HomeUncategorizedProblems of Hugh Ross' Progressive Creation

Problems of Hugh Ross’ Progressive Creation

This article is a transcript from a episode of truthwatchers podcast accessible here.

We are going to return to the topic of theistic evolution with a discussion of Dr. Hugh Ross. Some people who are familiar with his work may be surprised that I identified him with the term theistic evolution. Dr. Ross prefers the term “progressive creation” to identify his view. However, after years of research in the origins debate, what I have concluded is there are only three essential positions. There is biblical creation, evolution, and theistic evolution. For those Christians apologists that reject a literal biblical creation position are not refuting evolution, per se, they are refuting the philosophy of naturalism by placing a supernatural intelligence behind an evolutionary process. This is true of the intelligent design movement and Dr. Hugh Ross, as we will see.

I am interacting with Hugh Ross’s book The Genesis Question, published by Navpress, in 1998. In chapter 1 he introduces his personal Journey to faith, in which he states, “By the time I turned sixteen, I had studied enough cosmology to become convinced that of all the origins models ever proposed, the big-bang model best fit the observational data.”1)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 10 From this point he claims he unconsciously realized “If the universe had a beginning, it must have a Beginner.”2)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 11 Now a lot of deep philosophers and intelligent men became convinced of theism from this same vantage point of origins. But, I find it remarkable that as a grown man, Dr. Ross never took a step back to question that at the age of 16 he had the universe figured out. He never came across the many major obstacles and scientific fact that go against the big-bang and thought, hmm, maybe I was a little ignorant at age 16 and I should rethink this.

He next indicates, “On these premises I began—and ended—my investigation of the world’s sacred writings. While I found words of interest and beauty and truth in each one, each reflected the limited (now known to be erroneous) scientific knowledge of its time and place—each one except one: the Bible.”3)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 11 Notable here is that he is beginning with big-bang cosmology and seeking a religious text that he can synthesize it with. He is seeking a Hegelian synthesis, not an actual understanding of any specific text. He claims next, “Most impressive of all, the four initial conditions and the sequence of major creation events—not just one or two, but more than a dozen—all matched the established scientific record.”4)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 11 This brief sentence has a few concerning expressions embedded within it. First, what does he mean when he says with the plural form “creation events”? Is he reading Genesis chapter 1 and 2 as separate creation events the way many liberals do? How can he say dozens of these events match the sequence of established scientific record? On a previous podcast I presented a short biblical critique of theistic evolution and revealed how there is absolutely no agreement in the sequence presented in the Bible’s creation account and big-bang cosmology. One has to be self-deluded to think the 2 can be integrated when there are demonstrable contradictions.

Dr. Ross forces a contortion of Scriptures to make it fit within his box of established science. On p. 42, he says, “For many millions of years after light first pierced the dark shroud surrounding Earth, the sky would continue to resemble the heavy overcast of a stormy day.”5)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 42 On p. 43 he says, “Plants had some help in removing carbon dioxide and water vapor from Earth’s atmosphere.”6)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 43 So plants existed for millions of year in the dark while the sun was covered shrouded by thick clouds, and these plants helped in the process of removing these clouds to allow the sun to peak through. How exactly the plants existed and evolved without the sun light in the first place is never mentioned. However, these two comments are explained on p. 44-45:

Verse 16 does not specify when in the past the sun, moon, and stars were made. However, the wording of verses 17 and 18 does provide a hint:

God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness.

Notice the echo of wording from Day One (verses 3-5). This verse tells us why God created the sun, moon, and stars and suggests that the sun was in place to fulfill its role on the first creation day. The shammayim we’eres (heavens and earth) in verse 1 places the making of the sun and the stars before the first creation day. The moon, however, could possibly have been made during the first creation day.7)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), pp. 44-45

First, I believe he is quoting the NIV in his biblical reference. Secondly, this is an opportunity to say I doubt Dr. Ross knows anything about the Hebrew language thought he attempts to make himself appear like he is some Hebrew scholar through this book, referencing Hebrew lexicons and even on pages 193-196 provides Genesis chapter 1 from the NIV with his awkward definitions given to various words in the chapter. I could probably do an entire episode just pick apart those pages to show the foolishness of Dr. Ross’s ignorance of Hebrew. Focusing on his errors of his alleged Hebrew from Genesis 1:1 he transliterates, shammayim we’eres (heavens and earth) when the actual Hebrew reads,

אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ

Dr. Ross’s expression has excluded both the two direct object markers ēth and the two articles ha and . Though this may seem irrelevant to most people, for someone who can read Hebrew it reveals that Dr. Ross cannot read Hebrew. With the websites and computer software available today, or even relying on Strong’s Concordance, any person who cannot read Hebrew will make this basic mistake.

