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.)

This blog was cross posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com