NOTE: Due to popular demand, Is Genesis History? will be returning to theaters on February 22, 2018 for a Special Anniversary Event. Don’t miss this opportunity to catch it on the big screen. Find tickets at FathomEvents.com.
Fascinating - and quite beautiful - from opening to closing, Is Genesis History? is a necessary multi-tool in the kit of anyone who hopes to believe more deeply in - and communicate more knowledgeably about - the possibility of a young Earth and the reliability of the Bible's creation account. 4.5 out of 5.
Several years ago, Dr. Del Tackett expertly led the discussions in Focus on the Family's worldview training series The Truth Project. Now Dr. Tackett is back with a host of PhDs from a number of scientific fields in a documentary that examines the questions of evolution, a global flood, dinosaurs and so much more through two distinct lenses: what does the evidence tell us if we completely disregard the Bible, and does the same evidence reveal anything different if we read the first 11 chapters of Genesis as a historical account?
I'm purposefully trying to keep myself from turning this review into a commentary on the film and the scientific questions it asks and (mostly) answers. I'd very much prefer to recommend the documentary to you on its own merits as a film. And among those merits are: Dr. Tackett's manners and methods, gorgeous on-site locations throughout the U.S. (especially in the western states), a level of speaking that neither talks down to the audience nor leaves us unable to follow, and a thorough investigation of many fields of study.
But I also want to provide full disclosure: I watched Is Genesis History? as one who has always struggled with there being a need for Christians to read much of the first 11 chapters of Genesis as literal, and certainly not as a Science textbook. Oh I realized the repurcussions of, say, viewing the "days" of creation as eons (wouldn't that make Adam millions of years old?) or the idea that some have put forward that the Gospel breaks down and the numbers don't add up if one doesn't believe that Moses - though obviously not present for the events of the first chapters of Genesis - was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the story exactly as it happened rather than with some sort of didactic or poetic intent. I only mention all of the above to let you know: "what works" the best about this documentary is it treats a viewer like me with gentle respect - assuming nothing about its audience's doubts or biases during Tackett's opening monologue - and offers incredibly persuasive conclusions about faith, interestingly enough, via well-reasoned, scientific argument. Every one of Tackett's interviewees comes across as nothing more than a well-studied, respected member of his scientific community. Me? I took it on faith before, but now I'd call myself reasonably convinced of the possibilities.
On the film's website, director Thomas Purifoy himself writes, "If I had to compare our film to a car, it would be a Suburban. It's sorta long; it doesn't go too quickly; and it carries a whole lot of people and stuff in it." Personally, I never really felt the "length" he mentions, but some may experience it. Other Christian viewers may scratch their heads and wonder why a film which intends to tackle the idea of whether there are "answers in Genesis" has no apparent connection to Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham or The Creation Museum. Regardless, I found the film's only weak spots to be occasional less-than-convincing or incomplete answers to a couple of the tougher questions it ponders - most notably, the problem of starlight from galaxies millions of light-years away, the suggestion that a pre-Fall of Man T-Rex wouldn't have been carnivorous (but those teeth you're zooming in on!), and the seemingly hastily-drawn archaeological conclusions about the location of the Tower of Babel. I may need to watch those segments again.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
Is Genesis History? is a film that, to nobody's real surprise, is going to conclude that "Nothing in the world makes sense except in the light of Genesis." The film is nothing but biblical worldview. But it handles some concepts very interestingly. For instance, as you can tell from the title, it doesn't even ask whether the Bible is a Science textbook; it asks whether it's History (it's a strong and smart distinction, even if I quibble a bit that a written history requires someone present to have recorded it). It's also very clear about not pitting Science and Faith/The Bible against each other. No. Both sides, the film argues, use science and the scientific method to consider the evidence; the only difference is paradigm. And thus, the film's central argument of "the traditionalist view" vs. "the biblical view" is established, and neither view is spoken of with any degree of animosity. In a world lacking in civility and mature discussion, Is Genesis History? - which ponders some of the deepest, toughest, most ancient questions of humanity - somehow manages to be a breath of fresh air.
If you'd like to dig into the topics discussed in Is Genesis History? a bit more, check out the film's website here.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: Not Rated
- Language/Profanity: None.
- Sexuality/Nudity: A couple pieces of art depicting Adam & Eve naked in the Garden with the usual strategically-placed vegetation.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: None.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Everyone, really. The film is never boring, the science and delivery are always interesting and the questions are the big ones any resident of the planet has pondered. It's pretty certain which way this film is going to come down regarding the question of the title, but even those who would answer 'no' are not portrayed in any sinister way.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Those completely closed-minded against a young and/or divinely-created Earth will be tempted to dismiss Is Genesis History?, but they will not find any enemies here and may even appreciate the way the questions of our origins are dealt with, even if they disagree with the conclusions.
Is Genesis History?, directed by Thomas Purifoy, Jr., opened in theaters February 23, 2017; available for home viewing April 11, 2017. It runs 120 minutes and stars Del Tackett. Watch the trailer for Is Genesis History? here.
Shawn McEvoy is the Managing Editor for Crosswalk.com and the co-host of ChristianMovieReviews.com & CrosswalkMovies.com's Video Movie Reviews.
Publication date: February 16, 2017