Young-earth and Old-earth Views on the Impact of Adam’s Fall

My previous two posts surveyed the answers given by evangelicals to two questions: 1) did animal death exist before the fall of Adam and Eve?, and 2) what was the impact of Adam’s fall on the rest of Creation? This post will look more closely at two answers provided for the second question—namely, those given by young-earth creationists (YEC) and by old-earth creationists (OEC).40 questions creation evolution

Young-earth Creationists (YEC): Adam’s Fall Introduced Death and Corruption
When Adam was cursed, all Creation was cursed with him. This is the position universally held by YEC proponents. They perceive the original sin as producing three effects: all animals were placed under a curse, the environment became hostile, and humans were cursed with spiritual and physical death.

First, YEC advocates argue that the curse placed upon the serpent (Gen 3:14-15) was applied to all animals. Passages such as Rom 5, Rom 8, and 1 Cor 15 teach that Adam’s sin affected all Creation. This means that all creatures, prior to the Fall, were vegetarian (Gen 1:29-30). This would include animals that presently are predators or parasites. They contend that all predators were originally intended to be vegetarian.

Second, the environment became hostile, as illustrated by the biblical text with the introduction of thorns and thistles (Gen 3:18). Earlier YEC proponents, such as Whitcomb and Morris, equated the second law of thermodynamics with the Curse. The second law, or entropy, is the principle that all things run down or tend to disorder. In practical terms, this means that things left to themselves fall apart. However, evidences of entropy—such as rivers (Gen 2:10-14)—existed prior to the Fall, so the view has few advocates today. Current YEC proponents suggest a number of means by which the world became cruel and adversarial. Perhaps certain natural laws were altered or removed. Some imperfections could be the result of changes in habitat or behavior. Biological effects could be the result of genetic alterations (which might be a significant contributor to the declining life spans recorded in Gen 4). They also suggest that God created all life forms with latent mechanisms which kicked in when the Fall occurred.

The third effect of the Curse was that humans were subjected to death (Gen 2:17; 3:19). Adam and Eve, and all their descendants, are condemned to physically die. The evils of “death, disease, struggle for survival, poison, thorns, and carnivory” were the consequence of the original sin.

Old-earth Creationists (OEC): Adam’s Fall Changed the Nature of Death

OEC proponents generally challenge the YEC position with three criticisms. First, they argue that, concerning the Rom 5, Rom 8, and 1 Cor 15 passages, Paul teaches that Adam’s sin affected all humanity—not all creation. Second, some OEC adherents contend that YEC advocates fail to appreciate the eternal nature of God’s ultimate plan. However, the third and main critique OEC advocates make against the YEC position is that it seems to turn the Fall into a second creation. So, from the OEC perspective, what effect did the Fall have on Creation?

The first person affected by the curse was Satan (Gen 3:14-15). Though God addressed the serpent, he was directly speaking to the spirit who inhabited the snake—Lucifer. The language of humiliation is used: he would be forced to crawl, eat dust, and be crushed under foot. These are all signs of defeat and dishonor. The curse did not apply to the serpent or to animal life as a whole. Instead it applied to Satan. Nor does the biblical account teach that the snake lost it legs in the Fall. The snake was already legless. Rather, like the rainbow (Gen 9:12-16), a preexisting thing took on new significance.

Second, the curse affected Eve. She would experience increased pain in childbirth (“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” Gen 3:16a ESV. Incidentally, since her pain is said to be increased this indicates that pain was already present). In addition, her relationship to her husband would be distorted (Gen 3:16b).

The third person affected was Adam. He had been given the task of managing the earth. Now the task becomes difficult (Gen 3:17-19a). The text speaks of God cursing the ground. God does not address the ground directly, because it was not directly cursed. It was indirectly cursed in the sense that the man who was given stewardship over the earth had been cursed. Adam is sentenced to death (Gen 3:19b). God had warned that the penalty for disobedience was death (Gen 2:17), and now the punishment was meted out upon him and his posterity (Rom 5:12). OEC proponent David Snoke argues, “Animals do not have eternity in their hearts. Is it therefore a great evil if they die? The Bible does not say it is evil if the animals die; it says it is a great evil if people die like animals.” Adam is expelled from the Garden, and he no longer has it as his command center. The nature of the earth did not change, nor the task itself. What changed was Adam’s ability to perform the task. OEC proponents argue that the curse changed Adam.

The next post will focus on two additional views: those who hold to Adam’s fall as a cosmic-federal event, and those who hold to evolutionary creationism. (Adapted from 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution)

This blog is cross-posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

Was There Animal Death Before the Fall?

The creation account of Gen 1 ends with the declaration, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31 ESV). The key issue boils down to what is meant by the expression “very good.” Old-earth creationists and young-earth creationists agree that this is the issue about which they have the most disagreement. More than the proper interpretation of Gen 1-3, the age of the earth, or even the theory of evolution, this is the question that stands above all others: Did animals die before Adam and Eve fell in the Garden?

