TWO TREES, ONE ROOT
A very interesting look at the links between Eastern spirituality and Darwinism by Tricia Wright.
Two trees, one root: the link between evolutionism and Eastern spirituality
Published: 13 February 2018 (GMT+10)
Looking at today’s once-Christian ‘Western’ society, one sees two non-Christian worldviews growing like long-established trees, stretching their branches into everything from education, to the media, to the church. One tree is materialism, the belief that matter is all there is, firmly based on and intertwined with Darwinian evolution. Its canopy bears the dark fruits which stem from morality without a Creator (and thus Lawgiver).1
Alongside it a second tree is thriving: Eastern spirituality. With its alluring blossoms promising enlightenment, health and wisdom, this tree seems to be drawing much of the world to its shade.
These two worldview ‘trees’ may look very different, but are remarkably connected by a common root system.
Exploring the connection
Like materialistic Darwinism, Eastern spirituality is a far-from-biblical concept that is heavily promoted in popular culture and public education. In education systems throughout the world, ‘mindfulness’ programs have emerged to teach youth meditation practices which, though often secularized, are rooted in ancient Eastern religions.2,3 These may include anything from breathing practices, visualization techniques and other ‘focusing’ exercises to transcendental meditation, mantra repetition and yoga.4
Of course, one needs to avoid the ‘genetic fallacy’, which would be to conclude that something with origins in an anti-biblical philosophy is therefore necessarily unbiblical in itself. It is nonetheless disturbing to see the extent of the enthusiastic penetration of such Hindu-derived practices, with at best minimal evidence of benefit. England, Canada, America, Israel, and India are just a few of the nations to integrate such programs in all levels of school curricula.4Organizations like Mindful Schools partner with teachers to bring meditation practices to classrooms in over 100 countries.5
But education is only the beginning. In Western nations, Eastern spiritualistic practices are becoming commonplace in such diverse realms as business, the military, and healthcare.3 They have become so popular in Western cultures that some Hindu communities are actually beginning to take offence. For instance, they deplore the Western commercialization of yoga without recognition of its Hindu origins,6 and are offended at imagery of Hindu deities on ‘religiously impure’ consumer goods such as socks, shoes and toilet seats.7 When did Eastern spirituality become so internationally popular?
A bit of history
Let’s backtrack through time to the mid-1800s, shortly after Darwin published his Origin of Species. As evolutionary ideas became popular in Europe and spread to India, which was then a British colony, both Eastern and Western scholars noted that despite some key differences between naturalistic Darwinism and polytheistic Hinduism, there were important commonalities. These make Eastern spirituality all the more appealing to Western cultures in which evolution has made inroads.
For instance, not only does Indian cosmology feature the long ages known as ‘deep time’, but Hinduism maintains that the universe progresses in cycles of evolution and dissolution. In each cycle, a set number of species evolves along a fixed pattern. The fixed, cyclic nature of Hindu evolutionism contrasts with the less predictable linear model which Darwin advanced. But Eastern and Western views of evolution overlapped enough that Swami Vivekānanda (né Narendranath Datta, 1863—1902), instrumental in developing modern yoga and popularizing it in America in the late 1800s/early 1900s said,
“The idea of evolution was to be found in the Vedas [ancient Hindu scriptures] long before the Christian era; but until Darwin said it was true, it was regarded as a mere Hindu superstition.”8
An example of Hindu doctrine which various scholars have interpreted as evolutionary is avatarism. This refers to a series of earthly manifestations, or avatars, of a deity—usually Vishnu. Each reincarnation of Vishnu assumes a new form, beginning as a fish-man and progressing up to a human avatar. Of this doctrine, nineteenth-century Hindu philosopher Keshub Chunder Sen observed,
“Lo! The Hindu Avatar rises from the lowest scale of life through the fish, the tortoise and the hog to the perfection of humanity. Indian Avatarism is, indeed, a crude representation of the ascending scale of Divine creation. Such precisely is the modern theory of evolution.”9
Nineteenth-century Westerners who likewise stressed the overlaps between Eastern and Western evolution include Nobel-Prize-winning essayist Maurice Maeterlinck, and Oxford Sanskrit professor Sir Monier Monier-Williams.10 The latter said, “The Hindus were … Darwinians many centuries before Darwin … .”11
Meanwhile, even as the Western naturalism12 of Darwin and Huxley spread east, Eastern spirituality was spreading west, with many of its prominent promoters advocating at least some elements of Darwinism.
One such was the aforementioned Swami Vivekānanda, who interpreted Yoga Sutras (ancient Hindu texts) along Darwinian lines. He used Westerners’ eroded trust of scriptural authority in Darwin’s wake as an opening for promoting evolution-friendly Hinduism in the West.13 He wrote,
“At the beginning of the nineteenth century man tried to find God through reason, and Deism was the result. What little was left of God by this process was destroyed by Darwinism and Millism.”14
He outlined four types of yoga, describing them as four paths by which man may realize his ‘own divinity’.15 Such ideas fitted well with the Western occultist movements, then becoming popular as an alternative mode of spirituality following Darwinism’s challenge to Christianity.16 The result was to usher yoga into the West through promotion by Western mystics and New Ageists who themselves adopted evolutionary ideas.
Among these was Annie Besant (1847–1933). Once a clergyman’s wife, she became an active political reformer before turning to theosophy, an occultist movement rooted in Hindu teachings.17 A leader of the Theosophical Society, Besant was influenced by Helen Blavatsky, who advanced a spiritualistic, cyclic form of evolution and who wrote,
“Evolutionary law compelled the lunar ‘Fathers’ to pass, in their monadic condition, through all the forms of life and being on this globe … . These ‘Forms’ are called ‘Sons of Yoga,’ because Yoga (union with Brahmâ exoterically) is the supreme condition of the passive infinite deity.”18
Besant was, like Vivekānanda, a key originator of modern yoga, as well as a social Darwinist and eugenicist.19 She advocated yoga as a means of hastening the evolution of a Mother Race, which corresponds to “what used to be called the Aryan Race”.20 Hitler’s swastika is in fact an ancient Hindu symbol.21
Sharing this fascination with both Social Darwinism/racism and Eastern spirituality was John Woodroffe (1865–1936). He interpreted Sanskrit texts into books which helped catalyze Western adaptations of kundalini yoga and hatha yoga.22 Woodroffe also wrote The Seed of Race, outlining a Social Darwinian model which aimed to enhance humanity’s evolution through eugenics.18,23
Further highlighting the intersection between Eastern philosophy and evolutionary thought in the 20th century is the relationship between the prominent humanist Charles Francis Potter (1885–1962) and the American yogi-entrepreneur Pierre Bernard (1875–1955). Bernard was born Perry Baker in Iowa, before choosing a less pedestrian-sounding name for himself in promoting postural yoga, occultism—and himself. A godlike figure to many, he became known as ‘the Great Oom’.
The humanist Potter was once a Baptist minister who adopted increasingly liberal theology. He founded a Unitarian church, debated conservative theologians on topics including creation vs evolution, advised the lawyer defending evolutionary education in the Scopes Trial, and founded the First Humanist Society of New York and the Euthanasia Society of America. In advocating the abolition of the supernatural to leave humanism as ‘real religion’, Potter said that “the chief end of man is to improve himself, both as an individual and as a race”.
Interestingly, Potter was also so taken by Bernard’s ideas that he wrote an unpublished biography of him. What connects Bernard’s Eastern spiritualism with Potter’s evolutionary humanism?
The root—an ancient rebellion
Answering this requires digging straight to the root connecting the two worldview ‘trees’ we have been examining. A major hint is seen in the stated purpose of Vivekānanda’s four yoga paths, echoing Potter’s ‘chief end’ comment: man’s “realization of his own divinity”. This is a lie as old as Eden, first whispered in Eve’s ear when the serpent insisted, “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).
It is this rejection of a single, unmatchable, all-powerful biblical Creator that ultimately unites Eastern spirituality and evolutionary materialism. Both are manifestations of the same Genesis rebellion. But Eastern spirituality, unlike naturalistic evolution, has the advantage of recognizing a spiritual dimension. It can therefore tickle the human need for spirituality without requiring acceptance of the biblical Creator, or His moral standards.
It also stands in opposition to our need to recognize our own sinfulness and inability to save ourselves before coming to God through Christ. And it makes its appeal through a framework which shares many overlaps with evolutionary theory, even promising to help humanity reach a higher stage of evolution. No wonder Eastern spirituality appeals to so many in our evolutionized culture!
Ultimately, the only way to overcome the toxic fruits of these two ‘trees’ in our society is to acknowledge the root, reject the rebellion, and turn back to the Genesis Creator through the only way available: Jesus Christ.
References and notes
- For examples, see the list of articles at creation.com/qa#Social. Return to text.
- Renshaw, T.L., & Cook, C.R., Introduction to the special issue: Mindfulness in the schools—historical roots, current status and future directions, Psychology in the Schools 54(1):5–12, 2016. Return to text.
- Meiklejohn, J., et al., Integrating mindfulness training into K–12 education: Fostering the resilience of teachers and students, Mindfulness 3(4):291–307, 2012. Return to text.
- Waters, L., Barsky, A., Ridd, A. & Allen, K., Contemplative education: A systematic, evidence-based review of the effect of meditation interventions in schools, Educational Psychology Review 27(1):103–134, 2015. Return to text.
- Mindful Schools website, mindfulschools.org, accessed 4 August 2017. Return to text.
- Jain, A.R., Who is to say modern yoga practitioners have it all wrong? On Hindu origins and yogaphobia, JAAR 82(2):427–471, 2014. Return to text.
- Ramachandran, T., A call to multiple arms! Protesting the commoditization of Hindu imagery in Western society, Material Religion 10(1):54–75, 2014. Return to text.
- Vivekānanda, S. (1896), as cited in Killingley, D. H., Yoga-sūtra IV, 2–3 and Vivekānanda’s interpretation of evolution, Journal of Indian Philosophy 18(2):151–179, 1990. Return to text.
- Sen, K.C. (1882), cited in Killingley, ref. 8. Return to text.
- Brown, C.M., Colonial and post-colonial elaborations of avataric evolutionism, Zygon 42(3):715–747, 2007. Return to text.
- Monier-Williams, M. (1891), cited in Brown, ref. 10. Return to text.
- Another term for materialism; nature is everything, there is no supernatural realm. Return to text.
- Killingley, ref. 8. Return to text.
- Cited in Killingley, ref. 8. Millism refers to the agnostic John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), an influential liberal philosopher. Return to text.
- Newcombe, S., The development of modern yoga: A survey of the field, Religion Compass 3(6):986–1002, 2009. Return to text.
- Brown, ref. 10. Return to text.
- Annie Besant (1847–1933), bbc.co.uk. Return to text.
- Blavatsky, H., The Secret Doctrine, Vol. II: Anthropogenesis, p. 115, 1988, retrieved 29 July 2017 from phx-ult-lodge.org. Return to text.
- Singleton, M., Yoga, eugenics, and spiritual Darwinism in the early twentieth century, International Journal of Hindu Studies 11(2):125–146, 2007 | doi 10.1007/s11407-007-9043-7. Return to text.
- Besant, A. (1927), cited in Singleton, ref. 17. Return to text.
- For more on this, see Wieland, C., One Human Family: the Bible, science, race and culture, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, GA, 2011. Return to text.
- Jain, A., From Counterculture to Counterculture, in Selling Yoga: From counterculture to pop culture, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, pp. 26–27, 2014. Return to text.
- For background to this subject, see creation.com/eugenics. Return to text.
