Creation Answer Book raises questions
A review of The Creation Answer Book by Hank Hanegraaff
Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2012.
Published: 5 July 2012 (GMT+10)
Hank Hanegraaff has been known as ‘The Bible Answer Man’ for some time now, so perhaps when he names a book The Creation Answer Book, it’s not necessarily copying from our Creation Answers Book (first printed in 2006). But all the same, there are some regrettable errors that mean that the two should definitely not be confused.
The book has an undeniably attractive cover, with bright colors and attractive font which draws the eye, and a high-quality hardback binding. The book is organized around the following categories of questions: Creation and First Things, Creation and the Garden of Eden, Creation and the Flood, Creation and the Age Question, Creation and the Problem of Evil, Creation and Dinosaurs, Creation and Evolution, and Creation and Re-Creation. Each set of questions has a section called ‘Advanced questions’ but even these answers are written at a very accessible level. Each question takes anywhere from 1–3 pages, and between the size of the pages and the font used, this is never more than a few hundred words, which makes the answers necessarily lightweight. This is perhaps more so than is warranted for an audience interested in picking up something titled The Creation Answer Book—one is occasionally disappointed that he didn’t go a bit deeper. There are Bible verses at the end of each answer, which give the feel of a ‘creation devotional’. Occasionally Hanegraaff makes statements which it would be helpful to follow up on, but there are no footnotes, which severely limits the usefulness of the book in that regard.
There is a lot that’s good about The Creation Answer Book—which will surprise many who know Hanegraaff’s track record on creation (but yes, he still believes the Framework Hypothesis—read on before rushing out to buy it!). When speaking about evolution and even progressive creation, his statements sound a lot like something you might find in CMI’s publications. When he is answering questions like “Can chance account for the universe?”, “Did Adam and Eve really exist?”, and “Did God use evolution as His method of creation?” the answers are completely sound.
Hanegraaff also gives the major young earth creationist ministries credit for rejecting dubious arguments for their position like the canopy theory and the Paluxy tracks.
When the answers to the questions Hanegraaff uses as the section titles are biblical, it’s straightforward and persuasive. But when they’re not biblical, often one feels like he is purposely avoiding a straight answer. For instance, in his answer to ‘Can the Big Bang be harmonized with Genesis?’ he notes that the Big Bang proposes a beginning to the universe (although technically, the Big Bang says that the universe expanded from an infinitely dense singularity—it doesn’t have anything to say about where that singularity itself came from), and a beginning requires a cause.1 He says:
Furthermore, if the universe had a beginning, it had to have a cause. Indeed, the cause of all space, time, matter, and energy must be non-temporal, immaterial, and unfathomably powerful and personal. As such, the Big Bang flies in the face of the preposterous proposition that the universe sprang into existence from nothing and lends credence to the Genesis contention of a Creator who spoke and the universe leaped into existence” (21, emphasis in original).
But the beginning of a Big Bang differs in important ways from the contentions of Genesis regarding creation: see Christian apologists should abandon the big bang. He doesn’t actually say that the Big Bang can be harmonized with Genesis; instead he says, “While we must not stake our faith on Big Bang cosmology, we can be absolutely confident that, as human understanding progresses, creation will continue to point to the One who spoke the universe into existence” (22). Which of course is not an answer to the question at all. And since he’s the one posing the questions that he’s answering, it’s especially unsatisfying.
Calling nature a ‘book’ is an error, because unlike books, nature cannot communicate to us in propositional statements.
The ‘book of nature’
Like many compromising creationists, he refers often to the ‘book of nature’, which he equates with general revelation. He says:
[T]he book of nature augments human reason through natural revelation. Indeed, it was failure to apply the explanatory power of natural revelation to the mysteries of the universe that trapped pagan thinkers in the intellectual cul-de-sac of their own thinking (25–26).
We would agree that Christians can learn important things by observing nature and drawing conclusions (after all, we employ many scientists, ranging from chemists, to biologists, to geologists). But calling nature a ‘book’ is an error, because unlike books, nature cannot communicate to us in propositional statements. Nature can give us raw facts, such as a dinosaur bone or sand of a certain composition. But it can’t tell us, in and of itself, how old the dinosaur bone is, or whether the erosion rate of a certain cliff has always proceeded at the rate which has been measured for the past century. But Scripture communicates in statements that can be said to be true or false.2 But in some cases, apparently we are to value the ‘book of Nature’ above the revelation in Scripture. Hanegraaff dismissively says, “Readers concerned with a chronology of creation need look no further than God’s revelation in the book of nature” (66).
