How long are the days of Genesis? Hugh Ross and Jason Lisle debate

I found this radio debate about the age of the Earth on the Apologetics 315 Twitter feed.


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 28 minutes into the debate. Oh my goodness. 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. And you will have fun learning.

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

Wes Widner from Reason to Stand pointed out another debate on this topic.

26 thoughts on “How long are the days of Genesis? Hugh Ross and Jason Lisle debate”

  1. Thanks for posting, WK! I will listen to the entire debate, but first I wanted to hear the bombshell you mentioned, so I skipped to the 40 min mark. The entire recording is only 40:28, so by 40 minutes the debate is over. Was that a typo?


    1. I think I listened to the one WITH commercials. Then Brian posted the shorter one. It’s at 28 minutes… the young earth guy has some troubles with the Bible being taken literally… I just thought it was funny.


  2. Thanks for doing a writeup of the debate. I’ve always wondered about the extent of the flood in Genesis. So Ross believes it was a local flood? That would make much more sense. I haven’t ever studied that far into the flood (I’m still a very young Christian…trying to learn the essentials first ya know).


    1. Two things:

      1. Awesome avatar, Jared.

      2. WK: is there any reason at all for a non-Christian/theist to listen to this debate?


      1. 1) Jared is awesome, that’s why he has an awesome avatar.
        2) Not really, unless they are not Christians BECAUSE they think they would have to be young Earth creationists. This debate fixes that problem. Many, many non-Christians believe that. I was just reading S.E. Cupp saying that on the Bashir show. It’s a persistent myth because of the media and the churches, but you know better.


        1. Wait, what? People (in large-ish #s) actually believe this?? I’m guessing that if they *do* believe this, that’s little more than a lame excuse for why they’re not theists.

          Most non-theists are non-theists because:

          1. Their their parents didn’t love them enough.
          2. They want to indulge every carnal whim without fear of ultimate reprisal.
          3. It’s ‘hip’ to be an atheist and, thus, only knuckle-draggers could possibly believe in a created universe, et al.

          SE Cupp probably said that because she’s trying to have her cake and it eat it, too: she knows that most conservatives are also theists so she doesn’t want to say “you’re a bunch of knuckle-dragging cloud worshipers” (or, perhaps, less antagonistic phrasing) and, thus, alienate most of her fans/readership.

          In other words, she’s smarter than that.


    2. I don’t see how a local flood makes more sense. If you read Genesis 7:19-23, you see frequent use of universal words:

      “They rose greatly on the earth, and ALL the high mountains under the ENTIRE heavens were covered… EVERY living thing that moved on the earth perish….ALL the creatures that swarm over the earth, and ALL mankind. EVERYTHING on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. EVERY living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out… ONLY Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.”

      Also, if the Flood was local, why would Noah have to build an ark? He could just travel far enough to avoid being killed by the flood, instead of spending so much time and effort to build an ark. And why did God send every kind of animal to the ark to avoid extinction? And why would birds have to be set on board? Surely they can fly elsewhere where there is land if the Flood was indeed local. How could water rise above the mountains if it was local? And God promised He would never send such a flood again. But if it was a local flood, then He would have broken His promise numerous times!


          1. Keith, the use of universal words in the _English_ translation of the Bible proves nothing in itself. The _Hebrew_ word for land (erets) is almost always in reference to land populated by people. Even when the universal word (tebel) is used, it tends to refer to land populated by people, and nothing more. The flood could easily be local, without violating a plain reading.

            God had Noah build an ark for several reasons: 1-To attract attention. 2-To preach to the wicked (and in order to preach to them all, he would need to attract attention). 3-So that people wouldn’t follow him and therefore be spared from God’s judgement. 4-As a test of Noah’s faith. 5-To save the animals.