Complete article at –
(460.3) Spiritual Formation 2017.3 – Interpreting Key Passages in the Bible Used to Promote Contemplative Spirituality – EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY
Some of the key verses used to promote and defend CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY are usually taken out of context. There are several contemporary authors/speakers who promote a Christian walk that moves further away from the Bible and prayer to a walk that looks INWARD and seeks to be drawn CLOSER to become UNIFIED with God in the DEEPEST part of our soul. The problem is that Scripture discusses our sanctification and growth involving our dedication to God’s word and Biblical prayer – NOT in chasing after ancient mystical approaches that we find in the early church. There are other religions that promote the idea of being unified with God by being unified with all of humanity – but Christianity is not it. To summarize – passages from the Bible are used to justify this seeking to be close to God in the DEEPEST part of the soul so that they can ultimately become unified with God. But, the passages referred are usually taken out of context to arrive at their conclusion.
In the following book, Relentless Spirituality: Embracing The Spiritual Disciplines of A.B. Simpson, by Dr. Gary Keisling illustrates a simple example of this. The foreword was written by DALLAS WILLARD – a huge influence on the church accepting contemplative/spiritual formation.
The book uses phraseology that quickly tips off the reader of the perspective that promotes a more mystical approach (e.g. SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES).
First, let me say that my intention is not to be critical of Keisling but rather, my review is focused on how Scripture is used to come up with relentless alternative interpretations of the Bible that may not be justified when those passages are looked at in context.
Keisling discusses the disciplines such as SILENCE and SOLITUDE. He states that “both have complimentary roles in SPIRITUAL FORMATION”. Solitude unfolds in two dimensions. First, there is solitude that is in response to Jesus’ invitation: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (NIV Mark 6:31) .
Now, look at that verse again and ask yourself what is actually being said in the passage. In context, look at the entire chapter to get an understanding of the context of verse 31. Again, ask yourself, how should verse 31 be interpreted?
Keisling states that – “Christ’s disciples were invited to join Jesus in doing something they had seen Him do in the past and would certainly see Him to again in the future. It was an invitation………..to be alone and draw close to God.”
Hold the phone. Was that the reasons stated in this passage of Scripture? Read the passage again. Read it from another translation – NKJV: “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while”. You can read in a number of both literal and dynamic translations and they say the same thing.
=> I would say that Jesus was inviting the disciples to literally “get some rest”. Radical idea? This passage doesn’t say or even imply that Jesus was calling them to engage in a Spiritual Discipline of drawing close to God. Keisling states that we are to “draw close to the Presence of the Almighty.”
He goes on to explain that “these steps of spiritual formation are an essential part of life in Christ”. Really? “These steps” are an essential part of our spiritual formation – yet Christiandom is just finding out about it now?
=> QUESTION: Where does the Bible instruct us to be in SILENCE and SOLITUDE with respect to our devotional life in our walk with Christ?
=> If you find a passage in the Bible, ask yourself first – are you interpreting the passage correctly?
=> Then ask yourself is the passage asking us to engage in SILENCE and SOLITUDE as a part of our normative walk in Christ?
In my opinion, the so-called disciplines of SILENCE and SOLITUDE find themselves to be silent in the Bible. With the huge emphasis today on this topic, I think it very important to note that many look at early church traditions (that many consider being mystical) more so than look to see what Scripture actually says on these issues.
There are other key passages that supporters of CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER take out of context making their case for Spiritual Formation. We will look at a few in the near future.
The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures by D.A. Carson
A Book Review by
Journal of Creation 31(1), 2017
The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures is a significant contribution to evangelical scholarship. Edited by one of the foremost living Bible scholars with essays contributed from well-respected scholars from across historical, biblical, and theological specialties, this over-1,000-page book is weighty both in terms of its bulk and the level of its argumentation. There are many positive things that one can say about this book, which makes it all the more disappointing how it treats biblical creation.
Genesis: the lowest common denominator?
D.A. Carson makes the first comments in the book about creation vs evolution. He begins by contrasting Richard Dawkins and the new atheists with theist John Polkinghorne and pantheist Arthur Peacocke, the latter being “scientists who reject the philosophical naturalism of the new atheists, and find ways to think about the integration of scientific learning and fundamental Christian claims, including supernatural claims” (p. 34).
He continues on to note the need for “cautious skepticism” regarding scientific claims: “Not that many decades ago, PHRENOLOGY and EUGENICS were both almost universally espoused and commonly practiced. They were, after all, ‘scientific’. Today they are equally universally dismissed” (p. 35).
However,“… this stance does not sanction arrogant dismissal; it mandates respect, careful listening, evaluation, and sometimes patient uncertainty, as we refuse to be intimidated by the overconfident claims of some scientists or by the popularity of some nearly universally adopted theories” (p. 35).
So far so good. But he criticizes Christians who “appear to be utterly certain about how to read every line of Genesis 1–11”, and counsels:
“Frankly, in the light of the complexity of the hermeneutical issues raised by these opening chapters of Scripture, the question posed by Francis A. Schaeffer forty years ago is still the most pertinent one: What is the least that Genesis 1–11 must be saying in order for the book of Genesis, and the rest of the Bible, to be coherent and true?” (pp. 35–36).
However, it is difficult to imagne Carson arguing for this sort of least-common-denominator theology in regard to the Trinity or the Resurrection, but in fact the doctrine of creation is every bit as foundational for the Christian faith.1
That Augustine quote!
Another author, Glenn S. Sunshine, in his essay, “Accommodation Historically Considered”, quotes Augustine’s famous statement in On the Literal Meaning of Genesis to the effect that
“… it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn” (p. 245).
Sunshine says: “Augustine’s comments in On the Literal Meaning of Genesis are among the first to address the typical modern question of the relationship between the Bible and science” (p.246). However, this quote is MISUSED when people use it to argue against young-earth creation, because evolution does not meet Augustine’s definition of ‘fact’ in that quote, and he was himself a young-earth creationist.2
Science and Scripture
Kirsten Birkett in her essay “Science and Scripture” helpfully, accurately, and surprisingly explains the case of Galileo’s persecution as an instance of the church of the day being overly pro-science, i.e. pro- Aristotelian science. While there were very good reasons at the time for being cautious of accepting Galileo’s theory (Newtonian physics, which is critical for making sense of heliocentrism, was still in the future, for one). There is very little to dispute in this retelling, and one hopes its appearance in such a substantial collection of scholarship will help to debunk the false religion- vs-science narrative.
Sadly, there is much less to celebrate in her discussion of chronology, the age of the earth, and the days of Genesis (p. 956ff). She notes that certain Jewish and Christian interpreters had non-literal understandings of the days in Genesis, but fails to examine the text of Genesis 1 to see if the grammar itself allows for such a non-literal view. She also does not mention that a LITERAL view of the creation days was the MAJORITY view throughout church history.
Birkett helpfully recounts the history beginning from the Renaissance of the attempts to create a chronology of the world, and the calendrical problems of the period that complicated things. However, disappointingly the conclusion was that “the Bible could not stand alone” (p. 960).
She also cites Isaac La Peyrère as an example of questioning whether Adam was the real historical first person (p. 960). His goal in interpreting Adam figuratively was to reconcile “Bible chronology with the longer ones of the ancient pagans, the American Indians, and the Chinese” (p. 961). This supports the idea that “church scholars were quite aware of claims to a long history of the earth and to various degrees were prepared to accept it” (p. 961). However, the example of La Peyrère shows that there were people who were not prepared to accept it; as she says:
“… as the ideas spread, they attracted violent criticism. … Calvinist Holland and Catholic France alike con- demned it. La Peyrère was arrested by the Inquisition in Brussels. His master Conde secured his release at a price of his conversion to Catholicism. He had to publish a retraction and died a pauper” (p. 961).
Is creationism ‘Scripture against science’?
Birkett discusses and dismisses young-earth creation without citing one prominent young-earth theologian or scientist (and while citing their critics exclusively). It is not a fair or a scholarly way to critique someone, so the kindest thing I can say about this part of her essay is that she needs to inform herself about the actual arguments creationists use—she seems unaware, for instance, that creationists have various ways of accounting for predatory structures (discussed on p. 968).
The bias in her examination of young-earth creation is even more apparent when compared to her analysis and criticism of John Polkinghorne, which cites many of his own writings. If Birkett had similarly cited biblical creationist scholars, one might have still disagreed with her analysis, but there would be less grounds for criticizing the bias of it.
It is a shame that the book is so weak overall when it comes to the doctrine of creation, because in other respects it is quite good and contains a lot of worthwhile information. For instance, the historical chapters contain a lot of evidence that inerrancy is not a modern invention, but can be found as far back as the Patristic period, through the Reformation, and in every strain of Protestant thought.
Among the biblical/theological topics, Craig Blomberg’s “Reflections on Jesus’ view of the Old Testament” was notable. He asserts:
“When it comes to the inspiration, truthfulness, authority, and relevance of the Bible of his world, Jesus could scarcely have held to higher views. … He acknowledged Scripture’s divine origin as God’s word and words. He quoted from the Bible extensively and intensively. He affirmed the inviolability of its contents down to the smallest details. To whatever degree the contents of the Hebrew canon had solidified by his day, Jesus affirmed their unity but also their tripartite division. He interpreted the historical narratives in ways that suggest he believed that at least most (and probably all) of the events narrated really happened” (p. 696).
This necessarily has implications for the Christian’s view of Scripture:
“If we are followers of Jesus, we will want to adopt his view
of the Scriptures. He believed in their fully divine origin, reliability, and authority. Therefore, our view of the Old Testament should accept their complete God-given trustworthiness and claims on our lives as well. And just as nothing in the humanity of a person requires that a given writing of theirs contain errors, nothing in the humanity of Scripture logically compels us to find mistakes in it” (p. 699).
This, at least, is something with which biblical creationists can wholeheartedly agree!
There are also sections on philosophy and comparative religions, with which some readers will doubtless disagree (one may question the wisdom, for instance, of seeing the Buddhist sutras as a possible gateway to evangelism), but which are nonetheless informative and interesting.
A review of a work like The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures will necessarily fail to address the whole book, so one is forced to cover the topics most interesting to the readers of a given review. Unfortunately, this may give an unbalanced view of the book in that on the topic of creation, it is very disappointing for young-earth creationists to find that we have once again been misrepresented. But in other ways the book is very useful and contains arguments that are of use to young-earth creationists. Because of this potential usefulness, we shouldn’t completely reject books like The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures, even if we wish the authors were a bit more well– informed about creation. The very academic and densely argued nature, however, makes it most suitable for specialists.
- See a critique of the same sort of argumentation in a popular-level article at Cosner, L., Timescale and theology, creation.com/timescale-theology, 28 June 2016.
- See Cosner, L. and Sarfati, J., Non-Christian philosopher clears up myths about Augustine and the term ‘literal’, J. Creation 27(2):9–10, 2013; creation.com/augustine-myths-debunked.
THE POPE & GALILEO
Pope Francis reportedly said the ‘theories of evolution and the Big Bang are real’ and ‘evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation.’ The problem is that Scripture says something much different and the science is lacking, to say the least.
The Galileo ‘twist’
Creationists are often accused (by Christians opposed to their view) of making the same mistake as the Roman Catholic Church did at the time of Galileo. Then, the institutional Church insisted that the Bible taught that the sun went around the earth. After it was shown by Galileo that the opposite was true, believers found that they could comfortably accommodate this new fact, without any problem to their belief in the Bible. However, the historical events surrounding Galileo should be a warning to theistic evolutionists and long-agers, not to the Genesis creation movement.
Over two millennia ago, Aristotle (384–322 BC) taught that the earth was the centre of a ‘perfect’ universe in which the movements of the stars were circular and never ending.
Ptolemy (AD 2nd century) expanded these ideas into what became known as the Ptolemaic system (see box).
