“Did you know that our universe likely began with 10 space-time dimensions? Yet we can only access four—length, width, height, and time. The Creator of all these dimensions must exist in the equivalent of 11 or more. So, what’s impossible in 4 dimensions—like listening to billions of prayers at once—is no problem for God.” Hugh Ross
As the scientific evidence for an old earth becomes incontrovertible, many Christians, questioning the young earth platform, feel somewhat rudderless. It is a shock to have to reconsider the creation paradigm. Many are uncomfortable with jumping all the way to the theistic evolution model. I believe that progressive creationism makes for a good starting point for those who are seeking alternatives.
Hugh Ross is the leader of a movement called progressive creationism, which is defined in Wikipedia as “the religious belief that God created new forms of life gradually, over a period of hundreds of millions of years. As a form of Old Earth creationism, it accepts mainstream geological and cosmological estimates for the age of the Earth, but posits that the new "kinds" of plants and animals that have appeared successively over the planet's history represent instances of God directly intervening to create those new types by means outside the realm of science. Progressive creationists generally reject macroevolution because they believe it to be biologically untenable and not supported by the fossil record, and they generally reject the concept of universal descent from a last universal ancestor."
I have long been impressed with the demeanor and thoughtfulness of Hugh Ross. He has maintained his cool under accusations from Ken Ham and his followers who throw innuendos that he is bordering on heresy. Of course, it appears to me that just about everyone who disagrees with Ham is accused of heresy so Ross is in good company. In fact, I guess that makes me a heretic as well. Is there such a thing as a Christian Heretics Anonymous group? Hmmm… we could have some really fun meetings.
But the most impressive aspect of Hugh’s ministry has to do with his compassion for scientists who are outside of the Christian faith. Ross’s experience within academia led him to understand that scientists do not seek Christianity because young earth types have tied salvation to a belief in young earth creationism. So, honest scientists, who know that the earth is old, believe that they cannot be Christians. In fact, a church I know hid the fact during new members classes that they only taught the young earth perspective. After a little brouhaha ensued in a certain group meeting, we were told that they didn’t want people to get turned off to the church before they were members. I guess they wanted to pull a bait and switch on them after they were members and hope they wouldn’t walk out of the church. Many walked anyway. Ross formed “Reasons to Believe" and it has been very successful in reaching non-Christian scientists, including some Nobel Laureates.
I had the chance to hear Ross speak during a lunchtime meeting at the Latimer House of The Fixed Point Foundation in Birmingham in May.
Although I arrived very early for the event, there was standing room only. The attendees obviously held Ross in high esteem, which was gratifying. Having recently left a situation in which a YE crowd behaved boorishly, I feared that they might arrive in similar fashion at this venue. However, the meeting progressed without incident and no bouncers needed to be employed.
Before I give a synopsis of this fascinating and challenging lecture, here is a biography of Hugh Ross taken directly from his website, Reasons to Believe.
“At age seventeen he became the youngest person ever to serve as director of observations for Vancouver's Royal Astronomical Society. With the help of a provincial scholarship and a National Research Council of Canada fellowship, he completed his undergraduate degree in physics at the University of British Columbia and graduate degrees in astronomy at the University of Toronto. The NRC also sent him to the United States for postdoctoral studies. At Caltech he researched quasi-stellar objects, or "quasars," some of the most distant and ancient objects in the universe.
Not all of Hugh's discoveries involved astrophysics. Prompted by curiosity, he studied the world's religions and "holy books" and found only one book that proved scientifically and historically accurate: the Bible. Hugh started at religious "ground zero" and through scientific and historical reality-testing became convinced that the Bible is truly the Word of God! When he went on to describe for others his journey to faith in Jesus Christ, he was surprised to discover how many people believed or disbelieved without checking evidence.
Hugh's unshakable confidence that God's revelations in Scripture and nature do not, will not, and cannot contradict became his unique message. Wholeheartedly encouraged by family and friends, communicating that message as broadly and clearly as possible became his mission. Thus, in 1986, he founded science-faith think tank Reasons To Believe (RTB). He and his colleagues at RTB keep tabs on the frontiers of research to share with scientists and nonscientists alike the thrilling news of what's being discovered and how it connects with biblical theology. In this realm, he has written many books, including: The Fingerprint of God, The Creator and the Cosmos, Beyond the Cosmos, The Genesis Question, A Matter of Days, Creation As Science, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, and More Than a Theory.”
