold theism and evolution together.

    Ham responds making very clear that his position is not the absolute position of Dawkins in photo-negative. He thinks real believers do buy this evolution business– errantly. He thinks that ministers who sell this evolution business actually can be preaching the gospel and accomplishing the great commission– faithfully.

    Of course, Ham does think that these faithful men gathering the saints are setting them up for huge problems by their treatment of Genesis. Considering how often and in what various connections New Testament texts actually expose Genesis as their tap roots, such sober concern is not just an issue about the coherence of theism and evolution.

    Based on Ham’s actual response, marshaling him alongside Dawkins as twin forms of fundamentalism (which I think is what Keller is doing) was a misrepresentation of Ham.

    As for Genesis, more to talk about. As for Ham being sectarian, I think he just proved the contrary.


  2. Nathan says:

    I grew up on Ken Ham and really liked (and still do like) his stuff. He is an Aussie and to my perhaps soft american ears a bit harsh at times but I think he really does care about folks and the church in particular.

    I also happen to really enjoy Tim Keller. He has a gift for teaching and especially for engaging with my generation and especially with secular culture that a lot of folks in the Church would do well to note.

    I follow Paul, I follow Apollos… both are men of God and are being used. It would be interesting to hear a discussion between the two of them. Not a debate, just a meeting of minds.

    Personally I tend to align myself more with Young Earth creationism, but I read Keller’s primary article and I didn’t come away from it with a view that he is undermining the authority of scripture (actually I feel like he is upholding it) and he makes some extremely valid points. I have a problem with the fact that he seems to simply equate evolutionary theory with science (remember I lean towards young-earth creationism) and for as well read as he is I do feel like he has somehow missed an entire field of study/writing/science.

    All the same, I think the young-earth creationism camp does have a lot more feeding into their worldview and interpretation of scripture (and Genesis 1) than what they may believe.

    Think about it this way, if evolution was a complete unknown in our culture, how differently would the whole discussion around Genesis 1 look? On the one hand, there would be no vitriol against it, on the other there would be no pressure to capitulate to any part of it.

    Anyhow, I love the Church and appreciate both men. There is so much we could all learn from each other if we would just stop trying to win everyone over to our own views (no matter how convinced we may be) and just take a moment and listen to our brother’s and sister’s who are just as much in love with Jesus as we are.

    Just to be clear, I am not a synchrotist, I have a high belief in absolute truth and that God is the source of that truth. That truth is revealed in the scriptures in concert with the work of the holy spirit and validated by the Church at large. I just also know Jesus talked a lot about blindness and more often than not his target audience was the religious crowd, not the irreligious, so I think we all should take a hard and prayerful look inward.

    Just my-2-cents 🙂

    Kind Regards,



  3. arngraph says:

    I thought Ken Ham nailed it. Keller’s position is that if you read the accounts in a straightforward way, they contradict. Therefore, he argues, you can’t read them in a straightforward way. In a 2008 interview he said,

    “The fact is, the one that most people consider the most conservative, which is the young-Earth, six-day creation, has all kinds of problems with the text, as we know. If it’s really true, then you have problems of contradictions between Genesis 1 and 2. I don’t like the JEPD theory. I don’t like the theory that these are two somewhat contradictory creation stories that some editor stuck together¯some pretty stupid editor stuck together. I think therefore you’ve got a problem with how long are the days before the sun shows up in the fourth day. You have problems really reading the Bible in a straightforward way with a young-Earth, six 24-hour day theory.”

    I’ve not heard Ken Ham or anyone misrepresent this. Seems Keller is pretty straightforward about it, and people are nitpicking Ham’s response.

    BTW, the main problem with Keller’s view is his interpretation of “plants of the field.” It’s an obvious reference to farmed plants or crops, but Keller takes it to mean all the vegetation of the earth. Chapter 2 of Genesis says that there were no cultivated plants yet, since there was no man to till the ground. No farmer, no crops. This was on day 6, so Keller thought this meant there was no vegetation in existence on day 6, which is a contradiction of chapter 1 which says plants were created on day 3 (clear as mud?). But he’s simply committing an equivocation fallacy.

    I’m sure he’s a good guy. I’m sure he’s a Christian. Ken Ham believes he’s a Christian. He just has some really bad exegesis. These are not hard passages to reconcile. Tim Keller is a very staunch evolutionist, and this is likely what drives his Genesis interpretations—not the text itself. No disrespect, it’s just how I see it.


  4. Brady says:

    arngraph, You are exactly right. He mishandled the word. He didn’t understand it. That’s very obvious to most people. People will try and defend him still though. Anyone who properly goes through and reads what is happening will see no contradiction. It worries me how he is leading a church yet mishandling and speaking about contradictions. We need to pray for him and his followers. You lose credibility when you start talking contradictions and anti-Inerrancy. Just like people who have a surface level view of the meaning of contradiction. For example, this man is rich and this man is poor. Some might say how can a man be both? Simple, because he could be wealthy yet poor spiritually. There is always attacks on the bible.

    Also to Nathan in the comments.
    “Anyhow, I love the Church and appreciate both men. There is so much we could all learn from each other if we would just stop trying to win everyone over to our own views (no matter how convinced we may be) and just take a moment and listen to our brother’s and sister’s who are just as much in love with Jesus as we are.”

    It’s not about winning people over with OUR own views sir. What was Jesus’s view of scripture? He was constantly saying, have you not read? Also the bible tells us all scripture is God-Breathed. I’m sorry but Genesis 1&2 are not contradictory. Tim Keller mishandled it. I listened to his full video on YouTube. He didn’t he know what verse he was quoting. He even misquoted the verse. This has nothing to do with winning over SOMEONE’S view. It is strictly defending the text and the bible.

    If you would prefer I can go through and type word for word what the bible says vs what Tim Keller says and easily point out where and how he mishandled it, and you will easily be able to see the same. Genesis 1&2 does not contradict.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s