Young-Earth Creationism in 2021: The Dawn of The New Creationists, Part 1

In 2017 the film documentary Is Genesis History? marked a significant moment in the history of creationism evangelism.  A professional-quality production defending the young-earth interpretation of Scripture and overview of the state-of-the-art in creation science—the attempt to conform the physical evidence of creation into the Young-Earth biblical framework.

Upon its release, I wrote several reviews of this important film including my reflections on its significance to the Young-Earth community including A Landmark Film for the Young-Earth Community: Reflections on “Is Genesis History? and Mountains, Meadows and Marmots: Creation or Judgement?. In the first of those reviews I wrote the following:

“I expect this film to become one of the most effective apologetics tools the young-earth movement has ever produced both because of who produced it—a group outside of the major creationist organizations—but also because of who is not in the film—AiG president Ken Ham.  Ken Ham has become such a dominant force in the creationists’ movement that almost nothing of consequence seems to come from the movement without his fingerprints, and usually his face, all over it.  However, although Ken Ham brings more sales and attention than any other YEC leader, there is also a measure of baggage that comes with his being associated with a project.  This film includes two of his employees but their affiliations are not identified until the very end and the film makes no mention at all of Ken Ham and his Creation Museum or Ark Encounter theme park.

In contrast to Ken Ham’s combative personality, Del Tackett (chief narrator of the film though speaking the words of director/producer Thomas Purifoy) is perceived to be being far removed from the very small inner-world of big-box YEC ministries and has a level of respect because of his past projects and affiliations and so has a level of respect that Ken Ham can’t achieve. Del Tackett is the antithesis of Ken Ham in many ways.  He takes strong stances without coming off as intolerant while still clearly believing that a young-earth worldview is of critical importance.

In addition to not allowing the Ken Ham-led ministry, Answers in Genesis, to dominate the film, the choice of “experts” that Del Tackett interviews in the films represents a broad cross-section of the larger YEC community.  Several are members of the much lesser-known Logos Research Associates organization and a quarter of them (eg. Ross, Wood, Chadwick) are not employed by any of the major creationist organizations.  By including experts from multiple organizations and many that are “outside the beltway,” Purifoy (the producer of the film) has made a film that all YECs can get behind which should help it find a much wider audience than had it been produced by one organization.”

Four years later I believe my observations hold up quite well. The film didn’t just premier in theaters and then disappear to video sales and streaming services. The producers(1) had a much larger vision for how they could impact the church with respect to questions about Genesis.  They have since developed a robust web site (isgenesishistory.com) and social media presence matching the film’s title. They have produced dozens of additional videos which have been widely viewed on YouTube and through their website.  They continue to promote the film’s use in churches and many of the film’s participants continue to support its ministry.

Four years out from its release we can conclude that producers of Is Genesis History? (IGH going forward) have created a full-fledged, independent creationist ministry. Most recently, IGH has sponsored a blog called New Creation (newcreation.blog).  This blog builds upon a previous blog started by Paul Garner – one of the “new creationists” we will be talking about.  The New Creation blog has multiple contributors, including four that appeared prominently in the Is Genesis History film as well as several newer participants.  Who we do not hear from in this blog are any individuals actively employed by the primary YEC organizations: ICR, CMI or AiG. (2)

Before I explore the evolution (or revolution?) in YEC that IGH has bolstered, let’s meet these new creationists.  Below is a list of named scientists who, along with a group of undergraduate and graduate students, contributed to the New Creation blog sponsored by IGH.  I consider these the core members of what I am calling “The New Creationists” (TNCs because we need more acronyms!):

1)      Dr. Steve Austin, (Geology) PhD, from Pennsylvania State University in sedimentary geology

2)      Dr. Kurt Wise, (Paleontology)  PhD, from Harvard University, Professor of Natural History and director of the Center for Creation Research, Truett McConnell University

3)      Dr. Todd Wood, (Biochemistry), PhD in Biochemistry from University of Virginia, Director of CORE Academy of Science, 

