Neither, you have your real answer:
Yes, but could that last enemy have been spiritual death? If Jesus is the “bridge” that brings us back to God, then physical death has truly lost its sting.
Those can be objective measures of increases in complexity, though complexity is complex and different things may be complex or simple in different ways. But, as bureaucracy demonstrates, complexity is not the same thing as getting better. As Prince Caspian pointed out, we need to distinguish between Progress and Going Bad; there is also the third alternative that change may be neither good nor bad, just different. I am very much in favor of increased biodiversity, but would not object to elimination of certain pathogens. Some cultural variations are good, some are bad, some are neither.
ComplexityRus, and with all Progress there are unintended consequences, more possibilities.
Genesis is primarily not a creation narrative but a theological revelation.
Well, yes, Genesis is framed as a creation narrative, but the purpose is not to describe the order or structure of creation. The divine purpose seems to be found in the differences in the Genesis account compared to the old Sumerian Enuma Elish narrative. Because it would seem likely that an ancient people would accept an older narrative of creation if they did not already have one for their culture, it could be assumed that the cultural of general population of ancient Sumerian would embraced the Sumerian Enuma Elish narrative.
Abraham was born about one hundred years after the demise of the Sumerian period and in the former territory of Sumerian. It might be assumed that the creation narrative of the Sumerians’, or one very much like it, was the popular creation myth that existed when and where Abraham was born. Furthermore, being even more speculative, it might be assumed that Abraham was the Hebrew who recapitulated the Enuma Elish narrative to change the narrative to include the differences found in the Genesis narrative. After all, Abraham entertained divine messengers more than any other Old Testament character. Only speculation and the recorded changes in Genesis as contrasted with known myths indicate what might be the unrecorded content of the possible conversations between Abraham and the angels who appeared, delivered messages, and ate at his table. (Genesis 12:1-3,7; 13:14-17; 15:1-21; 17:1-14; 18:1-33; 21:12-13; 22:1-18) Inspired scripture is not always through spiritual guidance but many times have been the result of divine conversations or encounters.
The truth and divine revelation are both able to co-opt ideas and symbols from myth, literature, and history to explain itself in language that the hearer understands. A well know example is co-opted from the Canaanite god Baal. Baal, having rose to the top of the pagan religion, was said to be the cloud rider or he comes riding on a cloud. Some Bible texts co-opt the idea of the cloud rider and apply it to YHWH and in the New Testament Jesus uses this symbol for Himself. The successful co-opting of symbols formerly applied to one thing where the other thing’s use of the symbol completely lost is a measure of the new things power and influence. Easter has been totally co-opted by Christianity.
Biblical examples of the co-opting of the cloud rider:
Matthew 24:30 ESV
Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the cloud s of heaven with power and great glory.
Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the cloud s of heaven.”
Mark 13:36 ESV
And then they will see the Son of Man coming in cloud s with great power and glory.
Mark 14:62 ESV
And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the cloud s of heaven.”
Luke 21:27 ESV
And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
Revelation 1:7 ESV
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
Revelation 10:1 ESV
The Angel and the Little Scroll
Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.
Revelation 14:14-16 ESV
The Harvest of the Earth
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand.
And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.”
So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.
And in Acts 1:9 has Jesus taken up by a cloud as He ascends.
For the Old Testament see:
Psalm 104:3 ESV
He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind;
Isaiah 19:1 ESV
An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.
Daniel 7:13 ESV
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.
Nahum 1:3 ESV
The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
The Sumerian Enuma Elish: The Other Creation Narrative
Myths, religions, sciences, and philosophies are concerned with explanations and mechanics. Each form adapts and changes with the changing human speculation or understanding. Probably, the Genesis account of creation, might have been from the ancient Hebrew perspective, an inspired prophetic recapitulation of the creation myth from the Sumerian Enuma Elish.
When compared to the Genesis alternative there are these significant differences which have quite different projections as to a possible future.
Enuma Elish- Light results from combat between deities in chaos.
Genesis – Light begins with the command of the Creator. The light removes the darkness and orders chaos.
Enuma Elish- Cosmology formed from combat between deities.
