Ken Ham / Ronald Thwaites Debate

on July 3, 2002

Editors note: What follows is the transcript for the original full interview of a 2001 radio debate in Jamaica between Ken Ham and Ronnie Thwaites, described by the moderator as a “well-known Roman Catholic deacon and member of Parliament.”

Moderator: Five minutes after seven o’clock. Does the story of Genesis explain world events? The Bible perceived by Christians as the greatest book ever created or ever made remains a puzzle to many persons as we read its pages and try to get a deeper understanding of its relevance and meaning to our lives. For those who have studied science which introduced us to the theories of origin of the universe and life forms, it’s very difficult understanding just how it all blends together. Traditionally there has been a huge gap between persons who accepted the scientific approach and those who accepted the creation story. However, over the years developments within science have prompted a reinterpretation of some of the ideas in the book of Genesis. A seminar organized by the Institute for Leadership Development aims to present some of these ideas to interested persons. The seminar is set to begin on Friday and will be held at Fellowship Tabernacle in Kingston. This evening we’ll get a preview of the issues when we speak with one of the presenters, the executive director of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham, out of the United States of America. He’ll be joined by well-known Roman Catholic deacon, member of parliament, Ronald Thwaites. Good evening, gentlemen.

Ronald Twaites [RT]: Hello.

Ken Ham [KH]: Good evening.

Moderator: Let me begin with you, Mr. Ham. Explain to us your thoughts on the creation story as presented in Genesis. What is at issue here?

KH: A number of things are at issue. First of all, that is that if the book of Genesis is not true, and if the Genesis account in Genesis 1-11 is not true, then neither can any Christian doctrine, neither can the Gospel of Jesus Christ be true, because every doctrine, the whole of the rest of the Bible, is dependent upon the history in Genesis 1-11. The fall of man, the entrance of sin and death because of a literal man’s fall, the doctrine of marriage based upon a man made from dust, a woman from his side, and so on. So ultimately, every single doctrine comes from Genesis. And one of the things I want to say is this, that the Bible is not just a book of religion. It really does touch on science. It touches on geology, biology, astronomy, anthropology. And where it does, it’s true. If it’s not, then you can’t trust its message of salvation, which is based in that science, in that history. And I’m certainly not against the science that you’re talking about. In fact, I have the same science an evolutionist does, the science of genetics, but in the science of genetics, all you see is that information that exists in animals and plants is either redistributed or lost, but you never see new information, and of course the Bible says that God made distinct kinds of animals and plants, and genetically that’s exactly what you see. In other words, there’s nothing in real science that disagrees with the Bible. In fact, the very first verse of the Bible, in the beginning God created, is confirmed by science, because science shows us that life is built on a code system. Code systems in information only ever come from an intelligent source, they never come from matter by themselves. And the other issue I want to say is this, that I know that there are many in the church who claim that you can believe in evolution and believe in millions of years and so on, and I certainly wouldn’t say they’re not Christians or anything like that, but I’d say they’re inconsistent because when you read the Bible it tells you that the original animals were vegetarian, when God made everything it was very good, there wasn’t any death or disease in the world. If you believe in millions of years, there were diseases like cancer before sin, diseases like cancer in the fossil record, and God said everything He made was very good. In fact, death was the penalty for sin, which is why Jesus Christ died on the cross and was raised from the dead. So there are Biblical issues here, there are scientific issues, I agree with the science of the evolutionists, but when you’re talking about millions of years ago, that’s not the same sort of science. There’s a science in the present, the science of genetics, the science of natural selection, so we have to distinguish between real science in the present and your beliefs about the past, and I’m going to say that what the Bible says about history about the past is confirmed by real science in the present.

Moderator: So you accept a literal translation of what is written in Genesis.

KH: I accept the same translation of Genesis that the New Testament writers did. Paul, Jesus, they all quoted from Genesis as literal history, and I accept it as literal history. It’s written as historical narrative. If it’s not literal history, then the New Testament has to be thrown out.

Moderator: Ronnie Thwaites?

RT: I don’t agree with that. I’m very respectful of the views being put forward, but my faith doesn’t tell me that every doctrine of Christianity hangs on Genesis 1-11 at all. I believe that Genesis is the story of a good God, a creator, it is a tale of the emergence of the people of Israel, but I don’t think that my salvation is based on science. I didn’t quite follow the third point, which Mr. Ham was making.