He also says, “The biblical text is not designed to communicate whether the Flood was global with respect to the earth or universal with respect to humanity. That debate is ultimately settled by a proper ‘reading’ of the book of nature (Psalm 19:1–4)” (86). But this is problematic, because the ‘book of nature’ is being used as an authority over Scripture (which does teach a global flood, and this is how the New Testament authors interpreted it).
The age question
Under the heading “Is this a young world after all?” Hanegraaff gives what he thinks are “a veritable host of clues” about the age of the earth from “the book of nature.” First, he thinks that the speed of light, and the distance of the farthest stars we can see from us, is an indication of the earth’s age—but he is knowledgeable enough about other biblical creationist writings that he should know we’ve considered the apparent starlight travel problem at some length.
He goes on to say:
Furthermore, star life is a persuasive argument for a universe measured in billions of years. Star life depends on star mass. A star like the sun has enough fuel to burn for an estimated 9 billion years. Conversely, the fuel of a star half the size of the sun may last as long as 20 billion years. As such, the universe is presumed to be at least as old as the oldest stars within it. (100).
The last sentence is self-evidently true, but if he meant it to follow from those directly before it, as the conjunction would seem to indicate, this would reveal a significant error in thinking. It would be like saying, “Bill could easily live to be 90 years old,” and then assuming that Bill must therefore be 90 years old. Further, the entire paragraph appears meant to have the reader presume that there are stars in the universe that are billions of years old, and thus the inherent truth of the final sentence leads one to conclude that the universe is billions of years old. But this commits the logical fallacy of begging the question, i.e. presupposing that which one is seeking to prove.
The last bit of evidence he believes points to a long time scale is ice cores in places like Antactica (101). But young earth creationists have researched ice cores too.
Young Earth liabilities?
One question is ‘What are [sic] exegetical liabilities of the twenty-four-hour view’? (110–111). He claims that arguing that “God employed nonsolar light to govern the days until he created the sun, moon, and stars on Day 4” is problematic because “the biblical text literally says, ‘There was evening, and there was morning,’ indicating that the first three days of creation were normal solar days encompassing daylight and darkness (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13)” (110). But there’s something very important that Genesis does to indicate that the first three days weren’t determined by sunlight or its absence—it says that the sun, moon, and stars were created on Day 4! The idea of light without the sun is not foreign to the rest of Scripture either. Revelation 21–22 says that the glory of God will be the light of the New Jerusalem, and that there will be no need for the sun or moon (v. 21–23).
He also argues: “Furthermore, the dominant argument that the Hebrew word yom (meaning day) used with a numeral always, always, always refers to a literal twenty-four-hour solar day does not correspond to reality. Hosea 6:2 is a devastating counter-example. Here, as in other passages (Zechariah 14:7), yom preceded by a numeral represents a period of time far longer than a single solar day” (110). But this is extraordinary: The passage in Hosea is clearly poetic; the X / X + 1 construction is a particular sort of parallelism that is common in Hebrew poetry. In contrast, Genesis has all the markers of historical narrative. The word yom is only one part of our argument for 24-hour days, so it’s disingenuous to act like citing Hosea refutes the whole position. In fact, Hosea 6:2 is a problem for non-literal days because the point is that deliverance will come quickly—it may not come in three literal days, but it won't be thousands of years either, so these 'days' don't represent thousands of years.
He continues: “Finally, the unending nature of the seventh day constitutes a major exegetical problem for the twenty-four-hour interpretation. Logically and literarily, the seventh day cannot simultaneously be unending and temporal” (111). One can only conclude that he’s talking about God’s rest in Hebrews. But God’s seventh day rest ended, or Jesus could not have said “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17).
