This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/guest/good-friday-for-all-of-creation
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/guest/good-friday-for-all-of-creation
This article was well-written and really resonates with me. I was a little surprised to see an article here referring to the future redemption of a fallen, nonhuman creation. I’m hoping we can discuss how this idea fits in with an evolutionary creation perspective. My understanding is that evolutionary creationists usually see the nonhuman parts of creation not as fallen, but simply fulfilling the good functions God created them to perform. If humans are a relatively recent creation from a deep-time/geological perspective, then human sin is also a recent event. Yet physical death and disease have been afflicting nonhuman organisms for billions of years before humans arrived. So does creation need to be redeemed, or is it presently functioning exactly as God intended it to function?
The only way out of this that I can think of is to take Dembski’s position that God applied the effects of the Fall retroactively back to the very beginning of creation, so that a fully-developed fallen world was already waiting for humans after they sinned. If Adam and Eve were indeed literal people in a paradisiacal garden, expelling them out of this oasis into the chaotic fallen world at large would have indeed been a severe punishment, but this view is also fully reconcilable with mainstream geology and biology.
I’d really appreciate any thoughts anyone would care to share about this. From an evolutionary creation perspective, is it possible to see the creation as fallen and in need of redemption? Also, any thoughts on the idea of a retroactive Fall?
What exactly is the logic, and the evidence, that there was to be no death or disease before Adam/Eve sinned?
The idea that flesh was always vulnerable to death seems to be more apparent… otherwise why would there be a tree of life in the garden?
I haven’t read it yet but Mark Whorton’s book Peril in Paradise (OEC perspective) describes a holistic theology he calls the “Perfect Purpose,” where the original creation was “very good” but not “perfect” and always intended to be brought into a fuller perfect state, and the plan was affected but not messed up by human sin (which he contrasts with the YEC idea of a “Perfect Paradise” that was lost due to human sin)
Admittedly, the pervasiveness of death and conflict in the very integrated and ecologically balanced natural world that makes it hard to imagine an original YEC-type garden with today’s animals makes it hard to imagine an eschatological one with them as well. Though I recently caught a glimpse of such a vision while I was reading about the natural life of Hawaii. Animals that adapt to islands without predators acquire beautifully bright colors and other unique characteristics since they don’t have to spend resources or select for defense. This is a disadvantage in our fallen world when predators are introduced, but could it be a glimpse of what a “perfected” natural world could be?
I see the non-human parts not so much in need of redemption from corruption (like humanity), but as something that has yet to be culminated. At some point in time, creation will reflect God’s perfect peace and righteous order in a way it does not currently because it is “fallen.” I don’t think you need to posit a perfect creation that was corrupted by sin (retroactively or otherwise) to hold this view. Creation can be good (in that it functions the way God has ordained it to function) but not yet complete with or without human sinfulness. Human sinfulness has introduced unique problems into the world that will be dealt with when humanity is perfected (problems that stem from human injustice and selfishness and violence). So I see the New Creation as being the completion of creation where it finally reaches the state God has been moving it toward all along and human sin no longer damages it.
Thanks for your reply, George. If you’re unfamiliar with the case young-earth creationists make for a universal fall that caused pain and death in nonhuman organisms, I can attempt to summarize it below. Please keep in mind, however, that I wrote my original comment because I was surprised to see Ruth Bancewicz’s article referring to Christ’s redemption of nonhuman organisms from pain and death, and I sincerely want to know how people who agree with her might integrate this into an evolutionary creation perspective. Also, I agree with you that, at least theoretically, a Tree of Life would make sense in the context of a dangerous world where death is the default destiny of living things.
Following are some passages YEC folks use to support their view of a universal fall. Romans 5:12 says that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin.” This is taken to mean that death, as a general concept, was not present before human sin. However, the passage does go on to say that “death spread to all men,” which might be taken to mean that it was already present for nonhumans. And a good case can be made that death in Romans mostly refers to condemnation (“spiritual death”). However, 1 Corinthians 15:21 says “by a man came death,” and this is in the context of a discussion about the resurrection, so it is more difficult to interpret as anything other than physical death. It still might only be referring to humans, though. In the same passage, verse 26 refers to death as “the last enemy to be destroyed” by Christ. This seems to imply that death is an intruder into God’s world, not part of His original creation.
Since Genesis 1:31 says that God’s original creation was “very good,” YEC folks say that death, as an enemy, would not have been a part of it. However, the Hebrew for “very good” does not necessarily imply heavenly perfection; it may just mean that creation functioned the way God intended it to function, as Christy mentioned in her comment.
In Genesis 1:29-30, God gave the first humans and every nonhuman animal green plants to eat for food. This makes sense if death didn’t enter the animal kingdom until humans sinned. Some have suggested that this passage isn’t a prohibition against eating meat since meat isn’t actually mentioned, but in Genesis 9:1-3, God tells Noah and his family, “As I gave you the green plants, I give you everything,” which implies that they were not permitted to eat meat before this point. If Genesis 1:29-30 is actually prohibiting carnivory for humans, it seems that it must be prohibiting nonhumans from eating meat as well. This is a difficult passage to explain from a evolutionary creation view.
