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Can Science Tell Us Nothing Reliable About The Past?… (Only the Bible Can Do That?)

True followers of Jesus trust God’s special revelation, the Bible. But can they also trust God’s natural revelation, as an independent witness to history, as understood by science?

History cannot be deduced by science, only explained by it.” So reads a promotional ad for the anniversary showing of the film Is Genesis History?, featuring Del Tackett, creator of “The Truth Project.”

A common apologetic argument today, for some Christians, insists that science can not tell us anything reliable about the past. Instead, we must look to the Bible for God’s revelation of history, and not to science, for answers concerning the age of the earth, and human origins.

For those unaware of other alternatives, this might at first seem reasonable. This approach seeks to honor and defend the Bible as God’s Word. After all, the Bible is under attack in our culture, and if modern science is to blame, we need good reasons to refute such godlessness. Christian parents are rightly concerned about worldly influences on their kids, and so the message of Is Genesis History?, hopes to stem the tide against encroaching unbelief.

But is this apologetic argument consistent with what Scripture itself teaches? Is science not to be trusted, when it comes to our knowledge of the past, and our ability to reconstruct natural history? Does science, with respect to the past, only function to explain history, as revealed by the Bible? Let me give you two biblical reasons why the usefulness of this apologetic has difficulties.

First, the concept of fixed laws of nature, transcending present, future, and the past, is actually grounded in the Bible. For example, God ties his everlasting, constant commitment to His people, with the very laws of nature that He created, as He said thousands of years ago:

” Thus says the Lord: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth, then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.“(Jeremiah 33:25-26 ESV)

The fixed laws of nature, that transcend time and undergird the practice of modern science, are reliable. Why? Because God is reliable to keep His covenant with His people. He gave us Jesus, a descendant of Jacob and David, as our King and Savior, through the nation of Israel. He has proven Himself reliable by continuing to build His covenant people over many, many, many generations, even today.

True, we can not travel back in a time-machine to observe previous events. But if the Bible teaches that God’s fixed laws of nature are trustworthy, would it not be reasonable to assume that events from the past should be consistent with what we observe today? Here are a few examples, demonstrating that we are constantly looking to science as a means of understanding the past.

When astronomers see distant starlight coming in from outer space, they are seeing light that was generated millions of light years ago. Unless one is willing to accept some untested hypothesis of millions-of-years old light being generated in midstream, or of light that travels at different speeds in different directions, or to suggest some other, hitherto unknown law of physics, it is extremely difficult to conclude that the universe is somehow less than 10,000 years old.

When archaeologists are digging for evidence, they are looking at layers of soil that correspond to ages in the past, as clues to understanding that past. Dendrochronologists measure tree rings as a means of understanding past events. Forensic scientists analyze DNA and other criminal evidence, from long ago, in order to solve cold cases. Most scientists, whether they be non-Christians or Christians, practice their craft today, with the hope that they can reasonably create a convincing historical narrative. But if you inherently distrust science, as a tool for reconstructing history, then science will have limited value for you.

Second, the Apostle Paul taught that pagans, who have no Law of Moses, effectively, no Bible, are without excuse when it comes to having a knowledge of God, as revealed in creation.

” For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”(Roman 1:19-20 ESV)

Paul is quite confident that by examining creation, even in looking at the evidence for the original creation event in the past, we are given a reliable testimony as to who this Creator really is. If the pagan, or anyone else, fails to recognize this, it is no fault of God’s. It is due to our failure to acknowledge what God has revealed in nature.

Paul is giving the first century, biblically-illiterate pagan, as well as anyone living today, no escape route, whereby someone could plead, “Well, if only I had something like the Bible, a written Word from God, to tell me the real history of the universe, then I would know for sure that there is a Creator.

Read the whole passage, Romans 1:18-2:29, to get the whole context, and tell me if you think Paul is saying anything differently. Then read Romans 10:14-18, where Paul recites the same theme, yet again, where even if someone has not heard the Word of special revelation, they still have the witness of natural revelation, as when Paul quotes from Psalm 19:4. In other words, Paul appears to be teaching that natural revelation, which is the domain where science operates, bears a witness to the truth of God, independent of, but nevertheless, consistent with, special revelation, the domain of where we study the Holy Scriptures.

