Hugh Ross Church Fathers
Old earther admits “poor quality” research by other old-earthers
Published: 13 July 2017 (GMT+10)
From time to time we receive emails from devotees of Dr Hugh Ross, probably today’s leading advocate of old-earth creationism. Please note that we take no pleasure in highlighting the following matters. But for the sake of integrity in the creation movement (the brand of creation promoted by Ross is called ‘Progressive Creationism’), we need to address challenges by devotees of Ross as if he is a source of infallible wisdom. These same devotees don’t seem to be aware that, although on the surface Ross’s claims might seem credible, they are often littered with inaccuracies and just plain bad science. Moreover, they seem to be unaware (or unwilling to read) the extensive refutations that are now available, which Ross himself refuses to deal with (see for example More false claims by Hugh Ross: Leading progressive creationist’s (non-) response to Refuting Compromise). For example, in challenging our biblical stance on the age of the earth, Ross fan, Steve E. of the USA, writes:
I’d like to advise against using James Mook’s “The Church Fathers on Genesis, the Flood, and the Age of the Earth”1 as a source for authority on the church fathers for YEC. You have one review of the book it is part of:
A review of Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth by Terry Mortenson and Thane H. Ury (Eds.)
And three quotes in these articles:
Worldviews, logic, and earth’s age—part 2 Does Genesis allow any scientific theory of origin? A response to J.P. Dickson Martin Rudwick’s shallow assessment: “Creationists out of their depth”
This article [cited in Hugh Ross’s website per footnote ref. 2 below] does a fairly good job of dismantling Mook’s assertions. I understand the purpose of that site which is contrary to yours, so here's a more favorable discussion of early church fathers: 
Dr Jonathan Sarfati replies:
Dear Mr E.
Thank you for writing to CMI.
I’d like to advise against using anything from Hugh Ross’s website, because he is theologically errant and scientifically unreliable, as amply documented in my book Refuting Compromise. In Ch. 3, I make plenty of use of Robert Bradshaw’s website.
I also pointed out that Ross claimed on his website:
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.[Omitted the references his original; hyperlinks added]4
He made similar claims in his books Creation and Time (1994) and The Genesis Question (1998). However, it’s well documented and easy to show that all these writers were actually YECs (young-earth creationists), and most believed in 24-hour creation days, as can be seen from the hyperlinks added to Ross’s quote, and also documented in my book Refuting Compromise.
But some time after my book first came out in 2004, Ross quietly removed that claim from his website. So, the next (3rd) edition was already planned to have the following addition, which actually quotes from the very article you recommended!1
Epilogue: quiet retraction on Dr Ross’ own website by J. Millam
At some time after my book was published, the above quote4 disappeared from his website. Instead, we have this admission on the site by Ross-supporter Millam:
Mook also takes aim at Dr. Hugh Ross’ claims on this subject. Ross’ earliest statements claim that Irenaeus, Origen, Basil, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas taught that the creation days were long periods of time, which Mook rejects as incorrect. In later books, Ross has backed away from many of those claims but still argues that Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and several others taught that the days of creation were 1,000 years each. Mook concludes that while Ross become [sic] more nuanced in his claims, he remains substantially wrong.
Unfortunately, few old earth creationists have written about the church fathers and what little they have written is often poor quality (with Stanley Jaki as a notable exception). This scarcity of solid resources is part of what motivated me to research this issue for myself.
Based on my own research, no early church father taught any form of a day-age view or an earth older than 10,000 years [emphasis ours]. In fact, the first people that I can clearly identify as teaching the old-earth view are Isaac Newton and Thomas Burnet in the late seventeenth century. This seems like a fatal blow to old-earth creationism and a strong vindication of Mook’s position but closer examination shows otherwise.2
As above, the author admits that Ross has retracted his claims, and tacitly admits that Ross’s research was “poor quality”. For Ross to originally make such a blanket statement about what the early church fathers supposedly believed when the majority believed the exact opposite, is no small thing. We hope that readers can glean the serious implications of now relying upon any claims by Ross. And now, as an apparent coverup, Ross’s ally Millam spends the rest of his paper trying to explain that the Church Fathers’ beliefs don’t matter after all—although Ross had originally claimed that they mattered a lot—hence why he [mis] quoted them (where he thought they backed him!).
