Review: In God We Trust

In God We Trust: Why Biblical Authority Matters for Every Believer is a new book by Steve Ham. Mr. Ham is the Director of Outreach at Answers in Genesis, an organization dedicated to Creationist studies.

The first half of this book addresses matters of biblical authority. In emphasizing the need for a strong focus on the gospel message, several elements are presented as essential: sin, God incarnate, the cross, self-denial, and repentance.  One final part of the focus on the gospel is “narrowness”. Ham writes, “Absolute truth is a foreign concept in the modern world, and to stand on absolute truth is to stand in arrogance and to be a dogmatic fundamentalist” (p. 28). In saying this Ham is simply warning about the consequences of asserting a rational, singular truth and how that will be viewed in our culture.

In addressing the cultural challenges to such a view, Ham exposes false sources of authority that often have more influence than the gospel message. These would include experience, science, human reason, government, and culture. “Whether they realize it or not, many people are taking these things that we have been talking about and using them as their authority for life” (p. 42). There is, of course, only one true authority, and that is God.

Ham lifts up the Bible as our sole authority, declaring that “If the Bible contradicts man’s opinion in biology, anthropology, astronomy, archaeology, geology, psychology, or philosophy, then we must assume that mankind’s idea is incorrect in the light of the unlimited, eternal, omniscient God” (p. 62).

The middle section of the book details the subject of authority as it relates to the character and persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a primer in theology that is well written and easy to absorb. The third section of the book has to do with authority as it relates to our every day lives.

IMPRESSIONS

On the plus side, this is a call back to the authority and dependability of the Bible and the need for a clarion Gospel call. Ham doesn’t write an unclear sentence. He’s on a mission to point people back to God, using the book that God has given us. His emphasis on Christian evidences rings through every chapter. There is some great reading material between these covers. I would think someone who is wavering in the area of faith would gain a lot from what is written.

On the minus side, and it is significant, Ham has an ax to grind.  He grinds it incessantly throughout the book. He brings it up in places that it really doesn’t make sense, but you can tell he just wants to bring it up. I want to be clear in saying that I know Ham was fully aware of this, and that it is done purposefully. As I mentioned, Ham and his family are heavily involved in Answers in Genesis. For all of his emphasis on gospel, in Ham’s thinking a correct understanding of the origins of man/creation is on equal plane with the gospel.

“The matter of origins is the battleground today where we are compromising Christ’s authority, and it is Christ’s authoritative domain. There are many who will not be comfortable with me saying it this way” (p. 101). True, that does make me uncomfortable. I am among those whom he addresses when he says, “Many people have said to me that it doesn’t matter whether we get Genesis right or not, as long as we respect Jesus’ teaching and the work on the Cross” (p. 100). Ham goes on to say, “We so often forget that Genesis is Jesus’ teaching, and this is the most common error of the rejection of the authority of His Word today” (p. 100). Later in the book he takes Tim Keller (and others) to task for this kind of thinking.

To demonstrate how important this is to Ham, in his chapter entitled “Order in the House: Authority and the Church, he lists “uncompromising essential doctrines” (p. 192) as:

*the full and sole authority of Scripture

*the doctrine of God: the Trinity

*creation (not evolution)

*the doctrine of sin and judgment

*the doctrine of the Son and one way to salvation

*the Second Coming and consummation of all things

WHO WILL ENJOY THIS BOOK?

Those who hold to a literal six-day creation period in Genesis, a 6,000 year old earth, and who believe that all who do not hold to those teachings are rejecting God’s authority will LOVE this book. It will be candy. If you believe that taking a neutral position on these issues is a compromise of the message of Jesus, this is your book.

Literally everyone else will wonder why Ham equates these teachings with the very gospel that saves our soul. Many will feel marginalized because the author obviously believes that if one does not hold a strict and literal interpretation of Genesis, then he simply does not view the Bible, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit with the proper attitude. In the foreword, written by his brother Ken who is CEO of Answers in Genesis, we read “Many Christians simply do not realize that they don’t have the high view of Scripture they think they have” (p. 8). There is not much time spent dispelling the prominent theories of creation / age of the earth held by many Christians. True, this is not his purpose.

Personally, I found the book combative and confrontational. The excellent material that is presented throughout the book is unnecessarily (and sometimes inexplicably) attached to a strict and literal interpretation of Genesis. I’m not saying that those issues are unimportant, but I would assert that an exclusive view of those issues does not belong in the list of essential doctrines.

I hope that gives you some insight into Ham’s book and if it seems of interest to you, I encourage you to buy it and give it your consideration.

Thanks for reading,

John

This book was provided for review by the New Leaf Publishing Group.

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