Is cruelty normal?
Is cruelty normal? The reason for this odd question is because today there are books and ministries coming to prominence which urge evangelical Christians that they can reject biological evolution yet still totally accept such ideas as the ‘big bang’, stars evolving, billions of years of earth history, that the Flood was not global, and so on.
It may be no coincidence that the leading lights in this movement, such as Hugh Ross and Don Stoner, are in the fields of astronomy and physics. There is enormous peer pressure to accept the billions of years inherent in popular cosmological and radiometric dating theories.1
Part of the appeal of the Hugh Ross type (henceforth HR) position to many evangelicals is that it claims to be based on a literal view of Genesis. Space forbids a detailed rebuttal of their arguments which try to make Genesis fit their old-age beliefs. Stoner2 lists the usual reasons given for 24-hour days, for example, and attacks them one by one, trying to find any loophole. The combined force of all the arguments in favour of 24-hour days is overwhelming, however. Even Stoner admits that it is hard to read Genesis and ‘come away with any but the six twenty-four hour-day meaning’.3 Therefore he is led to speculate that maybe God was deliberately concealing the truth!
Actually, any claim that the days of Genesis were not intended to be understood as ordinary days flies in the face of world-class Hebrew professors (see Quotable Quotes). In spite of protesting explanations, HR proponents frequently give authority to fallible scientific interpretations of facts over against the plain meaning of the Bible.
This somewhat eccentric version of the usual day-age/progressive-creation scenarios founders (like them) on the question ‘Is cruelty normal?’ HR proponents accept, correctly, that a literal reading demands that Adam and Eve were created only a few thousand years ago. However, because they totally accept the results of conventional dating methods (as used by evolutionists) they also accept that most of the fossils in the rocks represent animals and plants that lived and died millions of years before Adam.
But these fossils show evidence of violence, bloodshed, suffering, disease and death. If such things existed before there could have been any Adam, how did the Fall affect the whole creation, as has been taught and believed to be the time-honoured, obvious meaning of the eighth chapter of Romans? HR proponents are forced to insist that Romans 8 cannot mean what giants of scholarship such as Calvin, for example, took it to mean. For them, the creation must always have been groaning in bondage to decay and suffering. But if this is so, what does the restoration/restitution of all things promised in Scripture (e.g. Acts 3:21) mean? Will things be restored back to billions of years of cruelty and disease?
Surely no one could claim that this is consistent with the Bible’s depiction of the restoration of all things at the creation of the new heavens and earth. Biblically, things will be RE-stored to a sinless, deathless state because that is how it was before Adam sinned. What could HR enthusiasts possibly say when confronted by a non-Christian with the problem of why a loving Creator’s world is full of cruelty, death and suffering among men and animals? The straightforward biblical world view permits an answer: these things are a temporary intrusion into a once-perfect world because of sin—cruelty is not normal in God’s economy.
However, the HR view, with its vast eons of suffering before Adam, cannot give sin as the reason for ‘bad things’. All long-age compromising positions mean that God has observed and allowed a reign of terror and cruelty for hundreds of millions of years for no known reason. This would mean that cruelty is normal for the world created by God.
The HR position runs across an especially obvious snag when it comes to early people. Fossils of humans (some showing signs of disease and violence) are known which have been dated (by methods HR proponents insist are authoritative) thousands of years older than Hugh Ross’s current maximum age for Adam. So what do they do about the embarrassment of having humans around before Adam, according to their system? They relabel them as nonhumans!
Dr Ross writes:
Starting about two to four million years ago, God began to create manlike mammals or “hominoids”. These creatures stood on two feet, had large brains, and used tools. Some even buried their dead and painted on cave walls. However, they were very different from us. They had no spirit. They did not have a conscience like we do. [How does he know?—author.] They did not worship God or establish religious practices. In time, all these man-like creatures went extinct. Then about 10 or 25 thousand years ago, God replaced them with Adam and Eve.4 (Note the date for Adam’s creation, which becomes relevant later.)