In the 17th century, Galileo (1564–1642), with his telescope, was able to carry out repeated and repeatable observations which refuted Aristotle and Ptolemy, and supported Copernicus. For example, he observed that the sun had spots which moved across its surface, showing that the sun was not ‘perfect’ and it itself rotated; he observed the phases of Venus, showing that Venus must orbit the sun; and he discovered four moons that revolve around Jupiter, not the Earth, showing that the Earth was not the centre of everything. In 1618, he observed three comets pass effortlessly through Ptolemy’s crystalline spheres (in which the planets and stars supposedly moved around the Earth), showing that these spheres must be imaginary.
The HELIOCENTRIC (from Greek helios = sun) or Copernican system opposed the views of the astronomer-philosophers of the day, who earned their livelihood by teaching Aristotle and Ptolemy, and so were biased against change. They therefore either ignored, ridiculed, destroyed, or hostilely opposed Galileo’s writings. Many Church leaders allowed themselves to be persuaded by the Aristotelians at the universities that the GEOCENTRIC (earth-centred) system was taught in Scripture and that Galileo was contradicting the Bible. They therefore bitterly opposed Galileo to the extent of forcing him on pain of death to repudiate his findings.
This was because:
- The Church leaders had accepted as dogma the belief system of the pagan (i.e. non-Christian) philosophers, Aristotle and Ptolemy, which had become the worldview of the then scientific establishment. The result was that Church leaders were using the KNOWLEDGE OF THE DAY to interpret SCRIPTURE, instead of using the Bible to evaluate the knowledge of the day.
- They clung to the ‘majority opinion’ about the universe and rejected the ‘minority view’ of Copernicus and Galileo, even after Galileo had presented indisputable evidence based on repeatable scientific observations that the majority was wrong.
- They picked out a few verses from the Bible which they thought said that the sun moved around the earth, but they failed to realize that Bible texts must be understood in terms of what the author intended to convey. Thus, when Moses wrote of the ‘risen’ sun (Genesis 19:23) and sun ‘set’ (Genesis 28:11), his purpose was not to formulate an astronomical dictum. Rather he, by God’s spirit, was using the language of appearance so that his readers would easily understand what time of day he was talking about.3 And it is perfectly valid in physics to describe motion relative to the most convenient reference frame, which in this case is the earth. See the sub-article Sunspots, Galileo and heliocentrism.
This plain meaning (the time of day) is perfectly satisfied by the language of appearance and does not demand the secondary deduction that it is the sun itself which moves. Indeed, this is exactly the same thing that scientists do today in weather reports when they give the times of ‘sunrise’ and ‘sunset’. They are using the language of appearance, and using the earth as the reference frame. A convenient figure of speech does not invalidate science; nor does it invalidate the Bible.
Today we live in a world where most of the scientific establishment is heavily biased in favour of naturalism (the belief that everything can be explained by natural causes) and long ages. The scientific establishment propagates this belief system by claiming that everything in the universe originated in a big bang, and that all things are the result of evolution over billions of years. Indeed, many astronomers, scientists and teachers today have built their careers and earn their livelihood by teaching these theories.
However, these ideas, like Ptolemy’s, although ingenious and possibly plausible to atheists, are loaded with complications and contradictions, and are simply wrong.6
At the same time there is a minority of scientists, the creationists, who hold the opposing view that the Bible provides a better explanation of how the universe and life came into existence—created directly by God—and that the evidence from design, the fossil record, information theory, etc., is what one would expect if this is so. All such evidence, like Galileo’s, is ignored, ridiculed, concealed, or hostilely opposed by the establishment.
And once again many Church leaders have allowed themselves to be persuaded by the ‘science’ taught at the universities; they get around the atheistic part by telling all that the big bang, billions of years, and evolution are all compatible with Scripture. This inevitably leads them to oppose the minority (creationist) view.
This is because:
- Such Church leaders have accepted as dogma the belief system and philosophies of non-Christian (i.e. pagan) scientists, like Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, et al. Thus, like their 17th century predecessors, they are using the ‘knowledge’ of the day to interpret Scripture, instead of using the Bible to evaluate the knowledge of the day.
- They cling to the majority opinion and reject the minority view, despite the fact that there are many observations that uphold a young age and speak against an old age of the earth and universe,7 and there is no experiment that any evolutionist has ever done (much less a repeatable one) either to observe or to confirm the theory of evolution.
- They explain away the Genesis record of creation as myth or they introduce long ages into the account, but they fail to realise that Genesis, too, must be understood in terms of what the author intended to convey. Thus, a plain reading of the text shows that Moses’ purpose was not to set down a collection of myths or camp-fire stories, as is often claimed; nor are the days of Genesis 1 meant to be a metaphor for something else like long ages, or a simplistic way of explaining billions of years to a primitive culture.8 Rather, the text shows that Moses wrote Genesis as a literal account of the history of the world from the beginning of creation to the arrival of the Hebrews in Egypt.
This is an interesting ‘twist’ on the Galileo situation. Back then, the Church leaders said that Bible verses which were written in poetic format and meant to be poetry should be taken literally; today they are saying that Bible passages which were written as prose and meant to be literal history should be taken as poetry!
The real lesson
No, creationists are not making the same mistake as the the Church did in the 17th century, i.e. claiming that the Bible says something which is contrary to fact. But the Church, by and large, still is! The Church has not learnt the lesson of history and still insists on taking a popular worldview as its authority, instead of upholding the Bible and allowing it to be its own interpreter.
Although the Church leaders of Galileo’s day mistakenly thought that the Bible supported a geocentric system, there was nothing intrinsically atheistic in the notion that the earth moved. Furthermore there are no other doctrines that depend on the relative motions of the earth and the sun.
By contrast, the theory of evolution is an atheistic explanation of origins and is the justification for the anti-God system of secular humanism which pervades society today. It also makes God the author of death and suffering.
Furthermore Christians who do not accept the Genesis account as literal history and the days of Genesis as literal earth days need to explain away a host of other Bible passages and doctrines, e.g. the green plants being the food of the animals before the Fall (Genesis 1:30), the Sabbath Commandment (Exodus 20:9–11), Jesus’ teaching that God made man and woman ‘at the beginning’ (Matthew 19:4), Jesus’ teaching about marriage based on a literal first man and woman (Matthew 19:3–9), Paul’s exposition of the Gospel based on the fact that Adam was literally the first man (Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15), etc.
Thus the lesson from Galileo is not that the Church should not oppose the theory of evolution, but rather that it should, because science has not proven evolution; rather evolution is contrary to proven science and opposes the plain Word of God.
The Ptolemaic System
According to Ptolemy, the sun, moon, planets, and stars all revolved around a fixed earth in a series of hollow, inter-nesting, crystalline spheres. This is called a geocentric or earth-centred system, and is known as the Ptolemaic system.
There were some problems which Ptolemy’s geocentric system did not fully explain, notably the to-and-fro motion of the planets across the sky, as seen from the earth. He therefore postulated a number of mechanisms that were ingenious and initially plausible, but ultimately impossibly complicated and scientifically wrong. For example, each planet was said to move in its own small curve called an epicycle, while all the epicycles moved around the earth in larger circles called deferents. Return to text.
- The article by Dr Thomas Schirrmacher, The Galileo Affair: history or heroic hagiography, Journal of Creation14(1):91–100, 2000, shows that ‘Contrary to legend, Galileo and the Copernican system were well regarded by church officials. Galileo was the victim of his own arrogance, the envy of his colleagues, and the politics of Pope Urban VIII. He was not accused of criticising the Bible, but disobeying a papal decree.’
- See also Dr Danny Faulkner’s article Geocentrism and Creation and other articles under Astronomy and Astrophysics Q&A]
References and notes
- His book De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), published in 1543, challenged Aristotle’s (and thus also at that time the Church’s) teaching that the earth was the centre of all change and decay, and that around it were the changeless heavens. Return to text.
- In the Copernican system the earth and planets circle the sun, with the earth taking one year to do so; in the Ptolemaic system the sun, planets, and stars are all required to circle the earth every 24 hours. A huge problem with the latter system is that the nearest star, Proximus Centauri (also known as Alpha Centauri C), is 4.3 light years away, so that if this star circled the earth every 24 hours, its speed would need to be nearly 10,000 times the speed of light (and much greater speeds would be needed for the more distant stars). Return to text.
- Similarly, Joshua was using the language of appearance in Joshua 10:12–13. For a discussion on this miracle, see my article Joshua’s long day: Did it really happen—and how? Creation 19(3):35–37, June–August, 1997. Return to text.
- Psalm 19:4–6 metaphorically describes the sun as coming forth from a tent in the heavens, and also personifies the sun both as a bridegroom and as a strong man running a race. One would have thought that even the inflexible literalists of Galileo’s day might have allowed the writer of this Psalm to have meant it to have had a poetical meaning. Return to text.
- In Psalm 93:1, the phrase ‘the world also is established, that it cannot be moved’ needs to be read alongside v. 2, ‘[God’s] throne is established of old’, where the same Hebrew word [kown = ‘established’] is used and has the meaning ‘set up’, ‘stable’, ‘secure’, ‘enduring’, ‘confirmed’, etc., not ‘immobile’ or ‘stationary’. Likewise the Hebrew word for ‘moved’ (v.1) is used in Psalm 16:8, ‘I shall not be moved’, meaning that the writer would not stray from the path of the Lord, not that he was rooted to any one spot. Return to text.
- For example, the exponents of the big bang fail to say where the energy originally came from, where the laws of science came from, and what it was that ‘quantum fluctuated’ before there was anything there to fluctuate, and so on—see What about the big bang? and If God created the universe, then who created God?. Molecules-to-man evolution is contrary to the principles of thermodynamics, as well as to the law of biogenesis (life comes only from life), the fossil record, and much more. Return to text.
- See, for example, John Morris, The Young Earth, Master Books, Arizona, 1994, and Evidence for a young world by Russell Humphreys. Return to text.
- Top-flight Hebrew academics, e.g. Professor James Barr of the University of Oxford, are unanimous that the plain meaning that the Hebrew text is intended to convey is that ‘creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience’. (See Six days? Honestly!) Return to text.
(426) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: DOES YOUR BIBLE COLLEGE/SEMINARY TEACH A LITERAL VIEW OF GENESIS?
If you think that sending your children to Bible college or seminary to study the Bible, or if you think that you would like to earn a degree in Theology or ministry….etc. is a biblically sound endeavor, you may be in for a big surprise when you realize that very few actually believe in a literal six-days of creation in the book of Genesis.
The following is a list of “Creation Colleges”.
What is a Creation College?
The Christian colleges and seminaries referred to on this site are institutions whose presidents have affirmed in writing their personal agreement with the Tenets of Creation.
Cautious Evaluation Required
Affirmation of the Tenets of Creation by the school’s president is, of course, not a guarantee that all professors/textbooks/courses etc., take the same stand on God’s Word including Genesis but it is an important start for parents wanting a short list to research. Therefore we have provided an opportunity for each institution’s Academic Dean, Bible Department Chair, and/or Science Department Chair (or equivalent) to affirm their commitment to these foundational truths of God’s Word. However, because there are multiple professors within most Science and Bible departments,and because positions are often in flux, the student and/or parents should meet with the school directly and ask questions in a gracious manner.
Tenets of Creation
- We affirm that the scientific aspects of creation are important, but are secondary in importance to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ as Sovereign, Creator, Redeemer, and Judge.
- We deny that the doctrines of Creator and Creation can ultimately be divorced from the gospel of Jesus Christ, for the teachings of Genesis are foundational to the gospel and indeed to all Biblical doctrines (directly or indirectly).
- We affirm that the 66 books of the Bible are the written Word of God and that the Bible is the only book inspired by God. The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout. Its assertions are factually true in all the original autographs. It is the supreme authority, not only in all matters of faith and conduct, but in everything that it teaches.
