Excerpt from…

Creation and Time

A Report on the Progressive Creationist Book by Hugh Ross

by Mark Van Bebber and Paul S. Taylor

Part III

Other Theological Considerations

CLAIM: God created many carnivorous animals in the beginning — long before Adam’s sin.

Progressive Creationist Hugh Ross does not believe the Garden of Eden was free of death, suffering or degeneration — a world created in perfection. He explains at length the nature of the food chain, suggesting that carnivorous activities are essential and beneficial, having originated at God’s command from the very beginning. Ross explains that people often don’t understand the importance of the food chain and incorrectly label it as evil and emotionally offensive. Creation and Time states, “Again, I am not disputing that God could have done things differently. But our job as thinking people, whether scientists or theologians, is not to question God’s motives or His ways but rather to determine what, in fact, He has done and is doing.” [pp. 63, 64]

Our Response:

FALSE. It is significant that Dr. Ross fails to quote from the Bible passage which most directly sheds light on this issue. Genesis 1:29-30 tell us, “And God said, 'See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the Earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the Earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the Earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food'; and it was so (NKJV). Thus, in the original creation, God intended that animals and humans eat a vegetarian diet. All that had “the breath of life” were created as plant-eaters, not carnivores. Because of sin, God cursed the ground and physical creation (Genesis 3:17). Scripture says the whole creation has been affected, causing it to groan as it awaits freedom from bondage to decay (Romans 8:20-22). The global Flood judgment changed Earth even more (Genesis 8:21).

It is true that we don’t have all the specific answers about what the world was like before the Fall. There are many legitimate questions regarding this aspect of creationism. More research is definitely needed (an interesting analysis of this topic can be found in chapter 6 of the The Revised & Expanded Answers Book published by Master Books and Answers in Genesis). The Bible is clear, however, that the animals in God’s original creation were not carnivorous. As Christians, we look forward to the time when Christ will restore much of the original order of things. One day God will restore paradise. Once again the wolf will lie down with the lamb and the lion will eat straw like the ox (Isaiah 11, 35, 65). Clearly, the world we now see is drastically different from the world God presented to Adam.

Responding to Dr. Henry Morris’s claim that a good, loving and merciful God would not create the world through billions of years of death, pain and suffering (all prior to man’s original sin), Ross states, “If these assertions are true, what can we say of the present era? God could do much right now to reduce our suffering. But a loving, merciful God allows the epitome of His creation — mankind — to suffer discomfort, illness, injury, and death. God even calls the death of His saints precious (Psalm 116:15).” [p. 88]

Our Response:

DEATH, AN ENEMY. Currently, in the post-Fall world, God does allow suffering and death, but we should not suppose that God takes pleasure in our suffering or death. In fact, John 11:33 (in the original language) demonstrates that Jesus' feelings toward death are of indignation and agitation. Although death is a doorway to God, it is also man’s enemy — an enemy defeated by Christ’s resurrection (I Corinthians 15:51f).

PSALM 116:15. Ross seems to misunderstand Psalm 116:15. In reading the context and Hebrew wording, it becomes clear that the death of one of God’s chosen is very costly to Him. Death is not precious to God, if by that one means that He delights in the death of His saints.

THE PROBLEM OF PAIN AND SUFFERING. Furthermore, it is Progressive Creationism, not young-Earth creationism, that causes a problem on the subject of pain and suffering. Anyone who is active in evangelism knows that the issue of pain and suffering is a frequent obstacle in many people’s minds. People blame God for it, and question the claim of Christianity that God is “love.” Their argument becomes more valid under the Progressive Creationist position. According to Ross, for the most part, the world we experience really is the way God made things. Death, disease, catastrophes, extinctions, and a multitude of physical suffering came from God, woven throughout the design of nature from the very beginning. Sinless man was placed into this situation from the beginning!