It is important to note the postdoctoral experience of Hugh Ross. Many people are unaware that a simple PhD is merely the beginning step for a serious scientist. A scientist worth his salt will conduct postdoctoral studies and publish papers in reputable journals. Hugh Ross followed this course and is considered a bona fide astrophysicist unlike Jason Lisle of Answers in Genesis who received his PhD and bolted the field to work for Ken Ham.
Here are some of Ross’s views which comes from his website.
We believe that the physical universe, the realm of nature, is the visible creation of God. It declares God's existence and gives a trustworthy revelation of God's character and purpose. In Scripture, God declares that through His creation all humanity recognizes His existence, power, glory, and wisdom. An honest study of nature — its physical, biological, and social aspects — can prove useful in a person's search for truth. Properly understood, God's Word (Scripture) and God's world (nature), as two revelations (one verbal, one physical) from the same God, will never contradict each other.”
Hugh Ross, has been on the frontiers of making biblical and scientific the case against Darwinism for more than 2 decades. RTB scholars believe that God miraculously intervened throughout the history of the universe in various ways millions, possibly even billions, of times to create each and every new species of life on Earth.”
I take literally the Bible’s explicit claim that God has spoken to humanity through both the words of the Bible and the world of nature. If God, by his nature, does not lie, deceive, or contradict, then the record of biology, for example, will not contradict the record of physics, nor will the message in Genesis contradict that in Romans. Neither do I see any possibility for contradiction between what God reveals in the Bible and what he reveals in nature’s record.”
Hugh Ross’s views are supported by a number of Christians. Charles Colson, Walt Kaiser (Professor Emeritus of Gordon Conwell), Jerry White (President Emeritus of Navigators), and Richard Smalley (Nobel Laureate, Chemistry) are a few.
During the lecture, I was gratified to learn that Hugh Ross and Francis Collins are holding meetings to discuss how to iron out their differences and how they might collaborate on some joint projects. Both of these men are humble servants of our Lord and understand Christ’s call for unity. I wish the young earth types would be similarly disposed.
Hugh Ross is considered a concordist. From the blog of Randy Isaacs of the American Scientific Affiliation we learn the following.
“When many people think of the integration of science and Christian faith, their first impression is concordism. That's a fancy term for identifying a scientific fact or theory with a particular phrase or passage in the Bible.
The main point I want to emphasize here is the difference between concordism and integration of science and faith. The former seeks to equate the interpretation of Biblical passages with scientific observations. The latter seeks to understand the meaning and seeks to understand the meaning and purpose of nature and science through the eyes of faith on the basis of the revelation of our incarnate, crucified, resurrected Savior. purpose of nature and science through the eyes of faith on the basis of the revelation of our incarnate, crucified, resurrected Savior. “
Here are some take away points that I learned at Ross’ lecture. Please understand that I am no scientist but attempt to understand science as an outsider.
Ross made the point that books from other faiths often treat space and time as a constant, meaning they have always existed. The Bible is the only Holy book that mentions a start to the heavens and earth.
He quoted Dyson saying, “The universe knew we were coming.” Ross claims we live in a “just right” galaxy because every planet in our solar system contributes to the existence of life on our planet. Ross says that all life seems to exist to support life for man. For example, even the simplest bacteria are vital to our survival (think E Coli in the gut). It is a deviation of that life that causes harm. (E coli in a wound can cause infection).
Ross states that there are more believers in the field of astronomy and astrophysics than in any other science. Why? Because astronomers can see the past. The light from the stars that we see has travelled to us from the past so we get to observe events in the stars that happened long ago.. In fact, the light confirms the Big Bang. For those who fear this is an atheist explanation, I urge caution. Think about what the Bible says. God spoke and the universe leapt into existence. If that isn’t a big bang, I don’t know what is.
