Before Redemption, Before the Fall….Creation

Yesterday I mentioned interacting with a local pastor/blogger on his blog fairly recently.  During the same interaction I got into a different discussion with Eric (another local blogger) about the state of nature before Adam’s fall.

I think it is safer to extrapolate from Scripture that things were vastly different in the “normal scientific operation” of Creation pre-fall vs. post fall. To assume that anything worked identically to what we can measure today in the post fall world in the pre-fall garden.  Here’s the part of the comment where we decided to stop and move the conversation to later and elsewhere:

It didn’t rain before the flood (which is hundreds of years post-fall). If it didn’t rain in the garden, it seems that other now “natural” occurrences didn’t occur then either. So gravity? Probably there and similar to today, maybe even identical. Or maybe not. Thermodynamics? I don’t think it’s likely it worked like it does today.

The Garden is a picture of what heaven will be like, and people in the new heavens and the new earth will fall down and not be hurt. Jesus, in his new body, walked through a wall. Things will not be as they are, though we will see the similarity because Creation retains the character of the original though marred by sin.

In redemptive history (which is all of history), there are essentially three periods of time.  There  is original creation.  There is time from the fall until Christ.  And there is time from the resurrection until the end of time when Christ returns.**  From each period to the next there are continuities (things that stay the same) and there are discontinuities (things that are different).  Some of the similarities and differences in the ages are clear in Scripture, and some are much less so.  Some of the less clear can be deduced, and some are just unknown in this life.

Our conversation (friendly debate?) centered around the discontinuities from before the fall to after the fall.  I believe there was no death at all in the garden.  No decomposition, no insects or plants dying, and certainly no human or animal deaths.  None.  Consider this from Romans 5:

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

Now I admit that it is only absolutely clear from this passage that death is only new for mankind after the fall…not that it is new to all of creation.  I don’t think so, though.  I think when God pronounced all things good that he’s declaring them good, and that they’re perfect at that point before sin enters and death with it.  Without the fall there would be no meat-eating (no animal death) and this is how it will be in the new heavens and the new earth when death itself is destroyed (1Corinthians 15).

So here it is, Eric.  It’s later now, and we can have this conversation here rather than tie up someone else’s blog with the give and take.  If you’re still interested, weigh in below, and if not, I got a blog post out of it.  🙂

** I’m not going to get into eschatology in this post (and maybe never on this blog), but there’s some argument to be made that there’s a very short period of transition that is different than the two on either side from the birth of Christ until His resurrection.  Maybe a topic for the future, but not the thrust of this post.

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9 thoughts on “Before Redemption, Before the Fall….Creation

  1. Thanks James, as I said in my other reply- I’m happy that these discussions are happening in our local area and churches and I appreciate your tone of welcome and civility.

    As a little background for you and your readers- you are catching me in the midst of a journey from Young Earth Creationism to Theistic Evolution. (I began searching for creationist apologetics and they had the opposite of their intended effect.) I’m not here to try to convince anybody of the validity of evolution, but I thought it fair to show my hand.

    That said, even from a hyper-literal reading of Genesis I think there are some issues with your arguments. For example- you posit that there was no rain before the flood. I feel that this claim, while popular, lacks biblical support. We obviously can’t know for sure, but even Answers in Genesis (an organization that I have little respect for) cautions against using this argument.

    I’m also curious how you support ‘no plant death’ in Eden. Even if they only ate the fruit of flowering trees and never harvested in a way that causes the death of the plant- there would still be cell death in eating an apple or a green bean as well as in the microbial enzymes required for digestion.

    Another interesting point that you touch on is carnivorous animals. I’m familiar with the concept of vegetarian Eden, and the illustration of the “wolf shall dwell with the lamb” in Isaiah is truly beautiful. However, if God called the tiger ‘good’ in Eden (and assuming that any death is not good) then I can only think of two possible options:
    1. The tiger was designed from the beginning to kill and eat other animals (not just due to its teeth and claws, but its entire digestive and metabolic systems are optimized for eating animals)
    2. It was originally created able to sustain itself without consuming animal proteins and has changed to what we see today. I assume this is not an attractive option for you. (I hesitated to even mention this, as I don’t want this to become merely a fruitless evolution debate.)

