Hugh Ross, ICR, and Facts of Science
by James Stambaugh, M.DIV.
Last month we discussed the Biblical and theological differences between ICR's position and that of the Hugh Ross organization, Reasons to Believe. The differences do not stop there, of course. These very significant theological differences necessarily lead to many other differences as we interpret God's world in the scientific record. We trust that our readers are already aware of ICR's scientific position regarding the age of the earth, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the fossil record, etc. The need here, then, is an understanding of what Dr. Ross actually teaches. As the reader sees what Dr. Ross believes, he then should be able to discern the similarities and differences between the two ministries.
Dr. Ross, as the last article stated, accepts the idea that the "days" of Genesis 1 are long periods of time, yet, he also maintains that these creative days overlap. God would create one kind of animal over two or three of those "long" days.
To insist that the creation event of Genesis must be specifically limited to the creation days in which they are mentioned is to read too much in to the text. It can more reasonably be stated that each event or life-form was primarily introduced on the creation day indicated and that each creation day was preeminently one of the introduction of the event or life-form(s) described. For example, though most of the lower vertebrates were introduced on the fifth day, a few may have been introduced on the fourth and sixth days.
One can see that Dr. Ross, for example, has plants being created from Day Three possibly through Day Five. Stars could be created through all six or seven days. To compare this idea with the literal view of the creation period, see the ICR book, Scientific Creationism, pp. 203-255. Or, for that matter, just read Genesis 1, and assume God meant what He said!
The topic of the age of the earth and universe came up on a popular radio program on which Dr. Ross was a recent guest speaker. This is the dialogue that took place between the interviewer and Dr. Ross:
Interviewer: "Not all Christians agree that the earth is three-and-a-half to four-billion years old. You do, I do, in an unqualified way. Explain why you believe that?"
Ross: "Well, it's because of the strength of the scientific evidence. I mean, it's really impossible to interpret the universe without accepting a creation date billions of years ago. But I'd also like to look at the Bible and say that I want to have a consistent interpretation of what the Bible is saying about the moment of creation, whereby Hebrews and Psalms and other chapters of the Bible do not contradict what's in Genesis. But I have to accept the long-day interpretation; not the short-day interpretation. This is not an important doctrine. What's essential for the Christian faith is who creates, and how He creates. When is immaterial."
We would agree with Dr. Ross that the "who" and "how" are essential. Yet when one understands that God created by fiat miracle, and not through long natural processes, the "when" is part of the "how."
Dr. Ross accepts the standard evolutionary view of the origin of the universe -- namely, that there was a "Big Bang" at the start of both time and space.
This is the typical explanation, using naturalistic means, to explain the origin of the universe. However, this does not bring either stars or planets into existence. He thus summarizes the stages bringing into existence the solar system:
The initial evolution of the solar system. The solar system began as a giant interstellar cloud. Then it collapsed into a flattened disk. Then separated into a series of concentric rings that eventually coalesced into proto planets. caption of an illustration
So we see that Dr. Ross is content to let the stars and planets evolve by a naturalistic means.
Dr. Ross accepts the current evolutionary interpretation of the fossil record known as punctuated equilibrium. He believes that some animal species have appeared suddenly at various times throughout the earth's billions of years when God directly intervened to create the "higher animals." He leaves open the possibility that God used evolution to create the "lower animals."
When we examine the fossil record, we see a growing proliferation of life forms through time. Though biologists describe various species as "transitional," we still find no evidence for one life form transforming itself into a distinctly different life form. A species suddenly appears, exists for a relatively long period of time with no significant changes, goes extinct, and much later is replaced with one or more distinctly different species. In the animal kingdom, at least, no evidence for any natural process or means of replacement exists. Likewise, in the Bible, God declares, that for the higher animals He directly intervenes in the natural order to create new species, and that these new life forms reproduce "after their kind." In the book of Psalms, God speaks of His creating life forms to replace those that have died off.
A more consistent creationist view can be found in Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record by Dr. Duane Gish.**
Dr. Ross also teaches that there were many catastrophes that caused extinctions. These catastrophes may have been floods, earthquakes, or meteors striking the earth. However, he rejects the Noahic flood as worldwide; it was only one of many local floods. Dr. Ross says:
The earth's geological history and biological history have been shaped by these events as well as by other natural processes. Both the Bible and geology speak of probability-defying, life-supportive surface conditions for planet earth, of the miraculous appearance of living things in greater and greater complexity through millennia of life-disrupting catastrophes, of a flood that was disastrous to mankind, to the land he occupied, and to the animals associated with him.
