Unapologetic about Apologetics: Hugh Ross
I live in an area that happens to be overwhelmingly religious and most of the events that I go to happen to be of a religious nature. So I have been thinking of starting a new little “series” if you would about my impressions of reading various materials that I end up getting handed or that are suggested to me. This will be the inaugural address of said series I’m going to be calling Unapologetic about Apologetics. Unapologetic about Apologetics will attempt to look at dissecting an apologetical argument and seeing if it holds any water. This series should not be in anyway viewed as being an attack on any individual, way of life, etc., but as a critical examination of the material itself. The arguments should be able to hold up based on their own merits, which is what this series will be testing.
Normally, I do not read said materials; however, recently my wife got a book from the library that she wanted to read. So in the spirit of sharing something with and spending time with my wife, I agreed to read Hidden Treasure in the Book of Job by Hugh Ross. The book’s stated goal is to prove that the Bible, specifically the Book of Job, and science are able to exist in a symbiotic relationship. Ross begins his argumentation in the third chapter. While I would like to dissect every claim that Ross makes, this article will only cover three of them: Yahweh’s characteristics of being both transcendent (he is timeless/spaceless) and omnipresent, that Yahweh made short human lifespans to curtail evil, and that a “pre-flood society” had a low population growth due to a high murder rate.
One of the most nonsensical things presented within the third chapter can be found in a section called “Within and Beyond”. On page thirty-seven Ross says “that God is both immanent (existing and operating everywhere within his creation) and transcendent (existing and operating beyond his creation without limit).” Essentially what this means is that God would have to exist in his own plane of existence or universe, while being omnipresent, or everywhere at once, in our own plane of existence or universe. Or more simply, God exists outside of this reality, but he is also everywhere within this reality. See the picture below for the visual representation of this idea: This is paradoxical since both of these characteristics cannot exist simultaneously. However, Mr. Ross attempts to correct this by saying that this is supported by “scientific evidence” (Ross 37). Checking the footnotes at the end of the book for this particular statement leads directly to a book called Beyond the Cosmos written by….wait for it…
…a Mr. Hugh Ross. Ross is stating that Ross’s opinion is possible because Ross’s opinion says that it is possible (a prime example of circular reasoning). Now if this statement could be backed up a scientific paper/study/theory (in the actual meaning of the word theory), and not a Christian apologetics book, then why is that not put in as the footnote? Likely because nobody else besides Ross thinks that this is even possible. Ross’s claim on the nature of God’s being is wholly unsupported and impossible by its very nature.
Embarrassingly enough, the Bible, what Ross is attempting to defend, has evidence against the claim that God is timeless/spaceless. Yahweh, evidenced by the fact that He can be physically seen, touched, or heard, exists within our universe. See Genesis 3:8, Genesis 12:7, Genesis 32:24, Exodus 24:9-11, and Exodus 33:11 as a few examples. According to the Bible, Yahweh has, at the very minimum, existed within time and space, which would eliminate His transcendence.
A few pages later Ross starts a section called “Necessity of Short Lives”, which is a minefield of poor assumptions and conflicting ideas. Ross states that:
…Job and his friends pondered life’s brevity, considering why a loving God would limit our earthly existence to so few trips around the sun. He seemed to recognize that a relatively short human life span effectively protects humanity by limiting the expression of evil. He describes how the death of the wicked delivers the righteous from evil assaults… Ross 40
Assuming that this is true, if we take the corollary to this idea, then a relatively short human life span effectively protects the evil of humanity by limiting the expression of human goodness, justice, kindness, love, compassion,etc. So in practicality, this affects just human behavior as well. Not to mention that evil still exists within humanity despite a “relatively” short lifespan for our species.
Working off of that broken conclusion Ross asserts that:
This principle found dramatic demonstration in the days before Noah’s flood. Though early humans were capable of living past nine hundred years, the lack of population growth indicates that few died of natural causes. It seems the vast majority had their lives cut short by murder. Mathematical calculations suggest that the average life span in pre-flood times was likely less than the average life span in the world’s developed nations today. Ross 40-41
Again Ross supports this statement with “proof” that comes out of one of his books, which, summarized in the footnotes, states that a long life span and no birth control equals a human population in the billions if that growth unless kept in check by a high rate of murder (Ross 228). Both of these ideas taken together produce an internal conflict for Ross’s argument. Logically we can conclude the following if both statements are true:
Premise 1: Shortened human lifespans protect us from evil.
Premise 2: A high murder rate shortened human lifespans.
Conclusion: Therefore, a high murder rate protects us from evil.
Premise 1: God shortened human lifespans.
Premise 2: Murderers shorten human lifespans.
Conclusion: God is a murderer.
We can conclude that shortening human lifespan to protect us from evil is pointless because human evil already shortens human lifespan by itself or that God essentially murdered people. Both of these, God protecting us from evil with short lifespans and the impact of murder on the lifespan, lead to conclusions that implicate a self-fulfilling prophecy or that God murdered people. Both of Ross’s claims make no sense when they are taken to their logical conclusion, so it would be sound to say that these conditions do not coexist within our reality.
Let us pretend that Ross never made his assertion that God protects us from evil by giving us short lives, and just focus on the validity of Ross’s claim about the high murder rate “pre-flood” society allegedly had. Ross’s murder rate idea rests on a couple of assumptions 1) it was possible for humans to reproduce well into extremely old age, and 2) that there are no reasonable explanations for a high death rate outside of a simultaneous high rate of murder. Assumption one is unverifiable because we have to make more assumptions about whether people can live into extremely old age and if so, we have to make more assumptions as to how long these people were actually fertile for. Yet, assumption two is easily disproved, if not destroyed. Think about it for a minute, what kind of factors for a short lifespan could you think of in a pre-industrial society? Here are ten reasons why there might be little population growth in such a society:
- Lack of reliable clean drinking water
- Lack of food security
- Poor nutritional standards when food is available
- Lack of understanding of personal hygiene
- Increased mortality rates due to accidents
- Increased mortality rates from people being attacked by wild animals ( for example 2 Kings 2:23-24 describes 42 boys being killed by wild bears)
- Increased rates of death for women in child birth
- Increased rates of infant mortality
- Increased rates of mortality from communicable diseases such as measles, flu, small pox, etc.
- Increased mortality rates from exposure to extreme weather events such as heat waves, blizzards, hurricanes/typhoons, etc.
There are more than enough reasonable factors that offer a better solution to this lack of population growth than Ross’s assertion that there was a ridiculously high rate of murder for this “pre-flood society”. If anything, critical thinking about what actually would cause low population growth in such a society requires us to think of areas in which human progress and science has lifted our species out of a short, nasty, and brutish life.
Wrapping this up, do the arguments that Hugh Ross make in the third chapter of his book hold any water? No. Ross claims that God can possess qualities that are paradoxically incompatible with each other and are not supported by the Bible, that God keeping human lives short even though it accomplishes the same ends as evil, and that “pre-flood” society’s alleged lack of population growth could much more easily be explained with other factors that are not an unrealistically high rate of murder.
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