    Am I over-simplifying this? Please be honest if I am misrepresenting your views, as even when I was a proponent of YEC I had no answer for this.

    (Anyway, back to actually addressing the main thrust of the article- tornadoes in Eden)
    God created the world and called it good, but does that mean that it was also child-proof?
    Did the earth not consist of tectonic plates prior to the fall?
    Was the atmosphere still and without wind?
    The oceans existed, but was it impossible to drown in them?

    • ok so let’s start with this:

      I do hold to a young earth creation position (6 days, 6000 years old, etc.) but I don’t buy in to every apologist’s arguments on that topic. I do have some respect for AIG, where you do not, and whether they are right or wrong, I want to respect their work as brothers even when I disagree. When in college the first time I held to a theistic evolutionary position and had no journey to my current position. A question was asked of me by a Christian classmate that caused me to reconsider my views: “If God had wanted it to be perfectly clear that He had created the earth in 6 normal days, what could he have said differently that would have made it more clear than it appears to be now?” A follow up on his part was “Why would God say He created it in 6 days if He really did it in thousands (or millions) of years?” And that was really enough for me because to question God’s Word in Genesis 1 meant that I had to question it in Luke and John where it seemed to be just as clear, and Jesus Himself says that God created in 6 days.

      Our difference here will force us to approach the Scriptures very differently, and that different hermenutic will likely present an impasse on the discussions both here and on the other post.

      Regardless, dealing with your questions:
      On the either or for the tiger I have zero problem saying #2. Micro-evolution is easy to establish. In Pennsylvania we discovered there were different traits in deer north and south of Interstate 80, likely caused by genetic dispersion related to a man made boundary that was tough for deer to cross. But traits of deer changing doesn’t even remotely related to a fish spontaneously growing lungs and legs and walking out of the ocean. Those two versions of evolution are not at all similar in the philosophical or scientific underpinings. The deer on the north of I-80, mating with a deer on the south, will still produce a deer. A tiger, over several generations may have moved from an herbivore to an omnivore to a carnivore due to the cumulative results of sin and the fall, just as man’s lifespan dropped from almost 1,000 years pre-flood to around 100 after the flood to as low as 50 at times in recorded history.

      On your questions: again, you’re assuming continuity where I don’t think you should. Is it possible that Adam. like Jesus, before the fall was able to walk on the water? He would have had faith untainted by sin. Is it possible that the tectonic plates didn’t move in the same way before the fall? Was there rain (I think the Bible is fairly clear that there was not until the flood…even after the fall). So wind, rain, earth moving…all were different before the fall.

      If I cut the tail off of a lizard the tail falls off. The lizard does not die. The tail grows back. You are claiming that picking fruit from a tree means plant death. I think the terminology is important, but I am convinced from the thrust of Scripture that man ate and was filled while nothing died in creation.

      There’s my answers. You’ve already shown polite disdain for your former position so we may not have much to talk about from here. Unless we have a common view of Scripture to discuss from, it is very difficult to move any arguments either direction. I will post a response on the other post as well, because it may be different on that issue, but here we have a very different assumption:

      I presume (based on Romans 5 among others) that sin drastically changed the nature of all creation to the core and therefore we cannot assume that anything is the same before the fall as it is now in the patterns of the created realm. You presume that there is measurable continuity in the created realm and that the fall has little or no effect on the physical realm outside of (maybe?) mankind now dying where they wouldn’t have apart from the fall. This, by the way, has not been attempted to be supported by Scripture in your comment above.

      Thanks for the interaction. I won’t get to the other post or reply to anything here for a day or so, but I appreciate the spirit in which you’re approaching our disagreement and perhaps we can even further this over coffee sometime since you’re local. 🙂

      • You’ve already shown polite disdain for your former position so we may not have much to talk about from here. Unless we have a common view of Scripture to discuss from, it is very difficult to move any arguments either direction.

