Genesis: Paradise Lost. A brief review of the film

It took such a long time for my DVD of this film to arrive from America, it was a surprise it arrived at all. But between the hype and my expectations, finally seeing this film, which expresses a variety of more or less creationist views from people of faith who work and teach in science, was a bit of an anticlimax.

The so-called “animations” of creation and natural scenes were good and some meaningful points were made as regards certain unquestioned assumptions and prejudices of scientists; but overall the film with its slow start and slow reading of Genesis1 and then almost too fast for average absorption claims, made the kind of mistakes I had hoped it might be able to avoid.

It has to be understood, and thoughtful Christians like C.S.Lewis writing about science (as in The Magician’s Twin)  have understood, that there are two layers to any arguments about creation, design and the Creator. There is a basically philosophical argument about truth and whether or not the record indicates scientists have some unstated prejudices and are fudging the facts and then there are the more purely faith and spirituality related questions because what you believe about nature and God can colour your entire outlook on life.

It seems undeniable a lot of the creation/evolution dispute begins with Charles Lyell who aimed to dethrone Moses via a doctrine influencing Darwin of Uniformitarianism in nature applied to geology. He proposed  although it’s questionable, not completely provable and challenged by problems with carbon dating, that change follows the same rate always and everywhere and that change is super slow.

But to the extent there are challenging facts and untold stories, then these facts, which should be heard, can and will largely speak for themselves. They must be allowed to prompt, as they will do, questions which  lead into the realms of religious and metaphysical meaning. And in work lthis film undertakes, one disc (the main film) should have kept solely to the facts and the other two discs to discussion of related religious issues.

If however you mix throughout the  legitimate fact-based arguments with an emotional faith-linked one like suggesting persons who question the bible’s plain words on creation are rebels against God and/or lost, even if that were true and could be proved, you compromise credibility as regards your objectivity with the more verifiable facts. Especially so as, regardless of your precise beliefs, you still need to recognize that the bible you cite as authority, no matter how true, is still not a full blown science text book but often closer to poetry….

I was accordingly appalled to hear someone express the opinion that one must accept the Genesis account of creation literally because it is written in prose, not poetry and is therefore “history’. It shouldn’t need to be stated that a lot of poetry, even from Shakespeare, is precisely exalted prose, while the bible offers so many variations on a symbolic theme (like Daniel’s weeks of years) and Jesus states there are twelve hours in a day, that it is and always was seriously stretching things to insist that a Genesis day has to mean twenty four hours only.

What a lot of the bible does in its more poetic,  literary and symbol- ladem sections, is point towards facts, ideas and situations. A lot of it could reasonably be called generalization to be understood and accepted as such. A good example would be some writings of St Paul (who gets cited along with Genesis). Because how much beyond generalization can and should one accept St Paul even on religion?

A prime example of a statement one one could question but which is cited as absolute by some creationists, is the apostle’s reference in Romans 1:20,21 to the supposed existence for a universal conscience and a kind of inborn knowledge of God. Its  existence Paul believes leaves people “without excuse’”

The apostle’s assumption is, as it happens, the grounds some creationists have to condemn those who do not believe what they say. But while we can accept the reality of  a universal conscience,  the evidence frankly  does not exist, or else is very mixed and  weak, for any kind of universal knowledge/awareness of God. You can read Christian conversion stories where the person might say something to the effect they always had their doubts about their version of Asian Buddhism and suspected there was something more that they weren’t hearing; but others, from godless places like North Korea, can report being astonished to hear of any notion of God and creator. Such ideas had never crossed their minds. So at most one could speak of a universal capacity to accept belief in a deity, not Paul’s universal awareness.

Paul who himself admits we “see through a glass darkly” surely only generalizes and points to what is a sort of truth in this case. His idea of a universal awareness of a single deity might actually have owed something to Cicero on the subject of religion. Anyway, Paul was a man of his times and his problematic view of homosexuality, also in the questionable rhetoric of Romans 1, likewise shows some affinity for opinions and understandings of his time re sex plus some awareness of the advanced decadence of Roman imperial society, which had no notion of sexual orientation but did practice recreational bisexuality. If we take Paul to the letter on “homosexuality” (which creationists tend to do, linking defence of creation to opposition to gay rights and a variety of issues so that creationism becomes almost political), we stand to be misled and limited in outlook. Sometimes truth exists in grey areas we must see and respect. Jesus is self–described as Truth while the bible is by contrast “true” because it points to him and the Creator. Other ideas of truth risk becoming unhelpful bibliolatry.

I don’t consider Paradise Lost a completely lost wreck of a project. It includes some things that need to be said and known, but it was wrong and fails to the extent among the more scientific experts it brought in persons, evangelists, like Ray Comfort whom I had criticized in a previous article (Another Side to the Creation/Evolution Debate https://wp.me/p2v96G-10p ) because their views belong to another order than the main one the film is supposed to address.

If you are an American by birth or like Comfort by adoption, then your familiarity with a type of evangelical extravagance might be more accepting of the hybrid this film is; but I think others might be less easy with it and even a little confused. A bold effort, almost daring in today’s religiously dismissive atmosphere,  but half marks only.

For my own and poetic treatment of the creation/evolution debate, see the mini-epic Raphael and Lucifer at https://goo.gl/Xqd5BF

Also on the universality and otherwise of beliefs in God see  The Great Circle: Asia, David and God Consciousness  https://goo.gl/ZHYQPw

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