Creating Confusion in Genesis with Hugh Ross

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Dr. Hugh Ross wrings “reasons to believe” out of God’s Word, not by simply reading what’s there, but by twisting and distorting it.

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Progressive creationist and trumpeter for a day-age theory of creation, Reasons to Believe founder and president Dr. Hugh Ross recently appeared on 100 Huntley Street promoting his latest book Navigating Genesis: A Scientist’s Journey Through Genesis 1–11. We will soon be posting reviews of the book, but this interview contained several misleading claims that we wish to address here and now.

Old-Earth Compromises

Although he rejects biological evolution, Dr. Ross embraces secular evolutionary science in all other areas. He claims he can demonstrate how it matches the Bible and proves the truth of the biblical account—as he interprets it. To do this, he assigns millions of years to the days of creation and insists that death is a necessary part of life that filled the world long before Adam sinned.

Dr. Ross believes the six days of creation are long time periods that can be apportioned through the billions of years that evolutionary scientists claim for the age of the universe. He believes God used these long “day-ages” to prepare the earth for man. For Dr. Ross the six long “days” ended sometime after Adam and Eve were created. He misreads a great deal of Scripture from all over the Bible to support his unbiblical view on Creation, all the while distorting the plain historical truth in Genesis 1–11.

It’s All About Starting Points

The real observations of science—biological and physical—actually do affirm God’s eyewitness account of our origins and early history, as recorded in Genesis chapters one through eleven—but not in the way Dr. Ross teaches! Rather than using the Bible’s accurate, God-given history to evaluate what fallible human scientists claim about the unobservable past, Ross clings to man’s fallible opinions and twists the Bible to fit them. Dr. Ross has the wrong starting point!

If we wish to win people to Jesus Christ, we will not do it by suggesting that God has provided a cryptic mysterious book full of poetic allusions that can finally, in this scientific age, be woven together like a cosmic whodunit.

In the interview Dr. Ross suggests that the refusal of biblical young earth creationists to resolve their disagreement with his old-earth beliefs keeps many unbelievers from coming to Christ for salvation. Yet for us to agree to his odd way of misinterpreting Scripture—bending it into conformity with secular notions about origins that are rooted in a godless worldview—would be to call God either a liar or an incompetent communicator. It does not make sense to ask people to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior while telling them to ignore all those instances recorded in the New Testament where Jesus and the New Testament writers declared their belief in the literal historicity of the first eleven chapters of Genesis. How can people trust in the Jesus Christ revealed in the Word of God, if they can’t trust in the Word of God that Jesus fully trusted?

Not a Salvation Issue

Contrary to Dr. Ross’s implication, we at Answers in Genesis—a group of biblical young earth creationists about which he complains in his book—have never claimed that what a person believes about origins is a salvation issue! Rather, we stress that a biblically correct understanding of the origin of suffering and death and of why death is the enemy Jesus died and rose to defeat (Romans 4:25; Hebrews 2:14; 1 Corinthians 15:20–26) comes from a natural, unvarnished reading of the first few chapters of Genesis—and that this understanding is crucial to the gospel, making it an evangelism issue, as Ross also believes it to be.

very good?

Hugh Ross’s “Adam and Eve” were plunked into a world already bloodied by death, disease, suffering and extinction. Even though Hugh Ross believes that Adam’s sin brought about human death, he erodes the understanding needed to make sense of the gospel by insisting God created decay and death without which life on Earth could not exist. According to Ross—as explained in Navigating Genesis—death is our friend. In Dr. Ross’s view, long before Adam sinned, not only animals but also soulless, thinking, human-like creatures suffered and died. Neither God—nor many humans even!—would call all this wasteful suffering and death “very good” (Genesis 1:31) and then call death “the enemy” later (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Death, according to 1 Corinthians 15:26, is the enemy. Romans 8:19–25 indicates that, like Christians, the whole of creation is groaning due to man’s sin and eagerly waiting for the day when it will be set free (at the Second Coming of Christ) from it’s present bondage to corruption. The suffering and death that so typifies our cursed and fallen world is the result of Adam’s sin. To claim otherwise not only perverts the Bible’s teaching on death and makes God seem cruel and wasteful, but also undermines the purpose of Christ’s defeat of sin and death through His own sacrificial death and glorious resurrection.

Watching the Cosmic Creation Event?