A retroactive Fall
While Hanegraaff accepts a timescale of billions of years, and therefore must put death before the Fall by virtue of the rock layers filled with fossils of thorns and dead animals which supposedly preserve evidence of millions of years of history, he emphatically argues that all death and suffering must be a direct consequence of Adam’s sin. He does this by adopting Dembski’s idea of a ‘retroactive fall’. He says “Surely God could cause the effects of the fall to temporally precede their cause!” But would such a God be good or moral? In what situation is it appropriate to enact a penalty before the transgression? Hanegraaff says that this parallels how people could be saved by Christ’s sacrifice during the Old Testament times before Jesus lived. But it is a gift of mercy for a penalty to be overlooked in anticipation of future payment. And the case does not become any better when he appeals to God’s being outside of time as a basis, because the creation which was cursed is within time, as are the inhabitants who suffer the effects of this penalty.
Throughout the book, there are a few odd statements which are presented in a worryingly authoritative tone. For instance, he says that “Eve was not deceived by a talking snake. Rather Moses used the symbol of a snake to communicate the wiles of the evil one who deceived Eve through mind-to-mind communication—precisely as he seeks to deceive you and me today” (64).
And he accepts the story of Noah’s Ark as historical, but argues that “the biblical text is not designed to communicate whether the Flood was global with respect to the earth or universal with respect to humanity. That debate is ultimately settled by a proper ‘reading’ of the book of nature (Psalm 19:1–4)” (86). But as we’ve pointed out so many times, if the Flood was not global, there would be no need to preserve animals (including birds, which could just fly to the nearest mountain range) on board the Ark, and Noah and his family could simply have migrated.
This book may well be counterproductive, by encouraging people to commence on the ‘slippery slope’ of doubting the plain statements of the Word, and rejecting the outline of history as clearly believed by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Hanegraaff calls origins “the single most important apologetic issue” (xii) and says that “how you view your origins will determine how you live your life. If you suppose you are a function of random processes, you will live life by a wholly different standard than if you know you are created in the image of God and accountable to him” (39). When he says “if Adam and Eve did not eat the forbidden fruit and fall into a life of perpetual sin terminated by death, there is no need for redemption,” (75) he might almost be mistaken for a biblical creationist, especially when compared to compromisers like BioLogos and Hugh Ross.
But in so many places his Creation Answer Book falls short of a biblical view on creation. He shows scorn for young-earth creationists: “Rather than mining Genesis for all its wealth, fundamentalist fervor seems bent on forcing the language into a literalist labyrinth from which nothing but nonsense can emerge” (65). This is a very unsympathetic portrayal of biblical creationists, who are trying to take Scripture at its word. One might equally criticize Hanegraaff for using the ‘book of nature’ as a hermeneutical key that overrides the clear teachings of Scripture.
Someone of Hanegraaff’s standing will automatically have an audience when he speaks on issues where he is thought to be authoritative. It’s too bad that his compromising views on creation lead this attractively presented book to fall so short of the useful tool that it could have been. It may well be counterproductive, by encouraging people to commence on the ‘slippery slope’ of doubting the plain statements of the Word, and rejecting the outline of history as clearly believed by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.3
- Note that modern cosmologists propose an origin of the singularity ‘from nothing’, i.e. a quantum fluctuation. But this presupposes the prior existence of the laws of quantum mechanics. Return to text.
- Note, too, that his assertion that the scientific dead end of pagan thinking he refers to is widely attributed to their worldview, and that the Bible is the root of the scientific approach to the world. See The biblical roots of modern science. Return to text.
- See e.g. Jesus and the age of the earth. Return to text.
Like many Christians, Hanegraaff seems to imagine that there is a 'religiously neutral' view of the world which allows an independent interpretation of it. Thus he sees the metaphorical 'book of nature' as providing information. But this interpretive move itself denies the creation account! It relies, at least implicitly, on the universe being independent of God, and not from him. But the 'book of nature' is a metaphor, and only becomes expressed in human words and interpretation, as you infer. It even gives itself away by the word 'nature' which itself calls up the idea of independence from God, rather than 'the book of creation' which is, of course, the Bible!
Sometimes I find it hilarious and sad to see Christian people like Hank Hanegraaff tie themselves into complicated and unnecessary knots trying to explain how the Universe came about. Why can't such people accept the simple truth that God is all powerful and can do anything, even create the Universe in six literal days? He could have done it in a second or less but he did it in six days to put in place the working week for all of humanity, followed by a day of rest; the weekly Sabbath. It's all there in the Bible. Not that hard really as even a child can understand it. No need to dream up complicated workarounds, such as billions of years, which are attempts, deliberate or otherwise, at mocking God. I think all Christians would agree mocking God is not a wise thing to do!
