Friday, January 19, 2018

Something you probably believe, but you can't prove

You cannot prove from scripture that there was no physical death before the fall, and you cannot prove that Adam and Eve would have lived forever had they not sinned.

  1. I think there was (death pre-fall), and they would not have (lived forever).
  2. I don't think it is all that important. (Others vehemently disagree.) 
Let me be boldface emphatic: You cannot prove from scripture that Adam and Eve would have lived (physically) forever. You can't. I double-dog dare you.

The entrance of death, as we all know, is indeed placed at the feet of our representative, Adam (Rom 5:12).

But that's not proof if you take a second to follow up on the nature of death that overtook Adam. For God promised Adam would surely die the day that he sinned (Gen 2:17), but Adam didn't physically die for another nine hundred plus years. In order not to make God into a liar, or someone who changes his mind willy nilly, you are forced (there is really no way out; you're in a bear trap) to conclude that the only certain universal death resulting from Adam's sin was the far more serious spiritual death. And surely, as God promised, Adam suffered fatal spiritual cardiac arrest at first bite.

Not to fret, this view is actually more consistent with the rest scripture (e.g., Eph 2:1).

Some recognize the problem and insist that God didn't really mean what was written under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. There was a kind of hiccup in the scripture inspiration connection to Moses, who after all was the prototype. There was still a bug. God actually meant that the process of dying would start when Adam sinned. The inspiration protocol was thereafter improved to avoid such disconnects (until such time as they are needed again to make the bible say something it doesn't.)

To be fair, I cannot prove my position either. The difference is that I do not insist that I am right about this, as so many holding the majority view do.

The 20th century theologian Francis Schaeffer has a magnificent little (literally little) book named No Final Conflict. Unfortunately it is out of print, but you can still find copies.

In No Final Conflict, Schaeffer attacks existential theology, which holds that the Bible is infallible only in spiritual matters, not when it comes to history or science.

Schaeffer bitterly opposes this view:
"Evangelism is not consistently evangelical unless there is a line drawn between those who take a full view of scripture and those who do not." (p. 13)
Of interest to me, Schaeffer says that we must accept as infallible the creation and pre-Abrahamic history of the first 11 chapters of Genesis.

I am delighted to agree with Francis Schaeffer. In my own, less cogent style I put it this way:

  • When (if ever?) science and the Bible disagree, the Bible is always right.
  • When science and Christians disagree, sometimes (often in fact) science is right

The Unity of Genesis

Schaeffer argues that Genesis teaches theological truth throughout and one cannot simply discard the first 11 chapters as irrelevant prehistory and science (cosmology). He argues for the unity of Genesis on both a theological and literary basis. He notes, quite rightly, that the writers of the New Testament (including the words of Jesus) show that they took the creation account and the historic existence of Adam and Eve as fact. See, for example,  Matt 19:4-5, Luke 3:38, Rom 5:12 (there are many others).

Schaeffer’s point, if I may restate it, is this: due to this massive NT referencing (as historic fact) of the early chapters of Genesis, the credibility of the entire Bible (including the purely “religious” parts) rests on the fact that Adam and Eve were actual historic people without human parents. He gives this  slippery-slope warning:
”…those who are taught a weakened view [of Genesis] by their professors almost always carry it further into the whole Bible and are left really shaken as far as any real basis for their Christianity is concerned.”(p. 15)
As for science, Schaeffer noted:
”There is no reason, therefore, to consider science free from the propositions set forth in the Scripture.” (p. 22)
As to whether the Bible is a scientific textbook, he says that it is not because science is not the central theme of the Bible. However, Schaeffer adds, that does not mean we cannot learn some science from the Bible. He likens it to angelology: the Bible leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions concerning angels; nevertheless we do learn something about them.
The Bible does not give us exhaustive truth, specifically, about the things of the cosmos, and therefore, science has a real function. Also, science, as a study of general revelation, has shown us things that have caused us to understand the Bible better. (p. 24)

Schaeffer on the Earth: is it Old or is it Young?

Given all this you might expect that Schaeffer would state emphatically that we must affirm the literal six (24 hour) days view of creation. You would then be surprised that he does not.

Schaeffer lists seven “freedoms” we have in the area of Cosmology. By freedoms, he means that in his opinion one could hold one of these views and affirm the truth of the entire Bible in a self consistent manner. These are not mutually exclusive models of creation: some are broad, some narrow. They all relate to creation. Some of these views are undoubtedly wrong but, according to Schaeffer, none can be ruled out apart from dogma.

Here they are, greatly summarized, and without comment. (In Schaeffer’s book he does comment on each view.) I'm bold-facing the sixth point, because it is relevant for this post.
  1. The universe was created recently, but with the appearance of being old. God had a purpose, which he has not revealed, to create a universe that appears to be billions of years old.
  2. There is a possibility of a gap between verses one and two, or two and three in Genesis 1. Schaeffer make some interesting comments about this in terms of Satan’s fall and C. S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra.
  3. The days in Genesis are “long” days.
  4. The flood affected the geological data.
  5. A different (based on the Hebrew) interpretation of the word kind in Genesis 1, e.g. Gen 1:11. He says that this word is not necessarily synonymous with the modern word species.
  6. There may have been animal death before the fall, but it was not from being hunted by other animals or in a struggle. It was like a dog dying quietly at a fireplace or a leaf falling from a tree. 
  7. Only the word bara must mean an absolute new beginning. This word is used for creation three times: The creation of the universe out of nothing, the creation of conscious life, and the creation of man. The creation of other things, as when God said “Let there be light”, use more general words that might imply a sequence. 
As far as the old/young earth question goes, when discussing item 3 above, Schaeffer writes:
”If anyone wonders what my own position is, I am really not sure whether the days in Genesis 1 should be taken as twenty four hours or periods. It seems to me that from a study of the Bible itself one could hold either position.” (p. 30)
I would agree (and it's pure speculation) that if pre-fall physical death occurred, that it might have been very different from post-fall physical death. 

One downer: Schaeffer did not list the framework hypothesis under his freedoms.

1 comment: