Jason Lisle debates Hugh Ross on the age of the Earth

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

10 thoughts on “Jason Lisle debates Hugh Ross on the age of the Earth”

  1. Hey guy, I have a debate review blog. For the sake of offering another pov on these debates would you mind if I linked to your reviews?


  2. Hmmm…nobody in history ever wrote about dinosaurs? Um. Not by that name, of course. The word dinosaur wasn’t coined until fairly recently (1800’s). Before that time, they were usually known as dragons.

    Lots and lots of history mentions dragons. And the Bible also refers to them. Job chapters 40 and 41 describe two creatures which sound a lot like dinosaurs. Several other passages also refer to dragons, serpents (which, from context, are obviously not just snakes) or to leviathan (same creature from Job 41) – all of which are most likely dinosaurs. There are also many cave paintings and other historical artifacts which show creatures that look very much like dinosaurs (though often stylized, as ancient art usually is). The evidence that dinosaurs did live contemporaneously with man is quite compelling if you take the time to look at it rather than assuming it couldn’t have happened.


  3. Excerpt:


    “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!”


    Actually Romans 5:12 seems to indicate that Adam was the agent that introduced “sin” and “death through sin” to “the world” as well as to “all men”. It would be rather redundant for the verse to say “the world” (meaning the “world of men”) and then follow up immediately on the heals of that statement with an additional reference to the very same thing using the words “all men”.

    Further, there is no Biblical mention of Adam or Eve being instructed to kill and eat anything. Both they and the animals were specifically given only vegetation and fruit as food.

    Genesis 1:29-30

    “And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

    And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.”

    The very first death recorded in scripture is the death of some animal at the hands of God himself as he made coverings for Adam and Eve after their fall into sin. Gen. 3:21.

    The one odd thing that might be pointed out those taking Ross’ position is God’s warning to the couple that if they should eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that they would surely “die” (Gen 2:17). Unless (though not explicitly stated in the passage) God explained to them in some detail what death was, they would have had no concept of what the penalty actually would be, absent any visual experience with death or at the very least some specific description of it by God to them. My assumption is that just such a description was given although the passage makes no real mention of it.



  4. YEC are so weird, especially their devotion to fairy tale stuff like before “the fall” there wasn’t *any* death; that carnivores weren’t carnivores, you know that Adam and Eve were vegetarians; lions were hanging out with zebra just chilling out under some trees eating soy bean burgers and being all “hey bro what up?” Such a view is radically different from God’s good creation, i.e. reality. I have a difficult time believing that Genesis’ audience would think such things. One might ask with a smirk, “Well, dude, death isn’t mentioned until after the fall bro. So why think there was death before the fall dude?” Does it have to mentioned before the fall for one to think death was present? Death is reality. It could be that it was just assumed since the audience of Genesis knows how reality works: lion see zebra, lion hungry, lion kills and eats zebra. Same with humans: man hungry, man see cow, man turn cow into Big Mac. Why would eating habits have to be mentioned for an audience who already has a basic framework of reality derived from their personal experience of things to understand the eating habits in pre-fall conditions?

    Procreation isn’t mentioned in detail before the fall right? Were Adam and Eve going to create their babies from the dust like God? Was Eve going to just pop one out without *any* pain, magically, in less than a month? I don’t think so. Going a little further what if a tree fell on Adam in such a severe way that it should have killed him? Would it have killed him? Or did Adam have a healing factor and adamantium bones like the marvel character Wolverine? Would Adam have been injured or died? I personally think Adam and Eve had conditional immortality (wouldn’t have died from old age, but still a human being who feels pain and can be killed).

    Absence of detail about basic things that humans experience doesn’t mean the garden of eden wasn’t reality; it doesn’t mean the garden of eden was a fairy tale world where human beings would have had super powers and that animals didn’t act the way animals were created: canine teeth, killer instinct, will to live, etc. Absence of detail about basic things, I think, means Moses assumed (and rightly so) that the audience would know these things. so such things didn’t have to be explained in written revelation because natural revelation took care of that. I’m convinced that the drama of redemption found in the works of the Bible is an account of human beings who fell morally. My inability to live after having a sword shoved through my heart doesn’t leave me unjustified before a holy God. An animal killing another animal for food doesn’t leave mankind unjustified before God. The existence of tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, and natural procreation doesn’t leave me unjustified before a holy God. Mankind’s own personal moral bankruptcy leaves us all unjustified before the one an only holy God. Adam and Eve in their freedom made a selfish decision which plunged mankind into unrighteousness. I have a difficult time believing their decision changed the nature of the animal kingdom and other aspects of reality. Did it change mankind? You betcha. Did it change reality in a non-moral way? I don’t think so.


