Dr. Hugh Ross’s views on Genesis 1 and the age and history of the creation have been endorsed by many Christian leaders and scholars on the inside or covers of many of Dr. Ross’s books. But does his view (particularly about the origin the earth, sun, moon, and stars) really stand up to scrutiny with an open Bible? Here are some reasons why I reply “absolutely not” and why I conclude that his views seriously contradict the clear teaching of the Word of God and thereby undermine the Scripture’s supreme authority and the gospel it proclaims.
When and how did God create the world? How long did He take? At a 3-day conference organized by the Fixed Point Foundation in Birmingham, Alabama, June 15–18, 2011, Dr. Michael Behe, Dr. John Lennox, Dr. Hugh Ross and I debated the questions of origins.1 Dr. Behe defended theistic evolution. Dr. Lennox argued for a gap of millions of years between the first two verses of Genesis 1 and then gaps of indefinitely long ages (millions of years) between each of the literal days of creation.2 Dr. Ross advocated the day-age view of Genesis 1.
As I heard Dr. Ross explain in this debate (which is consistent with his previous teachings over the years), his belief about Genesis 1 regarding the origin of the earth, sun, moon, and stars can be summarized as follows.
In the beginning God created the heavens by first creating the “cosmic egg” (the small and incredibly dense ball of matter, energy, and space) and then caused it to begin to expand (which, he said, occurred in Genesis 1:1). For the next 9.2 billion years the universe expanded and stars and galaxies gradually formed by physical and chemical processes as cosmic gas clouds collapsed due to gravity. Our sun formed about 8.7 billion years after the big bang (or about 5 billion years ago).3
For the first 7 billion years of history, the expansion of the universe was initially very fast and gradually slowed down due to gravity and then it started to expand more rapidly due to dark matter and dark energy (and the expansion has continued to accelerate over the past 7 billion years).4
The solar gas cloud around the sun evolved over millions of years to form rings and eventually evolved into planets. In this way the earth was formed about 9.2 billion after the big bang (about 4.5 billion years ago)5 and was covered in such thick clouds of an opaque atmosphere that absolutely no light could reach the surface of the earth, and hence darkness was on the surface of the earth (which, he said, is described in Genesis 1:2).
Then when God said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3),6 the opaque atmosphere was changed (whether supernaturally by God or naturally by physical and chemical processes as we observe today, Ross did not clearly state) to become translucent, so that light now reached the surface of the earth. However, if anyone had been on the earth at that time, he would not have been able to see the sun, moon or stars themselves but only the diffused light from them.
Then on “Day” Four (Genesis 1:14–19), which was some unspecified time (but clearly Dr. Ross views it as millions of years) after the translucence event on Day One, God made the atmosphere transparent so that the yet-to-be-created animals and people on the earth would be able to see the sun, moon, and stars, when those animals and people were created billions of years later.
I contend that Dr. Ross’s interpretation of Genesis 1 is unbiblical and unscientific.7 Below are some of the reasons why I reject his assertion that the days of creation were long ages of millions of years each and why the creation days must be understood as literal, 24-hour days.8
There is absolutely no basis in Scripture for Dr. Ross’s creation story above, and he offered no textual support from Genesis or anywhere else in the Bible or in the mainstream scientific literature. His story is a product of his own imagination coupled with the imaginary stories in the big bang model, which flies in the face of the obvious meaning of the biblical text (which is also confirmed by scholarly analysis of the Hebrew text19). But it is important to realize that Dr. Ross was thoroughly indoctrinated in big bang thinking during his tender and intellectually naïve youth20 (ages 7–17), long before he ever read the Bible and professed faith in Christ. He recounts the development of his thinking this way:
In my eighth year I read every book on physics and astronomy I could find in our school library. The next year I began to do the same in the children’s section of the Vancouver Public Library. . . . At age ten I had exhausted the science resources of the children’s and youth sections of the Vancouver Public Library and was granted a pass to the adult section. . . . By age fifteen, I came to understand that some form of the big bang provided the only reasonable explanation for the universe. If the universe arose out of a big bang, it must have had a beginning. If it had a beginning, it must have a Beginner. From that point on, I never doubted God’s existence.21
From that point he never doubted God’s existence, but he also never doubted the big bang model that he had already embraced as fact for a decade. When he was almost seventeen, he started to read the “sacred” writings of the world’s major religions and eventually read the Bible.22 Undoubtedly all those astronomy and other science books that he read in his youth (in the years 1952–1962) were written on the basis of a secular, naturalistic, Bible-ignoring (really Bible-rejecting) view of origins.23 So this was Ross’s interpretative framework (starting point for his thinking about origins) before he ever attempted to read the Bible (and thus before he professed faith in Jesus Christ), and it is the hermeneutical grid that to this day has controlled his interpretation of Genesis 1 and any other Bible passage that relates to the history and age of the creation.
