MUST-HEAR: Jason Lisle and Hugh Ross debate the age of the Earth

I found this radio debate from the radio station KKLA on the Apologetics 315 Twitter feed. This is my FAVORITE Twitter feed.

Speakers:

Jason Lisle

Dr. Lisle graduated summa cum laude from Ohio Wesleyan University where he double-majored in physics and astronomy, and minored in mathematics. He did graduate work at the University of Colorado where he earned a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Astrophysics. While there, Dr Lisle used the SOHO spacecraft to investigate motions on the surface of the sun as well as solar magnetism and subsurface weather. His thesis was entitled “Probing the Dynamics of Solar Supergranulation and its Interaction with Magnetism.” Among other things, he discovered a previously unknown polar alignment of supergranules (solar convection cells), and discovered evidence of solar giant cells. He has also authored a number of papers in both secular and creation literature.

Hugh Ross

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 (NRC) of Canada fellowship, he completed his undergraduate degree in physics (University of British Columbia) and graduate degrees in astronomy (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.

So both have impeccable scientific credentials. But just wait until you hear what one of them does at about 40 minutes into the debate. Oh my God. You will not believe the bombshell that gets dropped during this debate.

The MP3 file is here. (This is the updated version that Brian Auten fixed to remove the commercials!)

I don’t always agree with Frank Pastore, (only 95%), but he knows the topic of the debate back to front, and guides the discussion in an incredibly useful, accurate way. This is a fine debate to listen to! You will learn a lot.

The Bible and the early church fathers

Jason Lisle

  • we take Genesis literally
  • the starting point of YEC is Scripture
  • the plain meaning of Scripture is that the earth was made in 6 24-hour days
  • science has to be interpreted in a way that fits a plain reading of Genesis 1
  • the evidence for an old universe and old Earth must be rejected a priori

Hugh Ross

  • we take Genesis literally
  • the Hebrew word for day (yom) can mean 24 hours or a long period of time
  • there are multiple creation accounts in the Bible
  • interpreting yom as long periods of time harmonizes all the accounts
  • the Bible says that the seventh day is not even ended
  • we believe in a literal Adam and Eve living thousands of years ago

Jason Lisle

  • there’s only 1 account of creation in the Bible: Genesis
  • the normal view in church history is 6 24-hour days
  • there are some early church fathers who that the days are long
  • the other places where creation is discussed are not real accounts

Hugh Ross

  • the early church did not spend a lot of time talking about the age of the Earth
  • there is not unanimous agreement about the age of the Earth
  • there is no definitive statement on the age of the Earth until Isaac Newton
  • Newton strongly favored an old earth, hundreds of years before Darwin
  • there are other creation accounts, Job 38-39
  • Pslam 104 is a creation account

Jason Lisle

  • a Psalm is not written in the genre of historical narrative
  • Psalm 104 is not a creation account – it talks about ships, etc
  • it’s talking about the modern era, not a creation account

The evidence from science

Hugh Ross

  • both of us believe in an absolute beginning of time, space and matter
  • both of us believe that space is expanding now
  • stars form as matter coalesces during the expansion of the universe
  • star formation requires a universe aged on the order of billions of years

Jason Lisle

  • if you pre-suppose my interpretation of Genesis, then the universe is young

Hugh Ross

  • the speed of the expansion of the universe proves an old universe
  • the light emitted from the oldest stars also proves an old universe

Jason Lisle

  • if you pre-suppose my interpretation of Genesis, then the universe is young

Was the universe made with the appearance of age

Jason Lisle

  • any evidence for an old universe is wrong
  • stars didn’t form gradually, they were created by God instantly
  • stars have the appearance of age, but they’re actually young

Hugh Ross

  • God doesn’t lie in the Bible or in the book of nature
  • Scientists can look back in time by looking further out into the universe
  • Because light takes a long time to travel to the Earth, we can see the past
  • we can see a time when there were no stars yet
  • stars formed slowly over time, not instantaneously
  • we have photos of the universe before stars and after stars
  • we can see a history of the universe by looking closer and further away

Does nature provide us with knowledge about creation?

They discuss Psalm 19 now, so here’s Psalm 19:1-5:

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.

