Reviewing Navigating Genesis [5]

How Far the Fall? Genesis 3 – Chapter 11

After a bit of a break, I’m returning to reviewing Hugh Ross’s book, Navigating Genesis. The four previous reviews can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Skipping ahead to chapter 11, I’m addressing how Ross deals with Genesis 3 and the consequences of Adam’s fall, especially death.

Before I work my way through this chapter with a review, we need to acknowledge what the Bible tells us about death. It is clear throughout its pages that death is an intrusion into God’s creation brought here by Adam’s disobedience in the garden. Physical death demonstrates God’s judgment, and death is likened unto an enemy, (1 Corinthians 15:26).

The first death recorded in Scripture was that of an animal from which God made skins to cover Adam and Eve immediately after they had sinned. With that death of an animal, God demonstrated the need for atonement that turns His judgment away from man and restores divine fellowship. All of creation, without exception, has been touched by Adam’s sin. Because of his fall, the entire creation groans, longing to be set free from its bondage to corruption, (Romans 8:20-21). Physical death of all living things is a stark and grim reminder of the creation’s bondage to that corrupting curse.

Ross, on the other hand, rather than teaching that physical death is a curse upon all of God’s creation, teaches that death is beneficial. Death was originally one of the good aspects of God’s creation because it was necessary for God to care for the carnivorous animals by allowing them to eat other animals to survive. Death was never intended for mankind, however, and became a curse for men when Adam disobeyed. That is the position Ross attempts to defend in chapter 11.

Review and Analysis

Ross opens his chapter briefly mentioning the rebellion of Satan. Why that is relevant to his discussion of Adam’s fall and the impact of death is unclear. I take it that he is contrasting Adam’s rebellion with Satan’s, because he states in a previous chapter that Satan rebelled first, [91].  His comments appears as if he is attempting to explain away physical death as a consequence of Adam’s sin. Like he is saying, “Well, Satan rebelled first, so Adam’s fall really has nothing to do with death.”

He does make this baffling assertion, though, “Whether it [Satan’s rebellion] occurred before or during God’s creation of Earth the Bible never says, but we do know it predated Eden,” [109]. If the Bible never says when Satan’s rebellion happened, how exactly does Ross know it predated Eden? But I digress.

His chapter is outlined in four main sections. I’ll consider each one in turn.

Adam and Eve’s Expulsion from Eden

This section recounts the scene of Genesis 3. Ross provides a fair summary of the events: God forbidding the first couple from partaking of the Tree of Knowledge, Eve being tempted by the Serpent and eating, and then Adam following his wife in disobedience, and the consequences of their banishment from Eden. He then makes some comments about how Adam’s one, small act of eating a forbidden fruit leads to the avalanche of sin in the world. However, physical death overall was not a part of that consequence as he will go on to explain.

Did the Fall Change Physics?

It is in this section that Ross’s egregious apologetics on death begin to surface. He builds his presentation on strawman arguments against young Earth creationists and illogical category distinctions.

First, he focuses a lot of his discussion on the false notion that YEC teach that the second law of thermodynamics was initiated at the fall. He seems to assume that it is the commonly held view of all creationists. Now, it could be that Ross has engaged a few young earthers in the past who held to that perspective, but the idea that the second law of thermodynamics was initiated at the fall has never been the standard position of the YEC community.

In fact, sloppy, out-of-date research is probably one of the biggest problems with this entire chapter (as well as the book). His objections to his detractors are built upon material he published back in the 90s in his book, Creation and Time, and The Genesis Question, the first edition of Navigating Genesis, published in 2001. If he had bothered to spend time reviewing and updating his work, he would have discovered that creationists have written quite a bit in the intervening 20 years or more answering those sorts of false charges. See HERE for example.

Continuing his case for the second law of thermodynamics, Ross mentions Paul’s words in Romans 8:20-22, but his understanding of those verses are so wildly off target I wonder how he can be taken seriously as a Christian apologist. He believes Paul is describing the affects of the second law of thermodynamics, referring to “the whole of creation” “right up to the present time,” [112]. In other words, the work of the second law of thermodynamics has always been a necessary part of God’s created order from the very beginning. “The thermodynamic laws are good,” he writes, “in spite of the “decay,” “frustration,” and “groaning,” [113]. They are part of God’s plan for preparing people for eternity and the new creation.