Genesis - Cosmology resulted at the command of the Creator.
Enuma Elish- The worldly political powers are pawns of the celestial bodies (divinities).
Genesis – Authority for political power is imparted by celestial bodies identified as the elohim (divinities or sons of God/El).
Enuma Elish- Mankind’s purpose is to be slaves and servants of divinities.
Genesis – Mankind is made in the image of God.
Genesis Is All About Divine Inspiration
Conflicting interpretations of Genesis is about different views of the divine inspiration of the text. If Genesis is not divinely influenced, then, Genesis is just an ancient myth and has no theological, spiritual, scientific, social, political, or personal relevance. At the other extreme, if Genesis is the transcribed words received from God, then, an interpretation is necessary to determine the message.
Is it science or is it religion?
Is it factual or is it theological?
Is it descriptive or is it prescriptive?
Is it allegorical or literal?
This is the verbal, plenary inspiration position applying a literal interpretation from which the extreme belief the Genesis creationist begin.
On the other hand, what if the Hebrews are recapitulating the Enuma Elish myth. Could the Hebrews be claiming the Sumerians understood the creation completely wrong when it comes to the origin of mankind and the world they live in? Examine again the four differences between the Enuma Elish and Genesis narratives. Each of these four differences become theological assumptions expressed in some of the other sixty-five biblical books.
Creation is from nothing at the command of the creator – ex Nihilo
God is sovereign. There is no competition or struggle for power. God alone, orders the creation out of chaos.
The affairs of mankind are orchestrated by celestial deities operating under divine authority.
Man is made to be a reflection of God so there may be communion between mankind and God.
One may find similarities between the Enuma Elish and Genesis narratives, but the significance of the theological differences set Genesis apart from all other origin narratives.
Myths, unlike Genesis, repeat the same kind of conflicts between the deities with each new myth to explain why there is a particular trouble in the world. On the other hand, Genesis 1-11 is the background of why there is the rest of the Bible which reveals how the trouble with mankind is redeemed from destruction. Co-opting another culture’s myths and applying them to the Hebrew God occurs in the prophets and Psalms. YHWH as the cloud rider or coming on the clouds is borrowed from symbols about the Canaanite god Baal who was the cloud rider. Hebrew prophets declared the real cloud rider is YHWH.
The myth of scientific accuracies or knowledge
So that the ancients and the moderns may both hear, the Omniscient Creator speaks to us in divine baby talk rather than in a language defined by scientific truths. If He was to reveal Himself using a scientific truthful language, at what point during the growing knowledge of science should the deity choose? Should the choice of scientific truthful language be todays’ understanding which would be incomprehensible even five hundred years ago, or more recently four hundred years ago around 1611 when the King James Bible was published, or the scientific truthful language during the Dark Ages.
If the Omniscient Creator were to reveal Himself using an absolute truthful, scientific language, just so the creation account in Genesis would be scientifically verifiable, which era of scientific knowledge, soon to be outdated, should He have used? Whatever the choice, the language fails to meet the scientific demands for other ages.
If the creation accounts in Genesis were to record the language of absolute, scientific truths dictated by an Omniscient Creator how long in the future will it be before someone is knowledgeable enough to understand the scientific meaning of the words – if ever?
Each era lives with its own beliefs as representing accurate scientific knowledge. This is one of the myths of knowledge; that is, the current era has accurate scientific knowledge. In the current era, public science knowledge is largely unaware that knowledge has a time and date stamp as well as an expiration date – a date yet to be deciphered for most “truths.” Blind scientist cannot see the stamp and accordingly, lack humility.
What Is Genesis Chapters 1-11?
Genesis is not science or even ancient cosmology. As already stated, Genesis 1-11 is background for getting the rest of the message of the Bible correctly. The four things listed above abbreviates this background information. Maybe, some ancient Hebrew had these four issues with the pagan cosmology of the Sumerian Enuma Elish or with some other similar mythology, and it wasn’t about the order of creation or the structure of the world. How this Hebrew got the differences right is what we should acknowledge as divine inspiration because the rest of the ancient world got it wrong. Also, the writers of sixty-five subsequent books of the Bible found the same inspirational message.
