Jason Lisle vs. Hugh Ross debate: annotated transcript
Published: 9 February 2006 (GMT+10)
14 April 2005
In December 2004, creationist astrophysicist Dr Jason Lisle debated leading progressive creationist and astronomer Dr Hugh Ross on the ‘Dr Bob Grant’ radio program. We summarized the debate in Death, dating and the days of creation, but here is a more complete analysis of the transcript.
The debate participants and compère (Dr Bob Grant) are indented, while CMI’s comments are not. Quite properly, Dr Lisle did not respond to every single assertion by Dr Ross in the limited time available, especially with a mildly partisan compère, so this sets the record straight. The main things omitted from this transcript are Dr Grant’s frequent pauses for commercial breaks and station identification, and small talk with guests. Some section headings have been added for ease of reading.
Grant: Good afternoon everyone. It’s Dr Bob Grant here. You’re tuned to 100.7 KGFT. At this Christmas season you might ask yourself why talk about young earth/old earth? Why talk about things having to do with creation? Here we are so close to Christmas, but as you discovered in our conversation with Dr Hugh Ross from Reasons To Believe last week, there were varied thoughts and opinions about how this might reflect upon the credibility of Scripture, the veracity of Scripture.
And received numerous emails and comments following that particular program with Dr Ross. And it certainly warranted, in my thinking, the opportunity to revisit this subject the week before Christmas, and really take a good look, a good in-depth look at how in fact we are affected by how we view the opening chapters of Genesis.
And as you recall, we discussed with Dr Hugh Ross a number of things: astrological phenomena and the star over … that shined over Bethlehem.
See How Did the Wise Men Know? or Is Astrology Valid? [and what was the Star of Bethlehem?] for a probable answer (by Hebrew Christian, Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum).
Grant: And the implications of that in terms of some kind of phenomena or something that occurred in the heavenly, something that took place.
And also we talked about A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy.
We have the biblically-required plurality of witnesses that in January 2004, Ross, at a church in his native Canada, confidently announced several times that within 12 months of the publication of this new book the debate within the church about the age of the earth would be finished in his favour. We said at the time that this would only happen if Christians fail to check Ross’s claims against Scripture. See the critiques of the Introduction and the chapter on created kinds.
Grant: And so I wanted to revisit this and give an opportunity for a number of different views and points of view of this particular subject. And we’re going to do that today with Dr Hugh Ross from Reasons To Believe along with Dr Jason Lisle who is with the organization, or the ministry, called Answers in Genesis.
Note though that he had Dr Ross on his own, then Dr Ross back with Dr Lisle, and after this, Ross on his own again. Not Dr Lisle on his own first or last, which means that Dr Ross really got 2½ bites at the cherry while Dr Lisle got only ½. Evidently old-earthers need 5-1 odds to have any chance.
Grant: [Introductions omitted] … And I maybe give you an opportunity to greet one another, Dr Lisle and Dr Ross. I’m assuming maybe you’ve had an occasion to meet.
Ross: We haven’t. This is our first meeting.
Lisle: That’s right, yes.
Grant: Well I’m pleased to have you both on the program today and delighted to be able to talk about something that is important to many of our listeners in this audience. And what I would like to do, Dr Ross, if I could begin with you and invite you to offer some comment about your belief about the opening segment of Genesis and particularly the depiction of days of creation. And how that has bearing on the credibility of Scripture. And that is a very, very important subject at this time of year because people want to know that what they have in the biblical narrative is accurate and it is trustworthy. And some people think, well, how you view those opening chapters of Genesis will affect and impact how you view the rest of the entire Bible. So, first of all Dr Ross I would invite you to make some comment on that subject.
Ross: Well, I think that’s a subject that Jason and I both agree on.
Days of creation
Ross: That it’s very important on how you look at Genesis 1; and your interpretation of Genesis 1 will affect how you read the rest of Scripture. I think we would also both agree that it’s critical that we take the Genesis text both literally and consistently. So we agree we need to believe … do believe … that the Bible is inerrant cover to cover on all disciplines including science and history.
Indeed, AiG/CMI and RTB both accept standard views about biblical inerrancy such as the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.
Ross: And therefore, we feel compelled to take the writings in Genesis 1–11 literally. And also we take the other creation accounts in the rest of the Bible literally. I think where we divide is that I take a different literal interpretation of the Hebrew word translated ‘day’ in Genesis 1 than Jason does. The word yôm that translated ‘day’ has 4 different literal definitions: a part of the daylight hours, all of the daylight hours, a 24-hour period, or a long but finite period of time.
As Dr Lisle says below, Dr Ross is using a non-literal view of ‘literal’ here.
Ross: And I take the view that Genesis 1 is describing 6 consecutive, long periods of time for God’s creation activity, followed by a period in which God rests from his work of creating new forms of life on planet Earth or performing miracles to transform the earth physically for different species of life for the intent to create.
Not to mention that so many of these new species became extinct.
Grant: Now with that in mind, then, what I hear you saying is that you don’t disavow a literal interpretation based upon that. And so therefore, you don’t believe the credibility of Scripture is impacted or affected by holding to those days being epic periods of time. If I could go to you, Dr Lisle, just sort of an introductory thought in response to my opening question about how one interprets and understands the opening chapters of Genesis. And that having bearing on how a person views the rest of Scripture.
Lisle: What is very important and we would say that the word … the Hebrew word … for day, of course it means ‘day’ normally. That’s the normal literal meaning. Dr Ross, I think, is using a non-literal definition of the word literal. But the ordinary meaning of day is that God created in, you know, in a day. And that’s the context that Genesis 1 requires because God qualifies it with the qualifiers like ‘evening and morning’ and He qualifies it with things like number, you know the first day. And ... the first day is even qualified with ‘night’. So it’s very clear that God is talking about ordinary, approximately 24 hours, 24-hour days in Genesis 1.
This is right. No-one doubts that day can mean other things, but when it has the specific context of Genesis 1, it must mean ordinary day. Even the liberal Dr Marcus Dods (1834–1909), Professor of New Testament Exegesis and then Principal of the New College, Edinburgh wrote
‘If, for example, the word “day” in these chapters does not mean a period of twenty-four hours, the interpretation of Scripture is hopeless’.1
Lisle: The particular hermeneutical fallacy that Dr Ross committed is called an unwarranted adoption of an expanded semantic field. That’s a fancy way of saying that if you’re taking a word that can have more than one meaning and you’re taking it from one context and placing into another context where it can’t mean that. That’s the particular fallacy that he has committed in Genesis. And of course, we’ve pointed that out before on our webpage […]. We have articles on that.
For example, Exposé of NavPress’s new Hugh Ross Book, The Genesis Question. The late Dr Gerhard Hasel, John Nevins Andrews Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology at Andrews University in Michigan, pointed out that יום (yôm) can have the meaning of ‘time period’ only under certain special grammatical conditions, mainly with prepositions. If these conditions are absent, then it’s improper to apply this meaning—but this is exactly what Dr Ross does! Hasel writes
‘Semantics calls for attention to the crucial question of the exact meaning of the Hebrew word yôm. Could the designation “day” in Genesis 1 possibly have a figurative meaning in this chapter? Is it to be understood on the basis of the norms of semantics as a literal “day”? This matter of semantics is particularly important in view of the fact that the Hebrew term yôm in the singular and plural has a large variety of meanings, including extended meanings such as “time”, “life time”, and so on. Is it possible to import an extended meaning from the Old Testament into Genesis 1? Could this not solve the problem of the conflict of a short creation week and the long ages called for by naturalistic evolution?
‘The Hebrew term yôm, in its variety of forms, can mean aside from a literal “day” also a time or period of time (Judges 14:4) and in a more general sense “a month [of] time” (Genesis 29:14), “two years [of] time” (2 Samuel 13:23;14:28; Jeremiah 28:3,11), “three weeks [of] time” (Daniel 11:2, 3). In the plural form it can mean “year” (1 Samuel 27:7), a “life time” (Genesis 47:8), and so forth. Any good lexicon will provide a comprehensive listing of the various possibilities.
‘It is important to keep in mind that “the semantic content of the words can be seen more clearly in their various combinations with other words and their extended semantic field.”
‘What are the semantic-syntactical guidelines for extended, non-literal meanings of the Hebrew term yôm? The extended, non-literal meanings of the term yôm are always found in connection with prepositions, prepositional phrases with a verb, compound constructions, formulas, technical expressions, genitive combinations, construct phrases, and the like. In other words, extended, non-literal meanings of this Hebrew term have special linguistic and contextual connections which indicate clearly that a non-literal meaning is intended. If such special linguistic connections are absent, the term yôm does not have an extended, non-literal meaning; it has its normal meaning of a literal day of 24-hours.
‘In view of the wealth of usages of this Hebrew term, it is imperative to study the usage of the term yôm in Genesis 1 so that it can be compared with other usages. Does this chapter contain the needed indicators by which yôm can clearly be recognized to have a literal or non-literal meaning? How is this term used in Genesis 1? Is it used together with combinations of other words, prepositions, genitive relations, construct state, and the like, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, which would indicate a non-literal meaning? It is exactly these kinds of semantic-syntactical combinations which inform us about the intention of the meaning of this term.
‘Let us present the facts of the usage of the term yôm, “day”, in Genesis 1 as any scholar who knows Hebrew can describe them:
The term yôm is always used in the singular.
The term yôm is always joined to a numeral. In Genesis 1:5 it is a cardinal and elsewhere in Genesis 1:1–2:3 it is always an ordinal. We will pay attention to this below. [See also The numbering pattern of Genesis.]
The term yôm is never combined with a preposition, genitive combination, construct state, compound construction, or the like. It always appears as a plain noun.
The term yôm is consistently defined by a temporal phrase in the preceding sentence, “and there was evening and there was morning.” This clause serves in a defining function for the word “day”.
The complementary creation account of Genesis 2:4–25 contains a non-literal, figurative meaning of the singular of the term yôm, “day”. When the non-literal meaning is intended the semantic-syntactical conventions known from the remainder of the Old Testament for such a meaning are employed. This is the case in the non-literal usage in Genesis 2:4’. [see also this analysis by Old Testament scholar Dr Robert McCabe.]2
The Fall and Curse on creation
Lisle: But what’s the big deal here? Why is this so important? Well, one of the reasons is because, see, the Bible makes it very clear that death is the wages for sin. It’s a penalty for sin. And if we hold to a millions-of-years kind of view, as Dr Ross holds to, where you have death and suffering before Adam sinned, then death really isn’t the penalty for sin, is it? You’ve got, you know you’ve got, all this suffering, you’ve got disease before Adam sinned, and so that really, disease and suffering are God’s fault if you hold to Dr Ross’ view. And we would say from Scripture, if you read the Scriptures, it’s clear that all creation groans because of Adam’s sin and that one place to look at would be Romans chapter 8 for example.
Grant: … Dr Jason Lisle has proposed that the idea of epochs makes allowance for death and decay prior to Adam’s sin and Dr Hugh Ross, I’d like to give you an opportunity to respond to that, please.
Ross: Sure, Romans 5:12 addresses this issue explicitly.
Except that Dr Lisle had clearly quoted Romans 8 (referring to vv. 18–25). Notice how Dr Ross changes the subject to knock down a straw man. Yet Dr Lisle’s explanation is perfectly in line with the commentary on Romans by the noted New Testament scholars Dr F.F. Bruce, C.E.B. Cranfield and James Dunn that this passage is indeed speaking of the Curse which fell on the whole creation—the entire universe—as a result of the Fall. It is also in line with Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey’s book How Now Shall We Live? which explicitly stated ‘The consequences of sin affect the very order of the universe.’ See The Fall: a cosmic catastrophe.
