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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.