The only correct questions about the Genesis 1-11 narrative are:
Why did God create?
What went wrong?
How does God not aim to remedy the problem?
These first eleven chapters of Genesis also demonstrate what cannot fix the problem with mankind. The flood of Noah’s time and the destruction of Babel are fixes that don’t solve the problem. Accordingly, such divine actions are not the means God will use to fix the problem with mankind. What then? That is the question readers ought to be asking at Genesis 12:1. What will it take?
Eventually, the reader gets to Exodus where another inadequate solution is revealed. However, this solution has symbols, rituals, rules, commandments, prophets, blood sacrifices and burnt offerings to say to the Hebrews, “This is what it takes! Can you, do it?”
They say, “Yes, we can.”
But after a thousand years, this is not the fix because they cannot keep the Mosaic Law or heed the warnings of the prophets.
Now, at last the fix . . .
“but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:2)
“He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you” (1Peter 1:20).
In these verses and in John 3:16 we find the fix and can answer why God created. The astonishment of the saints will be seeing those who are their fellow saints who didn’t have the chance of a snowball in hell.
The Bible and modern science or even ancient science texts are catalogued so to be arranged on separate shelves of the library – especially the divine library.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet Act 1, Scene 5
ARus, you are trying to grapple with a question regarding original sin, death and evolution which is perplexing so many. I believe this anxiety over what seems to be a conundrum is unnecessary. It stems from a too narrow view of God and of the nature of existence. We humans naturally think in a linear fashion with our thoughts confined in a nice little box – our understanding of the world. Only natural.
I read the interesting and useful comments of “an-old-scribe” in this thread. However the comment there that scientists don’t realise knowledge “has a time stamp” and lack humility is so untrue! Quest for new knowledge and testing theories is what science is all about. From my understanding (limited to some documentaries and second-hand reporting by my husband who reads a lot of this stuff) modern science, particularly quantum mechanics, has discovered some amazing and sometimes baffling properties of the physical world. In short, the nature of reality is not well understood, but true scientists know that. It’s a “known unknown”.
Among the mysteries are:
- The nature of time – is it an actual dimension, or just something “emergent” that is, perceived? Is it like a block we move through,
because, if you move fast enough you can see the future or the past? Mind boggling but true apparently. Yes – the theory of general relativity, which has been tested and even needs to be taken into account for successful space shots.
Yes, there is food for thought about free will and predetermination there!
String theory: 11 dimensions? An infinite number of universes? Unobservable but makes mathematical sense? (Help me out here!).
A theory (maybe related to above) that physical properties can best be explained as information arranged in 2 dimensions rather than 3, i.e reality seems to be more like a hologram, perhaps projected from the edge of a black hole. (I probably got that wrong but it goes something like that - check it out).
The fact that electrons seem to suddenly jump from one “field” or orbit to another without being anywhere in between.
Something called “spooky action at a distance”. (I’ll leave that one for you!)
And neither the force of gravity or the nature of consciousness are well understood. In short, though my knowledge of the science is sketchy, I have the distinct impression that the nature of reality is a bit of a mystery!
Many of us are uncomfortable with such unknowns. Apart from our natural desire for stability and certainty, having a religious faith of any kind (and I’d include atheism here) also tends to box in our thought processes. We like things cut and dried, drawn to certainties or dogma but also many of us (like those on this site) strive for an assurance that our beliefs are logical. Thus we have the passionate debate and angst over the theory of evolution and whether this newer understanding of the world presents a problem in Christian doctrine.
I don’t see that it does. There is no necessity to interpret the biblical account of creation in a literal way. It is pretty obviously not science. “an-old-scribe” describes the features that would have been important to the ancient Hebrews. Several scholars give a similar interpretation. Joel Edmund Anderson has a useful blog and publications. He also urges us to have a look at the quite different approach to doctrine of the Eastern Orthodox churches - they have a more mystical approach to their Christian faith and don’t try to formulate all the answers.
Still the question of original sin and the origin of death remains for many.
Personally I wonder if the original creation was not this one, which has evolved - entailing death - ever since the big bang. The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden could describe (perhaps allegorically) something that really happened, but not in this world. I would expect it was a perfect creation - one which will one day be restored.
