A Geological Response to the Movie “Is Genesis History?”

(system) #1
Regardless of whether one thinks the earth to be young or old, Christians should insist on accurate and honestly presented data.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/guest/a-geological-response-to-the-movie-is-genesis-history

(Bill Hankel) #2

It seems that we desperately need a “BioLogos” movie before any more souls are lost to this false dichotomy between science and faith. Keep up the great work educating people in the truth of God’s message!

(James Stump) #3

Thanks @Bill_Hankel. Feel free to hook us up with any Hollywood producers you know!

(Chris Falter) #4

Great article! The links at the end are excellent, as well.

The acronym YEC is used without explanation; some readers may not understand its meaning.

(Brad Kramer) #5

Good point. I fixed it. We use the acronyms so often around here that we have to remind ourselves not everybody understands them.

(Jay Johnson) #6

This deserves repeating:

“Unbelieving seekers who see this film will likewise be confronted with the confounding association of the truth of Christ with massive misrepresentations about natural history. An enormous stumbling block to faith is laid at the feet of these poor souls, standing between them and the cross.” - See more at: http://biologos.org/blogs/guest/a-geological-response-to-the-movie-is-genesis-history#sthash.5XCTSnXV.dpuf

There is no excuse for lying and distorting the truth in service of the gospel.

Thank you for your real efforts in service of the God of truth, gentlemen.

(James McKay) #7

Here’s a question: how do we best make YECs aware that many of the resources that they’re relying on contain demonstrable, conscious and inexcusable falsehoods? And more importantly, how do we help them preserve their faith when presented with this particular bombshell?

(Daniel Mann) #8

Biologos claims:

• “Our worldview is based on a belief that the Bible is true – cover to cover, from Gen. 1:1 to Rev. 22:21.” - http://biologos.org/blogs/guest/a-geological-response-to-the-movie-is-genesis-history#sthash.236Kfu7b.W5Nmw0I7.dpuf

Similarly, Mary Baker Eddy and a long series of cult leaders have also claimed this. However, they had claimed that Scripture couldn’t be understood as it appeared. Why not? Because Scripture is allegorical! Instead, only they had the key to understand the Scriptures. Thus, these leaders effectively built a wall between the Scriptures and the faithful.

Biologos has done the same thing. They too have built an insurmountable wall between Scripture and the Christian by claiming Genesis 1-11 to be allegorical and non-historical. Why have they done this? Because if Genesis is not historical, then they have succeeded in making room for evolution in a Bible that can no longer contradict its claims.

However, to remove the historical context is also to remove any clarity about interpretation. Perhaps even worse, denying the historicity of Genesis contradicts the rest of the Bible.

There are many evidences that the Bible regards Genesis as historical. The various genealogies extending back to Adam attest to its historicity. Even the words of Jesus:

• Matthew 19:4-6 (ESV) He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has [historically] joined together, let not man separate.”

Augustine warned about the possible effect of the pronunciations of the pundits of science of his day upon the faithful:

• Some of the weaker brothers and sisters, however, are in danger of going astray more seriously when they hear these godless people holding forth expertly and fluently on the “music of the spheres,” or on any questions you care to mention about the elements of this cosmos. They wilt and lose heart . . . and can scarcely bring themselves to touch the volumes [Scripture] they should be devouring with delight . . . [because] they have no time to be still (Psalm 46:11), and to see how sweet the Lord is (Psalm 34:8). And that is why they are too lazy to use the authority they have received from the Lord . . . . (Augustine 2002b, I.20.24).

Biologos has made this warning very manifest.

(Jay Johnson) #9

Augustine was right. And so was Pascal:

"I admire the boldness with which these persons undertake to speak of God. In addressing their argument to infidels, their first chapter is to prove Divinity from the works of nature. I should not be astonished at their enterprise, if they were addressing their argument to the faithful; for it is certain that those who have the living faith in their heart see at once that all existence is none other than the work of the God whom they adore. But for those in whom this light is extinguished, and in whom we purpose to rekindle it, persons destitute of faith and grace, who, seeking with all their light whatever they see in nature that can bring them to this knowledge, find only obscurity and darkness; to tell them that they have only to look at the smallest things which surround them, and they will see God openly, to give them, as a complete proof of this great and important matter, the course of the moon and planets, and to claim to have concluded the proof with such an argument, is to give them ground for believing that the proofs of our religion are very weak. And I see by reason and experience that nothing is more calculated to arouse their contempt.