Ross, however, over looks the one, crucial point Paul makes in Romans 8:20-22. The apostle writes that the creation was subjected unwillingly to that state of frustration, corruption, and groaning by the very sin of Adam. His sin wasn’t limited to only impacting humanity, but it corrupted the whole of creation. That key, theological element seems to fly entirely over Ross’s head.

He also manufacturers a category error. He writes, “Some people presume that the natural tendency toward decay (the second law of thermodynamics) and carnivorous animal behavior, for example, must be attributable to human sin, not to God’s design,” [111], and then a little bit later he writes, “The universe and its physics have not changed, as some suggest,” [ibid]. He cites Jeremiah 33:25 and Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 as proof-texts for his assertion.

The problem, however, is that the changed nature of men and animals due to Adam’s fall is unrelated to the principles of physics governing our world. That would be such things noted in Jeremiah and Ecclesiastes, like the fixed orbits of the sun and the stars, and the water cycle. We can also include the laws of thermodynamics as well. No creationist is arguing that the laws of physics changed after Adam’s sinned. However, the fundamental nature of men and animals did. Men are called in Scripture, “by nature, children of wrath,” in Ephesians 2:3.

It is impossible to separate man’s sin nature from manifesting in the physical world. Men were changed from a state of innocence to a state of guilt, shame, and hostile rebellion against their Creator when Adam fell. Adam’s fall did bring the creation into the bondage of corruption, physical death being the key element to that corruption.To deny that reality is ignoring the clear teaching of Scripture.

Did the Fall Initiate Death and Predation?

Ross firmly rejects that Adam’s sin had anything to do with physical death. Instead, he understands human death to be connected to man’s separation from God. It is not that physical death is bad, but physical death for humans that is bad. I’ll discuss his position a bit more when I review the next section.

He also rejects that Adam’s fall has anything to do with animal death and carnivorous animals preying on other animals. He cites Psalm 104:21 and Job 38:39 that speak of God providing prey for the lions as proof-texts. But he seems to assume that those two passages are talking about animals in their original, created state. That predator animals were created to be predators. But we have clear revelation that predation was not God’s original intent.

Genesis 1:29-30 states that God gave to man and to animals every seed bearing plant as food. That restriction was not limited to only human beings or plant eating animals in Eden, but was given to every animal on the surface of the earth. The only logical conclusion is that included ALL animals without exception.  Ross makes the absurd passing remark that all animals are dependent upon and eat plants when the carnivorous animals kill and eat the herbivorous animals. But that is just a painfully strained view of what Genesis 1:29-30 clearly states.

Additionally, the prophet Isaiah speaks of a Messianic kingdom when predatory animals like wolves and bears will dwell with non-predatory animals like lambs and oxen (Isaiah 11:6ff. and 65:25ff.), so the prophet’s words seem to indicate that animal nature was impacted by Adam’s fall and that will be reversed in the future. Hence, something had to have changed in the nature of the animals so that they became predatory and began eating meat.

The Death Benefit

Lastly, Ross closes out the chapter by reiterating that death is only a bad thing for mankind to experience. At the same time, physical death is good and beneficial. For instance, Ross writes that, “It limits the amount of harm those who reject God’s offer can do to themselves and to others,” [114]. He then ends with the comment, “The story of Adam and Eve’s sons paints a horrific picture of what it can do — and of physical death as essential for the preservation of life,” [115].

Essential for the preservation of life? I personally find it a stunningly bizarre comment that claims physical death is a benefit to God’s creation. The Bible identifies death as an enemy. It is considered corruption from which men need liberation (Romans 8:22), as well as the wages of sin (Romans 6:22). How can something that is the result of God’s curse ever be thought of as a good thing?

Even more to the point, if death is beneficial, what is in need for the creation’s liberation from that corruption? Christ’s death accomplishes the redemption of mankind from death, but their redemption directly effects God’s creation according to Paul in Romans 8:20. The apostle John even reiterates that truth in Revelation 22:3 when there is no longer anything that is accursed.