Maybe the hologram currently being projected will be switched?
The problem vanishes if we assume that God created mankind in his own realm, the invisible realm; and that we lived there with him until we decided to follow a falling angel and betray God. In his mercy to us, God created this physical, visible world, where we could live without him and learn what that was like. It was “good” and even “very good” as a theatre of our redemption because of its many problems and difficulties, including death. Death is definitely necessary to evolution in order to make room for new and future generations. The original sin was what we did in the invisible realm, of which the forbidden fruit was a symbol.
Marg, Yes, something like that.
And our “being born in sin” basically means being born mortal - as a result of that original sin, and with the selfish instincts “survival of the fittest” entails.
There are way more assumptions there than I’m willing to grant, sorry.
God create death as a part of life, or more accurately life and and d0eath are aspects of God’s Creation. One cannot logically have a beginning without having and an ending. The Creation, time, life are all finite.
On the other hand all indications point to the fact that God intended to make life eternal, beyond time for some, if not for all. Life is not just flesh and bones and death is not its end
God is not limited because God acts within time and space which requires birth and death. God is not limited when God acts within the limits God sets.
Ralph Rohr: To begin I have, and reproduced below, the initial question and a few pertinent observations from the above responses in this open forum:
ARus Alexey (Original question initiating this string): Hi all. science tells us that all life and many species came from evolution. Death is an integral part of the evolutionary process. Has death always existed in the world, did God create people and all living things from the beginning mortals? Does Scripture tell us about Adam’s spiritual death or physical death due to sin? If death has always existed, what to do with original sin? I will be very grateful for any help. It is very important for me. Thank you!
Contemplator: Personally I wonder if the original creation was not this one, which has evolved - entailing death - ever since the big bang. The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden could describe (perhaps allegorically) something that really happened, but not in this world. I would expect it was a perfect creation - one which will one day be restored.
Marg: The problem vanishes if we assume that God created mankind in his own realm, the invisible realm; and that we lived there with him until we decided to follow a falling angel and betray God. In his mercy to us, God created this physical, visible world, where we could live without him and learn what that was like. It was “good” and even “very good” as a theatre of our redemption because of its many problems and difficulties, including death. Death is definitely necessary to evolution in order to make room for new and future generations. The original sin was what we did in the invisible realm, of which the forbidden fruit was a symbol.
Dale evolutionary providentialist: In response to Marg’s “problem vanishes if we assume . . .” There are way more assumptions there than I’m willing to grant, sorry.
Ralph Rohr: ARus’ original question probes the depths of human understanding about God and the Bible. It unearths many of the conundrums regarding seeming conflicts between science and the Bible that occupy many of Biologos’ publications and discussions. This is readily apparent from the many thoughtful and puzzling responses in this open forum. I have selected a few of what I think are insightful responses that suggest a way out of the conundrum that Alexey’s question generates. These insights by Contemplator and Marg, though on the right track, I think, are obscured by the veil of merely being “assumptions,” without clear scientific or biblical evidence, as Dale “evolutionary providentialist” critically observes.
Indeed, as hinted at by Contemplator and Marg, I think that there is one primary assumption, shared by everyone whether Christian or not, that obscures this whole field of inquiry. That assumption is simply that the creation account in Genesis is describing the creation of this fallen world that we all presently occupy and that our scientific labors seek to examine and relate to the biblical account.
Without the bias of this shared assumption I re-examine the biblical texts and suggest that the Genesis creation account is describing the creation of Paradise, where there is not, and never has been, death of any sort. Paradise has always existed since its creation in God’s “out of time” creative Presence. Paradise is the environment of God in Heaven, and the environment of those He redeems through faith in Jesus Christ, as indicated by the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43) and overcomers in Christ (Revelation 2:7).
I do not ask anyone to accept my “de-biased” view, but to examine my research of the scriptural evidence, which I present in two places in the following links.
