Cofounder of Sonlight Calls Me “Pope Ham”

The cofounder and co-owner of the homeschool curriculum company Sonlight, John Holzmann, recently wrote a very unflattering blog post about me in which he called me “Pope Ham.” Why would he name-call like this?

He wrote the following (emphasis in the original):

It strikes me: Ham seems to view himself much like a Pope. He has a lock on the Truth. He speaks definitively and infallibly concerning how the Bible is to be interpreted. Like religious leaders of yesteryear who were willing to burn at the stake those who held differing opinions about baptism; or like those even today who break fellowship over different perspectives on eschatology (pre-, post-, or a-mill; preterist; or whatever), so Mr. Ham seems bent on ensuring his followers remain separated from those with whom he disagrees.

If you agree with Ham about the age of the earth and the basic young-earth viewpoint, that’s okay, but not good enough.

If you teach a young-earth viewpoint, that’s not good enough, either.

You must never suggest that you “merely” believe in young-earth creationism. You must adamantly assert that young-earth creationism is true: THE truth. Indeed, you will have gone too far over to “the other side” if you even contemplate the idea that those with whom you disagree might have some potentially good reasons to view the Bible from a perspective different from yours, because–so Pope Ham has decreed–anyone who holds a view different from yours (i.e., different from Ham’s) is, simply, wrong, “compromising,” “in error.” End of discussion.

Well, it seems we differ on how to teach the topic of origins in relation to the issue of evolution and the age of the earth.

Holzmann was reacting to an item I wrote for our latest Answers magazine. In my article, I responded to articles in Christianity Today and other news sources about the increasing push by some homeschoolers to see more of an emphasis on evolution and an old earth in science curricula. For instance, a Christianity Today education article stated the following:

Sonlight Curriculum is an exception. It offers a diversity of homeschool curricula that allow parents to teach various theories of origins. “The YEC position is strong and ingrained in the homeschool movement,” said Sonlight president Sarita Holzmann, who homeschools her children and believes in a young earth. “That might be to our detriment.” She says students need to be able to evaluate different positions.

And in a Christianity Today blog post we read this remark:

The article has predictably sparked conversation. Sonlight, one publisher which tries to straddle both young and old earth camps, notes how it conveys four views in its science curriculum.

Now, I’ve learned not to put total trust in other articles that quote people since I’ve been misquoted and misrepresented many times myself. So we scoured the Sonlight website to see if we could figure out its approach to the topic of teaching origins and whether the quotes above were accurate about what it teaches.

However, we couldn’t find much evidence that the Sonlight curriculum takes a strong young-earth creation position. Very few books on biblical creation were available through Sonlight, from what we could find. Now, the science curriculum on origins is clearly anti-evolution, but that still doesn’t indicate that Sonlight holds to a young earth. It seems like Holzmann wouldn’t agree with our stand that old-earth creationism is in error.

So the question is: is there a difference between AiG’s approach and Sonlight’s approach to teaching origins, and if so, what is that difference? I do not want to misrepresent John Holzmann. I read his blog post carefully, and I also read his article (which I’ve read before) on the Sonlight website entitled, “Young- and Old-Earth Creationists: Can We Even Talk Together?” I have looked over the Sonlight website, and our ministry has had interaction with Mr. Holzmann over the years. Exactly where he stands personally on the age-of-the-earth issue I’m not sure at this stage. But I have grave doubts he takes the biblical young earth stand as we do at AiG—or at least he does not see the issue as a serious one regarding biblical authority as we show people.

Sonlight does offer some young-earth resources. But from what I can ascertain, one major difference between AiG and Sonlight seems to be one of philosophy in regard to the methodology of teaching the origins issue. To some people it may seem like semantics or subtle differences, but personally I do see the difference as a major one—and one Christian parents need to understand before obtaining homeschool resources.

Responding to a sidebar statement in Answers magazine summarizing a news item about homeschooling that appeared in Christianity Today, Holzmann states:

Considering what Sonlight actually does, I would dearly love to know what Ham thinks “balanced” looks like. I am particularly curious because of what he says in the main body of his article (p. 34):

Does [what I have said] mean that homeschooling parents should never expose their children to evolutionary ideas? Of course not. Homeschoolers certainly need to address different views about origins and other controversial issues in their teaching, but they need to do so in the clear context that God’s Word is truth and compromising views are error!

Ahh! That last phrase actually answers my question, doesn’t it?

If I’m reading him accurately, a “balanced” presentation, from Mr. Ham’s perspective, means one that not only “openly support[s] a young-earth position,” but vigorously opposes any other. And Sonlight doesn’t oppose alternative perspectives vigorously enough. It offers too much legitimacy to such alternative positions.

You see, the truth is, Sonlight mildly—almost to the point of silence—does “address” different views about origins by simply defining viewpoints other than the young-earth perspective and acknowledging that some Christians hold these viewpoints. Moreover, it acknowledges that some Christian homeschoolers might hold such views and suggests that they can feel free to teach them.

And that, apparently, is too much for Mr. Ham.

Because the truth is, from everything I have seen, Sonlight nowhere offers opportunities within its curriculum—i.e., from within the books it carries or from its Instructor’s Guide notes—. . . Sonlight nowhere offers opportunities for opponents of the young-earth perspective to speak for themselves. It simply acknowledges that some parents might believe differently and suggests that they can teach as they see fit.

And that is what Ham and people like him disapprove. Sonlight does not come out strongly enough with statements to the effect that views alternative to or opposing a young-earth perspective are clearly “compromising” and “in error.”

Actually, if one has to go to so much trouble making such statements as Mr. Holzmann did in this blog, it is obvious Sonlight and AiG are not on the same page in regard to how we approach the issue of the age of the earth or the teaching of origins in general.

The Answers magazine article Holzmann is referring to can be found at this link. Because I wanted you all to have access to this article and read the emphasis we place on biblical authority in regard to the age of the earth, I arranged for this article to be unlocked for everyone (normally, most articles from the latest Answers magazine issue are locked on www.answersmagazine.com, but subscribers get the unlock code). You will also see that the short reference to Sonlight (and others)—based on the news articles—is found in a sidebar. The most important point of the main article was to challenge people to understand how adopting evolution and/or millions of years into the Bible undermines biblical authority.

I think it would be good to end this blog with a quote from my article in Answers magazine:

The point I want to make again that I’ve made in churches many times over the past thirty-five years is that, although Christian acceptance of millions of years or evolution is not a salvation issue, it is a gospel issue, and it is an authority issue.

It is a gospel issue because the evolution of life on earth over millions of years would mean sin is not the cause of death, disease, suffering, or bloodshed. It means sin is not the cause of the groaning world described in Romans 8:22. And it means God—not man’s sin—is responsible for death, disease, and suffering!

It is an authority issue because you do not get millions of years or evolution from God’s Word. Such beliefs come from outside God’s Word, and then compromising Christians use them to undermine the truth of God’s Word and thus undermine its authority.”

If you don’t currently subscribe to Answers magazine, I encourage you to do so at www.answersmagazine.com.

Also, I would highly recommend the science curriculum produced by AiG for elementary and middle school titled God’s Design in Science. You can be sure that this creation-based curriculum will be true to the Scriptures and true to the biblical methodology of discerning truth and error.

If you are looking for a solid, creation-based curriculum, we also recommend Bob Jones University Press, and Diana Waring’s History Revealed.

We also have solid, biblical teaching available on the human body in Dr. David Menton’s Body of Evidence.

Finally, I would recommend getting the Foundations curriculum set and The Great Debate DVDs as a great way to teach your children the biblical worldview.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

Ken