Ross’s apologetic for death is extremely problematic, in my opinion. It comes precariously close to altering the doctrine of Christ’s redemptive work. For if death is a good and necessary benefit to God’s creation, what is the point of Christ defeating something that God has made good?

Reviewing Navigating Genesis [4]

animals

The Creation Week – Chapters 3-6

I continue in my review of Hugh Ross’s progressive creationist book, Navigating Genesis. Again, my purpose in reviewing this work is to offer a corrective to his creationist apologetic that is adopted without criticism by a number of mainstream Christian ministries and amateur apologists who desire to defend the Christian faith within the general public.

I want to center my review this time on chapters 3-6. They are Ross’s treatment of the events of the creation week, and I want to review them as a whole rather than one by one individually. The primary reason being is that the material is so overwhelmingly bad, that in order to address it in full would require a number of lengthy posts. My goal is not to turn my reviews into a long, extended series of detailed analysis, but to provide a basic framework demonstrating that Ross’s apologetic is detrimental to a defense of biblical Christianity.

As much as I know there are readers who would enjoy reading such a detailed analysis, I refer them to works available online at Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International, as well as two book length treatments by Jonathan Sarfati, Refuting Compromise, and Jason Lisle’s Understanding Genesis.

With that in mind, these four chapters cover the creation week up to the seventh day. Chapter 3 discusses the beginning of creation which is Genesis 1:1,2, chapter 4 is creation days one and two, chapter 5 is creation days three and four, and chapter 6 is creation days 5 and 6.

Let me back up and provide a review of some of the critical flaws I see with his understanding of the creation week.

First, Ross has a strident, unflinching reliance upon modern scientific conclusions as factually accurate. I’ve made passing mention of this in my previous reviews. His reliance upon scientific analysis misleads him to an uncritical utilization of it as an overriding authority when interpreting Scripture. That dependence only pushes him into dark holes of wild speculation when it comes to reading the Bible and developing a theology of creation.

He cites heavily from a variety of secular scientific papers, reports, and books, because he believes they lend insight to how Christians should read Genesis 1. Glancing over his end notes, he uses articles published in Nature, the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Astrophysical Journal Supplement, Sedimentary Geology, Astrobiology, and Science, just to note a few.  While certainly it is fine for any author to reference such works if he is writing a book on the topic of Genesis and creation, the problem with Ross is his use of those sources as providing factual conclusions as to what we are to believe about the history of an ancient cosmos and life on earth and how those beliefs should inform the Christian’s interpretation of Genesis, even when those conclusions drastically contradict the narrative of the creation week.

Let me give you some examples.

In chapter 4, on page 38, Ross discusses how the Bible describes God’s spirit hovering over the waters in Genesis 1:2. Seizing upon that description, he states how that picture is found in other portions of Scripture of a mother eagle or hen using her wings to protect her young. He then shifts to the “record of geology” referencing at least four secular sources to explain how science confirms that the earliest life on the planet was single-celled microorganisms that provided nourishment for the oceans and oxygen for the planet. He believes those sources provide some apologetic nugget about how God cares for His creation as a loving creator.

Following up that discussion, on page 39 of the same chapter, Ross talks about what he calls the “moon miracle.” Appealing once again to the secular astronomy version of how the moon was made, Ross retells how scientists know the moon was formed when there was a planetary collision with the earth by a body at least the size of Mars. That collision, Ross confidently explains, would have blasted nearly all the Earth’s original atmosphere into outer space, while the cloud of debris arising from the collision would have orbited the Earth and eventually coalesced to form our Moon [40].

smod

Of course, that is entirely whimsical speculation; but he cites the experts who have mathematical models and he provides the numbers showing how that the moon just had to have been formed in that fashion. There is no explanation as to whether or not how all the life giving microorganism in the ocean discussed previously could have survived if a Mars sized planet hit the earth, but oh well.

Indeed, Ross’s appeal to the secular, scientific literature is rather troubling, because the way he utilizes those sources, the reader is left with the impression that the Genesis account itself would be unconvincing as a revelation from God. It is as if he thinks he is helping out God by mentioning how popular atheist, Richard Dawkins, is flummoxed by the appearance of life in the Cambrian explosion because he has no way to really explain its sudden appearance [59]. In some unspoken fashion, the Bible is supposed to be much more reliable because Ross has highlighted various scientific factoids pertaining to modern evolutionary theories regarding the earth. How could anyone have believed what Genesis was saying about creation before old earth apologists synchronized secular theories with the text?

