By In Interviews, Theology

Is Genesis History? – Changing the Question

Thomas Purifoy has set out to reframe a debate.

The maker of the documentary style film, “Is Genesis History?” is doing his part to provoke a public conversation about science and the Bible, and he wants to change the main question from being about science, to being about history.

The Film and the Interview

“Is Genesis History?” came to theaters in February – and in June, it has come to Netflix. You can find it on Amazon video as well. The recent video release of the film prompted me to call Thomas, who is an old friend, and discuss the film in an interview for Kuyperian Commentary – that interview will be the content of the podcast here on Wednesday.

An Evolution in Theological Thought

When Thomas and I spoke, he and I shared our common concern over what he called, “the incursion of evolutionary thought” into the current stream of evangelical theological teaching. It used to be that theology was dealing with the pressure of public science discourse by proposing a “gap theory” – inserting long years between the first two verses of Genesis. Or that Genesis 1 was seen as a true representation of ages, poetically presented. Both of these options completely undervalue the text, but they were attempts at retaining the text as true history.

Some current trends are asking us instead to abandon the historicity of Genesis, and to see it as “true myth” – theologically significant, yet fundamentally contrived to teach a theology instead of reporting a history.

So much of the conversation places the weight with the scientific academy to set the tone of the debate, but then excludes all opposing voices. We have all been trained to ask what the academy will allow us to think by using the question, Does Genesis fit with Science? Thomas said he wants his audience to ask instead, Is Genesis history?

The long documentary film does an excellent job of reviewing scientific thinking from some of those disallowed by the academy. But the point of the film wasn’t to prove a bible view by declaring game-ending science facts. And this is important when it comes to some of the film’s recent critiques which have suggested that “Is Genesis History?” is not properly examining all of the views.

Some have responded to Is Genesis History negatively, suggesting that the film is presenting a false dichotomy between young-earth creationism and Darwinism, as if these two views are alone in the debate. They claim that Purifoy left out at least two other views: old-earth creationism, and theistic evolution. I asked Thomas about this critique both inside and outside of our recorded interview.

Thomas is quite aware that there are other options when you ask about what views people have of science and the Bible – but Thomas pointed out to me that when we ask a different question, we end up with only two views:

Does the Bible present a clear picture of history? The answer is either yes, or no.

Is Genesis History?

Six-day creationism (young-earth creationism) says – Yes!

Old earth creationism, and all forms of evolutionary thought must say some version of No.

Only a Six-Day reading takes Genesis 1 to be what it looks like when you read it – an account of the creation. Genesis 1 appears at face value to be an account of historical events complete with time signatures, order, and historical details – not the least of which is the creation of the first two ancestors producing a genealogy repeated both in 1 Chronicles 1 and in Luke 3 as historical fact. Both later passages treat Adam and Eve as the progenitors of Seth, Enosh (Enos), and Kenan (Cainan) in a line leading to necessarily historical people – Abraham, David, and Jesus.

Is Chronicles History? Is Luke History? We could declare them to be false, but we cannot imply they portray Adam’s lineage as something other than history. And this is the point of Thomas Purifoy’s inquiry.

What happens when we start to abandon the principle that what looks like history in the Bible is actually history? Genesis is treated like history elsewhere in the Bible, and is the historical support for theology and doctrine elsewhere in the Bible.

What happens is that we start to intrude on the doctrinal supports for the rest of the Bible.

How did death come to the world? Genesis 1-11 says “Through Adam.” Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 say the same. If Genesis is myth, then so is Romans.

How is life handed down through covenantal headship from Jesus to his people? Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 both say that it is done in the same way that Adam handed death down to his descendants. If Genesis is myth, then so is 1 Corinthians.

To say that Adam was not real, is to say that Paul was mistaken about doctrine and theology which he wrote down as the word of God.

To say that Noah was not real is to say that Jesus, and Peter, and the author of Hebrews were mistaken as “a product of the thinking of their times.”

Some of us might be surprised to find out that the theological academy is opening more and more to this opinion – that Genesis is theologically true, but is historically mythic. And the pressure of the academy is almost always insufferably overwhelming. What is to be done about it? Thomas says he wants to bring the conversation out into public – make everyone admit that we are talking about two fundamentally different views of history, and that difference amounts to two fundamentally different views of the Bible.

Either the Bible can be trusted when it tells us how to think, or it is false. I believe that if we make everyone own up to their views of scripture, then we can let scripture stand on its own.

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Tune in to the Podcast on Wednesday to hear the interview with Thomas about “Is Genesis History?”

If you haven’t seen the film yet, you should be made aware that “Is Genesis History?” is now available on Amazon Video and on Netflix.

If you haven’t subscribed to our podcast, you should be made aware that the Kuyperian Commentary Podcast is now available on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn, and Stitcher.

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3 Responses to Is Genesis History? – Changing the Question

  1. Robert Mooty says:

    Genesis is definitely “History”.
    I agree that “Only a Six-Day reading takes Genesis 1 to be what it looks like when you read it.”
    The question is, how do you define “day”?
    Earth’s age must be inferred from the length of the creation days. The biblical word for day, yom, has four different literal meanings: 1) the daylight portion of a day, 2) part of the daylight hours, 3) an ordinary day (now 24 hours), and 4) a longer but finite period of time (no other word in biblical Hebrew carries this meaning). Although many Christians argue that those days represent ordinary calendar days, the biblical text indicates they lasted much longer. Days 1-3 cannot be ordinary days as humanity defines them because the Sun does not become visible until the fourth day. On the sixth day, Adam tends the garden, names all the animals, undergoes divine surgery and marries Eve. These events seem too significant and long to happen in one ordinary day. The seventh day, in contrast to the first six, never closes with an evening and morning. In fact, Psalm 95 and Hebrews 4 indicate that we still live in the seventh day.
    Therefore a “literal” reading of Genesis where “day” is defined as a longer but finite period of time would fit an “Old Earth” model.

    • Luke Welch says:

      Robert, thanks for your thoughts.

      I find James Jordan’s arguments on this most helpful in his book, Creation in Six Days. The first three days were defined as morning and evening days, in other words, normally experienced days. They didn’t need the sun for a light and dark cycle because God put light into creation and separated a dark-light cycle on day one.

      Additionally, the sun was set to the period that had already existed for three days.

      Finally, I think that Exodus 31.17 indicates that the six days of God’s work are the same as the six days of our work week.

      Blessings,
      Luke

  2. […] In addition, Kuyperian Commentary has blogged about and interviewed Thomas Purifoy on the movie “Is Genesis History?” There is some good material over at Kuyperian. […]

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