- We deny that the Bible’s authority is limited to spiritual, religious or redemptive themes and we deny the exclusion of its authority from its assertions related to such fields as history and all scientific disciplines.
- We affirm that the final guide to the interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself. Scripture must be compared with Scripture to obtain the correct interpretation of a particular text, and clear Scriptures must be used to interpret ambiguous texts, not vice versa. We affirm that the special revelation of infallible and inerrant Scripture must be used to correctly interpret the general revelation of the cursed Creation.
- We deny that uninspired sources of truth-claims (i.e., history, archeology, science, etc.) can be used to interpret the Scriptures to mean something other than the meaning obtained by classical historical-grammatical exegesis.
- We affirm that no apparent, perceived, or claimed evidence in any field, including history, archeology and science, can be considered valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record. We also affirm that the evidence from such fields of inquiry is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.
- We deny that scientific “evidence” used to “prove” millions of years is objective fact and not heavily influenced by naturalistic presuppositions.
- We affirm that the account of origins presented in Genesis is a simple but factual presentation of actual events and therefore provides a reliable framework for scientific research into the question of the origin and history of life, mankind, the Earth and the universe.
- We deny that Genesis 1–11 is myth, saga, or any other type of non-historical literature. We also deny that it is a parable or prophetic vision. It therefore should be interpreted with the same care for literal accuracy as other historical narrative sections of Scripture.
- We affirm that the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 are chronological, enabling us to arrive at an approximate date of creation of the whole universe. We affirm that mankind is essentially as old as the whole creation. While some disagreement exists between young-earth creationists over whether or not these are strict, gap-less genealogies (i.e., no missing names between Adam and Noah and Noah and Abraham), we affirm that Genesis points to a date of creation between about 6,000–10,000 years ago.
- We deny that millions of years of history occurred before Adam and Eve. Therefore we deny that the geological record of strata and fossils corresponds to long geological ages before man. We also deny the Big Bang and any other naturalistic theory of the origin and history of the universe. We further deny that the radiometric dating methods, which are claimed to give dates of millions of years, are trustworthy and can be used to overthrow or disregard the Biblical teaching on the age of the creation.
- We affirm that the days in Genesis do not correspond to geologic ages, but are six, consecutive, literal (essentially twenty-four hour) days of Creation. We also affirm that the entire universe including, but not limited to, the earth, sun, moon, stars, plants, animals, and Adam and Eve were created in six, consecutive, literal (essentially twenty-four hour) days of Creation.
- We deny that the days of creation are symbolic of long ages or that millions of years can be placed between the days or before the six days of creation.
- We affirm that the various original life forms (kinds), including mankind, were made by direct, supernatural, creative acts of God. We infer from the Bible that the living descendants of any of the original kinds (apart from man) may represent more than one species today, reflecting the genetic potential within a particular original created kind. Only relatively limited biological changes have occurred naturally within each kind since Creation.
- We deny that there has ever been any evolutionary change from one of the original created kinds into a different kind (e.g., reptile to bird, ape to man, etc.).
- We affirm the supernatural creation of Adam from dust and the supernatural creation of Eve from Adam’s rib on the sixth day of Creation.
- We deny that Adam was in any way made from a pre-existing hominid (or any other living creature).
- We affirm that the account of the Fall of Adam and Eve into sin is a literal historical account and that the Fall had cosmic consequences. We also affirm that both physical and spiritual death and bloodshed entered into this world subsequent to, and as a direct consequence of, man’s sin. We further affirm that this historical Fall is the reason for the necessity of salvation for mankind through the redemptive work of the “last Adam, ” Jesus Christ.
- We deny that the account of the Fall was mythical, figurative, or otherwise largely symbolic. We deny that the judgment of God at the Fall resulted only in the spiritual death of man or only consequences for man but not for the rest of animate and inanimate creation. We, therefore, also deny that millions of years of death, disease, violence, and extinction occurred in the animal world before the Fall.
- We affirm that the great Flood described in Genesis 6–9 was an actual historic event, worldwide (global) in its extent and extremely catastrophic in its effect. As such, it produced most (but not all) of the geological record of thousands of meters of strata and fossils that we see on the earth’s surface today.
- We deny that Noah’s Flood was limited to a localized region. We also deny that the Flood was so peaceful that it left no abiding geological evidence.
- We affirm that all people living and dead are descended from Adam and Eve and that as such all people equally bear the image of God, their Maker. We,therefore, affirm that there is only one race of human beings and that the various people groups arose as a result of God’s supernatural judgment at the Tower of Babel and the subsequent dispersion of the people by families.
- We deny that the so-called “races” have different origins and that any one “race” is superior to any other.
Updated: October 28, 2015
Genesis—the seedbed of all Christian doctrine
26 April 2007
Everything in the Bible is inseparably bound up with its first book, Genesis. This is because Genesis gives us the origin and initial explanation of all major biblical doctrines.
Obviously not everything that God took 66 books of the Bible to tell us over some 15 centuries is contained in just the first book. There is a progress of doctrine throughout the Bible. From the first verse of Genesis to the last verse of Revelation, we learn more about God, ourselves, sin, redemption, etc. with each successive book.1,2 All the major doctrines of the Bible are like rivers that become deeper and broader as they flow from the initial watershed of Genesis.
We will examine the major Christian doctrines and their connection with Genesis.
1. About God (theology)
Genesis tells us about God, not just as the Creator, as seen in chapter 1, but also as the One who has a plan and purpose for mankind, that is, for us. This plan and purpose involves our living in a relationship of obedience to God (as well as of trust and love for Him). Thus God is seen as Lawgiver in His command to Adam not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:17). Then God is seen as Judge following Adam’s disobedience (Genesis 3), as well as in His judgment at the Flood, at Babel, and on Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis chapters 6–9, 11, 19). God is also seen as Saviour, prophesied in Genesis 3:15, and then in action in His saving Noah and his family from the judgment of the Flood, and Lot and his daughters from the judgment on Sodom (Genesis 18,19).
As the Creator of all things, God has the absolute right to rule over all things, and He exercises this authority in the world—demonstrating His sovereignty. This is seen in Genesis in four outstanding events: the Creation, the Fall, the Flood, and Babel. It is also seen in God’s choice, call and direction of four outstanding people: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.
The Trinity can be seen in Genesis.3 The Hebrew word for God, Elohim, in Genesis chapter 1 is plural.4 In Genesis 1:26, God says, ‘Let us make man in our image … .’ The Spirit of God is mentioned ‘hovering over the waters’ inGenesis 1:2. Christ is mentioned prophetically as the ‘seed of the woman’ in Genesis 3:15.5 This passage also prophesies the virginal conception of Christ—that is why He is the seed of the woman, in contrast to the usual biblical pattern of listing only fathers in genealogies. Adam, the Ark, Melchizedek, Isaac, and Joseph, are all commonly regarded as ‘types of Christ’.6,7
In Genesis chapters 1 and 2 we also see two very important things about God—attributes that atheists have tried to demolish with spurious arguments. The first is God’s omniscience/omnipotence in that everything that God did He got right the very first time. Contrary to Carl Sagan’s claim that God is a ‘sloppy manufacturer’,8 in everything that God created there was no experimentation, no trial and error, no ‘Oops’! The second is that everything that God created was ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). Contrary to the criticism of David Attenborough, concerning a parasitic worm that lives in the eyeballs of children in Africa,9 (see Why doesn’t Sir David Attenborough give credit to God?) everything that God created demonstrated the goodness of God. In the world before sin had entered there was no death, no suffering, no disease, no carnivory, no detriment, and no lack of any good thing.
2. About us—mankind (anthropology)
The first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve, appear in Genesis as special creations of God—Adam made from the dust, Eve from Adam’s rib—both made by God in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). Therefore we are not evolved animals, or mere agglomerations of chemicals, but beings with a spiritual or God-conscious nature.
Eve was created to be a ‘companion’ for Adam (Genesis 2:20–22). From this follows the doctrine of marriage(Genesis 2:24–25—confirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19:4–6), as the union of one man and one woman for life (not of the union of two men or of two women, or something else). Clearly, also, the whole human race is descended from a single pair (Genesis 3:20).
3. About sin (hamartiology)
With the first man came the first sin—seen in Genesis as violation of the law of God (Genesis 3:6–11), and as depravity both imputed and imparted to the whole human race (cf. Genesis 4:8; 6:5). When God created Adam and Eve, they had the ability not to sin, as well as being able to sin. When they chose to reject God’s rule over them, they and mankind lost the ability not to sin; instead we have an innate sinful nature.10 The first sin brought the first guilt(Genesis 3:8).
The first sin also brought the first judgment (Genesis 3:14–19). There would be enmity between Satan’s seed (unbelievers and possibly demons) and the woman’s seed (believers but specifically Christ). Women and men would suffer in their respective roles. All humanity would now be subject to death.
4. About salvation (soteriology)
The Bible teaches that God in His mercy and grace forgives our sin, but only when the penalty is paid by a substitutionary sacrifice. Thus God has provided salvation from the guilt, the power, the eternal penalty, and ultimately the presence of sin, by means of the person and work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The enactment and fulfilment of this salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is not seen until the Gospels; however, the prediction and promise of what was to come is first seen in the promise that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).
The substitutionary nature of sacrifice is first seen inGenesis 22:1–13, where Abraham is directed to offer a ram as a burnt offering instead of his son Isaac.
Further, this Seed is a descendant of the first man Adam (Luke 3:38), and is called ‘the Last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). This is essential, because Isaiah spoke of this coming Saviour as literally the ‘Kinsman-Redeemer’, i.e. one who is related by blood to those he redeems (Isa. 59:20, which uses the same Hebrew word גואל (gôēl) as is used to describe Boaz in relation to Naomi in Ruth 2:20, 3:1–4:17). The Book of Hebrews also explains how Jesus took upon Himself the nature of a man to save mankind, but not angels (Heb. 2:11–18). This vital kinsman-redeemer concept is sourced in Genesis.
The beginning of the Jewish nation within which the Messiah would be born, die and rise from the dead is seen in the call of Abraham (Genesis 12:1–3; 17:19;49:10).
The substitutionary nature of sacrifice is first seen in Genesis 22:1–13, where Abraham is directed to offer a ram as a burnt offering instead of his son Isaac.
5. About angels (angelology)
Just when God created the angels is not mentioned in the Bible, but it was probably before He created the earth (Genesis 1:1), or at least before the dry land appeared (Gen. 1:9), because according to Job 38:4–7, when God laid the foundations of the earth ‘the sons of God shouted for joy’11—see also Where do the angels fit in?
As God is not the author of evil, and because He pronounced His whole creation to be ‘very good’ at the end of Day 6 of Creation Week (Genesis 1:31), we take it that the being we now call Satan had not fallen into sin at that time.
In Genesis 3:1–14 we read the first reference to this being who slanders God and who tempted Eve to rebel against God, and whose ultimate destiny is foretold by God (Genesis 3:15). Elsewhere in the Bible we learn that the name of this creature is Satan, which means ‘slanderer’ (cf.Revelation 12:9; 20:2).12
The first reference to good angels is in Genesis 3:24 where cherubim are placed in the Garden of Eden by God to guard the way to the tree of life.
6. About the Church (ecclesiology)
The doctrine of the Church is revealed in the New Testament. It is one of the things that the Apostle Paul calls a mystery, meaning a previously unrevealed truth, now divulged. However, the very fact that Paul calls the Church the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:23–32) brings us back to the first divinely-ordained husband-wife relationship, in Genesis 2:24.
