Was there death before the Fall?

Ahah! Got it …

  • God inspired the author(s) of Genesis to write it.
  • God knows what happened, so why couldn’t he have “inspired” a better version?

Look on the bright side: you weren’t raised in an orthodox Moslem household and taught to believe that every word of the Qur’an is literally a word given to Mohammad by Allah via the Archangel Gabriel, and where turning your back on your childhood faith can be severely punished.

  • Personally, I kinda think the part in Genesis where the serpent is punished for his role in the fall is a rather fun way to explain to a little kid why snakes are legless reptiles and differ from four-legged reptiles; kind of like an ancient “folk animal tale” for kids.
  • re: female pain during childbirth first started after the fall. Given that childbirth before the fall was not an issue since Eve didn’t have her first kid until after she was banished from the Garden, and the fact that some seriously creative imagination is needed to come up with an anatomy that a bipedal human female would have to have in order to carry an increasingly heavy baby during pregnancy that could (a) come to term inside the womb and (b) wouldn’t just fall out on the ground if female anatomy were such that childbirth was always “pain free”.

Are you sure your beef with the Bible isn’t some sort of payback for the misfortune of being born into a deeply religious family? Rattling Christian cages to watch the dogs bark, so to speak?
Don’t get me wrong: far be it from me to try to be the one to teach you how to treat dogs, but–writing as a Christian who has been the beneficiary of the Christian faith of others who loved me more than I deserved, I don’t share your beef, if that is your beef.

I am intrigued though. Correct me where I go wrong.

  • If God is the all-knowing, benevolent being that Christians make Him out to be, why didn’t he come up with better Christians to argue His case for Him and to represent His interests here on Earth?
  • Sorry. I have guesses, but I don’t have solid, evidence-based answers, and you want persuasive answers. But I do have a proposal.
  • Let’s assume for a moment that there is no God and that all theists, in general, and Christian theists, in particular, have been promoting and spreading horse-manure for far too long and you want to do your part and serve your fellow-man by putting an end to the horse-manure factories that have been making a mess of things so long.
  • If so, it would seem to me that there’s a better way to go about it, especially since you’re a determinist and reject the feeble concept of free will.

Genesis 2-9 are retellings of Gilgamesh and Atrahasis. You have to look for differences between the narratives to determine meaning. Genesis 1 was by a different author and presents an omnipotent deity which contrasts starkly with how other gods did things.

So if you concede including details of evolution are unnecessary and recognize that God was not trying to gove us an accurate scientific description of reality, what is the issue?

The issue is you have an incorrect understanding of how scripture was inspired as do countless Christians. You are thinking God went into his theology lab with a pen and a pad and wrote us some stories. What may have actually happened id some humans, in a very specific context, chose to write or were inspired to write and God moved over them as they wrote in their own specific time and context.

God didn’t choose every single word and letters of scripture. Verbal plenary inspiration is untenable. Inspiration was much softer than God forcing the authors to write exactly what he wanted, word for word, letter for letter. Too much has to be accommodated to accept this. Rather He worked through them and simply moved over them urging them one way or another or inspiring a thought here or there. If God sat down and gave us a history of the world outside of humans in a specific historical context then we can assume it would have what you expect and be 100% accurate in all it states down to the very words and letters. We don’t have that. I’d suggest we have humans writings stories and their history in prescientific times and God moving over them.

Vinnie

I dont have any ‘beef’ with Christians and I’m not seeking any payback. I’m just curious how Christians reconcile Genesis and Evolution. Generally when interacting with Christians about their beliefs, I try be friendly and respectful towards the person. But I dont see why some beliefs are so sacred that they cannot be challenged. If you or I hold a belief we think is true, we should welcome it being challenged because if we can counter any challenges to our beliefs, then our confidence in them will increase. And if we hold any false beliefs, having them challenged might prompt us to change them - isnt that a good thing too?

Much appreciated!

