Book Review: The Genesis Question

The Genesis Question:  Scientific Advances And The Accuracy Of Genesis, by Hugh Ross

This particular book suffers compared to other books on Genesis [1] in large part because the author is trying to cover himself on two sides.  On one side, the author wants to be seen as a legitimately scientific writer on Genesis.  On the other side, the author wishes to be seen as genuinely Christian.  This tends to create a tension because many (though by no means all, and by no means myself for that matter) Christians who support the legitimacy of the biblical view of Creation simultaneously believe in a young earth Creationism, which the author does not support.  Meanwhile, scientists who refuse to concede the somewhat straightforward truth of intelligent design [2] are not going to view the Old Earth Creationism of the author as any more legitimate, especially given their lack of interest in conceding any room to the possibility that there may be a Creator and Heavenly Judge who has room on the docket to judge their own lives and behavior.  The author, by trying to appeal to both sides, ends up making concessions to bad science that many Christians will find unpalatable while failing to win any credit from scientists who have no interest in supporting people of faith, leaving him caught between the upper and lower millstone of a war that has been going on since the Enlightenment.

It can be said with certainty, though, that the author tries really hard to mend fences on both sides, and tries really hard to show himself an expert on the Hebrew language of the first eleven chapters of Genesis.  If he does not succeed, it is not for lack of effort.  The book is immensely readable, being made up of 21 short chapters that together make 200 pages of material that dance between Hebrew word studies, a personal exploration of the author’s scientific views and faith perspective, and an attempt to address myths as well as controversies about the material in Genesis.  The author approaches the material more or less systematically, starting with the creation events of the first six days in about a quarter of the material before engaging in source controversy, and then tackling the Sabbath and a spiritual perspective on Creation before including chapters on “Creation Science,” the fall, Cain’s wife and the first city, the dates of the origin of humanity from Genesis 5, speculations on angels mating with humans to make the Nephilim, the boundaries of the flood (which the author considers a local flood), and then looking at the ark and its passengers and the origin of nations and races.  The fact that the author has to swing two ways, one way to protect his scientific credibility and the other to maintain a belief in biblical inerrancy that is necessary to gain credibility with Christian audiences, gives the book a somewhat embattled perspective.

Ultimately, this book is less than successful because the author’s speculations are done in such a dogmatic perspective, as if the author’s perspective had the monopoly on scientific truth as well as biblical veracity.  The fact that the author manages to badmouth those who believe in the gap theory as well as Young Earth Creationists means that he will likely win little interest among Christians with his weaksauce local flood which posits that mankind was stuck in Mesopotamia during the time of Noah and had not settled other areas, and the author’s speculations on angels intermarrying with people will be ridiculous to those with a materialist scientific worldview.  In seeking to be both scientific and biblical the author finds himself in the point of being neither, even though there would be the possibility for both with a more robust focus on intelligent design and more humility about unknown areas of ancient history.  The fact that the author views the Hebrew language in such cut and dry terms, rather than being an invitation to debate and to multiple layers, also makes this a less appealing book than it could have been.  Then again, perhaps it is unreasonable to expect someone who considers himself to be a skilled biblical scholar and representative of the scientific worldview to also be humble about the possibility of error in both areas, and more gracious with those he disagrees with.  Those who are in need of mercy and graciousness in their audience should be generous in dispensing it.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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8 Responses to Book Review: The Genesis Question

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