Also the church is surely foreshadowed in Genesis, with Abraham being called out to form (through his descendants) the nation of Israel, which God blessed and was also to be a blessing to all people on earth (Genesis 12:1–3).13 This blessing culminated in a unique Seed of Abraham, Jesus Himself (Galatians 3:16), who was to be the source of blessing to all the nations (Galatians 3:14). Paul tells us, ‘If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise’ (Galatians 3:29). Those who belong to Christ are His true Church.
7. About the last things (eschatology)
The principal aspects of what are called ‘the last things’ are the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the future resurrection(s) of the dead, the judgment of all mankind, and the final state of the redeemed and of the wicked.14
By their very nature (being the last things) we would not expect these matters to be detailed in Genesis. However, they are the outworking of God’s ultimate plan and purpose for mankind, the earth, and the universe. He purposed to provide an eternal ‘bride’ for His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, from redeemed humanity, and He set this plan into action when He created the heavens and the earth, and mankind, as recorded in Genesis chapter 1.
What we see in Genesis is God beginning the process which will ultimately bring about this purpose—a plan which was in the mind of God from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20).
Also, while the ‘last things’ are not detailed in Genesis, the places where they are detailed make no sense without it. In the Eternal State, there will once again be no death or suffering of any sort, as Revelation 21:4 says—and the reason is that ‘there shall be no more curse’ (Revelation 22:3). There will also be a return to an Eden-like state with a return of the Tree of Life (v. 2) and to a state like Days 1–3 of Creation Week where God provided light without the sun and moon (v. 5, cf. Genesis 1:16–19).
All major Christian doctrines have their source, directly or indirectly, in the book of Genesis. Preachers, missionaries and theologians who fail to see this have lost the foundation for what they teach. Conversely, those who do see this have the God-given proper basis for all their Christian witnessing, preaching, counselling, and teaching.
The Importance of Creation in Evangelism
Published: 26 April 2016 (GMT+10)
The pastor realized that dealing with evolutionary misinformation is not an optional extra, but something that must happen ‘up front’ when doing evangelism in China.
A thriving church in Japan
After a visit to Japan in December 2013, I reported that I was greatly encouraged. I saw the effects of 10 years of creation evangelism in Okinawa. After I had presented a message about creation evangelism on a Sunday morning 10 years previously, the pastor of Naha Baptist Church said, “This message must be taken to the whole of Japan.”
He had recognized how fundamental this was to the penetration of the Gospel in Japan. I also remember an elder, who was having lunch with us, admitting that he had had a wrong view of Genesis; he just thought it was stories, not real. He repented of that view in front of the senior pastor and me (this is a difficult thing for anyone to do, but particularly so in the ‘face saving’ culture that is strong in Japan). This was very moving.
That church had grown substantially in the decade since then. It had gone onto much larger premises and now had a pastoral team and many members actively involved in outreach. It was continuing to grow, using creation apologetics as a central part of the church’s strategy. Other churches in Okinawa were looking to this church for leadership in how to evangelize.
A network of pastors had been established to further the growth of the Gospel in Japan via creation evangelism. This was happening in a country notorious for being the ‘graveyard of missionaries’. Churches have been established from new converts and are growing. But these churches were not the product of missionaries from outside, but resulted from creation apologetics being used by local pastors and church members to reach their fellow citizens with the Gospel.
One of the reasons that missionaries from ‘The West’ have been so ineffective in Japan is that they generally eschew creation apologetics. They have been largely trained in seminaries where the historicity of Genesis is downplayed (a ‘side issue’) or even opposed. In 2002, a young missionary from one of the largest foreign missionary organisations working in Japan contacted us with a view to one of us visiting Japan to train the missionaries in creation apologetics. We began making arrangements for me to go and do this, but then the young missionary told us that those above him in the organisation had vetoed the idea, much to his disappointment.
Why does creation evangelism ‘work’ in China and Japan?
The people in China and Japan are indoctrinated in an evolutionary worldview in the education system. They hear nothing else. They have taken on board how everything came into existence by purely natural processes over billions of years from the big bang until now. There is ‘no evidence’ for divine creation and therefore no evidence for a supernatural Creator Who rules over everything and to whom we are accountable. The preaching of the Gospel that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead on the third day for our salvation (1 Cor. 15) makes absolutely no sense to such a mindset; it is “foolishness to the gentiles”.
Many people are receptive, however, when the Bible is taught from the beginning to establish God as the Creator of all first! How can people understand their need for forgiveness, and a saviour, if they have little concept that God created them, so that they are accountable to Him? Who will judge them for their sin if there is no Creator-God to whom they will be held accountable? How can they trust the Bible on salvation if they can’t trust its history in Genesis, so foundational to the Gospel, of how sin and death entered the world? Also, if Genesis is ‘just stories’, then why not the life, death and resurrection of Jesus?
Preaching about Jesus and His death and resurrection in isolation sees little fruit. Didn’t Jesus say, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31). You can’t preach the Gospel effectively in the context of disbelief regarding the rest of the Bible, and especially ‘Moses’ (Genesis, etc.). Therein lies the foundational knowledge of creation, rebellion (the origin of sin and death) and the need for salvation.
In Japan, modern Shintoism and Zen Buddhism reinforce the Creator-less worldview. Furthermore, Shintoism today has millions of ancestral ‘gods’, depreciating any notion of Jesus being the unique Son of God.
The apostolic preaching to gentiles
This in nothing new because it’s actually the biblical method. In Acts 17 the apostle Paul, speaking to people in Athens who had little idea of a supreme ruling Creator-God, began at that point in presenting the Gospel to them. Paul introduced the only true God (of the Bible) to them as the ‘unknown God’ of whom they seemed to have only some vague notion.
The missionary organization New Tribes Mission practises such ‘creation evangelism’ with unreached tribal groups. Many such groups have some recollection of a supreme creator, but it is distorted, often being mixed up with animistic ideas (territorial spirits). So beginning at the beginning lays a foundation for understanding why Jesus came and what His death and resurrection mean.
What of the once-Christian ‘West’?
How different are the once-Christian countries of Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.K., and Western Europe compared to China and Japan, or the people of Athens in New Testament times, or tribal people, for that matter? How many people today believe in a real, ‘hands-on’ Creator God who made them and who will hold them accountable?
The evolutionary worldview has been taught in educational institutions to the exclusion of all else, increasingly so, since the 1960s. This has been reinforced by such things as nature ‘documentaries’ on television, interpretive signs at national parks, and newspaper reports of the latest ‘ape-man’. And then there are articles in women’s magazines about how bad behaviour, such as promiscuity, is due to our evolutionary ‘ape ancestry’, or how our diet should mimic some imagined primitive diet of our primate ancestors. Even sci-fi movies have evolution producing X-men and the like, or aliens having evolved ‘out there’ somewhere in the cosmos. At every turn the idea is reinforced to the point that it is now the prevailing worldview in countries that once believed the Bible’s history.
Universities have drifted more and more into secularism (God-lessness). That’s where our school teachers get their qualifications. And now we have significant and increasing numbers of high schoolers claiming to be ‘atheist’. In several western European countries, more than half the people now say that they are atheist. Even those who would not wear the label atheist still by-and-large think ‘secular’ (God-less). That is, the Bible’s historical accounts—if they know anything of them at all—are nothing but quaint myths from yesteryear. In their groupthink the reality is as they have been indoctrinated in the education system—evolution over billions of years.
In some places, such as Northern Ireland and the south of the USA, there is a remnant tradition of church going and many people still have notions of God as Creator and ruler of the universe. However, even in these regions the institutions of ‘higher education’ are thoroughly secularized and more and more secularized teachers are being pushed into the schools, teachers who do not share the attitudes of the parents of those they are educating, causing an exodus of Christian youth in these once strongholds of the faith. The churches in these areas need to get on board with creation apologetics to arrest the slide into the abyss of secular depravity so obvious elsewhere. There is nothing in the ‘genes’ of the people who live in such areas that will protect them from the secular onslaught.
A statement from a ‘liberal’ academic in north America spells out the problem: “The children of red [conservative / Christian] states will seek a higher education,” he explains, “and that education will very often happen in blue states or blue islands in red states. For the foreseeable future, loyal dittoheads will continue to drop off their children at the dorms. After a teary-eyed hug, Mom and Dad will drive their SUV off toward the nearest gas station, leaving their beloved progeny behind.”
Then what? He proudly claims: “And then they are all mine.”1
So, ‘creation evangelism’ is relevant just about everywhere today.
From the list of Bible Institutes, Colleges, Universities, and Seminaries, here is a sampling –
The full list can be seen here –
Unfortunately, as many Bible institutions, colleges and seminaries there are in the United States, the list of “Creation Colleges” is comparatively small.
(413) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: Hugh Ross: Progressive Creationists / Theistic Evolutionist
Looking at the A.W. Tozer Seminary (Simpson College of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church) faculty listing, one can find Dr. Hugh Ross as the Adjuct Professor of Apologetics – Internationally known astronomer and speaker Dr. Ross is the president of Reasons to Believe, a Glendora, Calif.-based organization that seeks to bridge the gap between science and faith. Dr. Ross has addressed students, faculty and theologians at hundreds of locations around the world.
While his intention is noble and his influence on many within the Evangelical community is wide reaching with his focus on science, he takes views that, in my mind, puts science ahead of scripture in forming interpreations and drawing conclusions. Here is a sampling of his beliefs compared to Creation Ministries International (Young Earth).
Included in his beliefs are many characteristics commonly promoted by Evolutionists including long ages and limited flood scale. Here is an article from Dr. Jonathan Sarfati who has written extensively about the issues involved and specificaly about Dr. Hugh Ross. Sarfati contrasts the Biblical view of young earth creationism with Ross’s long ages and shows many discrepancies in Ross’s position.
Exposé of The Genesis Question*
Serious biblical and scientific errors deceive evangelicals
The astronomer Hugh N. Ross now seems to be the world’s most prominent ‘progressive creationist’ (PC). While he is insistent about distinguishing himself from ‘theistic evolutionists’ (TEs), Ross adopts the same basic philosophical approach. That is, he makes uniformitarian (i.e. essentially materialistic, billions of years, etc.) ‘science’ his authority over Scripture.
This means that he must try to fit billions of years into Scripture, with corollaries of a local flood and pre-Adamite soulless man-like creatures, and death of nephesh animals before sin. The only real difference between the two positions is that PCs deny transformism, the changing of one kind into another. Amazingly, Ross claims that his approach is ‘a literal reading of the Genesis creation chapters’ (p. 86). This is surely a very non-literal usage of the word ‘literal’!
Ross’s popularity in evangelical Christendom is based on several factors:
- His books are published by the once-biblical NavPress, the publishing arm of the Navigators.
- Ross name-drops a number of Christian leaders who appear not to realise that Ross’s departure from Scripture involves far more than the age of the earth.
- Ross gives the impression that his books will help Christians defend their faith in a scientific age.
It’s clear that for the last few years, NavPress has opposed straightforward biblical creation. In this recent Ross book [see also our introductory chapter critique of Ross’ June 2004 book release A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy], NavPress appears to have even resorted to somewhat misleading marketing tactics, i.e. the dust-jacket has some ‘praise’ from allegedly prominent authors, one of whom is:
SAMUEL CONNER, PH.D.
candidate in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Formatted as above (starting a new line and changing the font style from small capitals to italics after ‘Ph.D.’), this gives the first impression to a skimming reader that Conner has a Ph.D., because only after careful inspection is it clear that he is a Ph.D. candidate, i.e. not actually qualified.
