Review – A Matter of Days – Chapter 4

gray concrete post tunnel

Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

Wisdom of the Ages

In this chapter, Dr. Ross laments the idea that biblical creationists have published saying that for the balance of church history, the church has taught and believed in a recent creation. Dr. Ross gives examples of scholars from the 1st – 4th centuries that had doubts of the six day creation.

  • Philo – “It is quite foolish to think that the world was created in six days or in a space of time at all.”
  • Justin Martyr- Dr. Ross mentions Martyr, but not why he believes Martyr questioned the teachings of scripture.
  • Hippolytus – from Dr. Ross “most of his writings have been lost. What scholars have recovered gives no explicit indications of what he believed about the duration of the creation days or about the dates for creation beyond his statements that humans have resided on Earth for only several thousand years”
  • Eusebius – from Dr. Ross “However, nowhere did Eusebius address the universe’s or Earth’s creation dates or the length of the Genesis days.”
  • Ambrose – “Scripture established a law that twenty-four hours, including both day and night of one day should be given the name of day only, as if one were to say the length of one day is twenty-four hours in extent.”

If those are the scholars upon which Ross is relying to build a case that the church has historically held an old earth view in contradiction to the “young earth” view, he is sorely lacking in having built a case to favor his view. Instead of constructing an airtight case that the church has historically held to an old earth view, his outliers didn’t really help his case. 

In deafness to his own plea from chapter 1 not to be disrespectful to those Christians with whom he disagrees, on p42 Dr. Ross is disrespectful to those with whom he disagrees:

Now what man of intelligence will believe that the first, and the second, and the third day, and the evening and the morning existed without the Sun, Moon, and stars?

For an astronomer and astrophysicist, I would have expected Dr. Ross to know that the definition of a day is simply “a single rotation of the Earth on its axis”, but instead he mocks biblical creationists for their understanding of scripture’s teaching that there were days prior to the creation of the sun. This is not a problem at all for biblical creationists. From looking through scripture (2 Cor 4:6, Isa 60:19, Micah 7:8, Rev 21:23), it is not a stretch to say that God provided the necessary light until on day 4, He placed his created light sources in the heavens to bring Him glory. 

The problem is for the old earthers, who must account for billions of years prior to the sun/earth standard for defining a year.

  • How do the old earthers calibrate a year without the emergence of the sun/earth pair that defines a year?
  • What were time units called before the sun/earth combination?
  • How do they know there were almost 10 billion years…or ambiguous time units prior to the stellar objects necessary for the definition of a year actually existed?
  • They have a genuine problem with time, whereas the biblical creationist does not. 

A few pages later on p45, Ross continues his analysis of the early church fathers when he writes:

They wrote long before astronomical, geological, paleontological evidence for the antiquity of the universe, Earth, and life had been discovered.

Since he is trying to build a case that the universe is old instead of young, rather than actually building a case here, he simply states it. This is the fallacy of affirming the consequent.

Chapter 4 was both short in length and short on compelling arguments for Dr. Ross.

 

Back to the Table of Contents

Review – A Matter of Days – Chapter 2

pexels-photo-210205.jpeg

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.

 

Back to Table of Contents

Review – A Matter of Days – Chapter 1

Flash Point

Ch1

In his first chapter, Dr. Ross describes a few encounters with biblical creationists where Dr. Ross felt insulted and identified with derogatory names. I have to agree with Dr. Ross in this area that Christians should not use derogatory names to define those with whom we disagree. As thinking Christians, we should instead be able to identify the specific areas of disagreement and then go to our authority (the Bible) to correct those Christians, who are in error. This is the primary purpose for this book review.

Some might point to my blog post from 9/8/17 where I referred to the disciples of Dr. Ross as Rossians and accuse me of being hypocritical for having written the above sentence. But in the same way that those who follow the teachings of John Calvin are called Calvinists, and those who uphold the teachings of Martin Luther are referred to as Lutherans, so it is not unfair to name the disciples of Ross’s teachings as Rossians. It is not a pejorative but simply a collective description of the ideals that his particular brand of old earthism espouses. 

