In early February 2014, the sports world completed what could be considered the highlight of its year with the playing of the Super Bowl.
Those of a more bookish or scholarly inclination got to enjoy a similar kind of excitement just a few days later when they could pick sides as evangelist Ken Ham faced off against Bill Nye the Science Guy.
The issue at hand was whether evolution is sufficient to account for the existence of life.
Ken Ham, on the one hand, believes that, without appealing to a literal understanding of the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis, all of the foundations upon which intellectual comprehension and a just social order rest begin to break down.
As an avowed Humanist (having been recognized as the 2010 Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association), Bill Nye believes that the processes of the material universe are comprehensive enough in themselves to account for the complexity of the reality in which we find ourselves.
Granted, there are a number of assorted positions between these two poles. Salvation is not determined by disbelief in Charles Darwin's theories but rather in one's belief in the finished work of Christ upon the cross of Calvary. After all, it can be argued that God has a special place in His heart for the dimwitted.
Interestingly, some of the most scathing criticisms directed towards Ken Ham did not necessarily come from the raving village atheists but more from those that would consider themselves Ham's fellow believers. Foremost among them was none other than Pat Robertson.
Instead of commending Ham for the courage to take a principled Christian stand on one of the foremost issues facing the faith in the contemporary era, Robertson counseled, “Let's not make a joke of ourselves.” Apparently he comes down on the side of the debate holding to some kind of theistic evolution or progressive creationism.
It would not be gentlemanly to deny the validity of the faith in Christ of those holding to such a position. However, the perspective holds that God is not powerful enough or is too stupid to create the world in seven literal standard “Earth days” as detailed in the Book of Genesis.
Put that aside for now. But “Let's not make a joke out of ourselves” is a ship that sailed from Robertson's Virginia Beach compound years and even decades ago. But then again, maybe it flew off in a jet taking off from Robertson's private airplane runway or road off on one of this thoroughbred horses all the while Robertson insists global warming is the result of we mere common folks having too much such as automobiles powered by internal combustion engines.
One would think that Pat Robertson might show a little more compassion or understanding to those that say controversial things but which contain considerable truth after they have been reflected upon. After all, was not Robertson the one that pointed out that the true danger of leftwing feminism was that it would encourage woman to kill their babies, take up witchcraft, and become lesbians?
Robertson's whacked out remarks go beyond any of Ham's claims no matter how ludicrous the assertions of the Australian evangelist sound to those building their epistemological house foremostly upon man's reason.
For example, Robertson claims that, if it weren't for the prayers offered by his ministry, the Tidewater area of Virginia would have already been destroyed as a result of an oncoming hurricane. And this was one of Robertson's less shocking flubs, with others going so far beyond Scriptural propriety to actually violate divine mandates.
For example, Robertson suggested that a spouse ought to go ahead and divorce a partner suffering from Alzheimer's. The suggestion was made not as some strategy to secure additional insurance or social welfare in a broken system that penalizes loving couples trying to live properly. Rather, Robertson made the comment so that the healthy spouse could dump the ailing partner in order to find someone else to frolic in the boudoir with.
The Bible establishes that marriage is intended to be a life long arrangement to dissolve upon the death of one of the involved parties. That is why in the marriage vows that the promises are for better or for worse, and in sickness and in health until death do they part.
Who wouldn't rather spend one's declining years (often euphemistically referred to as “golden”) puttering around a Florida retirement community in a golf cart. However, shouldn't one strive to stand by the promise made years ago? It's not like the mate with dementia set out intentionally to lose a lifetime of memories and to complete life as a proverbial vegetable.
Yet these claims made by Robertson on different occasions regarding difficult questions over which sincere believers trying to decipher God's will can disagree are not necessarily the worst of Robertson's shenanigans.
On many Christian television programs, prayer is a regular featured element. In most Christian traditions, prayer occurs when the believer directs communication --- either spontaneous or fabricated --- directly to the triune Godhead.
If most Christian leaders are sincere, they will admit that this communication usually flows in one direction in the audible sense. If some want to insist that the communication or communion can be felt by the parties at either end of this direct line into the noumenal, those that should be spared additional psychological evaluation will admit that what they experience is more akin to a sense of peace and well being that may come over them as they reflect upon the grandeur and power of the Heavenly Father in comparison to what ever burden they are bringing to Him to lay at the foot of the Cross.
If some public religious figure tells you that God TOLD this leader to pursue a particular course of action, the best thing to do is to RUN away as soon as possible. For eventually, the thing that such figures usually insist the Almighty is telling them to do is either sleep with YOUR spouse or to force you to drink the funny-smelling Kool Aid.
Robertson takes his own version of the divine dialog over the boundaries of acceptability in its own particular fashion. The televangelist insists he receives direct replies back from God.
Referring to this beatific telepathy as a “word of faith”, Robertson insists that the Holy Spirit is conveying back to him and a few select minions what amount to press releases regarding these movings in mysterious ways. Usually these are healings that are supposedly taking place at the time the ritual is conducted.
The thing of it is is that these revelations seldom ever happen to be very specific in terms of names and locations. Robertson and his minions insist they see somewhere out in the viewing audience someone being healed of a non-descriptive back pain or stomach ailment.
One would think that if the Holy Spirit deemed it important enough to inform Robertson of these miraculous interventions, the third person of the Trinity would also provide the address of the person being healed. After all, if this was all on the up and up, you think that might be good in terms of professions of faith, ratings, and (of course) the bottom line.
Such a scatterbrained approach no doubt helps Robertson cover his backside. By keeping these claims of precognition or telepathy intentionally vague, the likelihood is increased that at least occasionally some individual will step forward claiming that they were the one that Robertson was talking about.
Ken Ham, on the other hand, is more on the up and up. Even if one does not agree with his conclusions, at least the claims of creationist theory are made on the basis of a logical or evidential methodology that the skeptical can attempt to disprove or refute.
About all we have from Robertson is the claim that God blows in his ear. That isn't really all that much different than what Jim Jones and David Koresh use to say.
Scripture declares that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But in comparing their overall ministries, the antics of Pat Robertson have brought far greater embarrassment to the cause of Christ than the labors of Ken Ham ever have or likely ever will.
Frederick Meekins is an independent theologian and social critic. Frederick holds a BS in Political Science/History, a MA in Apologetics/Christian Philosophy from Trinity Theological Seminary, and a PhD. in Christian Apologetics from Newburgh Theological Seminary.