Is Genesis History?: Del Tackett, Alternative Facts, and Building a Defensible, Biblical Worldview

I recently received an email from a local church promoting a new film, in theaters for only one night, February 23, 2017, Is Genesis History? The film is a project of Del Tackett, the creator of “The Truth Project” small-group educational series, distributed by Focus on the Family. Focus on the Family has been a very influential Christian organization, dedicated to helping families struggling against the detrimental influence of the surrounding secular culture. The Adventures in Odyssey radio broadcast, produced by Focus on the Family, is a favorite resource of mine!

When Focus on the Family originally promoted Del Tackett’s, “The Truth Project”  in 2004, Christians in many churches, including my own, went through the 12-week, DVD-based curriculum, impacting some 12 million people all over the world. The series was well received by many believers, as a beneficial aid to help Christians develop a more Biblical worldview.

However, I have known a number of other, respected Christian friends who have gone through that curriculum, but who walked away from it with some misgivings. Del Tackett, the instructor on that series, had many good teachings in several areas, but regarding some topics, Tackett’s critics have thought that his approach was myopically opinionated and too narrow. Too get a flavor of this criticism, there is a Christian website, that I have found helpful, “The Truth Problem,” that extensively addresses some of the problems with “The Truth Project.”

So, when I saw the advertisement for Del Tackett’s new film, I thought I should review some of the advance material, and find out what it is all about. I am glad I did, as I have some concerns. Here is the film’s trailer:

What is Del Tackett’s “Is Genesis History?” All About?

An analogy from current events might be of assistance when it comes to evaluating Del Tackett’s Is Genesis History? Cultural commentators have grabbed onto the politically-charged phrase of “alternative facts” to describe the type of world we live in, in 2017.  Speaking of “alternative facts,” among those who defend the concept behind the phrase, implies that there are facts out there that are routinely suppressed or ignored by the media, academia, or other sources of supposedly trusted information. To resist against this trend, we are urged to become more exposed to considering “alternative” views.

However, for others, “alternative facts” is just a form of Orwellian double-speak, a fancy way for distorting and obfuscating the true reality of things, exchanging the truth for a lie.

Sorting out exactly what are “alternative facts,” and how they relate to “true facts,” can get rather confusing. Who do you trust? To dispel the anxiety, we can simply turn off our TV, with its 24-hour news cycle, and our social media feeds. But when it comes to how Christians understand the Bible and its theology, the stakes are much higher. What correctly constitutes “true facts” can have eternal consequences, and thus, this discussion can not be taken lightly.

If you carefully observe the Is Genesis History? movie trailer, you will sense that Del Tackett is making an appeal to consider his narrative of “alternative facts.” In a recent interview, Del Tackett states:

“Evangelicals have a tendency to read Genesis in the historical narrative as it was written. And they want to read it that way. But the hierarchy within evangelical Christianity is increasingly persuaded by a deep-time paradigm. And that deep-time paradigm does not lend itself to the historical reading of Genesis. …. It deeply concerns me, because I’m a worldview guy. That’s the call right now on my life – to do everything I can to help the body of Christ get healthy. Well, a biblical worldview is rooted in Genesis.”

Del Tackett has his concerns with negative trends in the church, and some of them are properly justified. Many Christians do lack a healthy, Biblical worldview. But are there any concerns about what Del Tackett himself is proposing? Let us take a look.

What Is Del Tackett Proposing?

According to the promotional material, Is Genesis History? seeks to provide a new look at the evidence supporting Creation and the Flood. But it is important to realize that Del Tackett is putting forward one particular view as to what this means, namely a Young Earth, of no more than about 6,000 years old, and a global Flood in Noah’s day, covering the entire planet.

In the byline for the film, Tackett notes that there are “two competing views… one compelling truth.” The problem here is that Tackett is oversimplifying what is indeed the case among evangelical Christians, just from viewing the film highlight clips on the movie’s YouTube channel. There are actually more than “two” views to consider. For Tackett, the one view he advocates for rejects the concept of “deep time,” the modern scientific consensus of a 4.5 billion year old earth, that helps to explain the origin of our planet and its universe, within the scientific disciplines of geology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and others, as taught in every American public school and public science museum.

