Review – A Matter of Days – Chapter 6

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Toward Better Interpretations

As Christians, we should all be like the Berians in Acts 17 – examining the scriptures everyday to make sure that the words spoken are true. Dr. Ross has written words in a book, so we will examine the scriptures to see if what he has said is true. The following is a picture from p53

Ch6

I agree with the bullet point list that Dr. Ross has included. This is a good start, and a point of agreement between biblical creationists and old earth advocates. 

On the same page, Dr. Ross writes 

Second, the Bible also declares that the record of nature is a reliable and understandable means for God to speak to people

He goes on to list Psalm 19:1-4 and Romans 1:18-20 as confirmation of this statement. But what does he mean by “record of nature”?

As already noted in the Introduction and The Creedal Climate, Ross views the record of nature as the 67th book of scripture – with the same authority as the eternal word, so I won’t go into that same rebuttal here. What I will say is that what Ross means is 

record of nature = “the old age interpretation of observations”

But this is NOT true. The record of nature looks exactly as one would expect from a biblical creationist’s perspective.

Ross then raises three reasons why there is a controversy between old and young earth proponents:

  • Language Barriers
  • Human Limitations
  • Inadequate Testing

Language Barrier

In the section on language barriers, he attributes the disagreement between old and young earth views to the English language.

By no coincidence does the creation-day controversy rage most fiercely among English-speaking Christians. Such readers of the Bible may be unaware of the nuances of meaning in the various Hebrew verbs used to describe God’s creative activities in Genesis 1 and 2.

There are English speaking scholars, to whom this topic is quite important, and Dr. Steven Boyd is one such scholar. In his technical paper: Statistical Determination of Genre in Biblical Hebrew: Evidence for an Historical Reading of Genesis 1:1-2:3, Dr. Boyd has determined with 99.9973% accuracy that the text itself is narrative as opposed to poetic. 

NarrativeVsPoetry

While I’m quite sure many English speakers are unaware of nuances in the Hebrew language, I’m not nearly as sure that Dr. Ross is aware that the Hebrew calendar is different from the more common (in the west) Gregorian calendar in use today. The Gregorian calendar year, as I write this is 2020. The Hebrew calendar is calibrated to count years forward from the creation week, and the current Hebrew calendar year is 5780. And while modern Hebrew language is not exactly like the biblical Hebrew, it is easily recognizable as the same language. So, the Hebrew-speaking people, who are more familiar with Hebrew language nuance celebrate 5780 years since creation. So, Dr. Ross, shouldn’t claim authority in the Hebrew language, when the Hebrew calendar strongly supports biblical creation rather than old earthism. 

In the very next sentence, Dr. Ross says of the Hebrew word “yom”:

With so many words in English to describe long time periods (having specific start and end points), many readers don’t realize that in biblical Hebrew only once such word exists.

This is totally false

There are several Hebrew words that describe long time periods

  • Zeman H2165 – appoint time, season (Ecc 1:1)
  • Eth H6256 – time, occurance (Ecc 1:1)
  • Qedem – Ancient
  • Olam – days of old
  • Tor – Generations of days/nights
  • Tamid – Continuation of days
  • Ad – forever
  • Shanah – Year, or in the plural could mean a very long time

Yet, God chose to communicate his creative works as having taken six days, which is a word that has clear meaning both in the Genesis 1 text and confirmed to be ordinary days in Exodus 20:11. To communicate something like what Dr. Ross proposes, God could have chosen to use

  • Any one of those Hebrew words for long time periods as shown above
  • Plural of “yom” in conjunction with a word for a great multitude of days
  • Poetic language of a great magnitude of days like He did with Abram: Gen 15:5 (stars of the sky, sand on the seashore)

But this is not the case. God used the word “yom” and it has definite boundaries of meaning, which do not include billions of years. Nowhere in scripture can we find anything that means what Dr. Ross would like to attribute to the word “yom”. He has no exegetical grounds to make this claim.

 

Human Limitations

In this section, Dr. Ross tells a story of “more than one young-earth creationist leader”, who is unwilling to study further or have ongoing dialogue. It sounds like he is leaning towards using the sweeping generalization fallacy against ALL young-earth creationists: Since a few think this way, they ALL must think this way. Had he done any reading on the teachings of biblical creationists at ICR, AIG, or CMI, he would know that Bible study is very important to these well-qualified scientists and scholars. 

I wonder if Dr. Ross is willing to reconsider his view based on the rebuttals included herein (or by other faithful Christian scientists/scholars)…or if Dr. Ross’s encouragement for people to “overcome biased and incomplete interpretations” is intended only for his opponents.