Furthermore, as we will show, even Romans 5:12 counts against him …
The Fall and human death
Ross: Let me quote it. It says, ‘just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin and in this way death came to all men because of all sin’. Notice in that text that Paul makes two qualifiers about the kind of death that Adam introduced. It’s death through sin; the point there being only one species can die through sin—that’s the human species. And then it says death came to all men, human beings. So Paul is very careful to exclude the plants and the animals.
Paul wasn’t excluding anything, since he extends the effects of the Curse three chapters later, as Dr Lisle said. Rather, in this passage, Paul is including only humans. But this has many problems for Dr Ross’s view too, because according to dating methods he accepts, there are undoubted human fossils ‘older’ than his date for Adam. And of course, fossilization requires death! See Ethiopian ‘earliest humans’ find: A severe blow to the beliefs of Hugh Ross and similar ‘progressive creationist’ compromise views, about Homo sapiens ‘dated’ at 160,000 years ago with evidence of intelligent cultural activity.
Ross’s credibility took a further dent with the recent redating of two partial skulls of Homo sapiens that were unearthed in 1967 near the Omo River in southwestern Ethiopia. Radiometric dating, which Ross defends, has now placed them at 195,000 years ago. See also Omo skulls and Redating Leakey’s Ethiopian human finds: more problems for compromise.
Death from the Fall applies only to nephesh chayyāh (‘living soul/creature’)
Ross: We know there was death going on before Adam sinned because you go back to Genesis 1, and we see that Adam and Eve are eating. And the eating would require the death of plants or plant parts.
Dr Lisle covers this below, and creationists have long ago made it clear that of course plants were killed in the modern sense of the word. However, Gen. 1:29–30 clearly teaches that animals and people were both created vegetarian. As pointed out in the Exposé of Ross’s book: The Genesis Question, Dr Ross accepts that these verses teach human vegetarianism before the Fall, but he is inconsistent in denying the original animal vegetarianism taught in exactly the same words in exactly the same context. And in Animal death and the Fall, we explain how his own supporter Norman Geisler affirms that animals were not created to kill each other, and how Isaiah 11:6–9 and 65:25 prophesy about a return to Eden-like conditions.
Ross: We also see in Psalm 104 that, well let me just quote the text. It says, referring to God, ‘when you hide your face they are terrified. When you take away their breath they die and return to the dust. When you send your spirit you renew the face of the earth’.
This is talking about the present day (i.e. in a cursed world)—it even uses the equivalent of the present tense—not Creation Week. Does being ‘terrified’ sound ‘very good’?
Animal prey is hardly the only provision for a fallen world that wouldn’t have been necessary before the Fall. Another one is the death penalty for murder (Genesis 9:6), but obviously no humans had committed murder before the Fall.
Ross: And what’s going on during the first 6 creation days is God is creating new species of life to replace those that go extinct but on the seventh day He ceases from that work.
He finds this in the text of Genesis 1? Where exactly?
Ross: And that something we notice, we can’t document the appearance of a single animal species in the world of nature since the appearance of human beings.
This is complete nonsense, as overwhelmingly documented in secular literature and shown in many of our articles, e.g. Speedy species surprise: The rapid appearance today, of new varieties of fish, lizards, and more defies evolutionary expectations … but fits perfectly with the Bible, Refuting Compromise ch. 7, and this critique of Ross’s book A Matter of Days.
Ross: But we can easily document it before. So death of plants and animals once taking place before Adam was created, but human death does not happen until Adam has sinned in the Garden of Eden.
Of course, Ross can do no such thing—he simply cannot document from the text that there was any animal death before the Fall.
Grant: O.K., let’s uh, Dr Lisle, really give you an opportunity really to talk to each other in this segment. You know rather than just filtering this through me. Your response to Dr Ross, Dr Lisle.
Lisle: Well, of course Romans 5:12 is concentrating on the death of man. I understand that. But it’s also very clear if you read Scripture, you know from the beginning to the end, that it was animal death as well that was introduced by sin. I mean, think about it. What did God do when Adam sinned? He killed an animal to provide clothing for them. And so you see, what, basically what it comes down to is this: what did sin do to the world if you hold to millions of years? Well, as far as I can tell it didn’t do too much to the world. But according to Scripture, sin ruined the world. You see, Adam was given the responsibility over all of creation and so his sin affected all of creation. And so because Adam sinned, all the animals suffered as well because of that. It’s not God’s fault then, it’s man’s fault.
That’s the point. Christ suffered death (the penalty for sin) on the Cross, shedding His blood, so that those who repent of their sin of rebellion and put their trust in His work on the Cross can be reconciled to God. This works because of the teaching ‘without shedding of blood is no forgiveness’ (Hebrews 9:22), which is based on Leviticus 17:11, ‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement,’ (see also this section on blood below). And this, in turn, was prefigured back in Genesis, where God killed one or more animals to make coats of skins for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21) to replace the fig leaves they had sewn together (Genesis 3:7). Further support in Genesis comes from God’s acceptance of Abel’s animal sacrifice and rejection of Cain’s vegetable offering (Genesis 4:3–5).
Effects of the Curse
Ross: … When Adam sinned, it wasn’t the universe that changed or the physics of the earth that changed, it was Adam and his descendants that changed.
Not so: God clearly said that He cursed the ground as well (Genesis 3:17–19).
Ross: And because of their sin, that brought ruination onto their environment. I mean, you see in Jeremiah 33:25 that the laws that governed the heavens and the earth are fixed. It’s not the universe, it’s the human species that changed.
Jeremiah 33:25 says
‘Thus says the LORD: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth,’
This passage says nothing about when the order is fixed, or what this order entailed. Since Scripture cannot contradict itself, it can’t be used to overrule other clear statements where God has added to the normal laws of creation. If Ross were right, it would not only rule out the Fall but also the Flood, the Exodus miracles, the Incarnation and the miracles of Christ.
In any case, Dr Lisle points out below that we don’t believe that God changed the laws of physics, but that He removed some of His sustaining power. So Ross has knocked down another straw man.
Also, this passage is good justification for operational science—yet its creationist founders accepted biblical miracles as special ways of God’s operation, as opposed to ‘laws of nature’ which were his normal means of upholding His creation.
In fact, Dr Ting Wang, who has a doctorate in biblical Hebrew and lectures in Hebrew at Stanford University, had already pointed to this passage as strong support for normal-length days in Creation Week (personal communication). This covenant is clearly talking about normal-length days and nights, and goes right back to the Creation Week where the first light/dark cycle was named day/night.
Grant: Now, in one curious point to me, Dr Lisle if I may ask the question, the idea that food was being consumed or that there was some kind of end of life process for plant or vegetation prior to the Fall. That is a thought or an idea introduced into this conversation that perhaps you could respond to that directly.
Lisle: Of course. And Ross’s mistake here was taking the scientific definition for death and assuming that that’s the same as the biblical definition for life and death. And they’re not the same, you see. In science, life is defined in a particular way, but according to Scripture, plants are not alive. The Hebrew phrase נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה (nephesh chayyāh)—it’s referring to living souls, and the Bible doesn’t apply that to plants. Plants you can think of as biological machines. They’re not alive in a biblical sense, animals are and human beings are.
This is right, as shown below. Nephesh chayyāh were not originally part of the diet for humans and animals. Also, the living creatures (nephesh chayyāh) rescued on the Ark did not include plants (or invertebrates), showing that there is a qualitative difference between the deaths of the (vertebrate) animals and plant death. Yet the fossil record shows ample death of nephesh chayyāh, so this must have come after the original vegetarian diet God prescribed before the Fall.
Ross: Well, Jason, I’ve refuted that in a thing that’s up on our Reasons.org website where I list a number of passages in the Old Testament where plants are referred to as experiencing life and death. And the interesting thing is that the identical word used to refer to the life and death of humans are also those words that are used in that context.
This is pure bluff and bluster. It matters not if identical words are used if the context is different (and he is bluffing anyway, or very sloppy in his research, as shown below). In fact, Jesus said
‘… unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’
Unless Ross wants to claim that Jesus was mistaken (as the theistic evolutionary organization ISCAST does in other places), he would have to realize that the biblical usage of death is not the always the same as that of modern biologists. Ross knocks down a straw man here, while Lisle clearly states the (young earth creationist) YEC view that there was no death of nephesh chayyāh before Adam’s sin.
Lisle: And no, again nephesh chayyāh is not. The Bible does not use that in terms of plants. I’m sorry about that, and we have posted that on our website.
Ross: The point is that Scripture does refer to plants as experiencing life and death using the identical word it uses for the life and death of humans.
Once again, Dr Ross replies—wrongly at that—to an argument that Dr Lisle never put!
Lisle: Well, again what I’m saying is the Hebrew phrase for nephesh chayyāh, living soul, is not used for plants, and you can check at our website on that. We’ve got that up on our site […].
Grant: Ah, go ahead Dr Ross.
Ross: I’m just saying that I do acknowledge that Scripture identifies 2 different kinds of life—3 different kinds actually—life is purely physical, life is physical and soulish, and in the human species alone, that’s body, soul and spirit. But this discussion’s immaterial to the point we’re making: does Scripture refer to plants as experiencing life and death, and it’s quite clear that it does.
Grant: And your comment, Dr Lisle … .
Lisle: Well, again, I don’t know how many times I can say it, but nephesh chayyāh, the Bible does not endorse using that term on plants. Plants are not alive in a biblical sense. And I mean, think about it. Plants don’t experience suffering or pain like animals do.
Of course, Dr Lisle is right. But Dr Ross has made the following bizarre claim (Creation and Time, p. 63):
‘But even plants suffer when they are eaten. They experience bleeding, bruising, scarring and death. Why is the suffering of plants acceptable and not that of animals?’
It’s hard to believe Ross is serious here. Plants don’t have a brain to interpret tissue damage as pain.
Lisle: They’re a different category. They’re a biological machine that God created, but they’re not living. And so if you think about it, I mean God called everything that He’d made very good when he first made it. Think about that? Imagine if there was millions of years of death and suffering in there? Is that very good?
Ross: Scripture doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t say that only soulish animals experience life and death. It attributes that to all life, plants and animals included.
First, this doesn’t answer Dr Lisle’s point that plants are not nephesh chayyāh, so are in a different category (as shown above in the section nephesh chayyāh). Second, Dr Ross is simply wrong about Scripture attributing life and death to plants (see section on plant death below).
Grant: Then what do you believe, Dr Ross? Because this has been stated in one form or another. Why do you not believe that the idea of death before the fall of man and the sin of Adam and Eve, why does that in your mind not minimize or in some way reduce the implications of sin and the consequences of sin?
Ross: I don’t see it as a cruel act that God would bring about the death of plants and animals before Adam sinned. Plants and animals are in a totally different category. They’re not spiritual beings. They’re not eternal in their context. The death of plants and animals from a biblical perspective is something that’s quite good in a sense that it prepares the planet for human beings.
Ross evidently has a limited God who somehow needs to create suffering before humans can live. It’s similar to his appalling paraphrase of John 3:16 that implied that God needed stars to create life here.
Petrochemical and ore formation
Ross: I mean the very fact that we’ve got coal and oil and natural gas and concentrated metal ores in the earth is testimony to the billions of years of God creating plants and animals in a secession. To make it possible not only for us to live on this planet but to develop civilization and technology.
