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Are Old Earth Creationists Heretics?

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

This should be interesting, because I consider this a collaborative effort. From a Facebook exchange in one Page (taken from screen shots) to other forums with people offering some very insightful comments, and I am putting this together.

From the outset, I have to repeat some things that I have stated before regarding Old-Earth Creationists (OECs):
  • Many are caught up in the evolutionary propaganda and simply assume that the Earth is millions of years old
  • Some have not thought through the theological implications of adding huge amounts of time to the Creation account
  • Some have been deceived by OECs who misrepresent Young Earth (ie, Biblical) Creationists (YECs)
Although I am reluctant to claim the label "YEC" because it is not complete, I use it. But instead, I prefer to be faithful to what the Bible teaches, and that is my final authority.

Image credit: Answers in Genesis
In fact, the whole thing seems to come down to Biblical authority. There are OECs who are teaching some off-the-wall stuff that compromises, and some of them are in educational apologetics positions. The arch-compromiser Hugh Ross has some strange views and has affected many people. One of the beliefs that he and his disciples have is that there are two kinds of revelation, "general" and "special". Ross and others believe that "general revelation" (the natural world) is authoritative in its own right. Since both "books" came from God, they cannot contradict each other.

Sounds good at first. The problem is that "general revelation" has to be interpreted. So, the ever-changing whims of current science philosophies are chosen over what is revealed in the Bible. Bad idea (2 Tim. 3.16 NIV, Isaiah 40.8, 2 Peter 1.19-21 NASB). Current science philosophies will not tell me what God said and meant in his Word.

Here is where this gets personal, and rather distressing to me. Highlights of a "discussion" follow. It may get tedious, but please keep going because this is important.

I posted a link (which will appear at the bottom of this article) to a kind of debate on TBN's "PTL". (Yes, I know about TBN, but I have to be prompted to watch that network). Hugh Ross, Ken Ham, Eric Hovind, John Bloom, Sean McDowell and Ray Comfort were on the show.

"Charlie" (last name withheld, but he can identify himself in the comments if he wishes), said:
The more I see of Hugh Ross the more I wonder 'how can he be so blind?" He says so many right things, but mixed right in there is something that makes me go...what? Really? And he is so convinced he is right, he can't see it. And his fallacy starts by considering nature to be equivalent to Scripture. He describes here that God wrote two books: the Bible and Nature. He equates nature with Scripture on the authoritative level. He clearly missed this verse: "Heaven and earth shall pass away by my Word shall never pass away." I do hope he really is a believer but I pity both those whom he teaches and him when Jesus asks him to make an account for what he taught.
Enter M.R, who bills himself as "Education Director/Apologist" at an apologetics network, took exception to my remarks and started with, "Are you trying to say that Dr. Hugh Ross is an 'arch compromiser?' On what objective basis do you make such a statement?" I told him, "'Objective basis?'" This isn't a laboratory. He [Ross] doesn't believe what the Bible plainly says, and forces it to say what is not there. He tap dances around the plain meanings and insists on millions of years despite what Scripture says." My "objective basis" was my opinion that Ross manipulates the Scriptures to fit his own viewpoints. Wonderful beginning for an apologist, is it not?
M.R.: "So if we remove the idea of the 'objective basis,' we are left with the idea that he has a different interpretation than you." Me: "'Different interpretation'? No, he's doing violence to the Scriptures." I also furnished a link to Christian Answers dot net. I did not realize that he was a devotee of Ross.

M.R.: "
You said 'violence to the Scriptures.'. Would you tell me specifically what you mean by that." Me: "He denies the global flood, force-fits millions of years into the Bible, believes in some kind of 'progressive creation'. Do you want more to read?" I also furnished him with a link to an article on the false claims of Hugh Ross.

I also said, "In the interview, Ross said that we have the Bible and the book of creation (nature), and we use them together. In other words, man-made science philosophies (which are ever-changing) are used to interpret the Word of God."