Another flawed problem area with his presentation is Ross’s mishandling of the original Hebrew language. He is dependent upon secondary sources, and even then it is a limited source like the Theological Wordbook of the OT. Other sources noted aren’t linguistic experts either, but other authors and apologists who are also ineptly attempting to reconcile deep time views of the secularists with what the Bible plainly says in Genesis.

For example, Ross appeals to Psalm 104 as a supplemental creation text [31]. He specifically notes Psalm 104:6, which reads, You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains, and suggests this is speaking of the conditions on the first three days of creation. But a reading of Psalm 104 tells us that the Psalm is referencing the global flood as recorded in Genesis 7, not the events of creation. In fact, the same expression, the waters stood above the mountains, is used in Genesis 7:19,20. Here we have Ross taking a passage out of context and misapplying it to an unrelated section of Scripture.

He does a similar thing with Job 38:9 which reads, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band,… suggesting this passage describes the opaque enshrouding clouds that blocked light from the already created sun from reaching the earth, [31]. But, while Job 38 is recording God’s creation of the early earth, it is an inaccurate misapplication to claim the darkness covering the earth is a result of the light from an already created sun being prevented from reaching the surface. The two are really unrelated, especially given the fact that the sun light is not created yet.

Ross also claims that God, rather than creating the sun and stars on day four for the first time, merely caused the already heavenly bodies to “appear” in the sky by rolling the clouds out of the sky. He argues that the Hebrew word, asah, translated as “made,” is not a synonym for “create,” but is a word that means “made to appear.” He writes, “The Hebrew verb, asa, translated “made,” appears in an appropriate form for past action. There are no verb tenses in Hebrew to parallel verb tenses in English…Verse 16 makes no specification as to when in the past the Sun, Moon, and stars were made, [54].” He goes on to write that the phrase “heavens and earth” in Genesis 1:1 places the existence of the Sun and stars before the first creation day.

Ross’s interpretation of the fourth day of creation is not only a disparate attempt to explain away the text, but it is also dishonest. Ross puts himself forth as a champion apologist for understanding creation and the Christian worldview, but here he does a great disservice to anyone who would utilize his argument in a discussion.

First, the word asah, as it reads in 1:16, is also used in 1:25 where the text states, And God made the beasts of the earth… Given the context, it is clear the word made is a synonym for create. The beasts hadn’t previously existed and then were “made to appear.” Further more, 1:26 has the Godhead stating, let us make man in our image, or asah. Was Adam “made to appear” in the same way that the stars were “made to appear?” Ross’s view is akin to the heretical arguments of Biologos who insist that there were many evolved humankinds and Adam was a chosen representative, or God “made him appear” out of all of humanity. Given Ross heterodox teachings about soulless hominids, his interpretation of asah comes dangerously close to affirming Biologos’s heresy.

Secondly, asah is used in Exodus 31:17, For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, 2 Kings 19:15 [Isaiah 37:16], You alone have made heaven and earth, and 2 Chronicles 2:12, Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who has made heaven and earth. All of those instances are synonyms to Genesis 1:1 where it says God created the heavens and the earth.

And then thirdly, if God wanted to communicate that the Sun and stars were already in existence on the first day and that they appeared in the sky from the vantage point of looking up into space from the surface of the earth, Moses had already used a perfectly good word to describe such an event. Genesis 1:9 states, Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so. The Hebrew word raah, means exactly what Ross is forcing asah to mean, appear.

This is a major reason why Ross’s progressive creationists apologetics are detrimental for unlearned, but eager apologists. Instead of carefully researching and staying faithful to Scripture, Ross has only formulated a strained proof-text for his problematic apologetics. He is not defending the faith at all, but instead has led his readers astray into gross error that when scrutinized, will only bring them embarrassment, placing a major stumbling block before unbelievers.

Reviewing Navigating Genesis [3]

scienceChapter 2 – Reasons for Resistance

I am doing a review and critique of Hugh Ross’s progressive creationist book, Navigating Genesis. Introductory post can be read HERE.