There's no such thing as the book of nature. People like H. are taking a weak analogy far too seriously. As C. points out; we do not find propositional statements in the world, we find sets of data. (If 'nature' is a book it's a very strange one, as it has no propositional statements in it.)
To say one can 'read' nature is a case of misplaced concreteness. He's taking the analogy too seriously. You can't read something that isn't text; and to claim you can is to confuse data for facts. People confuse the standard E. textbook account of the fossil layers for reality. (i.e. they confuse theory and reality.) The long ages aren't in the rocks but in the theory.
- What's at stake in the fossil record is not so much chronology but the rate of deposition.... and whether the 'progression' we see can properly be seen as evidence for M2M evolution over aeons of time or whether it has another explanation.
"Logically and literarily, the seventh day cannot simultaneously be unending and temporal."
- In Genesis God rests from His work of creation... not from His work of providence.
Thanks to Lita C. and Mike J. for the excellent statements on "the book of nature". Whenever an analogy gets the bit between its teeth it's too late to shut the barn door.
I am a regular listener to Hank on his radio program and I agree with most of his doctrinal statements. I am very disappointed that he doesn't discuss, or give any debate to the many young earth proofs found on your website.
David and Mike are correct; the "book of nature" is another way of stating that we must determine what God really said by using our neutral observations in science. The problem is that there is no such thing as a neutral position (Mat 12:30), and we attempt to reify nature as if clearly speaks as a person. General revelation is that which God gives every man, so that he is without excuse for knowing God, by seeing the creation without and the moral mind within (Rom 1-2). It is not our independent "neutral" observations that we use to interpret Special revelation like some strange hermenutic. I wonder if Mr. H has considered that his ability to use induction in science, is completely reliant on the literal promises of God to uphold the creation in law-like ways so we can study it(Heb 1:3, Gen 8:22,Job 38:33,Jer 31:35,32:25). God makes it pretty clear what He thinks of wisdom and knowledge outside of the authority of God's word (1 Cor 1-2, Col 2:3-8). Why do we constantly attempt to gain truth apart from God's word and then impose it back on the Bible?
It should be realized that wilfully compromising or rejecting any part of God's word is called unbelief.
Unbelief was at the heart of the original sin and is the chief sin from which all other sins/crimes originate. In Adams case, he wilfully rejected what he knew to be true and accepted instead what he knew to be false.
In essence, unbelief is the blasphemy of calling God a liar.
I too am very disappointed at his views on Genesis 1-11. He is a very influential person in the Christian evangelical world. I'm surprised he doesn't consider himself a fundamentalist.
I especially can't figure out how he can twist Scripture and ignore logic to the extent that he can honestly claim the flood was local. This makes no sense at all. He thinks a young earth view is intellectually untenable, but his local flood idea is no different. His local flood view shows how desperate he is to fit millions of years into the Bible.
I remember when Hank first took over the reins of CRI and the Bible Answer Man radio show. He was solidly in the young-earth camp. He even had major YEC leaders on the program. Then something happened, and he now seems ashamed to have been associated with us poor benighted YECists. I am not surprised that he has written such an uneven book as this one.
I would ask him what godly author prior to 1500 can he quote that the creation was other than 6 literal days and the deluge other than global? There are none. So I am to believe that all the ancients understood Moses wrong (including Jesus) and it took until the last few hundred years to get it right? Yeah, right.
Thanks for taking the time to evaluate a book that wasn't from one of your own contributors. This was useful to clarify a potentially confusing situation.
Is this not a breach of copyright? Why or why not? Will they be approached so that it would be settled out of court? Have we had legal advice from lawyers who are followers of Jesus?
Thanks for writing in. However, book titles are not subject to copyright, so there is no legal issue here.