Turning our focus to Dr. Ross’s attempt of synchronizing the sequence of his big-bang cosmology with the Genesis account, he assumes the sun existed before the earth, and the sun concludes that the sun only becomes visible to the earth as the dark clouds that shrouded the sky slowly dissipate over millions of years. He also claims that the plants helped in this process removing carbon dioxide and water vapor. His comment even places the sun and stars before the first creation day. This is clearly not what the Bible is teaching.

On p. 50, Ross says, “Genesis 1 has been discredited by some paleontologists for placing the introduction of sea mammals (Day Five) before the introduction of land mammals (Day Six).”8)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 50 He then mentions 4 extinct species of whales. For those who don’t understand this issue. The alleged evolution follows the process of fish crawling out of water, evolving eventually into mammals, which return to the water and evolve into whales. So, the Bible placing whales, sea mammals before land mammals is a big problem for theistic evolutionists. And, yes, Ross is a theistic evolutionist. On the next page, p. 51, he sates,

In just two to four million years—or less—whales’ physiology changed radically. The transition from freshwater ingestion to saltwater ingestion requires completely different internal organs. The number and rapidity of “just right” mutations required to accomplish such a transition defies the limits set by molecular clocks (biomolecules for which mutation rates can be determined relatively easily). Proponents of punctuated equilibria, the increasingly popular alternative to gradualism (traditional Darwinism), suggest that dramatic genetic changes occurred in sudden jumps propelled by severe environmental stress. The period from 48 to 52 million years ago, however, appears to have been remarkably tranquil, far less stressful than such a scenario demands.9)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 51

So, Dr. Ross suggest whales evolved over 2-4 million years. He rejects gradualism (which he considers traditional Darwinism, but technically I think he means Neo-Darwinism which developed in the 1930s). And he says punctuates equilibrium hypothesis of Stephen Jay Gould doesn’t explain the rapid evolution of whale in 2-4 million years. He is not rejecting evolution, he is only rejecting the naturalistic options of evolution by suggesting God was involved in the evolutionary process.

He explains his theistic evolutionary view with this expression.

Multiple extinctions of sea mammals imply that God repeatedly replaced extinct species with new ones…. In most cases the new species were different from the previous ones because God was changing Earth’s geology, biodeposits, and biology, step by step, in preparation for His ultimate creation on Earth—the human race.

The many “transitional” forms of whales and horses suggest that God performed more than just a few creative acts here and there, letting natural evolution fill in the rest. Rather, God was involved and active in creating all the whale and horse species, the first, the last, and the “transitional” forms.10)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 52


Dr. Ross seems to have resurrected the opinion of George Cuvier, who in the 1812 proposed that over untold ages, multiple catastrophic floods caused extinctions, rock layers and fossils, and then God created new species to replace those that disappeared. In the quotation above, Ross places the word “transitional” in quotation marks each time, but he is still acknowledging them as intermediate forms of modern whales and horses. There are so many issues with the horse and whale evolution which I won’t take time to discuss here. Jonathan Wells has a chapter on horse evolution in his book Icons of Evolution and Dr. Carl Werner exposed the whale evolution in Evolution the Grand Experiment. Many other creationists have exposed the errors in multitudes of publications, many available at websites such as creation.com, answersingenesis.org, or icr.org.

Dr. Ross is willing to twist the Scriptures to make them fit his presupposed order of creation, which he establishes from the evolutionary big-bang cosmology. He says on p. 59, “Genesis 1 succinctly and eloquently narrates the beginning of ‘the heavens and the earth.’ It explains what came into existence, how it came, and in what order. It specifies what scientists have recently verified as Earth’s initial conditions. It describes the sequential steps, in correct chronological order, by which God prepared Earth for human habituation.”11)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 59 How does Ross get this out of a straight reading of Genesis 1?

