Responding to the compromise views of John Ankerberg

by guest columnist Jay Seegert, Wisconsin, USA

March 2, 2005

Last Sunday on American television, TV host John Ankerberg began a new series entitled Are the Genesis Creation Days 24 Hours or Long Periods of Time?

Ankerberg is the host of a national weekly television program called “The John Ankerberg Show” (a ministry of the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute, which is an organization dedicated, it says, to the defense of the Christian faith). Indeed, Ankerberg has produced numerous resources that are generally biblically sound in different areas of apologetics (including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, the New Age, etc.).

In the last two years, Ankerberg has been strongly promoting the ideas of “progressive creation” essentially as espoused by Dr. Hugh Ross—a man with whom many CMI supporters are already familiar. (For further information regarding Hugh Ross and his compromise position, see What’s wrong with “progressive creation?”; and see also how Ankerberg has been promoting an old earth for over a decade)

On a personal level, I was quite saddened to see Brother Ankerberg’s compromise with the book of Genesis, having had such a high regard for his thorough research in other areas and for his general commitment to the biblical text. Having even financially supported Ankerberg for many years, I decided last year to contact his ministry for further information on his beliefs regarding Genesis (I had heard that he might not accept Genesis as straightforward history). It took a year to get a response, which was simply that I should “watch the current series” and let them know if I still have any questions.

The new TV series consists of four parts:

  1. What is the Meaning of the Word “Day” (yom) in Genesis 1 & 2?

  2. From Scripture, How Can You Tell Whether the Day-Age View, the 24-Hours View, or the Framework View is the Correct View?

  3. Before Adam Sinned, Was There Any Death in the Plant or Animal World?

  4. Could God Say His Creation Was “Very Good” if Plants and Animals Experienced Death?

I have just finished viewing the first program (via the internet; interestingly enough, the Christian television station in my area has refused to air this series on the grounds that it does not believe the programs present an accurate or appropriately reverential view of Scripture).

For this four-part series, Ankerberg has invited two guests to appear: astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross, who recently debated AiG’s Dr. Jason Lisle on a Colorado radio station, and Dr. Walter Kaiser (president of Gordon–Conwell Theological Seminary, and a former seminary professor of one of AiG–USA’s staff members.

I found it interesting that when Ankerberg began promoting the ideas of progressive creation, he was primarily addressing it from the scientific point of view (with, once again, Hugh Ross as a TV guest). Since then, he has received so much criticism for this position (in particular, for using the conclusions of scientists to interpret Scripture) that he is now trying hard to make it appear that Scripture itself naturally attests to the views of progressive creation.

Program One opened with a statement that some churches make belief in a literal six-day creation a requirement for membership or to serve in a leadership position. While this may be the case with some churches, it subtly implies that those who believe in the literal six-day creation are extremists who impose their views on others in a legalistic way.

The first major point discussed in this first episode was the fact that both the Bible and science firmly indicate that time itself had a beginning. Ross stated that within the last five years, Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity (which is not being questioned in this web article) has “vaulted to the most exhaustively tested principle in physics—the best proven principle in physics.” He went on to say that three scientific methods all indicate that the universe is 13.7 billion years old (i.e., the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, 2.0 Degree Deep Sky Survey and the W Map).

Ankerberg chimed in and said that if science is telling us this (i.e., 13.7 billion years for the age of the universe), we need to go to Scripture to figure out the literal meaning of the word “day” regarding the creation days of Genesis. (In the past, Mr. Ankerberg has appeared to bristle when it is suggested that he uses “modern science” to interpret Scripture, but here is another example to counter his contention.)

Dr. Kaiser, however, did make the reasonable comment that we cannot put our meaning onto Scripture, but must render it as did the person who stood in the counsel of God and heard Him speak . He stated that the Hebrew word for “day” (yom) is used in three different ways within the first two chapters of Genesis:

  1. 12 hours (daylight) Genesis 1:5

  2. 24 hours (day/night) Genesis 1:14

  3. Long period of time (the entire creation “week”) Genesis 2:4

This third example ignores the fact that the word yom in Genesis 2:4 has a completely different grammatical context than in Genesis chapter 1. For example, yom in Genesis 2:4 has a preposition, which is lacking in the Creation Days. (For details, see Sarfati, Refuting Compromise, p. 70–71, 2004.)

Dr. Kaiser also cited Psalm 90:4 which states that “a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by or like a watch in the night.” The intent of this passage, however, is not to define a word back in Genesis 1, but to emphasize that God is not constrained by time. It does so by contrasting a (real, literal) long period (1,000 years) with two (real, literal) short ones (a day and a watch in the night). (See Sarfati, Refuting Compromise, p. 86–87, 2004.) 

Addressing the argument that the word yom being associated with a number in Genesis 1 implies that they are literal days, Dr. Kaiser declared that there is no hard-and-fast rule in Hebrew grammar for the use of a number with yom. This point is a moot one anyway, because there does not have to be a hard-and-fast grammar rule in order to simply compare the use of a particular word with other similar occurrences of that same word. When one does so in this case, you could hardly conclude anything other than literal, approximately 24-hour days for Genesis 1.

In addressing the “evening/morning” argument for a 24-hour creation day, Dr. Kaiser stated that God made the 24-hour day on Day 4 when the sun was created, which is definitely not a conclusion supported by the text! Also, note that Ross denies that Days 4–7 are 24-hour days. (See Sarfati, Refuting Compromise, p. 81, 84–86, 2004.)

Ankerberg ended this segment by stressing that he and his guests were not trying to bring “science” into the Bible, but were simply establishing the literal meaning. But I would respectfully remark that it wasn’t so obvious.

Sadly, many who view these TV programs will be duped into believing what is presented (partly because of the credentials of the three men, who hold doctorates). However, we do not need 21st century scientists and theologians to tell us what the Scriptures “really” mean. This is to imply that God was not capable of conveying what He really meant in His Word, and that for most of recorded history, God’s people were naively believing the simplistic, straightforward meaning of the text. In addition, to argue (as Ross and Ankerberg have done) that the majority of the early church fathers believed in an old earth is also far from reality. (See Sarfati, Refuting Compromise, chapter 3, 2004.)

For an excellent refutation of the points that were brought up in this first episode (and for the arguments that will no doubt appear in the three future programs), I highly recommend Dr. Sarfati’s book, Refuting Compromise.

Editor’s note: Jay Seegert is a busy speaker on creation/evolution living in Wisconsin. He has just developed a new, well-illustrated talk based on the book Refuting Compromise.

Published: 7 February 2006