In the same vein, but from the flipside, have not the old-earthers referred to biblical creationists as “science-deniers”, “knuckle-draggers”, and “ignorant morons”? Criticizing those with whom one disagrees using pejoratives rather than reasoned arguments based on God’s Word is unhealthy and against Jesus’ command for Christians to love one another. We can all do better by thinking critically rather than letting emotions lead.

On page 14 Dr. Ross says

I was overjoyed to meet many Christians, even fellow scientists, who were convinced that the Bible is completely true.

Again, I agree with Dr. Ross that the Bible is completely true. So, why do Dr. Ross and I disagree so strongly about the age of the earth when we both believe the Bible to be completely true? Because to accommodate his old earth assumptions, he must re-interpret many words and passages. We will get into many more of the specifics as this book review continues, but the following chart is a very brief summary of the re-definitions of words that allows Ross to say “I believe all of the Bible” but still hold onto his old-earthism.

 

There are also several other groups who have claimed to believe the Bible to be completely true, but all the while holding onto grievous theological errors.

This is not to say that Dr. Ross is a heretic, but just because he claims to believe the whole Bible does not exempt him from poor exegesis and serious error.

On p14, Ross says

The solidity if the scientific evidence for both Earth’s origin (a few billion years ago) and the universe’s beginning (a few more billion years ago…

Three things with this comment:

  1. Before the sun/earth (as Ross would say) coalesced from dense clouds about 5 billion (MOYBOY) years ago:, what is a year? How do you calibrate a year before the “timepieces” that define a year cosmically evolve? And how do you estimate billions of those time units?
  2. He has conflated ‘interpretations of observations’ for ‘scientific evidence.’ We find this particular conflation throughout the book – including in the next page when he says “Evangelical leaders who believe the Bible is true and that the universe and Earth are as old as the stars and rocks…” We find this particular conflation throughout the book. Interpretations of observations ≠ evidence
  3. What he has attempted to prove in his book (that the Bible teaches a very old universe) he has simply assumed to be true. This is the fallacy of assuming the consequent or circular reasoning.

Later on p15 he says “Now the hurricane of controversy whirls around a peripheral point – the age of the universe and the Earth.”

If it is a peripheral point and he is dismissive of the reasons it is a controversy, why then did Dr. Ross write a 389 page book about it? The age of the earth, in and of itself may be a peripheral issue, but the way that a Christian comes to the conclusion of the age of the earth is not. The age of the earth is a question of authority and biblical interpretation. Does God’s eternal Word have authority over modern academic paradigms, culture, political, and historical jurisdictions or can those disciplines bring force over the interpretation of the Bible?

Biblical thinking rejects those other disciplines as having authority over God’s Word, but we see over and over that Ross allows modern academic paradigms to re-interpret the eternal Word of God. It is called eisegesis, and Ross appears to be an Eisegesis-ninja

On p17 Ross uses the strawman fallacy to construct an easily defeatable caricature of biblical creationists, so that he can mock it

These comments expose the widely held assumption that all evangelical Christians reject the integrity of science and accept young-earth creationism.

Biblical creationists do NOT reject the integrity of science. Biblical creationists reject the old earth assumptions that precede evaluation of evidence, which result in old earth conclusions. Science has integrity because the Bible is true. For science to work, there must be pre-conditions of intelligibility that are immutable, abstract, and absolute. Some of these pre-conditions are laws of logic, math, truth, morality, and induction. The God of the scriptures is immutable, transcendent, and absolute, so He is the only sufficient justification for the pre-conditions of intelligibility, thus making science both possible and trustworthy. Since the Bible is true, we know that the Eternal Creator, who knows everything and never lies, has revealed some things, so that we can know them for certain. Part of what He has revealed is the historical creation of the universe.