We all know that it takes a finite amount of time for light to travel a long distance, such as about eight minutes for light from the sun to reach the earth. Many people claim that light from distant stars needs millions of years to reach Earth and that this disproves the 6,000 year age of the universe indicated by the Bible—an age determined by simply taking the Bible’s history at face value and applying ordinary arithmetic to the information in it. However, young-earth creation scientists are working on several biblically consistent models to explain how we can see faraway objects in space without attempting to tamper with the laws of physics.1 (The enormity of the universe, incidentally, presents a problem for big bang proponents too. For example, the secular origins science in which Dr. Ross places his faith cannot explain away the fact that insufficient time has passed in the billions of years since the supposed big bang for light to have traveled between the farthest reaches of space and equalized the temperature of the cosmic background radiation throughout.)

But for Hugh Ross the light-travel time issue becomes fodder for some very extravagant claims. Asserting that the majority of physical scientists believe in God, Ross explains:

. . . particularly in astronomy, because our data comes from the past. When we look at a star or a galaxy it takes light time to reach us, which means we’re getting data from the six days. Most biologists are focusing on the present era. That’s the 7th day. It’s a day when God rests from His work of creation. And so of course someone in that area’s going to say we see no evidence of the supernatural handiwork of the Creator. They’re looking on the wrong day. If you look in the past in six days you see the handiwork of God everywhere.

When the interviewer asks, “How far into the past do you look and how does that connect to Genesis 1:1?” Ross replies:

Well the phenomenal thing is we astronomers can look back to the very beginning of the universe. We can literally watch God creating the universe. It may seem like an exaggeration but we’ve got data that goes back to a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the cosmic creation event. That’s how close we can get to the moment of creation.

Answers in Genesis Dr. Danny Faulkner, who like Dr. Ross holds a PhD in astronomy, comments on these extravagant claims:

Because of the tremendous size of the universe and the time that it takes light to traverse the vast distances of space, Ross believes that in astronomy we can look back into the Creation Week, unlike on the earth. Ross doesn’t get very specific about this, but he probably thinks that the cosmic microwave background comes from the creation of light on Day One.

Ross accepts the claims of most astronomers that they see evidence of a high rate of star formation in distant galaxies, so Ross probably interprets this in terms of Day One as well. This is despite the fact that Genesis 1:14–19 clearly states that God made the sun, moon, and stars on Day Four. Ross explains this by claiming that astronomical bodies were made prior to Day Four and that the sky became transparent on Day Four to allow astronomical bodies to become visible on that day, or time period. Ross probably would date this clearing of the earth’s atmosphere at the time of the Cambrian period, about 500 million years ago.

From astronomical observations, there is no clear delineation between the days of creation in Ross’s model, so he has plenty of room to adjust his thinking to accommodate whatever may come up.

However, there is at least one devastating problem here that will be difficult for him to explain. Ross believes that star formation is going on today, despite the fact that we supposedly are living in the Seventh Day when God is no longer creating. For instance, one region where most astronomers, including Hugh Ross, think that stars are forming today is the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex. This region is less than 500 light years from earth, which would place it well within the time frame of the Seventh Day. So why is God making stars on the Seventh Day when, by Ross’s own admission, God is not creating anymore?

Dozens of Creation Texts?

Based on the history in God’s Word, Dr. Ross’s assertion that astronomers can look back billions of years in time cannot be true. But ignoring the plain reading of this history, Ross mines the entire Bible for support for his odd interpretation of its first three chapters.

Ross claims the Bible supports his billions-of-years interpretation, invoking “dozens of creation texts” in addition to those in Genesis 1–2. “Those [Job 37–39, Psalm 104, and Proverbs 8] are three lengthy creation texts that take you through the content of the six creation days of Genesis 1,” Ross says, adding, “If you simply integrate those texts with Genesis 1, I’m convinced that would settle all the controversies.”

Answers in Genesis speaker Dr. Terry Mortenson has an MDiv and a PhD in the history of geology. In the book Coming to Grips With Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth, which he co-edited and to which he contributed two chapters, many of Ross’s beliefs are biblically exposed as false. Dr. Mortenson comments on the absurdity of Ross’s assertion in the 100 Huntley Street interview that the Bible contains dozens of creation texts (Ross cites three passages) that override and alter the meaning of Genesis 1–2:

Those three passages (Job 37–39, Psalm 104, Proverbs 8) do NOT “take you through the content of the six days of Genesis 1.” Psalm 104 mentions the creation of the earth (v. 5) and the moon (v. 19), but nothing else that God created in Genesis 1. Job 37–39 doesn’t say anything about the creation events in Genesis 1 except for the creation of the foundations of the earth and the stars (Job 38:4, 7). Proverbs 8:1–21 speaks of wisdom, but not creation. Verses 22–31 refer to personified wisdom being present when God created the world, but the verses only mention the creation of the heavens and earth, the mountains and hills, and the boundaries of the seas.

