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Responding to Hugh Ross’s ‘corrections’

27 January 2004

Recently Dr Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, a long-age ministry which insists on billions of years of death and disease before sin, etc. wrote a letter to the editor of Creation magazine offering ‘some corrections’ about a sidebar in the current issue. The December 2003 Creation 26(1) article, Archbishop’s Achievement: James Ussher’s great work Annals of the World is now available in English, featured a sidebar/addendum that highlighted the negative way in which Ross’s ministry had depicted a man who believed the Bible’s chronology literally—the man was depicted as a fool, despite the fact that he was a giant among scholars.

Below we have reproduced Dr Ross’s letter in full. We chose not to publish it in our ‘letters to the editor’ (feedback) section; the response required for accuracy and fairness’ sake would have left no room for any other letter. Instead, we publish it here, followed by a response from CMI’s Dr Carl Wieland. (This response was express-mailed and we have confirmed that Ross has received it prior to our posting this web item.)

Apart from the obvious need to set the record straight about the many misrepresentations in the Ross letter, we do this as a teaching tool to continue to equip people to be able to defend the Christian faith against serious compromise. However, we do not do this to attack any individual per se, but the false teachings that are leading many astray. Also, we have found, from past experience, that such incorrect and/or negative things have a tendency to be disseminated and take on a life of their own, which is why we think it is in everyone’s interests to have everything on the public record, in the sequence in which it appeared.


This letter from Dr Ross was received at CMI–Australia offices in late January:

[Click on image to enlarge and see full letter.]
Letter from Dr Ross

The following is the reply sent to Dr Ross:

23 January 2004

Dr Hugh Ross
Reasons to Believe
PO Box 5978
Pasadena, CA 91117
United States of America

Dear Dr Ross,

Thank you for your letter of December 30, just received in Australia. I am responding on behalf of the editorial committee of Creation magazine.

I am concerned that someone reading your letter without seeing our original item would be substantially misled.

We did not, as you write, accuse you of scoffing at Ussher merely by the fact of it being a comic format,1 but rather, by the very obvious way in which you depicted him as a ‘fool’. The illustrations showing the way you depicted him are there in our item, reproduced so that readers can make their own judgments as to whether our assessments are accurate. We stand by them.

We called his headgear ‘dunce-cap-like’, which it is, despite it being obvious to most readers of our piece that it was primarily meant to represent a standard Archbishop’s headgear. I suggest that any person reading your letter side by side with the original depictions will easily see how disingenuous your critique of us appears, i.e. your focusing on the claim that the resemblance to a dunce-cap was quite fortuitous, while totally sidestepping the way in which both depictions of Ussher were clearly of a mentally defective fool in every other pictorial aspect, including this great scholar counting his toes to get a creation date!

It is good to note that you now see that your written comments on Ussher may be unduly disparaging. But it is hard to see the validity of your claim that this does not imply disrespect for the Archbishop’s character, work, etc. in light of not only the original pictorial ‘fool’ depictions but particularly the fact that your letter makes it clear that you continue to defend these depictions.

You also misrepresent us by saying that we wrote that you incorrectly stated Ussher’s creation date as October 3 in your book Creation and Time-we did not. Our mention of this wrong creation date was a clear reference to the comic book being critiqued; it had nothing to do with your book. This is obvious to any fair-minded reader of the article, since the page from the RTB comic book in question, displaying that October 3rd date, was reproduced in our item.

Further, you claim that our comment that Newton agreed with a recent creation is incorrect. In view of your very disturbing track record in print of consistently misrepresenting nearly all of the Church Fathers’ positions on creation, I was not surprised to find that with regard to Newton’s correspondence with Burnet in late 1680 and early 1681, you have once again seriously misused your sources.

First, you failed to consider carefully that this was private correspondence, and that Newton himself says, in these rather spontaneous thoughts to a friend, that he has not given careful thought to them and would not be prepared to defend them. So by his own testimony, we should not take them as Newton’s mature convictions on these matters, but rather rely on his own published statements (see below).