Moderator: Mr. Ham, what was that point? For clarification here.

KH: I’m not sure which point he’s referring to. I was saying that real science confirms Genesis. But I’m a little perplexed. If the message of salvation doesn’t depend upon Genesis, then I’d like—could we ask the gentleman where sin came from, and why people are sinners?

RT: Sin comes from human fall, from diverting from that which we know is good and that which God teaches, and has given witness, particularly in the person of Jesus Christ, to be wrong.

KH: But if we’re all descendants of one man I could understand we’re all sinners, but if we’re not descendants of one man who sinned, then how do we know where sin came from?

RT: No, that question doesn’t bother me. There is—that—why does everything hang upon that?

KH: Well, because Paul says in the New Testament, “by one man sin entered the world.”

RT: Sure, and that is—we can well understand, and that story is a very illustrative one, to jump from there to say that everything that Paul teaches hangs upon it, or that it has to be scientifically verifiable or that in it can be found the germ of all science is respectfully not my faith, or my reasoning.

KH: So there wasn’t one man to start with?

RT: No, I’m not going to—I really don’t know, my faith doesn’t demand that. There is a story of creation that involved one man. I see the goodness and the hand of God in that. But I don’t—that does not take me the additional distance of believing or of accepting that seven days literally passed in respect of creation, and so on.

KH: So, where did we come from?

RT: I’m sorry, am I being questioned? Am I being questioned in that way? I don’t mind answering and witnessing to my faith, but I think it is you who are putting forward the proposition.

KH: Well, I’m certainly putting forward the proposition that the Bible is true, that there’s nothing in science that doesn’t—

RT: Truth and scientific verification are not the same thing. I think that it’s a mistake to seek entire congruence between the schematic presentation of Genesis 1, say, and the data of modern science. A religious faith doesn’t require that.

KH: Well, you know, if Genesis is not literally true, then—

RT: Apple and all?

KH: Well, if woman didn’t come from man, I mean Paul says in the New Testament woman came from man, not an ape-woman, if woman came from an ape-woman, if you believe in evolution, I’m not sure what you believe, but if you believe in evolution—

RT: No, you know, but you see, by referring one ? you get into a matrix where we are saying that we’re referring to another Biblical exegete, and we are insisting that his use of the metaphor of Genesis, in fact has not to be that, but has to be a literal understanding or acceptance of the rib of man forming woman, I almost feel as if we’re, with great respect and affection, are speaking at cross-purposes, you know. Understanding what Paul says does not take me to the gentleman’s, Mr. Ham’s first premise.

KH: We certainly have, you and I have a different approach to the Bible. I might just say that one of the ways in which I also approach things is this—the Bible says that God made distinct kinds of animals and plants to reproduce after their own kind. When we look at genetics, the science of genetics, one of the things we find is, we observe natural selection as Darwin observed, but natural selection only ever involves information in the genes that’s already there. Nobody, nobody has ever seen in science one example of new information arising in the genome from matter. In fact, what we see out there is that dogs change into dogs and cats change into cats. In other words, you see great variation within a kind, you see speciation. Actually, that confirms the Biblical account that God created distinct kinds, and it goes against the evolutionary ideas that I guess you would call science.

RT: No, frankly the point you have made wouldn’t lead me to the conclusion you draw. The fact that that may be so about genetics would not lead me therefore to affirm the literalism of Genesis.

KH: So—

RT: I am going to be congruent, we’re talking about the history of a people, we’re talking about a story of creation. Isn’t it wonderful, isn’t it beautiful that we have a God who intervened, who created, who loved, and who told us the story of a people that we might look forward to, we might look at. Why do we have to—what is the great purpose of ensuring the literalism of this, and forcing this spiritual text?

Moderator: That’s the question I was about to pose to Mr. Ham. Why go down this road, why insist on this literal interpretation?

KH: I insist on this for a number of reasons. Number one, actually I presume that our other guest here, sorry I missed your name.

RT: I’m Ronnie.

Moderator: He’s Deacon Ronnie Thwaites, he’s a member of the Roman Catholic Church.

