The newly released independent film The Genesis Code is advertised as “the Christian movie of the year.” Family Christian Stores promotes it as “one of the most powerful Christian movies of the year.” Focus on the Family has approved it.
Conservatives and evangelical Christians are being urged to support the film and “vote with their dollars” to show moviemakers that it’s good business to make family-friendly films.
Are these promotional snippets accurate? What is the movie about?
Here’s my synopsis of the PG-rated movie:
Kerry is a college student, pastor’s daughter, and committed Christian. She interviews Blake, the college’s hockey star, for a story in the school newspaper. As the relationship develops, Kerry learns that Blake has a crisis — his mother is in a coma, and family members disagree about life support. Blake dismisses Kerry’s prayer suggestions. He “knows” science disproves the Bible, especially Genesis. Suddenly Kerry hits strong challenges to her faith at school. As a result she seeks to show, with help from her physicist brother, that science and Genesis do not conflict. Her brother unveils a “solution” — the Genesis Code — to show that what science teaches and what Genesis records are both true and in agreement.
Familiar stars in the movie include former US Senator Fred Thompson from Tennessee playing a judge, Oscar winners Ernest Borgnine (92 years old) and Louise Fletcher playing Blake’s grandparents, and Catherine Hicks (Annie Camden on Seventh Heaven) playing Kerry’s academic advisor.
Jerry Zandstra plays Kerry’s pastor-father. He’s a real-life pastor and economics professor at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, MI. He was also the executive in charge of production for the movie and is vice-president of American Epic Entertainment.
Industry professionals and Christian conservatives joined to form American Epic Entertainment to provide family-friendly alternatives to Hollywood movies. It’s the feature-film sister company of American Saga Productions. ASP shot “Station House” in 2008, a fire station reality-TV pilot.
The company spent $5 million making The Genesis Code, their first release. It’s 2’15” long.
Filming occurred for five weeks during July and August of 2009 in Grand Rapids, MI on the campus of Calvin College, at the Patterson Ice Center where the hockey scenes are filmed, the Grand Rapids Public Museum, and in the Michigan cities of Walker, Lowell, and Wyoming.
The movie was released to limited showings in Michigan in August 2010 and Indiana in October 2010. The nationwide release began February 18, 2011.
Here’s the movie trailer:
There are many good aspects to the movie:
– Repeated references to God’s transcendent wisdom.
– Multiple references to and affirmation of “absolute Biblical truth.”
– Frequent Scripture quotations, including Psalm 90 and repeated readings of Genesis.
– Meaningful prayers.
– Effective portrayal of muscular and compassionate and articulate Christianity.
– Warm family relationships and healthy, supportive friendships.
– Articulate science prof explains that what makes sense to his scientific mind is belief in the Judeo-Christian God.
– Two instances of taking the Lord’s name in vain.
– Bar scene with a beer chugging incident and a show-off biting into, chewing up, and spitting out a beer glass. It’s auxiliary to the movie, primarily for humor, and to paint the scene. The main characters are present but not involved.
– Male pastor discusses barbaric tribal rite with female professor. Although his point hits home, the subject is inappropriate for a family movie.
For those who require romance in their movies, Blake and Kerry provide it. Kerry is chaste and when pressed by Blake says she won’t give away something she’s saving for marriage. Clothing is modest; there are no titillating scenes. There is one short kissing scene near the end of the movie.
In my opinion the romance has two negatives. Kerry as a Christian should not pursue a romantic relationship with non-Christian Blake. Secondly, most of the initiative in the relationship comes from Kerry instead of Blake.
There are three major issues that generate conflict and interest throughout the movie.
– Discrimination against Christians in academia
– Sanctity of life
– Science vs. Genesis
It’s commendable that the movie treats these current issues in an entertaining and engaging manner. All are worthy of exploration. Movie treatments, like Jesus’ stories (parables), can often communicate more effectively than abstruse essays.
Kerry faces the all-too-common viewpoint discrimination against Christian beliefs in the classroom and especially from her academic advisor who tries to coerce compromise.
She engages her professor cogently in the classroom over his description of the “sudden Cambrian explosion of life with no apparent antecedent.” She underscores his reference to “order emerging from chaos” and points out that order is never observed emerging from chaos. In contrast, order naturally devolves into disorder. “Doesn’t that indicate the necessity of a Watchmaker?” she asks.