Scant evangelistic impact
The HR position is being touted as having the ability to reach the scientifically educated non-Christian more effectively than ever. However, it is highly unlikely that it will have anything like the tremendous evangelistic impact on the scientifically educated that the straightforward creation science position has had. Unbelievers (I was one of them at university) are usually repelled by compromise, special pleading and inconsistencies such as this. For instance, if you’re going to accept that God created progressively more man like creatures before creating man, why not just come out with it and align yourself fully with theistic evolution and liberal theology? First Corinthians 15:21–22 teaches: ‘For since by [a] man came death, by [a] man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.’ The connection between Christ’s physical resurrection and the physical death brought in by Adam is irrefutable. Tragically, the HR compromise position denies that Adam’s sin brought anything other than spiritual death to mankind.5
Also, consider the Neandertal skeletons. Most evolutionary authorities now consider these to have belonged to a racial variant of Homo sapiens. Their remains and artefacts, even according to many evolutionists, indicate speech, culture, religion and art. By orthodox dating results, interpreted via Hugh Ross theology, none of these would have had a human soul/spirit! There is excellent evidence in the skeletons of modern European people that their forefathers included Neandertals. Skeletons in Middle East caves indicate that Neandertals and other humans lived and bred together, yet the contortions of HR theology demand that Neandertals be called ‘spiritless animals’. Classic Neandertal anatomy has been uncovered in a sixteenth century tomb along with chain-mail armour (see Nature, Vol. 77, 1908, p. 587).
Any Australian Aboriginal or native American remains or artefacts, if radiometrically dated as older than Ross’s Adam, would automatically be assigned to ‘non-humans’. Consider cave paintings depicting animals in Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory. The local tribespeople acknowledge these as the work of their ancestors, and still paint in that style. HR proponents could agree that those dated at 10,000 years ago were made by real people, descendants of Adam subject to salvation (or condemnation) after death. Yet paintings in that same park ‘dated’ at, say, 35,000 years, even though they are in the same style, must (according to the Adam-dates in Ross’s leaflet #8909) have been made by man-like animals with no human spirit who have no connection with Adam and no hope in Christ!’6
All attempts to ‘harmonize’ secular teaching on origins with the Bible while evading its clear teaching on recent creation and a global Flood must invariably come to grief on this question—‘Is cruelty (and death) normal?’ The answer from Scripture is a resounding ‘No!’ Adam did not walk on a graveyard of the bones of countless dead animals (the remnants of millions of years of struggle), and certainly not on the bones of any ‘spiritless’ humanoid predecessors.
- Ross’s apologetics are so intimately tied to the ‘big bang’ theory that one critic has earnestly wondered what Ross could possibly do if the secular world abandons the ‘big bang’, as some physicists and astronomers of repute have done. An impending new creationist cosmology (we will report on this scientific alternative to the ‘big bang’ after the mid-year 1994 Pittsburgh conference) looks set to eliminate any perceived necessity to torture the biblical text to make it fit the assumed cosmological time-spans. Return to text.
- Don Stoner, A New Look at an Old Earth, Schroeder Publishing, 1985. (Foreword by Hugh Ross.) Return to text.
- His counter-arguments are cleverly packaged to disguise their weaknesses. The arguments for 24-hour days are often dismissed hurriedly with comments like ‘inconclusive’ or ‘decision must be made on some other basis’, giving the illusion that they have been properly answered. An example of unfortunate exegesis (to put it kindly) is seen when he uses the Romans 1:20 reference (God’s eternal power clearly seen in nature) to argue that therefore science will show God’s creation to be very old. Not only are God’s eternal qualities unrelated to the age of his non-eternal creation, but it could be argued that the slow and gradual formation of stars by natural processes over billions of years would exhibit far less of God’s power than fiat creation. Return to text.
- Hugh Ross, Leaflet #8909, as quoted in Bolton Davidheiser’s ‘A Statement Concerning the Ministry of Dr Hugh Ross’—a very important document in this matter, particularly regarding some scientific issues. Return to text.
- Surprisingly, and somewhat incongruously, Stoner differs from Ross on this point, agreeing that physical death to mankind was brought in by the Fall. Yet being a long-ager, he has to accept that the same types of things that cause death in people (e.g. cancerous tumours, which are abundant in the fossils) were around for millions of years before the Fall. Return to text.
- Perhaps this is why, in other writings, Ross has allowed as much as 50,000 years. However, this:
- Stretches the genealogies, which, he claims to accept, beyond any reasonable limits. Remember, the Australian Aborigines can only have arrived after the Flood (Ross’s version covers only a small part of the world, but somehow manages to wipe out all people in the process) and thus it is the post-Flood genealogies which have to accommodate all that time.
- Doesn’t solve Ross’s problem with Neandertals.
- May even turn out to be an insufficient compromise anyway, because dates of 60,000 years and beyond have already been suggested for Aboriginal colonization of Australia. Return to text.