KH: Okay, Ronnie, what was the last name?

Moderator: Thwaites.

KH: Shwaites?

Moderator: Thwaites.

KH: Thwaites. Deacon Ronnie, I presume that you take Genesis 1:1 literally, because it says in the beginning God created, and you said you believe in creation. But where do you stop taking the Bible literally, and where do you begin to make it a metaphor?

RT: I don’t have to answer that question. To ask that question, excuse me. What I read in Genesis and in the Pentateuch is the story of God’s goodness, of His intervention in time, and His creation. If you ask me if I ascribe to a particular verse and not to another, you ? my sense of God, my belief in Him. And I’m not, I don’t need to do that. And is it so—while it causes me a little regret, it’s good to have discussions like these. But there are so many people who don’t accept the existence of God, much less His creative genius in the world, much less the wonder and gift of His Son Jesus, that I am almost reluctant, as a wretched person who tries to profess the Christian—to practice the Christian faith, to have a discussion which appears to make it as if there are vast differences between us. I feel we are going back to the 19th century and Scopes monkey, you know.

KH: Actually, if you want to look at the Scopes monkey trial, I know a lot about that—

RT: No, I don’t, I find it’s history, an embarrassing—

Moderator: But Mr. Ham, you were about to explain why you are insisting on this literal interpretation.

KH: Well, for one thing, the whole of the rest of the New Testament is dependent upon a literal Genesis, and people know, when people read the Bible, if Genesis is not true, if there was no literal man, and a literal woman, if it’s just an interesting story, then in the New Testament, Jesus Christ is called the last Adam because He takes the place of the first Adam, He died for the—

RT: No, no, no, nobody said it’s an interesting story, at least I don’t. I put it much higher than that.

KH: Well, you’re not saying it’s literal history.

RT: No, I’m not.

KH: Whereas in the New Testament—

RT: Certainly not literal science as I understand science.

KH: Well, it certainly is confirmed by literal science, there’s nothing—

RT: Is that so? That I think is what we need to be persuaded about.

Moderator: Yeah, where’s the confirmation of that?

KH: Well, as I said to you, in genetics, it’s a confirmation. You can’t scientifically prove things about the past, but genetics is a confirmation that in the beginning God created, and He created distinct kinds of animals and plants. There is no evidence that man evolved from ape-like creatures, and of course if he did, then the woman came from an ape—

RT: Excuse me, there’s no evidence?

KH: It’s just an interpretation. Most of—

RT: No, no, I don’t think you can reduce the history of anthropology to an interpretation.

KH: Oh, absolutely, I mean—

RT: Oh?

KH: Over the years, the various ape-men have been thrown out and changed, at the Scopes monkey trial, you want to call it, Piltdown man was used as the main evidence for evolution. It’s the scientists who got it wrong, it’s the Bible that hasn’t changed.

Moderator: So all that overwhelming evidence built up over the centuries…?

KH: Well—Deacon Ronnie, tell me what you think is the best evidence for evolution.

RT: No, I—that doesn’t really interfere with my faith, you know, evolution is quite consistent for me with the presence of a good God who, and a creative God, who intervenes and who can do all things, can arrange evolution and who chose to reveal himself and tell us a story of creation, to have his servants write a story of creation which holds the germ of truth of his revelation, without my having to interpret literally that the woman beside me is a creature of my rib.

KH: Well, two things. One—evolution teaches death and disease brought man into existence, and then God said—

RT: I’m sorry, I don’t accept that.

KH: Well, it does, that’s what evolution teaches. If you believe in millions of years, you have death and disease like cancer before sin.

Moderator: Well, it doesn’t necessarily follow.

RT: No.

KH: Yes, it does.

RT: No.

KH: Because the fossil record was supposedly laid down over millions of years, that’s where the millions of years comes from. If you accept millions of years, you accept death and diseases like cancer before sin. You have—

RT: No, I don’t intersect the existence of death and disease and sin at all.

KH: Well, the Bible says that death came after sin. That’s in the New Testament, that’s not Genesis.

RT: And I don’t have a difficulty, the fact is that when one is (tape cuts out) …that merges into a future, where death and destruction shall not be part of us, and I don’t have to go back to Genesis for that. I gained inspiration from that story and from that situation, but that doesn’t tie me to a literal interpretation.