4)      Dr. Marcus Ross, (Paleontology/geoscience), PhD in Environmental Science from the University of Rhode Island, Associate Professor of Geology and Director of the Center for Creation Studies at Liberty University

5)      Paul Garner, (Geology/ Biology) Degree in Environmental Sciences and is a Fellow of the Geological Society. Author of the book, The New Creationism

6)      Dr. Matthew McClain, (Paleontology) PhD in Earth science/paleontology from Loma Linda University, Associate Professor at The Master’s University

7)      Dr. Ken Coulson, (Geology) PhD in Earth Science from Loma Linda University, Associate, Professor of Geology at San Diego Christian College

Four of these seven played major roles in the IGH film and I will not be surprised if these, and others from this list will be participants in the follow-up film, Is Genesis History? Mountains after the Flood, currently being produced and to be released in 2022. 

Of the eleven experts brought in for the original film, only three are presently employed by any of the three YEC mega-ministries:  two from Answers in Genesis (AiG), Dr. Danny Faulkner (astronomy) and Dr. Andrew Snelling (geology), and Dr. Robert Carter (biology) from Creation Ministries International (CMI). There was no involvement on-screen of any current representative from the “grandfather of creation science”, the Institute for Creation Research (ICR).

As noted above, the film features YECs from academia more so than those who work  for the highly-visible YEC ministries full-time. This was no accident and I am now convinced that Is Genesis History? was a watershed moment for bringing to light voices that have been long overshadowed by the leaders of the Young-Earth movement and setting the stage for them to have a far greater influence on YEC going forward.  

It isn’t “youth” that I’m using to define TNCs, as individuals such as Kurt Wise have been around quite a while and are already well known.  Even the lesser known experts had been engaged with creation science for quite some time, though Is Genesis History? was their coming out party, of sorts.  This was their chance to be seen on a far greater stage than they had been seen before.  And following the film most of them have been able to expand on that new foundation through the continued marketing by Is Genesis History? and through the  literature and videos from their own ministries and newfound connections.  

A few years ago I asked the question: from where will the next generation of creationists come? 

In that article I made the following observation:  

“Returning to the question of where are the future generations of creation scientists?  I am not suggesting that there isn’t some young blood in the movement.  Answers in Genesis has hired some younger employees in the last decade some of which have fresh PhDs in scientific fields, but PhDs at AiG are mostly window dressing since most of their time is spent giving talks and writing newsletter articles rather than doing scientific research.  They filter news stories and formulate creationists responses to secular science stories, but they are rarely generating new data or doing the work of creating a positive testable scientific paradigm to replace conventional theories.”

The question wasn’t just about who will carry the torch of creation apologetics but rather who will move creation science forward as a discipline? Who will flesh out what are mostly untested hypotheses?  I couldn’t see much hope in the new batch of creation scientists who had been brought into the fold of the YEC mega-ministries, but now I am seeing some fruits of the labors of people, like the seven listed above, who have, for years along with others YECs in academia or as independent scholars, slowly been building connections, training students and tackling the hard questions in creationism with new answers and a new attitude. There work attracts those who are ready to understand Genesis beyond the binary terms of populist forms of creationism represented by the large parachurch creationist ministries.    

Why call these individuals The New Creationists?  What makes them so different?

In the next two installments I lay out what sets apart The New Creationists from the  traditional or Morris and Whitcomb-type creationists.  The seven listed above are not the only New Creationists and they are not all bound by the same convictions, but there are characteristics which set them apart from the broader creationist’ community.  As well, they constitute a growing and dynamic new wave of creationism that has the potential to transform young-earth creationism over the next decade or two.

Will these distinctions amount to real differences or just different flavors of the same thing? Or is this just splitting hairs?  An interesting aspect of the more-inclusive nature of New Creationism is that some more extreme creationists feel as though TNC are compromisers.  The very label applied to non-creationists is now being applied within.  One self-proclaimed spokesman for this cause, is an unnamed blogger and YouTuber who rails against the “slippery slope” that being inclusive presents.  Just a few minutes of this video (Can Creationists Accept Evolution?) and you can get a feel for the kickback that TNC has potentially caused.  (As a bonus, scroll back to the 13 minute mark in the video linked below, and you can also hear the presenter make remarks about me and a paper that I published last year.)

