Thursday, October 02, 2008

Science and Faith at War?  4.2 Can we literally take this literally?

Notes from a Sunday School that began on May 25.

Comments, corrections, and routine editing: absolutely welcomed!

4.2 Can we literally take this literally?

One of the exegetically weakest points held by fundamentalists is that there was no death of animals prior to the fall. OECs, some of whom believe God used dead animals to prepare the bio-deposits essential for human life are, according to fundamentalism, disparaging God’s creation, which He called very good, imbuing it with evil and cruelty prior to the fall.

There are many things that are weak about this argument, not the least of which it is not taught in scripture.

It also assumes animal death is necessarily evil and cruel, which is not taught anywhere in scripture (and of which there are many counter-examples).

It also assumes there was no evil or sin present before the fall, which is contrary to scripture. Satan was already on earth prior to the fall, so sin and evil were already present (obviously) when the woman was deceived.

It means that if Adam, prior to the fall, stepped on an ant, the ant survived. Did the ant receive all the attendant injury associated with being crushed, but survived and recovered? Or were ants, prior to the fall, indestructible?

It is unrelated to this argument, but one can easily argue that Adam and Eve would have suffered physical death even without the fall. After all, they were to die the day they partook of the forbidden fruit, yet they lived (physically) far beyond that day. So the death they died, and the death that entered the world through Adam, was not physical but spiritual. No where does the Bible teach that Adam would have lived (physically) forever, let alone the animals. Scripture is silent on the matter.

Finally, while God called His creation very good, He does not call it “perfect as you, my creation, are free to define as perfect.” In one sense, it is, of course, perfect—in that it is exactly as God intended. But certainly it is not perfect in the sense that, even before the fall, the earth was corrupted by the sin and presence of Satan. And it probably was not perfect in the sense that, although it was paradise, it was not as wonderful as God could possibly have made it, for we are told of a better creation at the end of the age (Rev 21-22).

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 section. Let’s begin with a quiz. Consider this description

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).

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? How could you tell Eden from what was over the wall? 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.

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