I want to embark on a new blogging project with this post.
For sometime now, I have been reading through the book Navigating Genesis: A Scientist’s Journey Through Genesis 1-11 by Hugh Ross, founder of Reasons to Believe ministries (RTB). My goal is to provide a review and critique on what he teaches regarding Genesis, creation, and deep time over the course of a series of blog articles. I am not entirely sure how long my series will be. I won’t commit to a chapter-by-chapter review, but I certainly will work through the major arguments presented in the book from beginning to end.
With this introductory post, I’ll explain why I want to go through it.
Those who are frequent readers of my blog know that I have published a lot on the topics of Genesis, creation, and evolution since I began writing in 2005. I have a number of articles that can be found HERE. Additionally, I have taught three series on matters of origins, Genesis, creation, and evolution (one that specifically interacts with Hugh Ross’s progressive creationism) that can be downloaded from my other website, Fred’s Bible Talk. I am convinced that what we as Christians believe regarding origins is foundational to our overall biblical worldview and our apologetic engagement with unbelievers
For a while now, I have noticed a heavy dependence upon Ross and RTB among a number of online apologetic web hubs and social media groups as the default, go to expert authority when defending Genesis and creationism against evolution and scientism.
If one were to scan over the reposted articles at such sites as The Poached Egg, Apologetics 315, or the Christian Apologetic Alliance, for instance, the overwhelming majority are written by Ross, or RTB staff, or bloggers sympathetic to his old earth views of Genesis. For example, search the category tag “creation” at The Poached Egg site. All the articles that pop up addressing the topic are written by RTB team members or surrogate bloggers and favor Ross’s deep time interpretation of the book of Genesis.
Moreover, Ross and members of his staff, like Kenneth Samples and Fuz Rana, are frequent commentators on apologetic radio programs and podcasts. They will be interviewed about the latest evolutionary/creation controversies on such programs like Stand to Reason and the Bible Answer Man. Often, their particular brand of progressive creationism and their views of Genesis is the only perspective many listeners are ever exposed to.
I personally think that is a troubling trend for a number of reasons which is why I wish to offer some reviews of this book. I’ll note three areas of concern,
First, the mishandling of Scripture on the part of RTB apologists is appalling, especially the book of Genesis and other texts that recount the creation event. I will demonstrate this as I move through my series. Suffice it to say, RTB and their associates are essentially training a generation of apologists in sloppy exegesis that takes passages out of context and violates any number of simple rules pertaining to hermeneutics. Ultimately, that diminishes the authority of God’s Word, not to mention making those apologists to appear foolish to anyone who actually does know how to handle God’s Word.
Secondly, RTB apologists allow the conclusions of mainstream science to govern their interpretation of Scripture. That is because they adhere to an erroneous hermeneutic about nature being a 67th book of the Bible that is an equal authority with Scripture. Because nature is God’s nature (He created it, after all), it is self-evident and sufficient as a source of truth in the same way Scripture is. Thus, when the consensus of scientific researchers make authoritative claims about the age of the universe or the formation of the oceans or whatever, if what Scripture states on the matter appears to be at odds with the scientific “truth,” it is Scripture that is often adjusted in order to fit around that so-called truth.
That apologetic talking point of RTB can be inconsistently applied at times. For instance, on the one hand, scientists will dogmatically insist that overwhelming evidence proves no global flood could ever have happened, the view held by the RTB apologists. Yet on the other hand, those same exact scientists will also insist the overwhelming genetic evidence proves modern man share a common evolutionary ancestor with chimpanzees, a view obviously rejected by RTB apologists. Why is the application of their “nature is a 67th book of the Bible” hermeneutic appropriate in the first example about a global flood, but rejected in the second example regarding men and chimps? That clearly comes across as cherry picking what fits your presuppositions and makes the whole idea of “all truth is God’s truth” to be subjected to the whims and fancies of men.
Thirdly, because of that “nature is a 67 book of the Bible” hermeneutic, they believe general, secular science, represents a fairly accurate understanding of events in earth’s historical past. Their commitment to those conclusions often times leaves them no other choice but to accommodate biblical revelation to that misplaced certainty in those so-called scientific authorities. Thus, the plain teaching of Scripture is typically adjusted to account for the “science.” That, however, results in their apologetics manufacturing troubling theology.