The canonisation of ‘nature’
The worst part of Ross’s teaching is the gross liberties he takes with the scriptural text. He does this to fit the canonical 66 books into what he calls the ‘67th book’, nature.1 What he means by ‘nature’ is the uniformitarian interpretation of nature. However, the creation is cursed (Genesis 3:17–19, Romans 8:20–22) and man’s heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and the thinking of a godless man is ‘futile’ (Romans 1:21), while Scripture itself is ‘God-breathed’ (2 Timothy 3:15–17). So a biblical Christian should not reinterpret the perfect, unfallen Word of God according to fallible theories of sinful humans about a world we know to be cursed (Genesis 3:17–19, Romans 8:20–22).
Ross’s heterodox canonisation of nature has been thoroughly rebutted by Van Bebber and Taylor.2 Their book, Creation and Time: A report on the Progressive Creationist book by Hugh Ross, is valuable reading for defenders of the biblical worldview, as it answers point-by-point Ross’s earlier theological and historical errors.1 However, The Genesis Question repeats many of the same errors.
Ignorance of Hebrew
Ross routinely gives audiences the impression of being very familiar with Hebrew. However, in a meeting with Dr Ross on 12 April 1999, Dr Russell Humphreys asked Ross in Hebrew: ‘Do you speak Hebrew?’ and Ross was clearly uncomprehending. Humphreys then said (in English): ‘You must respond in Hebrew’, to which Ross admitted his inability by responding (also in English) ‘I can’t.’ Humphreys hastens to add that he himself is not expert in Hebrew, and nor am I, but we at least know enough to understand the question and to reply using the Hebrew word for‘no’.
Ross’s ignorance of Hebrew shows when he tries to discredit the common creationist identification of behemoth in Job 40:15–24 with a sauropod [see Could Behemoth have been a dinosaur?], because he believes the dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago. Ross writes (p. 48): ‘The Hebrew word for “behemoth” appears in its plural form, behema, …’ However, even beginners in Hebrew know that –a is often a feminine singular and –oth is a feminine plural. So Ross got it back-to-front: behema is the singular form, while behemoth is grammatically plural. It is a figure of speech known as an intensive plural or plural of majesty, where ‘the referent is a singular individual, which is, however, so thoroughly characterized by the qualities of the noun that a plural is used’,3 ‘beast of beasts’. The context says that behemoth is the largest beast God made. And Job 40:17 says: ‘His tail sways like a cedar’ which certainly doesn’t fit Ross’s suggestion of a hippopotamus (unless it was a bonsai cedar, maybe).
One of Ross’s major aims is to show that Genesis can be fitted into uniformitarian astronomy and paleontology. To avoid the plain teaching of Genesis—that land dinosaurs were created with man and after whales—Ross also claims (pp. 52–53):
‘The list [of creatures created on Day 6] does not purport to include all the land mammals God made. … Though remes refers occasionally in Hebrew literature to reptiles, the opening phrase of Genesis 1:25 makes it clear that these are mammals. … Bothbehema and chayyāh refer to long-legged land quadrupeds. The former group encompasses those that easily can be tamed or domesticated for agricultural purposes, and the latter, those that are difficult to tame but have the potential to become excellent pets.Remes refers to short-legged land mammals, such as rodents, hares, and armadillos.’
However, this is typical of Ross’s imaginative eisegesis. Genesis 1:25 teaches nothing so restrictive. And his analysis of Hebrew terms has no basis—Ross’s own source, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT),5 doesn’t support him. Chayyāh is simply a generic word for a living creature although it can often refer to wild animals (TWOT 1:281)—the phrase נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה (nephesh chayyāh) is used of sea creatures inGenesis 1:20, and of man in Genesis 2:7. Behema refers to both wild beast and domesticated animal (TWOT 1:92). Remes describes small creeping animals ‘especially reptiles’ (TWOT 2:850). The TWOT shows that Ross is ‘over-defining’ these terms.
Note that even if we grant Ross’s contention that remes means ‘short-legged land mammals’, it still doesn’t match the uniformitarian order in the fossil record. Such creatures are alleged to have appeared millions of years before whales, which Ross identifies as created on the millions-of-years-long ‘Day 5’. And mesonychids, the alleged predecessors of whales, were certainly ‘long-legged mammalian quadrupeds’, so would fit even Ross’s descriptions of Day 6 creatures.
Those who promote Ross’s material as sound science should thus think again. It is doubtful that secular people will be impressed by Ross’s claim that the order of Genesis matches ‘science’. When they point out exceptions, Ross redefines terms so that Day 6 doesn’t really refer to any creature that appeared before whales. And when all else fails, he claims that the ‘days’ overlapped.7
Insightful exegesis or delusions of grandeur?
One key point about Ross’s ‘harmony’ of Genesis with billions of years is to claim that Genesis 1:2 ff. is written from the viewpoint of an observer at the earth’s surface. He claims (p. 21):
‘The frame of reference, or point of view, for the creation account suddenly shifts in Genesis 1:2, from the heavenlies that make up the entire physical universe to the surface of planet Earth. For whatever reason, perhaps because it comes so abruptly, most readers—even scholarly commentators—miss the shift. I am convinced that my absorption in science prepared me to see it.’
So Ross, despite a demonstrable ignorance of even the most basic Hebrew and an inability to use Hebrew lexicons correctly, discovers amazing insights, thanks to ‘science’. This claim by Ross, like so many others, is a denial of the perspicuity of Scripture. I.e. God’s people were left entirely in the dark about Genesis until modern uniformitarian theories were invented—mainly by bibliosceptics.
More likely, this alleged frame shift has been missed because it is not in the text! The real frame-shift to the Earth is very clear in the Hebrew, and occurs in Genesis 2:4, not Genesis 1:2. Genesis 1:1–2:3 is a summarised account of the whole creation, while Genesis 2:4 ff. focuses on the creation of mankind (in chapters 7 and 10, Ross rightly rejects higher critical theories that claim that Genesis 1 and 2 are contradictory creation accounts). This shift is clear from the boundary marking phrase ‘These are the generations (toledoth) of the heavens and of the earth’, or better, ‘This is the account …’.8 Also, in Genesis 2:4, the order ‘heaven and earth’ changes to ‘earth and heaven’, alerting the reader to focus on the earth.9
Ross applies this alleged Genesis 1:2 frame shift to assert that what really happened on the fourth ‘day’ was that the sun and other heavenly bodies ‘appeared’ when a dense cloud layer dissipated after millions of years.
Disks around stars, by an amazing leap in logic, supposedly show that all planets, including the Earth, started with opaque atmospheres of hydrogen, helium, methane and ammonia (p. 26). But it would not take a very sophisticated knowledge of science to know that hydrogen couldn’t be held by earth’s gravity, and methane and ammonia would be photolysed quickly. These gases are transparent, incidentally.
Ross’s ideas are not only fanciful science, but bad exegesis of Hebrew. The Hebrew word ‘asah means ‘make’ throughout Genesis 1, and may be used interchangeably with ‘create’ (bara’), e.g. in Genesis 1:26–27. It is pure desperation to apply a different meaning to the same word in the same grammatical construction in the same passage, just to fit in with atheistic evolutionary ideas. If God had meant ‘appeared’, then He would have used the Hebrew word for appear (ra’ah), as when the dry land ‘appeared’ as the waters gathered in one place on Day 3 (Genesis 1:9). This is supported by Hebrew scholars who have translated the Bible into English. Over 20 major translations were checked, and all clearly teach that the sun, moon and stars were made on the fourth day.
Days of creation
‘In English, the word day enjoys flexible usage. We refer to the day of the dinosaurs and the day of the Romans, and no-one misunderstands our meaning. But we recognize this usage as figurative, acknowledging just two literal definitions: a twenty-four hour period, from midnight to midnight, and the daylight hours (roughly twelve, but varying from one latitude and season to another).’
Because ‘day’ (Hebrew yôm) in some contexts can have a non-literal meaning, Ross feels justified in assuming that a non-literal meaning is acceptable in the particular context of Genesis 1. But such an interpretation shows that he could benefit from elementary training in exegesis, e.g. the book Exegetical Fallacies10 by the evangelical New Testament scholar Dr Don Carson. Ross commits a classic case of a fallacy that Carson called
‘Unwarranted adoption of an expanded semantic field. The fallacy in this instance lies in the supposition that the meaning of the word in a specific context is much broader than the context itself allows and may bring with it the word’s entire semantic range.’
Ross’s fallacy can be illustrated by the following sentence that has several uses of the word ‘day’.
‘In my father’s day, he would go to bed early Sunday evening and rise early in the morning of the following day, and spend the next sixdays travelling, during the day, to cross the whole country.’
Of course ‘my father’s day’ is an indefinite period of time. But this doesn’t mean that it’s legitimate to interpret the ‘six days travelling’ as anything but ordinary days. And the combination of evening and the next morning are another way of showing that his bedtime was contained in one ordinary day, not an indefinite time period.
Genesis 1 modifies the creation days with both ‘evening and morning’ and a number, almost as if God was trying to make it as obvious as possible that they were ordinary days. Exodus 20:8–11 reinforces the point that the six days of creation followed by a day of ‘rest’ were the basis for the Israelites’ six-day week and seventh day Sabbath. The phrase ‘during the day’ is also obviously the daylight hours, as per Genesis 1:5.
Ross also claims (p. 65): ‘In biblical Hebrew, no other word besides yôm carries the meaning of a long period of time’ and cites his own book1and TWOT.5 Again, Van Bebber and Taylor pointed out11 that Ross’s own source contradicts him, stating that the Hebrew olam and its Greek equivalent aion (from which we derive the word ‘eon’) often means ‘long age’.12 There were plenty of other words that God could have used if He had wanted to teach long periods of time.13,14 God could also have used phrases like ‘x myriad myriad years ago’ to teach ages of hundreds of millions of years. For a less precise indication of vast ages, God could have compared the years to the number of sand grains or stars. Yet God did not use any of these—rather, He emphasized literal days.
Does the seventh day continue?
Ross claims on p. 64:
‘Each of the six creation days closes with the refrain: “There was evening, and there was morning,” then the day’s number. The statement suggests that each day had a start time … and an end time. However, the refrain is not attached to the seventh day. Its closure is missing.
‘… its absence from the account of the seventh day can be taken as a meaningful hint: the day has not ended.’
From this, Ross has concluded that the other creation days could be long ages. However, the systematic theologian, Dr Douglas Kelly, responded to the same argument from Ross1 in his book Creation and Change as follows:
‘To say the least, this places a great deal of theological weight on a very narrow and thin exegetical bridge! Is it not more concordant with the patent sense of the context of Genesis 2 (and Exodus 20) to infer that because the Sabbath differed in quality (though not—from anything we can learn out of the text itself—in quantity), a slightly different concluding formula was appended to indicate a qualitative difference (six days involved work; one day involved rest)? The formula employed to show the termination of that first sabbath : “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made”(Genesis 2:2) seems just as definite as that of “and the evening and the morning were the first day”.’ 15
Ross also argues that Hebrews 4:1–11 teaches ‘that the seventh creation day began after the creation of Adam and Eve, continues through the present, and extends into the future.’ However, again Ross repeats an argument rebutted by Van Bebber and Taylor.16 Hebrews never says that the seventh day of creation is continuing to the present; it merely says that God’s rest is continuing. If someone says on Monday that he rested on Saturday and is still resting, it in no way implies that Saturday lasted until Monday.17 Kulikovsky carefully analyses the grammar of Hebrews 4 and concludes:
‘The “rest” of Hebrews 4 clearly refers to the Kingdom of God … Nowhere in the text is it equated with the seventh day of creation, nor is there any grammatical or contextual data suggesting any such equation.’18
The history of mankind
A straightforward reading of the biblical genealogies according to the reliable Masoretic text19 shows that Adam was created about 4000 BC, and this was on Day 6 of creation.20 And Jesus said: ‘But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female’ (Mark 10:6), not billions of years later. But Ross dates Adam at about 35,000–47,000 BC, based on secular chromosome research (p. 111), i.e. almost at the endof billions-of-years old creation.