Some of us (after our growing out of cultural and familial misappropriations of these things) have taken a fresh look at scriptures and stepped back to a point before the alleged conflict was in place to realize there never was any real conflict. By creating the problem of a conflict, the additional problem also springs into existence of needing to resolve it - a “twofer” if you will. But by realizing there never was a problem in the first place (except in the minds of those who imbibed the materialist presuppositions, but wanted to retain something of spiritual religion), I’ve stepped back into a position where there is no problem to solve. Science (among some other things - but science is probably best at it) tells us how creation works. Religion is our philosophical context for it all. Worrying about reconciling them is kinda like worrying that the cookbook in your kitchen and the car owners manual in your garage contradict each other and should be reconciled. Or that the Bible is in conflict with your mechanics manual. That’s oversimplifying it, of course, to make a point. Because religion isn’t hermetically sealed off into some spiritual realm away from empirical physical realities. Religion very much includes the physical reality too. And so to the extent that one’s religion is used to make claims about physical reality, then of course there is the potential for conflict. But for those of us that accept Truth as a seamless whole, all of reality (including what science touches on) is there to help inform us. So if that reality informs me that the sky is blue or the earth is round, then any religious understandings I have would of course be informed by that. Science, as well as scriptures, and other things besides are all handmaidens to good and true religion. Religion that neglects any aspect of reality begins to be misinformed religion or perhaps even bad religion - though that latter judgment is based on much more important things than the mere “getting one’s physical facts all correct” - which is more the bailiwick of science. If science is doing its job, religion benefits. When good religion does its job, science is given a context and fits within a larger mission that makes it worthwhile.

That’s usually a good thing - especially for science which, as you suggest, benefits from such constant push-back. And yes - it’s needed for other larger questions of life too, but probably not all the time. There will be times in the human experience that you need to commit to a conviction despite not having complete “evidence” for it and despite people around you challenging it. If I’m convicted that I need to treat another human with dignity despite the immediate culture screaming otherwise at me, and despite my not being able to produce a shred of scientific evidence for why an individual should be sacred to me, I will do well to thumb my nose at the skeptics and declare that I choose to hold and live by this revealed truth in spite of any doubts people might raise. And of course there are all sorts of things that I can rightly or wrongly believe as doctrinal “facts” which might need to be pushed on by other believers using (in the biblical theist’s case) scriptural tools for that sort of reasoning with each other. We do need to sharpen each other in that regard, so not all religious convictions should be held above question either.

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Yes this is my main point! You said it much more precisely and succinctly than I did. When speaking to Christians who accept evolution about our origins, even though they dont take a literal view of Genesis, they almost always believe that the Genesis story reveals some allegorical truth about our origins such as why humans have a dark side to their nature. My objective here is to discover what these truth claims are and see whether they can be consistent with the science.

I think (Brit. understatement) you know the answer to that.

Once you dispense with the literal, the truth claims are beyond scientific falsification or verification. That we are made in the image of God, through evolution, cannot be addressed scientifically.

In some ways, the collection of these creation stories is a human response to the problem of evil. Genesis does a good job of telling us not to expect answers but to continue fighting. It also shows the constant failure of humans. Adam fails, Noah fails, Lot fails etc. etc.

Vinnie

Here are some of my own take-away truth claims I get from Genesis (not all (none?) of which are “merely” allegorical).

All of creation (physical, spiritual, universe, multiverse, matter, life … everything) was created by God.

Humans are given a special commissioning, among all the creatures, to function as God’s “emissaries” here - to steward it in ways that help each other and the entirety of creation better thrive.

Humans are granted the dignity of freedom and choice (whatever we may make of determinism, freewill, etc.) I believe (and here is one of those cases where I cannot at all adjudicate or defend this belief on any empirical level to you, but I tenaciously will believe it anyway) that we have enough of ‘freedom’ (whatever that is) to be held morally responsible for our choices.