KH: What about the fact that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15 and Ephesians 5, and Jesus in Mark 10, and Jesus in Matthew 19 refers to Genesis as a historical event?

RT: Well, you know, um, really, I’ll have to turn to Mark 10 for that and those things, and—

KH: —says he made them male and female from the beginning.

RT: Sure, I—he—male and female, fine, he made them from the beginning, I have no doubt that this took place, but that does not tie me to a slavish literal interpretation of this—the historicity of the Bible as I have studied the history of Scripture, doesn’t require that.

KH: Well, Jesus said—

Moderator: Hold the line first, Mr. Ham, and Deacon Thwaites, we just need to take a break and come right back. Hold the line for us, please.

Twenty-five minutes after seven o’clock, this is Nationwide on Hot 102, we’re talking Genesis. A seminar being put on by the Institute for Leadership Development and Answers in Genesis, they’re billing it, “Discover how to defend Biblical truth, understanding Genesis.” We have with us Ken Ham, who is the executive director of Answers in Genesis and Roman Catholic Deacon Ronnie Thwaites. Mr. Ham?

KH: Yes.

Moderator: Listening to you, a question keeps on coming back at me. Are you putting forward the argument that a Christian cannot possibly be an evolutionist?

KH: There are many Christians who are evolutionists, and I would not say that they’re not Christians, I’ve never said that.

Moderator: Well, but, they cannot credibly be an evolutionist or believing in the theory of evolution and be a Christian.

KH: I’d say that they are not consistent. In other words, I’d say they’re inconsistent, because evolution teaches millions of years of death and disease before man, and even has human-like skeletons showing evidence of cannibalism and religious practices and so on, two million years before man, whereas the Bible teaches that man’s rebellion brought sin and death.

Moderator: But why do you say evolution “teaches’? What evolution, as put forward over the years, those have been the experience, the reality of man. It doesn’t “teach.”

KH: What I’m talking about here is Darwinian evolution, like Darwin said in his book, the war of nature, famine and death, comes man. That’s what Darwin taught, and that’s what I mean by evolution teaches, that—

RT: Yeah, but we are no more bound by that ? text than we are by any other. And you know, Mr. Ham, it hurts. Because you began this discussion this evening by saying that every doctrine hangs on Genesis 1—

KH: Well, it does.

RT: If you affirm that, then you are in fact questioning the sincerity and the credibility of any Christian who is an evolutionist. And I pray you, the body of Christ is so fragmented already, that I respect your understanding of the truth, but I could never place you for those beliefs in such an untoward category as you do to the rest of us, and I frankly find that repugnant.

KH: Well, you know what, I find it very sad that a person like you who is a leader in the church, would tell people you don’t have to believe Genesis as history, when the reason we wear clothes is because of what happened in Genesis, the reason we—

RT: I beg your pardon?

KH: Well, the—

RT: Say that again for me, please.

KH: The origin of clothing is in Genesis, when God killed an animal and clothed Adam and Eve. That’s where clothing came from. The reason Jesus died on the cross is—

RT: And it is repugnant to deny that origin of clothing, my friend.

KH: The origin of clothing is in Genesis, the origin of death, the origin of sin, the origin of marriage. The only reason marriage is one man and one woman is because God made a literal man and a literal woman—

RT: What I think that Genesis does for me in respect of marriage, Mr. Ham, is by the metaphor of the rib and that story, tells me of the wonderful closeness and the mystical union, not only between God and his church, but between two human beings who become one flesh. That is how I understand it. Now if I—believe me, I am the first to confess the ?, I really hope that you don’t read the rest of us out of the church.

KH: Well, the thing is, I’m looking at what Paul says, and what Jesus said in the New Testament—

RT: What an awful thing—

KH: —because Paul and Jesus, Jesus in Matthew 19, said “have you not read, he which made them in the beginning made them male and female and said for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife and they will be one flesh.” Because Eve was taken from Adam, they were one flesh, and that’s what Jesus is quoting, the history of one flesh, not just a metaphor. If marriage is based on a metaphor, you could make it mean whatever you want to make it mean—

RT: On the contrary, sir, that does not mean that.

