21 February 2005
Dr Hugh Ross is well known for adding billions of years to the Bible, claiming that the creation days were long ages. His view is often called progressive creationism. However, biblical creationists have long pointed out a major problem for this view—that the Bible teaches that death came through sin. Indeed this is foundational to the Gospel (see Understanding death: Answering the question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen?”). But if millions of years are real, then the fossil record must predate sin. But fossils are the remains of dead creatures—therefore, millions of years entails that death predates sin, which in turn entails that death is not the result of sin. This makes God the author of gratuitous death and suffering instead of the righteous Judge who justly enacted punishment for sin (see The god of an old earth: Does the Bible teach that disease, bloodshed, violence and pain have always been ‘part of life’? and Why would a loving God allow death and suffering?).
This also has baneful consequences for the Gospel. Romans 5:12–19 and 1 Corinthians 15:21–22 clearly teach that human death came because of the Fall. The latter even contrasts the death of the first Adam with the Resurrection from the dead by the Last Adam, Jesus.
This is a real problem for Ross’s view, because according to dating methods he accepts, there are undoubted human fossils ‘older’ than his date for Adam. And of course, fossilization requires death! See Ethiopian ‘earliest humans’ find: A severe blow to the beliefs of Hugh Ross and similar ‘progressive creationist’ compromise views, about Homo sapiens ‘dated’ at 160,000 years ago with evidence of intelligent cultural activity.
Ross’ credibility took a further dent with the recent redating of two partial skulls of Homo sapiens that were unearthed in 1967 near the Omo River in southwestern Ethiopia. Radiometric dating, which Ross defends, has now placed them at 195,000 years ago:
So undoubtedly modern humans are dated—by methods that Ross advocates—to be far older than his date for Adam. He would do well to abandon his faith in long-age ‘dating’ and repent of his unbelief in the biblical timescale. See Redating Leakey’s Ethiopian human finds: more problems for compromise.
We have also pointed out the baneful consequences of Ross’s view for the Australian Aborigines. According to radiometric dating, they are older than Ross’s date for the Flood, and even Ross's dates for Adam allow the possibility that he was younger than the Aborigines. This has the horrifying implication that the Aborigines are not human!
Ross’s problems don’t end there. God gave Adam dominion over creation, so when he fell, the whole creation suffered—see The (second) greatest catastrophe of all time. This is taught in Romans 8:18–25, where the ‘whole creation’ is said to be groaning in pain, because it was ‘subjected to futility’. The late New Testament scholar Dr F.F. Bruce, then Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester, affirms that this passage is indeed speaking of the Curse which fell on the whole creation—the entire universe—as a result of the Fall.3 Bruce also considered who ‘subjected the creation to futility’ and concluded that the text indicated that it was ‘most probably God’, and most unlikely that other commentators could be right when they suggested Satan or Adam.4
Another expert on commentator on Romans, New Testament scholar C.E.B. Cranfield, likewise made it very clear that ‘creation’ in Romans 8:19–20 was universal: ‘the sum-total of sub-human nature both animate and inanimate.’5 Further, Cranfield explicitly states ‘[t]here is little doubt that Paul has in mind the judgement related in Genesis 3:17–19, which includes (v. 17) the words “cursed is the ground for thy sake.”’,5 thus relating the Fall to the creation outside mankind as well.6
Ross supporter Norman Geisler also affirmed that the Fall was a cosmic disaster. And more recently, Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey gave a good account of the biblical teaching of the origin of death and suffering in their book How Now Shall We Live?
Mr Colson is a long-ager, so evidently doesn’t see the implication of what he is writing (Mrs Pearcey certainly used to be a YEC, since she wrote for the Bible Science Newsletter, but seems low-key on the issue now). That is, the fossil record shows the very effects of chaos, cruelty and corruption they say came from the Fall, and wasn’t part of the good creation. Therefore, the fossil record must have come after the Fall, which rules out millions of years. Instead, the globe-covering Flood of Noah’s time would explain many of the massive fossil deposits. See Genesis and catastrophe: The Flood as the major biblical cataclysm.
Part of this creation is the animal kingdom, so this must also have suffered, and the fossil record is stark testimony to that. Yet the Bible clearly teaches that animals were not always being destroyed by cataclysms, and were not always tearing each other to pieces.
This is shown by the diets that God originally instituted. Gen. 1:29–30 clearly teaches that animals and people were both created vegetarian. As pointed out in the Exposé of Ross’s book: The Genesis Question, Dr Ross accepts that these verses teach human vegetarianism before the Fall, but he is inconsistent in denying the original animal vegetarianism taught in exactly the same words in exactly the same context. We explained this further in this reply to an old-earther.
Further, even one of Dr Ross’s supporters, apologist Dr Norman Geisler, recognizes this (see how he answered the gripe about animal suffering by the apostate Charles Templeton). We have documented that Basil the Great, John Calvin and John Wesley also understood Genesis 1:29–30 as teaching that animals were all created vegetarian. So it’s Ross’s view that is the aberration.
