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Refuting Compromise (updated & expanded)
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More false claims by Hugh Ross

Leading progressive creationist’s (non-) response to Refuting Compromise

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Published: 2 June 2011(GMT+10)
 More false claims by Hugh Ross

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In 2004, I wrote what is probably my most important book, Refuting Compromise (hereafter ‘RC’). This is a defense of biblical authority and its corollary, ‘young-earth’ creation and a globe-covering flood, against the old-earth challenges, dealing with both theological and scientific issues. The subtitle is A Biblical and Scientific Refutation of ‘Progressive Creationism’ (Billions of Years) As Popularized by Astronomer Hugh Ross, showing that it defended truth largely by refuting one of the leading proponents of old-earthism. See introductory chapter and reviews.

RC chapter 3 cited most of these [Church Fathers], showing that most believed explicitly in 24-hour days, and all were ‘young-earthers’ who believed the world was only thousands of years old. [So Ross] quietly removed that page from his website.

It’s notable that Dr Ross himself has till very recently outwardly ignored this book, which this year has been published in a new updated and expanded edition. But he is clearly aware of it. For example, on the website of his organization Reasons to Believe, he once asserted:

Many of the early church fathers and other Biblical scholars interpreted the creation days of Genesis 1 as long periods of time. The list of such proponents includes the Jewish historian Josephus (1st century); Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, apologist, and martyr (2nd century); Origen, who rebutted heathen attacks on Christian doctrine (3rd century); Basil (4th century); Augustine (5th century); and, later, Aquinas (13th century), to name a few.1

But RC chapter 3 cited most of these authors, showing that most believed explicitly in 24-hour days, and all were ‘young-earthers’ who believed the world was only thousands of years old (see some web citations under Did the early Church leaders and reformers believe the literal creation account given in Genesis?). Not long after RC’s appearance, he quietly removed that page from his website.

Ross’s April 2011 (non-) response

Recently Ross, still apparently in damage control mode, penned “A Response to Refuting Compromise By Hugh Ross”.2 I will reply to his comments (dark red, indented).

Many times since 2004, when young-earth creationist Jonathan Sarfati published his book Refuting Compromise: A Biblical and Scientific Refutation of ‘Progressive Creationism’ (Billions of Years) As Popularized by Astronomer Hugh Ross, I have been asked to provide a point-by-point response to his charges. My answer has been, and still is, I see no need for such a response. Any (nontrivial) biblical and scientific objections raised by Sarfati in that book had already been addressed in my book, A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy, in advance of the release of Sarfati’s widely publicized book attacking my views.

Actually, these books came out at about the same time. RC was already published in March 2004, while Ross’ book came out in May that year. Also, the reverse is true: most of his points were already demolished in Refuting Compromise.

For the record, he has never met me nor spoken with me.

Ross: ‘Sarfati and the rest of the young-earth creationist community have yet to respond to, or even acknowledge the existence of, A Matter of Days.’ Sarfati: ‘I have written not just one but two detailed responses to this very book.’

I could of course say the same, but what is this supposed to demonstrate? More importantly, Ross had his chance to not only meet me, but in fact debate me in 2007 at the American Vision conference. But he declined, telling one CMI supporter that he would not debate me unless I apologized for my book that was supposedly ‘hurtful’. Instead, Dr Danny Faulkner, full professor of astronomy, was substituted. It was notable that Ross, although he is an astronomer himself, almost completely avoided the topic of astronomy in his debate against Faulkner. Ross may have realized that his frequent style of—well, frankly, bluffing—to non-astronomers (see for example Hugh Ross lays down the gauntlet!) would not work. Many of the (non-astronomical) arguments he brought up in that debate had already been thoroughly discredited in RC, but he didn’t let on to the audience. Worst of all, he also congratulated Faulkner on being willing to debate him; he told the audience openly that other creationists were afraid to debate—conveniently omitting that he had wimped out on debating me!

Sarfati and the rest of the young-earth creationist community have yet to respond to, or even acknowledge the existence of, A Matter of Days, despite the book’s having resided at the top of Amazon.com’s list of “books young-earth creationists do not want you to read.”

