Science vs. Scripture: An Open Response to Dr. John Ankerberg


In January 2009, ICR received a copy of a recent ministry letter published by television personality Dr. John Ankerberg. For many years, Dr. Ankerberg has skillfully tackled tough issues related to the church, society, the Middle East, and other topics of interest to believers. Christians everywhere need to be informed, challenged, and also taught sound doctrine—there is no substitute for the Bible.

However, the January letter from Dr. Ankerberg’s television ministry reveals a dangerous trend toward subjugating the accuracy, understandability, and authority of the Bible to the foolish musings of men—namely, scientists who deny that God’s revelation in the book of Genesis is actually true.

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

Surely God meant the phrase “evening and morning” in Genesis 1 to be read “millions or billions of years.” Wasn’t God the father of evolutionary processes? Isn’t the so-called Big Bang theory God’s idea in the first place? These issues, and more, are the ideas supported by Dr. Ankerberg in his 10-page appeal letter as he unveils “the latest scientific evidence.”

Of course, the Institute for Creation Research is all for science. As the founder of the modern creation science movement (many decades ago), ICR has led the way in conducting the most comprehensive and professional research within the various disciplines of science, but with one very important component: science never trumps Scripture. God’s Word is the ultimate interpreter of all things, even in the realm of science.

This is not to say that the Bible was written as a science textbook. But it does mean that God does not lie, nor has He communicated in a way that confuses His people. However, the way some are beginning to “interpret” Scripture today suggests they believe that God did not speak plainly and only “qualified” Ph.D.’s know the real secret behind God’s straightforward writing.

Dr. Ankerberg has made his views very public, and we have included a copy of his full 10-page appeal letter in the footnotes of this article.1 Please read it thoroughly. And then read our response here one more time. ICR will have more to say in the March Acts & Facts magazine.2

February 2009 is the worldwide celebration (a.k.a. worship) of the man Charles Darwin, who popularized the notion of evolution, the origins-by-accident “theory” that has given scientists, educators, and even despots numerous excuses to eliminate God from rational thought. Darwin’s ardent followers are by and large unbelievers. You only need to hear the likes of atheists Richard Dawkins, William Provine, Christopher Hitchens, and others to see how they revel in Darwin’s birth and influence. Christians should not be surprised by the world’s rejection of God and His revelation.

What is surprising and sad, however, is the trend within the church—within the evangelical church—to abandon sound biblical doctrine in light of "the latest scientific evidence,” particularly when that evidence is filtered through a naturalistic and atheistic worldview.

Evangelism vs. Doctrine

At the very start of the Ankerberg letter is his connection between “the latest scientific evidence” and the ministry of evangelism, with the statement that believers can now “use this evidence to lead your non-Christian friends to believe God exists and is the Creator of everything.” What you are not told in the first two pages of his appeal is that Dr. Ankerberg has publicly changed his view about how God’s creatorship can be proven.

While admitting he still holds to his belief that God is Creator—and there is no reason to believe that he denies this fact—he is now saying that “science” has finally proven how God created the heavens and the earth. In fact, he states that one man has not only discovered this, but also has made 90 startling scientific predictions that will be revealed in the new Ankerberg television series. Ankerberg concludes, “Unfortunately, many Christians do not know this evidence and can’t share the good news about God and creation with their friends.”

So just how did Christians evangelize for the previous 2,000 years without this “new” evidence? Did Christians really not know how to properly share the Good News without these startling new scientific discoveries?

Dr. Ankerberg rightly laments that “more students at our universities” don’t believe in God. But he claims science is the key to correcting this travesty. And the proper understanding of science in his view—which is the hybrid creation theory called day-age creation—will solve this dilemma in Christian ministry.

However, Romans 1 clearly states that mankind possesses a sinful predisposition to reject God’s many infallible proofs (Acts 1:3). Rejecting these proofs leaves man “without excuse” (Romans 1:20). It is not because the evidence has not been communicated well to unbelieving minds. Jesus states that many would not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead (Luke 16:31).

However, Dr. Ankerberg suggests that evangelism is actually hindered by those who believe and teach that God created the world in six 24-hour days and that the earth is around 6,000 years old. He attacks the many-decades ministry of ICR leaders Dr. John Morris and Dr. Duane Gish because of their uncompromising stance on the 24-hour days God used to create the world. He states, “At the time I thought, it’s going to be difficult to defend the young earth position if no scientist has been persuaded by the scientific evidence to accept it.”

Is Dr. Ankerberg unaware of the thousands of Christian scientists who subscribe to recent creation? Has he not studied, for instance, the dramatic evidence for recent creation discovered at Mount St. Helens or through ICR’s eight-year research project on radioisotopes and the age of the earth (RATE)?

Which is easier for a scientist to believe:

  • Moses parting the Red Sea, or recent creation?
  • The walls of Jericho falling down due to marching and shouting, or recent creation?
  • The virgin birth of Christ, or recent creation?
  • Jesus feeding the 5,000 with just a few pieces of bread and fish, or recent creation?
  • Jesus rising from the dead, or recent creation?

If our goal is ultimately to please or placate modern scientists or theologians, what divine miracle will Dr. Ankerberg suggest we do away with next?

The bottom line is that anyone—be it scientist, scholar, or TV personality—must come to Christ by faith, not by sight.

Science is not God’s means to salvation; the cross is. Science, if used in a manner that does not disparage the Word of God, can be used to help some people take notice of God, the Creator. But science is only one of a myriad methods God uses to attract men and women and children to Himself.

A New Science?

