Many evangelicals today are being lulled into accepting a new, seductive version of a long-standing distortion of Scripture to fit with certain secular ideas. The most prominent proponent of this revival of 'progressive creationism' is Dr Hugh Ross. Previously trained in astronomy, Ross runs his own ministry, Reasons to Believe, and has heavily attacked young-world creationists in many of his writings. (See box for a list of relevant Ross beliefs.)
Lured by the promise of 'scientific respectability'...many Christians overlook the Gospel-related dangers of such compromise.Lured by the promise of 'scientific respectability' through no longer defending what Ross regards as an impossible absurdity (the young age of the world which a straightforward reading of the Bible indicates), many Christians overlook the Gospel-related dangers of such compromise (such as having to accept billions of years of death, bloodshed and disease before Adam).
It is also easy to overlook the fact that the scientific/academic establishment has as much contempt for most of Ross's views (such as God's progressively creating more and more human-like creatures before finally creating man) as it has for the views of the young-Earth creationists, so the promise of 'respectability' is an illusion. In fact, many atheistic scientists say they have even less respect for the compromise positions. Of course, the enemies of the Gospel, watching the ever-increasing evangelistic effectiveness of creation science ministries, relish seeing it being undermined from 'within the camp'.
One of the most potent weapons Ross has used in his attack has been to claim that God must have used billions of years to 'create' the universe. We see stars billions of light-years away (a light-year is the distance which light travels in one year), so we must be observing the universe as it was billions of years ago, he claims. 1
The majority secular view on the evolution of stars and the 'big bang' theory is fact (so we have to adjust our Bible interpretation to fit).
Billions of years of Earth history is fact (any interpretation of the Bible that doesn't agree with this is therefore wrong by definition). Therefore:
There was death and bloodshed, cruelty, terror, suffering and disease in the world long before the Fall of Adam.
The Flood only covered a local region of the Earth, but it still somehow killed all people outside the Ark.
God created progressively more complex sets of creatures over billions of years, before finally creating man.
Early humans that painted on cave walls and buried their dead were really only spiritless man-like creatures.
The Fall did not bring sicknesses such as cancer, arthritis, etc., into the world. Adam's sin did not even bring physical death to mankind—Adam would have died anyway (in spite of 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
Ross uses his scientific conclusion on various matters such as this as his authority for reinterpreting the Bible. However, a new scientific breakthrough demonstrates the dangers of using the fallible conclusions of our fallen minds to question what God has stated so clearly. Even atheistic professors of Hebrew agree that six-ordinary-day, young-world creation is the clear meaning of the Bible.2
Physicist Dr Russell Humphreys, at the 1994 International Conference on Creationism (ICC) in Pittsburgh, revealed the details of his new cosmology, which appears to solve the problem of how light can have come from distant stars in a young universe, at the same time presenting a creationist alternative to the 'big bang' which incorporates the same observations Ross and others use to insist the 'big bang' is 'proven fact'. This theory has been peer-reviewed by qualified experts. In fact, Dr Ross, though not specially trained in cosmology, was invited to be one of the reviewers pre-publication, but refused to commit himself. He has also refused to debate Dr Humphreys on radio since publication of the new model.
The full details explained carefully at layman's level (plus reprints of the technical ICC papers) are incorporated in a newly released book, Starlight and Time (see below for availability). Space forbids a full explanation here, but the main points are as follows.
1. Like 'big bang' theory, the Humphreys cosmology accepts that the gravity theory called general relativity is essentially correct (minus some of the accompanying philosophical 'baggage'), having been experimentally verified numerous times.
2. 'Big bang' theory indeed flows naturally from the equations of general relativity, but only if a particular starting assumption is made, one which leading cosmologists admit is totally arbitrary and ideological, namely that the universe is unbounded—that is, having no edge and thus no centre.
3. When this is replaced by the opposite assumption (which, though equally arbitrary, seems more in line with biblical presuppositions), namely that the universe is finite and bounded, the same equations of general relativity produce a radically different result.
4. In such a bounded universe, provided only that one accepts the observations that it has expanded somewhat as God stretched out the heavens (as Scripture affirms [e.g. Isaiah 42:5], though Humphreys is not postulating some tiny starting point as 'big bangers' do), it is the experimentally proven time-distorting effects of gravitation which solve the problem for the Bible-believer, and show up the hollowness of the Ross claims. The results indicate, without any 'twiddling of knobs' or massaging data, that with the entire universe being made in six ordinary Earth-rotation days, Adam could have looked up on the sixth day at stars actually many millions of light-years away and observed light which actually left those stars—all without having to assume any change in the speed of light (c).
The Humphreys cosmology seems to have finally given a solid answer in principle to this age-old problem.
But what if believers had not had this breakthrough yet, or if (speaking fairly hypothetically, since it has had not only peer review but grudging acknowledgments from some non-Christian general relativists) there should turn out to be some basic error in this new approach? It would still be wrong to assert that there could not be some information which we did not yet have (in contrast to God, who has all information) which would explain why the conclusions of fallible people, not the teachings of the infallible Creator, were at fault.
As 1 Corinthians 8:2 says: 'And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.'
It is correct to point out that the idea of God's creating the light 'on its way' is not very satisfactory, since that would mean that everything we observe beyond about 10,000 light years is a gigantic deception, showing us events such as supernova explosions that never happened. Ross also uses some of the unsolved (and seemingly intractable) problems with the Setterfield theory on the decaying speed of light to ridicule all attempts by young-Earth creationists to solve the problem. Humphreys acknowledges that Setterfield's work helped inspire this new approach.
See the tract, Six Days? Honestly!, available from the addresses on page 2 of this issue of Creation magazine. Atheist (and ultra-liberal) scholars, who are not trying to somehow make the Bible 'fit science', have no difficulty affirming what millions of Bible-believers down through the ages (and every young child reading it for the first time) have seen as indisputable—that the Bible-writers clearly mean to tell us over and over of a young world, creation of everything in six Earth-days, global Flood, etc. It would certainly have been most uncharacteristic if God had required us to wait for the appearance of latter-day secular prophets (and their Christian apologists) to tell us about all sorts of previously hidden meanings in the text. To partially deflect the accusation that he is bending Scripture just to fit science, Ross also claims support from a whole list of early church fathers for his peculiar interpretations. But investigation reveals that this is only true for Origen, whose allegorizing approach to Scripture is well known, and possibly Clement of Alexandria. There can ultimately be no blessing on a position which starts with the authority of fallible man, outside the Bible, using it to judge the Bible.