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3 Things I Learned Filming “Is Genesis History?”

Is Genesis History

This sponsored post is provided by Thomas Purifoy Jr on behalf of Is Genesis History. Today the full documentary releases on streaming, download, & DVD at IsGenesisHistory.com. This post was written by the producer, writer, and director; at the end of it, he’s provided a look at the first fourteen minutes of the film.

The idea for a documentary on Genesis came from a conversation I had with my then 10-year-old daughter. She was watching a creation-evolution debate and was bothered by things the evolutionist said. Her concern was that the events he described — a billions-of-years old earth, the direct relationship of men and animals, a local flood — were completely different from the events described in Genesis.

I knew how she felt. As a 15-year-old, I was bothered by the same things and spent a lot of time studying them. Unfortunately, I had forgotten most of it. So I started reading books and articles. I tracked down a few scientists. Eventually, I found myself in front of them with a camera.

What I learned over the next three years changed my view of science, history, and the Bible. Here are three of the most important things I learned:

Time & History Are the Bedrock of Biblical Theology

I cut my theological teeth on the writings of Geerhardus Vos. What he taught me was that God formed real people and events in time to be the foundation of every aspect of Christian theology. God then recorded that history in the Bible. Starting with Creation and the Flood and going up to the Apostles, God progressively revealed Himself in the history of the world.

As Vos explains in Biblical Theology, “The process of revelation is not only concomitant with history, but it becomes incarnate in history. The facts of history themselves acquire a revealing significance.”

We sometimes get caught up in our dedication to systematics and forget that every author of the New Testament builds his theology on the historical actions of God in time. Not ‘special, holy’ time, but normal, mundane time: the same days, weeks, months, and years we all experience.

The authors of the Bible make this abundantly clear. The creation happened over six days; the Flood started in Noah’s six hundredth year; Abraham was seventy-five when God called him; Moses spent 40 years in the desert; Isaiah saw the Lord in the year King Uzziah died; Jesus was in the tomb for three days.

All of Christian theology rests on its view of time. That’s why a comment made by an evangelical old-earth creationist intrigued me. He said he began to understand Genesis 1 when he realized it had nothing to do with time. He was referring to a text that uses the words ‘day, evening, and morning’ multiple times in sequence; Moses refers to in Exodus as the pattern for our normal week of work and rest.

To say it has nothing to do with time is a dangerous line of thought. Yet that is what some Christians are doing today. They employ a de-historicizing interpretive process in which events recorded in Scripture are cut free from actual history. The words may still be there, but any connection to normal, mundane time is gone.

George Grant explains the results of this in the film: “When you rid the book of Genesis of its historical moorings, you have suddenly decapitated the whole structure of the Bible.”

This is exactly what recent interpretive methods like the framework hypothesis, analogical days, or the cosmic temple model do: they de-historicize key sections of the text in order to make room for a completely different view of history.

But what is the view of history they are making room for?

The Essential Conflict Is between Two Competing Histories of the World: Deep Time vs. Biblical Time

In 1830, geologist Charles Lyell wrote to a friend hoping his writings would help “free science from Moses.” Lyell and other thinkers rightly understood that Christian theology is rooted in history. If Enlightenment naturalism was to take root, they had to construct an alternate history in which it could flourish.

That history was deep time.

This was an intentional move by brilliant men who had one thing in common: they rejected the possibility of divine revelation. Buffon, LaPlace, and Lamarck were probably atheists; Cuvier, Hutton, and Lyell were deists. Although some of them talked about “design,” they were not referring to the creative actions of the God recorded in Scripture.

They were not alone. The concept of deep time was supported by Anglican “broad churchmen” like Sedgwick, Conybeare, and Buckland who had adopted liberal views in regard to Genesis. From inside the church, they argued Genesis was not actual history. Together, they established a new view of time under the auspices of the scientific thought of their day.

It was the age of rationalism, so scientific ideas self-consciously came before observation. In Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle, evolutionist Stephen J. Gould exposes the myth that men like Hutton and Lyell went to the data and then came back with deep time; rather, they started with the concept of long ages and looked for data that would fit their theories. We should therefore not be surprised that many of their interpretations of the rocks have now been discarded—yet their view of time has remained.

After all, it was designed to displace the biblical view of history. This is what has been missed by many in the origins debate: it is not philosophical ideas or scientific data that are ultimate, but the historical framework. Time influences everything else.