  • THE IMPLICATION. Modern secular thinkers are quick to see the implication and want nothing to do with such a God, for the “process is rife with happenstance, contingency, incredible waste, death, pain, and horror. …the God implied by evolutionary theory and the data of natural history …is not a loving God who cares about His productions. He is …careless, indifferent, almost diabolical. He is certainly not the sort of God to whom anyone would be inclined to pray.” [David L. Hull, “The God of the Galapagos,” Nature, Vol. 352 (August 8, 1992), p. 486]

    Little more than five thousand years
    have passed since the creation of the universe…

    John Calvin

  • THE BIBLICAL ANSWER. In contrast, the answer of the Bible is much more satisfying to those who seek answers on the topic of pain and suffering. The biblical answer can briefly be summarized thusly:

    Our pure, holy, loving Creator created a paradise for us, designed for our enjoyment. Man had every opportunity to enjoy that perfect world forever. Instead, Adam and Eve rebelled. This sin corrupted their souls and bodies and all paradise — cutting them off from close communion with their holy Creator. Our loving and just God did not choose to destroy them forever. Instead, He immediately set into motion a plan of sacrificial redemption. He provided death, both as a judgment and a blessing, a means of ultimately restoring man to Himself. As a natural result and as a judgment of Adam’s sin, death and suffering came upon all the world man ruled and upon all of Adam’s descendants. The suffering we experience is the result of human sin; this is not the way God originally wanted things to be. When the perfect time was come, God sacrificed His Son to redeem man and conquer death forever. Ultimately, he will restore paradise! Again there will be no death, no suffering, no evil. Our experience in this world of hardship and travail will be but a brief moment in a wondrous eternity.

CLAIM: Plants were killed before Adam’s sin, so there clearly was death before the Fall.

Creation and Time tries to persuade the reader that death before Adam’s sin is a huge problem for young-Earth creationists. The book explains that “many species of life cannot survive for even three hours without food, and the mere ingestion of food by animals requires death of at least plants or plant parts.” [p. 61] It also states, “The destruction (large plant eating animals) wreak on their environment in attempting to devour sufficient calories results in the death of many plants and smaller animals, arguably more death than is caused by large carnivores… But even plants suffer when they are eaten. They experience bleeding, bruising, scarring, and death. Why is the suffering of plants acceptable and not that of animals?” [p. 63]

Our Response:

FALSE. Who really believes that plants suffer — perhaps people who think they must talk to their plants or people that hug trees? Certainly animal rights groups don’t protest the mowing of lawns or pruning of trees. There is no evidence that plants have minds or self-consciousness. They don’t have brains by which they are able to interpret nerve or tissue damage as “pain.” From a biblical point of view, they are evidently not alive in the same sense as humans and animals. The Word of God makes a theological distinction between the life of animate beings (animals and man) and plants.

We have found no instance where Scripture attributes life to plants. The Hebrew word “nephesh” is one of the most commonly used words for life. It is never used in connection with plants. Plants are never said to contain “the breath of life,”(“chay” or “chayyah”) or “spirit” (“ruwach”). The Bible certainly never speaks of plants as having minds or emotions. The Bible tells us that the life of a creature is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11-14). Plants do not have a true blood system. Plants are not classified as having muscle and flesh (“basar”), as are animals and men.

In the parable of the sower and the seed, the plants on rocky ground “withered.” The same happened when Jesus cursed the unfruitful fig tree. Evidently they shriveled and ceased to exist. But in neither case does Scripture refer to the plants as having “died” or having been “killed.” Although, in modern, scientific terminology, plants are known as “living” organisms (i.e., growing and reproducing), the Bible does not classify them as such. Plants are not “alive” in a biblical sense. None of the biblical words associated with living beings are ever used in the context of plants in Scripture. In other words, plants should not be biblically classified as “living” in the sense used in Creation and Time. This smokescreen argument should divert no one from the heart of the matter: God created a wonderful paradise without death, suffering, oppression and bloodshed.

CLAIM: Nowhere does the Bible say that animal death did not exist before the Fall.