Now this claim is an outright falsehood. Whether it’s a deliberate lie or extremely lax research is impossible for me to know, but it’s extremely easy to disprove. I have written not just one but two detailed responses to this very book:

The first documents his long-standing habit of playing the victim, which is really a case of projection: he is blustery and harsh to biblical creationists, but projects this behaviour onto us. It also summarizes what CMI believes, and why, and points out the dangers of compromise. This last was recently supported by an encounter by one of my colleagues:

[A couple who support CMI] both grew up in Christian homes and both had a black time at university. [The husband] spent about two years as an atheist. Interestingly, it was Hugh Ross’s book (possibly The Fingerprint of God) that started him towards atheism. It was a very black and depressing period for him.

Fortunately, like many people, they were restored to faith, humanly speaking, by CMI’s non-compromising stand on the Bible. See, for example:

The second response to A Matter of Days deals with Ross’s distortions on the created kinds (he holds to a neo-Lyellian view of ‘fixity of species’) and the global Flood and Ark.

Long ago, swordandspirit.org featured a humor piece entitled “Refuting Refuting Refuting Compromise,” a not-so-subtle hint at the folly of my wasting time on a response that would simply generate further invective. And I do mean “invective.”
Much, if not most, of Refuting Compromise attacks my character, my training and education, and my competency as both a scientist and a Bible interpreter.

More of Ross’s martyr complex. Yet this is contrary to what many readers think, so Ross is just ‘poisoning the well’ so that people don’t bother to investigate the evidence I present. For example:

‘Throughout the book Dr Sarfati is very gracious toward Dr Ross while effectively critiquing Ross’ works. This is one of the best books I have ever read —10 out of 10.’—Tim Chaffey, Midwest Apologetics

Tim Chaffey, Midwest Apologetics:

“Throughout the book Dr Sarfati is very gracious toward Dr Ross while effectively critiquing Ross’ works. This is one of the best books I have ever read — 10 out of 10.”

Fred Butler, Fred’s Bible Talk:

The straightforward manner in which Dr. Sarfati handles his critique is significant, because Dr. Ross suffers miserably from a persecution complex. He whines unmercifully about being mistreated and cruelly ridiculed by his ‘young earth’ creationist detractors. Even the smallest criticism brought against his apologetics is received as a personal offense and he annoyingly blows them out of proportion to make himself appear a victim of ignorant, fundamentalist foes who are only stifling the gospel ministry with their backward, out-of-date thinking. However, in respect to Dr. Sarfati, he has no place to play the ‘persecution card’ with his book. Though Dr. Sarfati is firm, he never raises any ad hominem slurs that can be misconstrued as a personal attack against the character of Dr. Ross.
His refutation is extremely gracious and respectful, yet at the same time he demonstrates with documented clarity that Dr. Ross frequently overextends his competence both theologically, as well as scientific. In the area of biblical theology, for example, and the technicalities surrounding the original languages of scripture, Dr. Ross will on occasion make confident, dogmatic assertions about a biblical passage that reveals to anyone who can utilize a decent Bible software program that he is routinely sucking his ideas out of his thumb.
Though I won’t respond to Sarfati’s personal attacks against me, I would like to make a few suggestions that I hope will be helpful to anyone open to questioning Sarfati’s vilification of day-age creationism and its adherents, myself included.

Of course, Ross doesn’t give an example of these ‘personal attacks’, but he makes plenty of his own as documented above.

  • Given that both old-earth and young-earth creationists make predictions about what scientists and Bible scholars will discover as research advances, keep an eye on the findings to see which predictions more closely align with what’s discovered. (See some examples at reasons.org/resources/predictions.)

Ross still seems unaware of the basic logical fallacy of affirming the consequent. See my 2006 article Nobel Prize for alleged big bang proof, which includes an extract from RC.

Also, this is basically what his 2009 book More Than a Theory was about. See our review, which points out that Ross still misrepresents creationist views on rapid speciation and ignores RC:

This was addressed in CMI’s book Refuting Compromise (ch. 7). Ross has no excuse for repeating these mischaracterizations of creationist argument, since he claims to have read the book. Indeed, this was his excuse for refusing to debate its author at the 2007 American Vision conference—the book was allegedly too hurtful so the author needed to apologize.

The review concludes:

A thorough rebuttal of this book would require a book of its own. Fortunately that book has already been written; there is very little in More Than a Theory that was not addressed in Refuting Compromise.
  • View for yourself one or more of my debates with young-earth creationist leaders (unaltered versions, please) and also debates (theirs and mine) with skeptics and atheists. Several are available on DVD.

But of course no one can view a debate between Ross and me because he was unwilling to have one!