The fossil record presents us with a troubling past. It reveals a history of predation, disease, and intrinsic selfishness. The problem of immense suffering in the natural world was not lost on Darwin. In a letter to J. D. Hooker he observed, “What a book a Devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low & horridly cruel works of nature!” Later Darwinists echo his opinion. David Hull asks, “What kind of God [would create the] Galapagos Islands?…The God of the Galapagos is careless, wasteful, indifferent, almost diabolical. He is certainly not the sort of God to whom anyone would be inclined to pray.” They see the tragic history of the fossil record as difficult to reconcile with the Christian understanding of the benevolent nature of God.

So, was there animal death before the Fall? Various Christians hold to four different views: one that answers “no” and three that say “yes.”40 questions creation evolution

Answer One: No—There Was No Animal Death Prior to the Fall. Arguing for the first view, Kurt Wise and Ken Ham contend that no creatures, including insects and bacteria, experienced death before Adam’s fall. For them and other young-earth proponents, the question of animal death goes to the very heart of the authority of Scripture and the nature of God.

Answer Two: Yes—But Animal Death Was Still Caused by Adam. William Dembski presents a second view. He makes the interesting argument that, though animal death predated the events of Gen 3, their deaths still are the outcome of Adam’s sin. Adam’s fall, like Jesus’ atonement, was a cosmic event, and as such had retroactive effects.

Answer Three: Yes—Animal Death Was Caused by Satan. Still others, such as C.S. Lewis and Charles Foster give a third view. They suggest that natural evil came about with the arrival of the first evildoer—Lucifer. Satan committed the initial moral evil when he rebelled against God sometime in the primeval past, and in so doing brought about natural evil. Therefore, suffering and death existed before Adam and Eve arrived on the scene.

Answer Four: Yes—Animal Death Was Caused by God. Finally, some such as Hugh Ross, David Snoke and Mark Whorton, say that animals died before Adam’s fall, but they do not hesitate to attribute the cause of death to God. They argue that the nature and purpose of death changed when Adam and Eve rebelled.

Personally, I find myself leaning towards the third answer—that Lucifer’s rebellion was a cosmic event, and it had cosmic effects. We need to remember that Adam joined a rebellion that was already underway. In addition, the biblical record seems to indicate that the Garden was a special place, unlike the rest of the world. If animal death existed prior the fall of the original couple, then this might explain the necessity of the Garden. This would also shed light on God’s mandate to Adam and Eve that they were to make the rest of the world look like Eden. Unfortunately, they failed their mission miserably. Thank God for the Second Adam, Who succeeded where the first Adam did not (1 Cor 15:22, 45)!

(Adapted from 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution)

This blog is cross-posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

Book Notice: “Ordinary” by Tony Merida

Ordinary picYou, Christian, have been redeemed, reconciled, and renewed to change the world. You, Christian, must conquer your family, neighborhood, workplace, and even the world for the Kingdom. You must be radical, extreme, on the edge, extraordinary. Or not.

Tony Merida, Associate Professor of Preaching at Southeastern and Pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC, thinks that Christians are called to be extraordinary. That’s right, Christians are called to live ordinary lives for the King who created and saved them. But ordinary living as a Christian in this world means the world may well be turned upside down. Thus, Tony wrote the book, Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down (B&H).

In Ordinary, Tony displays the concern God has for the ordinary, or especially the outcasts, of the world. God, he claims, is a God of justice, one whose heart beats for the poor such that he became a poor man, Jesus Christ, and died a rejected criminal. The Bible is replete with evidence that God cares for the poor, orphans, widows, and other outcasts. This truth struck Tony earlier in his life and it has griped him ever since. His family tries to live out a PEACE plan that incorporates evangelism and social justice into a seamless whole. He is a good teacher and model for us on this way of integrated living before God and people.

So Tony wrote Ordinary in order to “identify some ‘ordinary things’ that ordinary people like us can do, and if we do them with gospel intentionality (speaking and showing the gospel), then we can make an extraordinary impact.” (p. 9) The introduction addresses the Bible’s testimony on the gospel-social justice nexus and the tendency we evangelical Christians have to sensationalize everything we do in the name of Jesus. The book then unfolds in five concise, easy-to-read chapters that address the key topics of ordinary living as a Christian: neighbor love, hospitality, orphan care, advocacy for the voiceless, and humility. In the conclusion, Tony exhorts us to take up this way of life, which is consistent with God’s character and plan for history.

The chapter titles indicate the clear, ordinary path Tony walks for us:

Introduction – Confessions: Trading Sensationalism for Ordinary Christianity

Chapter 1 –     Neighbor Love: How Justified Sinners Show Compassion in Word and Deed

Chapter 2 –     Kingdom Hospitality: How the King’s People Welcome Others

Chapter 3 –     Care for the Vulnerable: How the Father’s Children Love the Fatherless

Chapter 4 –     Courageous Advocacy: How God’s People Speak Up for the Voiceless (with Kimberly Merida)

Chapter 5 –     God-Centered Humility: How an Ordinary Christian Walked with His Extraordinary God

Conclusion –  Longing for a Just World

Some of us will (or do) live lives on the edge––serving Christ and his church in dangerous, far-off places––and such living glorifies God. But most of us live lives in the normal––serving Christ and his church in 9-5 jobs, coming home to our plain homes that our average families inhabit––and such living, when lived in grace-filled obedience to Christ, glorifies God. Tony Merida has reminded us all of what this life looks like. Students, teachers, small groups, and Sunday school classes––basically any Christian––will benefit from reading this book.