Kerry could have been more effective in answering her advisor’s contention that absolute truth does not exist. Instead she seems disconcerted by the professor’s strong insistence that she must abandon her Biblical beliefs to be successful. However, her pastor-father shows the professor that the professor herself lives by moral absolutes despite her claim that there are no absolutes or certain truths in the moral and philosophical arena.
Blake’s mother is in a coma with cancer, and the family struggles with conflicting views on whether to terminate life support. Blake comes to recognize prayer is a primary resource.
The movie is advertised as treating “Science vs. Faith“. It asks the question, “What if both are right?”
Of course true science (the word literally means “knowledge”) and true Biblical faith are both right and in harmony with each other. The Almighty who created the universe recorded His activity accurately in Genesis. But today, “Science” usually means “Scientism”, the belief that truth is determined scientifically and that the scientific community is the arbiter of truth. Science in this sense and Biblical faith cannot both be right.
Before viewing the movie, I was concerned about its harmonization of Genesis with science. Would it turn out to be, like most harmonizations, some version of theistic evolution?
The movie’s harmonization, called the Genesis Code, is not a secret code, but rather a framework for understanding the passage of time. It’s presentation is entertaining, but most people won’t fully understand without some knowledge of Einstein’s relativity theory.
The movie uses the physics of time dilation to argue for a billion-year age for the universe. It explains that time measurement depends on acceleration and mass. For example, an increase in mass or acceleration slows time. Therefore different frames of reference will measure time differently. The movie suggests that the six days of creation in Genesis are from God’s “cosmic” reference point, while the same thing viewed from earth would take 15.75 billion years.
The characters say repeatedly, “Genesis says created in 6 days.” But their Genesis Code harmonization is to interpret “day” as a time-dilated POT (passage of time) lasting from billions to hundreds of thousands of years. They believe in Six POTs of Creation which ends up being a version of theistic evolution, often termed progressive creation.
During the harmonization portion of the movie, the group marvels that God was able to inspire Scripture in such a way that “mankind had to evolve to its current level in order to understand the story as it was originally written.”
I disagree with the movie’s message in this area. Time dilation and the stretching of the fabric of space (Isaiah 40:22; 45:12 and 7 other verses) help explain how we see light from stars billions of light-years away even though the universe is only 6,000 years old. But it’s not a satisfactory explanation for age.
God inspired men to write the Bible to communicate His truth to mankind. He would have to use man’s frame of reference to communicate with man. Genesis is written from the reference point of earth, not from a cosmic reference point somewhere in the heavens that may have a different time scale.
During the harmonization the pastor says, “Genesis is not an easy book to understand.” I disagree. Genesis is straightforward history and is one of the easiest in the Bible to understand.
As I feared, the movie’s “reconciliation” of science and the Bible is all one-way, at the expense of literal Bible interpretation. The Genesis Code does not support creation in six literal days about 6,000 years ago. The movie accepts as indisputable fact scientists’ speculations that the universe is 15 billion years old and strives to find a way to interpret Genesis to fit this.
Near the beginning of the movie Blake says that if you can’t believe the beginning of the Bible, why believe the rest of it. This is a crucial point. If we can’t believe God’s plain words in Genesis, how can we believe other events science disputes like Noah’s Flood, Jonah’s Rescue, Virgin Birth, Resurrection?
So what do I think of the movie? Do I recommend it or not?
I give it a qualified thumbs up. While disagreeing with a major component, I still found it interesting and enjoyable. In case you’re wondering, I did not fall asleep like I do with some non-Indiana-Jones, Jane-Austen-type movies.
The movie doesn’t consider that scientism’s view of the past may be fallible. Some people will leave the movie thinking that if science and the Bible disagree about the age of the universe, then it’s the literal interpretation of the Bible that must be modified. But the plain meaning of the Genesis text is that God created everything in six normal earth days about 6,000 years ago.
I think we should stick with the plain meaning of what Yahweh said.
Soli Deo Gloria.
