This is part of a series of posts on the “Life Dialogue” within Christianity. Check out other posts in the series here.
Hugh Ross has been the subject of the last two posts on Old Earth Creationism (hereafter OEC) I wrote in this series on the “Life Dialogue” within Christianity. His work in fields related to this debate has been invaluable to Christians seeking an understanding of the world and Scripture. Thus, I’m continuing the trend of writing about his works for the OEC side of the debate.
Hugh Ross argues in Why the Universe is the Way It Is that the incredible fine-tuning of the universe shows that God planned the universe specifically for: 1) the rise of human advanced civilization at the earliest possible time, 2) the triumph of God through Christ over evil, while also keeping the natural laws constant and using a process which took literally billions of years.
Ross argues, among other things, that the universe must be quite old. This is the point of contention which is most prevalent in his book, so it is the part I will focus upon.
The universe must be old, argues Ross, for several reasons. First, there is the most oft-cited reason: the measured age of the universe, judging from the latest technology, shows that the universe is about 13.73 billion years old (Ross, 44). Second, heavy elements required for life needed time to build up (44), along with radioactive isotopes (45), while “dangerous events” such as supernova eruptions needed to subside (47). Ross further argues that the earth must be quite old (the latest measurements indicate about 9.2 billion years) in order to sustain life. This was because the sun needed time to stabilize, while there also had to be fewer bombardments from asteroids and the like (48ff). Further, continental landmasses had to form in order to sustain advanced civilizations (50ff).
Further, Ross believes Scripture backs up claims about the universe. He cites Psalm 104:2 and Isaiah 40:22 as passages which describe the universe as “stretching out” like a tent. These verses, he argues, show a divine inspiration of Scripture, as that is exactly what has been happening with our universe since the Big Bang (131). He goes on to cite extensively verses which point to Scripture lining up exactly with current scientific discoveries (cf. particularly p. 126-145).
So what can the Christian take from such an argument? This particular work of Ross’s will (mostly) mesh well with not just OEC but also the theories of Theistic Evolution (TE) and Intelligent Design (ID). It is in Ross’s expansion of his ideas that his view becomes distinct (see this post for a wider exploration of Ross’s arguments). But the conclusions he draws will remain contested by Young Earth Creationists (YEC).
The Christian desiring to combat Ross will have to attack the verses he cites while also attacking his scientific model. Again, the YEC could appeal to differing interpretations of the same evidence, arguing that while it may appear that the universe is as old as 14ish billion years (what’s a few million years when we’re talking billions?), that is only because, as Ross frequently points out, God would know exactly how old the universe would have to be to sustain life. However, God, being all-knowing and all-powerful, could have simply created the universe already capable of sustaining life. Ross would answer by arguing (as he does on p. 147ff) that it may be a false assumption to say that God only wanted to make an environment for humans to live comfortably in (153). Rather, argues Ross, God set the universe up in such a way that humans would not only exist, but also have opportunities to learn, grow, confront evil, explore and wonder at His Divine Nature and His conquest of evil through Christ (153-158).
Ross may be challenged from the “other camp”—that is, ID and TE—that he is arguing anachronistically and trying to read science into Scripture. I’m not sure what answer Ross would provide, but I believe he could counter that if God truly did inspire Scripture, then it seems as though God would know how the universe came to be. Not only that, but he could have left “markers” or “indicators” of inspiration throughout Scripture by revealing various truths about the origins and nature of the universe to the authors of Scripture. Thus, Ross might argue, it is entirely valid to treat the Bible as a “science book”, but only secondarily so. Interestingly, those who desire to read Scripture literalistically and apply it to science often fall under the YEC label, given Genesis 1ff, but Ross argues (rather well, imo), that the Bible can be read fairly literally while discovering an Old Earth scenario.
Ross, Hugh. Why The Universe is the Way It Is. Baker Books. 2008.
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