            You question why Noah would need to save all the animals if the flood were local. The answer is simple: only the unlearned think that birds could simply fly away! Have you ever noticed that there aren’t _any_ birds flying when there is a heavy rainfall? They would have drowned on their perches waiting for the rain to subside. The other animals would have died as well, and they never would have came back.
            But let’s turn your argument on its head: how did the fish and insects survive? What about the fig tree? Other plants? Remember that only soulish creatures came onto the Ark. Fish, insects, and plants are incapable of having a “mutual relationship with humans” (what is placed in quotation marks is what it means to be soulish). The answers that you could give have all been proven faulty, if we want to say that we can have evidence of a global flood.

            Your questions have been answered by Old Earthers decades before I pointed them out here.


          2. Mr. Chatfield, Dr. Ross has _never_ denied that Genesis is a literal history. He has merely denied that the Young Earth interpretation is a valid interpretation. So what if most Christians in history disagreed? They based their interpretations on the science as well! To make such a complaint, in light of that fact, would be hypocrisy.

            In fact, even if we say that Genesis is not historically true, the fact is that it would still be literally true. Here’s why: in academia, to be ‘literal’ means that the people who first received the message would understand it perfectly. For instance, it is literally true that “Plato is racking his brain,” because it means that Plato is thinking hard. You would understand that without hesitation, so it is literally true, according to academic principles. Hugh Ross is still in line, thank you very much.


        1. Ross believes that the flood was “worldwide” in that it affected the entire “world of people.” He says it was worldwide, but not global.

          However, his conclusions require approaching Scripture having already concluded that the flood was not global. Furthermore, he does not answer Keith’s questions about the very need for the ark (100 years is plenty of time to move) or the need to take animals on board. Interestingly, he never mentions the word “ark” or “animal(s)” anywhere in the two articles cited. (Thanks for the link, Jared!)


          1. His conclusions only require a study of Hebrew, rather than English. Your statement is false.

            The statement that the flood covered the tallest mountains by an additional fifteen cubits is simply off. The Hebrew word for upward is ma’al, which is incorrectly translated as “higher”. The mountains were covered by fifteen cubits _at_most_. Even if it covered all the continents (and I explained why this is most likely not the case, when I rebutted Keith), the flood would not be global, because the mountains were excluded. Your argument is simply wrong.

            Now, one cannot go and say “But God broke His promise numerous times by using a local flood!” in order to rebuttal this simple counter-argument to the “globalness” of the flood, because all modern floods fail to meet the two criterion behind Noah’s Flood:
            1) It has to last for longer than a year, and cover many dozens of kilometers of land, deep enough to kill people.
            2) It needs to be capable of killing _all_ of humanity.

            The fact is that Hugh Ross’ view has a consistent defense. Keith’s arguments have all been answered, and to complain that Dr. Ross hasn’t is simply irrelevant.


  3. Without watching the video, I get the impression that you didn’t properly represent Lisle’s responses because I have read much more from him which would have responded to all of Ross’s stories.

    I do know from past posts, and the appearance of this post, that you are a fan of Hugh Ross. I really think you should spend some time over at Answers in Genesis – they have good, scientific responses to all of Ross’s claims, including his heresy of pre-Adam spiritless humans.


    1. Well, I the audio is there for people to listen to. I think that Lisle and Faulkner are two good YECs. But my favorite two are Paul Nelson and Marcus Ross. I’ve met them both at conferences and talked to them about their views. They are both solid and they are much nicer than Lisle and Faulkner. I’m sorry to disagree with you. But do listen to when Lisle exegetes Psalm 19:3. He reads half of the verse, and leaves off the other half, which completely undermines his interpretation, which is really bad. And then he actually says not to take it literally, which is fine, but it’s just funny to hear him say it.


    2. The weird discussion of Ps.19 just doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever read from Lisle. The language of Ps.19 is anthropomorphic, so it can’t be taken literal in that sense, but it describes God’s creation and his works – it is NOT another creation story. But it does indeed tell us that creation is obvious to anyone listening.