Now Ross is making assumptions. However, it has long been known that all these can form quickly:
- heating wood (lignin, its major component), water and acidic clay at 150°C (rather cool geologically) for 4 to 36 weeks, in a sealed quartz tube with no added pressure, forms high-grade black coal;3
- natural gas can be released from hydrates, likely formed in the Flood (see Bubbles of surprise);
- oil can form in the lab quickly by thermodepolymerization;
- Ross’s mention of ore is total bluff, because that has nothing to do with deaths of animals or plants. Rather, many ore bodies were deposited in less than 20 days by hot underwater metal rich volcanic ‘springs’ like those found today in the Red Sea, Gulf of California and the East Pacific. See Mt Isa metal ores and Noah’s Flood.
Grant: … Dr Lisle, I would like your response to this question: what bearing or what significance does your position have on how people understand Scripture? And maybe another way and sort of an amplified form of that question is what difference does it make if a person sees epochs versus 24-hour periods?
Lisle: Well, you know I think the difference is how you read Scripture. Do you read it eisegetically or exegetically? And those are basically words meaning do you read into Scripture or do you read out of Scripture? Do we take our opinions of how the universe is—man’s ideas, secular ideas—and try to back-read those into the Bible? Or do we start from the Bible and let it speak to us?
And I would say if you let the Bible speak to you and you don’t back-read into it, it’s very clear that God made [everything] in 6 days, thousands of years ago. It’s only when we take ideas—you know the big bang, things like that … we don’t get the millions of years from the Bible, we get it from secular ideas. And then people back-read that into the Bible.
And the problem with that is if you can do it in Genesis you can do it anywhere. I mean after all science has never documented a resurrection from the dead. I mean, should we reinterpret those passages in the gospels where Jesus has risen from the dead to fit with our secular ideas of how life and death work? Not at all. We should start from Scripture and we understand that Jesus rose from the dead because it’s recorded in the Word of God. And so I believe in 6 days of creation because it’s recorded in the Word of God.
This is right. Liberals who deny the resurrection are simply being more consistent than Ross.
Grant: O.K. and Dr Ross as you indicated and represented at the opening of the program today, you do not believe that your position for any reason violates the integrity of Scripture.
Ross: Not at all and I would object to the idea that I’m back-reading into Scripture or that I’m not starting from Scripture. I mean I didn’t meet Christians until 27 years of age. When I first read the Bible, it was clear to me that these had to be long periods of time. I just saw no way to keep the text contradiction-free unless they were long periods of time. I was driven by the text …
This is simply false. He has made it abundantly clear in his writings and recorded talks that at the age of 15, he concluded that the big bang must be true (although an increasing number of secular scientists are abandoning it), and that the existence of the world demanded that there be a Creator, so he began a study of religions. Then he claimed that as a teenager he was struck with how well the Genesis account agreed with what he already knew that science had revealed about the origin of the world:
‘I was a young man of 17. I came at the Bible fresh, without input, and tackled it on my own, and you know, immediately rejected the view that they were six, consecutive 24-hour days. I knew right away those days were not 24 hours.’4
The context of the above quote backs up Dr Lisle’s point that ‘science’ motivated Ross’s eisegesis. By his own admission he certainly didn’t have Christian guidance on proper exegesis at the time, not even having met any Christians till ten years later. And he had already decided that billions of years were ‘fact’ two years before opening a Bible.It’s also notable that Ross is relying on the ‘expertise’ of a teenager. Note that this teenager was already thoroughly indoctrinated into the big bang (so hardly ‘fresh’), and completely lacked knowledge of Hebrew, yet he decreed from his lofty heights, as it were, ‘right away’, that the Genesis 1 creation days were not 24-hour days.
Ross clearly doesn’t realize how bizarre this really is. In what other area of theology would anyone base his doctrine on what a teenager untrained in the original language thinks, and contrary to most of the great exegetes of history? Yet this is exactly what Ross is doing—it makes no difference that the teenager was his former self. Unfortunately, Ross’s Hebrew is hardly any better now—see some examples of crass blunders.
Ross: … and you know in my book, A Matter of Days, I make the point that there are 20 major creation accounts in the Bible.
He can make the point all he likes, but Genesis is the definitive account, and all the others must be interpreted in the light of the previous revelation in Genesis. And there is not the slightest indication in any of the other references to creation that the days are long periods of time. Ross is bluffing once again.
Ross: And we can settle our disputes over which literal interpretation of Genesis 1 we go with, is to see how well they fit with the rest of the Bible.
Fine, but general statements of creation must be interpreted in the light of the specific ones.
Ross: So age 17 I was reading through it. What I did was looked at this issue in the context of the entire Bible, and I can honestly say that my astronomy did not factor in to that interpretation.
Maybe he can honestly say that there was no conscious factoring. But the fact remains that he was already committed to the big bang, so it would have been impossible to avoid unconscious factoring. He certainly didn’t come to his idea from studying the Hebrew. He says himself that he immediately decided they were not 24-hour days, which is an admission of not having given a moment’s thought to it.
Life in the blood
Grant: … Hi Isaac (guest caller). …
Isaac: Ah, yes I just got on kind of late, and I heard the part about whether I think plants have life or whatever. The only thing I was going to make a comment was the fact that I think in Leviticus it talks about how life is found in the blood, and therefore, God commanded us not to I think eat the blood or drink the blood. And also, in conclusion, the verse that says without the shedding of blood there’s no remissions for sins. So, the blood is what sort of, like, saves our lives. And that was my whole comment.
Grant: O.K. so you’re saying that it takes the presence of blood or the shedding of blood to, let us say, define what loss of life is in one sense of the word. Is that what I’m hearing?
Isaac: Yeah because I mean the whole fact that Christ died on the cross and you know the shedding of blood covers our sins and saves our lives. That’s also an indication of you know I think of life and again in Leviticus it states that the life of the animal …
Grant: Yeah, you’re talking about 17:11, ‘for the life of any creatures is in it’s blood and I’ve given you the blood so you can make an atonement for your sins’. That’s the verse you are referring to I believe.
Isaac: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Grant: Yeah, then is there a question here? I mean or you just making an observation? [see Life in the blood, continued below the next section on plant death.]
Do plants ‘die’ in the biblical sense?
Isaac: Yeah I was just thinking, I was just trying to say that I don’t personally I don’t believe that you know plants are having … they’re alive but I don’t think they have any life. Is that what they were talking about? I’m not sure.
Grant: Well, the idea was, and Dr Ross you can speak for yourself here rather than me interpreting you, that the idea of making the point that Adam and Eve obviously were consuming vegetation which would indicate that something was coming to the end of a life process there.
But not nephesh chayyāh as Dr Lisle said above!
Ross: Well right, and an answer to Isaac I mean you really want to look at the entire Bible before you decide what the Bible calls living or dead. For example you can go to Exodus 3–10 where it’s talking about the plagues that are poured down upon Egypt, and there it makes it quite clear that Scripture is saying that plants do experience life and death in the same way the soulish animals do, in the same way that human beings do.
Dr Ross employs an unfair, almost dishonest debate tactic, since under the time constraints it is impossible to skim through eight chapters to find out what on earth Dr Ross is talking about. Also, it did not address what Dr Lisle actually argued. Dr Ross implies that there are many references to plant death in these chapters of Exodus.
In all these chapters, all but one of these references clearly refer to people, livestock, frogs and fish, all nephesh chayyāh. The only one in all this ‘snow-job’ citation of eight chapters that might be taken as referring to plant death is an uninspired request from the pagan Pharaoh after locusts destroyed the crops.
Also, note that Pharaoh says ‘remove this death from me’, and the result was not restoration of the crops (which is the only thing that would support Ross’s claim), but removal of the locusts, the agent of death of those depending on the crops. So far from wide application of ‘death’ to plants in the chapters he cites, Ross’s case is based on a single plea from a pagan, which when analyzed closely is not even applying the word ‘death’ to plants anyway! See Do plants ‘die’ in the biblical sense? for a more detailed analysis of these passages and others that Ross has used to justify biblical plant death.
Life in the blood, continued
Ross: The passage of Leviticus 17:11, life in the creature, the creature there is referring to these nephesh creatures, these soulish creatures, so it’s referring to one particular kind of life, not life in general. And you want to look at the rest of Scripture and see how it treats other forms of life.
Grant: Any response to that Dr Lisle?
Lisle: As I’ve said before, you know, plants are not alive in a nephesh chayyāh sense, and therefore, they don’t die in a nephesh chayyāh sense. And … I do agree that the Bible makes a big point of the life being in the blood. So that is certainly foundational to the Gospel message.
Indeed so. Plants don’t have blood, so this is yet more proof that what we call plant death is qualitatively different from that of nephesh chayyāh.
Grant: … Daniel you’re on 100.7 KGFT. …
Daniel: … There are two things that have always bothered me about both the young earth theory and the belief that the earth is billions of years old. For the one thing, I’m thinking the earth cannot be as young as some people believe because not all the people who have lived and died on the earth have ever been counted. You know what I mean? …
Grant: Yeah, I think I hear what you’re saying ... go ahead.
Daniel: So that not to mention the existence of fossils. On the other hand, I finding it hard to believe the earth is billions of years old. I have a problem with that because it cannot be proven empirically. So what do you call it if you can’t prove empirically even that a billion years has elapsed? …
Grant: I’ll give each of you a chance. Go ahead Dr Ross.
Ross: Yeah, there is strong empirical evidence that the earth is 4.566 billion years old. I mean we have a number of radiometric tools and non-radiometric tools.
Yet radiometric dating also ‘proves’ that there were humans long before Adam, and Aborigines before Noah, which completely destroys Dr Ross’s position.
Grant: I’m going to ask you to listen off air if you will Daniel just because of the background noise. Go ahead Dr Ross, please. Thank you.
Ross: Sure. No, I’m saying that there is strong empirical evidence, and all you’ve got to do is talk to your friendly neighborhood physicist, and they’ll confirm that there is indeed abundant evidence that the earth is 4.566 billion years old.
This is a fallacious argument from authority which Dr Lisle deftly deflects below.
Ross: If you want to go to our website, we post a number of articles in ‘Today’s New Reason to Believe’ listing some of the latest new experimental tools for dating the age of the earth. And I think that’s a good way to settle this. If I’m right and Jason is wrong, then additional new tools should verify that the earth indeed is billions of years old. But if I’m wrong and Jason is right, new tools that are developing should show that the earth is young. So, let’s just see how consistent radiometric dating proves to be as the months go by but already the past six months have all been in favor of the old earth model.
Note that Ross is once again pointing to secular, human-fallible methods (tools) and using them to reinterpret the Bible.
Grant: … Dr Lisle, back to you in response to Dr Ross and radiometric measuring devices and the fact that he believes that in recent times in this past year that there’s a continuing evidence that favors an old earth idea.
Lisle: Yes, well it’s very interesting. I talked with ‘my friendly neighborhood physicist’, Dr Russ Humphreys, and he claims that he’s one of those people like myself who believes in the straightforward reading of Scripture that the earth is thousands of years old, not millions or billions.
And he’s been doing some very interesting research on radiometric decay, radiometric dating. And it turns out that there’s compelling evidence that the rate of decay has not always been constant, and if that’s so then all of these dates that give millions of years would be out the window. And interestingly enough there are a lot of dates that don’t give millions or billions of years anyway.
Carbon dating never gives millions or billions of years even on things that evolutionists say it should like coal beds, for example.
See More great news on radiocarbon, Refuting Compromise pp. 386–388. Evolutionists have to resort to the most desperate special pleading to explain away the presence of 14C in these ‘old’ samples.5 This of course means that they don’t really regard the method as infallible after all—when it suits them—see The dating game.
Lisle: Furthermore, we know that radiometric dating gives inflated ages because we can test it on rocks of known age. For example, we can take a rock from Mt St Helens, we’ve done this. We had, it’s a recent volcanic eruption, you know that this happened in 1980, so less than 30 years ago. We had those rocks radiometrically dated. You will get, you know, hundreds to thousands to millions of years on those rocks. So, it’s clear that’s giving a wrong answer. That it’s inflated.