Since he also accepts the ‘earlier’ evolutionary ‘dates’ for other hominids, Ross concludes that they have no relationship to man, although they buried their dead, made tools and musical instruments, painted pictures, etc.
Ross (pp. 108–110) points to some biblical genealogies that have gaps to claim that the Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies are largely incomplete. He also claims (p. 109):
‘The words translated in to English say this: “When X had lived Y years, he became the father of Z.” Someone reading the same passage in Hebrew would see a second possibility: “When X had lived Y years, he became the father of a family line that included or culminated in Z.”’
Ross also points out that father can mean grandfather or ancestor, while son can mean grandson or descendant. But Ross again errs byunwarranted adoption of an expanded semantic field.10 The Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies say that X ‘begat sons and daughters’ implying that Z is likewise a son of X in this specific context.
And even if we grant that Z is a descendant of X, Z is always preceded by the accusative particle ’et, which is not translated but marks Z as the direct object of the verb ‘begat’ (wayyoled). This means that the begetting of Z by X still occurred when X was Y years old, regardless of whether Z was a son or a more distant descendant. The Hebrew grammar provides further support—wayyoled is the hiphil waw-consecutive imperfect form of the Hebrew verb yalad. The waw-consecutive is the typical Hebrew way to indicate a sequence of events (see Doug Kelly interview), and the hiphil stem communicates the subject participating in action that causes an event, e.g. Seth as the begetter of Enosh. No wonder the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (AD 37/38–c. 100) saw no gaps in the genealogy.21,22
James Barr, then Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford University, wrote in 1984:
‘… probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that: … the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story.’23
Barr, consistent with his neo-orthodox views, does not believe Genesis, but he understood what the Hebrew so clearly taught. It was only the perceived need to harmonise with the alleged age of the earth which led people to think anything different—it was nothing to do with the text itself.
Ross also points out that Luke 3:36 has the extra name Cainan. But this is spurious, because this name was probably not in the original autograph, but inserted later,24 certainly after the time of Josephus.25,26
Ross also uncritically claims that missionaries teaching a literal Genesis were discredited by:
‘Chinese historical accounts placing Chinese national origins earlier than 4004 BC. … The same reaction comes today from … Australian Aborigines, who date back to 25,000 BC …. All are firmly established dates.’ (p. 108).
However, the Encyclopædia Britannica says on China: ‘The first dynasty for which there is definite historical material is the Shang, or Yin (18th–12th BC).’27 The Australian Aborigines were an oral culture, without writing, so their ‘dates’ are not based on historical records but on ‘dating methods’. However, some of these claim that Aborigines existed before even Ross’s ‘date’ for Adam—what will happen to his apologetics if such dates become widely accepted?
Floundering on the Flood
Some Ross supporters like Dr James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, evidently believe the overwhelming biblical evidence for a global flood, but fail to see the inconsistency of this position with billions of years. A global flood would have laid down a vast thickness of fossil-bearing sedimentary rock in a year, which would nullify much geological ‘evidence’ for billions of years. Conversely, accepting that the fossil record was formed over billions of years eliminates any evidence for the Flood. Ross is more consistent, and believes the Flood was restricted to Mesopotamia.
Local flood arguments
Ross points out that there are passages where ‘all the earth’ and ‘whole world’ are used in a non-global way. Again, Ross is guilty of unwarranted expansion of an expanded semantic field.10 In the Flood account, the frequency of the Hebrew word kol (all, every) indicates that God is going out of his way to emphasize the universality of the Flood.28 Genesis 7, NIV, reads:
19 ‘They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. …
21 Every living thing that moved on the earth perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and allmankind.
22 Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died.
23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.’
A question could be asked of Ross: ‘Just suppose, for the sake of the argument, that God had wanted to teach a global flood—how could He have said it more clearly than in Genesis 7?’
Too little room for the animals?
Ross caricatures belief in a global flood, parroting discredited sceptical/atheistic arguments against the Ark. Ross ignores key books like John Woodmorappe’s Noah’s Ark—a Feasibility Study,29 which answers nearly all his objections.
Kinds and species
Creationists, arguing from the text of Genesis, believe that Noah took two of every kind of land vertebrate animal. Ross distorts this into a claim that creationists believe two of ‘every single species’ had to go on board. He also claims that the fossil record documents that ‘half a billion to a billion new species of life arose between the Cambrian explosion … and the arrival of human beings’ (p. 150). But the number of actually catalogued fossil species is only about 200,000, about 95% of which were marine invertebrates which Noah was not required to take on board anyway. The ‘billion’ is probably estimated from the transitional forms needed if neo-Darwinism were true, and even then is a huge exaggeration. And it’s likely that many so-called fossil species and even genera within a family were merely varieties of a single polytypic ‘biological species’. This is true today, as shown by many cases of hybridization between members of different ‘genera’.30
Ross regurgitates the sceptical nonsense that it was impossible to derive all current species from the relatively few kinds on board the Ark, unless super-rapid evolution occurred. Ross effectively believes in fixity of species, in ignorance of proven speciation within a kind.31 Sceptics would thus find him an easy target.
However, not all change is evolution, in the sense of molecules-to-man, which requires an increase of genetic information, just as not all monetary transactions are automatically profitable ones. Many varieties can arise rapidly from an initial population with large genetic variety. If this population splits into isolated small populations, each subgroup may carry a fraction of the total genetic information. Later information-losing mutations, e.g. in proteins recognizing ‘imprinting’ marks,32,33 can result in reproductive isolation, thus a separate ‘biological species’.
Rapid production of ‘varieties’ can be shown in humans: it is well known that a marriage between two mulattos (people with one black and one white parent each) can produce children with a large variety of skin colors. Of course it couldn’t happen quickly by evolutionary means, because they must rely on random mutations to generate new genes, and slow substitution over many generations to establish them in the population.34
This is why both Eskimos and native equatorial south Americans have mid-brown skins and haven’t developed very white or very dark skins—the relevant information is simply not present. Such ‘people groups’ today are highly specialised, with less genetic variation than mulattos (and Adam and Eve), which is why they produce offspring of limited variety.
Because of Ross’s lack of knowledge of genetics, he postulates direct divine intervention at Babel to introduce ‘racial’ traits into separate populations (pp. 177–178). The Bible doesn’t even hint at this. Ross admits that it’s a ‘God of the gaps’ explanation, which would be unnecessary if he had read any of our books. Ross says that the different ‘racial’ characteristics were designed to aid man’s dispersal. This is disturbing—although Ross does repudiate racism and sees nothing wrong in ‘interracial’ marriages, this theory almost implies that God designed racial prejudice.
If Ross had read basic creationist books, e.g. Stones and Bones, The Creation Answers Book or What is Creation Science? [or see the internet article How did all the different ‘races’ arise (from Noah’s family)?], he wouldn’t need to resort to such daft explanations, which hardly give the would-be Christian apologist relying on his books any credibility.
Ross claims that a main motivation of those opposing billions of years is fear that it would make evolution possible, hence the above subheading on p. 92. As usual, Ross’s claim betrays a willing ignorance of creationist literature as well as ignorance of evolution/variation as shown above. Many years before Ross wrote any of his books, leading creationists like Dr Duane Gish made it very clear that they believed the earth was only thousands of years old, on both biblical and scientific grounds. But Gish also strongly pointed out that evolution would be impossible even if billions of years were granted, e.g.:
‘Therefore, whether the earth is ten thousand, ten million, or ten billion years old, the fossil record does not support the general theory of evolution.’35
‘Considering an enzyme, then, of 100 amino acids, there would be no possibility whatever that a single molecule could have arisen by pure chance on earth in five billion years.’36
The need for the Ark
Why would God have told Noah to build an ocean-liner-sized Ark just to escape a local flood? Noah could easily have migrated. Why bother to take birds, when many can fly hundreds of miles in a day? Ross ‘explains’ (p. 160):
‘First, when God pours out judgment, He gives ample warning ahead of time. He sends a spokesperson, a prophet, and gives that prophet a kind of platform from which to be heard. For the antediluvians, Noah was that prophet and the scaffolding around the Ark was his platform.’
Another Ross flight of fancy—what other prophet needed a ‘platform’, let alone one requiring such a huge expenditure of labour?
‘Straw man’ and ‘guilt by association’ arguments
Ross often misrepresents what creationists believe and have clearly stated. For example (p. 148):
‘Some global flood proponents who acknowledge the problem of a grossly inadequate water supply propose that Earth’s surface was “smoothed,” or flattened, by the Flood, thus reducing the water requirement. More specifically, they claim that during the forty days and nights when the floodwaters rose, Earth’s mountains radically eroded from their lofty heights of ten, fifteen and even twenty thousand feet to just one or two thousand feet, perhaps less.’
This is totally inexcusable, because Ken Ham had responded to a similar Ross misrepresentation (which was even then inexcusable) well beforeThe Genesis Question was published:
‘In my 20 years of involvement in creation ministry, I have never known of any material from any biblical creationists indicating that God “eroded the mountains from a height of 30,000 feet down to sea level during the forty days”! … Biblical creationists believe that most mountains today did not exist before the Flood, but were raised up (and ocean basins sank) towards the end of the Flood, thus causing the water to run off to where it is today.’37
Akin to straw man arguments is guilt by association—Ross complains that a TV documentary about the alleged discovery of the ‘Ark’ gave the sceptics an easy target (pp. 165–167). The obvious implication is that it’s all the fault of global Flood proponents, although the major global Flood organisations have repudiated such claimed discoveries.38 Many creationists even agree with Ross that the Ark is unlikely to be found because its timber would probably have been used for construction, so that is hardly a unique local-floodist insight.
Ross also copies the ploy of the apostate Ron Numbers,39 attributing biblical creationism and flood geology to ‘the visions of an Adventist prophetess [Ellen White]’ via George McCready Price. A number of papers by Dr Terry Mortenson in Journal of Creation show that the early 19thcentury scriptural geologists presented such ideas well before Price [see The 19th Century Scriptural Geologists, by Dr Terry Mortenson]. Ken Ham pointed out that he had never even heard of Price at the time he founded CSF/AiG, and that he adopted creationism because of the biblical teaching.37 Even if Ross were right about Price, he is wrong to think that discrediting Price is enough to refute creationism—this is a classic case of the genetic fallacy.
With such serious logical fallacies in Ross’s book, it is astonishing that it was endorsed by Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland, who is usually very astute at spotting such fallacies. (Did he actually read it?)
Pitching the Ark?
Ross parrots another discredited argument from atheistic sceptics: that it would be impossible to ‘pitch’ the Ark without millions of years for petroleum products to accumulate (pp. 153–154). This shows that Ross is unwilling to admit to his readers that biblical creationists have already addressed most of his arguments long ago. Dr Tas Walker pointed out 15 years ago that pitch need not be made from petroleum at all—the pitch-making industries in Europe made pitch from pine resin for centuries.40 The Encyclopædia Britannica says about naval pitch: ‘Oleoresin, also called gum or pitch … is extracted from the pine …’41
Too much coal?
Like bibliosceptics, Ross claims that there is too much coal in the earth’s crust to have been formed in the Flood (pp. 151–154). Even worse, as ‘evidence’ he cites some calculations from a Journal of Creation paper, Too much coal for a young earth?42 However, the whole point of this paper was to solve that problem, by showing evidence that much coal had formed from large floating ecosystems comprising arboreal lycopods, which had been catastrophically buried by water. Ross also omitted the question mark when citing the title, thus further conveying to his readers the diametrically opposite meaning to the paper’s intention. Also, John Woodmorappe had shown long ago that vegetation living at the start of the Flood was not the only possible source of carbonaceous material which had eventually transformed into coal. There were about 1656 years between the creation and Flood, enabling much peat to form, which could have been buried by the Flood and easily transformed into coal since.43
Death and the Fall
Since Ross accepts the billions of years, for consistency he must believe that the death, suffering and disease shown by the fossil record occurred well before Adam sinned. Thus Ross denies the biblical teaching that death could not have been part of God’s ‘very good’ creation (Genesis 1:31) because death is ‘the last enemy’ (1 Corinthians 15:26).