As painful as it is to watch, this blogger is not alone in his opinion–though maybe in the amount of angst–that well established creationist hard lines must be maintained and any deviation is a slippery slope that cannot be tolerated. He clearly believes that the individuals I have labeled as TNC have crossed those lines, confirming that these individuals stand in contrast to the status quo of mainstream Young-Earth Creationism.  While I find myself in theological and scientific disagreement with both traditional YECs and TNCs, I believe the TNC approach to young-earth apologetics has the ability to be far more productive. They are more likely to take seriously the evidence at hand, and, therefore, those readers who follow them are more likely to follow the evidence where it leads. This allows for the opportunity to find shared ground and fellowship in Christ despite our disagreements. 

We will explore the characteristics of TNCs and speculate about the future of young-earth creationism in our next three installments of this series on the state of YEC in the year 2021.  

Footnotes:

  1. I use the term “producers” in the broad sense. Is Genesis History? Had a single producer, Thomas Purifoy but the continued ministry is certainly the result of more than a single person though Purifoy seems to be the driving force behind it all. 
  2. I recognize that the lack of participation by YEC ministry employees could also be driven by organizational commitments. These are full-time employees and thus the content they create is first owned by their employer who may not want their employees to help competing ministries.  This is part of the problem in YEC but is by no means unique to them.  

Disclaimer:  

In this and the posts to follow, I am proposing an interpretation of the current state of Young-Earth Creationism.  It results from my extensive reading of creationist literature, following many YEC leaders and some of their fans on social media and listening to their seminary and presentations for over 20 years. This is my thesis and my framework for predicting possible future directions that young-earth creationism apologetics may take over the next decade.

Just so there is no confusion here, I am not proposing that the members of the New Creation blog are a monolithic group or a different species of creationists set wholly apart from other YECs. I am simply offering up the observation that they fit a general profile that puts them collectively into a different basket from the typical creationists of the past 40 years. 

All YECs have some connections and some common views despite their many differences.  There is no complete discontinuity among any individual or group of creationists.  The director/writer/producer of Is Genesis History? has talked about the future of creationism (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJWsG0n-9Ds ) where he emphasizes the need to work together, while acknowledging that there are many unresolved problems in creation science. He may have fostered some collaboration across diverse disciplines and between creationists from what had been different “silos” but the creation ministry that has formed since the film’s release reflects a particular approach to creation apologetics which is not universally held among all creationists.  There are identifiable subgroups or sub-baramin if you prefer within creationism even while they all operate with some shared principles. 

In the last installment of this series I will provide links to literature and websites that best represent TNCs. I will also provide a video reviewing the ideas I’ve presented here as well as reflecting upon what the next steps in this evolution of creationism may be and how those changes may unfold.

Editing kindly provided by MC
Cover shot: modified screenshot from near the end of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I will discuss the significance of the symbolism in this image in a video that will be released with part 4 of this series.

Comments

  1. Alec Armstrong says:

    Interesting read! It seems to me that some of the science that these “new creationists” are doing is pointing them closer to the conclusions of mainstream geology. For example Ken Coulson has pushed the flood boundary all the way to the Permian, due to the fact that the existence of stromatolites cannot be reconciled with a global flood. He considers pre-Permian formations to be deposited by nebulous “pre-flood catastrophism.” This seems to be very similar to Cuvier’s catastrophism. In this way, I think the levee of flood geology is breaking against the surge of geological evidence. However, my assessment might be overly optimistic.

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  2. Theodore J Lawry says:

    I really don’t understand why you include Steve Austin. Not only was he the the first US creationist PhD in geology, he was at ICR for many years. Did IGH advocate his theory that the Grand Canyon is post Flood? I know some mainstream creationists (Tim Cleary) is against it, but that hardly makes Austin “new” in any sense of the word.