With chapter 2, before he delves into his study of the creation week, Ross attempts to identify obstructions many have to the Christian faith that pertains to the book of Genesis. One of the key objections he hears frequently when he interacts with non-Christians is that the book of Genesis is unscientific. People will skeptically ask, “Why should I believe the message of a book that at the start contradicts the known facts of science?”

Ross then highlights four creation models that have been developed by believers and unbelievers alike in order to answer that objection.

First is a separatist model that says science and Scripture are completely independent of one another. Stephen Gould’s philosophy of non-overlapping magisteria is probably the most notable example.

Second is a conflict model, or the idea that science and Scripture are in direct opposition to one another and can never be reconciled. Atheist Richard Dawkins is a proponent of this model. He says that because religion makes existence claims, that obviously means scientific claims, and because religion is wrong about science, it is ultimately wrong about our existence. It then cannot be trusted and should be rejected.

Third is a complementary model that says science and Scripture compliment each other. Generally, those who hold to theistic evolutionary beliefs will utilize this model.

Fourth, is a constructive integration model, also called concordism. It states that both the words of the Bible and the record of nature provide trustworthy and reliable revelation from God. Ross and his apologetic crew would fancy themselves as constructive integrationists.

After discussing the models, Ross further explains how he has identified additional forces he says is working to sustain separatism between science and faith. Ultimately it is a “turf war,” writes Ross, that erupted a few centuries ago when scientific specialists and biblical specialists were competing to establish the ownership of truth.

First is a database difference. The canon of Scripture was completed at the end of the first century and is now a closed database, whereas the database of science is always growing with the inclusion of new discoveries. Second is the isolation of specialization, in which scholars who specialize in the various sciences remain isolated from those scholars who specialize in biblical studies and theology. And then third is the intellectual resistance people have to what Genesis records and what it tells us about reality.

By identifying those obstacles, Ross is hoping that the remainder of his book will help tear down any mistrust anyone has in Scripture.

Review and Critique

turfwarRoss is partially correct when he writes that the battle between Christian faith and so-called science is a “turf war” between specialists for the ownership of truth. Where he is mistaken is that this war did not erupt only a few centuries ago around the time of the Renaissance and Reformation, but it is a battle that began as soon as Satan asked Eve, “Yea, hath God said?”

According to Ross, unbelievers cite intellectual problems they have with Genesis as one of the motivating factors why they reject Christian faith. People regularly ask him why they should believe the message of a book that contradicts the known facts of science right from the start. He even notes how “new atheists” and popular skeptics like Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris openly mock the book of Genesis in their talks and written materials.Their widespread appeal and intelligent articulation of their views is compelling argumentation with audiences who are largely ignorant of what Scripture teaches. But is that entirely accurate?

I’ll outline a few problems I have with his thesis regarding the unbeliever’s resistance to truth.

First, skeptics of the Christian faith are not hostile to Christianity because they have an intellectual problem attempting to reconcile alleged contradictions between modern science and the Genesis record. They are hostile to the Christianity because they are sinners who have a moral problem with their creator. That is what the Bible clearly teaches throughout its pages, for example Romans 3:9ff., 8:7,8; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16;  Ephesians 2:1-3, 4:18,19.

Ross, and his RTB gang of apologists, could provide all sorts of airtight responses that soundly answer all the objections of a skeptic, but that skeptic will still find something to be skeptical about. As much as he wishes to think he is removing stumbling blocks to faith with his apologetic, it is doing no such thing. The skeptic’s problem is a rebellion against God problem and only a supernatural work of God can change that.

Second, a so-called “turf war” between Christians and skeptics vying for ownership of truth didn’t first appear just a few hundred years ago. Skeptics challenging biblical truth have existed since the world began. In fact, the NT church was forged in a crucible that involved refuting challenges to their faith, even during the time of the apostles. Consider that by the end of the first century AD, early Christian apologists began writing against skeptical Jews like Trypho and hostile, non-religious sectarians like Porphyry.