KH: Absolutely. A metaphor is not history, and if it’s a metaphor, you can decide the meaning.

RT: You can draw, you can draw eternal truth, you can draw absolute truth from that.

KH: How do you determine what is absolute truth from a metaphor? You tell me how you determine—

RT: Believe me, we could spend all evening doing that. What I am more chagrined is the exclusiveness of and with the greatest of respect the tendency to bigotry of your interpretation.

KH: Oh, it’s not bigotry, it’s Biblical.

RT: Well, you know, I pray you, you said this, the fundamental Christians say this, I suppose the Taliban says this, really, may I introduce you—really—

KH: Excuse me, don’t put me in the same category as the Taliban.

RT: Believe me, I would not, I do not wish to trade that which I am complaining of, but may I introduce you to a Jamaican religious context, which may suffer from the heresy of indifferentism you will say, but which has a tendency towards a greater understanding and a sharing and love, than in fact your first aphorism, your statement.

KH: Let me introduce you to a Christianity that teaches the love of God who came to Earth to die for man, because the first man Adam, of whom we’re all descendants, in fact all those genealogies—

RT: A love of God who you tell me every doctrine concerning him of any importance hangs on the first eleven chapters of the Bible?

KH: Absolutely. Can you name one doctrine that doesn’t?

RT: And a science, a salvation that is based upon a congruence of all of modern science with the Bible?

KH: Salvation that’s based on the real history—you know all those genealogies in the Bible? You know those genealogies like in Jude? Jude says Enoch was the seventh from Adam. And when you count up the genealogies, he was number seven from Adam.

RT: And that makes your point?

KH: Those genealogies are history, truth. The history’s true. There was a real man Adam.

RT: You mean—hold on. Because there is a record that equates the number of descendants in the way that you do it, that leads you to literal truth?

KH: That’s not the way I do it, that’s the way the Bible does it. In fact, Jesus Christ, you look at Mary, Mary is a descendant of, you look in Luke and it has the ancestors of Mary going back—

RT: I have no doubt about that.

KH: —all the way back to a real man Adam. Where did those—

RT: That does not take me to the point where you, where it takes you, I regret.

KH: Well, where do those ancestors stop being real people and become metaphors?

RT: They don’t stop being that. They can well be literal, the ancestry of the mother of Christ doesn’t as far as I’m concerned relate integrally.

KH: So when those ancestors go all the way back to Adam, and he’s included, was Adam a real person?

RT: To a first man, sure, but that still doesn’t take me to a conclusion that every aspect of this is to be equated with verifiable scientific historical truth.

KH: Well, at least we’re now starting to concede that there was a real first man.

RT: No, believe me—there—that there was, that a man was created, that God intervened in a creative way in the history of the world, thank God for that, there has never been any doubt in my mind about that.

KH: There’s no doubt in my mind, either, because it’s recorded in Genesis. If Genesis is a metaphor, maybe the bit about creation of man is a metaphor, so maybe there wasn’t a real man.

RT: How on Earth do you argue like that, man? That doesn’t follow.

KH: Yes, it does. I mean, if it wasn’t a real man, you know, if it was a real man, then that bit had to be literal truth.

RT: Mr. Ham, what you end up saying is that there is no explanation that is at all acceptable, creditable, of any origin of humanity, of any account of history, if it does not accord with Genesis 1-11.

KH: Absolutely, because that is the real history, because that is the real history of the world.

Moderator: Mr. Ham, to what faith do you belong?

KH: What do you mean by what faith? I’m a Christian.

Moderator: Any particular denomination?

KH: You know what? I was brought up in a number of different denominations, and one of the things that I have done is to look at the Bible for what it claims for itself, and what I’m saying is, when you take what the Bible claims for itself, that over 3,000 times it’s the Word of God and it’s real history—see, if the message of salvation in the New Testament, if the message of Jesus called the last Adam, He literally died on a cross and was raised from the dead, because we are literally sinners, because we are literally descendents of one man, because that history’s true. If the history’s not true, I mean, anyone who reads the Bible knows if the history’s not true, neither is the message of salvation—

RT: Oh my goodness.

KH: Absolutely. You tell me why the message would be true if the history’s not true.

RT: The message has a ? of authenticity, which includes and goes way beyond its historicity.