An assessment of the sources he relies upon in the end notes give us clues of why he thinks the way he does. The sum total of his end notes calculated to 425, out of these end notes, there are 7 sources referenced frequently exposing his primary sources of information. Out of 425 end notes, 218 are Bible verse, which means he only has 207 sources referenced since most authors would cite Scripture in the text. 47 times he cites himself, and 11 times he cites Faith & Facts which is his ministries publication. 41 times he cites Theological Word Book of the Old Testament lexicon. So outside of citing himself, the Bible and a lexicon, his science sources referenced are the evolutionary magazines Nature 62 times, Science 25 times, and Science News 21 times. He only has 93 end notes that are not from these 7 sources. This implies he is heavily dependent and influenced by evolutionary science which he undiscerningly accepts as facts. He is referencing these sources favorably, not to refute them as evolutionary errors.

On page 150 he further exposes his secular influence of evolutionary thinking. He writes, “Although in most scientific disciplines the present is the key to the past, in biology that key sticks in one lock. It works well in the door to extinctions but not in the door of speciation. Studying speciation today show us natural processes and a roughly zero rate.”12)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 150 This is scientifically erroneous because we have observed rapid speciation as young earth creationists have acknowledge and predicted. In the context of this quote, Ross is arguing that we don’t observe speciation today because God created different species only during the 7 epoch of earth’s history, which he identifies with the 7 days of creation. God ceased creating animals after he created mankind on the sixth day therefore mankind will not see speciation occurring.

Dr. Ross actually has developed an entire theology revolving around his concept of fixity of species. I would highly recommend checking out Jonathan Sarfati’s book Refuting Compromise, in which he refutes Hugh Ross’s many erroneous views, particularly pp. 235-240 discussing Ross’s speciation problem. I should acknowledge that Sarfati has updated and expanded his book so if you obtain his new version it would have a different page number as I have his older edition. Ross’s views, and anyone following his “science” would be easily refuted by knowledgeable skeptics or evolutionists on this topic. All throughout Ross’s work he indiscreetly uses the word species inaccurately and attempts to refute creationists by producing a straw-man argument assuming creationists hold his erroneous perspective of species. In fact, in defining the Hebrew word min which is translated as “kind” in probably every English Bible version, in his Appendix B, Ross defines it as “species; life-form.”13)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 196 Creationists have argued against this from the beginning of the modern creationist movement as also did the Scriptural geologist back in the 1700-1800s.

Dr. Ross notices his theistic evolutionary views are something skeptics would scoff at. He writes, on page 55-56; “For many secularists, God’s replacement of, say, extinct, species of whale, horses, and bipedal primates by other such species seems to run counter to the character and attributes of the God of the Bible. For them, an all-powerful, all-loving Creator should need to create life only at one time. Progressive creation appears to connote a bumbling stupid, wasteful, or cruel Creator.”14)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), pp. 55-56 Also on the next page, he calls his progressive creation “God’s step-by-step creation.”15)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 57 So what progressive creation is according to Ross, a theistic evolutionary process over millions of years in which God causes extinctions of animals and recreates new versions, what he considers to be new species of the extinct animals. Any rational person would not only find this contradicting what the Bible says, but also depicting God as foolishly experimenting with attempts to get it right in time for mankind to arrive. This does picture “a bumbling stupid, wasteful, or cruel Creator” as Ross depicts a skeptic would view his ideas. Actually, this should be the way Christians view Ross’s ideas. I’m utterly surprised to see intelligent scholars like Craig Keener’s endorsement on the dust jacket of this book.

We are running low on time but I want to make sure I touch on his comments about Neanderthals before we end here. On p. 55 he writes, “as for Neandertal, the possibility of a biological link with humanity has been conclusively ruled out.”16)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 55 Actually, recent genetic evidence reveals modern humans have Neanderthal DNA. I know I’m interacting with a book he wrote in 1998, but he is making comments that prove he views are not valid. In fact, on p. 114 he writes, “the human race neither descended from nor bears any biological connection to the Neanderthal species.”17)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 114 This comment is noted to an article from Patricia Kahn and Ann Gibbons, entitled “DNA from an Extinct Human” published by science in 1997.18)Patricia Kahn and Ann Gibbons, “DNA From an Extinct Human,” Science, Vol. 277, Issue 5323, (July 11, 1997), pp. 176-178 The article says its inconclusive as its test is based on only a single individual. It relates the difficulty of extracting ancient DNA concluding “its hard to get a believable result.” Now the techniques since then have made the science of biopaleontology more accurate. I am curious of what Dr. Ross would say today about these remarks that have been thoroughly refuted by scientist.

