Methodology Matters: A Review of “Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job” by Hugh Ross

How you do something is as important as is the outcome. I routinely tell my students this. So many times my students will repeat an answer that they have learned in Sunday School, youth group, or somewhere else without having any definitive explanation for how they derived that answer. Sometimes the conclusions are simply false, but often the answers are right and true. Nonetheless if they cannot provide solid evidence for their answers I don’t accept it. This is particularly important in the area of Evangelical theology. Where we confess the Scriptures to be our standard and yet can’t support our conclusions from Scripture we must be very timid to draw conclusions. It’s this kind of advice that I wish to impart to Hugh Ross, author of Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job. Ross is a brilliant scientist and a brother in Christ. The attempt he makes in this book, however, falls short of convincing because it is not rooted in solid exegesis. In the end I fear the book presents far too many bold assertions on nothing more than bald assumptions.

When I first began to read the book it struck me that perhaps Ross was merely attempting to coalesce evolutionary theory with Evangelical theology. That is not his desire, however. Ross is not a theistic evolutionist. Rather he is an old-earth creationist. His concern, nonetheless, is to make sense of both the “book of nature” and the “book of Scripture”. He states that his “message is that believers need never be fearful of ‘irreconcilable differences’ between” the two books (13). In order to help us resolve these presumed differences Ross wants us to look to the book of Job. For this book “helps us resolve nearly all the Genesis creation controversies.” But Ross does little more than urge us to read Job 38, or view Job 39 in light of his comments. He leaves all the real exegetical work to the reader.

At the heart of the dilemma is an issue of hermeneutics. How are we to read the various statements in the book of Job. Though Job is, arguably, the oldest book in the whole of the Old Testament, it is not found at the beginning of our Bibles. It is included with the books of poetry (Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs). It is often viewed as a didactic poem. This poses problems for our interpretation. Not insurmountable ones, but we must ask where and when is the text merely being poetic and when is it being literal. This is not always easy to determine and I fear that Ross has made assumptions about interpretations when they fit his assumption. For example, Ross concludes that a simple phrase in Job 9:8 teaches that between creating the universe and creating the earth God was expanding the universe continually. He writes:

The most explicit passage in Job describing God’s activity between creating the universe and forming the earth says, “He alone stretches out the heavens” (9:8). This passage, along with others, indicates that the universe has undergone continual expansion, from the past through the present and continuing on into the future. (75)

That seems to me a strange conclusion to draw from this passage. And without giving us any contextual explanation of how this verse can mean something so big I am afraid I won’t ever understand how Ross can make that assertion.

This is the author’s exegetical patter time and time again. He writes that rainfall was not an event arriving on earth at the time of Noah, rather it has existed since the dawn of creation. So Ross explains it this way:

Elihu’s oration extolling God’s majesty and transcendence suggests humans always have experienced rainfall. Elihu reminds Job and his friends that God commands the rain, calling forth a downpour that “stops all people from their labor” and allows “everyone he has made” to “know his work” (37:6-7). The words “all” and “every” suggest that this passage applies to all people from the time of creation onward, not just from Noah’s time forward. (98)

But this is an assumption made by the author, it is not a defensible position based solely on textual evidence.

It’s not that Ross is a bad scholar, necessarily. He offers brilliant insight into all sorts of scientific facts. I was fascinated in reading about the role of the sperm whale in God’s design for a balanced creation. I was quite captivated by his arguments for a localized, instead of global, flood. But this is where Ross excels, in scientific apologetics. He argues well for the existence of God. But he does not do nearly as well in arguing for an old-earth creation supported by the book of Job.

I like Hugh Ross and I am more than willing to give Old-Earth Creationism a fair shake. Sadly, however, I think I am going to have to read another book to get that. Ross is a great scientist, but not a very good exegete in this book.

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  1. […] focus is evident when compared to the recent work of Hugh Ross, who often loses sight of the text for all the science. Walton, however, focuses exclusively on the […]

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