Granted, if natural revelation, as we study it through the disciplines of the sciences, can not tell us anything reliable about the past, then yes, this apologetic argument, popular among Young Earth Creationists, makes good sense: You then only need to read the Bible in order to find out the real history of the universe (assuming the Bible is being correctly interpreted). Science only comes in, after the fact, to explain the details of that history. What more could be commendable to the Christian?

However, just be aware of the implications. This line of reasoning is built on a philosophical presupposition as to how we are to understand God’s revelation in nature, and it has some problems. First, it goes against the grain of how most scientists, including non-believers and believers in Christ, across all sorts of disciplines, daily practice their craft. Secondly, it also chafes against several passages in the Bible, noted above. You tell me: Should a Christian follow a philosophical presupposition, where scientific evidence about the past, on its own, is irrelevant, and ironically, its biblical basis is shaky?

On the positive side, a Young Earth Creationist will have confidence in the Bible, as God’s special revelation. Even an Old Earth Creationist, can say “Amen” to that.

But when it comes to God’s natural revelation, all bets are off: Is God’s revelation in nature to be trusted? A Young Earth Creationist can never be completely sure.

Just something to think about.


Have you ever heard of this philosophical presupposition before, that “history cannot be deduced by science, only explained by it?” Well, a Christian DVD making the rounds today, that many of my homeschooling friends like,  Is Genesis History?, popularizes this very idea. The film will also be in theaters, February 22, 2018. You also hear it in statements like this: “You can not trust carbon dating! The Big Bang is really just a ‘big bust!‘” If you do decide to see the film, you might want to also think about some of the alternative Christian views profiled here on Veracity, that the movie does not discuss. Explore this and other topics above, by clicking on the links, or read other articles on Veracity, by going to the search box on the blog, type in something like “creation,” or “creationism,” and click go!


The Shack, Is Genesis History, and the False Dichotomies in Christian Films

God, The Bible and The Shack is a short pamphlet, designed to help readers of W. Paul Young’s The Shack navigate through some tough theological issues.

In the study of logic, a false dichotomy is when only two options are presented, either believe this or that, even though there might be yet a third option available. The fallacy of the false dichotomy is that it excludes other reasonable alternatives.

I really hope I am wrong. But sadly, it appears that several recent Christian films (and their associated books) are trying to exploit certain false dichotomies that are increasingly popular in the church today.

On one side, stands something like Del Tackett’s Is Genesis History?, blogged about several times here on Veracity (#1, #2, and #3). According to some reviewers, such as Alan Shlemon at Stand to Reason, though there are some very positive elements in the film, Shlemon thought that Is Genesis History? plays into the notion that the church is divided into two different groups: the sole defenders of the Bible, who unswervingly hold to a view of the earth as being young, around 6,000 years old, versus compromised Christians, who undermine the Bible by accepting anti-Christian, scientific evidence of an earth that is millions of years old. Of course, Del Tackett, in an admittedly kind, warm and unassuming way, urges Christians to pursue the first option, and shun the second.

For Del Tackett, the question of, “Is Genesis History?,” is of great interest, in terms of the age of the earth. But it is often a misleading question. “Is Genesis True?,” is a much more profound and disturbing reality to consider. Alan Shlemon rightly sees the fallacy here, regarding the fundamental argument from the movie as a false dichotomy.
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Is Genesis History?, or Is Del Tackett Confusing Film Viewers?


The run-up to the one-night showing (tonight) for Del Tackett’s latest film, Is Genesis History?, introduced here at Veracity, is in full swing. So, I just have a brief follow-up: Christian media outlets across the country anticipate large crowds to go see this film in theaters nationwide.

For example, yesterday on “Hour 2” of the Eric Metaxas show, Del Tackett was interviewed by Metaxas. Eric Metaxas, a Christian public intellectual, himself is agnostic on the exact meaning of the “days” of Genesis, but he had a very friendly and warm conversation with Del Tackett, who endorses a literal, 24-hour view of the “days” of Genesis 1.

Tackett explains that the film relies on extended interviews with scientific and other experts, to defend the concept of Young Earth Creationism, the belief that the earth is no more than about 6,000 years old, contrary to the mainstream scientific paradigm, that argues that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old.  For example, Tackett interviews Hebraist and Semitic language scholar, Steven Boyd, who argues that the plain meaning of a literal, 24-hour day should be taken for each of the six, creational “days” of Genesis. A number of scholars take the view of Dr. Boyd, who is (unsurprisingly) a Young Earth Creationist, but does every scholar agree with this view? Apparently, not.

