Peter Hess's picture

Genesis 3D: "Let there be lights, camera, action!"

You may have run across the trailer for the Genesis 3D movie, a forthcoming cinematic piece produced by, among others, young earth creationist Eric Hovind, son of Kent “Dr. Dino” Hovind (currently serving prison time on tax charges).  The movie will be “a depiction of the Bible’s creation account so life-like, so real…you could actually believe it.”  Never mind that “belief” is not the issue for scientists–science does not base its acceptance of an idea about origins on how cool or believable a film looks, but rather on how coherently it explains the data in question.

The bit of video I saw is not so much a trailer as it is a teaser with endorsements by Ken Ham, director of the creationist organization Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum in Kentucky, and others. Genesis 3D is a technologically ambitious project from Sevenfold Films and Creation Today, and promises to be “the first, 3D, Christian movie about the very beginning of the Bible.” The film is currently in development and still in search of funding (there are crowd-funding events going on this month to help support it).

Ham talks rapidly and excitedly, throwing out a flood of rhetorical questions he hopes will be answered by this film:

How do we know the Bible is true?

How could the flood have been real?

Noah couldn’t really have fit all the animals on the ark, could he?

Where did Cain find his wife?

Where did the races of people come from?

Don't dinosaurs disprove the biblical account?

Doesn’t carbon 14 disprove the bible?

Ham’s basic point is that Genesis 3D promises to answer these skeptical questions that cause people to doubt the historical and scientific reliability of the Bible. Eric Hovind echoes the theme that people cannot come to the gospel until they can accept that the Old Testament foundation is scientifically and historically true. He argues that he can make a greater impact through American’s 6,000 movie theaters than he can through its 350,000 churches, and Hovind is confident his team can achieve this by “matching cutting edge science with the unchanging truth of God’s word.”

From a scientific angle a film about Genesis as literal history merits no comment by me. I want to address a grave deficiency on another front: Genesis 3D reveals the makers to be as ignorant of the history of biblical theology as they are of science.

Mainstream Jewish and Christian scholars agree that the Hebrew religious experience began not with Genesis but with Exodus: the experience of God delivering the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt, further revealing Godself at Sinai, and ultimately leading them to the Promised Land. Historical and archaeological perspectives on the experiences of various proto-Jewish tribes in Egypt or in the Sinai Desert vary. However, in the collective consciousness of 6th century BCE Israel their identity as a people was forged through the foundational experience of God leading Israel into an unknown future under divine protection, chastisement, and guidance.

Parts of Genesis, of course, play key roles, particularly God’s election and calling of Abraham. But where biblical literalists part ways with mainline churches is in their insistence on the Genesis narrative as a literal account written down by Moses to serve as foundation for everything else in the Pentateuch.

In contrast, biblical scholars recognize that Genesis is composed from a variety of sources in different styles, and committed to print at various periods in Jewish history. In the final sixth century redaction Genesis serves as prologue to the story of Exodus and the settlement of the “promised land.” But the many themes in Genesis are also intricately bound up with the compositional history of the Pentateuch, the historical literature, the psalms, wisdom literature and the prophetic traditions.

If the makers of Genesis 3D come up with a production budget, I look forward to seeing what they can do with special effects in portraying creation ex nihilo and Noah’s Flood. The one lion I saw looked like a badly assembled plush toy (if you want a decent computer generated lion, look for it in Walt Disney’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with making this film any more than there was with making Steve Carrell’s funny Evan Almighty or a 3-D film about blue-skinned aliens with nippleless breasts as seen in Avatar.  But take Genesis 3D as high entertainment only, certainly not as scientific or theological education.