    1. The thing that is really at stake here is the integrity of the Biblical account. I we can simply go skipping through the scriptures picking and choosing what we think sounds good and dumping what doesn’t fit our own opinions, we end up with no real divine revelation of anything at all. We end up with a fairy tale molded into the image of our own liking.

      Accuracy is important. Someone may not agree with a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation account, but let the reader at least be accurate in citing what the text actually says.

      For instance it is often claimed that “procreation is not mentioned before the fall”. Quite false. The account of the fall is mentioned in Genesis 3, but procreation (“multiply”) is mentioned in Genesis 1:28 PRIOR to the fall. Procreation is not in itself connected with the fall. The only connection between the fall and procreation is the consequence stipulated as pain in childbirth for the woman (Gen 3:16).

      Skeptics need to explain how this was any kind of penalty at all if indeed things were no different for the woman before or after the fall.

      Another proposition is that mans sin had no non-moral effect on the creation. This too is grievously incorrect. Genesis 3:17 speaks of the ground being “cursed for thy sake” in regards to Adam. Was it cursed by being exactly the same after the fall as before? 3:18 says specifically that the ground would now bear “thorns and thistles” making it unwieldy and much more difficult to cultivate. The absurdity of saying there was no non-moral effect on creation due to the sin of man should be readily apparent to any who regard scripture as divinely inspired revelation and who at least allow it to say what it says.

      Further, the aforementioned Romans 5:12 is usually totally ignored by those who take this tact. Again the verse point blank says that sin and death entered the world through Adam’s sin. And the statement is made by Paul in a plainly non-poetic passage. Later in the same epistle, Paul writes in 8:20 that:

      “… the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

      The redemption and restoration of creation itself awaits the final conquest of death for believers, here connected specifically with the redemption of our own physical bodies as they are transformed to be like Christ’s at this return (I Cor. 15:52).

      Verses like Isaiah 11:6 and Isaiah 65:25 describe this restoration (at least in part) of edenic conditions, and not as the introduction of something new.

      The real problem here is how far one wishes to push scripture to match his or her own opinion. Should we next begin to opine about whether or not the resurrection of Jesus Christ himself was an actual bodily resurrection and transformation, or perhaps just a metaphorical one since in our own estimations, we cannot conceive of how such a thing could really be true?



      1. You make good points. To clear up some things, I wrote that procreation wasn’t mentioned in detail before the fall not that it wasn’t mentioned at all. Details weren’t mentioned.

        My point is that absence of detail in scripture about the garden of eden doesn’t mean that the garden of eden was magical or like a world from a super hero universe. If I wasn’t clear about that in my previous comment then I want to make it plain here: absence of detail in scripture about eden, about eden, about eden, about eden, doesn’t mean eden was a super magical place that resembles a super hero world. My point was not about the resurrection of Jesus which actually does fit quite well in reality. We have historical evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Even though my point was about eden, I still think it’s fair to say that absence of details in other parts of scripture doesn’t give us the right or even reason to think such absence means unrealistic things are going on.

        You make good points that need to be discussed: the pain of childbirth and how the fall affected the earth. We must remember that Adam and Eve were in the garden of Eden. The garden of Eden, as I understand, wasn’t the entire world. I may be wrong though. So, having said that, God saying to Adam, “cursed is the ground because of you in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;” is a picture that the world “out there” is a lot different than “in here” (in here being Eden). It’s not unreasonable to think that the garden of Eden had much better ground to work with and that there weren’t thorns and thistles in Eden even though there were in other parts of the world at the same time. Adam and Eve did work in Eden but it was much different: better ground, probably better air, and life in general, as we can tell from the text, was easier in Eden. However, Adam and Eve gave in to vice/sin, and thought their way would be better and the consequences were devastating (obviously). Not only would it be “thorns and thistles” and “multiplied pain” but is it unreasonable to think the most severe pain is the moral anguish they had? Here were two people in tight connectedness with God and they threw it all away in arrogance. Adam and Eve had to deal with that realization which I’m sure multiplied the pain of harder work to a degree I can’t even imagine. As Adam is working on ground outside of Eden, he is being constantly reminded of the ground he used to work on. He is now dealing with ground that has thorns, thistles, etc. (all of which on my view existed at the time Adam and Eve were in Eden) and at the same time now dealing with new moral experiences of regret, bitterness, self-pity, and fury, just to name some, all the while trying to make a new home on land much different from Eden. Can you imagine the pain of that? I can’t. Also, the pain of rebelling against God was in his mind.