For Tackett, this “deep time” paradigm strikes disaster at the very heart of a Biblical worldview, and specifically the meaning of the cosmic Fall, as taught in the Book of Genesis. There are many skeptical, non-Christian scientists and thinkers who would agree, thereby rejecting the Bible. However, there are also a number of other Christian pastors, Bible teachers, theologians, and believing evangelical scientists who find no difficulty reconciling the concept of “deep time,” with an authoritative, inerrant view of the Bible and its teachings.

The Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah's Flood Explain the Grand Canyon? is a beautiful new book, with lots of great photography, that makes the point that fossil record shows that the distribution of different animal remains are found in distinct layers, which a global flood model does not account for.

The Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon? is a beautiful new book, with lots of great photography, that makes the point that the fossil record in the canyon shows that the distribution of different animal remains are found in distinct, orderly layers. In the radical turbulence proposed by the alternative, global flood model, we would expect animal remains to be jumbled around in the fossil record. However, unlike what Del Tackett’s experts insist, this expectation is contrary to actual, geological observations.

In the film, Del Tackett makes the extraordinary claim that there is sufficient evidence to warrant overturning this “deep time” paradigm. For example, with folksy, laid-back guitar music in the background, Del Tackett takes a trip to the Grand Canyon, marveling at its grandeur, with striking photography. However, his scientific guide tells him that there is evidence here for a global flood, a great catastrophic event that carved out the Canyon, not over millions of years, but rather, in a period of less than one year.

The film has just enough scientific jargon to convince you that there is real science going on here, but not too much to overwhelm those who are freaked out by science lingo. If you examine the names of the scientific experts Tackett uses in his film, it reads like a virtual “Who’s Who” of the Young Earth Creationist scientific community. These are indeed really smart and brilliant people, with PhDs to back up their work. These experts are no “dummies,” and several of them are known for their irenic disposition towards other Christians who view this issue differently. Based on those film trailers, Del Tackett does not appear to be attacking other Christians who do not share his perspective. However, you will not see a single Old Earth Creationist, nor a single Evolutionary Creationist, interviewed or listed in the credits for Is Genesis History? Not a single one.

Therefore, a lingering question remains: Is the scientific evidence truly there to support Tackett’s claim, overthrowing the reigning paradigm of millions of years of “deep time,” with respect to earth’s origins? Well, if there really is, and folks like Tackett and the scientists he interviews could produce it, then such folks would be considered as heroes and superstars in the scientific community, presumably winning Nobel Prizes right and left. If such evidence can be amassed by Tackett’s scientific collaborators to tell a convincing story to overturn “deep time,” well, then, more power to them! But to date, such a movement to overthrow the current paradigm has yet to emerge in a compelling manner.

But What Difference Does This Really Make?… (and Does It Really Help, or Confuse?)

Del Tackett is quite a gifted and compelling communicator, and he is to be commended for his intended efforts to help Christians develop a more Biblical worldview, to face up to the challenges presented by a contemporary culture, that seeks to undermine the Bible and its authority. However, we can only defend such a Biblical worldview built upon a stable foundation, and not on the shifting sand of speculative Bible interpretations.

For example, the physical evidence for the Big Bang is overwhelming, and this great scientific discovery is consistent with the idea that there indeed was a beginning, just as the Bible teaches. Also, the physical evidence for a large, yet non-global flood in the Ancient Near East, that could have wiped out all of the known, sinful humanity at the time, is perfectly consistent with an extensively catastrophic event, that demonstrates God’s judgment against the humanity of Noah’s day, just as the Bible teaches. Nevertheless, Young Earth Creationism rejects both the ideas of the Big Bang, as well as a large local flood for Noah’s flood, as contrary to their interpretation of Scripture, so it really leaves me scratching my head. Is Del Tackett stirring up controversy where none is needed?

Defending the faith against the onslaught of secularism is difficult enough as it is, without adding the extra burden of trying to dismantle the idea of “deep time” in the sciences. Del Tackett’s efforts to philosophically tackle “deep time” might be theologically correct, but it really is a massively long shot when trying to sync this idea with modern science.