Another strong case against carnivory being part of the original creation, also pointed out by Geisler, comes from Isaiah. Isaiah 11:6–9 and 65:25 prophecy that there will be a time in the future with no bloodshed in the animal kingdom. These are famous passages about a lion and calf, wolf and lamb, and a vegetarian lion and a nonharmful viper. Significantly, both passages close with indications that this reflects a more ideal world and the current world does not: ‘They shall not hurt or destroy …’ and ‘They shall do no evil or harm …’.4 These indicate that hurting, harming and destroying animal life would not have been part of a ‘very good’ creation. Commentators such as Dr Alec Motyer, Principal of Trinity College, Bristol, have noted that these passages are a partial restoration to what it was like in Eden:
The problem for all long-age views is that the fossil record demonstrates carnivory, and Ross dates this to millions of years before the Fall. But this contradicts the clear biblical teaching that animals were not eating each other before the Fall. Geisler has also completely missed this point, so at least Ross is being more consistent when he simply denies that animals were created vegetarian, the way the Bible and Geisler say they were.
Many anti-creationists knock down a straw man by simplistically attacking a ‘no death before sin’ statement out of context. That is, they argue that plants and individual cells died before the Fall, e.g. when animals ate plants.However, creationists have often pointed out that ‘no death before sin’ applies to what the Bible calls death, which is not always the way modern biologists use it. The Bible doesn’t talk about plants dying, even though modern biologists do. Rather, the Bible talks about plants withering, for example.
What is the difference? Answer: the creatures affected by death were those the Bible calls נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה (nephesh chayyāh). When it refers to man, it is often translated ‘living soul’, but, of other creatures, including fish, it is often translated ‘living creature’. However, it is never applied to plants or invertebrates. Therefore, there is a qualitative difference between the deaths of the (vertebrate) animals called nephesh chayyāh and plant death. This is further supported by the account of the Flood and Ark. The living creatures (nephesh chayyāh) rescued on the Ark did not include plants (or invertebrates)—see How did the animals fit on Noah’s Ark?
In any case, it should be obvious that plants don’t experience suffering or pain as animals do. But Dr Ross absurdly claimed (Creation and Time, p. 63)
It’s hard to believe that Ross wasn’t joking, but he really meant it in all seriousness. But plants don’t have a brain to interpret tissue damage as pain!
Ross’s book The Genesis Question further tries to justify applying ‘death’ to plants in the biblical sense. Somehow he thinks that if he can prove that plants die in the same sense as animals, then he will have undermined the creationist case against animal death before the Fall.
He tried to back this up with note 24, p. 125, with the passages Exodus 10:12–17, Job 14:8–10, Psalm 37:2, Matthew 6:28, 30 and John 15:6. So let’s analyze these in turn:
Dr Ross debated creationist astrophysicist Dr Jason Lisle in December 2004 (see summary in Death, dating and the days of creation and my detailed annotations of the full transcript). The moderator, Dr Bob Grant, had already hosted Dr Ross on his show by himself, and Dr Grant seems to be under the same misapprehension:
Dr Lisle responded
Ross patronizingly replied
This is pure bluff and bluster. As shown above, Dr Ross has refuted nothing with his biblical citations. And it’s notable that Dr Ross failed to address Dr Lisle’s point that plants are not nephesh chayyāh, also shown above. Instead, Dr Ross continued to ignore this point throughout the debate, and instead continued his ‘snow job’, e.g.:
Here we see Ross’s elephant hurling, trying to give the impression of weighty evidence by citing eight chapters that allegedly support his case. It is a dishonest tactic, since under the time constraints it is impossible to skim through all this to find out what on earth he was talking about. Also, it did not address what Dr Lisle actually argued about plants not being nephesh chayyāh. Instead, Dr Ross implies that there are many references to plant death in these chapters of Exodus. Certainly, the Hebrew for die/death (mût/mavet) is used a number of times in these chapters:
So in all these chapters, all but one of these clearly refer to people, livestock, frogs and fish, all nephesh chayyāh. The only one in all this snow-job citation of eight chapters that might be taken as referring to plant death is Ex 10:17. So far from wide application of ‘death’ to plants in the chapters he cites, Ross’s case is based on a single plea from a pagan. And as shown above, even this one is not even applying the word ‘death’ to plants anyway! So Ross hasn’t got the slightest case, but he presumably hoped that no one in the audience would check his learned-sounding bluff.
Despite what many people think, the main issue for creation is not the length of creation days or the age of the earth. Rather, the issue is what our authority is—is it God’s written Word, the Bible, or man’s fallible opinions of the history of earth and life on it? And if we use exegesis, i.e. reading things out of the Bible, then we can only find normal-length creation days. It is only with eisegesis, i.e. reading secular long-age ideas into the Bible, that anyone can invent long-age creation ‘days’.
And from the Bible, we learn that there was no death of any nephesh chayyāh before sin—both humans and animals ate plants, which do not die in the biblical sense. Therefore any fossils must have come after sin. And the Bible spends three whole chapters explaining a watery cataclysm that would explain this—the globe-covering Flood of Noah’s day.
Therefore the young-earth position is not the primary focus of CMI. Rather it is a corollary of biblical authority—a deduction from the propositional revelation of normal-length creation days and death caused by sin. Long-age views undermine this sin-death causality, and thus have baneful consequences for biblical authority and indeed the Gospel. This is why Refuting Compromise was written. Indeed, the first chapter is on the importance of the right authority, and chapter 6 has much detail on the origin of death and suffering because of sin.