KH: Well, it has a spiritual message, but it’s true history.

RT: Man, I wondered when we’d get to that. That is the whole thing. You read the stories, you understand the record, you trace the exegesis to who wrote it, to when it emerged in history, and you see in it a thread, a thread of grace, a thread of revelation, a thread of morality, that is the most inspiring ethic and spirituality of the world.

KH: But is it true?

RT: Man, that is what we are to hold on to rather than being Bible hermits.

KH: Is it true, though? I mean, can you tell me what parts of the Bible are true and what are not? What’s metaphor and what’s truth, how do you decide?

RT: Yeah. Well, for a Roman Catholic, we have a very clear understanding of this, but I am anxious not to discuss, not to elevate into confessional explanations.

Moderator: Mr. Ham, the seminar, November 9, 10, what are you hoping to achieve here?

KH: See, evolution is one of the big stumblingblocks to people today being receptive to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. People who go to university and colleges know that if evolution is true in the sense that chance, random processes formed man and he just evolved, and if the Bible’s account of history’s not true, then they become consistent and they say, well we’re not gonna trust the message of morality and salvation from the Bible. And so one of the things that we’re going to achieve at this seminar is to help people know that we can trust the Bible’s history, we can defend the Christian faith, that real science, creationists believe in real science, in fact I love science. There’s nothing I disagree with in science, it’s the history about millions of years that I disagree with, and we’re gonna show people that you really can trust the Bible, scientifically and Biblically.

Moderator: And some of the specific topics you will be attempting to explore?

KH: We’ll talk on dinosaurs, we’ll show that the Bible actually explains dinosaurs, they’re no mystery, they didn’t die out millions of years ago. We’ll talk about the origin of man, that we’re all of one blood, as Paul said in the New Testament, and that all human beings are the same skin color, the Tower of Babel explains why you have different people groups all over the world, we all go back to the first man Adam. We’ll be talking about Noah’s Flood and the fact that the fossil record over the Earth is actually most of it is the graveyard of the flood, it’s not a graveyard of millions of years, so there’s some of the sorts of things we’ll be covering.

RT: Cliff, can I just –?

Moderator: Yes, sir.

RT: Respectfully. I don’t think that evolution is a stumblingblock for many young people in respect to their Christianity.

KH: Oh, yes it is.

RT: What is a stumblingblock? I might add among many things, well two main ones. One is the divisions within the number of the members of professing Christian groups who have such divergence and such animosity unfortunately emerging from those divergences that the young people by and large spew it out. And secondly, and relatedly, what is an obstruction to so many is that they don’t see us holding the ? and following the one who came and who loved us so much that he gave himself for us, and who promised us that mystical, magical, unbelievable hope of a life that transcends all the tawdriness of this and who said that we could live with him and live with one another forever. Those are the things that we have to deal with, and my only prayer in ending this discussion is that somehow despite the differences, that we can at least share that vision and present that beautiful faith. Yes? Not an evolutionary faith, or a literal, textual faith, ? we haven’t even got into the text of Genesis and how it came to be and who wrote it and when it emerged, but that somehow we can hold on to that example of self-giving and of final conquest in the name of God.

KH: Well, let me say that my testimony from speaking all over the world is that I’ve seen many, many, many young people and others who, when they hear what we have to say, come up to us and say, thank you for helping us understand we can really trust the Bible, because we had even religious leaders who told us that it was just a metaphor or it didn’t really matter, or you can believe in evolution, millions of years—thank you for showing us that, and they’ve listened to the wonderful Gospel of Jesus Christ and been converted, and we know that they’re gonna be in heaven. That’s the whole reason that I do what I do, is to see people in heaven with me, because I want to see people trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and when they know that His Word can be trusted, from the beginning, and they know it’s real history, and they know that salvation, the message of salvation and morality of the Bible is based in the real history, not just some interesting story, we’ve seen so many who’ve come to know the Lord Jesus Christ, and that’s what it’s all about.

Moderator: Ken Ham, Deacon Thwaites, thanks very much.

RT: Bye-bye.

KH: Thank you.

Nation Wide, Hot 102 FM

Recommended Resources


Get the latest answers emailed to you or sign up for our free print newsletter.

See All Lists

Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.