Humans have largely failed to live up to these moral responsibilities. We choose to sin. We choose self at the expense of others.

There are suffering and dire consequences that people face and that much of creation (on this planet anyway) experience as a result of our sin.

God has chosen to continue to relate to and call humanity back despite our failing of the high calling given us.

God (in foreshadowing, or even one could say - the beginning of the incarnation to come), chose a special people to initiate this new eventual blessing to all the people of all nations.

The aforementioned people (or the story of their ancestors Abraham and Sarah at any rate) have a very specific and historically embedded redemption story of failure, repentance, failure, etc. that is already begun to be told before the final chapters of Genesis are concluded.

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I think it goes too far to suggest creation ex nihilo is part of the text. The consensus in scholarly interpretation seems to be that God formed everything of pre-existing material. Even 2 Maccabees 7:28 is questionable in this regard.

Vinnie.

Well -okay, one could argue about the all matter part not being part of the Genesis text; you’re right about that. I think there is enough implication in all of scriptures though, including Genesis to lead a modern thinker to that conclusion. If you have a god that stumbled into some pre-existing material scene, and essentially says “Well lookee here! Let’s see what we can make of this” - that’s a fairly awkward (and I should think non-scriptural) conclusion one is forced to reach. I can’t speak to any of the Maccabees books or what they say. But you are correct that a lot can be packed (or not!) into the words “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” If it’s an aversion to a magically sudden ex-nihilo “poof” that you object to, I share in your objection. But those of us who already know that creation was unfolded over eons by God, don’t mind seeing the whole thing back to the big bang as still being from God.

That goes a good way toward meeting one of my objections. Personally I would allow that God too had no ex nihilo beginning. But neither was He whole and complete from the beginning.

In Genesis 1:2-4 there might be and it’s not exhaustively ruled out. The second creation story where God tried to make Adam a helper and realizes none of these he created works so he has to make Eve, not so much.

We are influenced by much later Greek thought and the Omni-attributes of what God must be like. You can argue God moved the author to include it for sure and that maybe true, but from the perspective of whoever wrote Genesis, I don’t think that is what they meant. Genesis 1 is a very advanced theology compared to the creation narratives around it. It is a solid move in the right direction but it’s not quite there yet in terms of modern thought.

The idea is of a very powerful God who merely commands and things are done. It’s absolutely a move in this direction. But then of course, Gen 2-9 kind of undoes a lot of what 1 does.

Vinnie

That’s actually all over the place in Genesis 2-9.

Moderns think God was being rhetorical or facilitating discussion when he asked Adam hiding in the trees where he was. Or when Adam named all the animas and God realized no suitable helper could be found. When he repented and lamented of making humans. When he changed his tactics and agreed to never destroy all of humanity again with a flood. The God of the first creation story is more in line with modern thought and probably doesn’t learn. The God in the second story and by the other author does change and evolve. But modern thought fails to accept this type of thinking so exegesis turns to eisegesis.

I think you would truly appreciate Karen Armstrong’s interpretation of Genesis (In the Beginning). It had me looking at all of Genesis in a very different light.

Her contention is right from the outset Genesis tells us moderns it will give us no decisive answers to our predicament. Did God create matter ex nihilo or shape the pre-existing void? We can’t know. Did Adam bring all evil? But why was there a crafty snake tempting then then? We are all like Jacob who wrestled with God all night. When he asked God his name he didn’t get an answer. Only a blessing. God also seems to just pick who he wants without warrant. Cain and Abel, Noah to an extent and others. Genesis tells us to wrestle in the face of uncertainty and a frightening world. But it doesn’t answer most of the questions moderns think it does.

I got a copy from my local library. Enjoyed it so much I ordered a cheap, used copy to put on the shelf.

Vinnie

Well, that’s good to hear. But you’re a “rare bird” and an exception to my stereotype, which is a good thing: it forces me to revise my stereotype: Now I know that not all ex-Christian atheists have a beef.