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    • I was anticipating that this would be a question. I include him and at at the top of the list because that is where he is at on the Blog list of participants. So far he hasn’t actually contributed to the new blog as far as I can see so I don’t know how involved he will be. But I will say that in part III I will provide some criteria for being a “new” creationists and having particular explanations for geological and biological observations are not high up on my list of criteria. It is more about approach and attitude. All that said, I would point to my disclaimer that I’m not saying there is any clear dividing issue and everyone is a bit of a mixed bag and if one picks one specific question each of these individuals could be in a number of different places.

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  3. One thing that concerns me is that it, like so much of the literature and digital media coming out of AIG, even though it has many scientific flaws, because it comes in a slick, high “production value” package (as opposed to the often low-grade newsletters and tracks of early YEC days), it may be especially seductive to many laymen. If YECs would spend a fraction of what they do for promotional materials on serious research, they’d probably be taken more seriously by mainstream scientists. Of course, when they try to do serious research, they often end up finding out (as ICR did with their RATE project on radiometric dating) that the evidence strongly contradicts their view. But even that seldom deters them, since they then just make up far-fetched speculations or propose ad-hoc miracles to explain the data, leaving little hope that they will ever join the ranks of real scientists, or get much respect from them. As it is, despite their increasingly slick literature and videos/films, according to most polls YECism is still in decline in American and most other countries. For what it’s worth, here’s a 2017 commentary on that by ID advocate Jerry Bergman:
    https://crev.info/2017/07/is-creationism-on-the-decline-if-so-why/

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    • I should add that I don’t agree with Bergman that creationism is declining mainly due to all the bias against YECs in academia and the media. I think a larger factors include all the information available on line that supports mainstream earth history and refutes YECism, and the general decline in organized/mainline religion that has been going on for decades.

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  4. Gerhold L. Lemke says:

    I don’t mean to get ahead in this series, but this past week YouTube gave me “What Caused the Worldwide Flood of Noah’s Day?” under “Rocks and Fossils” in “Beyond Is Genesis History?” Here we see Colorado’s Dr. Buford D. (“Del”) Tackett III doing a 21-minute interview with Dr. Andrew A. Snelling (AiG) – the two of them very appropriately standing down-slope from SP Crater in Arizona’s San Francisco Volcanic Field. At 17:10, Andrew is unhappy that people opposing ReCreationism’s CPT Theory say that this is “imposing a miracle” as part of such apologetic. Andrew says (17:16) that he is arguing only for “normal physical laws operating at catastrophic rates.” But … isn’t that the miracle?

    The video shows us “Pangaea” at 3:18, supposedly God’s original, created super-continent — but please note that Andrew never actually says “Pangaea.” Pay special attention at 8:42 and 8:52, where “Africa and Europe collide with North America,” after which “the process changes again, and it opens up the Atlantic Ocean.” I went to the Internet for: snelling rodinia – where anybody can get really educated. I’d call it a miracle, when a super-continent (with not very high mountains) splits down the middle, the two sides separating far enough to charge back at each other and crash with enough force to create what’s left today along coastal USA to Greenland, and Norway to West Africa.

    Just wanting to help Del sell this, you should know that a “24-capacity hot dog roller grill” is a real thing. I need my version double-switched so that left and right rollers can spin “out” to each end, or then “in” toward the middle. Each frank represents a designated sausage-cell in Earth’s plastic mantle, 2,000 miles long and hundreds of miles thick – flexible, to account for Earth’s curvature. “Pangaea” – 20 miles thick – is a thin slab of hard cheese covering the middle sausage-cells. God tells them to rotate “out” and the cheese breaks apart in the middle. “In” sends the two parts back, crashing to create mountain crust 40 miles thick. And so on. Mostly done by Day 150. But not all.

