Adam’s Fall as a Transcendent Federal Event

Over the last several posts we 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? My last post summarized the answers provided by young-earth creationists (YEC) and by old-earth creationists (OEC) for the second question. This blog looks at the argument that Adam’s fall was a transcendent federal event.40 questions creation evolution

In his The End of Christianity, William Dembski presents a view of Gen 3 that contains elements of both the young-earth and old-earth positions. On the one hand, like the YEC proponents, Dembski argues that the consequences of Adam’s fall were universal. Death and disease find their origin in the original sin of Gen 3. Other the other hand, Dembski also agrees with OEC proponents that geologists and astronomers are basically correct in their estimation of the age of the cosmos. The earth is over four billion years old while the universe has been around more than 13 billion years. In addition, paleontologists are right when they describe the ancient world as one of predation and suffering. He finds the typical YEC arguments as examples of special pleading. So Dembski simultaneously affirms a suffering ancient earth and a literal Adamic fall which occurred relatively recently. How does he reconcile the two affirmations?

First, Dembski contends that the Bible presents creation from two perspectives: the divine conception and the mundane realization. He uses the terms kairos and chronos to distinguish the two ways of perception. Gen 1 presents Creation as God’s perfect plan for the world (the kairos view). Gen 2-3 present how God’s plan unfolded in time, and how sin impacted what God had created (the chronos view).

Next, Dembski points to the federal relationship which Adam and Jesus respectively have over the human race. Adam, as the first head of the human race, plunged humanity to sin and ruin. Christ, as the last Adam, represents a new humanity saved by His atoning blood. Dembski argues that the impact of both men is cosmic and trans-historical. The saving effect of Christ’s death went both forward and backward in time. Old Testament saints were saved by the blood of Christ just like New Testament believers. Dembski argues that Adam’s rebellion had the same transcendent (and hence retroactive) effects. He explains,

By tacitly rejecting such backward causation, young-earth creationists insist that the corrupting effects of the Fall be understood proactively (in other words, the consequences of the Fall only act forward into the future). By contrast, I will argue that we should understand the corrupting effects of the Fall also retroactively (in other words, the consequences of the Fall can also act backward into the past). Accordingly, the Fall could take place after the natural evils for which it is responsible. (50)

Thus, argues Dembski, Adam’s sin retroactively produced the eons of natural evils evidenced in the fossil records. In the next post we’ll look at the position of evolutionary creationist Denis Lamoureaux. (Adapted from 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution.)

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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)

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What Effect Did the Fall Have on Creation?

In my previous post I examined the question of whether or not animals died before the fall of Adam. Young-earth creationism proponents consistently answer “no,” while old-earth creationism and evolutionary creationism advocates answer “yes” in a variety of ways. The respective answers given lead naturally to the question of this post: What, then, were the effects of Adam’s fall? As noted earlier, these two questions provide the crux of the debate concerning creation and evolution.

Four representative answers can be noted:40 questions creation evolution

Answer One: Adam’s Fall Introduced Death and Corruption. Paul Garner and Kurt Wise argue the young-earth position that Adam’s fall introduced death and corruption into the world. They believe that the curse placed upon the serpent (Gen 3:14-15) was applied to all animals.

Answer Two: Adam’s Fall Changed the Nature of Death. David Snoke and Mark Whorton argue the old-earth creationist position when they contend that Adam’s fall changed the nature of death. That is, they argue that animal death existed before the Garden events, but the Fall extended the reach of death to now include humans.

Answer Three: Adam’s Fall Was a Transcendent Federal Event. William Dembski provides another old-earth creationist view. On the one hand he agrees with young-earth advocates that Adam’s rebellion is the cause of all death. But on the other hand he argues, like other old-earth proponents, that animals died prior to the time of Adam and Eve. He sees Adam’s sin as a cosmic event with retroactive effects.

Answer Four: Nature Affected Man, Not the Other Way Around. Evolutionary creationist Denis Lamoureux argues that nature affected man, not the other way around. Lamoureux sees the account of the Fall as a mythical retelling of a very real condition: humans are sinners, estranged from God. Though we may not know the details of how humanity came to be this way, explains Lamoureux, our predicament is undeniable.

Proponents of all three views agree that something is wrong with Creation. Each position has its respective strengths and weaknesses. Over the next few posts we will examine the four answers in greater detail. Clearly, evangelicalism has not reached a consensus on this question.

(Adapted from 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution)

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