Creation and Time claims that death in the animal kingdom could have existed before the fall because the Scriptures tell us that only man was affected by death through sin. “Of all life on the Earth, only humans have earned the title ‘sinner.’ Only humans can experience ‘death through sin.’ Note that the death Adam experienced is carefully qualified in the text as being visited on 'all men' - not on plants and animals, just on human beings (Romans 5:12, 18-19).” [p. 61]

Our Response:

FALSE. The Bible does indicate that animal death resulted from Adam’s sin.

Romans 5:12 states, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned--” (NASB). From this verse we learn that sin and death are interwoven. We also note that sin entered into the world; it had a universal effect. True, this verse does emphasize the effect of sin and death upon men, but it does not preclude death from the animal kingdom. “Sin entered into the world” could refer only to the world of men (as Dr. Ross suggests), or it could refer to all creation. The context does not directly address this question. It seems likely, however, that since other passages of Scripture tell of sin’s effect upon nature that this is the intended meaning here as well.

All Christians, whether scientists or shoe salesmen,
need to continually examine whether
their worldview is truly Bible centered.

Romans 8:19-22 demonstrates that, due to sin, God subjected creation to futility. This subjection is first referred to in Genesis 3:14-19. The serpent is condemned to a more severe curse than all the other animals on the face of the Earth. The physical Earth is also affected, “Cursed is the ground because of you… thorns and thistles it shall grow for you” (Genesis 3:17,18, NASB). Indeed, we notice that prior to the Fall all creatures that have “the breath of life” ate only plants (Genesis 1:30). The Bible also speaks of a future restoration of nature — Isaiah 65:25 and Acts 3:21. Much of creation will be restored to its condition before sin, the curse, and the Flood. Surely, these verses show that sin and death have affected the world and not simply mankind.

Note also that man was given headship over all creation. Therefore, his sins and God’s judgment would naturally affect the world. Certainly this truth is also emphasized in the account of the Genesis flood. God brought judgment against all the animals, the Earth and humanity because of sin.

Does it sound strange for Paul to state that death entered the world because of man’s sin? No, this is the clear and harmonious teaching of Scripture. Dr. Ross’s belief that only man is affected by the sins of humanity is without biblical support.

CLAIM: The death that came through sin was spiritual, not physical.

Creation and Time uses one more argument to show that Romans 5:12f does not require a pre-Fall world without death. Ross reasons that the death resulting from sin is spiritual, not physical, and therefore, that this verse has no real bearing on the state of the original creation. He further claims that both Genesis and I Corinthians 15 support the view that spiritual death is the penalty for sin. [p. 61]

Our Response:

FALSE. Once again, the Bible disagrees with the teachings of Progressive Creationism. Romans 5:12 may be speaking of the united penalty for sin — physical and spiritual death. Physical death is certainly a consideration of these verses. Romans 5:14 states, “Death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come” (NASB). Clearly, Paul teaches that the existence of physical death (prior to the giving of the law) demonstrated humanity’s sinfulness. Perhaps this is why the phrase, “and he died” is repeated over and over again throughout the genealogy of Genesis chapter 5, a confirmation that sin has brought the unnatural state of death into our world.

Lest there be any mistake about what God meant when He said that Adam would die, God declared to Adam, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19, NASB). God then guarded the tree of life with an angel. This strong measure prevented Adam and Eve from eating its fruit and avoiding physical death (one of the wages of sin).

Dr. Ross’s wrong view of death’s origin is not new. The same belief can be traced back to the monk Pelagius around 400 A.D. As the scholar Millard Erickson explains, “The Pelagian view… is that man was created mortal. Just as everything about us dies sooner or later, so it is and has always been with man. The principle of death and decay is a part of the whole creation. The Pelagians point out that if the Calvinist view is correct, then it was the serpent who was right and Jehovah was wrong in saying, 'In the day that you eat of it you shall die,' for Adam and Eve were not struck dead on the day of their sin. Physical death, in the Pelagian view, is a natural accompaniment of being human. The biblical references to death as a consequence of sin are understood as references to spiritual death, separation from God, rather than physical death.” [Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1985), pp. 611-612] Largely due to the efforts of Augustine, Pelagius was rightly denounced by the early church for his views and for the heretical beliefs that he derived from them.

