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.

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

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

  1. I’m not clear on the origin of humans then with the old earth position. Ross mentioned that old earth believers say that humans did not die before Adam’s sin. How long had humans been on the scene at the point of the Fall? How many thousands (millions) of humans were there at that point? How had they all been able to resist sinning until two of their number (Adam and Eve) started the curse?


    1. Ross’ view is 10,000 to 60,000 years for a literal Adam and Eve. Prior to that no humans. Ross is a progressive creationist. He thinks that macro-evolution is junk. He doesn’t believe in common ancestry. He thinks God made Adam and Eve. That’s my impression from reading his books, anyway.

      Here’s a sample where they look at a scientific discovery and come right out and say that the best solution is direct detectable intervention by God:

      Not based on faith, but based on science.


    2. jay91,

      “How long had humans been on the scene at the point of the Fall?”
      We don’t know. That information was not given to us in Scripture.

      “How many thousands (millions) of humans were there at that point?”
      We don’t know for sure, but Scripture seems to indicate that Adam and Eve had not procreated befor that time, since they are the only ones driven from the garden.

      “How had they all been able to resist sinning until two of their number (Adam and Eve) started the curse?”
      This is my favorite question! Adam and Eve were free from bondage to sin until they sinned. Only after you’re in bondage to sin do you really have to fight to resist it. Jesus didn’t have to work to resist sin the way we do because he was Free from it — he was not in bondage to sin. Yes, he was tempted even as we are tempted, but he was able to resist it completely because sin was not his master.

      One more thing that I would like to point out: It seems from Genesis 3:22-24 that Adam and Eve’s ability to live forever was directly connected to the tree of life. They were driven out of the garden to prevent access to the tree of life — to *keep them from living forever in a sinful state.*


    3. Theistic Evolutionists like myself would not agree entirely with Hugh Ross either.

      This link provides understanding of the various types of creationism:

      According to this, Ross would more than likely believe that humans were created by God based on primate anatomy. That is, the Deity used primate anatomy as a blueprint for making man.

      I disagree. I believe that the first humans were some sort of hominid species from 170,000 to 300,000 years ago.


  2. Jason Lisle had the more logically consistent position. Hugh’s best scientific evidence was starlight. When he talked about a photo album he is talking about starlight. In the end, from my study (I am in no way an expert in this) I find there is no scientific evidence that can’t be explained in a YEC model, but I think starlight is the best scientific OEC evidence. However, I find Ross, and other OEC, stretch Biblical interpretations which seems to be an act of eisegesis. Put another way, if one were not to consider any scientific theory, and just take Scripture for what it says, I don’t think you would come to the OEC position. Since I will believe what Divine Scripture says over a scientific textbook, I hold to the YEC, although not 100%. Science changes over time and who knows, possibly in 100 years the scientific evidence will strongly favour a YEC model. Spontaneous Generation has shown us that science can completely change from 100% acceptance in one believe to 100% acceptance in another belief, in this case Biogenesis.


    1. Two points

      1) Clements of Alexandria didn’t believe in 24-hour days, and this was way before science took off in a big way. Furthermore, even the writer of the Book of Hebrew agrees with Hugh Ross’ interpretation of the “7th YOM” – we are still in the 7th “day” to enter God’s rest (c.f. Hebrews 4:3-5). If YOM means a literal day Hebrew 4:4-5 does not make much sense.

      Furthermore, the Greek work “Hemera” here also don’t just mean literal days, it can also mean “time” generically.

      2) Why is eisegesis wrong? If one were to take a purely wooden, literal exegetical approach, Jesus of Nazareth certainly wasn’t the messiah and Lord of all because the prophet Elijah literally did not arrive (Malachi 4:5). In fact, this was the exact reason why Christ was mocked on the cross (c.f. Matt 27:49).

      This is perhaps the greatest warning from the Bible against a purely exegetical approach: The Jews inadvertently mocked their messiah without realising the meaning of Malachi 4:5.

      I have heard a YEC who works amongst university students (!) denying the KCA – one of the greatest arguments for theism, because he firmly believed Genesis 1 literally meaning 7 literal days, despite the fact the even the original Hebrew form allows for plenty of room for figurative interpretation:


  3. Yec is a huge spiritual barrier to the scientific community! The only way YEC makes sense is if god if fooling us. Radiometric dating is verifiable and reproducible, not just by atheist scientists, but by ALL scientists. Genesis one makes perfect sense only in the OEC model. This truly is a minor issue among the body of Christ , but makes the Christian community look foolish to anyone in the scientific world.


    1. Jfred, that is not the only way it makes sense. And the creation account in Genesis is not where the problem comes from – I and a lot of others who lean toward the young earth model have an issue with the fact that in Exodus God links the sabbath to the creation, saying that he created the earth in six days and rested on the seventh and therefore we should do likewise. I think most of us will agree that there is aroom for interpretation on the creation account itself, and whether you interpret it as days or not, there is still room (imo) for an old earth if you choose to look at it that way. I personally don’t, but that’s me.

      Radiometric dating makes assumptions that cannot be tested: 1) that the speed of light has never changed (there is some interesting but non-conclusive data regarding this; if I had to guess I would say it has not, but it needs to be said) – the speed of light is a component in radioactive decay and therefore would affect apparent age; 2) that God made the world imperfect, with radioactive decay and entropy already in place before He made us (and this argument gets really long-winded and there is no way to prove it either way); and 3) that the current levels (that is, rate of occurrence versus non-radioactive isotopes) of radioactive materials have always been the current levels of radioactive materials.

      The last is related to the second. But here is the deal. God made Adam, and although Adam was only a day old he probably would look to us if we were to see him at that time as a 25-30 year old man. That’s not God lying to us – that’s God creating something mature out of nothing. Therefore, how old should Earth look, if God made it six or ten or twelve or whatever thousand years ago? We haven’t the slightest idea. Anyone aside from God Himself who says so is lying.

      I’m not dogmatic about it, I just find the question very interesting and I’ve spent a lot of time reading and thinking about it. According to my take on the Bible, God made the world perfect. I realize that’s not the word used, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to interpret it that way given what the bar for good is where God is concerned – the fact that none of us can be considered good and there being only one person who ever was, and that person being perfect would be one instance. I think the animals killed to make clothes for Adam and Eve were the first deaths in history. I think sin is what introduced decay into the world. I think we started off with no Carbon 14, or anything else that we use to radiometrically date things and that therefore the older you get in terms of date, the less items will have of said isotopes and that therefore said items will appear older than they are. I think the Earth ecosystem was far different post Creation and pre Flood than it is now. And I think that science’s concept of all things working the same way throughout all of the universe’s history (I can’t recall the term at the moment) cannot explain what we see.

      All of that is my opinion. It cannot be defended scientifically because science cannot look back into pre-Fall Earth and determine what that cosmos was like and how it functioned, or whether there was any difference at all. I recognize that limitation and realize that it renders moot the argument – we honestly don’t know and can’t prove it one way or another, and that science has to be based on what we know, not on speculation of what might have been. It’s how I think things were based on what I know of the character of God and my estimation of whether the current processes in place (entropy, food chain, etc) can be considered good or not. At the end, we’ll find out one way or the other. I may be absolutely wrong. But the point of my (admittedly lengthy; sorry about that Wintery) post is to point out that you don’t need a lying God to have a young earth. Cheers. :)

      I may get argued right out of that viewpoint on this website and if so, very good. As I said, not dogmatic about it, this is just where I have landed on what is already noted as being a sidebar, not an essential.


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