"It is not after this manner that Scripture speaks, which has a better knowledge of the things that are of God. It says, on the contrary, that God is a hidden God, and that, since the corruption of nature, He has left men in a darkness from which they can escape only through Jesus Christ, without whom all communion with God is cut off. Nemo novit Patrem, nisi Filius, et cui voluerit Filius revelare. 1 (Matt. 11:27: No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.)

“This is what Scripture points out to us, when it says in so many places that those who seek God find Him. It is not of that light “like the noonday sun” that this is said. We do not say that those who seek the noonday sun, or water in the sea, shall find them; and hence the evidence of God must not be of this nature. So it tells us elsewhere: Vere tu es Deus absconditus. (Is. 45:15 Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.)”

Everything Pascal said still applies, with one change. To update it a bit: “to give them, as a complete proof of this great and important matter, (a false geological history of the Grand Canyon), and to claim to have concluded the proof with such an argument, is to give them ground for believing that the proofs of our religion are very weak…”

(Phil) #10

Good to have you here Daniel. (I will avoid any references to lion’s dens… :slight_smile:) I think you will find a broad degree of thought here as to the historical nature of Genesis, though in such a way that is compatible with what is found when nature is observed. Even in the most historical sense, however, it seems to me that you have to look to the allegorical to get meaning from the text, and that meaning is evident to anyone, other than children who are concrete thinkers, and have not yet gone from milk to meat (or tofu, for you vegans) Even your example of Matthew 19 4-6 shows Jesus using a very allegorical text, as becoming one flesh is not literal. Jesus used allegory extensively.

(Stephen Matheson) #11

And in fact, believers who watch their fellow believers construct whole institutions of falsehood may occasionally ask whether this means that Christian belief hinders intellectual integrity. And those people might occasionally leave the faith as they come to understand that the adoration of falsehood is relevant to the claims of the religion.

In other words, dishonesty is not just a stumbling block for unbelievers. And you know, that should go without saying.

(Jay Johnson) #12

Short answer: I wish I knew! haha. I think it is a long and painful process, because evangelical Christians have been fed decades of propaganda about the “atheist agenda” of the scientists, educators, philosophers, media, and even our entire culture, despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans self-identify as Christian. “Experts” and “intellectuals” are portrayed as the enemies of faith, while the “plain reading” of Scripture and “common sense” will defend us against these minions of Satan and their secular message that relies on man’s reason rather than revealed truth. Thanks to decades and decades of such brainwashing, the YEC community has retreated into an insular shell that receives its “truth” only from approved channels.

I am not so concerned with the adults who have bought into this conspiracy theory narrative. They are unlikely to change their minds because they have been told that this is tantamount to abandoning the faith, “calling God a liar.” Thus, in my judgment, the only thing that could begin to sway their minds is for those evangelical Christians who disagree to speak up in the church context.

Frankly, I am more concerned with the children and young adults who have grown up in this environment, and who are leaving the church much faster than previous generations. This is where the battle for hearts and minds will be fought. As you said, “how do we help them preserve their faith”? That is the real question.

(James Stump) #13

@Daniel_Mann Hi Daniel. Thank you for your perspective. But remember Augustine also said (in The Literal Meaning of Genesis):

Often, a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances, … and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, which people see as ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.

The shame is not so much that an ignorant person is laughed at, but rather that people outside the faith believe that we hold such opinions, and thus our teachings are rejected as ignorant and unlearned. If they find a Christian mistaken in a subject that they know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions as based on our teachings, how are they going to believe these teachings in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think these teachings are filled with fallacies about facts which they have learnt from experience and reason?

(Christy Hemphill) #14

This is another false dichotomy that doesn’t accurately represent the issues at hand. It is a false choice to assert that either all of Genesis 1-11 is literal history and should be taken at its “face value” or “plain meaning” OR all of Genesis 1-11 is “allegory,” “myth,” “fiction” “poetry” or “symbol” and can therefore be causally demoted out of the realm of “truth we are accountable to.”