The curse on the ground in Genesis 3:17 appears to apply mainly to agriculture, and seems to correspond with Adam being exiled from the perfection of the Garden and forced to survive in the dangerous, wider world. However, YEC folks think this passage has a much wider significance that includes a completely fallen creation that can now experience pain and death. Human death, at least, appears to be part of the curse, since Genesis 3:19 says that Adam will now return to the ground, decaying back into dust.
Were nonhuman animals cursed because of human sin? The serpent, at least, was cursed in Genesis 3:14, but it is unclear whether this actually applied to all snakes in general or only to the evil being referred to as “the serpent” in this passage. Some YEC interpreters say that the serpent being forced onto its belly implies a physical transformation for all snakes, and then say that perhaps other animals were physically transformed as well. This would explain how today’s obligatory carnivores could have begun as herbivores. Some also say that since the serpent was cursed “above all livestock and…beasts of the field,” perhaps this implies a lesser curse for these other animals.
Romans 8:18-23 is another key passage for supporters of a universal fall. They say that human sin caused all of creation (including nonhuman animals) to be subjected to futility and in bondage to corruption. Because of this it is metaphorically groaning, eagerly waiting for its redemption just as God’s people are waiting to be set free by Christ’s return. They would say that the groaning of creation can be seen throughout the natural world, in slime molds, emperor penguins, and countless other organisms experiencing pain and hardship. A critique of this view is that the passage never actually mentions human sin causing creation’s groaning. If humans are the cause, it is still possible to see this not as the YEC interpreters do, but simply as the negative consequences of humans failing to have dominion over the earth in the good and wise ways God intended. In addition, there is at least one other New Testament passage in which “the whole creation” refers only to all human beings on earth (Mark 16:15), so it is possible that the Romans 8 passage is also simply referring to people.
YEC interpreters also often point out eschatological passages referring to a future time when previously predatory animals will become herbivorous and peaceful, saying that this is a return to their original purpose and design. Isaiah 11:1-10 and 65:17-25 are two such passages. However, it is not clear whether these passages are literally referring to animals or just using animals to symbolically represent nations, prophecying a time when Israel will have peace with previously dangerous countries that warred with them in the past. The beginning of Isaiah makes it clear that the book will partially focus on such a future (Isaiah 2:4), and there are other prophetic passages in which it is clear that foreign nations are being symbolized as dangerous animals (Jeremiah 5:6, Jeremiah 12:7-13, Hosea 2:16-20).
I think that’s a pretty good summary of the biblical passages supporting a universal fall that included nonhumans. One other thing I should mention is that I think there is an extra motivation to interpret these passages this way: If God made the whole world as a paradise and human sin negatively transformed not only humans but also the rest of creation, this really helps us with questions about the problem of evil. YEC folks can say that God did not originally make a world with cancer, hurricanes, and parasites, but that these things exist because of our sin. Reconciling these things with the goodness and love of God is quite a difficulty for old earth creationists and evolutionary creationists.
Joshua, thanks for the book recommendation. I’ve been meaning to read Peril in Paradise for quite a while now. I also appreciate the perspective about island ecosystems without major predation. Something I never considered before–I definitely want to look into this more!
Thanks, Christy. I appreciate your perspective. I’d also really be interested in your take on how to reconcile animal suffering, natural disasters, and other “natural evils” with the goodness of God, since it sounds like you view these things as being a part of God’s original creation. (Please note that I am not referring to the problems you mentioned that stem from human injustice, selfishness, and violence.)
I think the problem of evil is a problem no matter what your view of origins, so I don’t pretend to have completely satisfactory answers to questions that philosophers have batted around for hundreds of years. But I would rather reconcile animal suffering and natural disasters as compatible with God’s goodness than take the other option on the table and say God created a world free of all those things, but in response to one person’s choice, he either vindictively created evil things and recreated creation in a destructive way as a punishment, or he was somehow impotent against an evil force that corrupted and changed and fundamentally altered creation after the Fall. I do not believe evil is creative, just destructive. I don’t think “sin” is a force that can recreate herbivores into carnivores and invent plate tectonics and viruses. So that leaves God intentionally introducing diseases, and volcanoes, and mosquitos, and painful childbirth into an idyllic world because he’s mad. That is not compatible with my understanding of God’s character. It is much easier for me to accept that a creation with a certain amount of freedom in it (and hence potential for earthquakes and predation and genetic birth defects) is somehow better than a creation without that freedom, and God’s grace and providence compensates for the damage that freedom brings.
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
I can see these 2 verses following in the same spirit as the Maccabee’s prohibition against eating meat. But that’s a long way from saying there is no death!