The philosophical presuppositions shared by Del Tackett and his scientific collaborators in the film can be quite heady and elusive to grasp. So, my greatest concern is that uninformed Christians who see the film might be drawn to embrace a form of pseudoscience, one that can not withstand the most rigorous critical scrutiny, when faith is put under pressure. Is Del Tackett really giving his film viewers reliable, intellectual weapons to defend the faith, or will those same weapons fail the Christian, when put to the test?

Should a Christian go see the film? Sure. Go see it in on February 23rd. Del Tackett’s view deserves philosophical and theological consideration, if you have never considered it before. Make up your own mind. Just remember that Del Tackett is only giving you one particular Christian view, his version of “alternative facts,” and he is not giving you different Christian perspectives, that line up better with the modern scientific consensus, to adequately compare and consider.

If you do want to see how Del Tackett presents his views among other Christians, who are not convinced by his arguments, you should consider viewing this dialogue between Del Tackett and others, particularly theologian R. C. Sproul, Intelligent Design science advocate Stephen C. Meyer, and theologian Michael Horton. Otherwise, be careful in how you evaluate Del Tackett’s “alternative facts” in Is Genesis History?

Note: I attempted to contact Del Tackett via email at deltackett.com, asking him to answer some of the concerns I had with Is Genesis History?, and after several weeks, I received no response. As the film is being heavily promoted in our area, I sensed it imperative to get the word out via this blog post, and urge Christians to apply principles of discernment.   ……  With respect to Del Tackett’s “The Truth Project,” I have not viewed the entire series myself, and perhaps someday, I will have the time to watch all of the sessions, and then develop my own, informed opinion. But based on some of the other informed reviews available, it would appear that for all of the good work Del Tackett has done, there are enough missed opportunities for promoting a wider-range discussion, that such deficiencies take away from “The Truth Project”‘s overall effectiveness. For more analysis of Del Tackett’s work in “The Truth Project”: a review from a  progressive evangelical apologist, Randal Rauser, or from a dispensational-Arminian perspective at the Berean Call. Del Tackett definitely has his critics from across the evangelical spectrum.


A Conversation Starter: Muslims, Christians, and Jesus

muslims-christians-jesusMy wife and I just finished reading a book written by Carl Medearis, Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships. Little did we know that when we first started to read the book that current events surrounding the world refugee crisis would make our reading of the book into quite a big conversation starter.

Some voices in our culture say that Islam and Christianity are basically equal pathways to God, just using different language. Therefore, Christians should not bother trying to share their faith in Jesus with Muslims. On the other side, some say that Muslims can not be trusted, because of their association with terrorism.

Carl Medearis avoids the pitfalls of those two extremes. He focuses on the person of Jesus. I reviewed my first Carl Medearis book, Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Non-Evangelism, here on Veracity. Medearis and his family spent 12 years in Beirut, Lebanon, building relationships with Muslims in the Middle East, talking with them about Jesus. As in his other books, including Muslims, Christians, and Jesus, Medearis recounts some of his conversations with Muslim leaders that challenged me to rethink my own prejudices against Muslims as real people, who need Jesus just as much as I do. In addition to giving a helpful overview of what Islam is, Medearis provides some very useful tips in making friends for Jesus with Muslims. As a read geared towards a popular audience, it is a fairly short book, too.

For example, according to Medearis, did you know that Muslims often think that Christians do not properly honor the Bible as God’s Holy Word? Sure enough, this past Christmas, I invited a few Muslims friends to a concert at our church. In our church, we put our pew Bibles in metal trays attached underneath the seat in front of where we are sitting. My Muslim guests were appalled that we stored our Bible down low, underneath people’s rear-ends, instead of lifting God’s Word up high, as a sign of honor and respect.

I had never thought about that before.

In early 2017, a new American President implemented a temporary travel ban on citizens from several Islamic countries, including an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria coming into the United States. Several million people have been fleeing civil war in Syria, including not just Muslims, but Christians as well. Refugee resettlement programs can take a very long time to work through, so the recent moratorium complicates the situation. Veracity blogger John Paine and I have made our views known before here on Veracity, on which we both agree, regarding the Syrian refugee crisis, and how Christians should respond.

