I’ve been thinking a lot about YEC vs old earth vs theistic evolution recently, and one of the strongest arguments I’ve seen for YEC is the argument from systematic theology = death cannot exist before the Fall, and that animal death should be included in that and it takes some serious mental gymnastics to explain it in any other way. It devalues the gospel and what Jesus came to do in defeating death, if death already exists.
However I’ve also read Keller (here) which argues that the text of Genesis does not say that the world at the time of Adam and Eve was perfect or without any violence. And that in fact the story begins with the earth ‘formless and void’ which he argues can be interpreted as ‘chaotic’ - and God’s acts of creation bring order out from the chaos.
In this view, the Garden of Eden was a foretaste of what the perfect world could be, but it was an underdeveloped world that still needed to be ‘subdued’ and ‘cultivated’ as God instructs Adam and Eve to do so with him.
Further complicating this is the acts of Satan and his demons, and how they may have been active before the Fall in trying to thwart God’s plans.
This is what I’ve been thinking about: and trying to avoid some form of universal dualism of God vs Satan, what if a lot of the chaos of the uncreated world was due to some primeval fall and acts of Satan and his demons?
And when God brings order out of chaos, Satan tries to thwart him and destroy it.
The extinction event at the end of the Permian. The Triassic extinction. Jurassic extinction. The extinction of the dinosaurs. The extinction of the Ice Age. Asteroids, volcanoes, climate change, anything to stop whatever it was God was doing.
But in the words of Jeff Goldblum - “Life finds a way”.
And in every act of violence and chaos and extinction, life springs up once more, hope springs out of darkness, and resurrection springs out of death. Like a mustard seed - life grows from nearly nothing to a flourishing, diverse Kingdom, as numerous as the stars in the sky.
N.T. Wright comments in this video, “To begin with, if creation comes through the kingdom-bringing Jesus, we ought to expect it be like a seed growing secretly. That it would involve seed being sown in a prodigal fashion in which a lot went to waste, apparently, but other seed producing a great crop. We ought to expect that it be like a strange, slow process which might suddenly reach some kind of harvest. We ought to expect that it would involve some kind of overcoming of chaos.”
Satan had no idea what God was ultimately planning, but he tried as hard as he could to stop him. But he couldn’t stop him, after billions of years of struggle, death and life, from seemingly weak and foolish beginnings that are almost reminiscent of the growth of the Church today - intelligent hominids developed, as God breathed his very image into them. But Satan was not done, as in one great act of temptation he led these new image-bearers to rebel against their Image-Giver. And the Fall was huge in a way the universe had not seen before, it now looked darker and more hopeless than ever. Natural evil was compounded by the horrors of human moral evil, as these new image-bearers were now not simply destined to physically die but be eternally banished into the outer darkness.
But God was not done either. After billions of years it all came together just as the Creator intended - as he stepped into his own Creation as a human, taking all of the chaos and darkness and judgment for sin that they deserved upon himself and banishing chaos forever, triumphing in the resurrection and guaranteeing the New Creation to come.
Now you may say - thinking about this is kinda pointless because we can’t possibly know. And you’re right - it is a mystery. But it’s fun, and potentially can help us think theologically about what was going on for all of those billions of years.
Interested to hear people’s thoughts.
(Disclaimer: I’m still actually undecided on the whole YEC vs OEC vs TE debate but have been thinking about it from multiple angles, and I’ve found this an interesting one.)