More false claims by Hugh Ross
Leading progressive creationist’s (non-) response to Refuting Compromise
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.
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.
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:
- Critique of the introductory chapter of Hugh Ross’ book A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy (31 May 2004)
- Trilobites on the Ark? Hugh Ross’s latest bungles on the created kinds (30 July 2004)
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:
- Testimony of Christian Huls
- Sonia’s Testimony: Creation magazine opened my eyes to the Gospel,
- Joel Galvin : Faith shipwrecked by compromising Christian colleges restored by creation ministry
- No excuse not to believe by Lita Sanders (now CMI apologist and NT scholar)
- Former old-earth geologist who now wants to learn to defend the truth of Genesis to help others.
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:
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.)
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 … .
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.
Re-featured on homepage: 7 November 2023
- Biblical Evidence for Long Creation Days, www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics/longdays.html, 1 December 2002. Return to text.
- 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.