I attended the Thursday evening premiere of the heavily promoted musical production held at the large Crystal Cathedral (Garden Grove, California, USA, pastored by the well-known television preacher, Robert Schuller) Creation: Once Upon All Time. It is a beautifully orchestrated, breathtakingly performed extravaganza … of old earth creationism, theistic evolution and beautiful if bewildering theatrics.
Blending computer-generated imagery (CGI) on a massive 200-foot screen, with a spectrum of swirling lights, live actors, giant puppets, troupes of dancers and vocalists, a circus-load of aerialists, and such audience-immersing special effects as wind, mist and thematic aromas, Once Upon All Time aims to inspire people of all faiths and skeptics, too, with its fanciful version of the creation of the universe.
Set-up of the story
While fishing from a rowboat, a boy named Michael expresses his interest in science, and asks his grandfather to tell him a story. The grandfather begins. It is a story about creation.
God gets a new name in Once Upon All Time. He is called “The Presence,” and is represented first by a blue-lit cloud of stage fog, later by an enormous blue sheet that descends to the stage as a tubular curtain. Only Lucifer calls this Being “Deity.” When Michael asks why the Presence is referred to with personal pronouns like “he” and “him,” Grandpa answers, “Because it’s my story!”
Stars and galaxies appear in Scenes 2 and 3 of Act 1, while the earth does not appear until Scene 4. This directly conflicts with Genesis 1:1-4, where the earth is created on Day 1, and the sun, moon and stars on Day 4.
In Scenes 2-4, billions of years are implied in the visual homage paid to the big bang and to a molten earth that eventually cools over a long period to support life. This long-age view of the universe conflicts with the six 24-hour periods of creation described in Genesis 1, and confirmed in Exodus 20:11 (KJV):
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, wherefore the LORD blessed the seventh day and hollowed it.
Furthermore, the big bang is expressly taught against in Genesis 1, where we are told that the sun was created after the earth (the big bang model has the sun first).1
In Scene 7, Creation portrays death before Adam’s sin, another anti-biblical teaching. In this scene, a Tyrannosaurus rex collapses and an elephant “evolves” from its corpse. As the AiG website often declares, such animal death before Adam conflicts with Scripture.
Like so many in the church who compromise regarding the book of Genesis, writer/producer/director Carol Schuller Milner (daughter of the church’s pastor) sadly forces long-ages, evolutionary thinking into Genesis 1—like stuffing a stepsister’s big ugly foot into Cinderella’s glass slipper. It doesn’t fit. It won’t fit. It cannot fit. The two are mutually incompatible.
And yet, Milner tried. Indeed, the program handout says, “What took God seven days and nature millions of years to create, has taken Carol 13 years to theatrically represent” (emphasis ours).
Beautiful if bewildering theatrics
The stage and air are often filled with beings in leafy variegated gowns and tunics who dance on stage or perform stunning aerial ballets. A cluster of robed chanters appears from time to time—one only wonders who or what they represent!
Most bizarre, there is not one Adam. There are two, one dancing or pantomiming while the other sings. Likewise, there is not one Eve. There are two. Strange … very strange.
Playwright Milner has recounted a vivid dream she had after working intensely with her science consultant, physicist Dr. Michael Guillen, trying to reconcile faith and science. A press release relates the story:
“I was peering into a keyhole, looking in on the other side. It took my breath away.” It was through her dream that Milner realized that her quest to find the answer [to reconciling faith and science] wasn’t likely, adding: “I believe we have permission not to know.”
But we do know. The Creator presented the Answers … in Genesis.