Roadmap Genesis documentary: What is the meaning of Genesis for today?



Published: 29 October 2015 (GMT+10)

Many times, people seek a ‘magic bullet’ to help them solve problems, whether it’s with their family, or with perceived cultural problems. And when someone claims to have a solution, it’s not surprising that many people want to hear what it is and gravitate to us.

Roadmap Genesis claims that the book of Genesis has the key to help fix our economy, culture, and families. In a time where many people feel uncertain about the future, this is a ‘feel-good’ message. The director, Nolan Lebovitz, a Jewish rabbi, interviewed people from a range of religious views for their take on the applicability of Genesis for today. In many ways, it is eye-opening, if only to see what happens when people from other perspectives interpret Genesis.

When Genesis isn’t actual history

For many of the interviewees, Genesis seemed to be full of great ‘stories’ with good morals for people to apply today, but didn’t see Genesis as actual history (with one notable exception, discussed below!). Unmoored from the history of the text, some of the ‘experts’ come up with baffling interpretations. One opines that perhaps the lesson of Sodom isn’t its sin, but that no one righteous stood up to be counted! (The text indicates clearly that Lot was the only righteous man in Sodom, because all the rest, “down to the last man” were lining up to rape the angels! Genesis 19:4). Another claimed that at Babel God blessed the world with “the gift of differentness”; a perspective that one certainly does not find in Scripture.

The problem is that the same sort of acontextual, ahistorical reading of Genesis could inspire truly horrifying ideas. For instance, one could say that because Canaan was cursed, we can be racist against those who are deemed to be his descendants (see our refutation of essentially that idea). Or we could say that because God killed all the animals worldwide except those in the Ark, that we can wantonly slaughter and not care about the environment (after all, the global Flood was an environmental disaster far larger than any oil spill ever was!). Of course such views would be unbiblical, but if Genesis doesn’t mean what it says, then anything in Scripture can be squished to fit whatever we want it to mean. Only if Scripture has an objective meaning that isn’t subject to one’s personal interpretation can we guard against racist and other flawed interpretations of Scripture.

While evolution was not a focus in the documentary, it came up a few times. During one of his ‘people on the street’ interviews, one young woman stated that she didn’t think Genesis was relevant because she believed in evolution. The director responded, “And you can’t believe in evolution and the morals of Genesis at the same time?” The young woman responded, “I don’t think so.” In fact, the young woman was actually being consistent, because the morals taught in Genesis are dependent on the history taught in Genesis. A few people were clearly biblical creationists but didn’t get a chance to explain much about why.

When God is not the main character of Genesis

The interpretations featured in Roadmap Genesis were centered on human activity, human initiative, which fit well with what they were trying to achieve in the documentary. However, God is properly seen as the main ‘character’ in Genesis: “In the beginning, God…”! God is the one who creates the world, and promises a future Saviour when Adam sins. God is the one who judges mankind’s sin in the global Flood and the Tower of Babel accounts. God is the one who calls Abraham and Sarah out to the Promised Land and allows Sarah to conceive in her old age. God is the one who protects the small family who will become as numerous as the sands of the seashore. God is the one who promises, the one who saves, and the one who is sovereign over the whole storyline. Yes, the human actors are important, and we can learn from them. But we must learn about them in the context of their relationship to the Creator and the grander picture of the Gospel that Scripture’s history leads to.

When Scripture is not allowed to interpret Genesis

The director is Jewish, so he does not accept the New Testament as Scripture. While that is a flaw, there are plenty of Old Testament passages that aid in the interpretation of Genesis (see Yahweh the Creator God of Israel and The Use of Genesis in the Old Testament for an overview). If, rather than reading a particular text and then flying off on whatever interpretive spin felt good, the interviewees looked more at how Genesis is used and referenced in the rest of Scripture, some of the more bizarre interpretations featured in the film would have been avoided.

Genesis is history!

A welcome respite from the more liberal views represented in the film came when creationist Ken Ham was interviewed. He gave a clear outline of the historicity of Genesis and its importance to our faith, which was an impressive feat for the small amount of airtime he was given. “Genesis is the history that God has revealed to us concerning who we are, where we came from, that is actually the history that’s foundational to every biblical doctrine, foundational to the whole of the rest of the Bible.” Hopefully viewers of the film will see the contrast between the ‘squishy’ interpretation of the other interviewees and the clear historical presentation. Unfortunately, he seemed to be the only ‘expert interviewee’ who held a biblical view of creation and Scripture.

When Genesis doesn’t point to the Gospel

For Christians, Genesis points to the need for a Saviour. Creation fell because Adam sinned, and that’s why we die. We can’t save ourselves, so we need God to save us, and that’s why Jesus died for our sins, so that we can have a relationship with God and live with Him forever on the restored New Earth.

But the message presented in Roadmap Genesis is that Genesis will help us to do lots of things for ourselves—to reboot our economy, to become more family-oriented, to clean up the beaches (really!). But if it is not truth, that is if there is no real basis in history, and just a nice collection of stories, how does it have any authority to lead us to a better economy or whatever?