See Excess argon within mineral concentrates from the new dacite lava dome at Mount St Helens volcano and the layman’s summary and answer to critics, Radio-dating in Rubble: The lava dome at Mount St Helens debunks dating methods.
Lisle: And one of the reasons might be an accelerated radioactive decay,
That would explain the discordant isochron dates in the same rock formation; see Refuting Compromise pp. 382–3, after Radioisotopes in the diabase sill (Upper Precambrian) in Bass Rapids, Grand Canyon, Arizona: A application and test of the isochron dating method .
Lisle: … but there’s some other reasons that can cause it to be off too.
E.g. excess argon, a likely explanation for the Mt St Helens anomaly.
Lisle: But you know it’s interesting scientifically—scientifically, you can’t actually date the earth because if you think about it. When you’re asking the age of something you’re not asking a science question. You’re asking a history question because you’re asking when something happened. In this case, when was the earth created?
And the best way to answer a history question is of course a history book. One that’s been shown to be authentic, like the Bible. The Bible is the only foolproof way to date the earth. The Bible gives thousands of years. And of course there are scientific evidences that line up with Scripture.
See also The earth: how old does it look?
Lisle: Sediments on the seafloor for example, rivers wash in sediments on the seafloor, 25 billion tons a year, and the only way we get rid of it is subduction. And that only accounts for about one billion tons per year. It’s consistent with thousands of years but not with millions or billions.
Creation and the gospel
Grant: … And my point of view in bringing this to you today is, in the final analysis, for you to have confidence in the biblical narrative. And that is no more emphasized right now. We couldn’t emphasize this any stronger than we would at this time of year concerning the birth of Christ, the events and the circumstances surrounding the advent of Jesus Christ. And how your confidence in those facts, as reported in the Bible, are affected by how you view these opening chapters in Genesis. That seems to be the crux of the matter. … Thanks for waiting, Eric; go ahead.
Eric: … I wanted to address your question, Dr Grant, that you just made about whether or not it has an impact, I guess, on the credibility of the Word or how we view Scripture. I honestly think there’s great arguments on both sides of the table, and you know, I haven’t come to a stance on it. But it has not affected the way that I have interpreted the Bible one bit because God’s character’s consistent throughout it, and the bottom line is the Word’s not supposed to be a history of creation. It’s history of mankind, and God’s salvation plan for mankind. So whether you believe in an old earth or a young earth, I honestly don’t believe it makes a difference. So long as you understand that the character of God and the relationship that were supposed to have with Him.
Grant: … All right go ahead, Dr Lisle, your response. Eric not being affected one way or another at least believing that he’s not affected one way or another. Your thought.
Lisle: O.K., well, you know I think it does affect God’s character. I mean he brought up God’s character. What kind of God do we serve? Do we serve a God who created death and suffering and disease? Well, I didn’t think so.
I think we serve a perfect God who created a perfect world. A world that we ruined by rejecting that God. You see God gave us, He gave Adam dominion over the earth; and then when Adam sinned against Him, God removed some of His sustaining power.
Not that He changed the laws of physics or anything like that, but He removed some of His sustaining power allowing the earth to really decay into the bondage of corruption, the bondage of sin.
And that’s, you know, that’s important, because that’s crucial to the salvation message. Because if you think about it, why it is that we can’t just sort of be good enough to get into heaven? Why is it that sin is so devastating?
Well, think about it. One sin ruined paradise. And God has said O.K. that’s not going to happen with the new heavens and the new earth. Not even one sin can come into it, and that’s a big problem for us because we’ve all sinned. We all come short of the glory of God. But God himself provided the solution for us. He made the way through Jesus Christ our Lord. And by Christ paying for our sins, and He can do that because he is both man and God. He’s man, He’s related to us, and He’s God, He can pay an infinite penalty. And so that’s how we can enter into the new paradise, the new heaven and the new earth which will be perfect again.
Dr Lisle just showed how relevant a straightforward Genesis creation is for the Gospel.
Grant: … Dr Hugh Ross, the idea of something that Jason just said, the idea that God created death and suffering prior to the Fall. How do you respond to that?
Ross: Well, I would agree with Eric that when God created the universe and the earth is immaterial to biblical inerrancy or the doctrine of salvation. Much more important is Who creates and how He creates. You know it tells us in Genesis 1 that the first creation was very good. The perfect creation comes later. I mean at Reasons To Believe we hold a two-creation model. That God created this universe, put Adam and Eve in a paradisiacal state, but God’s in the business of, through sin and suffering and our exposure to evil, to train and prepare us to receive something far superior to paradise. The new creation that Paul says no-one can think or imagine how great and wonderful it will be. You know to me that’s the great news about the Bible unlike the other religions that simply promise that we’ll be restored to paradise. We’re going to be delivered from paradise. And by the way, I was really encouraged to hear Jason say that the laws of physics haven’t changed. And I don’t know how he deals with the idea that the radiometric decay rates were changing. That to me is a change in the laws of physics.
Dr Ross actually takes what Dr Lisle said, and twists it out of context. Dr Lisle said
‘You see God gave us, Adam, dominion over the earth; and then when Adam sinned against Him, God removed some of His sustaining power. Not that He changed the laws of physics or anything like that, but He removed some of His sustaining power allowing the earth to really decay into the bondage of corruption, the bondage of sin.’
In context, Dr Lisle was referring to the Fall, how God did not change the laws of physics at that point, e.g. introducing the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, but rather lifted some of His sustaining power—see Did the 2nd Law begin at the Fall? The laws of physics are not laws in the sense that they are set in stone and that it is not possible that they are governed by outside sources.
Also, Dr Lisle didn’t say that rates of physical processes never changed. Take the rate of decomposition—decay of food, for example. A piece of fruit will decay far less quickly if refrigerated, than if left out in the sun. Likewise, not knowing the conditions that existed in the very beginning of creation, we cannot assume that the rate of radiometric decay stayed constant for the entire time, like we see exhibited in modern testing.
In any case, the creationist proposals for accelerated decay posit that it occurred either in Creation Week or the Flood year, where there was much miraculous activity.
Ross: And in our book, A Matter of Days, we give one theological reason and two scientific reasons why the radiometric decay rates could not have been any different in the past than they are today. You’ve got the ice cores, the radiometric elements we can measure in distant stars and then the statement in Jeremiah 33:25.
Yet the different ‘ages’ suggested by isochrons of different elements in the same rock point to differential acceleration, as mentioned above. Also, the excess helium in zircons likewise points to accelerated decay to produce the helium that had not had time to escape—see Helium diffusion rates support accelerated nuclear decay.
Grant: I know each one of these points could be the subject of an entire debate themselves. If I could come back and ask Dr Ross: your response to the theological issue of death and suffering before we see God’s redemptive initiative as it relates to Adam and Eve. How do you respond to that? I mean obviously …
Ross: Yeah, I understand.
Grant: There’s a theological problem there. And I’m sure you have some thoughts about that. What would that be?
Ross: Well, the position I see laid out in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 is the death of human beings that’s linked to sin: this is the salvation message. The death of plants and animals is immaterial to the message of salvation. It’s human death that was brought about by Adam’s sin, and that one man Jesus has come back to deliver us from the consequences of a spiritual death and a physical death. Plants and animals were dying before Adam sinned; they continue to die today. And that will happen until the new creation replaces this present creation that is dominated by the laws of thermodynamics. As it tells us in Romans 8, the entire creation is subject to the law of decay, and that law of decay causes things to break down including plants and animals.
Yes, now we are subject to the law of decay, because of one who subjected it to futility, God, according to F.F. Bruce (see section the Fall and Curse on creation, above). Ironically, Ross is making the same mistake as that of YECs who claimed that the 2nd law of Thermodynamics began at the Fall, which AiG/CMI rejects (see also the new DVDs, Creation Astronomy: Viewing the Universe Through Biblical Glasses by Dr Lisle himself and Arguments Creationists Should Not Use). This mistake is to assume that thermodynamic entropy increase always matches what we would call breaking down. But even growing and thriving life also increases entropy even when it is not breaking down, e.g. breathing, digestion, embryo growth.
As further evidence that Ross has little understanding of the 2nd Law, he claimed (Creation and Time 63):
‘Considering how creatures convert chemical energy into kinetic energy, we can say that carnivorous activity results from the laws of thermodynamics, not from sin.’
This is an absurd claim about laws of thermodynamics—no statement in any thermodynamics text says or even implies anything remotely like that. To see the absurdity, Ross is in effect saying that a completely herbivorous ecosystem would violate the laws of thermodynamics, and this is just physico-chemical nonsense.
In his debate with Kent Hovind on the Ankerberg Show (see analysis), Ross also blustered about thermodynamics, but managed to confuse some basic principles. He put forward some nonsensical claims about systems far from equilibrium, claiming that the further they are, the faster they will snap back (this depends on the reaction pathway, not distance from equilibrium, as explained in thermodynamics and kinetics). It culminated in a blunder that would entail that thermodynamics predicts snapping back of a complex system 10103 times faster than the speed of light!
Grant: O.K. based upon that then would there, based upon that idea or thesis, is it reasonable to conclude that in the future and maybe let us say after the return of Christ and as we enter eternity, would you see that there would still be a process of death …
Ross: Not at all.
Grant: … with the exception of human beings?
Ross: No, not at all, because when you read the opening verses of Revelations 21 it tells us that the laws of physics are radically changed after the Great White Throne Judgment. Jeremiah 33 is referring to the laws that govern this heavens and this universe and this earth. But in the new creation we enter a completely different realm with radically different physics. No death, no decay there at all.
Grant: … Basically if you boil it all down we’re talking about the difference in the ideas of old earth/young earth and the bearing that might have in your confidence in Scripture. The ultimate intent for having this program, as far as I’m concerned, is to enhance your appreciation for what we have in the time-proven record of Scripture and the credibility and veracity of Scripture, especially at this time of year. So that you can trust and believe the report that’s recorded in the gospels and the gospels themselves being a fulfillment of the prophetic message that occurred some 700 to 800 years prior, say in Isaiah and other very, very important verses of Scripture. …
Mary (caller): Hi. I wanted to make a comment, and then I have a question and idea I wanted to pass through to them. The earth, we go by the genealogy found in Genesis starting with Adam, and we add up all those years up to the Flood. And that’s part of finding out the age of the earth.
Mary: O.K. and then it says here in Genesis, the first chapter, that when He created light, He separated the light from the darkness. He called the light ‘day’ and the darkness ‘night’. So that to me that’s a 24-hour thing because He said day and night. Now, this light I believe was light from God because it isn’t until later in the days that He created the sun and moon and stars. And I think this light is just like in Revelation when we learn in God’s revelation, when we learn that the light that we’re going to have there is not going to be the sun like we have today. It’s going to be light coming from God.
Grant: Yeah it will be the glory of God.
That’s right—these references to Rev. 21:23 also answer a common Rossite objection to literal days: How could the days of Genesis 1 be literal if the Sun wasn’t created until the fourth day?
Grant: And you said you had a question, Mary, associated with it.
Mary: This is my theory about plant life.
Grant: Well, tell me, you said you had a question there.
Mary: Uh, this is a question. It’s a question on my theory, you might call it. Let’s see if they agree with this. I believe that plant life, because it doesn’t really matter if plants died or not, but they … at this time when Adam and Eve were fist put upon the earth we had a perfect, perfect environment. Therefore, I don’t think plants died because they were constantly … the roots were constantly being nourished. You know it didn’t rain from heaven during that time. We were in kind of an umbrella.