I decided to ask an Orthodox Jewish friend of mine, to get an answer from a Jewish perspective. After all, Jews and Christians share the Book of Genesis together in their Scriptures. As I expected, Jewish interpretation of the “days” of Genesis mirrors the variety of Christian views on the same topic, and the scholarly disagreements go back hundreds of years, predating the 19th century advent of Darwin’s theory of biological evolution, by a number of centuries.

As it turns out, even though Del Tackett’s list of scholars and scientific experts lean towards the Young Earth side of the debate, at least one of the experts interviewed, philosopher Paul Nelson, associated with the Discovery Institute, now says that Tackett’s Is Genesis History?  unfortunately “presents a false dichotomy” and that he “dissents from my role” in the film. The issue for Dr. Nelson is not the age of the earth, but rather, the question of “intelligent design” vs. “no design.”


In the film trailers and in promotional interviews, Del Tackett, has a very homespun, unassuming demeanor, contrary to a lot of rancor this kind of debate often generates within the church, which is quite refreshing. But when I heard Del Tackett talk about soft tissue found in dinosaur fossils, I began to wonder if Del Tackett fully understands views contrary to Young Earth Creationism. So, it remains to be seen whether or not Del Tackett’s Is Genesis History? will serve to provide clarity in this controversial debate, or if it will be an awkward appeal to “alternative facts” that will only confuse believers, who simply want to be able to adequately defend the Bible, in a world that is often hostile to its central, core message.

If you are still interested in seeing the film, there are two showings in Williamsburg, Virginia, at Regal New Town Stadium 12, at 7:00pm, tonight, with tickets still available at the time of this blog posting.

UPDATE: 02/25/2017

All showings in Williamsburg on Thursday were sold out. An encore showing will be next Thursday, March 2nd.

A few early reviews of the film are in, and as to be expected, the reception is mixed among Christians:

Biologist Todd Wood: One of the Young Earth Creationist scientists in Is Genesis History? "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. (Prov. 25:2)", which is Todd's tagline on his blog.

Biologist Todd Wood: One of the Young Earth Creationist scientists in Is Genesis History? “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. (Prov. 25:2)”, which is Todd’s tagline on his blog.

If you want to find out more about some of the other scientific experts in Is Genesis History?, I would encourage you to first check out the blog for biologist Todd Wood, who this week published a Q&A regarding the film, on his website. Todd Wood understands and appreciates the mainstream scientific consensus, but he consciously adopts a worldview aligned with his Young Earth Creationist interpretation of the first few chapters of Genesis. Todd Wood is crazy smart, and quite likable, in my mind, even if he is more narrow in his beliefs. Whether or not Dr. Wood is able to come up with a viable scientific model, in which his hypotheses can be tested, a difficulty he readily admits, is another matter.

UPDATE: March 1, 2017

Here is another review from BioLogos. It would be great somehow if BioLogos and AnswersInGenesis were able to sit down and have a conversation together:

  • Gregg Davidson, an evangelical Christian and a geologist, and others, respond to some of Steve Austin’s comments in the most early part of the film (as seen on the film trailer, too), that suggests that geologists are abandoning the prevailing theory of long ages for the formation of the Grand Canyon. Steve Austin is a Young Earth Creationist scientist, and Davidson and his co-authors in this essay dispute Austin’s explanation based on actual evidence, while nevertheless affirming that “Our worldview is based on a belief that the Bible is true – cover to cover, from Gen. 1:1 to Rev. 22:21

UPDATE: March 6, 2017

I thought about publishing a new blog post, but I was not convinced that doing so would help to encourage dialogue or fan the flames of frustration, so I am merely updating here.  Todd Wood, one of the biologists in the film, that I highlighted above, has written a very thoughtful response to the claims of detractors, and one of the film’s experts, Paul Nelson, as noted above, that Is Genesis History? is promoting a false dichotomy. Todd Wood’s post is a bit difficult for me to grasp coherently, but I really appreciate the conciliatory tone that he displays. I just wish everyone in the Young Earth Creationist community were a little more like him.

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