There is no Gospel, there is no salvation, there is only ‘pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps’. (To be fair, it is entirely possible that some of the Christian interviewees talked about the Gospel in their interviews, and that those portions were excluded in the editing process.)

So what is the message of Genesis?

If there is anything the movie should have gleaned from Genesis it was that its history that God created a very good world, and He created humankind to be His image-bearers and the stewards of creation. We were supposed to have the most special relationship with Him and with His creation, but Adam, and we, messed up and we’ve been failing ever since. When we look at the world today we should be reminded how far it, and we, have fallen. Genesis provides the reason why we all die (hence the “and he died” refrain in Genesis 5 and 11) because we all sin.

But the generations that followed longed for the offspring who will crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15), who will “bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands” (Genesis 5:29), and through whom “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).

Jesus is the true fulfillment of those promises, and we can only understand Genesis properly if we see it pointing to Him and to salvation from the sin and death that Adam introduced. We look forward to His coming again when He will restore creation and we will live forever with Him (Revelation 21–22).

Genesis of course has good things to say about stewardship of the environment, race relations, and many other topics. But we can only correctly interpret those passages if we get the foundational and most important point right—the Gospel. Sadly, another movie that reinterprets Genesis will only encourage more of the same. These are the very notions that ministries like CMI oppose.

Helpful Resources

The Genesis Account
by Jonathan Sarfati
US $35.00
Refuting Compromise, updated & expanded
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $15.00
From Creation to Salvation
by Lita Cosner
US $12.00

Readers’ comments

Lawrence J.
Some of the ideas proposed remind me of Jer 6:10(NIV) To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it. Thank-you CMI for your faithfulness to God's word.
Lawrence J.
Some of the ideas proposed remind me of Jer 6:10(NIV) To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.
Steve S.
I have learned that if one doesn't take the Bible plainly, consistently, using exegesis, reading out of the text and discovering what it has to say, while applying logical hermeneutics, like Scripture interprets Scripture, the author's style and cultural setting, it will always lead to lots of error. This applies for the whole Bible: creation, theology, and eschatology.
Adrian R.
The fact is that the writer of Genesis ( I personally believe it to be written by the same person that wrote the book of Joshua just after his death) qualifies the meaning of a day in verse 14 of Genesis chapter 1. Unless the stars were visible even during the day for millions of years, and the night also being millions of years!!! Btw a year is also mentioned in the same verse. Clearly the writer understood what length of time a day was and also "year" bearing in mind it was written after the flood "seasons" are also mentioned.
Egil W.
Relevant review! Some of the most dangerous attacks on Scripture has come from within theology, not just from sceptics/critics. Liberal theology of the 18th and 19th century had 'biblical criticism' as their highest authority (as they believed; 'human reason'). But post-modern relativism and perspectivism seems now to fill in the longing for unity that is created by the many opinions and equally many disagreements among critical scholars. From ditch to ditch. From the point of view of the Enemy, getting people away from the quite easy and often straightforward meanings in the Bible, is important in order to have the flock divided. Because he knows the Word is our Sword. (Ephesians 6,17) And he doesnt like it when Christians keep their swords sharp...
If all Christians would just set aside all human opinion, and read through the Bible verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, from start to finish, saying yes and amen in our hearts all the way, having an accepting and yielding attitude to that which is our only reason to claim any special Divine revelation, we would be able to gain much greater unity. At least, we should see to that we let not non-believers have any spiritual authority in our lives and hearts and minds. For Christ Jesus, is our Teacher to Righteousness. And if God is God, He surely can communicate, He Whos Son is called The Logos... His words are plain to those who understand, and right to them that find knowledge. But if we don't read it, hear it, study it, (not to read into it, our own opinions, but tomread out of it to learn), any claim of can pass as equally sound. Ignorance of the Scripture is lethal. If language has meaning, Scripture interprets Scripture. If it is what it claims, we read God's own opinion. We should bow in awe.
Jason H.
The battle for the truth often times comes down to the interpretation of scripture. And it’s our view of interpretation that often times becomes the battle ground. The hermeneutic used is at the center of how one understands the Bible, or doesn’t. For the Christian using a literal historical hermeneutic is key and this combined with the ministry of the Holy Spirit, laboring in the Word of God, and much fervent prayer among other things gives us meaning and understanding of the living Word of God. How then can we ever expect the unbelieving world to ever “interpret” scripture correctly?
1 Corinthians 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
The battle needs to be brought to the front lines where the Gospel of our dear Lord can be used to address the issues of life, whether they be same sex marriage, abortion, evolution, or anything else that contradicts a clear view of scripture. What’s amazing is that salvation comes by hearing that same Word.
1 Peter 1:23 23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Unsaved man either gets it wrong as shown by this article or just plan thinks it foolish. Thank you CMI for being faithful to the Word of God and using it on the frontlines of the evolution debate to bring the Gospel of Christ to the unsaved world.
Jack L.
Genesis is my favorite part of the Bible. I truly believe it is real history and the Word of God. It does explain sin and death, which are critical to an accurate world view.

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