Supplemental Material (rebutting the movie’s thesis):
Here is a series of six cogently-argued articles defending an age for the universe of about 6,000 years and countering the thesis of the movie that the universe is 15.75 billion years old:
Age of the Earth 1 — Essentials
Age of the earth estimates are usually based on interpretations of physical evidence, not on direct observation. Interpretations are driven by worldviews. Dependable answers to age questions require eyewitness testimony. The only record of eyewitness testimony for the creation of the earth is Genesis which specifies heaven and earth were created about 6,000 years ago. A 6,000-year-old earth blows Evolutionism out of the water. This is the real reason for the relentless attacks on the Genesis genealogies.
Age of the Earth 2 — Jesus’ View
How would Jesus answer the question, “How old is the earth?” Jesus would have interpreted the genealogical and chronological texts literally and historically, just as He did with other Scriptures, and just as His contemporaries and His apostles did. Therefore Jesus would have answered the question with “Have you not read Moses and the Prophets? It’s about 4,000 years old.” Jesus believed in an age of only thousands of years for the earth — not millions or billions. It is incumbent upon those who follow Jesus as Lord to accept His view as their view and to reject fanciful interpretations which violate the literal sense of Scripture.
Age of the Earth 3 — Genealogies
Scripture is filled with chronological information. Chronology anchors Scripture solidly in real-world history and underscores its authenticity. The Genesis chronogenealogies record an unbroken line of descent from Adam to Abraham and provide a solid foundation for constructing a reliable chronology. Grammar and context support this, and numerous other Scriptures confirm it. The Genesis chronogenealogies show that Adam to Abraham covered 2,000 years.
Age of the Earth 4 — History’s View
Throughout history the great preponderance of scholarship regarding the Biblical records and the unanimous testimony of cultures worldwide is that the earth is only thousands of years old. This was also the historic teaching of the church until the ascendancy of the theory of evolution in the 19th century. The push in the last two centuries to increase the age of the earth was motivated, not by evidence, but by evolution’s requirement for long eons of time. What have scholars through the ages taught about the age of the earth?
Age of the Earth 5 — Radiometric Dating
Is it conceivable that today’s scientists are dead wrong about the age of the earth? What are radiometric dating methods? The reliability of radiometric dates hinges on the validity of three questionable assumptions. If radiometric methods are wrong for rocks of known age, why trust them for rocks of unknown age?
Age of the Earth 6 — Scientific Dating Methods
Is there positive scientific evidence supporting the Biblical timeframe of thousands of years? Hundreds of different processes have been used to estimate the age of the earth. Scientific evidences from many fields dispute evolutionary timescales but cohere with Biblical chronology. The weight of the scientific evidence is that the earth is thousands, not billions, of years old.
Here is an article showing from the Genesis text itself why the Creation Days of Genesis must be understood to be normal earth days and not long eons of time as the movie argues:
Are the Six Days of Creation Regular Days or Long Ages?
The historical record in Genesis supplies compelling reasons proving the Creation Days were regular days. Six Days is the key distinguishing characteristic of the Biblical explanation of origins.
This article explains “What is science?” and “What is its relationship to Biblical truth?“
What Does Jesus Think of Science?
Science is often confused with Scientism (faith in science as the arbiter of truth). Scientists often play bait-and-switch with Science and Scientism, claiming for Scientism the reputation and authority earned by true science. There is no conflict between Jesus and Science. He created nature and the minds that strive to penetrate its mysteries. However, the conflict between Jesus and Scientism is irreconcilable.
This article explains why the The Big Bang! is wrong from both scientific and Biblical perspectives.
The Big Bang!
“Nothing exploded into everything.” That’s the Big Bang theory in a nutshell. Nothing could be more wrong, for from nothing, nothing comes. The prevailing worldview asserts the universe popped into existence with a Big Bang 15 billion years ago. How could this be? What caused the explosion? Where did the matter and energy for it come from? How did the physical laws that governed the explosion originate? This article discusses scientific and Biblical problems with the Big Bang theory.
Click here for an AMC coupon for a $5 ticket to the movie valid till March 10, 2011.
Soli Deo Gloria.
©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:4)
Sunday February 20, 2011 A.D.
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Read my February 2011 Bible-Science column:
Where Did Cain Get His Valentine?.
It is the Lord who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom, and by His understanding He stretched out the heavens.