If God created the way Dr. Ross explained, then God is a terribly incompetent communicator. But could the Creator of language be so incapable of saying when and how and how long and in what order He created things? He could have easily explained in simple Hebrew language how He created over the course of millions of years, if He had done so.24 Genesis 1 could hardly say it more clearly for people of all times and cultures and levels of education or scientific understanding, namely, that God created the earth on Day One, completely covered with water until Day Three, when He made dry land and the plants. Then on Day Four He made the sun, moon, and stars. On Day Five He made the sea creatures and flying creatures, and on Day Six He created the land animals, including dinosaurs, along with man.
Dr. Ross’s creation account is impossible to derive from the biblical text in Genesis or anywhere else in Scripture. If his story is true, then in a very subtle way, and despite his stated intentions to the contrary, he is in effect calling God a liar and deceiver, who has led God-fearing Jews and Christians completely astray for more than 1800 years (for they believed that six literal, 24-hour days of creation occurred about 4,000 years before Christ) and who then used godless scientists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to tell God’s people what they could never have understood from Genesis based on sound principles of Bible interpretation.
In addition to his erroneous views on the creation and history of the universe and earth, Dr. Ross also made clear at this Fixed Point Foundation conference (as he has made clear for decades on his web site and in his many books) that he believes (1) in millions of years of animal death, disease, killing and extinction in God’s “very good” creation before Adam (thus, also before sin),25 and (2) that Noah’s Flood was only a local flood in the Mesopotamian Valley. Neither of these beliefs is compatible with the Word of God. His views are rather the result of taking a few verses out of context, defining words (especially Hebrew words) in biblically indefensible ways, and ignoring many other verses, but taking mainstream scientists’ claims about millions of years and the geological record as infallible truth.26 The Bible however clearly teaches that the Flood was global27 and that there was no natural evil (animal death, disease, extinction, hurricanes, tsunamis, etc.) in the non-human creation before the Fall of Adam and Eve.28
Given the denial of a literal Adam and Eve and literal Fall by a growing number of professing evangelical scientists and theologians, I want to add one more point that Dr. Ross did not address at the Fixed Point conference but which he has taught for years in his writings. One of his arguments in favor of his day-age view of Genesis 1 is that God’s seventh “day” of rest (Genesis 2:1–3) has continued up to the present and will continue till Jesus creates the new heavens and new earth. So, he argues, this seventh day is not literal but is many thousands of years long, at the very least, and therefore the first six days weren’t literal 24-hour days either.29
These passages all teach that God’s rest from His creation work continues from the end of Creation Week to the present.