Ross agrees that Genesis 1:29 teaches that humans originally had a vegetarian diet, not ‘merely an indication that all food resources derive from plants’ (p.71). But he ‘explains’:
‘Vegetarianism perfectly suits the potential longevity of the first humans. Animal tissue contains between ten and ten thousand times the concentration of heavy elements that plant material contains. This difference sounds drastic, but it poses an insignificant health risk for people living only 120 years (the limit God imposed at the time of the Flood). However, the difference is by no means trivial for people living nearly a thousand years.’
Ross provides no documentation. How could he know what dangers would face long-living people without any to test?! This statement is falsified by the lifespans greatly exceeding 120 years long after people were permitted to eat meat. And his statement is hopelessly imprecise:which plants and animals? Some plants take up heavy elements so readily that they are used to clean up waterways. Soy and tea plants are known to take up aluminium readily. Conversely, many animals can excrete such elements. And accumulation is more of a problem in animals higher in the food chain, e.g. sharks with mercury, as well as filter-feeders. This might be a reason for the Mosaic laws against eating carnivores and shellfish.
Also, Ross undercuts one of his own claims. Ross agrees that Genesis 1:29 teaches original vegetarianism for humans, but then surely by his own reasoning, the next verse must teach original vegetarianism in land animals and birds. But Ross denies this without realising the contradiction, because he believes that carnivore fossils pre-date Adam.
Ross points out that plants must have died before the Fall. Again, he persistently misrepresents what creationists actually teach.37 We havenever taught that plants or individual cells didn’t die before the Fall, but only nephesh (soul) creatures. It should be obvious from Genesis 1:29–30 that the Bible is clear that plants do not have life in the sense of nephesh, while animals do. [Update: see The Fall: a cosmic catastrophe: Hugh Ross’s blunders on plant death in the Bible]
It’s perhaps understandable that Ross, whose major qualifications are in astronomy, would not be an expert on biology. But it’s astounding that a man who specializes in supposedly scientific apologetics, makes fundamental errors with even high-school level genetics. His apparent ignorance of speciation is covered above, but there are other areas where he does not understand basic genetics.
Ross does accept the biblical long lifespans, and rejects any redefinition of the word ‘year’ (a pity he isn’t so careful with the word ‘day’). But in ch. 15, Ross interprets the 120 years of Genesis 6:3 as shortening of human lifespans. This is clearly fallacious because it contradicts other Scriptures showing that people lived for hundreds of years well after the Flood. The best understanding is that the 120 years was the time left for mankind before the Flood would destroy it, with only a remnant surviving on the Ark.
Ross’s explanation for shortening human lifespans is: God supernaturally increased the rate of apoptosis (programmed cell death) to ‘protect’ us from an increasing-with-age risk of cancer in the aftermath of a radiation burst from the Vela supernova. But it’s bizarre to talk about ‘protecting’ people from cancer should they reach 500, 600, even 900, by making sure they become decrepit and die before 120! What next, ‘protecting’ people from Alzheimer’s disease at 80 by causing fatal heart attacks by 60?
A sensible physical explanation for the drop in longevity is loss of ‘longevity genes’ by genetic drift because of the population bottleneck at the Flood, and maybe other post-Babel bottlenecks as well, but Ross’s book ignores creationist literature and evidence from gene studies.44
Ross correctly believes that Adam’s sons and daughters must have intermarried, that such close intermarriage happened in Abraham’s time, and that God did not forbid this until Leviticus 18:6–18. But his explanation is garbled (p. 105):
‘Genetic defects as a result of intrafamily marriage develop slowly. They would present no risk until after the first several dozen generations.’
Aside from the inconsistency with his deviant view of hundreds of generations between Adam and Abraham, this misunderstands the problem of close intermarriage. It’s not the intermarriages per se that cause defects. Rather, there is a greater likelihood of inheriting two recessive defective mutant genes in the same locus, which would thus be expressed. Whereas if the parents were more distantly related, the offspring would likely inherit defects in different loci, each paired by a normal allele that would mask the defect. But since Adam and Eve were created with no defective genes, recessive mutations would take many more than ‘several dozen generations’ to accumulate to levels where close intermarriage would be dangerous for the offspring.
See also Cain’s wife—who was she?
Other scientific fallacies
Some of Ross’s arguments are blatantly circular, in effect: ‘Isn’t it amazing how modern uniformitarian science backs up what Genesis says?’ Hardly surprising, because Ross has reinterpreted Genesis to fit in with uniformitarian science!
Ross strongly overstates the case for fine-tuning of the earth and universe. He claims (p. 32) that Earth’s gravity is strong enough to hold lots of water vapour (relative molecular mass (Mr) = 18), ‘but not so high as to keep life threatening quantities of ammonia [Mr = 17] and methane [Mr = 16].’ Not true—earth’s gravity even holds helium (Ar = 4) strongly (incidentally, more helium from Î±-decay is released into the atmosphere than escapes into space, and the total amount in the atmosphere is evidence that it is less than two million years old45). We are protected from methane and ammonia because they are rapidly destroyed by UV light.
There are many other errors, even in Ross’s own field of astronomy, documented by the astronomy professor Danny Faulkner.46
I haven’t covered all of Ross’s errors in this review (however they are available in my book Refuting Compromise). But there is enough documentation here of his biblical and scientific errors to show that Christians should not promote his books. [See also the June 2004 articleCritique of the introductory chapter of Hugh Ross’ new book A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy.]
- Ross, H.N., Creation and Time, Navpress, Colorado Springs, p. 56, 1994. Return to text.
- Van Bebber, M. and Taylor, P.S., Creation and Time: A report on the Progressive Creationist book by Hugh Ross, Eden Productions, Mesa, AZ, 1994. See online chapters. Return to text.
- Waltke, B.K. and O’Connor, M., An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, IN, p. 122, 1990. Return to text.
- Exegesis means reading out of the text (i.e. letting the text teach you); eisegesis means reading one’s own ideas into the text. Return to text.
- Harris, R.L., Archer, G.L. and Waltke, B.K., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Moody Press, Chicago, 1980. Return to text.
- Van Bebber and Taylor, Ref. 2, pp. 86–91. Return to text.
- Ross, H., Genesis One: A Scientific Perspective, Wiseman Productions, Sierra Madre, CA, p. 12, 1983. Return to text.
- Kelly, D.F., Creation and Change: Genesis 1:1–2:4 in the Light of Changing Scientific Paradigms, Mentor (Christian Focus Publications), Ross-shire, UK, ch. 2, 1997. Return to text.
- Kelly, D.F., lecture at Moore Theological College, Sydney, 7 August 1999. Return to text.
- Carson, D.A., Exegetical Fallacies, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 2nd Ed., p. 60, 1996. Return to text.
- Van Bebber and Taylor, Ref. 2, pp. 76–77. Return to text.
- Harris, et al., Ref. 5, 2:673. Return to text.
- Grigg, R., How long were the days in Genesis 1? What did God intend us to understand from the words He used? Creation 19(1):23–25, 1996. Return to text.
- Stambaugh, J., The days of Creation: a semantic approach, Journal of Creation 5(1):70–76, 1991. Return to text.
- Kelly, Ref. 8, p. 111. Return to text.
- Van Bebber and Taylor, Ref. 2, pp. 69–73. Return to text.
- Is the seventh day an eternal day?, Creation 21(3):44–45, 1999. Return to text.
- Kulikovsky, A.S., God’s Rest in Hebrews 4:1–11, Journal of Creation 13(2):61–62, 1999. Return to text.
- For a defence of the Masoretic text vs the altered Septuagint (LXX), see Williams, P., Some remarks preliminary to a biblical chronology, Journal of Creation12(1):98–106, 1998. Return to text.
- Not just Archbishop Ussher, but also Kepler, Luther and Melanchthon, calculated very similar dates. See Young, R., Analytical Concordance to the Holy Bible, 8thEd., Lutterworth Press, London, p. 210, 1939. Return to text.
- Josephus, Jewish Antiquities Books I–IV, Harvard Press, Cambridge, MA, 1930, p. 73; Loeb Classical Library No. 242. Return to text.
- Young, Ref. 20. Josephus calculated the creation date at 5555 BC, because he used mainly the inflated figures of the LXX (5508 or 5586 BC). Return to text.
- Barr, J., Letter to David C.C. Watson, 1984. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J.D., Cainan of Luke 3:36, Journal of Creation 12(1):39–40, 1998; see also Cainan: How do you explain the difference between Luke 3:36 and Gen. 11:12? Return to text.
- Josephus, Ref. 21. Return to text.
- Pierce, L., Letter to the editor, Journal of Creation 13(2):76, 1999. Return to text.
- ‘China’, Encyclopædia Britannica, 3:230, 15th Ed. 1992. Return to text.
- Kruger, M., Genesis 6–9: Does ‘all’ always mean all? TJ 10(2):214–218, 1996. Return to text.
- Woodmorappe, J., Noah’s Ark: a Feasibility Study, Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, CA, 1996. Return to text.
- Marsh, F.L., Variation and Fixity in Nature, Pacific Press, Mountain View, CA, 1976. Return to text.
- Wieland, C., Speciation Conference brings good news for creationists, TJ, 11(2):135–136, 1997. Return to text.
- Cohen, P., The great divide, New Scientist 160(2164):16, 1998. Return to text.
- Jerlström, P., Genomic imprinting, Journal of Creation 13(2):6–8, 1999. Return to text.
- ReMine, W.J., The Biotic Message, St. Paul Science, St. Paul, MN, 1993; see online review. Return to text.
- Gish, D.T., Evolution: The Fossils Say No! Creation-Life Publishers, San Diego, CA, 2nd ed., p. 43, 1973. This book has been superseded by Evolution: The fossils STILL say NO! Institute for Creation Research, El Cahon, CA, USA, 1995. Return to text.
- Gish, D.T., The origin of life: theories on the origin of biological order, ICR Impact 37:iii, 1976. Return to text.
- Ham, K., Demolishing ‘straw men’, Creation 19(4):13–15, 1997. Return to text.
- Snelling, A.A., Amazing ‘Ark’ exposé, Creation 14(4):26–38, 1992. Return to text.
- See the review of Numbers’ historically unreliable (perhaps due to his anti-creationist bias) book The Creationists by Andrews, E., Origins (Journal of the British Creation Society) 8(20):21–23, 1995. Return to text.
- Walker, T., The pitch for Noah’s Ark, Creation 7(1):20, 1984. Return to text.
- ‘Naval stores’, Encyclopædia Britannica, 8:564–565, 15th Ed. 1992; emphasis added. Return to text.
- Schönknecht, G. and Scherer, S., Too much coal for a young earth? Journal of Creation 11(3)278–282, 1997. Return to text.
- Woodmorappe, J., The antediluvian biosphere and its capability of supplying the entire fossil record, Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Creationism, 2:205–218,1986. Return to text.
- Wieland, C., Living for 900 years, Creation 20(4):10–13, 1998. Return to text.
- Vardiman, L., The Age of the Earth’s Atmosphere: A Study of the Helium Flux through the Atmosphere, Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, CA, 1990; see also Blowing old-earth belief away: Helium gives evidence that the earth is young. Return to text.
- Faulkner, D.R., The dubious apologetics of Hugh Ross, Journal of Creation 13(2):52–60, 1999. Return to text.