Both sides of that proposed coin avoid the hard work of approaching the text in its cultural context, and the complexity of the task of moving from what it says to what it teaches. This is essentially the hard work of Scripture interpretation that must be done for all the Bible, not just Genesis 1-11.

(James McKay) #15

Hi Daniel,

The issue isn’t whether Genesis 1-11 is history or allegory or whatever. The issue is that these people are lying about the evidence.

Here’s the thing. You can always reject the scientific consensus if you like—there’s always the possibility that there could be new laws of physics yet to be discovered that would change everything, and of course you can always suggest miracles. I’m all for miracles—I’ve witnessed them myself.

But making demonstrably false claims about the material evidence itself is lying. For example, they claim that there are no signs of erosion above the Grand Unconformity when in actual fact this can easily be shown to be untrue. These are people who should know better—they are PhD geologists. And tying the reliability of the Bible’s message to demonstrable lies is almost blasphemous. It’s that which is driving people away from Christ—they are discovering that they’ve been lied to about science, and so they end up asking, “What else have you guys been lying to me about?”

As far as the whole history/allegory business goes, the only thing that’s obvious to me from a “plain reading” of Genesis 1 is that it leaves much more open to interpretation in terms of the timescale and mechanisms of creation than other parts of the Bible do. Is Genesis 1:1-2 a part of Day One, or is there a gap between them? The Bible doesn’t tell us, and assuming that it does is eisegesis, not exegesis.

Are the days of Genesis 1 twenty-four hours, or does the word yom mean an extended period of time, as it is so used elsewhere? Again, the Bible doesn’t make it clear one way or another, although 2 Peter 3:8/Psalm 90:4 hint at the latter possibility. Inventing rules to tie it down one way or another, such as “yom with a number can only mean a 24 hour day” (which is a YEC fabrication: it has no precedent whatsoever outside of YEC apologetics) is eisegesis, not exegesis.

How are the first three days of Genesis 1 even defined? We’re told in Genesis 1:14 that days, seasons and years are defined by the lights in the sky (sun, moon, stars) which weren’t created until Day Four. So the first three days at least could have been any length at all. To suggest otherwise is eisegesis, not exegesis.

What exactly did God create on Day Two? What exactly is the “firmament” (Hebrew: raqia) in the heavens to separate “water from water”? I know some people have suggested that the ancient Hebrews thought it spoke of a solid dome, and that was where the rain came from, but I’m not convinced about that. To me talk of a firmament like that just screams allegory, in much the same way as Isaiah 55:12 talks about the trees of the fields clapping their hands. Certainly, in this particular case an allegorical reading works fine with Biblical inerrancy, but a literal reading does not.

(Jay Johnson) #16

Paul in Galatians 4:21-31 interprets the story of Sarah & Hagar (Genesis 16-21) allegorically. Is he a cult leader, too?

(Daniel Mann) #17

JPM, The Bible certainly uses figurative language. However, the presence of the figurative does not dismiss the historical.

(Daniel Mann) #18

The Bible certainly uses figurative and allegorical language. However, the presence of these in no way dismisses the historical.

(Daniel Mann) #19


Please note that I am not denying the presence of the figurative and allegorical in Genesis. However, the presence of these fails to deny the historical, the very thing that Biologos does.

(Christy Hemphill) #20

What many BioLogos affiliated writers do is deny Genesis is “literal” history. That is not the same thing as denying that Genesis records history. Some might go down that path, but certainly not not everyone would. Personally, I think Genesis 1-11 tells the history of the Hebrew people. I think that “history” is how they understood those accounts, not as allegories or fables. But it is abundantly clear that ancient people told their histories differently than we do now.

I don’t think that it is super productive to make our main goal in approaching the text be sorting out what counts as “historical fact” and what doesn’t. That implies that the Bible’s truth and value lies mainly in its accurate (by our modern, Western standards) reporting of facts. The Bible is true because we accept as a faith claim that it is the revelation of the one true God, not because it stands up to some sort of fact-checking gauntlet that we impose on it.