Grant: Now, you’re talking about the canopy theory and that idea. Sure.
Mary: I believe in the canopy theory and because of that,
CMI urges caution about this one since it is not a direct teaching of Scripture.
Mary: I’d like for their opinion anyway, because of that I don’t believe plants really died. I believe that they grew so rapidly, then when Adam and Eve did eat some of the fruit and vegetables that, that by the next morning you couldn’t even tell. So, anyway …
Grant: O.K. Well let’s see what their response is, Mary. Thank you. Dr Lisle, I’m going to begin with you. That idea that she was proposing. What do you say to it?
Lisle: O.K. well there’s lots there, wasn’t there? Regarding the plants though I would say you know just to reiterate my position as earlier, biblically they’re not alive so biblically they don’t die. They’re biological machines that God created for us to sustain us and that’s clear, and the animals as well by the way. If you read in Genesis 1, it’s clear that God created the plants for us to eat and the animals as well. Animals wouldn’t have eaten meat because there wouldn’t have been death.
Grant: So, if there was a biological system then the idea of them decaying would not be problematic then. Is that right? Wouldn’t be problematic in the light of the theological issues associated with Adam and Eve’s sin and the fall of man.
Lisle: That’s right. Again, plants aren’t alive biblically so there’s no problem with them being, decaying and being, recycled back into the environment or you know individual cells in our skin—things like that don’t have a consciousness. They’re not alive in a nephesh chayyāh …
Grant interrupts: O.K. that doesn’t … All right all right that doesn’t sound like that’s in conflict with Dr Ross’ position on this … Dr Ross, before we go back to the lines, any response to the comments from Dr Lisle? And gentlemen, please do feel free to direct your comments or questions to one another.
Ross: Well, maybe I’ll direct it towards Mary because she made a number of interesting points about her interpretation of Genesis 1. And one exhortation I can give to all listeners is that there’s three other creation accounts in the Old Testament that actually take you through the content of all 6 creation days. That’d be Job 38, Psalm 104 and Proverbs chapter 8. And if you go to Job 38 verse 9, it addresses the issue of the day and night of creation Day 1 and what about the sun, moon and stars and when they were created. What it says is ‘when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness’. And the ‘it’ refers to the primordial ocean of the earth, making it clear that it was dark on the surface of the waters in Genesis 1:2. Not because God hadn’t created light already, but because the oceans were wrapped in this atmospheric garment that kept out the light of the sun, moon and stars from getting to the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:2, again, the Sprit of God is brooding over the surface of the waters. That’s the frame of reference of the point of view from which we should interpret the 6 creation days. And in that context we’re not looking at the sun being created on Day 4. That’s when it becomes visible as an existing object, and the light is actually there from creation Day 1 on forward. And the likewise you can go to Psalm 104 and to Proverbs 8. This is really one way you can put to the test conflicting differences. I mean Jason and I take a different interpretation in Genesis 1. Well, one of the ways to put it to the test is go to other creation text that clarify these interpretations.
Grant: I’m sure you’ve considered that Dr Lisle. Your thoughts.
Lisle: Yeah, well one of the things you don’t want to do of course is take poetic passage and try to reinterpret literal history in terms of, you know, metaphorical usage. That’s one thing you’ve got to be careful not to do. Very clear that God did make the lights in the sky on Day 4. Not that they appeared on Day 4. He made them on Day 4, and it’s very clear from the words of Scripture in Genesis chapter 1.
Ross: Well, Jason you mean that Job 38 is not a literal text?
Lisle: Job—a lot of Job is poetic.
Ross: How about Job 38?
Lisle: We can look at it if you like.
Ross: … but isn’t it referring to a literal history?
Lisle: Let me take a … O.K. which passage, which verse are you referring to?
Ross: Well, I’m referring to verse 9 in particular. But I mean the entire chapter is a chapter I’m prepared to take literally ... as well as Psalm 104.
Dr Lisle is correct to call Job 38:9 poetic and metaphorical. It has the parallelism that characterizes Hebrew poetry. It’s especially odd that Dr Ross denies that Job 38:9 is metaphorical, and his associate Dr Fuz Rana has said this on a debate board, viz:
‘Was this the debate in which Hugh Ross took the position that Job 38:8–9 is to be understood literally and Jason Lisle argued that it was a metaphorical passage … ?’
This just suggests that Ross and Rana can’t tell the diference between metaphor and metacarpal! A metaphor is defined as, ‘A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison’. The passage is
‘Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band.’
If the RTB leaders deny that this is metaphorical, then they must logically believe that the sea is shut behind literal doors—perhaps with knobs and hinges too? And is the cloud really a literal garment with cloth and seams?
Grant: What I would like to do if we can Jason while you’re taking a look at that so you can respond in kind. Let me go to the lines and receive a question. Phyllis you’re on 100.7 KGFT.
Phyllis (caller): O.K. This is a very interesting subject to me because a few years ago I went to a conference and our speaker was Dr Ron Alan. Now you might realize that he was the chief editor of the Old Testament of the Nelson Study Bible, also the chief editor of the New King James Old Testament. So I consider he’s a real Hebrew scholar and knows how to interpret what the Hebrew words say. And he discussed it, this subject. And I’ve listened to the tape over and over again since then. And his final conclusion was that both views, of course, agree that God did it. And there really isn’t any proof that either is the answer. But after listening to his tape over and over again, it occurred to me that before the Flood, of course, things were different. People lived to be close to a thousand years old, and Ron said there are troubles with the 24-hour day when you think of all the things that happened on the day that God created man. And of course then Adam named all of the animals. He must have really been speedy at that. But there are troubles, problems with both and yet they both agree that God was the one who did it. So, Ron …
Grant: Is that, is that … have you come to rest on that then? Your view of Scripture or I mean as you look at the accounts of Genesis then you don’t find your confidence in the credibility of Scripture, the veracity of Scripture, you don’t find that reduced by that position?
Phyllis: No, I don’t. If perhaps a 20 … we were saying today one day is a 24-hour, day and night is 24-hours. Perhaps a day and a night were longer than that. We don’t know. But men did live to be a lot longer and of course the earth’s atmosphere was different. But in either view, in fact Ron said himself that he’s, you know, he hasn’t really come to any conclusion about either view either. But perhaps this was the revelation of God to Moses, and Moses was getting this information at one time. And each day was a closure of the information, the revelation that he was getting from God.
Grant: O.K. let me do this. Dr Lisle because you are, as I understand it, your emphasis on the 24-hour period makes this a much more critical issue.
Grant: And Mary, rather Phyllis, her position would sound like it would fall more into a position somewhere along the lines of Dr Ross. So, your comment Dr Lisle about what really matters is that God did it. And that it’s not whether it’s 24 hours or it could have been a longer period of time, etc.
Lisle: I think the real issue is do we believe what God has said in His Word. That’s the issue. Because if we can’t trust the Bible in the book of Genesis, how can we trust it elsewhere? You know, Jesus speaking to Nicodemus in John 3 says if I’ve told you of earthly things and you believe me not how should you believe if I tell you of heavenly things? See, the Bible talks about earthly things. It talks about creation in 6 days. It talks about a worldwide Flood. And if we can’t trust the Bible on these issues, how can we trust it when it talks about things like salvation? So I would say it does matter. It’s very important that we, that we read the Bible properly and that we believe what it teaches.
Grant: … apparently you don’t subscribe to that position?
Phyllis: No, I do, but I’m saying that the day may have been … we don’t know. God doesn’t say it was 24 hours. So, it might have been longer than 24 hours. That’s what I’ve concluded.
It matters not what anyone has concluded if it doesn’t match God’s Word. For example, God Himself wrote the Ten Commandments with His finger. The 4th one is
‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.’
The reason he gave is
‘For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.’
Clearly creation days were the same length days as those of our normal working week, otherwise this Commandment is meaningless. And if the creation days were really long periods of time, then logically the days of the working week would have to be as well. But ‘Work for 6 billion years and rest for one billion years’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it …
Grant: And … Dr Ross
Ross: Yes, well I would agree with Phyllis that it doesn’t matter whether you believe in 24-hour creation days or long time periods. Both old earth creationists and young earth creationists trust the Bible implicitly. They take it literally. They have different interpretations of what the literal text is saying.
Ross: But we’re not denying the inerrancy of Scripture. We’re not denying God’s basic salvation doctrine. That’s something we can agree on. We’re both evangelicals, and this therefore shouldn’t be an issue that divides the church. It’s not critical for biblical inerrancy or salvation if we can just relax and let go of the hostility of the debate,
If Dr Ross is being sincere in his comment, then he should stop portraying Archbishop Ussher in a dunce cap or calling YECs ‘dishonest’, ‘damaging to the faith’, comparing them to Gnostic heretics, etc. (see here).
Ross: I think this could get resolved in a few months.
Phyllis: Me too.
A good start would be for Ross to repent of putting ‘science’ above God’s Word.
Grant: … I promised Matthew that I would get him on because he’s been so patient. Matthew you’re on 100.7 KGFT.
Matthew (caller): Hi Dr Rob. This is a great subject and I’m really glad that you’ve got two people on who are educated and can speak clearly to each of their sides. I’m very impressed with both. However, I have never heard that God created the sun on the first day. That is the first … the first I’ve ever heard that is just a few minutes ago. Because I do believe that when God says He created something, that it’s created out of nothing. He didn’t make something from something else. He created it. So if was already there, I have a bit of a problem with that. And then my question, though, is if a day does not mean a day then what does it mean? Does it mean a million years, a billion years? You know 4.3 million … I mean if we can’t trust that it’s a day then what is the Dr suggesting that it might be?
Grant: Dr Ross, I’m … this obviously falls in your lap.
Ross: Yes, well Genesis 1:14 does not say that God created the sun, moon and stars. It says ‘let the great light be’ it uses the verb hayah, not the verb bara’. The verb ’asah comes up in verse 16 but it’s a parenthetical note.
A parenthetical note only applying to the stars, and making it clear that they were also made on Day 4. There is nothing parenthetical about ‘And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars also’, also in v. 16. Does Ross deny that the greater and lesser lights are the sun and moon? In the Hebrew, this begins with the waw-consecutive wayya’as elohim—‘and then God made …’, which is indeed a form of the verb ’asah. And the waw-consecutive typically has the grammatical function of advancing the narrative forward.
Ross ally John Ankerberg, when ‘moderating’ a debate, claimed
‘This is one I actually looked it up, and the Hebrew verb is wayya’as in verse 16 and according to Archer again, God had made the two great luminaries. This would be, Hebrew had no special form for the pluperfect tense, but uses the perfect tense, or the conversive imperfect here to express either the English past or the English perfect. So what he’s saying is God had made two great lights. So that seems to open the door that the sun and so on were already there, but it does say, He also made the stars. Did He make stars on day four or did he make them at the beginning?’
Though, as a leading promoter of the ‘Framework Hypothesis’, Meredith Kline is also a compromiser on Genesis. He demonstrates that the Ross–Ankerberg eisegesis about the pluperfect is untenable:
‘Also entailed in the minimalist interpretation of day four is the pluperfect rendering of the verbs expressing the making of the luminaries in the fulfillment section (vv. 16, 17), introduced by ‘and it was so’ (v. 15b). If adopted, the pluperfect could not be restricted to these verbs. For consistently in Genesis 1, what immediately follows the fiat and the “and it was so” formula that answers to the fiat is a detailing of what God proceeded to bring into being in execution of the fiat. In day four then the verbs of fulfillment in verses 16, 17 cannot be pluperfect with respect to the fiat of verses. Temporally they follow the fiat, which means the fiat would have to be put in the same pluperfect tense as its subsequent fulfillment, yielding the translation “And God had said”. That is, day four as a whole would have to be cast in the pluperfect, and that with reference to the time of the events in the preceding days. Ironically, such a translation would make explicit the non-chronological sequence of the narrative, the very thing the pluperfect proposal was trying to avoid’.6
See also why long-age compromiser Davis Young abandoned the day-age theory which Ross promotes—far too many contradictions between the order in Genesis and that of long-age geology and astronomy.