        I agree. I don’t foresee either of us drastically changing our minds but I still value the dialog almost as much as I do the grace you have shown in facilitating it. I do find it interesting that we are moving in opposite directions on the spectrum of creationism. I’m glad my disdain came across as polite to be honest- this hasn’t always been the case, but I’m evolving… 😉

        I have some responses to some of your comments, but don’t feel that you need to address them immediately (if at all.)

        “If God had wanted it to be perfectly clear that He had created the earth in 6 normal days, what could he have said differently that would have made it more clear than it appears to be now?”

        That’s actually a really thoughtful question. Here’s another: If God had wanted to accurately relay the process of biological evolution to Moses, what language could he have used?
        I don’t really have satisfactory answers to either question. Like your other article states, there are some things we just won’t know in this life. Would our earliest ancestors have even had words to express the number 4,540,000,000? (The age of the earth- give or take 50 million years)

        I’m honestly surprised that you accept even “micro-evolution” as that is fairly uncommon even among OEC-proponents I know, at least on the scale of an organism gaining new traits. Am I safe assuming that you accept evolution in the form of mutation and selection within “kinds?” (For the record, this definition of biological evolution is actually much closer to what scientists claim than “a fish spontaneously growing lungs and legs” is.) If so, what locks the DNA of an organism to prevent it from evolving ‘too far?’

        As far as assuming continuity, I actually think you are correct to question it. Naturalism makes quite a few unfounded assumptions that I just can’t get behind. However I think we do have the data required to ‘assume’ continuity in some cases. Applicable examples in this context would be based on the fossil record, radiometric and other types of dating, and the sheer size of the known universe. For example, the problem of distant starlight (which is the majority of all starlight we see) or the time required for a tiger to evolve the capability to eat meat in 6000 years or less. In addition, to reject all extrapolated observations as mere assumptions can lead to Solipsism, which might be the only thing worse than two Christians debating origins!

        As you said, there is quite a difference of opinions between us, so I do understand if you feel this has reached an impasse. Though I don’t think either one of us is particularly surprised by this difference of opinions; I think our view of scripture is more common than it is dissimilar. Grace and Peace.

      • “…but I’m evolving”
        —you’re funny. Just saying.

        On the question and counter question I have short answer to yours. If God had created the world and had things evolve over time with man coming from the apes or whatever version of theistic evolution you believe…I think God would not have used the clear detail about what he created when and tied it to evenings, mornings, days. He simply could have said something like “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” and skipped right to the action in the garden. Of course I’ll have to ask about that when we have more time…do you believe there was a literal Adam and Eve? Because that would change things one way or another.

        I may have more later…just a quick note to thank you for commenting again and to let you know I appreciate your humor. 🙂

      • Well I think that the Creation story is fashioned, to some extent, to match other creation stories of the time- with some major differences.
        For example, Babylonian and other mythologies claimed that their Gods made the world from chaos, Genesis claims that God made everything with no exceptions.
        I have no idea if there were a literal Adam and Eve, but either way I think God is telling the story of the advent of Israel.
        To go a little further, I would say that Genesis isn’t nearly as clear as many people think. You have two completely different orders of creation between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. You have Cain afraid of his enemies when he leaves the land, and you have his wife and the wives of his children, but from whence came they?

      • yeah…I think we’re probably at an impasse here. The simple answer is that the wives came from sisters who weren’t otherwise mentioned, but I don’t think we have enough of a similar view of where Scripture comes from to make this exchange profitable any further. The Christian creation story is the foundation for others, not the other way around. And of course you know I think that.

        Thanks for a cordial exchange among our disagreements!

  2. “Would our earliest ancestors have even had words to express the number 4,540,000,000?”

    I think I can answer this question. One of the earliest known number systems, base 60, can traced back to 3000 BC. Because of the high number of the base, (ours being base 10) the number 4,540,000,000 would only be 6 digits long, printed. (5oIV6e in modern notation) Granted, the ancient way of printing numbers had much larger digits, and was much more time consuming, but printing large numbers would be comprehensible.

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