References and notes
- J. Mook, “The Church Fathers on Genesis, the Flood, and the Age of the Earth,” in Coming to Grips with Genesis, eds. T. Mortenson and T.H. Ury, Green Forest, AR: Masters Books, 2008. Return to text.
- J. Millam, Coming to Grips with the Early Church Fathers’ Perspective on Genesis, Part 1 (of 5), reasons.org, 8 September 2011. Return to text.
- Robert Bradshaw’s in-depth study, Genesis, Creationism and the Early Church, robibradshaw.com Return to text.
- Biblical Evidence for Long Creation Days, reasons.org, 1 December 2002. Return to text.
I remember the first time I heard Ross on a video and I sized him up based on my experience with another area I tend to study—medical, dental and nutritional quackery. When a person makes claims with poor or little substantiation, there is a ‘ring’ that is unmistakable—it’s in error. My profession is dentistry, and I am amazed at just how much we ‘knew for sure’ in 1980, is now passé; the only thing I feel I know ‘for sure’ is truth, now that I’m older, is the inerrant Word of God. Everything else, especially man’s made up ideas of how we got here, is up for question.
Peter: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2Pt3:8)
Thank you Dr Sarfati for the article, especially for the response you gave in the comments section:
A common argument is that they were closer to the Apostles than we, so they know better. However, this doesn’t necessarily follow. Paul’s letters were written largely to correct error in churches founded by the Apostles themselves.
This is truly an awesome and amazing point!
Thank you!! I have had great difficulty answering to objections to Sola Scriptura in comparison to a few comments made by the early church fathers, one in particular, Ignatius of Antioch in regards to the last supper and John 6 and his possible literal views regarding those relevant verses.
Your point about Paul’s letters addressing errors in the early church, is incredible scriptural evidence, first to demonstrate that these indeed were occurring in the time that Paul was still alive, and second to counter arguments that “early church tradition is equal to God’s Word.”
Amazing! God bless you! :)
I remember listening to Ross’s teachings about 2 decades ago. Although at the time I still was a baby in the faith even back then I did not feel comfortable with the ideas he was teaching. Now after all these years of first studying The Word of God and then research done using info from your site and creation scientists who used the Word of God as their foundation for their info, the doubts I had about what Ross was teaching are proven to be correct. Thanks for all your work on the evidence you people provide.
The behaviour or teachings of church fathers is of little authority of the truth , for history is littered with false theology. Paul warned that when he was to leave , truth would be compromised (Acts 20:27–31).Our only rule of faith is to be that which was delivered by the saints (Jude 3).Why care about what anyone in history has or has not believed?
I’m not sure what you’re addressing exactly. Anyway, in Refuting Compromise, at the start of ch. 3, I write:
Why is church history relevant?
Some may argue, ‘Isn’t the Bible all we need? Don’t you realize that interpreters can err?’ Indeed, the correct view must be obtained from the Bible alone. But then, modern exegetes are not the first who have known about the original languages and cultures of the Bible. The onus is on those proposing a novel interpretation to prove their case.
There are two more reasons why it is instructive to analyze the history, which will be explained in detail in this chapter:
- Generally: If long-age interpretations had always been popular, then a case could be made for assuming that the Bible hints at this. But if they were absent until they became popular in ‘science’, it’s more likely that such interpretations were motivated by trying to reconcile the Bible with ‘science’.
- Specifically for Ross: he often claims that interpreters throughout history have allowed for long creation days. Since this is a book on his claims, it’s important to address evidence that he uses to overcome the charge that he’s motivated by ‘science’ and not the Biblical text.
‘Traditional’ churches such as Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches hold that the combined testimony of the Church Fathers is on a par with Scripture itself. A common argument is that they were closer to the Apostles than we, so they know better.
However, this doesn’t necessarily follow. Paul’s letters were written largely to correct error in churches founded by the Apostles themselves. Furthermore, as the church became primarily Gentile, knowledge of Hebrew diminished, so that even some of the leading Church Fathers knew no Hebrew at all, including the highly influential Augustine. Still, many of the Fathers had tremendous wisdom, which showed in the battles against anti-Trinitarian heresies.
The main point of this chapter is to address Ross’s claims, and show that even by his own reasoning, we should accept 24-hour Creation Days.