An Evangelist Confronts Hovind

14 June 2001

Dear (Name withheld),

Since our last conversation regarding Kent Hovind, I've looked at several of the Internet sites that critique his work, and have also visited Hovind's own web site (which I had not done previously).

As you noted, some anti-Hovind sites are merely hatchet jobs, but others present serious and apparently competent critiques of his videos.  More disturbingly, several contributors allege unethical and deceptive conduct by Hovind.  An examination of Hovind's own web site provides independent reasons to doubt his credibility.

I believe that becoming involved with Hovind would be detrimental 1) to Hovind himself; and 2) to the potential salvation of people who currently scoff at Christianity because (at least in part) of the prominence of people like Hovind among Believers.  I realize that many Believers dismiss the scoffers as people who reject the Gospel because they wish merely to indulge their own sinful desires (a belief based upon 2nd Peter 3).  However, it should be noted that I used to be a scoffer.  I became a Believer in spite of the Hovinds.

I've divided the remainder of this letter into two topics: Examination of Various Websites, and Concerns for Hovind and the “Scoffers”.
 

EXAMINATION OF VARIOUS WEBSITES

Hovind's own website (examined 9 June 2001)

It's distressing that Hovind's website, which could be used to correct his videos’ errors and to post retractions, instead repeats many of the same flawed arguments, invalid techniques, and misrepresentations of others’ work.  A particularly striking example is Hovind's citation of ages of the earth as calculated from the composition of seawater.  (I’ll comment further on this subject later in this letter.)  Hovind persists in presenting such material despite being aware of the specific, detailed refutations presented on various websites and in other sources.  (See, for example, http://www.oocities.com/kenthovind/ [this web site] which is the source of the attached article “Analysis of Kent Hovind: The Professor and Mr. Hovind”.)

This examination of Hovind's website makes me wonder whether the accuracy of his assertions and the soundness of his arguments matter at all to him.  In addition, he claims to speak knowledgeably and authoritatively on subjects of which he is shockingly ignorant.  Having observed all this, I would not consider him credible on any subject.

Sites documenting unethical or deceptive behavior

Several websites allege unethical or deceitful conduct by Hovind.  I've attached two accounts that are specific, detailed, and apparently credible: 1) Dr. Vlaardingerbroek’s letter documenting communications with Hovind regarding the $250,000 Challenge, and concluding that it's a bad-faith publicity stunt; and 2) Dr. Bartelt's analysis of Hovind's Ph.D. thesis, and Hovind's claims regarding it.  If either of these accounts is false, then Hovind should have little trouble refuting it; he could refute Vlaardingerbroek’s by producing his own records of correspondence with him, and Bartelt's by showing you a thesis of the length and date that he (Hovind) claims.
 

CONCERNS FOR HOVIND AND THE “SCOFFERS”

Concerns for Hovind

Hovind's own website (independently of any claims by Vlaardingerbroek or Bartelt) gives ample basis for concluding that the truth doesn't matter much to Hovind.  He needs Brotherly counsel, and I'm concerned that further distribution of his material will only encourage his untruthfulness.

Concerns for “Scoffers”

I mentioned above that I would return to a discussion of a) Hovind's citation of indefensible information such as ages of the earth as determined from composition of seawater, and b) how materials like Hovind's are detrimental to salvation of “scoffers”.  The link between these issues is that while we Believers assert that we seek, receive, and follow the will of God (occasionally receiving words of knowledge from Him), scoffers rightly wonder why such divine guidance fails to aid us in detecting Creationists’ factual errors.

A good case in point is Hovind's material on age of the earth as calculated from seawater composition.  One of the sources cited by Hovind is a 1985 book by Morris.  It's almost certainly the same book that I read 15 years ago, when I was a very determined detractor of Christianity.  Among the ages calculated from concentrations of different chemical elements in seawater, Morris presented, without comment, several ages shorter than 2,000 years, and at least one shorter than 150 years!  Moreover, my recent, very cursory examination of websites turned up at least two that debunked the seawater method.  Yet despite these reasons to laugh the method off the Internet, Hovind's website presents it as valid, neglecting even to mention those ages which, if true, would demonstrate that Christ never walked the earth and the Civil War never happened (1).