3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

4 Their voice goes out into all the earth,  their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,

5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

Jason Lisle

  • nature isn’t a book
  • nature doesn’t  provide knowledge about God
  • Psalm 19 doesn’t say that nature communicates to us
  • verse 3 says “There is no speech nor language”

Hugh Ross

  • If you read all of verse 3, it says the exact opposite of what you just said it says
  • Verse 1: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands”
  • Verse 2: “Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”
  • Verse 3: “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
  • Verse 4: “Their voice goes out into all the earth,  their words to the ends of the world.”

Jason Lisle

  • You can’t take the Bible literally all the time

How important is the age of the Earth?

Hugh Ross

  • it’s a non-essential because it has nothing to do with salvation or inerrancy
  • both sides of the debate affirm the same views of salvation and inerrancy
  • professional scientists have multiple lines of evidence saying the universe is old
  • the only reason it matters is that young earth creationism is a barrier to faith
  • if you have to deny science to be a Christian, then it stops people from being saved
  • young earth opposition to science has been used by secularists to marginalize Christianity

Jason Lisle

  • there was no death in the Garden of Eden, animal or human, before the Fall
  • the Bible says that death was a consequence of Adam’s sin
  • so there was no death before the Fall, according to the Bible
  • old earth people believe in death before the Fall

Consider Romans 5:12:

12Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—

Hugh Ross

  • Romans 5:12 says that Adam’s sin caused death to come to all men
  • old earth people believe that only animal death existed before the Fall, not human death
  • plant and animal death existed before the Fall – Adam and Eve were eating!

Jason Lisle

  • I interpret the Bible to say that plants aren’t living creatures

What about dinosaurs, the Flood, and Noah’s ark?

Jason Lisle

  • dinosaurs were created on the 6th day
  • dinosaurs lived alongside humans and were vegetarians before the Fall
  • dinosaurs were on the Ark – they’re not that big – just take baby dinosaurs
  • it’s a global flood

Hugh Ross

  • dinosaurs were created on the 5th day
  • they were extinct before before humans ever appeared
  • nobody in history ever wrote about dinosaurs until 200 years ago
  • it’s a local flood

Related posts

UPDATE: Wes Widner from Reason to Stand mentions another debate in the comments: “Here is another excellent debate given a while back between Hugh Ross/Walter Kaiser and Ken Ham/Jason Lisle”

31 thoughts on “MUST-HEAR: Jason Lisle and Hugh Ross debate the age of the Earth”

    1. I thought Lisle did well to challenge Ross on the dozens of creation accounts, but when he took that fragment of Psalm 19 out of context to twist the meaning to undercut general revelation, I got mad at him. Still, he has excellent credentials and was a gentleman. So it was a good debate, I thought. I heard that Danny Faulkner is even better, and Ross debated him. I haven’t seen it. My favorite YEC is Marcus Ross.

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  1. I admire YECs for their guts. They are very confident in what they believe, and I think it would be awesome if it turned out to be true, but… until then, I think I shall stay on the Old Earth side. I’m still trying to figure out what to believe about all those multiple creation accounts.
    That was clearly wrong, I’m not sure why he even attempted to use that! The whole point of the proposition was to point out that nature speaks about God constantly. I’d like to look up those guys. Haven’t heard of them.

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    1. Yeah, Ross can be a bit weird. There was a time before old-earth creationism (my view) and intelligent design, when YECs held the line against naturalism. Guys like Duane Gish can whip some ass. I’ve seen him give his fossil talk. He does a good job. And there are a lot of them still doing quality work with the ID movement, like Marcus Ross and Paul Nelson.

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  2. I thought Dr. Jason Lisle gave the stronger case for a young earth. He used sound, biblical exegesis to conclude that the earth is young. Scripture makes it clear, if you take into account the original Hebrew grammar and such, that the earth isn’t billions or even millions of years old, only thousands. People are not infallible; Scripture is. Perhaps Dr. Lisle’s bit on Psalm 19 was a little weak, but he still gave stronger BIBLICAL reasons for a young earth than Dr. Ross overall.

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  3. I love this debate and even though I fully agree with Ross that it is a non-essential I find having strong arguments against the YEC view to be very helpful as I know several people who cite YEC specifically as their reason for (or at least strong catalyst to) disbelieving the whole Bible.