  • See The Genesis Debate for a formal written exchange among Ligon Duncan and David Hall on the young-earth creationist side, Lee Irons and Meredith Kline on the framework side, and Gleason Archer and myself on the day-age side.

This is not too bad. We have reviewed this book (2001). Duncan and Hall present an excellent analysis of the history of interpretation of Genesis, “which clearly demonstrates that the literal day view was the dominant view up to the time of the scientific revolution.” Ross’s counter was very weak, and as shown above, he has quietly dropped most of his claims in that regard now. Unfortunately, according to the reviewer, Andrew Kulikovsky, author of the highly recommended Creation, Fall, Restoration: A Biblical Theology of Creation (2009, above right):

“In conclusion, although the literal day presentation by Hall and Duncan is one of the better recent defences of the young-earth interpretation, it would have been much stronger if they had devoted more space to exegetical issues and responded more thoroughly to their opponents’ exegetical arguments.”
All sides would do well to heed the biblical principles to “test everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

The above review of The Genesis Debate responds to this sort of argument:

Ross and Archer also claim that Christianity is unique in that it is ‘testable’ and cite Paul’s exhortation to ‘test everything’ (1 Thessalonians 5:21) in support (p. 73). However, this verse is most certainly taken way out of context. Paul is admonishing the Thessalonians to test any prophetic utterances in the church, in order to check whether they are authentic messages from God. This has nothing at all to do with the kind of scientific verification which Ross and Archer obviously have in mind. Furthermore, where does faith come in? Hebrews 11:1 states: ‘Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see’. To have faith means that we are certain about God’s promises even though we do not actually see them. Indeed, that is why we need to trust God!
and, even in disagreement, to offer reasoning with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

Then maybe someone should tell the guy in the mirror, Hugh … .

Conclusion

Ross clearly has no answer to the case made in Refuting Compromise. Instead, he continues to repeat discredited arguments in his later books, although sometimes he has quietly removed articles that were so obviously refuted. And instead of answering RC’s potent scientific and theological criticisms, he portrays them in ways that seem intended to generate sympathy in the uninformed for the persecutory attacks on him it allegedly contains.

Contrary to his claims that I have not even acknowledged the existence of A Matter of Days, I have written two detailed articles on it. And despite telling a debate audience that biblical (‘young earth’) creationists were afraid to debate him, he had, for clearly specious reasons, already backed out of a debate with me at that very same conference.

Related Articles

Further Reading

Related Media

References

  1. Biblical Evidence for Long Creation Days, www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics/longdays.html, 1 December 2002. Return to text.
  2. A Response to Refuting Compromise by Hugh Ross, April 2011, www.reasons.org/age-earth/biblical-evidence-old-earth/response-refuting-compromise-hugh-ross, last accessed 24 May 2011. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Wouter J., Australia

Good article. I’ve started reading the first version of RC. I think it offers one of the best arguments for Sola Scriptura that I’ve read and shows the many exegetical fallacies Ross gives and exploited by many evolutionists.

Daniel Y., Singapore

Great article. It exposes a certain someone’s hypocrisy, using ad hominem attacks against young earthers while expecting the latter to offer reasoning with gentleness and respect. Keep up the good work!

Wade L., USA

I greatly appreciate the heroic work [Jonathan] Sarfati is doing for Christian apologetics. …

John B., UK

I have not read Refuting Compromise, but I have read Dr Sarfati’s The Greatest Hoax on Earth, where he completely demolishes Richard Dawkins’ book, The Greatest Show on Earth. Dr Sarfati skilfully and without any ad hominem slurs towards Dawkins, dismantles Dawkins’ so-called evidences of evolution with a skill second to none and with great scientific professionalism, unlike those of most known evolutionists, such as Hugh Ross (and Dawkins). These people have to use false claims against Creation Scientists, because they know, only too well that their evolutionary concepts are crumbling away, thanks to Great Scientists like Jonathan Sarfati and others, here on CMI. Many evolutionists and atheists will stoop to any level in order to prevent the Glory of All that is, to go to the Creator, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I am a Biomedical Scientist, specialising in clinical Biochemistry and cellular pathology and I have only ever seen and witnessed what I believe to be absolute proof of Intelligent design and His Creation, as well as the accuracy of the Bible.

“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Mt 5.

God Bless you all at CMI, you are all a credit to Real Science and to Him who made us.

