Rolling review of Hugh Ross’ The Genesis Question.

I will be doing a rolling review of Hugh Ross’ controversial book The Genesis Question: Scientific Advances and the Accuracy of Genesis (Navpress, 2nd edition, 2001).

As I noted this is a review and any comments I personally deem  negative, inappropriate or divisive will immediately be deleted.  I won’t kill every negative comment – it will be on a case by case basis.  I know the book isn’t perfect and if there is something I come across I may disagree with (which will be hard since I am not a scientist) I will try to address it.

So, Hugh Ross is a PhD in Astronomy and did his undergrad in Physics.  He is a one time minister of evangelism and founder of the ministry Reasons to Believe.  In this book he deals with Genesis 1-11 and in process interacts with various scientific discoveries and advances  as they relate to the Genesis Narrative and help us understand the text.

This is interesting but I think we all need to recognize that the ancients did not have a sense of time as we do and did not necessarily think of the creation event in the detailed way we want to do today.  Their approach was less exact than what many moderns want out of the text.   That said, it is interesting to think about.  At the same time we really do neec to be careful not to stake ourselves into a position and then make that position as though it were the very heart of the gospel itself – both sides of the YEC v. OEC debate need to watch for this – there is much about the creation event we do not know – not all the details are there (oops, are those “gaps”?)

But it does bring up an issue I wanted to share from the book.  Ross writes the following at the end of Chapter two on “Reasons for resistance” to letting science in one form or another influence how we might understand the creation event:

….intellectual questions about Genesis are understandable, even expected.  If they are genuine, the person who raises them will show a willingness to listen and explore possible answers.  However, not everyone who raises questions really wants a response.  Some seem interested in arguing.  Some just walk away.  Why?

How a person interprets the first eleven chapters of Genesis may be determined by how that person responds to some other part of the Bible.  For example, if a person has been badly hurt or mistreated by someone bearing the “Christian” or “biblical” label, objectivity probably has been lost.  If a person objects to biblical teachings (rightly or wrongly interpreted) on moral issues, objectivity probably has been lost.

Other fears come from misunderstanding the biblical definition of of faith.  The prevailing view exalts “blind” faith and rejects the principle that facts are the crucial foundation for a meaningful faith.  The misapplied mandate to “walk by  faith, not by sight” frequently causes problems.  Perhaps a deeper fear, more difficult to express, is that connecting faith to scientific facts subordinates the Bible to human endeavors or places Scripture at risk of contradiction by new discoveries that could overturn previously developed interpretations.

Herein lies a paradox.  People who seem most concerned with defending biblical inerrancy may be the most resistant to any information, not derived from the Bible, that might help illuminate its meaning.  Logically, taking Scripture seriously means being passionately concerned about interpreting it correctly and this welcoming any evidence that exposes erroneous understandings of the biblical text.  Unfortunately, many zealous Bible students and teachers confuse their favorite interpretations of the Bible with the Bible itself (15-16).

Yay!!  This is a slam dunk!  A Home Run!!  This is exactly the issue and addresses the problem of “circling the wagons” that has been going on lately especially among more conservative Christians – they are confusing their favorite interpretations of the Bible with the Bible itself – even God himself.  I suppose too this can happen on both sides, but right now I see a lot of that “bunker mentality” among conservatives and it’s sad really.

We have to remember, creation may be an element of the gospel message, but it is not the gospel itself, Jesus Christ and him crucified is the gospel message.   If creation has an element of the gospel in it, we see it in verses 2-3 where God’s first act of redemption is in overcoming the chaotic and void darkness of the earth to bring light and life into the creation.   God saying “Let there be light” was his first speech act of redemption in the created order.

All for now.

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4 responses to “Rolling review of Hugh Ross’ The Genesis Question.