Scoffers are justified in asking how it is that large numbers of people with access to divine guidance cannot, in 15 years, discern errors and inconsistencies that atheists detect almost instantly.  Do Believers not seek the divine guidance to which we supposedly have access?  Do we seek it, but not receive any on this subject?  Do we receive it, but not recognize it as such?  Do we recognize it, and not follow it?  Or is a more-plausible explanation found in a belief held by many scoffers: that Christianity is a hoax, or at best a delusion, and that Believers have “accepted Jesus” by one of the following routes:

1.    as brainwashed children;

2.    as gullible adults;

3.    as adults who know better than to believe such a conflicted doctrine, but nevertheless do so because

a.       it gives us comfort; or

b. it justifies forcing our subjective, personal morality upon others, in the guise of an “absolute” morality that is “God's standard”?

Not terribly flattering to us, but a reasonable explanation nonetheless to people with little or no experience of the divine.  Scoffers (or at least most of them) believe that we waste our time and talent pursuing nonexistent divine guidance, to the neglect of developing the human abilities by which the scoffers themselves detect our errors fairly readily.

Therefore, the scoffer sees it as no great mystery that the Hovinds persist among us (2).  While we Believers might well benefit from asking ourselves why access to divine guidance doesn't result in rapid correction of errors and debunking of frauds, the scoffer needn't bother.  Why should he or she be surprised that the nonexistent is also ineffective?

All of this makes the scoffer very challenging to the missionary.  But that's not the end of the problem, or even the worst of it.  Remember that the scoffer is a human being who has his or her share of hurts, shame issues, and injuries suffered at the hands of authority (which may include the church, or relatives who are religious).  In addition, the scoffer probably has a considerable knowledge of the church's historic wrongdoings, and a ready supply of anecdotes concerning hypocritical Believers of his acquaintance.

It's easy for such a person to feel superior to Believers intellectually and morally.  He or she will draw upon those feelings of superiority when evangelized, especially when evangelized by a shaming, name-calling evangelist.  I have seen this pattern frequently in conversations with unbelievers, and in atheists’ forums on the Internet.  I admit to my shame that I, myself behaved this way as a nonBeliever.

Remembering the scoffer, too, is loved by God, it's incumbent upon us to consider how harmful a Kent Hovind is to the scoffer’s hoped-for acceptance of salvation.  There's no doubt that a Hovind is ruinous in this regard: his dishonesty feeds the scoffer's feelings of superior morality; and the scoffer's feelings of intellectual superiority grow as he or she listens to Hovind's ignorant, mocking dismissals of great scientists’ finest works.  Hovind adds to the disaster by saying that the scoffers refuse to accept the Gospel because they choose to be willfully ignorant of it, in order to indulge their sin natures.  Being called sinful and willfully ignorant by Hovind only hardens the scoffer against us further—who wouldn't be offended at being called such by a Believer who is himself not only ignorant, but untruthful? (3)

In summary, Hovind's videos will undoubtedly invigorate many Believers here, but will also misinform them and hinder efforts to evangelize the scoffers.  Materials like Hovind's came very close to putting me permanently beyond the reach of evangelism.  I hope that this will not happen to the scoffers here.

Yours in Christ,

Jim Smith


Footnotes:

1 Some Believers may object that radioisotopic dating gives spurious dates, too.  Even if it were valid, this objection would miss the scoffers’ point.  Scoffers claim no divine guidance, but we do.  Therefore, failure to detect errors and interminable citations of long-discredited claims is damning to our case, but not particularly harmful to theirs.

2 And perhaps the Ron Wyatts as well.  Please see attached printouts regarding his finds. [http://search.freefind.com/find.html?id=9924157&pid=r&mode=ALL&n=0&query=Ron+Wyatt&SUBMIT=Search+Tentmaker]     

3 Of course, there are plenty of dishonest, ignorant scoffers too, but pointing this out to the scoffer accomplishes little: one of his or her strongest points is that despite our claims of salvation, etc., our behavior is no different than that of the godless. Go back

 

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