On p19 Ross makes an interesting claim:

In the past I’ve called this difference between young and old-earth proponents trivial, referring only to mathematical terms. My intent was to indicate that young- and old-earth creationists are mathematically much closer to one another than they are to any form of naturalism. Thus, the controversy seems largely unnecessary.

The main reasons why the controversy is necessary is because:

  1. Ross uses modern academic paradigms to re-interpret scripture. Nothing has authority to interpret scripture but scripture itself.
  2. Ross teaches that death/suffering/destruction/predation/thorns (the very curses for sin) all existed for hundreds of millions of years prior to the sin of mankind. That makes the difference between Rossian beliefs and biblical creationists both necessary and a gospel issue.

 

Back to Table of Contents

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.

 

Back to Table of Contents

Book Review: A Matter of Days 2nd Edition by Hugh Ross

AMOD_Cover

Writing a book is indeed a huge and trying undertaking. Reviewing a book is, by comparison, far easier and is rather painless. So, I will begin my review of A Matter of Days by Dr. Hugh Ross by recognizing the tremendous effort and time that he and his staff put into publishing a high quality book.

For those interested in the topic of biblical creation, theology, origins, science, and biblical interpretation, you will probably appreciate the book. It is 389 pages long including the appendices, notes, index, and biography. It contains 23 chapters.

The overall theme of the book is Dr. Ross building a case for old earthism in contrast to young earth creationism (henceforth to be referred to as biblical creation).

My plan for this review is to take each chapter as a separate blog post and keep track of the entire review in a “table of contents” format for easy navigating. I have purposefully not read any other reviews of this book, so that the contents of this review are entirely of my own reasoning. However, I will link to many outside sources to validate points and allow readers to further investigate points throughout the review. The exception to “other reviews” is part of the analysis of chapter 17. The reason for this is that I am not a practicing professional astrophysicist, and most of that chapter deals with astrophysics. Many of the points Dr. Ross makes in this chapter will need outside resources for proper reviewing.

My hope is that this review drives Christians back to God’s Word to study and grow…so that the believer knows God better and can thus worship Him in spirit and in truth with a fuller understanding of His greatness!

Introduction – Dawn of a New Day

Flash Point

The Gathering Storm

The Clouds Burst

Wisdom of the Ages

The Creedal Climate

Toward Better Interpretations

Anchored in Scripture

Guided By Theology

Good God, Cruel World

Peace Through Paradise

Young-Earth Darwinism?

Faith, Morality, and Long Creation Days

Big Bang: The Bible Said It First

Scientific Signs of Old Age

Challenges to an Old Cosmos

The Reliability of Radiometric Dating

The Scientific Case for a Young Cosmos

Physical Reality Breaks Through the Fog

Narrow Time Windows

The Significance of Man

A Clear “Day” Interpretation

Councils Attempt to Bring Calm

Tranquility through Testing

Why Disagree With Jesus?

Rose

This article from AIG was enjoyable to read. When a Christian apologist was surprisingly confronted with an accusation of teaching false information, this was the response:

“In the context of the first marriage between Adam and Eve, do you think Jesus was wrong in Mark 10:6 when He said that God made them male and female at the beginning of creation? Or do you believe that the creation has been around for 13 billion years and marriage first came about at the end of creation a few thousand years ago with Adam and Eve?”

The apologist, Bodie Hodge, then wrote an article documenting the encounter and laying out a case for why this question is unanswerable for those who want to believe both Old Earthism and the words of Jesus. One belief or the other will be compromised…and as we will see below, many Christians choose to hold more tightly to their Old Earthism.

