This beautifully produced documentary navigates the difficult ground of the creation-evolution debate graciously, honestly and with rigour. It was produced by Highway Media in partnership with BioLogos and Director Ryan Pettey, and is accompanied by a small group study guide.
BioLogos was founded by Francis Collins, the former Director of the Human Genome Project, as ‘a community of evangelical Christians committed to exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith’. From the Dust is their latest initiative to help people, particularly US-based Evangelical Christians, to gain a fresh perspective on the science-faith dialogue.
The message of From the Dust is that it is possible to be a sincere Bible-believing Christian and accept what we know through science, particularly evolutionary biology. The approach used is to show both sides of the argument, interviewing representatives of different points of view, before coming down firmly on the part of theologians and scientists who see no clash between faith and evolution. In this feature-length documentary, Pettey and his collaborators have combined authoritative interviews with scholars, pastors and teachers with creative visuals and music to produce something that is eminently watchable and should promote helpful discussion among many, both in and outside of the church.
The documentary is divided into four roughly 15 minute sections. ‘Faith and Science’ introduces the debate. Interviews with Dr Ard Louis (Oxford), theologians NT Wright and Alister McGrath, Revd Dr John Polkinghorne (Cambridge), Dr Nancey Murphy (Fuller), Dr Jeff Schloss (Westmont) and apologist Michael Ramsden (Oxford) show where the controversy has come from and the effect it’s having on our culture. Representatives from Answers in Genesis (Dr Terry Mortensen & Dr Jason Lisle) and Canopy Ministries (Dr James Denton, James Gardner & Dr Clay Brinson) explain the Young Earth Creationist point of view. We are also introduced to Dr Rick Colling who was Chair of the Biological Sciences department at Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois until he wrote a book on evolution and Christian faith that proved too controversial for his employers. We see that young people can be torn between different ‘camps’ in this debate, affecting their faith, their education and their future careers.
Part two, ‘Divinely Inspired’, covers the interpretation of the Bible. The theologians we met in part 1 are joined by biblical scholars Dr John Walton (Wheaton), Dr Karen Strand Winslow (Point Loma) and Dr Peter Enns (Westminster), who share some helpful principles for understanding the Bible and the culture of its early audiences. NT Wright and John Walton then explain how we can interpret the Bible in a way that is faithful to its original meaning.
In part three, ‘The Conversation’, Point Loma biology professor Dr April Maskiewicz shares some of her experiences in teaching evolution to Christian students, and we see some of their discussions in the classroom. The theologians and biblical scholars, including Revd Dr David Wenham (Trinity College Bristol), Revd Dr Michael Lloyd and Dr Chris Tilling (both at St Paul’s Theological Centre), are joined by Rabbi Steve Cohen to explain how our search for certainty can lead to unhelpful ways of thinking. We also hear some more of Rick Colling’s story, and the Young Earth Creationist response to the BioLogos view (otherwise known as Theistic Evolution or Evolutionary Creationism).
The final part of the documentary, ‘Truly Human’, focuses on our uniqueness as human beings, and our relationship with God. Does accepting the idea of an unfolding world affect how we relate to God? How can we remain humble about what we know, rise to the challenges that difficult questions bring, and work out our lives in the world?
This material is a helpful introduction to the creation-evolution dialogue, and will provide balance to any discussion of science and faith.
Highway Media/BioLogos, 2012