Ross: So God made the sun, moon and stars puts it in the completed verb form which means that they were made at some unspecified time in the past.
More of Ross’s fanciful spin on the Hebrew already addressed.
Ross: So the interpretation from Job 38 clarifying Genesis 1:3 that the sun, moon and stars are already in place at the beginning of the first creation day would stand.
It says nothing of the sort. The nearest thing there is to ‘stars’ is Job 38:7 where they were said to sing with joy when God laid the foundations of the earth. However, these ‘morning stars’ were most likely the angels. So it merely shows that angels were created before the earth. Laying of the foundation of the earth (’erets) might have referred to the appearance of the dry land (also called ’erets) on Day 3.
Ross: The second comment had to do with … refresh my memory?
Matthew: If a day doesn’t mean a day, what does it mean?
Ross: Well, look up any lexicon, any Hebrew lexicon. Look at the definition from the word yôm in the Hebrew, and you will see that it has 4 different literal definitions: part of the daylight hours, all the daylight hours, a 24-hour period or a long but finite period of time.
Yes, why not look up the lexicons as Ross suggests? The definitive HALOT7 specifically indicates Gen 1:5 as a ‘day of twenty-four hours’. Andrew Steinmann, associate professor of theology and Hebrew at Concordia University, Illinois, likewise argues that Creation Week comprised normal-length days:
‘יום, like the English word “day”, can take on a variety of meanings. It does not in and of itself mean a twenty-four hour day [ref]. This alone has made the length of days in Genesis 1 a controversial subject [ref]. However, the use of אחד in Gen 1:5 and the following unique uses of the ordinal numbers on the other days demonstrates that the text itself indicates these as regular solar days.’8
Ross: So an answer to the question, which of those four literal definitions you go with, you want to integrate all 20 creation accounts in the Bible, and see which of those 4 definitions would allow you to read all 20 texts contradiction free. It’s not enough to take the Bible literally. We have to take it literally and consistently. And in my book, A Matter of Days, I show you how it’s only that fourth definition, a long but finite period of time, that permits you to read the entire Bible free of internal contradictions. That’s why I choose long periods of time. Now, notice it can’t be infinite time. It’s a long but finite period of time.
So how did the Church Fathers and Reformers manage to read the Bible without contradiction while clinging to 24-hour creation days? How could they miss all these problems which Ross has only just discovered?
Grant: Dr Lisle, you’ve had an opportunity to look at Job 38. Any thoughts or response? It seems to fit well right here.
Lisle: Yeah, thanks for giving me a chance to turn to that. I would say the whole passage is not literal as Dr Ross believes because it says things like who stretched the line on the earth in verse 5, who set its measurements, who stretched the line on it. That’s not literal. And also, when the morning stars sang together …
Ross: Why not?
Lisle: I don’t believe that the stars literally sang.
Ross evidently does though, although it’s likely that the stars here refer not to literal stars but to angels, because of the parallelism with ‘the sons of God’ in Job 38:7:
‘When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?’
However, this reinforces Dr Lisle’s point even more that it’s metaphorical.
Lisle: So there is some metaphorical usage there and in any case I don’t think it makes the point that he wants it to make. It doesn’t in any way indicate that God made the stars on Day 1. And that they somehow just appeared on Day 4. It’s very clear in the context … .
Grant: You know, if I may. If I may invite you at this point to speak directly to one another on this because, I mean, this seems to be a key point in both of your positions on this. So, as you direct that comment to Dr Ross and, Dr Ross, your response.
Ross: Well, Job 38 is the beginning of a response from God to the 5 scientists assembled there that are having this debate about creation.
In fact, no-one was debating creation at all! The debate was about whether Job was a far worse sinner than anyone else because he had suffered more, and about God’s justice. God responded by demonstrating His sovereignty by virtue of being Creator.
Ross: And so he’s basically hits them with a creation test, and in that sense he is giving them a literal response saying he’s asking them a series of 60 questions.
No, God was proclaiming His creative glory with a series of rhetorical questions that left them all dumbfounded, and induced Job to ‘repent in dust and ashes’ (Job 42:1–6).
Ross: And the questions its, sure it’s set up as poetry, but these are questions that are referring to real events of creation. And in that sense I think we do take it literally, and what I notice as you go through Job 38, it’s giving you clarification of what’s taking place in the briefer description that we see in Genesis chapter 1.
So I think these poetic passages, Job 38 and Psalm 104, and Proverbs 8 are highly instructive at the clarifying the scientific details of Genesis 1 and actually gives us more scientific content then we find in the non-poetic passage Genesis chapter 1.
If it is really giving clarification of details, then the stars can really sing (v. 7), the sea really has doors (v. 8), the clouds are really garments (v. 9), ice really comes from a womb (v. 29), and the Great Bear constellation really has cubs (children, v. 32). No, God is poetically proclaiming His glory, not trying to give literal scientific detail.
Grant: Dr Lisle.
Lisle: O.K. again, I wouldn’t use the poetic passages to try and change the meaning of the verses in Genesis 1. It’s very clear from Genesis 1 that God created the stars on Day 4. Now, there are other passages in the Bible that reflect on that and that’s not a problem …
Exactly so—Genesis is the didactic passage written as straightforward history; the poetic passages must be understood in the light of the history of Genesis.
Ross: ... changing the meaning in Genesis 1 but I am making the point that we want to make sure that all the creation text in the Bible are consistent.
They certainly don’t need Ross’s distortions to make them consistent!
Grant: And again Dr Lisle, I’m interested in your response to that idea as being essential for understanding Genesis, the Genesis account.
Lisle: Yeah, well you know the other verses in the Bible are not going to contradict a straightforward reading on Genesis 1. Right, I mean even the poetic passages when you read them as poetry they’re not going to contradict that. And there are other verses as well. You know take for example, Mark 10:6 where Jesus comments that human beings, Adam and Eve, were made from the beginning of creation. That wouldn’t make sense if the days were millions of years because if God created Adam on Day 6 and those days were millions of years long, Adam and Eve were created towards the end of creation not at the beginning. It’s only if God created in 6 days that Adam and Eve were created at essentially the beginning of creation as Jesus speaks in Mark 10:6. See there are other passages that reflect on Genesis 1 but they don’t, far be it from changing the meaning to, you know, the stars not being made on Day 4 or something like that. No they reinforce it. They reinforce a straightforward reading of the book of Genesis.
Ross: O.K. Mark 10 is dealing with marriage and divorce. So it talks about the beginning, it’s talking about the beginning of human marriage not the beginning of the universe. The context of that means everything. And that’s why I think it’s so important that we integrate all the creation content of the Bible not just take a verse here and a verse there.
Lisle: Well, you know that it is very important that we don’t pull things out of context, and the context is the beginning of creation not the beginning of marriage if you read Mark …
Ross interrupts: … creation of what though? The creation of marriage? Or the creation of the universe? Then when you look at the whole chapter 10 in the book of Mark it’s dealing with marriage and divorce.
Lisle: I understand what it’s referring, and it talks about the beginning … it doesn’t say the beginning of marriage. It says the beginning of creation now and you need to take a look at that … .
Ross interrupts: Creation of what?
Lisle: … by the way we do have an article on that by Dr Terry Mortenson, From the beginning of … the institution of marriage is what he calls the article. And so it’s just a comment on that idea. It can’t mean the beginning of marriage. It means the beginning of creation. That’s what it says.
Ross: Yeah but you know when you look at creation. It’s creation of the earth, universe, life, human beings. I mean therefore the context is critical. What kind of creation are we talking about? Notice that Mark 10 nowhere deals with the universe or the earth. It’s focusing on divorce and marriage. So it’s the beginning of humanity not the beginning of the physical universe.
Lisle: We’ll let the listeners decide, but ‘at the beginning of creation’ is what it says, Mark 10:6. ‘At the beginning of creation God made them male and female’.
And read Dr Mortenson’s paper that firmly refutes Ross’s claim that ‘beginning of creation’ doesn’t really mean ‘beginning of creation’. The whole point is to show that God instituted marriage right from creation, so was not to be broken.
Grant: All right, what I’m going to do here; and listen, I thank you, Matthew. You raise a very good question. All right, let’s go to Randy before we hit this break. Randy you’ve been patient, go ahead.
Randy (caller): Yes, first of all let me start by saying that as always Dr Grant I just, I love the guests that you get on and the topics we get into. Personally, and I like being part of the discussion. Now that having been said, and I realize that both of your guests tonight are very well-respected men in their particular field of endeavor. But I am going to take exception with what Dr Lisle said. …
First of all let me say that I am not a learned man or a man of letters or anything like that. So even though I love listening to and taking part in discussions like this, I think that in reality they’re really only important to the two sides that are arguing their case.
Now, personally I believe that the 6 days means 6 days and … but it doesn’t matter. I don’t personally care if the earth is 10 trillion or 10 thousand years old and, because that is not really germane to the issue of what the Bible is all about and the Gospel. And even though it’s great to take part in debates like this, folks like myself that try to do a little Matthew 28[:19, 20] every now and then.
I’m not real good at it. You don’t need to go down that road to prove the veracity of the Bible. The archaeological record and the historical record there’s they back up the Bible all the way. So, yeah, in terms, Dr Lisle, I do believe that there’s plenty of evidence that you can believe the Bible without whether you believe in dinosaurs or whatever. So, that was my exception there.
However, 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to give reasons for our faith, and 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to demolish arguments against our faith.
Grant: O.K. and Dr Lisle because this in your mind is a most germane issue, please respond to my caller Randy.
Lisle: Yeah, you know I would say that it’s not a salvation issue; however, it is foundational to the salvation issue. In other words, the Gospel is founded on Genesis if you think about it. I mean Jesus Christ is a descendant of Adam. Now there are people who are, there are actually people who are evolutionists—now I’m not saying that; I know that Dr Ross is not one—but there are people who are evolutionists who don’t believe in Adam and Eve and yet they still try to believe Scripture.
And although you can be saved, you can’t be saved and be logically consistent with a position like that. And so I would say that it is crucially important that we believe what God has written in His word, in His Word in Genesis. You know if God said 6 days, but we’re not going to believe 6 days, well God said salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. Well, are we going to believe that?
So you see it’s important that we, if we’re going to be logically consistent, it’s important that we read all of Scripture; and of course I fully agree with you that archaeology supports the Bible. And there have been lots of sciences that support the Bible. I mean really the scientific evidence always supports a straightforward reading of Scripture when you understand that science.
Randy: Well, yes and that’s a very good response. I appreciate that. The only thing I would say is that most of the cases, say in my life or the opportunities in my life, when probably most people … you’re going to get your chance to talk about Jesus with people kind of like yourself. And so it would be very, very difficult for me to learn both sides of yours and Dr Ross’, and try to come off as any kind of a expert in either one to answer their questions, which are not really germane to salvation.
But you will often come up against people who claim that evolution/long ages disprove the Bible, or ask Why would a loving God allow so much death and suffering? Could you follow 1 Peter 3:15 and 2 Corinthians 10:5, and answer these?
Grant: I like to have a brief response from Dr Ross and Dr Lisle on this. As Dr Lisle has indicated that salvation doesn’t rest on this but a foundational understanding of salvation may. This is really boiling it down for the person on the street. Why does it matter?