Mr. Hodge lays out a solid case in his article showing the typical responses he’s gotten from those holding old earth positions and why they fail:

  1. “Biblical creationists have the same problem since Adam/Eve were not created at the beginning since they were created on day 6 and not day 1.”
    1. This is a poor response from old-earthers because then they bring the words Jesus said in to question. Jesus includes the creation week as “the beginning of creation” because (since He is the Creator) man and woman were made on day 6. The old-earther assumes incorrectly that only the 1st picosecond (or 1 minute or 1st day…) of God’s creative works to be “the beginning”. This response claims Jesus was wrong. Don’t be like those who respond this way, because Jesus cannot be wrong.
  2. “Jesus was talking about the beginning of marriage. This passage deals only with marriage not the age of the earth.”
    1. This is another poor response from the old-earther, but is sadly more typical of the way many people want to read scripture. Or should I say read INTO scripture. Jesus said “At the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.” Like the Jehovah’s Witnesses do with John 1:1 to avoid the clear teaching that Jesus is indeed God, old-earthers like to add the words “of marriage” to protect their old age beliefs and rather than see the actual words of Jesus, they actually put words in his mouth. They would rather reinterpret God’s revealed Word to protect their old age beliefs than let scripture speak.
  3. “The beginning of creation is just the figurative 6 days (13 billion years)”
    1. What the old-earthers are doing here is redefining the word “beginning” to mean whatever they want. In this case, they want it to mean 13 billion years (Also, what is a year prior to sun/earth revolutions?). Jesus spoke the words recorded in Mark 10:6 about 4000 years after Adam was created. To make their reinterpretation of “the beginning of creation” work, using a scale of 1 inch to represent the 4000 years Jesus was talking about, the beginning of 13 billion years is almost 52 MILES away. That’s a strange (at best) way to refer to marriage happening after 13 billion years. Will the End time be an equal amount away from when Jesus spoke these words? Should Christians expect another 13 billion years before Christ makes his glorious return? Only if you’re a consistent old-earther.

Old Earthism just cannot get around the pivotal words of Jesus without accusing Jesus of wrong, changing scripture, or redefining words.

This is just ONE example from scripture that refutes old earthism. There are many others than just the ones linked below:

After posting the link to Mr. Hodge’s article on Twitter, an old-earther decided to write a rebuttal article here.

The author of that article, who goes by Christian Defenders (CD), makes no attempt to answer the actual piece that Mr. Hodge originally wrote. CD simply argues that the Hebrew word for day (yom) can have multiple meanings. Clearly, CD has never investigated any teachings of biblical creationists, because we all know this to be true. The rule of hermaneutics is that when biblical interpretation is needed, we use scripture to interpret. The days of Genesis 1 were intended by the author to communicate a literal 24 hour day. I cover this information in greater detail here. Exodus 20:1 is strong evidence that the beginning of creation is speaking of literal days, because it actually refers to the Genesis 1 account when God tells the Jews to work for 6 days and rest on the 7th day, just like God did during creation week.

In his closing, CD laments that Hodge uses the phrase “undermine the gospel”. It would be wise for CD to read to context to see why Hodge uses this phrase. Because if one attributes theological errors to Jesus, then the gospel IS undermined. Not mentioned by Hodge, but shown above, old-earthism demands that death, suffering, and thorns be present prior to the curse of sin. But Genesis 3 clearly teaches that these enemies are a result of the rebellion of mankind. God spoke that his creation was not just good seven times, but VERY good. It was only after this, that man sinned and God cursed creation with death, suffering, and thorns. Believing old-earthism CAN be a gospel issue.

It’s not that old-earthers have a vendetta and are out to take down Christianity from the inside, but when they allow outside influences, interpretations, and culture to participate in biblical interpretation, then heresies abound! It’s the same type of thinking that allows gay ministers (because – culture) and women pastors praying for Planned Parenthood (because – social justice)…

As someone who believes the Bible clearly teaches what the world refers to as young earth creationism, I do not care so much about the age of the earth directly as much as I am passionate about correct exegesis of scripture. God revealed Himself in creation, in the Bible, and in Jesus. All of these revelations are self authenticating and in agreement. As shown, Jesus speaks of a young earth. As shown here, creation speaks of a young earth. Finally, with exegesis and the conclusion of our understanding of God’s revelation, the Bible teaches of a young earth.

Because we can trust God about his revelation of history, we can trust Him with our future.