      Ross and his ilk claim “yom” can mean more than 24 hrs, yet in Genesis it is contextually impossible to mean anything else. And if it isn’t 24 hrs, then how old was Adam on day seven? And day 7 certainly has ended – it ended on day 7. The OEC view is just an attempt to be “scientific” with uniformitarianism. All the so-called science of old age earth has more than been responded to by good creation scientists and physicists. Even granting that the age of the earth/universe is very, very old, that is also explained by event horizon crossing (and other physics stuff which I can’t explain but is thoroughly explained by Russell Humphreys), which still leaves everything after the actual creation of the Earth/Universe to take place in six literal days no more than 10,000 years ago.

      No one has to be a YEC to be a Christian, but once they mature in their faith they will almost always come to that belief because it is the only one that fits ALL the evidence. There are Christians who are still evolutionists, but most also mature out of that phase. So for anyone to say YEC stance turns of potential converts is untrue, and just another piece of propaganda to say only their belief is the true belief. Personally, if you can’t trust the Word of God when it says six days, then what part of the Bible CAN you trust – just pick and choose. That, to me, would turn off a potential Christian!


      1. The fact is that _all_ of the so-called “rules” that you Young Earth Creationists use to “prove” that Genesis can only have twenty-four hour-long days have numerous exceptions. Your assertion is completely baseless!

        “Day seven ended on day seven” is completely tautological, and fails to prove that day seven ended already. The fact that Paul said that day seven is still going on is enough proof that day seven _must_ have been longer than twenty-four hours.

        Your statement that “all the evidence for an old-earth has been responded to good creation scientists and physicists” is only a third-truth; it’s _worse_ than a half-truth. First, it has been responded to, but those responses have been responded to in turn. Second, the physics they use tend to be faulty in the end. (See “The Unraveling of Starlight and Time” at Third (relating to number two), the responses given to us contradict each other! Fourth, the responses are growing increasingly absurd, since the global flood model contradicts the ice-layers of the Antarctic, and Alaska, and Humphrey’s model is mathematically inconsistent.

        Can you please produce evidence that most Christians “mature” into Young Earth Creationism? Most of what you’ve said is completely untrue. Maybe you should stick with old-earth websites, the way you recommend AiG for Wintery Knight?


  4. My first year Biology prof at a Christian university said Evolution blocked her from becoming a Christian. That said, ECM, I suspect you’re right most of the time.

    Both these fellows said things that made my jaw drop.

    Lisle is properly corrected by Ross about his blatant misunderstanding Ps. 19:3.

    Ross says no one talked about dinosaurs less than two hundred years ago…..Well, duh, the word got invented. Before that people talked about Dragons and other things like Behemoth, and Leviathan, and Wyrdfloga (sp?).

    Makes me feel better about my level of education and wits if two such well-educated gents can make such collossally obvious inaccuracies.

    And, my position…you can be of course a Christian as an OEC, but if you’re still OEC after twenty years, I wonder about your scientific skills.


    1. The issue is more complicated than the mere invention of a word. All the examples of words for monsters that you describe have broader meanings than just for ‘dinosaur’. Behemoth and Leviathan can be found at the Jewish Encyclopedia, but it seems that your Wyrdfloga doesn’t exist. My search engine doesn’t mention it anywhere but over here.

      I really need to know: how does believing an Old Earth for longer than twenty years give a reason (let alone a good one) to question somebody’s scientific capabilities? It seems that because the answers for the evidence of an Old-Earth all has been rebutted through simple evidence in conflict with the Young-Earth models, the tables should be turned. The fact is that the flood cannot over-turn our radio-dates, and most rocks agree that the Earth is older than most species.


  5. Um, can someone please explain to me how a God that is Omnipresent can create a world in 7 days, when there are no people until day 6? Who exactly is experiencing the passage of time? Heck, your dog can’t even tell if you’ve been gone 5 minutes or 5 years when you come back in your house. To suggest God took 6 of his days to create the Universe is blasphemy, to suggest he took six of our days, when we didn’t exist yet is ludicrous and it is a safe bet that yom should be translated as periods of time. The agument that God created Adam as an adult so he could’ve created the earth as an adult is irrelevant to the days issue because it doesn’t take God time to create. He said let there be light and there was light. If God is Omnipresent there are 6 instances of creation, not 6 days. His name is I AM. Also the bible doesn’t have God creating the earth adult. Genesis 1:12 “The earth brought forth every kind of plant…” It could have said, “God said ‘let there be plants.’ But no, the plants grew up from the earth because he ordered it that way. Also the account in Genesis 2 talks about a very different kind of story which is far more gradual than the first.