        The previous points can also be applied to Eve. Childbirth pre-fall would have been absent of the offense toward God. The mentioning of this to Eve means she will remember what she and Adam did to God when she is pregnant and when she delivers the baby(ies). I’m convinced that all through the pregnancy and during the delivery she remembered what God said to her: I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Vice multiplies pain. I don’t think the moral dimension to the fall can be ignored (I’m not saying you are btw) and I don’t think my understanding of this portion of scripture does any harm to the scripture because Adam and Eve’s offense to God was one in the arena of morality. Prefall, Adam and Eve were sinless which I picture as a straight piece of timber. After sinning against God, they (and us) are crooked pieces of timber. The effects were devastating.

        You know what, you did get me. I misspoke earlier. Sin/the fall, did have a non-moral affect on humanity and that is death. I hold the following view (i mentioned it in the previous comment) well aware of the words of my favorite theologian Paul of Tarsus. My view is that Adam and Eve, before sinning, had conditional immortality in that as long as nothing killed them then they would have lived forever. Their rebellion against God changed that and brought in death for everyone. In Romans 5 Paul seems to have in view that there is death in Adam and life in Christ; reconciliation with God through Christ is the point as I understand him so I understand his use of ‘death’ in this passage to be death for human beings because of his working out how man is reconciled to God. I don’t think Paul had in mind the death of earth or animals when he wrote that portion of Romans. What he seemed to have in mind is “ultimate” things like being reconciled to God.

        The Romans 8 passage I think is about longing for completion and connectedness with God. Everyone has “longing” and Paul seems to be saying that even creation is longing (though not at all like human beings – I don’t think Paul at all wanted to say that creation is like human beings). Paul mentions our longing, lets us know that those who are covered in the righteousness of Christ are adopted sons of God, that we are connected with God, that we have a future completion of our longing, that creation experiences this, that our suffering is real presently, that the Holy Spirit will help us presently to deal with our internal suffering, and that nothing can separate God’s people from Him. That is going on in chapter 8. Paul wrote that creation has a “pointlessness” without a virtuous ruler like how Adam was supposed to be. He even wrote that creation is in bondage to corruption. What do we make of that? I don’t think we have to jump to a conclusion that creation was corrupted naturally. Why do I think this? Well because Paul is speaking of ultimate things in Romans. He is discussing longing for completion in God; that longing of “there is something more to this life than this.” He goes on how in Christ we can have that peace, we can life in the spirit, that our longings will be completed, that we are adopted in God’s family because of Christ, that nothing can snatch us away from God. Without Christ, without God, all we have is pointlessness, which is true of creation. What’s the point?

        Does any of what I’ve said lessen the importance and awesomeness of the written revelation? I don’t think so. I just try to understand the point the author of each book is trying to make. I don’t see Paul making any naturalistic points in Romans. I understand his intention in Romans to be a point of the soul. I think in Genesis Moses left out certain details because his readers were already familiar with them in personal experience and so we shouldn’t fill in those absences with things we think make the bible contradictory with nature. I don’t think the bible is contradictory with nature because the bible isn’t a technical book on nature is it?


      2. I agree with you, JMG. However, I did want to point out that Genesis doesn’t say that pain in childbirth was a consequence of the fall. It says that pain in childbirth will be greatly increased, not that there was no pain to begin with. Pain is actually a good thing (though obviously not pleasant). Pain tells us when something is amiss in our bodies. Those without the ability to feel pain often injure themselves without ever knowing they are causing damage. I tend to think pain did exist in the pre-fall world, though perhaps it wasn’t so unpleasant or as intense as it can be now.

        As for your other points, you are right that it’s a question of the integrity and accuracy of the Biblical account. There are too many parts of the Biblical account of creation that must be ignored or contradicted in order to fit in an old earth timeline. If we are to uphold the Bible as an inspired and accurate account of real earth history, then we must take the Genesis account and the Biblical timeline as written.


  5. This is an outstanding mp3 and summary. I miss Frank Pastore, I used to listed to his show on KKLA…

    The issue of original sin is what is making me shift positions from old-earth to young-earth creationism as someone who studies science and went to med school.

    It is just not biblical to have violence in the animal world prior to the fall as carnivores hunt and kill other animals, as animals suffer the “whole creation has been groaning” aspect of Romans 8.

    How can we have this struggle in the animal world, with a potential danger to Adam and Eve, BEFORE the fall, as OEC would have to hold, based on its conclusions?


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