I will leave aside a discussion of the fact that Hebrews 4:4–11, Psalm 95:7–11 and John 5:16–18 do not teach, as Dr. Ross does, that the seventh day of Genesis 2:1–3 continues to the present.30 The seventh day does not continue to our present time (and thereby is not thousands of years long). Rather these passages all teach that God’s rest from His creation work continues from the end of Creation Week to the present (though He does continue His work of providence and redemption, as John 5:17, Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:3 and 2 Corinthians 5:18–20 indicate). So, the truth of Genesis 2:1–3 means that God is not now creating in the Genesis 1 sense, a fact that Dr. Ross recognizes. But he fails to realize that his admission of this fact is fatal to his day-age (or any other old-earth) view. That is, the physical processes that scientists study today are not the processes God used to create the world during the first six days of history. Rather they are the processes that function under His providence during His rest from the work of creation. This fact therefore rules out evolution, the big bang, and millions of years, which are based on the assumption that present processes explain the origins of the universe and all it contains. Dr. Ross cannot say with any logical consistency that God is not now creating and yet also say that the big bang theory (which is based on evolutionary scientists’ interpretations of present physical processes) describes how God created the universe. The big bang theory is in fact contradictory to Genesis 1 in many ways (e.g., in the time-frame as well as in the order of events).31
But I want to point out further that if the seventh day is not literal and the days of creation were millions of years each, as Dr. Ross believes, then in effect (and contrary to his stated beliefs about a literal Adam and Eve and literal Fall) his day-age view implies a denial of a literal Adam and Eve and literal, historical Fall. How so? Because Genesis 5:1–5 says that Adam and Eve had many children, one of whom was Seth, who replaced Abel who was killed by Cain, and that “all the days of Adam were 930 years.” As Dr. Ross agrees, Adam was created before the seventh day, according to Genesis 1.
But if the seventh day is still continuing, then there are only two options for where to put Adam’s life in relation to the seventh day. One option would be that all the days of Adam’s 930 years transpired before the end of a figurative sixth “day.” But the Bible clearly teaches that the Fall of Adam, and the birth of Cain, Abel, and Seth, and all the rest of Biblical history were after the seventh day. This is especially implied in the Sabbath commandment in Exodus 20:8–11, where God is looking back at Creation Week in the completed past. And Romans 5:12–18 and 1 Corinthians 15:21–22 teach that everyone up to the time of Paul died because of Adam’s sin and death (these passages apply to us also). There is an unbroken continuity in the human lineage from Adam to all other humans (Acts 17:26), just as there is from Adam to Jesus Christ (Luke 3:23–38).
But if Adam lived his whole life before the seventh “day,” then the link between Adam and all other people is broken. The other option would be that, if we say that Adam and Eve were created at the very end of the sixth “day” and their lives and all of human history continued on into the still continuing seventh “day” (which, as Dr. Ross states,32 supposedly has lasted thousands of years but has not yet ended), then the Fall, the catastrophic Flood and all the sin and wars and disease since the Fall have occurred during the seventh “day.” But God blessed and sanctified (declared holy) the seventh day (Genesis 2:3). If all the sin, disease, death, and other evils have happened on the seventh “day,” then God has declared that all that evil is blessed and holy, which is a monstrous, blasphemous conclusion.
Therefore, either God is terribly confusing and contradictory or Adam never really lived and died, never had children, and never really fell in sin. In other words Adam and the Fall are myths. Or else, we must conclude, Dr. Ross’s belief about the age of the earth is seriously in error because in addition to all the hermeneutical problems already discussed, it implies a denial of a literal Adam and a literal Fall thereby undermining the gospel that he says he believes.
Christians must decide whether they are going to believe the Word of God or believe secular scientists and those Christian leaders, theologians and scientists, like Dr. Hugh Ross, who are using the secularists’ naturalistic (i.e., atheistic) interpretations of some of the cosmological, geological and biological observations as a grid for reinterpreting Scripture. Does Scripture interpret Scripture, as orthodox Christians have always insisted and as Jesus and His apostles demonstrated? Or do we let the non-Christian (and generally anti-Christian) secular scientific majority tell us what Scripture means? It is an issue of biblical authority versus godless33 man’s authority and the authority of Christian theologians and scientists who have followed the godless majority.