One significant illustration of their troubling theology is RTB’s views regarding what they call “soul-less hominids.” Secular anthropologists have cataloged the remains of a number of man-like creatures that supposedly represent an ancient relation to modern human beings. Hence, according to their research, evolutionary theory is affirmed as true. Ross, and RTB, on the other hand, teach those so-called ape-men are to be understood as extinct, soul-less hominids that predate the creation of Adam and Eve by hundreds of thousands of years if not more. Neanderthals, then, would be one of those extinct soul-less hominids.
However, forensic anthropologists have shown what appears to be a genetic connection between Neanderthals and modern humans. That, in turn, creates a problem for the RTB view of soul-less hominids. Rather than recognizing that Neanderthals are more like an isolated ethnic group of people who went extinct after the dispersion from the events of the flood and the Tower of Babel incident, what young earth creationists believe, they developed a stunning apologetic talking point to explain that data. They basically state that humans and Neanderthals mated and the mating was sinful per Leviticus 18 and the prohibitions against bestiality. Their response, however, creates some terrifically bad theology regarding what the Scriptures teach about the sin of Adam and the imputed righteousness of Christ to all humanity as I document in this article HERE.
I’ll flesh these points out as I move along in my series, but it is those areas of concern where I see a need to address this book.
Now, just to give a quick overview so as to close out this introductory post. Navigating Genesis is an updated reprint of Ross’s The Genesis Question published in 2001. The book is a study of Genesis 1-11 in 23 chapters. Topics covered,
Chapters 1-2 – Ross’s personal testimony and the reasons why people resist Christian belief because of what Genesis says.
Chapters 3-9 – An overview of the creation week itself.
Chapter 10 – A spiritual perspective on creation from Genesis 2.
Chapter 11- The fall of man from Genesis 3.
Chapter 12 – The Cain and Abel events.
Chapter 13 – The genealogies from Genesis 5-6 and the possible explanations for their long lives.
Chapter 14 – A study on the Nephilim in Genesis 6.
Chapter 15 – The boundaries of God’s wrath and an introduction of the flood events.
Chapters 16-18 – Ross’s defense of a local flood and critique of a global flood.
Chapter 19 – The origins of the nations and races.
Chapters 20-23 – A discussion about higher criticism, “creation science” (in scare quotes), and new criticisms of creation.
Three appendices round out the book.
I have to admit that I was expecting way more from this book than what I found. The only original language work he seems to be familiar with is The Theological Workbook on the OT. He cites it frequently throughout his book for the definition of specific words. I would think if a person was going to insist upon a particular way to read the creation account, he would do much more than cite repeatedly from one lexical source for the background to the OT text.
However, the real let down was how he ignored the apologists and theologians who are young earth creationists. In fact, that was rather surprising. I believe if he would have engaged their arguments in greater depth it would have improved this book tremendously.
The original edition was published in 2001, and in the dozen years between the original and the new, updated version published in 2014, there has been a lot written in defense of the positions of young earth creationism. At least three major creationist apologetic ministries have come to the forefront of this discussion, Creation Ministries International, Answers in Genesis, and ICR. All of them have published some excellent material in both print and media content providing a sound presentation of creation in 6 ordinary days. For instance Andrew Snelling’s massive two-volume work on the flood, Terry Mortenson’s work on the history of early earth geologists, and Jonathan Sarfati’s detailed critique of Hugh Ross himself and the RTB apologetics, Refuting Compromise.
Yet Ross seems to be oblivious to the existence of any of those works and others like them. Granted, he references some things in the footnotes; but he either never fully interacts with their objections to his position at all, or does so in a shallow fashion. And the objections to his apologetics is rather solid. I am not talking about simple, “Oh, we could look at creation this way” kind of arguments. Sarfati’s book, Refuting Compromise, is a devastating rebuttal to the RTB apologetic. Other than providing a general citation of the book, he doesn’t even attempt to offer anything close to a refutation to any of his arguments.
My desire with my reviews is not to needlessly bash Hugh Ross and RTB. I don’t question his salvation, or that of his co-workers at his ministry. I do, however, wish to raise alarms to what I see is an a-biblical approach to defending the Christian faith and the creation account. I maintain that the secular, deep time interpretations of earth’s history can never be synced with what Scripture tells us about creation. They are two entirely different worldviews at odds with each other. Ross’s apologetic that attempts to marry them ultimately has a deleterious impact upon the Christian faith and evangelism. The RTB apologetic does much greater harm for the Church that Ross and his surrogates believe, and Christians should be warned away from it. That is what I hope to demonstrate with my reviews.