Creation and Time similarly attempts to use Genesis 2:17, “When Adam sinned, he instantly ‘died’ just as God said he would (‘In the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die’ - Genesis 2:17 NKJV). Yet, he remained alive physically and soulishly… He died spiritually.” [p. 61 — emphasis added]

Our Response:

Here is an inconsistency. Creation and Time points to God’s warning, In the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). On what basis does Ross require that “day” in this context means a normal, 24 hour day when the word is used without “morning and evening” and without an ordinal modifier? Why shouldn’t this use of “yom” be interpreted as something other than a normal 24 hour period, as Ross advocates for the previous uses? In other words, if Dr. Ross were consistent in his teachings, “day” in this verse would not require immediate death; his argument is meaningless.

“Yom” certainly can be used to mean something other than 24 hours. For example, in English one might read, “In George Washington’s day men wore powdered wigs.” It is reasonable to assume that the use of “yom” in Genesis 2:17 may communicate something other than a 24-hour day. Yom is used similarly in other parts of the Old Testament. However, in regard to the question of physical death, it really makes no major difference whether one assumes a solar day, a single moment or a longer period, because God’s admonition acted as a direct warning that the penalty would be physical death.

Where in the Old Testament does any writer ever speak of spiritual death? Each time the Hebrew word for “death” (“muwth”) is used in the Old Testament (791 times), it always deals with physical death. [For a definition of each variation of the word “death” in the Old Testament, see: Francis Brown, et al, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), pp. 559a-560]

This reign of death which prevails over all that is born
cannot be the normal state of a world created by God.
Nature suffers from a curse which it cannot
have brought upon itself, as it is not morally free.
—Dr. F. Godet

The process of physical dying began the moment Adam bit the forbidden fruit. Adam’s physical death became an immediate certainty. In a real sense, Adam did die at that time; it simply took a while to realize its completion. Commentaries verify that the Hebrew idiom used by God to warn Adam clearly communicates the certainty that physical death would result from disobedience. The physical death of every human and animal — living or yet to be born — became an absolute certainty at the moment of Adam’s rebellion. The possibility of physical immortality on this planet was gone.

Adam’s disobedience also resulted in spiritual separation from God, as Ross proposes. Adam immediately realized his own guilt, nakedness and impurity before a holy God. Adam’s spiritual separation from his Creator was symbolized by his lifetime expulsion from the Garden. No longer could he walk and talk face-to-face with his Creator.

Creation and Time continues by claiming, I Corinthians 15:21 also must refer to spiritual death rather than to physical death.” [p. 61]

Our Response:

The fact that Paul is referring to physical death (not just spiritual, as Ross contends) is obvious in the context. Paul is writing of people who have physically died. He is writing of Christ’s physical death and physical resurrection. Paul’s reference to physical death resulting from Adam could hardly be stated more clearly! I Corinthians 15, Genesis 2-3, and Romans 5:12f all testify to the fact that physical death was involved. As theologian Gleason Archer observes, “The universality of this guilt is attested by its observed effect - the death penalty. Physical death came upon all men from Adam’s time onward. This shows that the moral law was binding upon mankind before the Mosaic law was ever revealed.” [Gleason L. Archer Jr., The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1959), p. 31]

This entire chapter, written by Paul, emphasizes the futility of hope in Christ if He did not physically raise from the dead. The Greeks had no problem believing in a spiritual resurrection, but they could not comprehend a physical one. To them, all physical material was evil, only the spiritual was pure. Paul combats this Greek philosophy by showing that through Adam, the body had been contaminated and made subject to death. Christ, the Son of God, defeated physical death and rose in bodily form. If Dr. Ross desires to treat this vital chapter as if it is referring to spiritual death and resurrection, he is fighting against the clear teaching of Paul.