John

Mark C., USA
I have not been a Christian very long, but one thing I seem to see alot of is Christians arguing about things like how old the Earth is or whether the rapture is scriptural. I believe satan sits in his oven and laughs like a hyena when we do this. I wish people would do what Jesus asked His apostles to do and stop the constant attacks on each other.
Jonathan Sarfati responds

Dear Mr C.

We are happy that you are now a Christian. We also realize that relatively new Christians haven’t always worked out connections between the various biblical teaches (compare Can Christians believe evolution?). All the same, we have explained why this issue matters more than you might think, in particular about the authority of Scripture and the origin of death and suffering (as I explained in an old article Why make an issue of six days?). We even have a Q&A page Creation: Why it matters.

I would be interested to know where you find an ‘attack’. Also, Jesus taught His disciples lots of things: e.g. the unity must be based on truth, not error (cf. ‘But it’s divisive!’). Even more interesting, He taught that humans were there “from the beginning of creation”, not billions of years after it. This has implications for what you think Christians should not argue over; in fact, the old earth view actually conflicts with this teaching, as explained in Jesus and the age of the world.

Regards

Jonathan Sarfati

Gary L., USA
All of this article is a lot of words in place of a simple truth. God created the world and the universe.
Jonathan Sarfati responds

But then, by that reasoning, Genesis should have stopped at verse one. Instead, it expanded on this with “many words”. Compare Genesis: Bible authors believed it to be history: “The important thing is that God created, isn’t it?”.

God is greater than any man. God also created science.

In one sense: see my article The biblical roots of modern science: A Christian world view, and in particular a plain understanding of Scripture and Adam’s Fall. All the same, ‘scientific laws’ are man’s descriptions of the observed regularity of God’s upholding His creation (see Is evolution allowed by scientific laws?).

God does not contradict himself even though mankind will misinterpret either the Bible or science. Since God created the Bible and science they do not contradict each other except in man’s misinterpretations of either or both.

Nothing new here. The problem is what the likes of Hugh Ross consider as ‘science’ is the result of uniformitarian interpretation.

Since God is greater—by FAR—than man, God is not confined by man’s knowledge or expression of time i.e. 24 hours does not constitute a day in the existence of God.

God is not so confined, but man is. God clearly told us that they were ~24 hour days because they formed the basis for our working week (Exodus 20:8–11). See also Why is CMI so dogmatic on 24-hour creation days?, which addresses the canard The days were ‘God’s days’ not ‘man’s days’

The Bible clearly stated in interpretations of years ago that a flick of an eye was a thousand years to God.

To God, who is outside of time, true. But God wrote His word to teach us, and clearly differentiated the two. Indeed, such a comparison would be senseless unless there was a difference. See 2 Peter 3:8—‘one day is like a thousand years’.

Now we have a newer quote in the Bible, but the point is the same. A day for God is actually millions of years in man’s sense of time.

Where do you find that in Scripture?

Jesus said, “Seek the truth and it will set you free.”

Indeed, so please don’t ignore the truth stated in clear propositional form in Scripture (propositions are facts about things).

Why do we waste such time and effort to argue that only the Bible or science are the truth when both are the truth with frequent misinterpretations by mankind for centuries. We know that men misinterpret the Bible repeatedly.

The corrective for this is not postmodernist relativism, but the right interpretation according to its grammatical and historical context.

We also know that science changes constantly with more information.

Hence it’s folly to re-interpret God’s Word to fit; see ‘But Genesis is not a science textbook’.

I remember when I visited Florence, Italy some years ago that Galileo was attacked by the Roman Catholic church because this man of knowledge stated that the earth revolved around the sun while the Church falsely claimed the sun revolved around the earth.

Note that the Church was pushed by the establishment science of its day. See Galileo Quadricentennial: Myth vs fact for refutations of many canards about the Galileo affair.

History is replete with examples of false science. However, that does not negate the fact that a day represents millions of years to God and that is how long it took for the seven ‘days’ of creation.

What ‘fact’? Does this mean we should work for six millions-of-years then rest for one millions-of-years, which is a logical deduction from your position applied to the Fourth Commandment (a reductio ad absurdum argument).

Did it occur to anyone that God is still creating while we live? No one said that God cannot still create.

What God can do is not the point. It’s what He said He did! And in His word, He said He created the universe in six days, the basis for our working week (Exodus 20:8–11). He also said creation was finished after that (Genesis 2:1–3), except for some miracles and the fact that all believers are &ldquonew creations&rdquo.

