This past week, I ran across a great blog article about how to handle disagreements among Christians. It is very much what I have been learning in my Ephesians class about maintaining Christian unity. Christians should be united in love.
So, how do we handle it when, according to the best of our knowledge, someone is teaching against God’s Word? Hugh Ross is an astrophysicist and Christian teacher, who advocates old earthism. So, the writer, Bruce, of the blog post that I mentioned above asked me to present some of the things that Hugh Ross teaches that are exegetically inaccurate.
A quick note on exegesis. Where interpretation is needed in scripture, scripture should be used as the principal interpreting tool. If there are other scriptures that can be used to aid in the interpretation, then that scripture should be used to help guide the interpretation.
- Death before sin – Ross teaches that death, disease, and bloodshed have been present among God’s creation for millions of years prior to Adam’s sin.
- Genesis 3 – Death is a result of Adam’s sin
- Romans 5 – Man brought death into the world
- Romans 8 – The sin of mankind brought a bondage of decay to all of creation such that creation would groan as it awaits liberation from its frustration.
- I Corinthians 15 – Man brought death into the world. The final enemy to be defeated is death
- Genesis 1 – When God had finished his creative work, he declared his creation “very good.” Ross claims that Adam’s sin caused only human death and that animal death has been happening for millions of years. If animal death is “very good” as Ross claims, then why would Almighty God demand that the picture of the death of his Son be represented by the death of an animal without blemish? The unjust death of the Son of God on a cruel cross was represented for thousands of years by the sacrifice of a lamb. According to Ross, lambs must not have value since they have been dying upon their emergence (Ross does not teach evolution) and that Adam’s sin had no effect on the bloodshed that has existed for millions of years.
- Genesis 1:29-30 – God clearly intended man and animals to be vegetarian. Prior to the sin of Adam and Eve, man and animals ate plants, and yet Ross teaches that predatory behavior existed for millions of years prior to the curse of sin.
- The Days of creation are not literal days – Redefining the biblical account, Ross teaches the same cosmic evolution as Dawkins, De Grasse, Bill Nye, and Stephen Hawkings: Big Bang Cosmology. Ross does not teach that the cosmos emerged from gravitational disturbances like Hawkings. Ross does teach that God began the universe by his great power, but after God created the universe, Ross teaches that the forces of the universe constructed stars, galaxies, and planets over billions of years. Ross claims that the Bible teaches the big bang cosmology by explaining expansion when God stretched out the heavens.
- Genesis 1 – The Hebrew word for day is “yom.” This word can be used similar to our English word for day in that it can mean 24 hour day or a period of time. Never have we found a usage of the word “yom” that means billions of years. Context is key, and in this context, the days are clearly limited to 24 hour periods. Each day is given an ordinal (the 1st day, the second day, the third day…) Each day is also bounded by evening and morning in a typical way that we understand 24-hour days to work. This is counter to what Ross teaches.
- There are Hebrew words for long periods of time, but none of them are used in this context. The only Hebrew word used in this passage is the word that means 24 hour day.
- Genesis 1:14-20 – Ross claims that the cosmos emerged from the big bang prior to the creation of earth, plants, fish and birds. This is opposite what the Bible teaches. He claims that the Hebrew word for day, “yom” is flexible enough to mean millions of years. Yet in Gen 1:14-20 the word day is being wildly stretched by Ross to mean both 24 hours (Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day (yom) from the night) and billions of years (and there was evening and there was morning – the fourth day (yom)). Is the word for day (yom) really so flexible to mean both 24 hours and billions of years in the same paragraph? This is a radical misinterpretation of the text that is counter to author’s intent.
- Exodus 20:11 – The Hebrews were told to work and rest in the same pattern as God performed his creative work. “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the seas, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.” The Hebrews were not commanded to work for six eras (billions of years) and then rest for an era as Ross would teach.
- Exodus 31:17 – This is further confirmation of the six day pattern that God established for his chosen people. It’s not just a pattern of ratios as Ross might ascribe. If it were just a pattern of ratios, God could have used a different word like he does in Daniel 9. It is clearly a pattern of days as the scripture reiterates.
- Mark 10:6 – Jesus declared that God created man and woman at the beginning of creation. According to atheists and Ross, the timeline of the universe is billions of years and mankind has only been present at the very end of this timeline. Jesus declared the opposite in his teaching to the Pharisees.