Testing Interpretations

In the first part of this section, I am in agreement with Dr. Ross when referring to John Moore’s analysis of creation vs. evolution, where Moore says “(creation) is based on faith” and “(evolution) is based on confirmable evidence.” Dr. Ross writes:

Current culture subscribes to this false dichotomy: facts and faith don’t mix. Yet the Bible claims that faith is built on reasonable evidence. Both the Old and New Testaments emphasize the importance of testing, of making sure the evidence supports the truth claims.

The creation account in Genesis is eye-witness testimony from the Almighty, who knows everything, and is eternally faithful. We can trust his revelation from the historical account in Genesis…so we would expect the observations of evidence to match his revelation. This is exactly what is observed today

Conversely, those who claim that science has disproved the Bible, or in Dr. Ross’s case – forced a radical re-interpretation of scripture to accommodate the modern paradigm, are burdened with conflicting observations:

Ross continues:

Both the and New Testaments emphasize the importance of testing, of making sure the evidence supports truth claims. Moses instructed the Israelites to test individuals who claimed to be speaking or writing under divine inspiration (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). The prophet Malachi quoted God as saying,

“Test me in this” (Malachi 3:10). The apostle Paul urged Christ’s followers, “Test everything. Hold on to the good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The apostle John similarly wrote, “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1John 4:1).

I agree, that we should test. The Bible is correct again! Where Dr. Ross stumbles, is the STANDARD by which we are to test. His claims are that we should test against the findings of modern academic paradigms. As Christians, we should test against SCRIPTURE. The standard is God’s special revelation in his eternal Word…not the ever-changing interpretations of observations.

To be fair to Dr. Ross, he does not entirely miss the importance of testing against the scriptures as he writes:

In addition, Luke affirmed the importance of testing by complimenting people in Berea who “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). The Bereans set an important example for us as they tested Paul’s words and checked his teaching against the law, history, songs, and prophecies preserved through the centuries with confirmed accuracy

Even in that quote, we can see that Ross expects outside sources to be accurate authorities by which scripture can be confirmed. But outside sources (indeed all of creation) must bend the knee to God and his eternal Word.

Later on p57, I find myself again agreeing with Dr. Ross when he pens

History reveals that the scientific method of investigation-a method developed by Renaissance men well-grounded in God’s Word-has its roots in Scripture. Biblical convictions and values, as well as intellectual drive and prowess, gave rise to the scientific age. The modern scientific revolution emerged at both the times and locations of the Protestant Reformation. Scottish theologian Thomas Torrance and an interdisciplinary team of scholars have documented how Christian theology (and Reformed theology in particular) played a critical role in the birth and development of the scientific method that led to amazing advances.

God’s revelation permits and encourages science. Believers need not fear science. ALL truth is God’s truth, and the more that is discovered, the more God’s special revelation is corroborated. The more we can glorify God for his amazing designs

In his section titled “Evaluating Interpretations”, Ross writes

Much of the conflict concerning the creation account comes from the presumption that the biblical teaching on creation resides primarily in Genesis 1 and 2. Christians and non-Christians tend to develop their interpretations of Genesis 1 and 2 without testing them for consistency with the other 21 creation-relevant passages in the Bible.

Ross then includes the chart on the following page:

p59Chart

Since this section is titled evaluating interpretations, let’s evaluate this chart. As Hebrew scholars note, Genesis 1-11 is intended by the author for his readers to see the text as historical narrative and not poetry. The rest of Genesis is also history, but old earthers want to arbitrarily segment Genesis 1-11 as somehow metaphorical in nature to avoid the refutation of their view that comes with consistency. So, Genesis is historical narrative and should be read as intended: history. This is in opposition to the Psalms, which are considered poetic in nature. In Ross’s interpretations, he values Psalm 104 above all other creation-relevant passages because he feels this passage restricts the worldwide flood of Noah’s day to a mere local flood. However, in the same passage that Dr. Ross feels in ironclad proof, Psalm 104 includes these poetic phrases:

  • You (the LORD) are clothed with splendor
  • He wraps Himself in light as with a garment
  • He stretches out the heavens like a tent
  • He lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters
  • He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind
  • He makes the winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants

All of these statements are true, but they are not literal. They are poetic and should be interpreted as such. Yet, counter to proper hermeneutics, Dr. Ross re-interprets the historical account of Genesis 6-9 (and Isaiah 54:9 and 2 Peter 3:5-6) based on this graphically symbolic poetry  and mandates that the rest of Psalm 104 is giving historical & chronological accounting. Not good exegesis.