He said there have been a number of astronomers in Japan who have come to the faith merely by observing the heavens. This, of course, gives credence to Romans 1:20:
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (NIV)
Finally, Ross launched into a discussion of dimensions. Much of the science eluded this right- brained woman but the science types were nodding along. He explained that there are 9 dimensions with time, perhaps, being another one. He speculates that God, the causal agent or the Uncaused First Cause, dwells in a different dimension, perhaps even a 12th, with his angels. He hastens to add that this is merely speculative. However, I am a fan of the television show, “Fringe” which takes place in two parallel dimensions and that is about all I will be able to fully understand. Of course this gives rise to the thought that heaven exists outside of our space/time continuum which is rather intriguing (especially for us Star Trek fans).
I was able to ask a question of Ross. I wanted to know how his view of progressive creation is accepted within the Christian community. He stated that his view is the minority opinion between Young Earth and Theistic evolution. Of course, there are many who would disagree with Ross’s perspective. He is routinely slammed by Ken Ham and he has more genial disagreements with the theistic evolutionists. However, both he and the theistic evolutionists believe in an old earth which makes the possibility of some alliances easier.
He ended his talk by saying the following. “Atheists won’t make peace with God until we make peace with one another.” He made a moving appeal for unity in spite of our differences in the nonessentials. My question is this. Are there actually people in the Young Earth camp who are willing to work to find some common ground with the panoply of those in the Old Earth arena? I must admit I am skeptical but hope springs eternal.
Finally, I would like to make an appeal to those who read this who might claim that there is a conspiracy to suppress scientific evidence related to a young earth. I am the wife of one who was in the scientific arena. I attend church with many scientists who are affiliated with the major universities in our area.
When these critics state that scientists will not let the truth be published, they are talking about many of their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. They are denigrating their honesty and integrity. They also make allusions that such scientists are wimps and hide their beliefs because they want to make money and tenure.
I know the following is difficult for many in the young earth camp to accept. The reason there is nothing published in the peer-reviewed journals is because there is no science that is compelling in the young earth arena. Most Christians scientists do not believe that the young earth science holds any water. There is nothing mean or conspiratorial about it.To claim that all scientists are involved in a dishonest conspiracy is just plain silly. Do they really believe that men like Hugh Ross or Francis Collins are hiding information. These sorts of claims make us look foolish. Just remember, there are jerks in science and jerks in Christianity. But there are also decent and brave people in both.
Lydia's Corner: I am sorry for forgetting to include this in my last two posts. New habits take 28 days to be a routine and I am not doing such a good job. Start from this point.
Genesis 18:16-19:38 Matthew 6:25-7:14 Psalm 8:1-9 Proverbs 2:6-15
Excellent post! I think you did an outstanding job of capturing some of the main points that Dr. Ross makes in discussing, from a science and a faith standpoint, how God is the creator of the universe and what an incredibly magnificent and balanced creation it is!
One recent bit of news is that Dr. Ross just released the third edition of his acclaimed book that you mentioned, “Beyond the Cosmos”, where he updates readers on some recent discoveries reinforcing string theory and general relativity and relates how that further points to a transcendant creator God. It is really fascinating stuff. Plus he writes in a way that anyone can understand. Reasons To Believe (www.reasons.org) has the book as well as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
I was raised in my Southern Baptist church as a young earth creationist. I remember when Tim LaHaye spoke at Gardendale’s First Baptist Church back in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s, he said that if a Christian did not believe in a literal 6 – 24 hour day creation, then that person was limiting the power of God and would not be hired by him.
I have been following Hugh Ross and have been a regular contributor to his ministry for a number of years.
He makes sense. His books make sense. His staff members, Fuz Rana and Jeff Zweerink have written excellent books and articles.
More and more evidence has been found by geophysicists, biophysicists, geologists, et al that prove complex life appeared suddenly and early and at different periods in earth’s history.
The ministry of Reasons To Believe at reasons.org seeks to help people understand the miracles and perfect timing of events that God has wrought since the beginning of time just for us.
The Cambrian Explosion of life can NOT be explained by evolutionists.
Thanks Dee and Deb for such a thoughtful article on this subject. I read your columns regularly.
bent but not broken,
Thanks for your thoughtful comment. So glad you are a regular reader and that you finds our posts informative.