In outline sketch on my blog: https://sowhatistruth.com/age-of-the-world/
In complete book form with greater detail in my Kindle Publication: (Resolving the Age of the World Argument: A Biblical Solution: Rohr MD, L. Ralph: 9798719329857: Amazon.com: Books](Resolving the Age of the World Argument: A Biblical Solution: Rohr MD, L. Ralph: 9798719329857: Amazon.com: Books))
God’s holy word, the Bible, often reveals more that we realize at first, if we are willing to submit our earnest questions to Him. If my thesis is correct, it may help to resolve other difficult questions, such as the problem of suffering, and the existence of evil in our world. Constructive commentary and critique are welcome. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will to men on whom His favor rests (Luke 2:14).
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Thanks Anyman (Ralph Rohr). Your book sounds interesting.
I’d like to reply to your statement that “everyone” shares the assumption that Genesis “is describing the creation of this fallen world that we all presently occupy”. Hopefully Marg and I did more than “hint” that we don’t share that assumption.
True though, many modern-day Christians do limit what is described in Genesis to this physical world and make huge problems for themselves and sadly, for others, by also taking everything in the text literally. Their self-congratulation and aggressive stance on this is, I believe, actually doing great damage to Christ’s mission. However surely most Christians through the ages have recognised that Genesis also describes Paradise - a perfect place, where, (to quote you) “there is not, and never has been, death of any sort…” Surely this is a common, even the orthodox view?
So I, like you, Anyman, do not agree with Dale above, who asserts a “two creations model from the get-go, and the first was subjected to futility on purpose” with the second being the New Earth to come. Dale makes a distinction between the “very good” which God declares his creation to be and “perfect”. I am very uncomfortable with this distinction and would like a better knowledge of the original language. I recall that Jesus said “only God is good”. Then, as an artist, quilter and musician, I wonder where we humans get our own desire for perfection in our creative endeavours if God himself was happy with something less.
That said, it is true that God allowed the possibility that Adam and Eve would disobey and sin, by giving them free will. But this is something necessary in any meaningful relationship. (Yes Dale, God desires to share the joy of the loving relationship the Trinity already enjoys.) Hence access to the forbidden fruit. The perfection of Paradise did not depend on the impossibility of sin and the resultant harm. No doubt, in his fore-knowledge of all things, God already saw the consequences and planned Christ’s redemptive mission which demonstrated the extent of his love (I don’t see his motivation in all this as increasing his own glorification as Dale’s quote from The Pleasures of God suggests – where is the love and justice in that?). The sin, and the cause of death and suffering was on Adam & Eve’s account. As we would say - on their heads.
But back to my original point, it has always been the understanding of many that the Genesis text, dealing with origins, describes two different “worlds” or states of being. Whether the original, including the Garden of Eden was a physical world or not, it is described as very different from what we have now. There is no mention of predation (or hence of death itself except as the consequence of disobedience). It seems all were vegetarian. God walked with Adam and Eve - so there was a very close relationship. Caring for the garden was not arduous (and perhaps Adam and Eve even felt no sexual desire?) At least in the Genesis 2 account there is no mention of childbirth until the expulsion.
All that changed with “The Fall” - the expulsion from the garden and God’s curses. A cataclysmic schism occurred between two worlds, or states of being, described as being separated by the guarding cherubim and flaming sword. Interestingly even the literalists know there is no point searching for those in the middle east - but perhaps they argue the great flood would have quenched the sword?
So, clearly, two different states of being: Paradise and our current Paradise Lost, mercifully with much that is good and beautiful but also with much suffering and the curse of death. But take heart. Paradise Regained has already been achieved by Christ, though in God’s providence the New Heaven and Earth have not yet been revealed to us.
So, contrary to Dale’s objection, I believe the idea that God’s original creation was perfect (or if you prefer, “ideal”) , and not in the same realm, or state, as our current one, is not based on assumptions but on a reasonable interpretation of scripture. Romans Chapter 5 is also relevant, asserting that death entered the world through sin but that it has been conquered by Christ. Why interpret that death as being limited to the spiritual?
As for the assumption by many today, that every detail of Genesis should be read as a history textbook for this planet - Anyman is right in calling that out. Contrary to what many think, it is actually quite a modern notion, sadly most prevalent on a certain continent but spreading…
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