On August 16, 2014….I attended a debate between Pastor Bruce Bennett of the Word of Truth Church and Matthew Washington, a philosophy student at Rutgers- New Brunswick. Here is the link to that debate:
Both men conducted themselves like gentlemen, and I personally applaud that. I want to share some of the details, critiques, and questions that I had leaving the debate.
One thing I want to make clear from the outset is that I truly attended this debate with an open mind. As a Christian, I know the doctrine of Creationism (which is many times erroneously espoused). Due to following interpretational principles of “audience relevance”, I do not demand that the Genesis “creation account” be about the literal creation of “heaven and earth” (instead understanding “heaven and earth” as a phrase that is used to describe God’s covenant people throughout the Scriptures). I am a Creationist in the regard that I believe in the God of Israel as the Creator, however due to my limited knowledge of “biological science”, I am willing to be intellectually humble regarding evolution. That is and was my mindset entering this debate.
Also, I recently witnesses a similar debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye, which you can access at the following link:
It was this debate that truly encouraged my current adventure of realizing that Genenis is not necessarily about earth’s origins. All Ken Ham did throughout the debate was argue that he believed in the Bible, therefore not willing to enter into debate regarding the issues brought up by Mr. Bill Nye. I truly appreciate Pastor Bruce Bennett’s willingness to be called to the task of answering questions with more than a shrug of the shoulders and the Bible as his fall back argument.
Pastor Bennett started off the discussiong with raising the question – “Where did the universe come from”. The two points that he posited were:
1.) Something other than the Universe created the Universe
2.) The universe always existed
Pastor Bennett began to make mention of the COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer) and the results from 1992 that the universe has a beginning. He cited quotes from famous men such as Fred Hoyle, George Greenstein, Paul Davies, and Michael Denton regarding the truth that the Universe could not have come into being by chance.
Also, Pastor Bennett sought to make a clear distinction between microevolution and macroevolution. He made the case that: THERE IS NO MATERIALIST EXPLANATION OF HOW DNA/RNA CAN BE ASSEMBLED BY MOLLECULAR COLLISIONS. And he made the claim that: THE MOST SIMPLE CELL IS MORE COMPLEX THAN THE SPACE SHUTTLE CHALLENGER. Along with this, Pastor Bennett provided 3 more claims that speak against the claims of macroevolution. I advise asking him for the slides he provided at the beginning of the debate.
Again, I want to make clear. I am citing Pastor Bennett’s claims, not my own since I am not well rounded or researched in this area.
Finally, Pastor Bruce Bennett ended his opening argument with the charge that evolutionists simply have a problem with God.
Matthew Washington opened up by stating, “Evidence is what is important” and was very honest and humble in stating that he is no “Bill Nye”. Mr. Washington detailed the variety of sciences (medicine, ecology, histology, mollecular biology, immunulogy, etc.) that make up what can be called the “evolutionary tree”.
Mr. Washington seeking to make a great point at the beginning of the debate made the following statement: “YOU CANNOT SIMPLY SAY, “OH YOU CAN’T EXPLAIN IT, THAT MEANS GOD DID IT”. Even as a Theist, I am inclined to agree with Mr. Washington here. It seems many Christians are content with God being the “fall-back plan”, instead of being diligent in their efforts to “prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21)”.
Since I had debated Pastor Bruce Bennett, earlier in the year, I was not suprised to hear the grumbles of the crowd when Mr. Washington made a claim that caused them to think through their presuppositions. Sadly, Christians cling to many presuppositons without even knowing how to defend them.
Mr. Washington stated that a “theory” does not mean “guess”, that would be a “hypothesis”. Instead, a theory is a well substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that has been repeatably confirmed through observation and experimentation. Mr. Washington sought to bring the topic of evolution of from “hypothesis” to a “theory” in the debate.
I was intrigued by Mr. Washington’s explanation of mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift. Also, his mention of the evolutionary digs that have levels and “USELESS REMNANTS” that are found- for example a hot topic during the debate was that humans have genes for making tales.
Here are two sides of that debate found in articles on the internet:
In the rebuttals, Pastor Bennett used what I refer to as the “conspiracy theory position” which makes the claim that modern scientists are willfully ignoring the evidence for a divine creator to push some other agenda. While I might be inclined to agree in some regards, I believe this to be a method many “Creationists” use to push their agenda. It’s something than can hardly be proved or disproved. Pastor Bennett claims the information and findings coming out of the “Evolution Camp” are due to atheistic and agnostic tendencies. I disagree, since there are many Christians who are “scientifically inclined” that have been given over to a “theistic evolution” (something Pastor Bennett said he was not going to be dealing with in the debate). Also, Pastor Bruce said there is no such thing as “junk dna” which Mr. Washington referred to as the “useless elements” that have been found in the evolutionary record.
Sadly, as is common in many debates with “Christians” is the approach of putting words or thoughts in that were not necessary stated, as Pastor Bennett did continually throughout the debate by saying, “…from pond scum to human beings”.