Grant: Dr Ross.
Ross: Well, I think that’s an excellent point. I want to reclarify. I do believe that God created in a literal 6 __________ [tape unclear]. I do believe that we are all descended from Adam and Eve, and that God created Adam and Eve supernaturally, specially, just thousands of years ago.
However, he allows the possibility that they were created after the Australian Aborigines—according to radiocarbon dating methods he defends!
Ross: So the differences between Jason and I really don’t split apart on these critical salvation issues.
Grant: Comment, Dr Lisle.
Lisle: Yeah, one of the other things, you know, I was speaking at a church—this was just a couple of weeks ago—and I was doing the evidence that lines up with creation, things of that nature. I had a guy come up to me afterwards and say, ‘boy, thank you so much’. He says, ‘you know, I really found out’. He was a grandfather of one of the students I was speaking to there. And the student told me he’s been struggling with Christianity. He kind of wanted to be a Christian but he felt that he couldn’t because in this case it was because of evolution. He felt that because he couldn’t trust Genesis he couldn’t trust other parts of Scripture.
You see this is why we take this so seriously at Answers in Genesis. We believe that we need to be ready to give an answer to people when they ask a reason for the hope that is in us as the Bible tells us in 1 Peter 3:15.
Grant: Now, how do you respond to Randy’s position that in the course of communicating with other people and communicating with people that would be in his normal context of life that these issues don’t come up and are not that critical in the minds of people that he wants to share Christ with? And you know he was also appealing to the fact that he doesn’t either have the time or the ability at this point to fully comprehend the position that you represent and the position that Dr Ross represents. And then to be able to articulate some kind of a position as being necessary for effectively communicating faith.
Lisle: O.K. well the Bible tells us to be ready [1 Peter 3:15]. So, that means we’re to be ready for any kind of person. And that means the kind of person you’re going to come into contact with. But there’s lots of different kinds of people. And for some of them Genesis is not the issue, but I find for a lot of them, it is. And I would recommend that you be ready and that you study up to defend your faith. And we have resources that are very easy to read. You know if I talk over your head I apologize for that. But we do have resources, like we have the Answers Book, and it’s a very, very readable book and it gives you the top 20 questions that people ask about creation and how to answer them [see chapters online]. We do have resources that are a little higher up in terms of, a little bit more technical like Refuting Compromise; now it’s not technical but it is … it’s a little bit more than what you’re looking for. But you can either get the Answers Book or you can get Refuting Compromise would be a great one. And that’s going to show you how these issues play out.
Grant: … Dr Ross having heard Dr Lisle there in his response how germane do you believe this is to understanding God’s salvific acts?
Ross: Well, I think I agree with Jason Lisle in the sense that this is not critical for salvation. I would say it’s not even critical for things that are foundational to the salvation issue. But it is important for evangelism. After all we’re dealing with a secularized nation now, and they have a lot of ideas about the age of the earth and the age of the universe and the literalness of Adam and Eve. And so these are important questions to get discussions going that would lead them to consider it. The truth claims of Jesus Christ ________ [tape unclear]. And therefore, this is something that we shouldn’t just ignore. I mean that’s why I wrote the book, A Matter of Days, because through the resolution of this controversy that’s splitting the church, I think it can open the door for phenomenal evangelistic harvest.
If only Ross would hurry up and help resolve it by repenting of his trust in man’s long-age ideas!
Grant: … Norman … You’re on.
Norman (caller): Sure, the question was for the 6-day creationists, the literal 6-day creationists, it’s important to interpret Genesis in a literal way because really the rest of the Bible is at stake. If we can’t trust Genesis really what part of the Bible can we trust? My questions for Dr Ross is, why is it so important that he look at this as millions of years and the days being actually periods of time? What’s at stake from his viewpoint if he’s not right? Is it just because we look silly to the secular scientists? Or is there something more there?
Grant: Good question, go ahead.
Ross: An excellent question. You know we both take the Bible to be literally [sic]. I believe it’s a literal 6 days of creation but I take a different view on the length on the creation days.
Perhaps Moses also believed that the literal six days of the working week plus the Sabbath were really long ages too? What if an RTB employee should tell Ross that he was taking six literal days off, and were then to return six unspecified ages later?
Ross: And two reasons why I think it’s important. Not important for salvation or biblical inerrancy for us but for evangelism, is one that actually Norman mentioned. That you know Jason and I differ by a factor of a million of the age of the universe. I believe it’s 13.7 billion. He believes it’s a few thousand years. And yet astronomers can measure that age of the universe now to 1 percent precision, and we can measure the age of the earth to a hundredth of a percent precision. So, our secular colleagues in astronomy look at us and say, ‘Why can’t you guys settle your difference? I mean we have a factor of a hundred million minimum between the measuring capabilities and the difference between your two positions.’
Because Ross’s side refuses to take Scripture as the final authority, and instead accepts secular astronomical theories and uses them to reinterpret Scripture. The difference would easily be settled if the matter of authority was. That’s why the first chapter of Refuting Compromise is about this issue, before even starting on the meaning of ‘day’, young vs. old earth, global vs. local flood, etc.
Cosmologist and metrologist Dr John Hartnett points out that Ross is even wrong about the secular astronomy (personal communcation):
Ross claimed the age of the universe was known to within 1%. But that “age” is determined from the reciprocal of the Hubble constant, so there is no way secular astronomers can estimate the age more precisely than the Hubble constant itself. And it’s absurd to think that the Hubble constant is this precisely known. One paper by Wendy Freedman and others stated:
Based on these revised Cepheid distances, we find values (in km s–1 Mpc–1) of H0 = 71 ± 2 (random) ± 6 (systematic) (Type Ia supernovae), H0 = 71 ± 3 ± 7 (Tully–Fisher relation), H0 = 70 ± 5 ± 6 (surface brightness fluctuations), H0 = 72 ± 9 ± 7 (Type II supernovae), and H0 = 82 ± 6 ± 9 (fundamental plane). We combine these results for the different methods with three different weighting schemes, and find good agreement and consistency with H0 = 72 ± 8 km s–1 Mpc–1.9
From the above, it’ obvious that there is no way that the Hubble constant is known to even 10% precision, so there is no way that even the secular astronomers can pin down their age claims more precisely. And to reinforce the uncertainty, another estimate gives H0 = 60 ± 10 km s–1 Mpc–1.10 An earlier estimate by the same Freedman gave H0 = 80 ± 17 km s–1 Mpc–1 11 which caused a “crisis” because it suggested that the universe was younger than the stars within it!12
The point remains is that there is a large uncertainty in the Hubble Constant, so no way that a long-age astronomer worth his salt could claim that the universe’s age is known to within 1%. So Ross isn’t even a good astronomer or he just bluffs. Then of course the whole problem applies of correctly interpreting the time constant = 1/H0. This time constant, like that for the half-life of a radionuclide, doesn’t tell you an age necessarily—assumptions must be applied first.
He needs to read Cosmologists Can’t Agree and Are Still In Doubt!
Ross: So secular astronomers are challenging me to get this thing settled in the Christian community because they say, ‘if you’re not confident enough to settle something where you’ve got a factor of a 100 million between the error bar and the difference between your positions why should we listen to you on any issue that pertains to science or creation?’
Ross wonders how to persuade secular astronomers to stop regarding secular science as final authority and accept Scripture on other things. But why wonder, when Ross has in effect already conceded biblical authority in favor of secular long-age theories? Why should secularists stop when they are the ones ‘winning’, in the sense of extracting concessions?
Ross: The second reason I think this is a more important reason is that when I talk to scientists, you know, what are the things that are most persuasive to them scientifically for proving that Jesus Christ is the Creator? It was three things: the transcendent cosmic beginning of the universe, an actual beginning of space and time, the anthropic principle.
None of these prove that Jesus Christ is the Creator and Savior. Rather, along with many things one can see in the creation, they are enough to condemn man, who is ‘without excuse’ in denying a Creator (Romans 1:18–32). But the revelation from nature is insufficient to save man; this requires propositional revelation about the Gospel, which in turn is revealed in Scripture, so needs someone to preach it (Romans 10:1–18). See also Design is not enough!
Ross: We astronomers look at the universe. We see it as supernaturally designed to allow for the existence of life, and human life in particular, and the origin of life. In fact you may have heard that the famous atheist Anthony Flew has now adopted a belief in the existence of God on those 3 scientific evidences alone.
But only a deistic god—Flew makes it clear he is not a Christian. And none of the evidences required an old earth! See also this reply to ID theorist Dr Bill Dembski, who also touted Flew as an example of the benefits of ‘leaving the biblical timeframe out of it’.
Ross: And I find this to be universal. But the interesting thing about the scientific evidence for a beginning of space and time, the design of the universe, and the origin of life, is that those all depend on the universe and the earth being billions of years old. And a young earth model, you don’t have the scientific evidence for the origin of life,
This is nonsense—the laws of chemistry, which certainly don’t require billions of years, are intractable problems for chemical evolution. We have amply shown this in Q&A: Origin of Life.
Ross: … the anthropic principle, transcendent cosmic beginning. So you’re really having to throw away your most powerful scientific arguments for the existence of the God of the Bible.
Throwing out the Bible by mutilating the text is far worse than throwing out allegedly powerful scientific arguments! Not that you even need to do that, as Dr Lisle soon shows.
Ross: As far as salvation goes, I would argue it’s not critical.
We’ve said the same thing (about young-earth belief not being critical for salvation) in articles such as:
- Is it Possible to be a Christian and an Evolutionist? A leading creationist answers an often-asked question
- The big picture: Being wrong about the six days of creation does not automatically mean someone is not a Christian. But if you think that makes it unimportant, stand back and look at the big picture
- Do I have to believe in a literal creation to be a Christian?
Grant: Dr Lisle, your response? Certainly a critical point.
Lisle: O.K. first of all, astronomers can’t measure the age of the universe. That’s a bit of a bluff I’m afraid.
And it sadly works on a lot of people. But not on Lisle, since he is just as well qualified in astronomy as Ross.
Lisle: Remember age is not a substance that can be measured, O.K. Now you can assume the big bang and you can assume certain things. And you can assume this and assume that, and you can get a number. But if you make other assumptions, you get different numbers. And so that’s just one thing that I wanted to clear up. And also, I believe in a transcendent beginning. I believe that God created the universe, and it had a beginning. But the question is, when? And according to Scripture, it’s thousands of years ago, not billions. Certainly not 13.7 billion or whatever.
But you don’t need the big bang for that [i.e. transcendent beginning and design in the universe]. I don’t understand, Dr Ross, why you attach the big bang to a perfectly fine argument that will do well without it. Why would you take a secular idea for origins and try to add it into the Bible?
See Refuting Compromise pp. 179–186 for an example of how to use astronomical apologetics without needing the big bang. And of course, it doesn’t matter how superficially effective Ross claims his big bang apologetics is; since it conflicts with God’s Word, it is worthless. And what happens to Ross’s apologetics when even more secular scientists blast the big bang?
Ross: It’s a typical principle. If you look at Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, King David and Job, you notice that they say 3 things about the universe. That it’s traceable back to a transcendent cosmic beginning, an actual beginning of space, time, matter and energy.
But include Genesis, and we find that God told us how long ago He created, over what timescale, and in what order. And this is completely different from the big bang, since Genesis says that God created the earth before the stars; the big bang says the first stars came into existence long before the earth—see Two worldviews in conflict.
Ross: That it’s continuously expanding from that point of beginning, and as the universe, it gets colder and colder as it gets older and older.
Nothing is said about continually expanding, although that is not ruled out either. Certainly nothing about getting colder.
Ross: Now there are dozens of different big bang models for the universe. But that’s one thing they all agree with.
