Review – A Matter of Days – Chapter 2

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The Gathering Storm

In this short chapter, Ross attacks who he thinks is responsible for the conflict between biblical creationists and old earthers.

In the mid-seventeenth  century, however, two British scholars, John Lightfoot and James Ussher, produced commentaries that seeded the clouds of dissention. In their zeal for exactitude (and personal competition), they inadvertently opened the gates for a drenching dogmatism that divided Christian from Christian, and faith from fact, for centuries to come.

 

  1. Why would Ross use the term dissension? Ussher was reading his Bible and making use of his reason to learn about history. It is only dissension if someone disagrees with the Bible, and Ussher is in direct agreement with the Bible.
  2. “Zeal for exactitude” Should we not all desire to be zealous for truth? Ross is being pedantic here by criticizing a biblical scholar for wanting to be studious and careful in his research
  3. It’s hypocritical that Ross would criticize these biblical scholars for their “exactitude” because Ross is routinely quoted online and even in this book (p150) “the age of the universe is 13.79 billion years +/-  0.06 billion years”. It’s not ok for 17th century biblical scholars to propose an age of the universe with 4 significant digits, but Ross can do it?!?!?! 
  4. Ross builds this up as if Ussher created a schism within Christianity, but is that really the case? The Hebrew calendar year is 5780 in January 2020 when this blog was written. Interesting that the Hebrew calendar is set to have begun at creation and is counting forward in time. So, is Ross’s claim that Ussher created a schism within Christianity, or have the old-earthers like Ross created the division to accommodate the modern academic paradigm? Given the evidence of the Hebrew calendar year, it appears as if Dr. Ross is the one who has diverged from the biblical teaching in order to be acceptable to modern academic scholars.

On p22 Ross writes

Both Lightfoot and Ussher ignored Hebrew scholarship and assumed no generations were omitted from the biblical genealogies. They assumed the Genesis 1 creation days to be six consecutive 24-hour periods.

While Ross’s book is filled with citations (92 pages), nowhere does he cite why he thinks Lightfoot and Ussher “ignored Hebrew scholarship”. Should Ussher be alive today, he might consider that accusation something of a slight…especially when Hebrew scholars confirm over and over the interpretations that Ussher used.

Which generations does Dr. Ross assume were missing? He doesn’t say and there’s no citation to investigate why he thinks such a strange thing.

 

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Review – A Matter of Days – Introduction

Dr. Ross begins his book by explaining part of the reason for his book:

Debates over the age of the universe and earth and the length of the Genesis creation days have-for the past several decades-deeply divided the evangelical Christian community…This impediment to Christian unity appears to be heightening into a storm of ferocious fury.

He is correct here. He is attempting in his book to provide a rebuttal to those who hold a young earth position, so that the “unity” for which he longs is really the eradication of the ideas of the other side. There is significant division on this point, but he seems not to understand the totality of the division when he writes, 

What could generate such tension and divisiveness? One simple word: ‘day’.

While the word day is the catalyst for such division, the totality of the argument is better understood to be ‘biblical interpretation.’ What things can be used to interpret the Bible? How much does context matter when interpreting words? Where there appear to be tensions between the Bible and interpretations of observations, which side of the tug-of-war maintains authority in interpreting the other. 

I’ll come back to this point repeatedly since throughout the book Dr. Ross echos that modern interpretations of observations that he calls ‘nature’s record’ and ‘scientific facts’ are authoritative over scripture. Being familiar with his arguments, he calls nature the 67th book of scripture or the “book of nature”. He cites passages like Romans 1:20, which says “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” as confirmation of the book of nature. While I do believe every word of the text, Ross’s interpretation of the passage is that instead of the revelation of God in creation being sufficient for a person’s judgment, that modern paradigms that interpret creation can be used to re-interpret special revelation. However, Genesis 3:17 (God-”Cursed is the ground”), Romans 8:20-21 (“For the creation was subjected to frustration…hope that creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to corruption”) and nature CANNOT have the same authority as God’s special revelation in the Bible. 

Proper biblical hermeneutics maintains that only scripture can interpret scripture. When there appears to be tension between the Bible and some competing jurisdiction (scientific paradigm, cultural, political, historical…), SCRIPTURE must be the authority. Competing ‘authorities’ must be submissive to God’s eternal revelation. Throughout the book, Dr. Ross tries to build the case that interpretations of fallen creation can interpret God’s eternal Word.

hermeneutics

Dr. Ross (and other old earthers) takes liberty with the Hebrew word for ‘day’ (yom), which he is able to stretch the meaning from 12 hours to billions of years. With a range that large, where day can essentially mean ANYTHING, does it have meaning at all? Using the same ranges would it be fair to use the word ‘puddle’ for both a body of water that is 

8,000,000,000 feet deep and 8,000,000,000 feet in diameter

AND

2 inches deep and 2 inches in diameter?

 

As the word puddle would lose all meaning if it could describe everything from a splash to a body of water twice the size of the sun, so the world ‘day’ loses all meaning if abnormally forced to include both “all time” and 24 hours.

Having said this, biblical creationists do recognize the Hebrew word (yom) has some flexibility. Like its English counterpart, yom can be daylight hours, 24 hours, or a season of time. But nowhere in scripture does yom have the pliability to accommodate billions of years as Ross suggests. To get this definition, he is forced to bring his outside assumptions into the scriptural text. This process is called eisegesis, and when interpreting the Biblical text, eisegesis is a NO-NO.

 

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