I have taken up reviewing Hugh Ross’s book, Navigating Genesis. My introductory post explaining my reasoning can be found HERE.
Ross opens up his book recounting his personal journey as a young man putting the Bible to his rigorous scientific testing. As an apologist, he encounters many people these days who complain that the Bible is an ancient book full of scientific nonsense and blatant contradictions. When he asks folks for examples of that scientific nonsense, many of them cite Genesis 1-11.
Ross, however, sees their rejection of Genesis as an opportunity, because “the scientific discoveries of the past few decades…present some of the most persuasive evidences ever assembled for the supernatural authorship, accuracy, and authority of the Bible,” . He goes on to explain how Genesis can withstand rigorous scientific and biblical testing, and because of that those first 11 chapters of Genesis present some of the most persuasive evidence of the divine authority of the Bible.
He tells how when he was a young man, his singular passion was science. He was particularly drawn to astronomy and he specifically believed the big bang model of cosmology was the best model ever conceived that fits the observational data, . That led him further to be convinced that the big bang model implied that a creator existed.
When he turned his attention to studying the world’s religions, the one religious book that stood out above all the others as a reasonable explanation of that scientific data was the Bible. The “scientific method was clearly evident in Genesis chapter 1 as in a modern research paper,” . After reading the entire Bible he failed to discover anything within its pages that could be label as a verifiable error. Once his study was completed, and he saw that the Bible lined up with everything he knew scientifically, he gave his life to Christ as his savior. The book, Navigating Genesis, is his attempt to navigate the record of Genesis with his reading audience, while answering challenges raised by skeptics, both inside and outside the church.
With this introductory recounting of his personal faith journey, Ross announces that he will build the argument in his book upon a number of what are clearly faulty premises. Let me highlight a few important ones that will direct the trajectory of my forthcoming reviews.
To begin, he is going to treat the book of Genesis, a book that is a historical record of God’s creation and the events of the early earth that lead up to the call of Abraham, as if it is a scientific research paper. He writes, “As a scientist I would say these events beg to be tested,” . But how exactly does one scientifically test events recorded in a historical document? Ross believes those events are a record of the past, but unless he has access to a special Delorean, he cannot possibly scientifically test them. All he can do, and what he will do throughout his book, is force upon the historical record of Scripture modern presuppositions from secular science he unquestionably accepts as valid. That is not doing science; that’s gaming the facts.
Additionally, he attempts to distinguish his scientific test for the events recorded in Genesis from miraculous events like the Virgin Birth and Jesus turning water into wine. He seems to think that the miraculous, divine interventions recorded in Genesis like the creation week, Noah’s flood, and the confusion of languages at Babel, are scientifically testable, but the resurrection of Lazarus is not. He assumes that verifying the miracle of creation according to the various scientific disciplines, will somehow verify those other miracles.
Yet all of those events, the creation, Noah’s flood, Christ feeding the 5,000, and His bodily resurrection, are all equally miraculous. For some reason, Ross believes we can scrutinize the miracles recorded in Genesis because they apparently fall into the realm of the scientific disciplines, whereas the other recorded miracles do not. (Why wouldn’t a Resurrection fall into the realm of medical science, for instance). What he fails to inform the reader is that he will evaluate those Genesis events according to the various presuppositions of secular science and the conclusions of secular science tend to deny the miraculous and explain it away.
Ross also notes three biblical tests he believes are important to his presentation. How exactly those biblical tests come together with the scientific tests just mentioned is not really explained. The reader is expected to roll with the disconnect.
First he notes what he calls the Berean test taken from Acts 17:11. Like the noble Bereans (who were unbelievers, by the way), who tested all the claims made by Paul about Jesus, all the biblical passages that parallel and overlap Genesis 1-11 must cohere with what ALL of Scripture teaches. That raises the question as to whether or not when those biblical passages contradict the scrutiny of the so-called scientific disciplines used to evaluate the events of Genesis, what gives way? The biblical testimony or the scientific discipline evaluating that testimony?
If Scripture cannot be broken as Ross asserts, can the scientific discipline in conflict with the point of Scripture be broken? He writes, “…understandings of Genesis 1-11 that contradict any other part of the Bible must be rejected,” . But does that apply to any of the scientific disciplines?
Next is the spirit test that the apostle John writes of in his first epistle. Christians are to “test the spirits” to see if whether they come form God. But lots of the scientific scrutiny comes from “spirits” that are hostile and opposed to God. In fact, a number of modern practitioners of the scientific disciplines do not care for God at all. If they are religious, they tend toward synchronizing Darwinian evolution with what religious faith they may have to produce some weird, unbiblical theistic evolutionary hybrid. There certainly is a spirit behind such overt hostility to God.
Thirdly is the biblical language test. Ross writes, “A precise understanding of the text is crucial for interpreting the scientific and historical details as well as the theological context,” . He goes on to explain that a precise understanding includes knowledge of the original language, the grammar, and its usage in various passages.
The problem, however, is that as one works his way through his book, nothing indicates that he has a working grasp of the original languages or the grammar. He is dependent upon secondary sources, which is understandable, because many writers and theologians may not have a full, working knowledge of the original languages. But his dependence, as I noted in my first review, relies almost exclusively upon the Theological Workbook of the OT. In fact, his appendix B, which is a breakdown of all the important Hebrew words in Genesis 1 is taken solely from the TWOT.
While I would certainly agree that the TWOT is a fine reference work, if you are an apologist who is writing a book length treatment advocating your unique apologetic of creation and the book of Genesis, and insisting to your readers you alone have the correct understanding of the text, it would behoove you to expand your sources beyond just one resource, albeit a good one. Moreover, the TWOT is limited in its scope in that it doesn’t cover grammatical and syntactical matter of the Hebrew texts under consideration. A number of Ross’s assertion about how the original language should be understood doesn’t even take into mind those grammatical and syntactical nuances.
And then one final, faulty premise is Ross’s “Nature is a 67th book of the Bible” argument. Ross, and the RTB apologists, believe that nature is a unique revelation all unto its own that is self-sufficient and self-authenticating. In one of his earliest books that sets forth his apologetic, Creation and Time, Ross writes that,
“the Bible teaches a dual, reliably consistent revelation. God has revealed Himself through the words of the Bible and the facts of nature…So, God’s revelation is not limited exclusively to the Bible’s words. The facts of nature may be likened to a sixty-seventh book of the Bible. Just as we rightfully expect interpretations of Isaiah to be consistent with those of Mark, so too we can expect interpretations of the facts of nature to be consistent with the message of Genesis and the rest of the canon.” [Creation and Time, 56-57]
He states that he is NOT putting nature on equal footing with the authority of the Scripture, but he does just that when he assigns nature, or better, secular interpretations of nature, the authority to correct and/or re-interpret Scripture so that it conforms to the scientific consensus.
Richard Mayhue takes apart Ross’s 67th book presupposition with a withering analysis in the book, Coming to Grips with Genesis, pages 105-129. He points out a number of flaws with Ross’s overreach with general revelation, but the one that is particularly problematic is that it presents an open canon. In other words, rather than the biblical canon closing at the writing of Revelation, it suggests the canon is still very much open and incomplete as new, and yet to be discovered, scientific discoveries present the possibility of reshaping our understanding of Genesis and creation.
God’s revelation is then not settled and fixed as the historic, Bible-believing church teaches, but is still in flux as modern science allegedly discovers new understandings of origins. Such a position leads one precariously close to heresy.