Many do with superglue or duct tape. The reconciliation of religious beliefs and science is a testament to human ingenuity.

??? How old are you and where do you live? I’m 72, retired, and live in East Los Angeles; but I’ve lived in several places (Oklahoma, Nevada, and California), and I’ve done a fair bit of traveling round the world: I’ve met folks who would die on molehills to defend them, folks who would only die defending one or two mountains; and folks who are unwilling to suffer any discomfort in the defense of a belief and fancy themselves “good natured” and “easy to get along with”.

Challenging beliefs is as challenging and dangerous as herding cats: Martyrologies are filled with tales of those who’ve tried to do either.

I’ve been dinged by moderators in what I believe is the most free-thinking, libertarian forum in the universe for saying that Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t Christians, and banned from a reputable physics forum for merely announcing, before asking a question, that I’m an Antirelativist and that my question was about what mainstream science says Einstein’s theory of special relativity says about a hypothetical thought experiment. As open to discussion of odd or downright heretical Christian views as Biologos is, declaring yourself to be a divinely-appointed Prophet of God and the King James Version the only divinely-inspired translation of the Bible (excluding the Apocrypha, of course) can get you an invitation to leave and find a soap-box to preach from; elsewhere, and starting an antirelativistic thread will promptly get your thread moved into the darkness of Private Messages before any biologos forum-members can scream and rouse a lynch mob.

Sane thoughts, IMO. But “good luck” trying to ride those horses to the end of a “belief trail”.
Screenshot_2019-11-23  In the end, Ed, most of

Now you are being rather coy here. I answered your question. No more and no less. You asked for an example of a feature essential to our humanity which has no genetic basis. Not all information is transmitted to the next generation is via DNA. Some things are transmitted via human communication. There is nothing of science transmitted in our DNA, nothing of chess, math, or football, or billions of other things which are part of the experience of being human. These things are not nothing. To acknowledge that we have evolutionary adaptations to the use of language over the last 200,000 to 300,000 years or more, doesn’t change this fact in the slightest.

And nothing which you said is relevant to what I said.

Incorrect, I am not treating them at all. This is what YOU are suddenly talking about which has no connection with the answers I was giving to your previous questions.

And in the process you are employing premises which you haven’t bother to mention or explain, if you are even aware of them.

Much of our emotional functionality can be demonstrated to be a product of evolution by finding similar behavior in animals. Whether these are entirely the same as human greed, jealously, anger, hate, etc… let alone entirely independent of the language aspects of our thinking is another matter which I certainly do not think has been established and is a suggestion I would be very skeptical about.

Who believes in “god-directed evolution?” I haven’t used such words and I would not use them, so perhaps you need to explain what you think they mean.

Question following some logical connections of your own is not the same as asking for explanation of what I meant in the answers to your original question. If you want to use the Socratic method of leading me down the primrose path of your thinking then you are going to have to make a little more effort to expose the premises of your thinking. Because I am not just going to blindly follow along with whatever you say.

First I think you need to set aside your use of the word “intense” which I don’t think equates to your previous use of “any genetic basis” for these emotions. I am not willing to make the same equivocations and other leaps of thinking that you have made in your so called “following the logical implications.”

Hard to say. I am not sure that these emotional functionalities are independent of others like those for love and empathy which may play a role in restraining evil, so it seems plausible that without whatever emotional functionality is involved that evil might actually be greater. I frankly think you have made a dive into deep waters where I have good reason to doubt if you know what you are talking about at all.

Okay let me summarize my understanding of Christianity when combined with Theistic Evolution, and then you can tell me what you agree or disagree with?