Micro organisms die all the time … right down to the human digestive track.
As for harmonizing such a view with Pro-Evolution Christians, it is one of those expendable figurative verses.
The person it’s going to cause some problems for is @Swamidass and his “special scenarios” where Adam/Eve as a specially created pair are introduced to an existing population of Pre-Adamite humans.
Possibly, but I think it’s certainly no less difficult for the YEC: God explicitly gives plants to humans (gen 1) and animals to humans (Gen 9), and he explicitly gives plants to animals (Gen 1), but he never explicitly gives animals to other animals anywhere. And the YEC cannot simply assume that Gen 9 implies that this is when animals become carnivorous as well, because the fossil record, which they have boxed themselves into fitting into the Gen 5-7 flood, contains countless clear examples of animals inside other animals’ stomachs. (To make matters even more complicated, God never mentioned giving any kind of food to the sea creatures, carnivorous or otherwise! - I have a whole write-up on this topic here.)
Therefore, God must have given animals to other animals for food at some point without explicitly mentioning it. Therefore, the possibility that God gave animals to other animals from the beginning of creation cannot be ruled out by this passage!
You can always share links that enhance the discussion at hand or give people more information on a topic. We just ask that people refrain from putting links to their personal material in the opening post of a thread. (i.e. “I just wrote a cool blog post, come check it out.”) And we ask that people’s main purpose in posting a link be to stimulate and contribute to discussion here, not to direct traffic and discussion away from this site to another.
Thanks and understood. I edited the previous post to include the link.
Thanks for explaining your perspective, Christy. Yes, the problem of evil is difficult for everyone. And I understand your point that it is easier for you to accept God originally creating a world with the potential for suffering than adding suffering to a pain-free world as a way of disciplining humanity for their sin. I also agree that sin is not a creative force and that God was not powerlessly trying to stop it and failing–most young-earthers do not take such a view anyway. However, regarding the other option of God purposefully changing things for the worse after the first sin, I don’t think the discipline of God necessarily needs to be seen as a vindictive act done in anger. Just as a parent can discipline a child calmly and out of love, with the goal of teaching that child to pursue good and reject evil, God can discipline His children in a way consistent with His character. As Proverbs 3:11-12 says, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”
Thanks for the link! I’ll have to make some time to read it let you know if there’s anything more I’d like to discuss.
I agree that’s God’s discipline is done in love. I just don’t see how natural evil could possibly all be lumped under “God’s discipline.” Creating birth defects and malaria and earthquakes count as discipline? What righteousness do those things motivate, and why would they since they affect the righteous and the unrighteous the same? The young earth view says that all natural evil, including animal predation, is a result of human sin which corrupted the perfect natural world. But if we agree that evil can’t create things, then God created all those things as a result of sin. But how could anyone possibly argue that Ty-Sachs disease or Ebola is a form of calm and loving discipline put in the world as a result of God’s love and delight in his children. That would be a sick and twisted argument. How does a lion eating an antelope discipline God’s children? I’m sorry, but I can’t see how the contention that “all natural evil results from God’s cursing the world because of the fall” is consistent with a God who is simply disciplining his children in love. It is hard enough to come to terms with why an omnipotent God who delights in his children allows all the suffering and natural evil that there is. I can’t possibly conceive why a God of love would intentionally corrupt his own perfect creation to intentionally cause pain and suffering.
Christy, thanks for the clarification and further explanation. I was trying to push back against your statement earlier that YECs have two options regarding the problem of evil: God “either vindictively created evil things and recreated creation in a destructive way as a punishment, or he was somehow impotent against an evil force.” It seems to me that we shouldn’t view God’s discipline, even discipline with extreme consequences, as having been done in a vindictive manner. Saying that these are the only two options appears to be setting up a staw-man: many YECs don’t think of the Fall as a vindictive act.
However, having said this, I agree with you–it is a tough pill to swallow. The world is full of suffering and pain, and it’s difficult to accept that God intentionally warped it to be like this as a result of human sin. The other option–that the world was made this way originally and it doesn’t have anything to do with our sin–is difficult for me as well. I wish we had better answers. All I can say is that, like Job, we place our trust in our Creator and Redeemer, knowing that he is working all things to his ultimate glory and our ultimate good. We know that he has proved his love for us in the death of his Son, and that Jesus himself deeply sympathizes with our peril, having even personally entered in to the suffering of his creation by willingly being killed on our behalf. Even though we don’t have all the answers, we do have the assurance we need to humbly trust in God’s sovereign plan.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” -Deut. 29:29
Amen to that.
That’s all well and good … until one method of chastisement is to drown your children.
YECs frequently use “The Fall” as the explanation for natural evil. But the Global Flood and the killing of the first-born in Egypt as the 10th plague are not natural evil’s… they were intentional divine evils.
YECs think they have solved the problem…but they have simply ignored the worst of the atrocities.