But isn’t deep time proven beyond a doubt?

No, it cannot be proven because it is an historical assumption—a paradigm—that precedes the interpretation of data. No one can do an experiment on the past; one can only collect a limited number of observations then attempt to interpret them according to a paradigm. The problem is, those interpretations change.

In just the last 250 years of geology, catastrophism gave way to uniformitarianism which gave way to neo-catastrophism. Geologists now look at rock layers and see evidence of catastrophes separated by long periods of slow geological change, although previous generations would have scoffed at the idea of significant catastrophes to explain layers — just like they scoffed at the idea that the earth had moving plates when in 1859 it was suggested by a creationist. I recently read one graduate-level geology text that shows three different ways the same group of rocks have been interpreted within the last century.

When you dig into the history of science, all you see is change — except in the commitment to deep time. It precedes the data.

This brings me to the basic dichotomy of the film: two competing views of history based on different historical paradigms. One of the oft-heard complaints is that the film presents a false dichotomy. Some have said I have not accurately shown all possible views since I exclude those Christians who think the earth was designed over billions of years by the God of the Bible.

I did not exclude them; I merely grouped them with their primary historical commitment.

We are talking about two radically different histories. Genesis says the universe was created in six normal days with the earth, water, light, land, trees, stars, animals, and people appearing suddenly in a unique order.

The conventional view says the universe formed slowly over 9 billion years; there was a cooling event and the earth and solar system formed; after another billion years, single-cell creatures appeared, then complex creatures a few billion years later. Death and extinction then reigned for hundreds of millions of years before the first humans appear on the earth.

These events are agreed on by everyone, Christian or not, who accepts the current view of deep time. Where there is disagreement, however, is on ultimate causes and the source of life.

When Paul Nelson talks about deep time in the film, he says “all the complexity in life has to be built bottom up by strictly physical processes where no mind, no creator, no design is present.” I realize that some Christians do not like this statement, but I think it accurately represents the current view of deep time: from the Enlightenment to today, there has been a rejection of the Mind, Creator, and Designer revealed in Genesis.

This puts Christians who hold to an old earth in a curious situation. Because they have de-historicized six-day creation and a global flood, they must turn to the naturalistic paradigm to explain what happened during 99.99% of the universe’s history. That’s basically everything.

Yet the primary architects of that history constructed it in direct opposition to the record in Genesis. They do not think the facts of history have any revealing significance. There is no evidence of God speaking. It is just a 13.7 billion year silence.

When Christians then say God must be somewhere in those events that occurred over millions and billions of years, atheists and deists can simply ask, “Where? He certainly hasn’t revealed himself in any knowable way, and that’s the foundation of your biblical theology. Long ago, you helped us discredit the only witness you had.”

That is why the first chapters of Genesis are so important. Paul Nelson explains: “We have a witness to those events, and that witness is telling us this is what happened, and we have to take that into consideration when we evaluate the data.”

That is what the scientists I interviewed are doing. They are taking the historical witness recorded in Genesis and examining the world in light of it.

The Historical Record in Genesis Provides a Much Better Explanation of What We See in the World Around Us

That’s what I found so amazing.

When you look at the complex interrelationships between the countless biological, geological, and physical systems in the world—all of which must simultaneously be in place to work, from genetics to animals to ecosystems to planets—the creation of everything in six, literal days makes perfect sense.

When you look at the enormous layers of rock that stretch across huge sections of the continent, the lack of widespread erosion between layers, the sudden appearance of complex fossils in the lowest layers, the repeating pattern of fossil footprints below hard parts, and the discovery of soft tissue in dinosaur bones, a global flood makes perfect sense.

When you look at the order in the physical universe, the fascinating design of animal kinds, the sudden emergence of language, the unique nature of humans, and the tendency of fallen man to think he can understand the world without needing to rely on revelation, the record in Genesis makes perfect sense.

Is Genesis History? is about re-interpreting the world in light of the history in Genesis. There is a lot of interesting things to learn about the way God created the world.

The film officially goes on sale today, April 11. For those of you who are interested in seeing the first 14 minutes of it, here’s an exclusive look only available at challies.com for the next few weeks.

You can get the film on DVD, Blu-ray, or streaming at IsGenesisHistory.com.


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