  1. God created humans by somehow guiding evolution so that we eventually appeared. This is in contrast to the goal-less evolution taught in most biology classes.
  2. Both our physical bodies and our minds, and in particular human nature, are all the product of evolution. By human nature, I mean the general psychological characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits of humankind, which are shared by all humans. This includes things like empathy, love, compassion, but also things like hate, jealousy, anger etc. It is the latter behaviors that motivate much of the evil that humans do. Without them, humans would have little or no desire to commit evil
  3. We have the free-will to choose to commit or refrain from sin in particular situations, but it is impossible for any person to refrain from sinning over a normal lifespan because the negative aspects of our god-given human nature are too strong to resist indefinitely. Here I’m specifically thinking of Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.
  4. Because we sin, god judges us as deserving punishment (eternal damnation?) but he created a way by which some (not all?) can escape this punishment. I say ‘some’ here because if you lived and died worshiping the Aztec gods before Christianity was brought to America then you had little or no hope of redemption.

Its like god set us up to fail and then judges us worthy of punishment when we do

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I personally have no reason to believe God guided evolution. I don’t think most here believe that either.

Adam and Eve were never immortal. They had sustained immortality through the tree of life. If they were already inherently immortal there would be no reason for a tree of life to exist there. They were cut off from it because they sinned. They only had a few rules and one of them was don’t touch this tree of good and bad.

Adam and Eve was not different from us than Moses, Abraham, or you and me. Adam was already able to make a personal choice. Just like us. He chose to sin just like we do.

Nothing about humanity is inherently good or evil. We have emotions and free will and can choose what we want.

Theistic evolution is a statement that simply means I’m a religious person who believes in the theory of evolution. The individual religious beliefs of that person can range greatly.

Affirming that conscious belief in the historical Jesus is the only way to the father in an absolutely universal sense sounds like fundamentalism to me. Catholics believe in purgatory and not all of us believe that the moment you die you face a single judgment for all eternity and go immediately to hell or heaven.

Even if it is true that Jesus is the only way, which most of us affirm, you can be saved by Jesus without knowing him—or at least “historical facts” about him. ‘A rose by any other name smells just as sweet.’ CS Lewis: “We do know that no person can be saved except through Christ. We do not know that only those who know Him can be saved by Him.”

Too many conservatives read GJohn as if everything is a timeless universal mandate. Much of it appears that way but it all has an appropriate setting and historical context as well. We need to temper this universal temptation by realizing John is sometimes hyperbolically reframing Jesus simply to reinforce his Christian community’s beliefs in a hostile environment as they were ousted from the synagogue and in bitter opposition with Jews post-Temple destruction. This is a persecuted community and it is being assured of the correctness of their beliefs. The prophetic Spirit is assuring them they got it right. Jesus is the way. Their adversaries, those who persecute and reject them get it wrong in failing to accept Jesus. Christians are the ones to inherit the promises made to Israel. The harsher the opposition the stronger the affirmation of the community’s beliefs. Jesus is the new dispensation, a new Genesis has begun. This is the backdrop for the Gospel of John, not Jesus existing in 2021 timelessly telling all people if you don’t believe in the facts about me in the Bible you go to hell.

Everyone my be judged based on what they know not on whether or not they were born with a good hand in the luck of life. Most Christians make exceptions for babies and those who never heard the Gospel including Abraham, Moses, et al. But once we do this we cannot claim that conscious faith in the historical Jesus is a requirement for salvation. If we think that babies or people who have never heard of Jesus could possibly be saved then we cannot exhaustively claim that conscious belief and acceptance in Jesus’ historical revelation and mission, in the incarnation of God, is a necessary requirement for salvation. It might be the best road to salvation but it’s not the only road. There may be other roads and ways of knowing the transforming and risen Jesus, in this life or the next. It’s a very simple logical proposition. If p was absolutely required for q then in no way could babies or Moses be saved. You could not make it to q without p. As C. Stephen Evan’s wrote,

“Can we maintain that awareness of God’s historical incarnation is necessary for salvation and also hold that at least some of those who lack such historical knowledge are saved? Logically, one cannot hold that p is necessary for q, and also hold that q can be achieved without p. One must clear-headedly hold on to this logical truth and not allow sentiment to fuzzy up our thinking on such matters.” The Historical Christ & The Jesus of Faith, p 107

In other words, we can admit Jesus is the only way to God and also believe that one does not have to accept Christian doctrine in order to be saved. Salvation is not about giving your intellectual assent to something. We aren’t that smart that God cares about our IQ. The Gospel doesn’t need or require our approval. It is not one of the many doors in life but the hinge of all doors. Accepting the transforming and risen Jesus in your heart does not require giving intellectual assent to the verisimilitude of a book.