Creation and Time claims the penalty for sin is spiritual death… Thus the atonement had to be made by a spiritual Being (meaning Jesus Christ)” [p. 64 — emphasis added]

Our Response:

The Bible tells us, “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) This verse does not classify death as merely “spiritual.” Most commentaries acknowledge that spiritual death is a penalty for sin. It is clear, however, from the context of Romans 6:23 that physical death is also indicated.

Hebrews chapter 2 also reveals the true connection between sin and death. Here the humanity of Christ is emphasized. “For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father [humanity]; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:11, NASB). We are told from this passage that Christ “tasted death” (verse 9, literally translated: “fully experienced or partook of death”) so that “through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14, NASB). This chapter clearly refers to physical humanity experiencing physical death. Moreover, it explicitly attributes the power of death to the devil. Could the author of Hebrews have made it any more clear that physical death is a penalty for sin? Certainly not! Dr. Ross ignores the clear and universal voice of Scripture when he insists that only spiritual death is a result of sin.

Note: In this quote, Creation and Time refers to Christ as a “spiritual Being.” This is interesting since this is essentially the same term Ross uses to distinguish humans (spirit beings) from the hominids (spiritless animals that looked like humans) and other “non-spirit beings such as bower birds, elephants, and chimpanzees.” [pp. 140-141]

Hugh Ross claims that millions of years ago God began progressively creating more human-like apes (hominids). He says, “Starting about 2 to 4 million years [or at least 1 million years] ago God began creating man-like mammals.” [“Genesis One, Dinosaurs and Cavemen,” audiotape (Pasadena, CA: Reasons to Believe, 1989)] Although some of these creatures looked completely human (e.g., Cro-Magnon, Neanderthal), “used tools buried their dead and painted on cave walls,” they were actually animals and “had no spirits,” according to Ross. [“Genesis One, Dinosaurs and Cavemen”] “The hominid species may have gone extinct before, or as a result of, the appearance of modern man.” [Creation and Time, p. 88, etc.; Fingerprint of God, p. 160, also see pp. 159-160]

Our Response:

How many Christians can hear such a description and not feel uncomfortable? Is this really the way God would do things? The implication that Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon had no spirits seems absurd. Even most secular scientists agree these were people — and 100% human. Both are classified as Homo sapiens.

HUGH ROSS CLAIMS: Creation was subjected to futility from its very beginning.

Romans 8:20 states, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope.” Creation and Time teaches that creation was subjected to futility from its very beginning. Therefore “the process of decay has been in effect since the universe was created.” [p. 67]

Our Response:

FALSE. God created a paradise. Numerous biblical theologians heartily disagree with Ross on this point.

Bible commentators speak in an almost unanimous voice that the futility referred to in this verse is a result of sin. Lenski states, “The creation was subjected to man before the fall but not subject 'to vainness.'--This noun (futility in the NIV) is derived from 'mataios', 'vain' in the sense of failure to reach the proper end, to accomplish the intended purpose.” [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Columbus, Ohio: Wartsburg Press, 1945), p. 533]

Godet states, “This reign of death which prevails over all that is born cannot be the normal state of a world created by God. Nature suffers from a curse which it cannot have brought upon itself, as it is not morally free.” [F. Godet, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (NYC: Funk & Wagnells Publishers, 1883), p. 314]

Everett Harrison teaches, “Instead of considering the future simply from the standpoint of the redeemed, Paul enlarges the perspective to include the whole creation… because the creation’s own deliverance from the frustration imposed on it by the fall cannot come until that time… The groaning of the creation looks back to its subjection to frustration, whereas the pangs of childbirth anticipate the age of renewal. In other words, the same sufferings are at once a result and a prophecy.” [Everett F. Harrison, edited by Frank E. Gabelein, Expositors Bible Commentary, Vol. 10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976), p. 94]

If Dr. Ross insists that these verses teach that God created a world in “vain,” a world that was created for frustration, then he stands dangerously alone in the world of biblical theology. It is obvious that his belief must only be based on current scientific “facts” for it cannot be supported from biblical exegesis.