    Is Hugh Ross right on everything, no, there were still accounts of large beasts at the time of man, but the behemoth was a water creature by my interpretation of Job’s account, and water creatures are going to be harder for scientists to find and account for. Also it seems to be a vegetarian as Jason suggests. The comment Hugh Ross makes about the early church not discussing creation leaves out the fact that the Church did declare that the beliefs of the church were not in conflict with science, and the discussion was minimalized precisely becasue the Church did not want to conflict with science. The church stuck to the moral implications of the scriptures so as not to fall into error.

    The argument about no death of animals before the fall is rediculous. We’re supposed to believe that God created our whole complicated digetive system and teeth with incisors to eat apples?

    Lastly, are we or are we not living in the seventh day?
    Is this the day that the Lord has made? If Jesus has brought us life has the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword been removed? Science and logic and natural law are not in conflict. We must understand this world because as we are made in his image, it is a reflection of the World to come. If we cannot understand earthly things how can we be made to understand the things of God?


    1. Firstly, God created everything in Six days, and rested on the 7th. He created time. And if God is able to create at all, what is the difficulty in doing so in six days?

      Genesis 2 is NOT a separate account, rather it zeros in on day 6 when man was created and explain how it was done.

      God created in six days obviously for a purpose, as described in the 10 Commandments when he tells Israel why they are to work six days and rest the seventh as he created in six and rested the seventh.

      Your interpretation of Job and behemouth appears to be based on Ross’s ideas rather than good exegesis. Behmouth was a land creature, while Leviathan was a sea creature. The Bible does not conflict with science, but it does conflict with speculation disguised as science.

      The Bible says it was sin that brought death into the world. Man was not given animals to eat – Genesis plainly states that man was given plants for food. After the Flood God then gave man animals for food. Read the Bible, not Hugh Ross.

      No, we are not living in the 7th day. Scripture never says that.


      1. Mr. Chatfield, you are again making multiple errors.

        In your reference to the Decalogue, you completely ignore the Sabbatical Year. The principle of one-in-seven is key: God divided His work into six “days” (as in, “day of the dinosaurs”), plus a day of rest, and told us that we are to work for six periods of time, and rest for a seventh period of time. Your complaint that Mariangela’s post is exegetically incorrect is simply incorrect.

        Your problem about Dr. Ross and the Behemoth is unfair. What makes Dr. Ross’ beliefs less valid than your’s? He references experts outside of his field, so you’re really complaining about what experts in Hebrew have to say. The simple fact, which most Young Earth proponents never tell their audiences, is that there are Hebrew experts who believe that the Genesis account is in favor of the Old Earth interpretations. To say that they are not careful exegetes is simply to beg the question. You are wrong again.

        You say that sin brought death to the whole world, but the fact is that you are reading Ken Ham, the way you chide Mariangela for “reading Hugh Ross”. The Bible explicitly says that sin brought death to all _men_, and says nothing about animals. In fact, it would be unjust for God to punish all the animals. Furthermore, the names of the animals were based on their activity. Owls were named after the Hebrew word that means “to lacerate”, and eagles “in the name of violence.”

        Scripture _does_ say that the seventh day is still going on. This is only further proof that you are the one who is not being careful with his Bible. First, notice that Genesis chapter one ends, without ending the seventh day. There is no “and then there was evening, and then there was morning.” Second, Paul tells us to enter into God’s day of rest (Hebrews 4:3-11). Paul’s writings only provide support, they do not prove this view point by themselves.


    1. It turns out that the video was full of lies, not the scientists. You see, the scientists were dating what was _in_ the lava: olivine inclusions. What the scientists reported when they dated the actual lava, the date was extremely close to zero. Your video is at best, hosted by an ignorant person, and at worst, hosted by a complete liar.


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