    When men like Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis wed their tertiary doctrines like YEC too closely to the gospel it generally only has devastating side effects. Rarely are they positive.

    BTW: Here is another excellent debate given a while back between Hugh Ross/Walter Kaiser and Ken Ham/Jason Lisle http://bit.ly/i9YBI

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    1. “I find having strong arguments against the YEC view to be very helpful as I know several people who cite YEC specifically as their reason for (or at least strong catalyst to) disbelieving the whole Bible.”

      This is my view as well. The higher up you go in university and in the workplace, and the more you deal with people from other religions and cultures, the more this raises its head. And if you take a look at where YEC people choose to engage, you see that all of their conferences take place in churches. YEC isn’t about engaging non-Christians – it’s no good for that!

      My further concern is that it creates a mistrust of science that keeps Christians from rising to positions of influence. Science is one of the best areas for Christians to go into in the university, because there is no politics there, except for the twin lies of Darwinism and global warming. Christians should be flocking to disciplines like math, physics, chemistry and computer science. But I wonder if they will if they think that science is just a big lie. Science is misused in some cases to further anti-Christian ideas, but some areas are still safe. Analytical philosophy is also a good, safe area.

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      1. I forgot to thank you, Wintery Knight, for providing a link to this wonderful debate. I’m quite interested in young earth and old earth debates, and I had not come across this one.

        “I find having strong arguments against the YEC view to be very helpful…”

        What are these strong arguments? I still find the young earth creationists to have the stronger case.

        “…as I know several people who cite YEC specifically as their reason for (or at least strong catalyst to) disbelieving the whole Bible.”

        But suppose young earth creation is true, what then? Should we compromise the truth, even if it’s to reach unbelievers? In fact, I know of some who reject the Gospel because they reject the Genesis account. After all, if we can’t trust what Genesis says about origins, how can we trust what Jesus says about eternal life? “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”–John 3:12

        “This is my view as well. The higher up you go in university and in the workplace, and the more you deal with people from other religions and cultures, the more this raises its head…”

        Agreed. This is why I believe this is not a non-essential issue.

        “…And if you take a look at where YEC people choose to engage, you see that all of their conferences take place in churches. YEC isn’t about engaging non-Christians – it’s no good for that!”

        Not true. Creation Ministries International, a young earth organization, recently challenged atheists to a debate on origins (http://is.gd/bbEut). See also http://is.gd/bbE60 and http://is.gd/bbEbG

        “My further concern is that it creates a mistrust of science that keeps Christians from rising to positions of influence.”

        Rather it teaches Christians to not place their complete trust on fallible scientists, not science. Young earth creationists know that facts don’t speak for themselves. For example, an evolutionists and a creationist can both look at the same piece of evidence, yet reach different conclusions. This is because scientists interpret facts based on presuppositions.

        “Science is one of the best areas for Christians to go into in the university, because there is no politics there, except for the twin lies of Darwinism and global warming. Christians should be flocking to disciplines like math, physics, chemistry and computer science. But I wonder if they will if they think that science is just a big lie.”

        Indeed, some of the greatest scientists in the past were Christians: Newton, Maxwell, Faraday, Galileo, Kepler, Mendel, Pascal, just to name a few. However, an important distinction between operational science and historical science needs to be made here. Operational science deals with repeatable and observable phenomena in the present, and one’s presuppositions hardly play a role here. Historical science, however, attempts to find facts about the past, where one’s presuppositions play a major role. Physics, chemistry, computer science, etc. are all operational sciences, and no reputable young earth creationist dispute the interpretations of the facts in these areas.

        Again, thanks for sharing this debate. I love your blog. :)

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  4. David, let me jump in here briefly.

    To me, the key line of thinking that led me to OEC is this: the appearance of age problem. Why would God create a universe that has the “appearance” of something, leading people that are honestly seeking truth astray?

    No, I reject that. God wouldn’t do that. Barring some new revolutionary find in the areas of physics (always possible!), we have lots of different ways of measuring time. All say, wow, all of this stuff is pretty darn old.

    God wants us to find Him and general revelation is part of that (the study of His creation). It is supposed to lead to him.