Dr. Ankerberg evidently has been persuaded by the science of one man—Dr. Hugh Ross, whom he is featuring on television. In an amazing declaration, he states that Dr. Ross has developed the “first testable creation model Christians have ever produced.” Dr. Ankerberg also writes that before this he “couldn’t show how the Genesis account corresponded with science,” and follows that with the statement “I think young earth leaders are in the same situation today.”

However, with all his credentials as an astronomer, Dr. Ross was still an infant in the 1940s when Dr. Henry Morris began publishing creation science evidence, which eventually led to The Genesis Flood in 1961, the founding of the Institute for Creation Research in 1970, and the many research projects that ICR has conducted over the past 40 years.

Apart from Dr. Ross’ relative newcomer status in creation studies, he is most well known for systematically altering the clear meaning of the biblical text in order to fit the Bible into his view of cosmic history. Examples of this would include his interpreting long ages of time (millions and billions of years) for each “evening and morning,” his assertion that the Flood of Noah’s time was just a local Mesopotamian flood rather than a worldwide judgment for sin that covered the entire earth, his claim that God instigated the so-called Big Bang, and his surrender to secular geology in determining the age of the earth. His bizarre idea that the 67th book of the Bible is “nature” confuses sincere believers and ultimately places the study of science in authority over the text of Scripture.

Dr. Ankerberg urges his followers—with some trepidation—to abandon their traditional heartfelt beliefs in Genesis in order to adopt his new understanding of science and the Bible:

I realize that some of you reading this letter believe with all of your heart that the Bible teaches God created the heavens and the earth approximately 6,000 years ago. You believe the only correct literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 teaches God created in six 24-hour days. Therefore, if anyone suggests otherwise, they are speaking against the clear meaning of the Bible, and this is unacceptable.

In essence, Dr. Ankerberg believes he has discovered new revelation from Hugh Ross—revelation that casts aside the belief of most Christians for over two millennia. So, when God wrote “evening and morning,” He apparently did not mean “evening and morning.” Do the peoples of the world now also need naturalistic training in order to understand God?

From this point on, Dr. Ankerberg shifts between his statements of disbelief in the normal six days of creation to his repeated attempts to use the words “literal,” “inerrant,” and “infallible” in describing his own heartfelt beliefs in the Bible. In true Clintonesque style, Dr. Ankerberg suggests that the “literal” meaning of the word “day” can sometimes have a different “literal” meaning (i.e., “seven long periods of time”).

Dr. Ankerberg is naturally banking on the goodwill of his loyal viewers, his “friends for close to 30 years.” Many have come to trust him to present biblical truth that is relevant to many sticky issues facing believers.

But now he is begging his constituents (“please hear me out”) to let him explain about this one man, Dr. Hugh Ross, who has revealed to him this “new” theory, day-age creation (no matter what he labels it), that makes Scripture conform to modern science.

And that’s where the rub comes: attempting to force Scripture to fit “the latest scientific evidence.”

Marketing Hugh Ross

In his lengthy appeal letter, Dr. Ankerberg lays out a frontal assault on Dr. Henry Morris, founder of ICR, and all those Christians who take God at His Word, by claiming:

  • That “the majority of scientists who are evangelical Christians believe the old earth view.” Of course, the appeal to the majority is a dangerous fallacy. Consider the “majority” wandering in the wilderness after the Exodus. And what about the “majority” who stood before Pilate when Jesus was on trial (Luke 23:22-24)?
  • That “the Bible talked about the Big Bang before any astronomer did.” A normal reading of the biblical data would not lead anyone to conclude that God began the world with a big bang of any kind. This claim also ignores the many weaknesses of the Big Bang that evolutionists themselves have pointed out.
  • That the animals coming off the Ark could not have possibly produced all the “species” alive today. But Dr. Ankerberg confuses the modern word “species” with the biblical word “kind.” He opines that it could not possibly happen. What happened to the God for whom “nothing is impossible”?
  • That the “seventh day” (when God rested from His creative work)—as bizarre as this sounds—has never ended. Dr. Ankerberg’s misinterpretation of the Sabbath rest is used to "prove" that because the seventh day is supposedly still going on, the other six days in creation must be long ages, too.
  • That the third day of creation—when God created vegetation—must be long ages of time in order for all the plant communities of the world to have grown to maturity. Yet Genesis states that the sun—which is needed for plant growth—was not created until Day 4. How does this claim by Ankerberg affect our understanding of photosynthesis? And why limit God’s ability to create fully-mature, seed-bearing plants in just one day?
  • That God did not do all He said He did on Day 6 of creation. In Dr. Ankerberg’s opinion, it was “highly unlikely” that God accomplished this in 24 hours. If not God, then who could ever have accomplished this or any other divine miracle described in the Bible?

Dr. Ankerberg’s insistence on page 10 of his letter that he remains faithful to the “literal” interpretation of Genesis has lost all its meaning by now because it is clear that this Christian celebrity has made his choice to disparage the plain reading of the Bible.

In the March issue of the Acts & Facts magazine, ICR will give an expanded response to this drift from sound doctrine; the evangelical church is losing its scriptural moorings. And Dr. Ankerberg is just one of a number of Christian personalities who have abandoned the plain sense of the Bible in light of the “latest scientific evidence.”

Can we “prove”—using empirical science alone—exactly how God created the heavens and the earth? Not a chance. We can only rejoice when God allows us to uncover evidence that demonstrates that the Bible is absolutely trustworthy—something that we must hold on to no matter what.

References

  1. The John Ankerberg Show constituent letter, January 2009.
  2. Because of the many inaccuracies in Dr. Ankerberg’s letter, ICR feels compelled to address these errors.

Article posted on February 4, 2009.