  1. Brian, could you please explain the statement:
    ‘confuse their favorite interpretations of the Bible with the Bible itself.’ To me this is a logical fallicy which contradicts itself. How can one take an interpretation from the Bible and confuse it with the Bible itself? Totally lost on the rational and logic of the statement.
    Another one:
    ‘God’s first act of redemption is in overcoming the chaotic and void darkness of the earth’!
    Could you please define ‘the chaotic and void darkness of the earth’. Many English translations use different descriptors such as ‘with out form and void’!

    • Ron,

      Basically it just means treating an interpretation of the Bible (or a Bible passage – in this case the creation narratives (Gen 1-11)) as though it were somehow infallible (that interpretation couldn’t possibly be wrong no matter what) – when in reality because of our fallibility as humans, no one person’s interpretation of a particular Bible passage is infallible (necessarily), only the Bible is infallible.

      We also have to remember too the Bible is not God and God is not the Bible – only God is God and the Bible represents his written word to us, but it isn’t God, so we should not worship the Bible (or overly exalt a particular interpretation), we should only worship God alone. I know this sounds ludicrous but it does happen.

      I say this because when someone treats a particular interpretation of a Bible passage as somehow infallible, that is akin to worshiping the Bible (also referred to as idolatrizing the Bible, when an idol is something that is set up against the knowledge of God – and sadly enough, some people do interact with the Bible in a fashion that keeps them from knowing God on a personal level (though they may know tons about him – they don’t really know him. And in the case of this discussion on the Genesis creation narrative, such a thing can and has happened to YEC’ers or OEC’ers – it is also a trait of many in fundamentalist circles (though certainly not all).

      This is primarily why how Ken Ham has been going about castigating myself and the AG for their position on the doctrine of creation is extremely concerning, if not dangerous, and needs to be corrected or altogether avoided.

      I hope that helps some.

      • Thanks Brian for the clarification. It does a little more sense now. I agree as I have met some radical Christian religious groups that take 1 or 2 parts of Bible passages (thus disregarding other passages), interpret them and revere them as ‘Holy’ and completely alter God’s intent for salvation personal relationship with Jesus Christ, etc, etc and typically it has to do with outwardly appearance (all dressed in black head to toe, can’t drive motorized vehicles, can’t use rubber tires, underwear need to have minimum ‘standards’, can’t have too many buttons, bright colors are forbidden, etc, etc). By this they gauge someone else’s spiritual life whether they are complying or not. This is present day not historical.

        One more question to fully understand this yet (sorry), is it us who ultimately decides on what the Bible should or shouldn’t say, on how any particular passage be interpreted?

  2. I completely agree with his first 3 paragraphs.

    “People who seem most concerned with defending biblical inerrancy may be the most resistant to any information, not derived from the Bible, that might help illuminate its meaning.”

    This statement may be true of some, but it is not true of YEC scientists. RATE was a major research initiative where YEC scientists raised a lot of money for research to better understand radiometric decay. It was very productive!!! There are at least 3 major YEC scientific publications: CRSQ, ARJ, and JoC. If one takes the time to understand the science, it is really, really exciting to see how much Scripture is consistent with science. Yes, a straight forward interpretation of Genesis is consistent with science and it breaks my heart when believers seem to ignore this.

    I am all for correcting faulty interpretations of the Bible. Here is my underlying assumption: when in doubt, God is always right. Any interpretation that is more straight forward than another is more likely to be correct. If a portion of Scripture sounds like history, it probably is. If a teaching it is at odds with traditionally held doctrines of the church, look for presuppositions – there is very likely a problem.

    One issue with various creation theories is: are the consistent with the idea of perspicuity of Scripture? IOW, do they conflict with the idea that Scripture is clear, given a decent translation.

    Scripture is very confrontational because it is true. It confronts us with how we think about and handle money; it challenges what we consider acceptable regarding sex; it has a zero tolerance for unforgivenness in the life of a believer. Only by maintaining the view that Scripture is clear when it speaks will these challenges be heard. We need to hear them if we truly want to be Christ’s disciples.

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