- Luke 11:49-51 – Jesus again declares that the beginning of the world was not billions of years prior to the creation of mankind. “Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel…”
- The Flood of Genesis 6-9 was a local flood – Ross says that the flood of Noah’s day was “universal.” What he means when he teaches this is that the flood was universal to Noah’s perspective…not global. Ross gets his radical interpretation from his understanding of Psalm 104:6. He assumes that the poetic context of Psalms 104 is ONLY about the creation week. Should we really use poetic accounts to re-interpret historical accounts? Poor exegesis.
- Genesis 6 and 7 – There are 20 superlatives (all, only, every, entire, everything…) describing the extent of the flood. To say that the flood is local, Ross has to bring his own interpretation to the text rather than letting the text speak for itself.
- Genesis 7:17-20 – “The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered.” The only mountains mentioned in the Genesis text are the mountains of Ararat. We know that the highest point in the mountains of Ararat is almost 17,000 feet high and if the ONLY mountains mentioned in the text were completely covered as said in verse 19, then we know that at a minimum the water level had to be at least 17,000 feet high. There is no basin in the middle east that can contain water levels over 17,000 feet high. So, to say that there was a local flood in the Mesopotamian basin that covered the mountains of Ararat but was not global is biased to the point of re-interpreting scripture for one’s own radical view.
- Genesis 9 – God promised never to flood the earth again like he did in the days of Noah. If Ross’s teaching of localized flood is true, how does that make God’s promise look? There have been countless devastating local floods since Noah’s day, but there has never been another global flood.
- Psalm 104:6 – Ross teaches that this poetic text is only about the creation week, so that waters could not cover the earth again during the flood. But the language of Psalm 104:6-9 has language that is closely tied to Noah’s account in Genesis 8 and 9 where God rebukes the waters back to the ocean basins. You can see later on in the passage of Psalm 104 that the lions roar for their prey, so this is clearly after the Fall (which is after the creation week) since God says, “to all the beasts of the earth… I give every green plants for food.” Predatory behavior is a post-fall result of the curse, so Psalm 104:6 cannot restrict the flood to local Mesopotamian basin. So, Ross’s assumption that Psalm 104 is only about the creation week is demonstrably wrong.
- Isaiah 54:9 – “To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.” The Hebrew word for earth is the same word for earth as in Genesis 1:1. If we use scripture as our guide to determine the depth and breadth of the flood, the way that Genesis uses the word “earth” is not in a regional manner…it is global.
- Genesis 6 – If it was a local flood, why did Noah have to spend over 100 years building a big boat? In 100 years, he could have moved anywhere on earth he wanted to avoid the localized storm. It only makes sense if the flood were global.
- 1 Peter 3:21 – The worldwide covering of the earth by water symbolizes baptism. If the flood was a local flood, does baptism just need to be partial covering of water? The symbolism of Jesus’ death (which was complete) and the complete covering of the earth by water, is strongly recognized in the complete submersion by water in baptism. Ross would have to disagree with this or create another “epicycle” to accommodate his teachings.
If it is so important that Christians remain united, why should we “create” controversy by identifying someone specifically for teaching differently? If someone claims to be a teacher of God’s Word, we should expect them to remain consistent with their exegesis. With Ross, we have found that many words have to be re-defined to fit his old earthism.
- Day = billions of years
- Literal = figurative
- Universal = small localized
- All = some
- Very Good = billions of years of death, disease, bloodshed
- Beginning of creation = billions of years after creation
So, it is the plasticity with which Ross interprets scripture that necessitates a scriptural rebuke. With interpretations like his, we get liberal churches ordaining gay ministers and other ignoring scriptures that do not fit their pre-conceived notions of political correctness. So, I invite Dr. Ross and those who have followed his teachings to return to unity in the teachings of the Bible.
With the exception of bringing in the scientifically verified height of the highest point in the mountains of Ararat, all of these points show problems with Ross’s biblical exegesis. There are also bountiful scientific evidences that corroborate the teachings of scripture and are in opposition to Ross’s teachings. Ross likes to say that nature is the 67th book of the Bible, and while this is wildly inaccurate, creation does verify the teachings of scripture and bring glory to God (Romans 1).
Since we can trust God’s revealed Word about the past, we can trust him with our future.
EXTRA CREDIT: Do a little thought experiment with me.
If God intended to reveal something like what Ross teaches about creation and the flood, I can think of thousands of revisions that would make it more clearly stated that the earth is billions of years old, that animals have suffered and died for millions of years, and there was a small flood in the middle east.
But how would you change the Bible to show that God intended to reveal that his creative works took 6 literal days about 6000 years ago and that he judged the entire world with a flood?