    It’s what this video doesn’t tell you that’s so wonderful. The Pacific Plate is still sliding west, for a Hot Spot to create what’s at: instant paradise snelling. North America has to slide west with it, for a Hot Spot first of all to send volcanic ash east 1,000 miles to kill Ashfall Site rhinos in NE Nebraska. A few years later, the Hot Spot sits under NW Wyoming, and “Bible” ReCreationism gives us Yellowstone. You’d know that already. But imagine the North American Plate, moving west, opening the Mid-Atlantic Ridge so that all of Iceland, down to the ocean bottom, is a work of God maybe by the middle of a post-Flood ice age lasting either 350 (AiG) or 700 (ICR) years. GLL

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    • As others have noted, there seems to be two Andrew Snellings occupying the same body. He writes papers in conventional scientific publications implying he accepts mainstream geologic dating, and others in YEC publications arguing for YECism and a 6- 10k old earth. For more on this see:https://www.noanswersingenesis.org.au/realsnelling.htm
      He claims his YEC views do not involve miracles, but the Genesis account he evidently bases them on seems to imply otherwise. Moreover, as Gerald notes, his views fly in the face of many aspects of earth science, especially plate techtonics and mountain building, not just due to the processes involved, but especially the time factor. The idea that all those massive changes took place within the tiny YEC timeframe cannot be reconciled with any known geologic processes and rates, and even one proposes miracles to account for them (as ICR did to explain radiometric dating in their RATE project report), more miracles would be needed to deal with the massive heat such rapid continental movements and rapidly crashing together would generate.

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  5. Interesting post; looking forward to the rest.
    just some remarks:
    The link: http://isgnenssishistory.com/ is spelled wrong (twice, I think)
    Purifoy is called Pulfroy in one place.

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  6. Gerhold L. Lemke says:

    To finish what I wrote above, look again at: snelling rodinia. Right at the start, this AiG page cites 2 Peter 3:6 as a Bible witness to what Andrew is selling. He and Del do it again at 19:14 in this latest video. It should make your blood boil. 2 Peter 3:6 & 7b reference the destruction of ungodly people. “World” is the Greek “kosmos,” as in 2 Peter 2:5 & 20, and John 3:16. You find “earth” – the Greek “ge” for “geology” in 2 Peter 3:5 & 7b, another “matching pair” as in the Psalms. I shouldn’t have to be a 1970 graduate of a conservative Lutheran seminary, to tell you this.

    You also want to look up: Central Pangea Mountains. This has to do with the old ReCreationist claim that – given lots & lots of water, everything could just happen “naturally.” Not so, if God had to rotate great sausage-cells under the original “Pangaea” to create the hard anthracite of eastern PA from vegetation supposedly buried early in this story. Somebody should ask Del and Andy how, if mantle material was suddenly maybe 10,000 times more “liquid” (for old, cold plates to dive down), the sausage-cells could get any traction along the bottom of Pangea, to do anything!

    You know “holy baloney.” Very recently, after seeing this video, “W-W W.E.B.” popped to mind. Given the reach of ReCreationism from Australia to the U.K., that’s for “WorldWide Wholly Elastic Baloney,” as when we say that someone’s story is “a long stretch.” Elastic enough that anything such as CPT Theory can be argued on an Ad Hoc basis – as also the sudden “diversification” of a multitude of species from a few Ark “kinds.” Might there be an undiscovered sub-clavian-shunt nerve connection linking excessive arm-waving with restriction of red blood to the brain? GLL

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  7. Gerhold L. Lemke says:

    You can look up: Tackett soli deo gloria. Currently, Del is a busy man, with people helping him. You see where his Christian faith – his heart – is in the right place for America. I read through his 11-11-16 essay, “When Infants Invade Adult Bodies.” Who can argue? The future of America isn’t looking good. All the more reason to “Test everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), and “hold on to what’s good.” So let’s all take a good lick at being “salt of the earth” – mindful of non-salt sediments that could often come with it in Bible times. (And: Please change my second “7b” to “7a” – above.) GLL

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