The Genesis Flood, by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb, provides a good contrast to Dr. Ross's multiple/local catastrophe view.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics is a fundamental principle in modern science. Dr. Ross comments on the origin and usefulness of this law:
Moreover, the Second Law of Thermodynamics has nothing to do with man's sin. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is good for us. That's the law that says that things tend towards decay, from order to disorder, and we look at that as bad. But without the Second Law, organisms couldn't possibly exist. It would be far more chaotic if the Second Law of Thermodynamics were not in operation, and it would be far worse for the planet, if animals and plants did not die.
Compare the statement by Dr. Ross to the one by Dr. Henry Morris, of ICR. It is important to observe the difference between the two. Dr. Morris says of the Second Law of Thermodynamics:
In the primeval creation, however, even though what we might call "decay" processes certainly existed (e.g., digestion, friction, water erosion, wave attenuation, etc.), they must all have balanced precisely with "growth" processes elsewhere whether within the individual systems, or perhaps more commonly, in an adjacent system, so that the entropy of the world as a whole would stay constant.
Dr. Morris states that before sin entered the world, there would have been no net deteriorating effects of the Second Law. Yet once Adam sinned, God cursed the world and all that is in it. Thus the "decay" that we see today is a result of man's sin (note Romans 8:20-21).
Dr. Ross teaches that there were man-like creatures on the earth prior to Adam's creation. The distinction between the two groups is that Adam and his descendants "are aware of God and capable of forming relationships with Him." He says:
Clearly, as man's story unfolds through subsequent chapters, one discovers that what makes him different is a quality called "spirit." Man is unique among all species of life. By "spirit" the Bible means aware of God and capable of forming a relationship with Him. Evidence of man's spiritual dimension would include divine worship, shown by religious relics, altars, and temples. From the Bible's perspective, painting, burial of dead, or use of tools would not qualify as conclusive evidence of the spirit. Moreover, non-spirit beings such as bower birds, elephants, and chimpanzees are observed to engage in these activities.
While bipedal, tool-using, large-brained hominids roamed the earth at least as long ago as one million years, evidence for religious relics and altars dates back only 8,000 to 24,000 years. Thus, the secular anthropological date for the first spirit creatures is in complete agreement with the biblical date.
Dr. Ross goes on to say that he believes Adam was not physically related to these hominids. He believes that they suffered a catastrophic extinction sometime before "spirit" man was created.
We trust that our readers have observed the wide differences in scientific interpretation between Reasons to Believe and the Institute for Creation Research. These differences stem from our Biblical/theological interpretation, yet they strongly influence how each organization approaches science and the interpretation of the scientific data. We recognize that Dr. Ross accepts many fundamental truths of Christianity, such as the deity and virgin birth of Christ, Christ's vicarious atonement, and salvation by faith. The purpose of this article, however is to point out that there are, nevertheless, very important differences between Dr. Ross's teachings and the accurate Biblical/scientific approach to the key question of origins, at least as we here at ICR understand it.
- Hugh Ross, Genesis 1: A Scientific Perspective, p. 12. Note especially the illustration used to support this idea. One should also compare Dr. Ross' drawing to Davis Young's in Creation and The Flood (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977), p. 117.
- Focus On The Family, April 18, 1991.
- Ross, Genesis 1: A Scientific Perspective, p. 4.
- Hugh Ross, 90 second radio news spot, Reasons to Believe #50 (10th spot for February 1991).
-  Hugh and Kathy Ross, Uniformitarianism Friend or Foe? "Facts and Faith" 2 (Fall 1988): 3.
- Focus On The Family, April 18, 1991. This quote is part of dialogue between Drs. Dobson and Ross on the origin of suffering and pain.
- Henry Morris, Biblical Basis For Modern Science, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1984, p. 195.
- Hugh Ross, Fingerprint of God, Orange, California: Promise Publishing, 1989, pp. 159-160.
*James Stambaugh, Librarian, ICR Research Library **Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record by Dr. Duane Gish has been updated and republished as Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No!.