Death, dating, and the days of creation

Dr Jason Lisle and Dr Hugh Ross radio debate

25 January 2005

Dr Jason Lisle, recently participated in his first live TV program where he debated leading evolutionist, Dr. Eugenie Scott on CNN’s “Paula Zahn NOW.”

Days later in late December, Dr Lisle also participated in a debate (this time via radio) with well-known progressive creationist Dr Hugh Ross, president of Reasons to Believe. Transmitted primarily in south central Colorado, this radio debate was a last-minute opportunity which Dr. Lisle readily accepted on behalf of Answers in Genesis.

Both Ph.D. scientists were featured guests on the “Dr Bob Grant” radio program on Salem radio affiliate KGFT 100.7 FM.

The following summarizes some of the debate’s highlights, which covered a variety of topics. For a thorough analysis, see Jason Lisle vs. Hugh Ross debate: annotated transcript.

Death before sin

As usual, Dr Ross presented ideas that require death before sin. But as Dr. Lisle pointed out, the Bible indicates that death of animals and people came as a result of Adam’s sin. God called the earth “very good” when it was first created, so how could it be full of death and suffering? In our opinion, Ross was not able to really give a satisfactory response to Dr Lisle’s points.

Ross tried to use “plant death” as an example of death before sin. But, Dr. Lisle pointed out that plants are not “alive” in a biblical sense of nephesh chayyah (the living creature) as the animals and man are (see Genesis 1:21, 24 and 2:7, where these Hebrew words are used). (See Exposé of The Genesis Question which addresses plant death.)

Age of the earth

Dr Ross tried to use radiometric dating methods as evidence that the earth is old. He said we should just consult our “friendly neighborhood physicist” for information about radiometric dating. Dr Lisle responded that he had consulted his friendly neighborhood physicist, Dr. Russ Humphreys who, along with others in the RATE group (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth), has provided very recent compelling evidence that radioisotope decay rates have been greatly accelerated in the past. See Rate group reveals exciting breakthroughs! Dr Lisle also used Mount St Helens as an example of rocks that are known to be young, but for which radiometric dating gives very old ages—proving that radiometric dating gives vastly inflated ages. (See Rating radiodating.)

Dr Lisle also pointed out that old-earth ideas do not come from Scripture, but from outside sources. See Dr. Mortenson’s groundbreaking study in his recent book The Great Turning Point. Dr Lisle told the audience that reading old-earth ideas into the Bible is an example of “eisegesis” (interpreting the Bible by reading into it one's own ideas). Lisle encouraged people to use “exegesis” (reading the Bible for what it actually teaches, interpreting Scripture with Scripture). Dr Ross objected to this and claimed that he was not reading his own ideas into Scripture. But the proof is in the pudding: what one does is what we must examine, not what one claims to do. An excellent way to carefully consider Dr Ross’ “exegesis” is to read Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s thorough and penetrating analysis of Dr. Ross’ teachings in Refuting Compromise.

Origins of the universe

Dr Ross claimed that astronomers could measure the age of the universe and have found it to be over 13 billion years old. Dr Lisle pointed out that this is a bluff, because age is not a “substance” that can be measured. Rather astronomers have to make assumptions in order to come up with an age. Usually they assume the big bang—a secular alternative to the Bible.  Again, this shows Dr Ross’s trust of fallible men’s ideas over the plain reading of God’s perfect Word.

Days of creation

Dr Ross tried to use Job 38 to support his idea that the stars were created before Day 4 and merely appeared on Day 4. He claimed to read this chapter in a literal sense, but Dr Lisle noted that stars do not literally “sing”, and so the passage is not entirely literal as Dr Ross claimed.  There are many passages in Scripture that confirm the straightforward reading of Genesis 1.  As an example, Dr Lisle cited Mark 10:6 in which Jesus states that God made human beings from the beginning of creation (not billions of years later).  Dr Ross claimed that the beginning of creation actually means the beginning of the institution of marriage.  However, this clearly is not what the Bible teaches.  Dr. Ross’s claim has already been refuted by Dr Terry Mortenson in the article But from the beginning of…the institution of marriage?

Dr Ross tried to argue that the Hebrew word for “day” has many “literal” meanings and can indicate a long period of time. He claimed it should be translated this way (a long period of time) in Genesis 1. Dr Lisle pointed out that this is a hermeneutical fallacy called an “unwarranted adoption of an expanded semantic field” (taking a word with multiple meanings, and choosing a meaning that does not fit the context). Dr Lisle explained that “day” must mean an ordinary 24-hour day in Genesis 1 because context indicates this; the days were bounded by evening and morning, and each reference to “day” occurs with a numeric modifier “second, third, fourth,” etc.  (See The days of creation: a semantic approach.) 

To summarize, Dr. Lisle said he wanted to emphasize his two main problems with Dr. Ross’s ideas:

  1. They often use eisegesis (reading into the Bible what it does not actually teach).
  2. They allow for death before sin, thereby undermining the Gospel message, and attacking the character of God (who—in Dr. Ross’s view—made death, disease and suffering and called it “very good”).

After the debate, Dr Lisle said he hoped those listening to the debate would now understand the difference between what Dr Ross teaches and what the Bible teaches.

Published: 6 February 2006