M.R.: "
Asserting billions of years is not a 'force fit.'. It is a valid interpretation based on the Hebrew word "yom." Me: "It is a valid interpretation based on the Hebrew word 'yom.'" Absolutely untrue." I gave him a link to this article on the days of Genesis

Later, M.R. said: "Why is it untrue? Yom has four meanings in the Hebrew. One of those is a long, but finite period of time. So, as scholars such as Gleason Archer and Walter Kaiser say this allows for the interpretation. Ultimately, we are dealing with differing interpretations." I countered with, "That is not true. When "yom" is used with an indicator such as "evening" or morning", it means a literal day. When it's used with a number, it means a literal day. In Genesis, you have "evening and morning and [number] day". God nailed it down, there is no room to make millions of years. Hebrew scholars say that Genesis 1 was intended to be taken as literal days.
From Answers in Genesis [Click here for the excellent article that I referenced]:
A number and the phrase “evening and morning” are used with each of the six days of creation (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31).

Outside Genesis 1, yom is used with a number 359 times, and each time it means an ordinary day.9 Why would Genesis 1 be the exception?

Outside Genesis 1, yom is used with the word “evening” or “morning”11 23 times. “Evening” and “morning” appear in association, but without yom, 38 times. All 61 times the text refers to an ordinary day. Why would Genesis 1 be the exception?

In Genesis 1:5, yom occurs in context with the word “night.” Outside of Genesis 1, “night” is used with yom 53 times, and each time it means an ordinary day. Why would Genesis 1 be the exception? Even the usage of the word “light” with yom in this passage determines the meaning as ordinary day.
"So again, I'm asking why you MUST have those long ages. And caution you with this: 'Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar'. (Prov 30:6, NKJV)"
M.R.: "You questioned the interpretation by questioning the motivation as being pleasing to secularists. I know that AiG interprets it this way. Hebrew scholars, such as the ones I mentioned, say that the twenty four hour is not demanded by the text. 'Evening and morning' is better interpreted as 'ending was and beginning was." ... "As to dual revelation, God is the Creator of the universe and author of the Scriptures. Since both have God as their author, they will not contradict each other when correctly interpreted."

There you go! "Since both have God as their author, they will not contradict each other when correctly interpreted." This smacks of cultism. Mormons say that the Bible is true as far as it is translated correctly, but we need their special books for the whole truth. Here, we interpret the Bible by man's current understanding of science. In fact, I told him so: "'I know that AiG interprets it this way.' Straw man, or genetic fallacy? Hard to tell. 'Hebrew scholars, such as the ones I mentioned, say that the twenty four hour is not demanded by the text.' What, did you dredge up some oddball liberal ones? [Actually, he was clinging to the old Earthers that he cited before.] Most Hebrew scholars, even those who do not believe it, accept that Genesis is intended to convey literal days. 'Evening and morning' is better interpreted as 'ending was and beginning was.' In all my years, I've never encountered that silly thing. [Apparently, CMI and AiG are aware of it.] 'As to dual revelation, God is the Creator of the universe and author of the Scriptures. Since both have God as their author, they will not contradict each other when correctly interpreted.' Not only is that a fallacy of composition, but you sound like a cultist! 'The Bible is true as far as it is correctly interpreted. And it is interpreted by man's opinions of science'. Yep, you and Ross belong together. [I was getting irritated.]

To counter his scholars, I trumped with, "
One leading Hebrew scholar is James Barr, Professor of Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt University and former Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford University in England. Although he does not believe in the historicity of Genesis 1, Dr. Barr does agree that the writer's intent was to narrate the actual history of primeval creation. Others also agree with him.
"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 (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience; . . . Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the "days" of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know."
Sometime later, I gave him a link to the numbering pattern of Genesis.

Back to another comment from Charlie on the TV debate:
I found it interesting how Sean McDowell and John Bloom always took 'neutral' sides. It seems as though John Bloom was used to mediate between Ken Ham, Eric Hovind, and Hugh Ross. I do agree that all sides believed that it is not a salvation issue, but I am very much on Ken Ham's side in the Biblical authority side. And I like his approach in that he doesn't see himself as a YEC, but as one who holds the Bible as the ultimate authority. And that's the real issue with the debate. What is the ultimate authority. Hugh Ross claims that nature is on par with Scripture, but in practice, he actually holds science ABOVE Scripture. And that is where the compromise is. That is the root of it all. And anything held above God and his Word is an idol. That includes science (and yes, it can include Facebook too :)).
M.R.: "If I believed that Dr. Ross and RTB sacrificed the Scripture, then I would reject him. However, I have found that RTB upholds Biblical inerrancy and attempts to interpret both the general and special revelation responsibly. Again, both general and special revelation are authored by God and will not contradict one another." Me: "'‎Again, both general and special revelation are authored by God and will not contradict one another.' He chanted his unscriptural mantra."

