A Review of Hugh Ross
For any teaching to gain a hearing, it has to have one or more proponents who are teaching or defending the view. "Old earth creationism" has several major proponents. One of the most prominent of those proponents in evangelical circles is Hugh Ross.
Who is Hugh Ross?
Hugh Norman Ross is president of Reasons to Believe, Inc., Pasadena, CA. He has a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Toronto, and he was former Minister of Evangelism at the Sierra Madre Congregational Church. As to Ross' beliefs about creation and evolution he is classified as a Progressive Creationist.(1)
Some of his beliefs on creation will be discussed below. When you log on to Ross' web page you find an opening statement that contains many noble causes. Here is an excerpt from one page:
Reasons To Believe was founded in 1986 to:
Many in the secular society and the Christian community have operated under the untruth that science and faith are at odds with one another. The common response -- we must either choose between them or keep them apart.
The mission of Reasons To Believe is to show that science and faith are, and always will be, allies, not enemies. Our mission is to bring that life-changing truth to as many people as possible, both believers and unbelievers.
Our message challenges atheists and agnostics to reconsider their worldview. We want to help skeptics find answers to those questions that bar them from entrusting their lives to Christ. And we want to help Christians find new joy and confidence in worshiping God as they shed their fear of science.
So, whether you are a skeptical inquirer, a new Christian, or one who has enjoyed a long relationship with the Lord, we look forward to providing you with materials that will keep you informed about up-to-the-minute discoveries in the sciences and how they harmonize with God's revelation in the words of the Bible.
It is our conviction that since the same God who "authored" the universe also inspired the writings of Scripture, a consistent message will come through both channels. In other words, the facts of nature will agree with, not contradict, the words of the Bible. We explore problems and propose resolutions in a variety of ways.
Please let us now how we can serve you. We look forward to a lasting relationship.
Dr. Hugh Ross
This all sounds good, but when you examine the beliefs of Hugh Ross closely you find that many of them run contradictory to the Bible. Below are a few examples of his beliefs taken primarily from his book Creation and Time.(2)
1. Ross believes that the age of the earth is actually a "trivial" issue. To build his case, Ross downplays the difference between the young-earth creationist and the old-creationist saying the difference between the two men is "only six zeros" (10,000 year old earth vs. 10,000,000,000 year old earth). No, the difference is over a proper interpretation of Genesis 1-2 and other Bible passages. Like Hill Roberts,(3) Ross believes that the young-earth creationist is actually the one at fault for keeping scientists from coming to faith in Christ. Ross believes that the young-earth approach to creation is a "stumblingblock" and a "barrier" to the modern scientist. He says, "As circumcision distorted the gospel and hampered evangelism, so, too, does young-universe creationism."
Response: So, if the young-earth creationist would simply stop saying that the Bible teaches a young-earth, then unbelieving scientists would soon be knocking down the doors of the church building trying to get in and they would be lining up in large numbers to be baptized! Who can believe it? Roberts and Ross are naïve to think that the age of the earth is the central issue keeping unbelieving scientists from the faith.
2. Ross believes that many scholars, from the early Church Fathers on down, were correct in believing that the "days" of Genesis 1 were actually long periods of time.
Response: While it does make for interesting Church History, we do not quote what scholars have believed in the past to prove what the Scriptures teach.
3. Ross believes that the Hebrew word yom ("day") in Genesis 1 actually means eons of time. He establishes his opinion with what he believes to be nine points of evidence. They are: (1) Psa.90:4; (2) "day" is used for time in general; (3) the function of a chronology; (4) the Hebrew syntax suggests that "day" be taken in some unusual manner; (5) the seventh day is an ongoing day of great length; (6) the events of the sixth day could not have been accomplished in 24 hours; (7) the word "day" in Gen.2:4 refers to a period of time longer than 24 hours; (8) Psa.90:2-6; Prov.8:22-31; Eccl.1:3-11; and Mic.6:2 point to an ancient earth, not a young earth; and, (9) Hab.3:6 and 2 Pet.3:5 tells us the earth is ancient.
Response: When these arguments are examined it becomes clear that Ross turns to his own opinions, eisegesis and taking passages out of context to establish his arguments.
4. Ross believes that God would not deceive people today by creating a universe with the appearance of age when it was not really that old.
Response: In fact, the deceit is found in God telling us that He created everything in "six days" (Ex.20:11; 31:17) when actually He did it in billions of years. Now that's deceitful!
5. Ross believes that God's book of natural revelation tells us the age of the earth.
Response: There are some important points to keep in mind. First, God's natural revelation does tell us something (Psa.19:1-4; Rom.1:20), but is that something the age of the earth? Read those scriptures again. They tell us of God's existence and power. Second, nature is subject to man's interpretation of the scientific data and that interpretation could be wrong. Third, scientific dating methods are subject to error and therefore are not always accurate.
6. Ross believes that death, pain and suffering existed for billions of years before the six days of creation in Genesis 1 and prior to the sin of Adam and Eve.
Response: The Bible teaches that sin and death entered the world with the sin of Adam and Eve (Gen.2:17; 3:17-19; Rom.5:12ff; 1 Cor.15:20-23).