Tomorrow I will be reviewing a book that I found last Saturday evening in Blowing Rock, NC. I had never heard of it before, and it captures the essence of why we are focusing on the current topic. The author endorses Francis Collins’ book The Language of God at the end. It has been a blessing to me, and I look forward to sharing snippets of it with our readers. Hope you will comment then.
Thank you. We will add the book to “Things we like” today. I believe that everyone should read at least one book by Ross. He was the first Christian who gave me evidence to back up my belief in an old earth. My husband has been a long time fan. Moreover, he is a deeply committed Christian who shows enormous grace when dealing with some of the YE extremists. I watched his responses in one debate with Ken Ham. If it had been left to me, I would have launched myself at Ham and set back any hope for unity by decades. Ross is my role model!
First let me say I thought this post was very informative and well written. I am a young earth guy myself, but I love Ross’s contributions to the debate.
I am fairly new here, so you may have addressed this question before. If so feel free to point me to the relevant post.
Did Ross address the creation account in Genesis, and other portions of Scripture that seem seem to interpret the creation narrative from a young earth view? Or was an allegory interpretation assumed?
He believes that the word yom is interpreted as epochs. He is called a Concordist and you might want to read that definition in the post. Francis Collins, who we wrote about on Friday holds to a literary framework. Hope this helps.
Very helpful, thanks
Bent but not broken said:
“The Cambrian Explosion of life can NOT be explained by evolutionists.”
Hi Bent (I love the name BTW, says a lot about life in general, and a wonderful attitude toward trials in Christ), I would caution you on this. The reality is the Cambrian Explosion is explained fairly easily by Evolutionary theory. First, it is not some instant appearance of life, it spans around 60 million years of time (keeping in mind this is roughly the separation between us and the last of the dinosaurs). Secondarily more and more is being learned about this period and the life which existed before it (yes there was a good bit of life before it). What the cambrian explosion appears to capture for us is the development of hard parts in animals, which led to both a vast acceleration in the rate of evolution (likely due to a largely unexplored set of capabilities being unleashed), as well as a significant increase in the ability of a life form to be captured in death by the process of fossilization.
So as you can see, evolution can be used to explain what we call the Cambrian explosion. And the reason I caution you is this. If we base our faith in God and Jesus Christ on the inability to explain certain natural phenomena, then we are at risk of having our faith shattered as we learn. We then either learn to fear the advancement of knowledge, or we suffer great and unnecessary trials of faith if we happen to live in an era when the phenomena we regard as miraculous comes to be explained.
I think God understood this when he encouraged us, even commanded us, to base our faith upon Christ who is Messiah, and who rose from the dead. We are promised that if He is the Rock upon which we build our faith, even the gates of Hell cannot prevail against it. It is tempting when we see something that appears to be evidence of God we can put our hands on and see and touch – to lean on that. But I think there is also great peril in that as well. Trust in the risen Christ and we will not be disappointed.
Now I, unlike many perhaps who post here, have no real issues with God using evolution to bring life upon the Earth. But I do fear that there are many who follow Christ who have internalized the mantra commonly espoused by YEC advocates that if God used evolution to create life then the scriptures somehow are not true. I also am fairly strongly convinced that it will not be long before we will see strong proof that life as we know it can be explained by natural processes. We now know that Mars and Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladis have liquid water on/in them. It would not surprise me if we find some kind of life in one of those places. We also, perhaps even more troubling, are finding that planets around stars are rather common things. We have even recently found a rocky planet not much larger than Earth in it’s stars habitable zone! Places like the Earth may well not be as rare as we once imagined.
Regardless of the truth of that gut feeling on my part, I am concerned, greatly concerned, that should this happen, should we either discover a physical mechanism that explains how life began, or find life elsewhere in the solar system, many will fall away, so strongly have they internalized this concept. I pray you, and other readers of this blog, will not be among them. And I pray my words will help prepare any readers here to trust in God independently of how the world came to be.
God told us that He commanded the Earth and Sea to make life. And that Adam was made from the dust (clay) of the Earth. It should not then be too hard to allow for the possibility that the Earth and Sea obeyed His command, and that even we have our physical roots in the Earth.