The gospel of John opens with the words,"In the beginning was the word,and the word was with God and the word was God;the same was in the beginning with God", come now to revelations chapter 19verse 13, talking of Jesus, "And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God". Jesus, as those who are born again in Him will quickly declarer,Is the Living Word of God.Therefore given that Jesus believed in the Genesis account and given that He was present at the event itself, to deny the account recorded in Genesis is to callJesus a liar. Does it not send us immediately to Romans 1 16 v22 "Professing themselves to wise they became fools"
Thank you for speaking up about Hank's misguided teaching. He has completely misinterpreted both the end times as well as creation by his new creeds "reading the Bible for all it's worth" and "follow the evidence". If you "follow the evidence" Eve would have said that Adam was decades old when she first met him!
It's really a sad situation that he is actually becoming the very thing he teaches about - a false teacher. My heart hurts every time I hear a caller on his program being told his non-sensical beliefs in the tone of "is there any other belief possible?" leaving the caller to believe that they are the wrong one for believing the Bible for it's plain teachings about origins and end times.
Anyway, keep up the good work and keep teaching the truth of origins - a lot is riding on your ministry and that of CRI.
That is disappointing, to say the least. Most of what Hanegraaff writes is very good. His "Bible Answers Book Volume One" was outstanding, though I did not think he did as well on volume two. But, unfortunately, no one is perfect. I wonder if part of the reason he was rather weak on some issues in this book is because it is clearly only one part of a series put out by publisher Thomas Nelson? Other books in this series include: "The Prophecy Answer Book" by David Jeremiah, and "The Heaven Answer Book" by Billy Graham. It's sad that Thomas Nelson did not ask someone who is more focused on Creation (like anyone from CMI, or AiG) to write this book. But even if they wanted a "Big Name" they could have asked John MacArthur - I have heard him preach on Creation, and I am sure he would have done well. Oh well, I am very grateful for the excellent material that CMI and AiG work so hard to produce for us. But, if we Creationist Christians want these ministries and their material to become better-known in the Christian community, we need to support them by bringing them into our churches, buying their materials for our homes, churches, and friends, and praying for their ministries. Then, perhaps someday a big publisher like Thomas Nelson will not turn to general apologists like Hanegraaff for books on Creation, but will actually go to the people who know this issue best!
THANK YOU FOR THIS ARTICLE. TRUTH IN LOVE IS NEVER EASY FOR ANY OF US TO DO, BUT IF WE REMEMBER WHERE WE HAVE ALL COME FROM WE ARE INDEED HUMBLED. PRAY THAT HANK TOO BE HUMBLED, CONVICTED AND CONVINCED BY THIS ARTICLE, BECAUSE IT MAY NOT BE A DECEPTIVE SNAKE BUT UNDOUBTEDLY A ROARING LION FOR THIS DEAR BROTHER.
HOPE IN GOD WHO IS GREATER!
The Lord spoke these words about our first parents: “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’” (Mark 10:6). The Lord Jesus did not place Adam and Eve at the end of creation – but at the beginning! If the earth is 4.54 billion years old (as many profess), then Adam and Eve appeared at the “end” of creation as we now know it. Why? Because 6,000 years is a mere drop in the bucket when compared to 4,540,000,000 years. Our parents would have arrived on the scene after 99.99% of earth’s history had passed! So why would Jesus, Truth Personified (John 14:6), say that our first parents were “from the beginning of creation” if they actually came at the end? Should we believe the One who was there or Darwin who was not? Darwin also died, as did Jesus, but there is a huge difference! Jesus, also Life Personified, smashed Death in the teeth three days later and will someday raise everyone who has ever walked this planet – including Darwin – to face Him.
I am a regular listener to Hank but I believe he is wrong in the position he is taking on creation. I wish that he would not come across as so dogmatic on this issue and be more grace-based toward those who disagree.
I caught just a part of Hank's interview with Dembski some time ago, and it seemed for the next few programs that he was trying in round about ways to put Dembski in a favorable light. Every time I've heard the program since and someone calls with a creation question, I feel he is hedging his answer. It is really a shame that we seem to have lost for YEC one who has such a stong bully pulpit.
Hanegraaff is known for his plagiarism. He plagiarized from Dr. Kennedy, he anointed himself the Bible Answer Man (Walter Martin was the Bible Answer Man), and now he rips off the name of his book from one of yours. No big surprise here - he has a long history of unethical behavior.
The great thing about this book is that it is really simple for people like me who are, at times, um, 'scientifically challenged'.