By the end of the first millennium, Christians were interacting with Muslim critics, and by the time of the Reformation, Roman Catholic apologists threatened the claims of sola scriptura and the other theological truths the Reformers were proclaiming. The challengers from the so-called scientific realm really didn’t come around until the last two hundred years or so, and they stand at the end of a long, long line of other sundry cranks. In all of those instances Christians interacted with skeptics long before the science specialists came on the scene, and none of them took Ross’s approach of constructively integrating the truth of Christianity with perceived “truth” found in their challenges.

Third, one may object that what Ross has in mind with “constructive integration” is specifically identifying truth from specialists who deal in the science pertaining to nature, or God’s creation. Seeing that Scripture speaks of nature telling forth God’s existence, it is entirely appropriate to apply constructive integration between those two areas.

Ross claims the Belgic Confession even confirms his constructive integrationist model. He writes, “Article 2…states that both the words of the Bible and the record of nature provide trustworthy and reliable revelation from God, giving testimony to God’s attributes and handiwork,” [19].

However, he is overreaching.The entire article from the confession states,

Article 2: The Means by Which We Know God

We know him by two means:

First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.

All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse.

Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own.

Reading article 2 carefully, it is saying that God is known by His creation, which would be the nature part. That is standard orthodoxy with regards to general revelation. But that is not what he has in mind exactly.

Ross tends to overemphasize the importance of nature as a revelation for God, conflating it with the modern views of the specialists. For example, because cosmologists say the universe is billions of years old or geologists claim a global, Noahic flood could never have happened, those positions are considered to be legitimate revelation regarding nature. Hence, the biblical record has to be accommodated to explain that “revelation.” That is not what article 2 of the Belgic Confession, or any historic confession for that matter, is saying about general revelation.

What Ross is saying represents the so-called revelation of nature is really man’s interpretation of the nature, and interpretations that have only existed for as little as half a century or so. Such knowledge is not only questionable as legitimate, but it has not been accessible to all men at all times, a crucial component to general revelation.

Additionally, I take his unquestioned confidence in the findings of those specialists to be a major weakness for his apologetic. It is as if he just assumes all of them are biased-free and reporting their findings honestly. In many cases, they are not; but they have a significant agenda to promote. Any attempt to constructively integrate biblical truth with what Ross has mistakenly identified as the “truth” of nature is a major compromise that has manufactured a hybrid view that is comprised of truth, partial truth, and maybe even intentional lies.

Fourth, Ross has something of a troubling, continuationist view of natural revelation. He writes,

“The biblical canon…has been completed since the first century…AD. In the sciences, the databases never stops growing and in some cases doubles within a decade or less. Because scientists’ aim is to break new ground and replace old understandings with new ones, science claims exclusive rights to tell the unfolding story of what really happened,” [21].

He goes on to suggest there may be some instances when misinterpretations of texts need to be revised due in part to these new discoveries in nature.

That is an extremely dangerous position to hold with regards to revelation, and in my mind, it is the most disturbing area of Ross’s apologetic. He essentially places God’s special revelation of Scripture in conflict against the general revelation of nature. Whereas the special revelation of Scripture is fixed and unchanging, according to Ross, general revelation is fluid and can change every year depending upon what specialists discover. Not only that, those new discoveries can influence how Christians interpreted Scripture for centuries.

I am left wondering if he is aware of the significant inconsistency he has created? If new discoveries within general revelation can revise interpretations regarding special revelation, then what exactly were generations of Christians believing before those discoveries? They taught a view of Scripture according to what was a normal, exegetical interpretation of a text that is now overturned due to a discovery by specialists in a field of study. If this is the case, God’s revelation is in conflict with itself. How can Christians be certain that what they teach from Scripture today will not change next week depending upon something supposedly added to the database in nature?

Ironically, this continuationists, neo-orthodox apologetic of God’s revelation unintentionally creates a separation between biblical authority and nature’s “authority,” the very kind of separation Ross is attempting to bridge with his book. We will see it play out again and again as I work through his book.

Reviewing Navigating Genesis [2]

 

creationChapter 1 – Personal Journey

Summary

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,” [9]. 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, [11]. 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,” [12]. 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.

Review

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,” [9]. 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,” [10]. 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,” [10]. 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.

Reviewing Navigating Genesis [1]

genesisPreliminary Remarks 

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.

Overview

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.