Digging deeper into his chart, Dr. Ross denotes that Genesis 3 tells of the introduction of sin into God’s very good creation. We know that God’s creation (prior to sin) was “very good” because seven times in Genesis 1, God calls his creation “good” and on the pinnacle seventh time, He says “very good.” And we know that animals and humans were mandated to consume fruits, nuts, and vegetables prior to the rebellion of mankind. But Dr. Ross believes there was millions of years death, cancer, suffering, predation and thorns prior to the sin of mankind. Yet, Genesis 3 tells us specifically that the curse of sin is death, suffering, and thorns. How does Dr. Ross get away with such extreme contradictions? He unsuccessfully tries to accommodate death, disease, suffering and thorns as “Very Good” in Chapter 9. We’ll cover more about that in a couple of chapters. But even now, you can see that he simply inserts his own assumptions & definitions into the text in DIRECT OPPOSITION to the actual words to save his old earth theory.

Looking again at the chart, why would Dr. Ross NOT include key creation-relevant verses like Exodus 20:11, Exodus 31:17, Isaiah 54:9, Matthew 23:35, Matthew 24:38-39, & Mark 10:6? Could it be that he avoided them because they refute his old earth theory? We’ll discuss these specific passages in the subsequent chapters when Dr. Ross does finally recognize and try to account for them.

 

Testability and Predictability

In this section Ross writes a plea to those who are interested in testing opposing creation models. 

One of the most important tests of an interpretive model (detailed interpretation of a particular phenomenon or a related set of phenomena) is how well the model survives vigorous attempts to falsify it and how accurately it ‘predicts’, or anticipates, discoveries.

That’s not an unfair statement, but before considering falsifiability, one must have an ultimate authority. For the Christian, the ultimate authority is God and his Word. So, before any testing of conflicting creation models empirically, the models must be consistent with scripture. As shown and will continue to be shown as the review continues, old earthism fails to be consistent with scripture unless massive redefinitions of key words and passages is performed.

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.

UPDATE: Here’s what scientist and apologist Dr. Jason Lisle has to say about the Hebrew word for “day” (yom)

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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 – 1

The Gathering Storm – 2

The Clouds Burst – 3

Wisdom of the Ages – 4

The Creedal Climate – 5

Toward Better Interpretations – 6

Anchored in Scripture – 7 Part 1

Anchored in Scripture – 7 Part 2

Guided By Theology – 8

Good God, Cruel World – 9

Peace Through Paradise – 10

Young-Earth Darwinism? – 11

Faith, Morality, and Long Creation Days – 12

Big Bang: The Bible Said It First – 13

Scientific Signs of Old Age – 14

Challenges to an Old Cosmos – 15

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

No More Eisegesis

In a debate with astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle, Hugh Ross tries to defend his old universe claims in contradiction to God’s written revelation and the words of Jesus. The moderator, Frank Turek asked Hugh Ross If there was anything that refuted the biblical claims of Jason Lisle. Ross talked about his books. To be fair, Turek asked Dr. Lisle what book would refute Hugh Ross. In one of the best debate responses of all time, Lisle held up the Bible as the book that refutes Hugh Ross. If you watch the linked debate above, this golden moment happens about 1:17:24.

HughRossRefuted

God has chosen to reveal Himself through his written Word, through creation, and through Jesus. With this starting point, we can conclude that each of these revelations are cohesive in their message.

  • God’s written revelation begins with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.” The rest of Genesis 1 and Exodus 20:11 tell us that God did his creative work in 6 days. Genesis 1 also tells us seven times that God describes his creation as he describes himself: good. God’s written revelation also describes how mankind’s rebellion brought a curse on all of creation, and this is why we all experience suffering and death. We also see in God’s written word that His plan of redemption through Jesus will defeat death (I Cor 15) and bring all things under the authority of Jesus.
  • God’s revelation in creation is sufficient evidence to bring judgment on those who suppress knowledge of the Creator in their wickedness (Romans 1)
  • God’s revelation in Jesus is the fulfillment of all of His plans throughout history.

Satan has tried since the beginning to discredit God’s plan and pervert the revelations. For years, Hugh Ross and his followers have been using his unbiblical assumptions to interpret scripture. They have an unusual belief that some of the secular interpretations of nature are another book of the Bible. They take the billions of years that secular scientists claim as the age of the universe and shoehorn them into the Bible, where none of that time exists. Dr. Ross’s followers even developed a non-biblical timeline to try to bring the Bible into alignment with secular astronomy’s interpretations of evidence.

ReasonsTimeline

God’s word is clear in its message, even though there are places in the Bible that need interpretation. As Christians, we cannot let one’s own assumptions guide the interpretation of scripture. That’s called eisegesis. The proper interpretation method is to use scripture to interpret scripture. This is consistent and faithful.