7. Ross believes that God is no less powerful for taking more that 144 hours (six, 24-hour days) to create.
Response: God's power is not the issue one way or the other. The issue is what does the text of Genesis 1 teach.
8. Ross believes that the universe is billions of years old and he rejects as nonsense any evidence produced by scientists that the earth is only a few thousand years old. He says the "established facts of nature" and the "acceptance of physical reality" all point to a universe that is billions of years old. Ross appeals to three physical evidences: (1) the expansion rate of the universe; (2) the rate of stellar (star) burning; and, (3) abundance of radioactive elements. Ross says these evidences argue "strongly for certainty."
Response: Ross is wrong. What we have is scientific data that is open to a variety of interpretations and constant revision. The reader is encouraged to examine what other believing scientists say about the same data. No one is opposed to accepting "physical reality;" it is the testing and interpretation of that reality that needs to be questioned.
9. Ross believes that God started the universe with the Big Bang.
Response: The Big Bang Theory, once used by atheistic evolutionists, is now used by Ross and adapted to fit his brand of creationism.
10. Ross believes the sun, moon and stars existed billions of years (10 to 15 billion) before the six days of creation. Ross believes that God made the sun, moon and stars visible on the fourth day, but God did not create them on that day.
Response: The Bible teaches that the sun, moon and stars were created on the fourth day (Gen.1:14-19).
11. Ross believes that God created some sea life before the six creation days began.
Response: The Bible teaches that sea life was created by God for the first time on the fifth day (Gen.1:20-23).
12. Ross believes that mankind came at the end of creation, about 17 billion years after God began creation.
Response: The Bible teaches that mankind existed from the beginning of creation (Mk.10:6).
13. Ross believes that the flood was local, not global.
Response: The Bible speaks about a world-wide flood (Gen.6:7; 7:21-23).
Hugh Ross' books, Creation and Time and The Creator and the Cosmos are widely accepted in the religious world at large. Among brethren in Christ, the books have gained some attention mainly as a result of being placed in the "Top Eight" on Hill Roberts' recommended reading list. On Hill Roberts' LIB CD-ROM (Version 99.01) that has been produced for the public, space has been given to recommend Hugh Ross' works. In addition, Hill Roberts has identified himself with Hugh Ross by speaking for him. In the 1998 annual report located on Roberts' CD-ROM the following statement is found: "Hill engaged by Reasons to Believe for their 'Speakers Bureau.'" A "speakers bureau" is an outreach for an organization designed to make the public aware of the organization and what it is trying to accomplish through public speeches. Hill Roberts is now speaking on behalf of Hugh Ross and his organization Reasons to Believe based in Pasadena, CA. In a quarterly report posted on Hugh Ross' Reason to Believe website, this report may be found regarding the work of Hill Roberts: " Hill Roberts, of Huntsville, who gave 12 hours of apologetics lectures at Cornell University (New York) and led an outreach at Heritage Baptist Church, Montgomery (Ala.)." The association between the two in their common work is evident.
If a basic critique could be made of Hill Roberts' recommendations it would be that he has attempted to "stacked the deck" against the evidence for a young earth. He highly recommends books by Hugh Ross, Alan Hayward, Don Stoner, Davis Young and John Sailhammer, all of whom are old-earth creationists. (The author of this article has read these books.) However, Roberts will not recommend books produced by the Institute for Creation Research or by Apologetics Press. This is puzzling in light of the fact that he admits from time to time the possibility that the earth could be young and only a few thousand years old.(4)
Why then, not recommend good books written by scientists outlining the evidence for a young earth?(5)
Hill Roberts has a massive bibliography on his CD-ROM listing of over 400 books! How many of those books defend the six, literal days of Genesis 1 and a young earth? Few. The majority of books listed dealing with time issues are in favor of the ancient creation position. Brethren need to learn what we can about the authors who are recommended to them. They also need to do some reading in the materials that support the evidence for a young earth and then compare that evidence with what is being said by old-earth creationists like Hugh Ross.
1. For more on Progressive Creationism see Creation Compromises (Apologetics Press, 1995), pp. 187-193.
2. Creation and Time (NavPress, 1994). For other reviews of Hugh Ross see also the Fact Sheet on Hugh Ross by Paul S. Taylor and Mark Van Bebber (Films for Christ, 1994); a critical review of Creation and Time by Mark Van Bebber and Paul S. Taylor called Creation and Time: A Report on the Progressive Creationist Book by Hugh Ross; and, a review of Hugh Ross by Bolton Davidheiser located on Steve Rudd's web page.
3. Hill Roberts says, "Many scientists and young people have been "righteously" slain on the alter of time. May God have mercy on theirs and our souls." Genesis and The Time Thing, preface iii (LIB CD-ROM Version 99.01). Just before making this statement Roberts wrote and suggested that the reason many scientist today will not come to faith in God, is not because of the existence of God, but rather it is because of "clerics" who teach that the Bible says the earth is young.
4. Genesis and The Time Thing, preface iii (LIB CD-ROM Version 99.01).
5. See the Annotated Bibliography provided by Harry Osborne elsewhere in this special issue.
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