I offer this food for thought. This issue is fully resolved in my mind even if others choose to argue about it. I am committed to seeking God’s truth instead of man’s foolishness.

His truth is found in His Word, not in man’s foolish uniformitarian/evolutionary pseudoscience.

Jonathan Sarfati

Janet K., USA
These arguments make me laugh!

Which ones in particular, and why? Your elephant hurling is laughable.

You can go on and on and on … as you and your opponents seem to love doing … but the only real issue is “Did God do the creating?”

Really? How about “Which God?” and “How can we know this?” Once again, see Genesis: Bible authors believed it to be history: “The important thing is that God created, isn’t it?”

As an engineer and research scientist I know that neither of you have the truth and no one will this side of heaven.

As a Ph.D. scientist, I know that you are using a fallacious argument from authority ;) How do these fields qualify you to decree, in effect, that the Bible is not a true record of history in everything it affirms?

Go on attacking each other (and, “Yes”, you are attacking)

We should just take your word for it? And are we to assume that you think that genuine attacks are a laughing matter?

if you must, but surely there are better things to do with your time—such as feeding the hungry, providing homes for the homeless,etc, etc, etc.

Good grief, this old canard? We have thoroughly addressed this in:

(Dr) Jonathan Sarfati

Josef L., United States, 23 February 2012

It is always disappointing and frustrating when I see so-called Christians making absurd comments like, “The only thing that matters is God created” or when they claim any type of correction is an “attack”.

If it only mattered that God created, then why would he give such a detailed account? And why would virtually every doctrine in Christianity be based on Genesis 1-11? Also, the Bible commands us to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3) and to always be ready to give a defense for our faith (1 Pet 3:15). And historically, Christians have always been ready to correct error. Was it wrong for Paul to actually go to the Synagogues to tell the Jews that they were wrong (Act 17)? I’m sure he probably hurt a lot of their feelings, but truth is what matters.

I don’t see how correcting someone’s false views of creation (in this case, Hugh Ross’) is any different than correcting someone for false doctrines, such as denying the Trinity, salvation by works, losing salvation, etc.

I’m not really bothered when I see non-believers oppose biblical creationists. I expect that. But I am saddened when I see Christians oppose biblical creationists for claiming that the Bible is true. Most importantly, shouldn’t we care what God thinks? What does God think when He sees that His children are so embarrassed by Him, that they won’t even take Him at His Word?

Ken M., United Kingdom, 13 July 2012

Like most searching Christians,I am not a scientist,but in listening to the experts, I believe God will help us with discernment by way of guidance from His word, (1 Cor 13.)

Dr Sarfati replies: Good advice. The problem, as amply documented in Refuting Compromise, is that Ross makes secular ‘science’ equal in authority, and in practice, when it disagrees with the grammatical-historical understanding of Scripture, it’s Scripture rather than ‘science’ that is ‘re-interpreted.’

This article I believe gives some insight into the debating nature of Jonathan Sarfati in that he unnecessarily displays a great deal of animosity towards Hugh Ross. Love and humility would appear not to be some of his strong points.

JS: This response I believe gives us an insight into the tactics of Hugh Ross supporters: since no actual errors can be documented, shoot the messenger* about some undefined ‘tone’ or something like that, with no specifics but just assertions. Meanwhile, would you please write to Dr Ross rebuking him for portraying the saintly scholar Archbishop Ussher in a dunce hat, and copy me on his response?

As a simple lay person, I am tempted to ask, is this a case of ‘argument weak, shout louder’?

JS: In this case, it’s best for you to follow the biblical advice and “flee temptation”, if you are tempted to ask such questions without the slightest proof of error. ;)

Also I would ask, does this type attitude best serve the goal of your ministry as you seek to defend the truth?

JS: Now you have moved to a loaded question. Are all Hugh Ross supporters prone to such logical fallacies? (Now my use of the loaded question was intentional and illustrative ;)

* Cf. “no-one delights in the bearer of bad news,” Sophocles, Antigone.

Melki H., Indonesia, 15 July 2012

Thank you for your answer to the question “Is God still creating?” I’ve overlooked Genesis 2:1 and therefore believed that this world is an open system.

Sometimes a verse could made huge difference in one’s perception of life and their attitude. How far off is the attitude of those who pick and choose verses in accordance to their doctrine instead of the other way around.

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