Mr. Matthew Washington continually had to rebuke that phrase and posit that he has not said that, instead pointing to the long-term evolutionary record. Mr. Washington also pointed out that scientists do not use the phrases “micro” and “macro” in regards to evolution. Mr. Washington also pointed out that this was not a debate regarding “abiogenesis” which is the theory on how life started, instead what Mr. Washington was present to debate was the truth of evolution. He then offered the following rebuttal to Pastor Bennett’s arguments about the odds of evolution occuring, “If something happens, than the odds to not matter”. In regards to that statement, Mr. Washington noted that we have witnessed solar systems start. He also brought up Craig Venter and his creating “synthetic life” – http://www.jcvi.org/cms/home/ Finally, Mr. Washington simply noted that some of the statements that Pastor Bruce Bennett said during his rebuttals are WRONG. “Look them up”. Again, I note a common thing I experienced in debating Pastor Bennett- he relies upon the ignorance of the crowd.
In talking about the impossible odds of evolution, Pastor Bennett brought up names such as William Dembski and David Berlinski. Pastor Bennett then asked, “Why do we not see fishgills on people?”. To which, Mr. Washington responded that we have the genes necessary to make them. As I do my research on the internet, this seems to be a hotly debated topic.
In his cross-examination, Matthew Washington sought Pastor Bennet’s reasoning about why certain birds that cannot and will not fly (i.e., Ostrich) have hollow bones. Sadly, Pastor Bennett resorted to the common cliche answer, “God created it that way”, and then he made a statement that completely baffed me. Pastor Bennett then said, “They could be apart of the curse”. Is this how Christians respond to questions that challenge their assumptions? With completely absurb responses? I was seriously dismayed by the chuckles in the crowd to this statement. Is Pastor Bruce saying that some of the animal kingdom may have a part in the Adamic curse and thus would recieve the reversal through Jesus Christ? Yikes!
Of course, Pastor Bruce Bennett could not respond with scientific responses to this reasoning and resorted to, “Are you asking me to play God”.
It is at this point that I must explain why I am “in the middle” pertaining to this discussion. Thanks to the intellectual honesty of many Christian historians, Christian scientists, and theologians we are now realizing that we have been reading the Bible with a 21st century lens. This is surely nothing new. It should remind us of the Galileo Galilei controvery of the 17th century. They were reading things into the Bible that were not their. Many are led by the notion that the beginning of the Bible must be speaking about human origins and the beginning of the planet earth- and this leads them into some strange places pertaining to interpretation. This is exactly the reason many Christians must contend the “conspiracy theory” mindset in regards to modern science instead of being willing to engage the evidence and explain the faith.
In the closing statements portion of the debate, Pastor Bruce Bennett leveled charges at the absurdity of “something from nothing”. Pastor Bennett is right on with this- however I do wonder how he would respond to a personal who would subscribe to a position of theistic evolution. Maybe, those at http://biologos.org. Also, in his closing remarks, Pastor Bennett spoke of a global flood, which after much critique and examination by many scholors has shown to be a subject with very flawed views. I might recommend the book, Beyond Creation Science by Tim Martin & Jeffrey Vaughn. I was very dismayed that Pastor Bennett yet again sought to use the ’emotional appeal’ of his audience to sway they views, as he did in the debate I had with him. At the end, Pastor Bruce brought up Robin Williams, even going as far as saying, “I’ll bet that Robin Williams was an evolutionist” (this was done with the intent to demonize the evolution position), when in fact Robin Williams was an Anglican Christian.
Mr. Matthew Washington closed by stating how the debate had wandered off topic and that Pastor Bruce Bennett makes up the “odds” that he uses. Also, Mr. Washington called out the absurdities of Pastor Bennett’s seeking to use morality and “emotional appeal” to sway his argument.
I sure did find it odd that both of my questions that I had written up (for both presenters) somehow seemed to be misplaced and never asked, therefore I will afford myself the opportunity to ask them here and now.
I asked Pastor Bruce Bennett in reponse to a statement he made about Charles Darwin’s contemporaries giving in to “sexual sin” due to their evolutionary theories. Name some of these people please?
Also, after the debate I had the opportunity to ask Mr. Washington what is the difference between a “materialist” (as he continually said he was) in contrast to an atheist. I did not quite understand the difference in his explanation, however I did find this webpage to be pretty interesting, http://www.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_difference_between_atheistic_materialism_and_theistic_materialism
Also, Mr. Washington made the claim during the debate that “If God exists, He knows what Mr. Washinton needs to see to believe in Him”. Being proactive, I decided to ask Mr. Washington what he needs to see, and unfortunately he could not provide an answer. Maybe, the answers are right in front of him.
Both men did a good job in the debate, however I will say I still have many questions. I am an honest student in this regard open to creationism and evolution (however I would posit God as the Creator), which ever comes out the victor.
I am firmly convinced that the Christians are the “truth-tellers” in this world. Atleast we are called to be. Therefore, we must shake our heads at “easy answers” or superficial responses to indepth questions. We need to be willing to “prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21), “search the Scriptures (Acts 17:11), and ultimately “make known the manifold wisdom of God” through a intellectually honest and contextual understanding of the Scriptures.
I will be writing more about this as time goes on.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Michael Miano
The Blue Point Bible Church
Blue Point, New York