We are not all fundamentalists or hardcore Calvinists. In fact, I probably have the same intellectual disdain for these philosophies as you do. God is love, not an unfair and primitive bully and the incarnation fully justifies this statement. The historical Jesus was a demonstration of God’s love. It was good news.

Vinnie

God created living things not as a watchmaker designer but as a shepherd providing the required circumstances and making an occasional nudge in the direction He wanted like an asteroid wiping out the dinosaurs. It was not to control the process or design the result but to encourage the development of things He wanted such as greater cooperation, greater intelligence, and ultimately the use of language.

The body and brain which are self-organizing processes of life in the medium of organic chemistry are a product of evolution, but evolution does not well describe the development of the mind which is a self-organizing process of life in the medium of human language. One big difference for example is the inheritance of acquired characteristics – with the mind we can pass on what we learn in our own lifetime. This tends to make the development of the mind a thousand times (at least) faster than biological evolution.

I would talk to an evolutionary psychologist like Jordan Peterson on this topic. This is too recent a development in scientific inquiry to jump to any conclusions too quickly.

I think this is a poor description of what is happening except when the human mind fails to be in control and person is dominated by instincts like an animal. More often evil is a product of bad habits of thinking, where emotions play very little role in what they do.

Free will is not absolute, universal, or indestructible and plays more of a role in choosing our habits rather than controlling every thing we do. Those habits can increase our free will and the awareness on which free will depends or they can enslave us to thinking or behaviors which are self-destructive.

People refrain from all kinds of self-destructive habits but we do have the deck stacked against us with the examples of others so it is practically impossible to avoid them all. But we have no nature to do evil given to us either by God or anything else. However, by the time we learn to speak, it is inevitable that we have adopted some of the self-destructive habits of other people by imitation. And it is like a degenerative disease dragging us down into less freedom and greater depravity eventually.

Sin is self-destructive and will consume everything of value and goodness within us eventually if not stopped. God seeks to help us overcome these self-destructive habits. The consequences of our actions can never be escaped, but we can cooperate with God in the removal of these self-destructive habits.

To be sure some have been surrounded by a greater prevalence of self-destructive habits in their society including the misuse of religion. But no this does not make it impossible for God to reach out to some people in such circumstances – more difficult but not impossible. And frankly, we see a lot of misuse of religion in Christianity also.

Incorrect. We see the ultimate in our self-destructive habits when we kill those sent to help us. That is what put Jesus Himself on the cross.

We are certainly worthy of suffering the logical consequences of our own choices. And God will sometimes abandon people to those consequences when there is no hope for them to change, or He will even push their buttons to manipulate them in bringing about events for the greater good of mankind.

In conclusion, I would agree that evolution does require some changes in our understanding of the Bible and Christianity. But it has obviously not been so difficult that the majority of Christians have not been able to do so. And some of these changes are changes back to what the Bible already said and away from distortions of philosophy absorbed by Christianity along the way. For example the watchmaker conception comes from Deism and the Biblical conception of God has always been that of a shepherd. And then there are the distortions of Neoplatonism and the Gnostics with their dualism and salvation by knowledge (sound doctrine) which I think must be discarded also.

Is that not what theistic evolution is? God guiding evolution?

Could you give me your comments on my immediately preceding post where I summarize my understanding of christianity? Was there death before the Fall? - #57 by Anthony

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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