M.R.: "
Why is that statement unscriptural? On what objective basis do you make such a statement?" Again with "on what objective basis" stuff. Here's the objective basis: It's unscriptural because it's unscriptural! In fact, the concept that God revealed himself in "two books", the "general" and "special" revelations, was an idea by Francis Bacon in 1605! Yes, it is unscriptural.

Charlie had some remarks that make this article stronger than ever:
I posted this above. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall never pass away." Hugh Ross insists on using ALL of Scripture to interpret Genesis. And so I shall. Here is a verse that says we CANNOT use 'nature' as a 'second book' next to the Bible. If Nature and Scripture were two equal 'books', this verse would never have been said. Nature will be gone and the Bible will remain. The whole heart of Hugh Ross's arguments and his position is tied to the very thing Ken Ham pointed out in OP: Scriptural Authority. The moment you put science and Scripture on the same level, you actually put science ABOVE Scripture. And Hugh Ross puts his entire philosophy on this foundation. He claims to support Scripture first and foremost, but the moment he puts science on par with Scripture, his claim fails.

Bob, since he kept harping on the "yom" issue, ask him this: if it is open to interpretation, could he consider a literal 24-hour meaning? Hugh Ross doesn't. He insists it HAS to be periods of time. Where's the context that supports it? His entire argument is "it has four interpretations". I've heard him several times and read several of his articles. Hugh Ross NEVER says WHY he picks periods of time. We do. And in a way, I'm surprised Kent Hovind, Eric Hovind, Ken Ham, have not brought that issue up. They always go to the 24-hour defense. Why use periods of time when there are three other interpretations to us? Why not use 12-hour periods which is another literal interpretation? Why long periods of time? I have not heard Hugh Ross state that step. And the only reason I can think of, is he has a pre-conceived mindset of millions of years. It is a compromise. The idea of millions of years (before Darwin made it popular) was always there to not counter creation but to counter Christianity. Because after all, if you can't trust the Bible for what it says in Genesis 1, how are you going to trust it in Matthew 27-28? Or anywhere else? There is no logical place for the line to be drawn.
"Chris" had this to say:
Its funny that Ross uses nature as equal to scripture, As i often talk about evo's as being pantheist not atheists. . . . . "The natural man is spiritually discerned he cannot know the things of God". Any belief of a unified nature is a compromise to pantheism. He seems to be an evolutionist appealing to nature's most important supernatural prop, . . . which is . . . time.
"Ross" reminded me that OECs use naturalistic foundations that they have in common with atheistic interpretation of scientific data:
Sadly they can't understand that the OEC belief is based on atheistic/naturalistic foundations which are nothing but shifting sands! What gets me is that, as Christians, they don't seem to understand that the Word of God is more solid than man's machinations! It boggles my mind that Christians would place the word of man higher than the Word of God! I just don't get it! :-/
Why M.R. is in a position of teaching and directing apologetics escapes me, because he supports some dubious theology put forth by Hugh Ross. Also, I found his logic to be sorely lacking. And what kind of a message is this for any apologist to give? "We trust the Bible, it is inerrant. But don't trust Genesis, we'll have to tell you what it means". Outrageous!

I try to save the science aspects for my other Weblogs, but I have to make something clear. We are not talking about the Bible having a conflict with actual, observable scientific facts. Instead, the conflict is with what is called historical science. This is inference about the past using scientific methods. It is not practical or observational science. If we read something odd, like, 3 Peter 3.16 says that things fall sideways on the full moon, then yes, we'd have a scientific or biblical interpretation problem. So, this is not about choosing the Bible above actual scientific facts.

The whole thing is about our submission to the Word of God. Do we trust God and his Word, or do we need to mix man-made science philosophies with it, or use them to interpret the Scriptures? Doing so is a bad idea, and heading toward heresy.

Edit: Charlie had this to say after he read the article, and he pointed out something important:
The only thing I would have added to that is the link between the fautly OEC claims to the effectiveness of the redemption of Christ. I pointed that out in my paper. OEC leads to heresy of what Christ's sacrifice actually covers. Those that believe accurately about Christ and believe OEC have a conflict in what is covered. Romans 5 is critical to WHY we must interpret Genesis 1-11 literally as YEC does. Hugh Ross wants ALL of Scripture. I can give it to him and he will put up more hoops to jump through.
Click here for the two-hour video that got this discussion rolling if the embedding below fails. A sequel to this article appears here.