These three passages are among the 26 listed by Ross on his web site since 2008 as “creation accounts” or “creation texts.”2 Neither Genesis 1, Genesis 2, Genesis 3–5,3 Genesis 6–9, Genesis 10–11, nor hardly any other of the listed passages link redemption to creation, as Ross asserts in the interview. Furthermore, the only full creation account in the Bible is Genesis 1. Genesis 2 gives us an account of some of the events on Day 6 of Genesis 1. Neither the three passages that Ross cites in the interview nor the other 21 passages (excluding Genesis 1 and 2) on his web page are creation accounts. Some of the passages do refer to the physical creation but only have a few isolated verses that look back to Creation Week (Genesis 1). They cannot with any legitimacy be called “creation accounts.”

By saying, as he does in the interview, that if we integrate those three passages in Psalms, Job and Proverbs we can “settle all the controversies” between young-earthers and old-earthers, he is thereby ignoring the Fall (Gen. 3), the Flood (Gen. 6–9), and the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 (which tell us the time from the beginning of the first day of creation [Gen. 1:1] to Abraham). He must also ignore or misinterpret Mark 10:6 (where Jesus clearly reveals that He believed Adam and Eve were at the beginning of creation (the sixth literal day, 4000 years before Jesus said this, is the beginning of creation),4 not 13.7 billion years after the beginning, as Ross believes. Ross must also ignore that all the New Testament writers who commented on Genesis 1–11 took it as literal history, including Paul, who in Romans 1:20 makes it clear that all people have seen the witness of creation to the existence and attributes of the Creator ever “since the creation of the world.”5

Ready with Real Reasons

The Bible commands us (1 Peter 3:15) to be ready to give answers to people who want to know why we put our hope in God through Jesus Christ. If we wish to win people to Jesus Christ, we will not do it by suggesting that God has provided a cryptic mysterious book full of poetic allusions that can finally, in this scientific age, be woven together like a cosmic whodunit to match the godless theories of astronomers who use naturalistic assumptions to interpret the marvelous things we see through our telescopes.

God’s account of Creation, the Fall, and the global Flood (which Dr. Ross also denies, incidentally) in the first eleven chapters of Genesis, as well as the support for its historicity in the rest of the Bible, is not only comprehensible to a child but compatible with the actual observations of science in every area. There are no biblical contradictions with observational science, only with certain worldview-based anti-biblical interpretations related to the unobservable past. We can confidently encourage people to trust the Bible from the very first verse in hopes they will also trust the Author of creation (Colossians 1:16–17) and the Author of salvation (Hebrews 5:9), Jesus Christ, with their lives now and for all eternity.

Further Reading

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Footnotes

  1. One such model is the anisotropic synchrony convention, based on the fact—as Einstein recognized—it is impossible to objectively measure the one-way speed of light. We must measure the round-trip speed of light and simply agree that the one-way speed must be half of the total.

    Answers in Genesis astronomer Dr. Danny Faulkner points out that God created the stars to enable humans—from Adam onward— to measure times and seasons (Genesis 1:14–16). Dr. Faulkner in “A Proposal for a New Solution to the Light Travel Time Problem” offers an elegant solution which likewise refrains from any tampering with the laws of physics. Read more in “Astronomical Distance Determination Methods and the Light Travel Time Problem,” “Distant Starlight,” “Cosmos Review: “A Sky Full of Ghosts”,” and “Anisotropic Synchrony Convention—A Solution to the Distant Starlight Problem.”

    See also “Light-Travel Time: A Problem for the Big Bang” to learn more about the problems the size of the universe presents for big bang adherents.

  2. “The Major Biblical Creation Texts/Creation Accounts,” Reasons to Believe, http://www.reasons.org/articles/the-major-biblical-creation-texts-creation-accounts, accessed September 16, 2014.
  3. Genesis 3:15 is the first promise of the Messiah in the Bible, but it is linked to the Fall of man, not to creation.
  4. See chapter 12 in Coming to Grips with Genesis or “Jesus, Evangelical Scholars, and the Age of the Earth” or a shorter article at “But from the Beginning of … the Institution of Marriage?.”
  5. See chapter 13 in Coming to Grips with Genesis. Coming to Grips with Genesis or “Jesus, Evangelical Scholars, and the Age of the Earth.”

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