Christians all over the world, and especially here in the United States, are divided over this issue. Hundreds of prominent Christian leaders oppose the refugee ban, while others support it. World Relief, an evangelical relief agency working with churches to settle refugees, has drafted an open letter, as a full-page in the Washington Post in February, 2017, calling upon conservative evangelical Christian leaders to speak out. It is a delicate balance between being obedient to the Gospel’s call to love and care for the refugee, with the requirement for national security and protecting American borders. We need to have a conversation among Christians today, as to how believers are to pray and be faithful in God’s calling to best assist the refugee, in a dangerous world.

Might I suggest that you grab some copies of Carl Medearis’ Muslims, Christians and Jesus, read it together with Christian friends as a group, discuss it, and then, do something about it?

 


Celebrating Frederick Douglass’s 199th Birthday

Frederick Douglass, born February, 1818, into slavery. Photo colorization by Marina Amarai.

Frederick Douglass, born February, 1818, into slavery. Photo colorization by Marina Amarai.

Frederick Douglass was surely the most famous African-American of the 19th century. After escaping from slavery from Maryland, Douglass went onto become an outspoken leader of the abolitionist movement. Not only was he a great American, he was a follower of Jesus Christ. His commitment to Jesus played a major role in his efforts to end slavery. From his 1845 Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass:

I was not more than thirteen years old, when I felt the need of God, as a father and protector. My religious nature was awakened by the preaching of a white Methodist minister, named Hanson. He thought that all men, great and small, bond and free, were sinners in the sight of God; that they were, by nature, rebels against His government; and that they must repent of their sins, and be reconciled to God, through Christ. … I was, for weeks, a poor, broken-hearted mourner, traveling through the darkness and misery of doubts and fears. I finally found that change of heart which comes by “casting all one’s care” upon God, and by having faith in Jesus Christ, as the Redeemer, Friend, and Savior of those who diligently seek him. After this, I saw the world in a new light. … I loved all mankind—slaveholders not excepted; though I abhorred slavery more than ever.

He never knew the exact date of his birthday, but later in life, he chose February 14 to celebrate. Before his mother died when Douglass was about eight years-old, she called him her “little valentine.” Born in February, 1818, he would have been 199 years old today.

Just in case anyone is confused, Frederick Douglass is no longer living, as he died in 1895.

HT: ChristianityToday and colorization expert, Marina Amarai.

 


Does the Bible Speak Definitively On the Age of the Earth?

Albert Mohler

Albert Mohler: Theologian and defender of a Young Earth view of Creation.

C. John Collins

C. John Collins: Old Testament scholar and defender of an Old Earth view of Creation.

I recently listened to a debate between Dr. Albert Mohler and Dr. C. John Collins, with the provocative title, “Genesis and the Age of the Earth: Does the Bible speak definitively on the age of the universe?” Christians have very different views on this topic, and sadly, a lot of debates of this sort tend to descend into either rancor, or simply talking past one another, particularly for debates with non-believers. But this debate, intended for an audience of Christian pastors, was different, and for that reason, I thought it worthwhile to make some notes and share them here on Veracity. You can view the debate yourself at the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School’s website, and I would encourage you to do so to get the most out of my following comments and observations (another synopsis of the debate is available here).

Al Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, answered the debate question with “yes.” But in doing so, I appreciated what Mohler had to say about the very nature of this debate. As he put it, there are three different orders of theological debates that have an impact in the church:
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Bill Nye Visits the Ark Encounter

Exactly three years ago today, the arguably most recognizable popular advocate for modern science, Bill Nye, debated one of the most controversial leaders in evangelical Christianity, Ken Ham, of Answers and Genesis, on the topic of creation. Since then, this debate has received nearly 6 million views on YouTube, which is a lot for a two-hour debate on science and the Bible.

This past year, Bill Nye returned to Kentucky to take a tour of the new Ark Encounter exhibit, just days after its opening. Cameras were rolling as Answers in Genesis recorded the casual, yet often heated, discussion between these two iconic men. Bill Nye and Ken Ham represent two very opposite ends of the pole on this topic, so I frankly found the discussion rather frustrating and exasperating. It felt like the two sides were just talking past one another. Nevertheless, it gives a good example of the type of challenges Christians face when defending their faith, with skeptics who are enamored by the prospects of modern science. Here are some highlights of Bill Nye’s encounter with Ken Ham at the Ark, on a 20-minute video. The look on their faces just says it all:


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