In any case, however, what Newton wrote to Burnet fails to in any way support the idea that Newton was entertaining some sort of millions-of-years age for the world. He was indeed speculating with Burnet (in a rather confusing and certainly tentative manner, I might add) about the speed of Earth’s rotation and length of the days (perhaps to as much as a year or longer) for the first three days before the Sun was made. But there is nothing in his comments to contradict Newton’s own belief in creation a few thousand years ago, which the evidence I am aware of indicates is the case. For example, Colin Renfrew writes that Newton’s work on dating, The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended, ‘took the ancient Egyptians to task, since they had set the origins of the monarchy before 5,000 BC … This criticism was meant literally; for an educated man in the seventeenth century or even eighteenth century, any suggestion that the human past extended back further than 6,000 years was a vain and foolish speculation.’

You say that Newton referred to the use by ‘many of his respected contemporaries’ of those verses in Proverbs, Job, and Psalms to ‘support the great antiquity of Earth’. First of all, this is a relative term-we believe that the world is of ‘great antiquity’ too-as ancient as 6,000 years old! It is fallacious to take Hebrew terms of antiquity, which refer to ages comparable with man’s existence on earth, and import modern uniformitarian ideas of ‘age’ into them. 

However, in that portion of his correspondence referring to those verses (which incidentally refers to the antiquity of the mountains and hills, not the whole earth), Newton says nothing at all about any contemporaries. Even more importantly, you omitted to mention that Newton’s reference to those verses was saying that he, Newton, would not use those verses to support antiquity.

This thus reflects, at the very least, a most careless reading of the Newton correspondence with Burnet. And Newton even indicates near the end of his 1681 letter to Burnet what his own inclination is: to follow Ex. 20:8-11 and the witness of the prophets, Jesus, the apostles and the church down to his day (including the theologians) in believing in literal six days.

I regret to say that you also misrepresent the way in which we invoked Stephen Jay Gould. The obvious (and powerful) point was that even a self-proclaimed enemy of the Gospel at least treats this great scholar with the respect he deserves, so how much sadder does that make the fact that a self-proclaimed Christian evangelical denigrates him by depicting him as an obvious idiot?

Finally, let me point out that your personal faith, as well as your professed evangelistic motives, are not an issue in this, and if anything (I add with heaviness of heart) they make your stance even more tragic and dangerous, we believe. We have never rejected your Christian profession, as you would know from the fact that we have long stocked Bebber and Taylor’s rebuttal to your Creation and Time, which calls you ‘saved’. For all we know, you may also have somehow managed to convince yourself that you really do hold to an inerrantist view of the Bible, hard as that is for us to imagine. But we are convinced that your work represents a huge danger to the church and to the Gospel, much more than Gould’s best efforts. Gould rejected the Bible, but he knew what it teaches and didn’t try to twist or distort it. Whereas your stance is damaging to the faith because it twists and distorts what the Bible says, way beyond any minor ‘difference of interpretation’. (It is doubly dangerous precisely because people are being essentially told, ‘Trust me, I’m a fellow conservative evangelical who believes in the inerrancy of the Bible’.)

2004 is our year of ‘Refuting Compromise’, in which we will make that statement (about the distortions of God’s Word) increasingly clear to the body of believers. I.e. we hope to be able to make the spotlight of exposure shine more relentlessly than ever on the false teachings of those who are leading the church down the deadly path of compromise in such crucial, big-picture, Gospel-foundational areas.

We do not intend to do so with any sort of ad hominem approach, but by positively highlighting the potent issues and arguments, particularly the biblical ones. I would hope and pray that as a result, you would seriously rethink the way in which you and your followers handle the precious Word of the Creator Himself. I also trust you understand that our motives are definitely not personal. Nothing would give us greater pleasure than to one day be able to know that you are shoulder-to-shoulder with us on the ‘big picture’ of Genesis-which is the big picture of the Gospel, the Creation/Fall/Restoration framework of the universe.

Sincerely,

Dr Carl Wieland
[Managing Director,] CMI–International

Written in Australia, and transmitted to the US for signing and express-mailing to you.

Note

  1. I don’t know why you would think that we would have a problem with cartoon depictions per se, when we use them all the time, including of some of our speakers.

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