    In my view, this debate would not be happening at all if it weren’t for the tragedy of Darwin and his disciples being so zealously anti-religion. They took novel ideas and gave them a rigid, atheistic interpretation. If Darwin made the same observations about nature, but was instead a devout believing Christian, evolution would have gone down more like Galileo and Copernicus; it would shake things up at the time, but before too long we’d all find a way to harmonize good science and good theology.

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    1. Thank you, feiolong80.

      To me, the key line of thinking that led me to YEC is this: the Bible makes it clear after doing sound, biblical exegesis.

      Suppose it’s true, for the sake of argument, the earth is young, yet the earth appeared old, Would this mean that God is being deceptive? No, not at all. Rather it would be deceptive of God to say he created the world in six days when he actually didn’t. Please see http://is.gd/bbMxb.

      Creation is not the 67th book of the Bible as Ross claims. We know that all creation groans because of sin (Romans 8:22), and thus it is not perfect. Not to mention that man is fallible, and we cannot always trust scientists’ claims. On the other hand, Scripture is God-breathed so contains no errors.
      So then, the question we should ask is: Does the Bible communicate a young earth or an old earth?

      In my view, this debate would not happen at all if we gave Scripture its proper place as the ultimate authority in all matters it touches.

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      1. David-

        What you neglect is that “fallible” men interpret the Bible. If you “just read” the Bible you will find that the Hebrew supports the old earth view readily.

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  5. I have a bit of a problem using the bible as a science book. It’s a book about man’s fall from grace and redemption through Christ. I have an even bigger problem with using Psalms as science. Psalms is written as poetry. Psalms 19 in particular paints a beautiful picture of how nature reveals the glory of God. That’s poetry, not science.

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    1. “I have a bit of a problem using the bible as a science book.”

      Thank goodness it’s not. Science books always go out of date whereas the Bible is inerrant (in all matters it touches, not just matters of faith) and is always current. See http://is.gd/bcd1B

      Yes, Psalms was not intended to be taken literally, but Genesis was. We should always take passages in the Bible as the authors intended.

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      1. Yes, science books go out of date.

        Totally with you here, David, until you get to Genesis being intended to be taken literally. How can you say that a story that turns on the actions of a talking snake be intended to be taken literally? I can see it being suggested that we take it seriously, but literally?–no.

        Can you clarify?

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        1. Thanks McSpinster.

          My apologies for the very, very late response.

          Genesis should be taken literally (including the talking serprent) because the author intended it to be taken literally, and this becomes clear after doing sound, exegetical hermeneutics, as I’ve mentioned before. This may seem incredible to you, but what reason do you have to reject its being literal apart from making it SOUND ridiculous.

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          1. Most conservative interpreters (including myself) claim that we interpret literally unless something in the text tips us off that we should not interpret literally. Many of us think that the talking serpent is incongruous with literal interpretation for a couple of reasons. For one, none of the other animals were talking to Adam and Eve, so you would think that they would be startled (perhaps scared) to have a serpent talking to them. This serpent also demonstrated an awareness of God and God’s sayings and commandments. Yet Eve does not have any awareness of the oddity of this while she converses with a serpent.

            I am a conservative who believes in the complete inerrancy of scripture from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. But I often think that many conservatives should say, “We interpret Bible passages literally, except when something in the passage indicates we should not — and sometimes even then we interpret it literally!”

            During the rise of religious liberalism starting in the 19th century, liberals tried to interpret certain passages non-literally because they did NOT believe in biblical inerrancy and wanted certain things in the Bible to not be divine truth. This caused conservatives to be so afraid of non-literal interpretations that we have become hyper-literal, interpreting passages literally when there are clues in the passage that indicate non-literalness.

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          2. When we bring up the serpent we need to remember that Hebrew is a very idiomatic and symbolic language. There may be more to take home than just a snake talking.

            Unfortunately, we are left with a Sunday school mentality when in reality the ‘nachash’ of Gen 3 is a play on words.

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          3. Thanks, Clark.

            You claim most conservative interpreters (I assume you mean Hebrew scholars) think that the talking serpent is incongruous with literal interpretations. But I just don’t see this as the case. As far as I know most Hebrew scholars, including even liberal scholars, believe that the talking serpent was literal. I could be wrong, and if I can be shown to be wrong about how the majority of Hebrew scholars interpret this, I’d concede the point.

