What’s wrong with ‘progressive creation?’
The ‘progressive creation’ view of Dr Hugh Ross on how to interpret the book of Genesis has received wide publicity and endorsement from many well-known Christian leaders, churches, seminaries, and Christian colleges.
This brief summary of only some of these teachings is meant to familiarize Christians with aspects of the ‘Rossist’ position, including some that are not so well-known. We need to judge these against the absolutes of God's Word to see ‘whether these things were so.’ (Acts 17:11)
While Dr Ross is NOT an evolutionist per se, he does accept much of what evolutionists teach in astronomy and geology. We do not seek to pass judgment on his Christian character or commitment to the Lord.
In summary, progressive creation/Rossism teaches:
- The ‘Big Bang’ origin of the universe occurred 16-billion-years ago; death, bloodshed, and disease existed before Adam & Eve.
- The days of Creation were long periods.
- Noah’s Flood was a local event.
- Sin has only a regionally limited effect on the world.
- Man-like creatures that behaved much like us—and painted on cave walls—existed before Adam and Eve, but didn’t have a spirit and thus had no salvation.
- The record of nature is just as perfect as the Word of God.
- Over millions of years, God created new species as others kept going extinct.
Publisher: Dr. Ross’s books are published by NAVPRESS, the publishing arm of the Navigators. They stated in a press release: ‘We consider it our privilege and our calling to stand behind Hugh Ross with our support as his publisher.’
Progressive Creation/Rossism teachings
(The following quotes are all taken from lectures or publications by Dr Ross)
1. Concerning the creation of life in the universe:
‘It only works in a cosmos of a hundred-billion trillion stars that’s precisely sixteen-billion-years old. This is the narrow window of time in which life is possible.
‘Therefore it allows me to make an interesting paraphrase of John 3:16, if you’ll permit—For God so loved the human race that he went to the expense of building a hundred-billion trillion-stars and carefully shaped and crafted them for sixteen-billion years so that at this brief moment in time we could all have a nice place to live.’ (Dallas Theological Seminary Chapel Service, September 13, 1996).
Our Comment: Read John 3:16 for yourself and compare it to the above!
Also: ‘Life is only possible when the universe is between 12 and 17 billion years.’ (Toccoa Falls College, Staley Lecture Series, March 1997)
Comment: God is omnipotent—He could make a fully functional universe ready for life right from the beginning, for with God nothing is impossible. (See Matt. 19:26; Mark 10:27)
2. Dr Ross defending his belief that Noah’s Flood was only local:
‘But here are some reasons why, physical reasons why, the flood cannot be global. Number one is the limited extent of sin. Given that human beings had not yet civilized and inhabited Antarctica, there’d be no need for God to flood Antarctica because there’d be no sin there in Antarctica.
‘There’d be no need for God to kill off all the penguins because those penguins had no contact with reprobate humanity. And in that case, I don’t think Noah took any penguins on board the ark. … Only bird and mammal species, according to the Levitical Law, can be impacted by sin.’ (Toccoa Falls College, Staley Lecture Series, March, 1997)
Comment: Read Genesis 6:19-20; The Bible clearly states here that all kinds of land animals—including penguins—were on the ark. By the way, most penguins live in other parts of the world, including the Galapagos Islands near the Equator!
3. Dr. Ross defining what he calls the ‘sixty-seventh book of the Bible’:
‘Not everyone has been exposed to the sixty-six books of the Bible, but everyone on planet Earth has been exposed to the sixty-seventh book - the book that God has written upon the heavens for everyone to read.
‘And the Bible tells us it’s impossible for God to lie, so the record of nature must be just as perfect, and reliable and truthful as the sixty-six books of the Bible that is part of the Word of God … And so when astronomers tell us [Ross uses the example of scientists attempting to measure distances in space and goes on to say that] it’s part of the truth that God has revealed to us. It actually encompasses part of the Word of God.’ (Toccoa Falls College, Staley Lecture Series March, 1997).
Comment: Indeed God cannot lie, so when He tells us in Romans 8:22 that ‘the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain’ because of sin, then how can sinful fallible human beings in a sin-cursed universe say that their interpretation of the evidence is as perfect as God’s written revelation? Scientific assertions must use fallible assumptions and fallen reasoning—how can this be the Word of God?
4. Dr Ross’s Creation story for children states:
‘Starting about 2 to 4 million years ago, God began creating man-like mammals or ‘hominids.’ These creatures stood on two feet, had large brains, and used tools. Some even buried their dead and painted on cave walls.