My Neanderthal Article

My article I wrote about a month or so ago interacting with a Reasons to Believe apologist and their weird human-Neanderthal hybrid ideas, was picked up by Creation Ministries International.

Neandertal-human hybrids: Apologetics Gone Real Bad

I appreciate the opportunity that allows my writing exposure to a much broader audience. I was also grateful for the way Jonathan Sarfati and the folks at CMI helped with punching it up with more details and links I hadn’t supplied in the original.

Neanderthal-Human Babies: Old Earth Apologetics Gone Real Bad

lawyerSo recently on twitter, I had a back and forth with a Reasons to Believe apologist.

It began this way:

I tweeted out the following,

ross1The next day, an associate of Reasons to Believe, tweeted to me the following response,

Ross2Now in fairness, he is absolutely correct. I had mis-tweeted, as it were. Technically, Ross, and RTB apologists, argue that there were soulless hominids that pre-dated the creation of Adam. Those hominids were a lot like modern man, but they lacked the image of God Adam and all his descendants have. They were animals, much like a higher functioning version of the great apes.

None the less, I responded by asking the following,

Ross3A bit of background is in order to explain my question.

More and more every year, researchers are inadvertently proving what biblical, young earth creationists have always maintained: that Neanderthals are an extinct group of people that lived shortly after the Tower of Babel incident and eventually died out. In fact, the very day my RTB Twitter protagonist and I were sparring back and forth about Neanderthals, researchers reported uncovering some underground structures in France probably built by Neanderthals. That discovery demonstrates that they were much more than high functioning great apes.

However, while RTB rightly rejects the evolutionary interpretation of the so-called “science,” they still persist in their commitment to the conclusions of the data, insisting that Neanderthals were non-human animals. That commitment to the non-human aspect of Neanderthals has led them to advance a rather strange, a-theological and unbiblical apologetic that touches the doctrine of Adam’s sin.

Along with discovering Neanderthal artifacts, researchers have also identified that Neanderthals interbred with modern humans. Do a search and you will find a number of articles discussing it. Neanderthal DNA is even identifiable in some modern people groups living today in Europe. Evolutionary propagandist claim it is proof that Neanderthals and humans share a common evolutionary ancestor. Creationist have always said it merely proves Neanderthals were humans all along, descended from Adam and Eve.

The fact that Neanderthals interbred with modern humans (according to the secular evolutionary view) is a major problem for the RTB “biblical model” that has been developed by Hugh Ross and Fuz Rana to explain hominid fossils and other early man-like creatures. As far back as 2004, when DNA research was just beginning with Neanderthals and there was no specific proof of so-called Neanderthal-modern human interbreeding, Fuz Rana wrote this for the RTB blog,

Despite compelling evidence, a minority of paleoanthropologists still believe (as do some Christians) that Neanderthals made a genetic contribution to modern humans through interbreeding. If Neanderthals interbred with modern humans, then by definition, they must be human. (Emphasis mine. Full article HERE).

Now, one would think that once it was discovered that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred, RTB would modify, or even better, entirely retool, their model and apologetic talking points. I mean, RTB apologists insist that they want to acknowledge the clear evidence of the 67th book of the Bible, right? Nope. They dug in.

I recall vividly back in 2010 a Stand to Reason podcast (listen HERE) on which Fuz Rana discussed with Greg Koukl the biblical worldview (well, the RTB “biblical” worldview) of how Christians can explain the genetic interbreeding evidence. He appealed to bestiality, and explained that the abomination of Leviticus 18 regarding bestiality may possibly have had in mind the previous interbreeding of humankind with Neanderthals.

I was gobsmacked. Seriously? I couldn’t believe what was coming out of my earbuds. As of last year, their stance has remained pretty much the same. If you go to RTB’s website, search for “Neanderthals,” the top link to pop up is a 30 minute podcast Rana did explaining the RTB position on them. Again, he pushed the interbreeding/bestiality angle.

My twitter opponent responded to my question with the same line of argumentation,

ross5

Ross4He goes on to explain in a later tweet that Neanderthals are similar enough to humans that they could reproduce together, but that the mating itself would be considered sinful.

Yikes!

Here is where I have a serious problem with the RTB apologetic for Neanderthals. That view has major ramifications against the imputation of Adam’s sin, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and what it means to be a person created in God’s image.