            “For one, none of the other animals were talking to Adam and Eve, so you would think that they would be startled (perhaps scared) to have a serpent talking to them.”

            Who ever said they weren’t?

            “This serpent also demonstrated an awareness of God and God’s sayings and commandments. Yet Eve does not have any awareness of the oddity of this while she converses with a serpent.”

            What commandments do you refer to? The only commandment that comes to mind is the command not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Also, I think perhaps she did find it odd. After all, she was curious and wanted to “become wise” (Genesis 3:6).

            Since you claim that the talking serpent was simply symbolic or allegory, then I have to ask: Who or what is the person who uses the body of this ‘beast of the field ’, not only to speak to Eve, but also to persuade her to disobey almighty God?

            It is generally understood that Satan entered the serpent and used it as an instrument to accomplish his will. So Satan spoke through the serpent and that is why the serpent could speak.

            And if you believe the talking serpent was merely symbolic or allegory, why would God curse the serpent? Or do you believe this to be non-literal as well?

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          4. I was not referring to Hebrew scholars in particular, because the oddities I refer to are visible to any reader in any language. This is a matter of literary interpretation, not Hebrew exegesis. The question I raise is not what some Hebrew word meant, but whether literal interpretation of the overall passage is incongruous.

            You postulate that maybe Eve was scared or startled by a talking serpent. The text does not record this. A typical reader would think, “How would I react if a snake started talking to me?” The reader would notice that Eve did not react in the expected manner. She did not ask how he was the only animal in the garden who could speak. We can also expect that Adam and Eve, very early in their lives (like the first few hours), would notice that there is a gulf between men and animals in intellect, understanding, and spirituality. God talked to Adam and Eve and gave them commands, but not the animals. Yet a talking snake has quite a bit of awareness of God, of wisdom, of God’s prohibition, etc. Eve shows no doubt or amazement at this, unless you want to read between the lines. The more we have to hypothesize that is not actually present in a passage, the more we should suspect our interpretation and look for others.

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          5. Thanks, Clark.

            Alright, fair enough. I didn’t know you were referring to everyone in general and not just Hebrew scholars.

            Nonetheless, I stand by my original position. Given that the Bible often refers back to Satan as the “serpent of old”, it’s completely reasonable to conclude that Satan entered a serpent and used that serpent to tempt Eve. And the curse on the serpent supports this idea. So I still think it’s more biblical to take the talking serpent literally.

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          6. Interesting article, Clark. I still find his explanation of the serpent’s curse doubtful. Many Hebrew scholars would disagree with him. However, I am not a Hebrew scholar myself, so I would need a lot more time to research examine each side’s arguments. I also want to point out that regarding the serpent, I would not die on that hill. One thing I do know: The YEC position has far stronger arguments on its side than does OEC. With the serpent issue I’m not nearly as dogmatic.

            I would like to thank you, Clark, for this interesting discussion. =]

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  6. WK,

    Kurt Wise is also a great speaker for the YEC view. I have a series of three lectures where he touches on geology, the “Ice Age”, the fossil record and some very good general ideas about creation the Biblical account of the creation in Genesis and some of the problems for believers if the earth is in fact old.

    I don’t have a link to the lectures, but also don’t have a lot of time to search for them. Perhaps you’ve heard of him as well.

    Great topic.

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  7. Lisle is forced to deny the plain teaching of scripture in the other scriptural accounts of creation because they contradict his young earth interpretation of Genesis 1. When a young earth proponent claims that a hundreds of verses of the Bible are not to be taken literally, you know something isn’t right. Almost reminds one of what the cults claim. The Bible is an amazingly consistent account that does not contradict itself either internally or contradict the external records of science, history or archeology.

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    1. I’m not sure what other Scriptural accounts of creation there are that contradict a young earth.

      The Bible is indeed an amazingly consistent account that does not contradict itself. But I’m sorry, the external records of science, history and archeology? What are you talking about? When they are true, then of course, the Bible will not contradict them. But, unfortunately, most are deliberately being rewritten to reject the Bible and Christianity.

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  8. I listened to the debate and did not hear any bombshell being dropped. Perhaps that is because I pretty much know what both sides believe, so there were not any great surprises for me.

    Can you explain what you thought the bombshell was?

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