It's great because even I can snort at the woeful logic, the massive grandstanding and the awful (NOT as in 'full of awe')idea of 'science conclusions' contained therein.
I see this compromise time and time again in our society. The latest, and most tragic example being the Rev. Billy Graham who now believes that there are many paths to God. How very mainstream of him!
So our friend may have started out as an author/speaker/evangelist convicted of his sins and understanding, to some extent, the might and magnificence of the, literally, Almighty, but how, insofar as he is concerned, have the Almighty fallen!
Perhaps we could all pray that those who seek to read this book only to throw preCambrian mud in our faces might instead see what fallacious logic is inherent in the 'text' and begin to question their own fossilised beliefs as a result!
May His Kingdom come!
'Except you become as little children'. Mr Hanegraaff would do well, as would many other intellectuals, to heed that statement as they might learn much about what faith is and why it matters. I heard recently of a speaker who took his daughter by train to the city for the morning. While travelling in the carriage filled with business like fellow passengers she asked 'Daddy, do you believe God made everything in six days?' Daddy cleared his throat and said gently, 'Yes dear, that is what the Bible teaches.' After a short pause she responded earnestly - 'Daddy, why did it take Him so long?' I know scientists may have to complicate things to justify their careers and maybe sell a book or two but I am confident that I speak for many others when I say 'thank you' CMI for your simplicity (understandable) and honesty (faithful) in presenting the evidence for Biblical Creationism.
Although surely he made worthwhile contributions as 'The Bible Answer Man' I had never heard Hank Hanegraaff described as an intellectual heavyweight, which the authoritative presentation of Genesis and scientific evidence requires one to be. Your comments on certain sections of his book that are too simplified, as well as on some inconsistancies in general, are therefore appreciated. I wonder what happened specifically that caused Mr. Hanegraaff to doubt the literal truth of certain Genesis verses. However, any future public debate between evolutionist scientists and young earth [young universe] scientists should first take place within the secular scientific community itself, since that division in their own camp needs to be openly faced by them before they could even consider bringing a Creator God into the picture. I think evolutionists would be more open to debating young earth/universe scientists who don't believe in God or the bible (then later, the faith part happens with the help of the Holy Spirit).
In my estimation, author H.Hanegraaff should stick to eschatology where he definitely knows how to navigate the Scripture convincingly! And so,rather not; attempt to tackle the biblical creation account in Genesis (i.e.,) until Hank either get's a truly comprehensive grasp on the pertinent biblical Hebrew involved (and/or)just leave the biblical creation apologetics (in&of)the Genesis 1:11 account-- to the appreciably more able & qualified men & women of the outstanding CMI and AiG literature.
Thank you for another good clear article explaining these things. It is frustrating that such mistakes and muddles are repeatedly made by compromising Bible teachers who should know better.
Why do so many believe the universe is billions of years old? Because “Scientists say it’s true – and they ought to know”. Why is the universe NOT billions of years old? Because GOD says so, and He really DOES know! I love the account of the little girl who asked why it took God so long!
Many years ago as a young student (just become a Christian) studying Biological Sciences, I still believed in Evolution for a short time. It didn’t occur to me, until challenged, that it was incompatible with the Bible. By the grace of God I began to think for myself and realised that, even from a merely scientific point of view, what a useless hypothesis evolution is. Recent discoveries (especially in biochemistry and how the genome operates), have made it even more impossible. But, like the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland, evolutionists still seem to manage without apparent effort to “believe [several] impossible things before breakfast”.
Thank you Lita for this informative article. I mainly knew about Hank H. for his eschatology, so it’s good to be aware of his views on creation too. It seems a little strange to me that he (and others) will take the N.T. time texts in a straight forward way (e.g. in Revelation) and yet tamper with the plain meaning of time statements in Genesis.
It makes me wonder whether my personal desire to have a consistent reading of the time texts from the first to the last books of the Holy Bible is destined to failure and embarrassment. I think a little bit like the ‘theory of everything’, the elusive quest for one set of equations that describes how the entire universe formed and operates, one that can describe every force and particle in nature, no matter how big or how small.
Bless you Jeffrey W (Canada) A bit of humour in a serious debate can't be a bad thing. Wassa.