‘However, they were different from us. They did not worship God or establish religious practices. In time, all these man-like creatures went extinct. Then, about 10 to 25 thousand years ago, God replaced them with Adam and Eve.’ (Reasons To Believe Web Site, updated July 8, 1997)
Comment: Dr Ross accepts and defends the evolutionist radiometric dating methods, so all evidence of humans, descendants of Noah, if given evolutionary dates of more than 25,000 years (eg., The Neanderthal cave sites) must be redefined as related to spirit-less ‘hominoids’ which the Bible doesn’t mention. However, the same methods have been used to ‘date’ the Australian aborigines back at least 40,000 years (some have claimed much older). By Ross’s reasoning, the Australian aborigines could NOT be descendants of Adam and Eve. However, read Acts 17:26. Interestingly, some scientists now date the American Indians’ ancestors at earlier than 40,000 years.
5. Dr Ross commenting on God’s knowledge and wisdom:
‘The Creator of the universe must be a Beingthat’s a minimum of a hundred-trillion times better educated, more intelligent, therefore more powerful, more creative, and even more caring and loving than we human beings.’ (Focus on the Family, radio broadcast, August 7, 1997)
Comment: Our Creator is NOT a minimum of a hundred-trillion times better educated! He is INFINITELY more knowledgeable. (See Col. 2:3; Job 21:22, 42:1–6)
6. Dr Ross defending death, bloodshed, disease, and suffering before Adam’s sin:
‘The spilling of blood before Adam’s sin in no way affects or detracts from the doctrine of atonement. Upholding that central doctrine in no way demands a Creation scenario in which none of God’s creatures received a scratch or other blood-letting wound before Adam and Eve sinned … Even in an ideal natural environment animals would be constantly scratched, pricked, bruised, and even killed by accidental events and each other … Could it be that God’s purposes are somehow fulfilled through our experiencing the ‘random, wasteful, inefficiencies’ of the natural realm He created?’ (Creation and Time, Chapters 6 & 8)
Comment: Read Genesis 1:29,30; Genesis 9:3; Genesis 1:31; Genesis 2:17; Genesis 3:17-19; Genesis 3:21; Hebrews 9:22; Romans 5; Romans 8:20-22; 1 Corinthians 15; Acts 3:21; Isaiah 11:6-9; Revelation 21:4; Revelation 22:3.
God created a perfect world at the beginning—all the animals and man were vegetarians (Gen. 1:29). Plants were given for food—they do not have a ‘nephesh’ [life spirit] as man and animals do.
God killed the first animal in the Garden and shed blood because of sin—if there was death, bloodshed, disease and suffering before sin, then the basis for the atonement is destroyed. Christ suffered death, for death was the penalty for sin. There will be no death or suffering in the perfect ‘restoration’—so why can’t we accept the same in a perfect (‘very good’) Creation before sin?
7. Dr Ross on Revelation:
‘We’re also told in Revelation 6:9 that Christians who died ahead of us are watching what we’re doing. It’s like they go to heaven and they’re given the equivalent of some kind of TV monitor with a bunch of channels that they can select and they can watch.’ (Focus on the Family, broadcast August 8, 1997)
Comment: Look up Revelation 6:9 for yourself!
8. Dr Ross on space-time dimensions:
‘What follows, then, from string theory and from all these recent findings in particle physics and astrophysics is that God must be operating in a minimum of eleven dimensions of space and time, or their practical equivalent.’ (Beyond The Cosmos, Chapter 8)
Comment: Dr Ross bases much of what he says on ‘string theory,’ which is NOT universally accepted, and is just one of many arcane speculations being discussed by theorists. It is so vague and speculative, and without experimental support, that to use it to apply to defining attributes of God is foolish.
In the same book Dr Ross declares: ‘We are the only people ever to see (or need) direct scientific proof not only for God’s existence, but also for His transcendent capacity to create space and time dimensions, as well as to operate in dimensions independent of our own four.’ (Beyond The Cosmos, chapter 3)
Comment: What about Hebrews 11:3,6? Whatever happened to faith? String theory is NOT proof for God’s existence. Remember Romans 10:17: ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.’ The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to bring people to Christ.
A detailed critique of many more ‘Rossist’ teachings is available in book form: Creation and Time—A Report on the Progressive Creationist Book by Hugh Ross.