Friday, August 18, 2006

Spiritual Arrogance, The Garden of Eden, and How I Learned Not To Worry That A Dead Mouse Could Render Jesus Inconsequential

As the title suggests, this is a rather rambling post. One article that I read has triggered what should be two posts, but I'm going to try to tie them together into one.

It was a paradise. There was no death, no disease, no predators, and no weeds. Nature was in perfect harmony. The lamb feared not the lion, nor the mouse the thunderous footsteps of the elephant.

Is this (more-or-less) a description of:

  (a) The Garden of Eden
  (b) The entire pre-fall Earth?

I think that if you are a Young Earth Creationist (YEC), you have to pick (b). Hold that thought--I'll came back to it later.

The article that elevated my blood temperature

The writings of Dr. John Morris, president of the Institute of Creation Research (ICR) often test my Christian patience and leave my scientific and theological self speechless (figuratively).

Recently I stumbled upon this "Ask Dr. Morris" essay, reproduced here, and entitled Should a Church Take a Stand On Creation?

"Recently my family and I joined a small church plant pastored by a former student of mine at Christian Heritage College—a man of real wisdom and integrity.

A church constitution was being written, which, of course, included a Statement of Faith. A solid creation and young-earth plank appeared in the first draft.

Although there was no disagreement among the members (many of whom were young Christians) as to the doctrine of special, recent creation, there was concern in making this a requirement for membership. I was asked to comment.

Given the fact that most of America's Bible colleges and seminaries would not even agree with the content of the plank, I acknowledged my own hesitancy about being so exclusive, but I proceeded to demonstrate how beliefs in creation and a young earth are integral parts of Christianity.

The doctrine of God is at stake. for example, is the God of the Bible a gracious, purposeful God of wisdom, or does He resort to trial and error in His deeds, testing His creation by survival of the fittest and delighting in the extinction of the weaker? Is God long ago and far away—only occasionally involved, or is He near and intimately concerned with the affairs of life?

The doctrine of Scripture comes into play. There are few Biblical teachings as clear as that of creation in six days and the companion doctrine of the global flood. Yet these two teachings are denied and ridiculed in many Christian churches today. Can the Scriptures be trusted? Can God say what He means? If a Christian can distort Scripture to teach such beliefs as evolution, progressive creation, an old earth, or a local flood, can that Christian be trusted with other doctrines?

The doctrine of man becomes skewed. Can man, with a brain and reasoning powers distorted by the curse, evaluating only a portion of the evidence, accurately reconstruct the history of the universe? Should his historical reconstructions be put on a higher plane than Scripture? Or is man and his mind locked in the effects of the curse—a poor reflection of the once glorious "image of God"—now blinded by sin and the god of this world, seeing things through a glass darkly?"

The doctrine of sin becomes questionable. If death and bloodshed preceded Adam's rebellion against God, then what are "the ways of sin?" How did the entrance of sin change things?

The doctrine of salvation likewise falls, for if death preceded sin, then death is not the penalty for sin, and Christ's death on the cross—accomplished nothing. Any form of evolution and old-earth thinking is incompatible with the work of Christ.

I still am uncertain about young-earth creationism being a requirement for church membership; perhaps it would be proper to give new members time to grow and mature under good teaching.

But I do know one thing: Creationism should be a requirement for Christian leadership! No church should sanction a pastor, Sunday school teacher, deacon, elder, or Bible-study leader who knowledgeably and purposefully errs on this crucial doctrine." (highlighting in red added by me.)
Now, let me dispense with what was going to be the gist this post: the unimaginable arrogance of what Morris wrote. Morris is not sure whether, were they to seek membership, he would find suitable for Christian fellowship men like: Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Charles Hodge, Benjamin Warfield, Gleason Archer, Francis Schaeffer 1, etc. Well, maybe they could join the church on a probationary basis, but extensive remedial education would be needed to wean them from spiritual Similac and onto solid food.

Then I got to thinking about the rest of Morris's post. From the litany of asserted theological disasters resulting from a old earth view, the one really presses my buttons is: "The doctrine of salvation likewise falls, for if death preceded sin, then death is not the penalty for sin, and Christ's death on the cross—accomplished nothing. Any form of evolution and old-earth thinking is incompatible with the work of Christ."

I have heard this many times, and every time a voice in my head starts screaming "what the hell are you talking about?"

Does there exist a well-thought-out exegesis to back-up this claim? If so, I have never read it. It is always asserted as manifestly true. It's as if Morris is pouring over God's code and has stumbled across: 2

if (beforeTheFall.nothingAtAllDiedNotEvenAMouse()) {
else {

God, not needing comments in his code, 3 has left Morris without any explanation as to why the death of a mouse before the fall renders Jesus incapable of affecting salvation--but Morris is certain that it does.

Morris, as he worded his argument, is missing the clear teaching of Rom 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, namely that Paul is talking about the human species. Death came to man because of the sin of our representative, and death is defeated, for man, because of the work of another representative. That this applies only to mankind is evident from the fact that sin, in general, did not come into the world through Adam; it was already present thank-you-very-much in the person of Satan and his minions.

This is even aside from the argument as to whether or not the death in Genesis and in Romans is referring to spiritual and physical death, or just the former.

Which gets us back to Eden. And from this point on you are reading pure speculation on my part--I have no clue what the Garden was like--but neither does Morris.

If there was no death--no predator activity anywhere on earth before the fall--if the entire earth was a paradise, then what was so special about Eden? Yet the YEC view, in my opinion, forces you into this position, for it allows for no death anywhere on earth prior to Adam's sin. In this view, the whole earth is like a manicured golf course. Adam and Eve have their designated property lines, called Eden, but just outside are numerous, virtually identical lots awaiting future homeowners born of the first couple.

It makes more sense to me that Eden was like an enclave. Sin was already in the world, and outside of Eden the lamb feared the lion. But God supernaturally preserved a niche from the world's travails. In Eden, and only in Eden, God removed (almost) everything that would tempt man to curse him. No death at the mouths of predators. No childhood leukemia. No leprosy, yellow fever, ALS, or autism. It was God's biosphere—a laboratory in a certain sense, where the only evil present to tempt man to curse God as unfair was kept as minor as possible--and yet man failed. In this view, the earth didn't so much change as a result of the fall (although it may have) but rather man was exiled into the cruel, waiting, world beyond the gates. That is not to say that man wasn't changed—he most certainly changed radically and for the worse--in fact he died on the spot--and his need for a redeemer was absolute at that instant--independent of whether or not carnivorous activity was already occurring outside of Eden.

1 I cringe when I look back at my writing from my blogging start in 2002. Nevertheless, two of my most referenced posts came from June of that year. One on Francis Schaeffer and the earth-age question, and the other on my (perhaps irrational) prejudice against Christian schools. There are no comments on those posts only because I switched comment systems.
2 Surely Calvinists and Arminians can agree that the K&R bracing style was divinely inspired.
3 Programmers might complain, at their eternal peril, that the code violates the “thou shall always test for null-ness” commandment. However, the check:  if (jesus==null) is clearly unnecessary, and any good compiler would optimize it into oblivion.

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