First, the Genesis account clearly states that when God created the sea creatures, birds, and land animals, He did so “after their kinds.” See specifically Genesis 1.  In other words, God created abundant and diverse creatures to fill the earth, and it is implied that when they reproduce, they do so “after their kind.” Meaning, animals can only reproduce with other similar animals “after their kind.”

The general point that Genesis records is that like animals reproduce with like animals, i.e., horse+donkey=mule. God has set a genetic boundary, as it were, upon the creatures He made. So sharks for example, will not reproduce with dolphins, or wolves with badgers, or human beings with chimps, or any high functioning great ape. It doesn’t matter if there is similar DNA, we are not the same “kind” as a chimp or orangutan.

Contrary to my twitter opponent, if Neanderthals are similar enough so that they and humans can mate and produce children, they are of the same kind, meaning, human beings, descended from Adam, bearing the image of God. Even Fuz Rana, back in 2004 when he originally wrote on Neanderthal interbreeding with human beings, acknowledged as much when he stated that if proof of interbreeding comes forth, then Neanderthals are people.

Given RTB’s adoption of secular time tables for Neanderthals living on the earth for roughly 5,000 years with modern man some 40,000 years ago, why would it be sinful for human beings at that time to mate with them? Seriously? The prohibition against bestiality is given to Israel as they entered the land of Canaan. God specifically condemned Canaanite false worship practices, the participation of bestiality being one of those practices. Would bestiality with Neanderthals even enter their mind when Moses gave that prohibition?

If the RTB model is true, and that at some point in the past modern human beings bred with Neanderthals, a profound, theological difficulty emerges. Humanity, according to Scripture (Romans 5 specifically), inherit Adam’s sin and guilt from his disobedience in the garden. All of his progeny (you know, the entire human race) has Adam’s sin imputed to them. Where exactly does that leave the first generation Neanderthal/human hybrid offspring? Is that human-Neanderthal baby identified with Adam’s sin? Like that old Puritan grammar book, “A is for Adam in whom we all fall.” Is it part of the fallen human race in need of redemption? Or is it excused because it is half man, half animal?

oinkA half man, half Neanderthal Jerry!

That would also raise the question as to when the offspring actually begin to be identified with Adam’s sin. Meaning, when the half man, half Neanderthal mates with another human, will that Neanderthal offspring with the 1/4 Neanderthal blood now be considered guilty of Adam’s sin? Or does the “Neanderthal” have to be bred out sufficiently before the person is an actual person and has Adam’s sin imputed to him?

The most serious theological consequence with RTB’s view of Neanderthal-human hybrids is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, again Romans 5, as well as 2 Corinthians 5:21. Christ could impute to His people His righteousness because He is our kinsman redeemer. He is a kinsman in that when he took on humanity, He is now considered our “next of kin.” He has the judicial authority to be our substitute in our place before God. The problem is that no Neanderthal-human hybrid could ever have Christ’s righteousness because it would be animal and not human. In short, given RTB’s view of Neanderthals, if they reproduced with human beings descended from Adam, they could not be saved. Of course, that is assuming they are considered “in Adam” to begin with.

The reason I am even addressing the subject is that Reasons to Believe and their old earth apologetic is often times the default, go-to resource for creation/evolution issues among the classical, neo-apologetic ministries and blogger groups I encounter on social media.

Twitter feeds, for example, like the The Poached Egg, Stand to Reason, Ratio Christi, and a host of others, will occasionally link and promote the OEC position of RTB because they have been told they are the reasonable ones when defending Genesis and the creation narrative. They don’t put unnecessary stumbling blocks before unbelievers like telling them they have to believe God created the world miraculously in 6 days.

Yet in their efforts to appear reasonable before the world, as noble as they may be, a central, core doctrine of the Christian faith is adversely effected. Now RTB claims that is not the case at all, and in point of fact, would probably say I am blowing their views of Neanderthal-human hybrids way out of proportion. But given what the Bible clearly states about the imputation of Adam, the work of Christ, and that God has so ordered His creation so that animal kinds cannot reproduce with other animal kinds, the RTB Neanderthal hybrid apologetic is not just a strange view, but comes perilously close to being described as heresy.