My old pals at Answers in Genesis, the multi-million-dollar Kentucky-based Christian ministry that promotes young-earth creationism and the literal interpretation of the biblical book that is its namesake, made headlines last week with the launch of a barbed new billboard campaign aimed directly at atheists.
First appearing in electronic form in no less high-profile a place than the heart of New York City’s Times Square, the flashing message from AiG reads, “To all of our atheist friends: Thank God you’re wrong.” Similar billboards funded by the group (to the tune of about $200,000) have gone up in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Despite the criticism from not only atheists and secularists, but a number of Christians — who have pointed out such obvious concerns as that the humble and largely pacifistic Jesus of the canonical gospels never said anything remotely like the billboards’ in-your-face declaration — Ken Ham, president of AiG, told CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor Eric Marrapodi that the advertisements have been a “success.”
“We wanted people talking about them, and we wanted discussion about this. We wanted people thinking about God,” Ham said.
Apparently lost on Ham is the fact that there is absolutely no evidence that any of the “discussions” prompted by the billboards have been on the topic of God. Indeed, most of the ink spilled has been about Answers in Genesis — which may be closer to the “success” Ham had in mind anyway.
If that’s the case — and the whole kerfuffle is little more than AiG’s heavy-handed attempt to insert itself into the national conversation and drive traffic to its website (and well-stocked, prominently displayed online store) — then we would all be well-advised to ignore them. “Don’t feed the trolls,” as the old Internet adage wisely admonishes.
I have no wish to contribute — in even a small way — to the group’s self-promotion campaign (if that is what it is). However, their message is so blatantly unbiblical that I can’t help but respond.
The reason AiG’s is a decidedly un-Christian message is that “Thank God you’re wrong” translates to “Thank God I’m right,” or better yet, “Thank God you’ll be spending eternity in fiery torment” — which is equally arrogant, but has the added benefit of not making any sense.
Scripture exhorts us to be thankful for most things — but being right in a disagreement is not among them. Knowledge of God — much like salvation — is a gift of grace, which is unobtainable purely through human wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:21).
It’s outside of our control, so to arrogantly tout one’s knowledge of God makes as much sense as a man boasting about wealth he obtained by finding a winning lottery ticket on the sidewalk.
On his blog, Ham has continued to promote the campaign the past few days, bemoaning the “naysayers’” responses even as he admits they were entirely expected. “Frankly, no matter what AiG does, we get criticized,” he writes.
He seems to see this as a badge of honor — proof that his group is doing the “right thing” — but there’s little scriptural support for such a view. In 1 Thessalonians 4, a passage in which Paul is explaining how to please God, he called for Christians “to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands.”
I can’t imagine how someone who takes the Bible as literally as Ham does could construe a 40-foot taunt targeting atheists as in keeping with living “a quiet life.”
Jesus rebuked his disciples when they tried to fight the Roman soldiers who had come to take him to the cross. He was the prince of peace, after all, and his kingdom was not of this world.
True, he also said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword,” but — in the context of everything else he said and did — doesn’t it make sense to understand this as merely a prediction of the divisiveness his world-changing message would bring?
At any rate, the full passage certainly doesn’t read as a command for his followers to instigate violence or disorder. No, he made it absolutely clear on the night before he was murdered that he did not wish his followers to live by the sword.
To be clear: The Bible does teach that a battle is raging, but it is not fought with material arms, whether they be blades or billboards. It is a spiritual war, and our weapons are prayer and the gospel of peace.
I don’t know about you, but that’s a battle I feel better suited to. So, if I were ever compelled to gloat in biblical knowledge, I’d thank God that AiG’s wrong.