The Bible certainly says that God stretched out the universe, and this is the inspiration for Dr Humphreys’ cosmological model which doesn’t contradict Genesis, unlike the big bang.
Ross: And to me it was very persuasive as a seventeen year old to realize that 6 different Bible authors predicted all these cosmic features thousands of years before Albert Einstein. No scientist even dreamed of the idea that we live in an expanding universe that gets colder and colder as it gets older and older. That’s traceable back to a cosmic singularity until _______ [tape unclear] Albert Einstein came along, and yet we got Jeremiah, Isaiah, Job and King David talking about this thousands of years ago. So this is a biblical principle, and we should be rejoicing as Christians that astronomers have proven that the Bible is accurate in predicting future scientific discoveries.
So where did it predict these things? It certainly talks about a big bang to come though.
Grant: … Sam, go ahead. …
Sam (caller): And just back to what you were just talking about, I would like to say that God created things with the appearance of age and that includes the universe and so it could appear to be as old as Dr Ross claims it to be. But only by appearance, the way God created it. He created Adam with the appearance of age. He created a lot of things with the appearance of age. I believe that the day is absolutely important and it has to do with the Gospel. And for various different reasons as have already been mentioned. There’s no reason to go into those. But you know if it was millions of years, why didn’t God say years and why did He use, instead, days? He referred to this when He gave the Ten Commandments. He said God created the days, in 6 days he created the heavens and the earth … the seventh day he rested. Why use something that was arbitrary to apply to something as specific as what we have as our seven-day workweek?
Grant: O.K. Dr Ross, if you would respond to that, and thank you Sam.
Ross: Well, that was a very good question, and what might help Sam to realize that yômis the only word in biblical Hebrew that could be translated to mean a long but finite period of time.
Only in special grammatical constructions not found in Genesis 1, not if it has a numeric and evening + morning.
Ross: In the English language we’ve got dozens of different words for that, but yôm is your only option in biblical Hebrew.
This is simply not true. There are many words that could have been used to communicate long ages, if that’s what God had intended. For example:
- ימים (yāmîm, plural of yôm) alone or with ‘evening and morning’, would have meant ‘and it was days of evening and morning’. This would have been the simplest way to teach that the creation events took place a long time in the past. It could have signified many days and so the possibility of a vast age.
- עולם (‘ôlām)—long age. Amazingly, Ross has often claimed it could not have been used for long age, although its Greek equivalent aiōn is where we derive the word ‘eon’. ;Yet in A Matter of Days p. 141, he contradicts himself—he uses the very fact that ‘ôlām means a long time and not necessarily forever against the idea of the earth lasting forever;
- דר/דור (dôr/dōr) means ‘generation’ or ‘period’, so could have been ideal for signifying a series of ages, if that’s what God had really meant;
- עד (‘ad) means ‘ancient’ and even ‘forever’, and when it is used, it occurs with prepositions. By analogy with Job 20:4, God could have informed Adam that the earth, sun, stars” animals, etc. were ‘from old’, if He had intended to do so;
- קדם (qedem) or קדמה (qedmah) is sometimes translated ‘of old’ or ‘ancient time’;
- נצח (netsach) denotes ‘always’, ‘everlasting’ or ‘forever’;
- תמיד (tamîd) means ‘continually’ or ‘forever’;
- ארך (‘orek), when used with yôm, is translated ‘length of days’;
- זמן (zemān) denotes a ‘season’ or ‘time’;
- עת (‘et), which means ‘time’ in general, and could have been used to leave the time ambiguous;
- מועד (mô‘ēd), ‘time’, which is also used for a ‘season’.
God could also have used phrases like ‘x myriad myriad years ago’ to teach ages of hundreds of millions of years. For a less precise indication of vast ages, God could have compared the years to the number of sand grains or stars. Yet God did not use any of these—rather, He emphasized literal days. See Refuting Compromise ch. 10.
Ross: With respect to appearance of age—and I don’t know where Jason Lisle stands on this; it might be good to get his comments—but we take the position at Reasons To Believe that God does not create with an appearance of age.
See below where Dr Lisle explains that it is mature creation, rather than any ‘appearance’. Age is not a quantity that appears as such, but is rather the interpretation of appearance. See The earth: how old does it look? Even many of those who believe that the earth is ‘young’ think that it looks ‘old’. But does it?
Ross: Eight times it tells us in the Bible that God cannot lie. He cannot deceive,
Indeed He cannot, which must include the propositional revelation in Genesis. But if Dr Ross is right, then God has deceived people in Genesis. In fact, He has deceived most of the Church Fathers and Reformers, who likewise believed in normal-length days (see Refuting Compromise ch 3).
Those who deny this are deceiving themselves when they adopt faulty long-age interpretations of nature. See The Parable of the Candle. Over and over again, Ross conflates his fallible interpretation of nature with what God has actually revealed.
Ross: and that what He creates reveals truth and nothing but truth. Psalm 19, the heavens declare the glory of God; His words are written upon the heavens for all of us to read. That’s the word that is trustworthy. So if the universe is young it should measure to be young. If it’s old, it should measure to be young. God does not deceive us.
Once again, long-agers deceive themselves by their faulty assumptions about the quantities they actually do measure. E.g. radiometric labs measure the ratio of isotopes which they interpret as age.
Grant: … Dr Lisle, there was a question directed to you from Dr Ross if you’ll recall what that was, if you would like to respond. … The appearance of age, yeah.
Lisle: … Sam’s point is well taken, but I would phrase it a little bit differently. I wouldn’t say an appearance of age, but I would say that God created the universe mature or fully functional. It worked right from the beginning, and it did not need time to come to that situation. And just as an example of that, think of the trees that God created back on Day 3. Normally today, by today’s processes, trees take time to grow but God created these first ones supernaturally. Now if you assumed that God did not create them supernaturally, if you assumed that those first trees came about by the same process that trees come about today, you would get the wrong age. You would say oh that tree looks pretty thick that must have taken quite some time to grow. And you’d be wrong. Your age would be much, much too old. But I think that’s a good, a good point to remember is that if we assume that something that was supernaturally created wasn’t, if we assume it was naturally created, we can get an age that is very much inflated.
Grant: All right, let’s do this … I going to attempt two more calls with the remaining moments that we have left. And Bruce, sorry to have to put you under pressure to go right to a distilled point or question, but time is getting away from us. You’re up Bruce.
Bruce (caller): Hi. I had kind of a question but more of a thought. And that is, I don’t believe Christians have to believe in an old earth because we know that carbon dating isn’t always accurate, and the other two ways of measuring are calibrated on each other. Once one is proven wrong, the other’s going to be proven wrong. I also believe the astrologists, you know, they use the speed of light. And a couple years ago, I heard a physicist who’s a creationist say that it’s been shown that light is not constant. It’s actually slowing down. And I questioned it with a scientist at our church at Argonne Laboratory, and she’s a biologist, she didn’t know anything about it. So, she .. next week she gave me two reports. One from a group of scientists from England, and the other one was either from Holland or Germany. But both those physicists, both teams, agreed that light is slowing down. They just disagreed on how much …
Grant: So, what bearing would that have, only in the interest of time, Bruce, because I’m getting short. What is, then, is that leading you to conclude?
Bruce: Well, that one physicist who’s a creationist said he used equations that show that lights that, appearing to be billions of years old, was really generated 7 thousand years ago. But even the others they may not agree it’s so young, but we cannot use the speed of light as a judgment of how old the earth is.
Grant: O.K. let’s hold it right on that point there. Dr Ross quickly and Dr Lisle.
Ross: Sure, I’ve addressed this in my book, A Matter of Days. The astronomers that are claiming a slowing down the velocity of light are talking about one part in 100 thousand over 12 billion years. An incredibly tiny change
We have addressed the same in Speed of light slowing down after all? and agree that it’s too small to affect age measurements. However, it does refute many in principle arguments against c-decay by YEC detractors including Ross.
Ross: but if you go to our Reasons.org website you’ll see a new listing for Today’s New Reason To Believe. Where we show a new study that rates that one part in a 100 thousand as simply an artifact of the way the quasar’s spectral lines are measured and the lab measurements showing that it’s constant to better than one part in 10 to the 16 really do stand. No evidence at all for any change in the slowing down the velocity of light.
With respect to carbon-14, I can take Bruce to deep ice cores where you have annual layers of ice and that calibrates the radiometric dating and shows that it is indeed reliable.
Grant: Dr Lisle with just about 30–45 seconds left, your response please.
Lisle: O.K. very briefly, this is referring to c decay, and I bought this as the idea that the speed of light may have changed with time and that’s one mechanism that God potentially could have used to get starlight from very tremendous distances to earth. It doesn’t necessarily take billions of years. It’s not the only mechanism and I’m not even sure that it’s, it’s not the one I would probably lean toward. I would say that currently there’s not a lot of evidence supporting the idea that the speed of light is changing today. Now it may have changed in the past, but I don’t think there’s a lot of evidence supporting that either. So it’s just one mechanism that God may have used but there are several others as well.
Grant: Well, there was no way to put a period on this conversation today. We can put a comma there. I respect both of you. I thank you so much for your time and for your approach to this subject. And again I’m grateful for your presence on the program. For those that could not get on with your calls, thank you.
- Dods, M., The Book of Genesis, Armstrong, NY, p. 4, 1907. Return to text.
- Hasel, F.G., The ‘days’ of creation in Genesis 1: Literal ‘days’ or figurative ‘periods/epochs’ of time? Origins 21(1):5-38, 1994 (reference numbers removed). Return to text.
- Hayatsu, R., McBeth, R.L., Scott, R.G., Botto, R.E. and Winans, R.E., Artificial coalification study: Preparation and characterization of synthetic macerals, Organic Geochemistry 6:463–471, 1984. Return to text.
- Ross, H., Creation Days, audio tape, 1990. Return to text.
- Dr Russell Rotta, Evolutionary explanations for anomalous radiocarbon in coal? Creation Research Society Quarterly 41(2):104–112, September 2004. E.g. if a uranium decay chain were responsible for generating the observed 14C, then the coal would have to contain 99% uranium, so colloquial parlance would term the sample ‘uranium’ rather than ‘coal’; and same with thorium. Neutron capture in 14N would generate only about a millionth of the observed amount even in best case scenarios. In any case, if it were significant, then we should observe wide ranges in radiocarbon dates with different nitrogen contents, which would render the method useless. And if atmospheric contamination were responsible, the entire carbon content would have to be exchanged every million years or so. But if this were occurring, we would expect huge variations in radiocarbon dates with porosity and thickness, which would also render the method useless. Return to text.
- Kline, M.G., Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 48:2–15, 1996. Return to text.
- Koehler, K. and Baumgartner, W. (Eds.), Richardson, M.E.J., (trans.) Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 2002. Return to text.
- Steinmann, A., אחד as an ordinal number and the meaning of Genesis 1:5, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS) 45(4):577–584, 2002. Return to text.
- Freedman, W.L. et al., Final results from the Hubble Space Telescope key project to measure the Hubble Constant, Astrophysical Journal 553:47–72, 20 May 2001. Return to text.
- Tutui, Y. et al., Hubble Constant at intermediate redshift using the CO-line Tully–Fisher Relation, PASJ53:701 arXiv:astro-ph/0108462 v1 29 Aug 2001. Return to text.
- Freedman, W.L. et al., Distance to the Virgo cluster galaxy M100 from Hubble Space Telescope observations of Cepheids, Nature 371:(6500)757–76, 27 October 1994. Return to text.
- Jacoby, G.H., The Universe in crisis, Nature 371(6500):741–742, 27 October 1994 (comment on Ref. 11). Return to text.