On p. 55 he defines being created in the image of God as being religious or spiritual in contrast to animals which are soulish. He says animals can use tools and mourn and bury their dead so this doesn’t depict humanity being spiritual. On p. 112 he notes creationists recognize Neanderthals as humans descended from Adam, he says, “(though no shred of evidence credibly links Neanderthals with spiritual activity).”19)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 112 He concludes his discussion of Neanderthals with the word, “The researchers considered these findings conclusive: Neanderthals could not have made any contribution to the human gene pool.”20)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 114 Again, this is wrong. The article he cited said its not conclusive. Furthermore, current scientific consensus has well established that modern humans and Neanderthals successfully procreated together which is why most Europeans have Neanderthal DNA. The fact that they could produce offspring together proves Neanderthals and modern humans are the same species. In fact, Neanderthals have been known to have music instruments, boats, arts, tools, controlled fire starting, sophisticate ritualistic burials chambers which indicate preplanned geometric interment of bodies, even use of glues, dentistry, and roots used as pain killers, a precursor to our Tylenol. I have an article about Neanderthals posted at Truthwatchers.com.21)Heath Henning, “Modern Evidence Changing the Face of Neanderthal,” March 9, 2019; https://truthwatchers.com/changing-face-of-neanderthals/ I would also recommend Jack Cuozzo’s book Buried Alive on the topic of Neanderthals. Hugh Ross is utterly unreliable on this topic.

He mocks the idea of a worldwide Flood claiming it was just a local flood. That is his topic of chapter 18. I could do a whole episode just on his errors on this one topic. Just one quick example is on p. 147 where Hugh Ross said, “The quantity of water on, in, and around our planet comes nowhere near the amount required for global inundation.”22)Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, Navpress (Colorado Springs, CO: 1998), p. 147 I wonder what Dr. Ross would have to say about recent headlines such as: “Earth’s crust swallowed a sea’s worth of water and locked it away beneath Pacific seafloor,” from livescience.com;23)Sascha Pare, ““Earth’s crust swallowed a sea’s worth of water and locked it away beneath Pacific seafloor,” October 11, 2023; https://www.livescience.com/planet-earth/geology/massive-water-reservoir-discovered-beneath-pacific-ocean-floor-tktk or “Massive ocean discovered beneath the Earth’s crust containing more water than on the surface,” from indy/100.com;24)Harry Fletcher, “Massive ocean discovered beneath the Earth’s crust containing more water than on the surface,” October 9, 2023; https://www.indy100.com/science-tech/ocean-beneath-earth-crust-ringwoodite-2665854866 or “Found: Giant Freshwater Deposits Hiding under the Sea,” at Scientific American.com;25)Rob L. Evans, “Found: Giant Freshwater Deposits Hiding under the Sea,” July 1, 2023; https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/found-giant-freshwater-deposits-hiding-under-the-sea/ or “Earth may have underground ‘ocean’ three times that on surface,” at The Guardian.com.26)Melissa L. Davey, “Earth may have underground ‘ocean’ three times that on surface,” June 12, 2014; https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/jun/13/earth-may-have-underground-ocean-three-times-that-on-surface I hold the position of believe the Bible and the world will eventually catch up with it. This is a perfect example of that. I understand that I am interacting with his book that is over 20 years old and I am pointing out very recent discoveries to shows his ignorance. But his problem is that he has twisted the scripture to make it say something it does not say in order to force it into his opinion of science which is entirely and undiscerningly derived from secular sources.

In fact, Dr. Hugh Ross is utterly unreliable on many topics, especially his interpretation of Genesis, origins, Neanderthals, the fixity of species and his interaction with other authors as he inaccurately handles the views of creationists. He has some good science. His work on the anthropic principle is interesting but so much of it is presupposing big-bang cosmology and long ages of astronomical evolution after the big-bang. He cannot be fully trusted and one needs strong discernment before handling his work. Again, it is worth repeating my recommendation of Jonathan Sarfati’s book Refuting Compromise.



Heath Henning
Heath Henning
Heath heads the Set Free addictions ministry on Friday nights at Mukwonago Baptist Church and is involved in evangelism on the University of Wisconsin Whitewater campus, offering his expertise in apologetics at the weekly Set Free Bible Study every Tuesday evening. He currently lives in East Troy, Wisconsin with his wife and nine children. Read Heath Henning's Testimony

Related Articles

Other Featured Articles

How is an Ancient Toilet Evidence for the Bible?

An ancient toilet was discovered during an excavation of the city gates of the city Lachish in September 2016. Lachish has been considered the...

Evolution is Paganism

The Image of God