HUGH ROSS CLAIMS: Isaiah and “Church father” Origen supported pre-Fall “bondage to decay”
Dr. Ross: “Those who interpret Romans 8 as I do are said to place science above the Bible and to stretch the text beyond reasonable limits to accommodate science. But can such a charge apply to third-century church leader Origen? …He says it (Romans 8) implies that decay has been in effect in the natural world since the creation of the universe… it seems unreasonable to accuse him of submitting to the pressure of the scientific community.” [p. 67]

Our Response:

MISLEADING. Origen’s belief is insignificant to the argument. Although Origen is considered to be a Church Father due to the survival of his prolific writings; he was extremely controversial. There are numerous problems in his theology. Many of his beliefs were far from the mainstream of more respected Church Fathers. (See section on Church Fathers for further information on the beliefs of Origen)

It is important to note that Origen’s view of Romans 8 was based on the Greek philosophy of his day; it was not biblical. Creation and Time fails to consider the context of Origen’s statement. Because of Origen’s commitment to the Greek philosophy which taught that all material things were necessarily evil and corrupt (“wherever bodies are, corruption immediately follows” [Origen, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4, p. 345, also see pp. 264, 341-342]) he could not conceive of a material world created in perfection and harmony. Origen claimed that just as there will be a new creation after this present world is destroyed, there was also a world previous to this present world. He claimed that this previous world consisted of spiritual beings which were punished because of their “excessive mental defects.” Their punishment consisted of being given physical bodies in this “material” world.

We see, therefore, that Origen’s views were perfectly consistent with the Greek philosophy of his time that taught the spirit is pure and good but anything physical is evil. Therefore, both Origen and Dr. Ross can be said to have adopted erroneous interpretations of Romans 8 because of their uncritical acceptance of the teachings common to their times.

In proposing that Romans 8:19f teaches that creation has always been subject to decay and futility, Creation and Time further suggests that “the text might refer, as well, to another kind of decay: the disorder in people’s life and environment that resulted from rebellion against God. …Isaiah 24:5 describes the devastation of the planet that results from the insubordination of human beings to God.” [p. 67 — emphasis added] In other words, Dr. Ross suggests that Paul and Isaiah were referring to human-caused environmental pollution, thousands of years before environmentalism was in vogue.

Our Response:

FALSE. This is another example of poor exegesis. Whatever Paul and Isaiah’s position on environmentalism, these verses don’t prove Ross’s claim. These verses do not refer to any devastation caused by man’s irresponsibility, but to the future judgment of the Earth by God. Isaiah prophesies God’s destruction of the Earth. At first glance, when reading the NASB translation, these verses may seem to teach what Ross proposes: “The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant” (NASB).

  1. The NIV and NKJV use the word “defiled” rather than “polluted.” Man is the defilement, having broken God’s laws and covenant.

  2. Isaiah 24-27 is known as Isaiah’s apocalypse. A closer examination of this section reveals that verse 24:5 is not talking about man’s past or current failures, but about a future defilement and about a future judgment of God upon the Earth. It is widely agreed that this section deals with the Tribulation period and the beginning of the Millennial age.

  3. The devastation of Earth’s environment is done by God, not by man. Isaiah describes what will happen, “Behold, the LORD lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface … The earth will be completely laid waste and completely despoiled, for the LORD has spoken this word. The earth mourns and withers, the world fades and withers … Therefore, a curse devours the earth….” (Isaiah 24:1, 3-4, 6 NASB) The context of these verses certainly demonstrates that God is the one who ultimately destroys the Earth’s environment in a future act of judgment, not mankind!

    Hugh Ross has supported a doubtful interpretation of Romans 8:19f with an erroneous interpretation of Isaiah 24:5.

To Conclusion