Review by Greg Neyman
© 2011, Old Earth Ministries
In a recent article on the Creation Ministries International website, author David Shackelford argues that the Fall of Man, the Curse of Man, and the Gospel, are incompatible with theistic evolution (despite the fact that there are millions of theistic evolutionists who believe in the Fall, the Curse, and the Gospel).1
To prove his point, he looks first at the conditions prior to the fall. First, he introduces his discussion with the statement that there was no death, violence, or blood shed prior to Adam’s sin. This is despite the evidence to the contrary in the fossil record. Let's look at his claims.
"It Was Good"
A major point that he makes is that after each stage of creation, God pronounced that “it was good.” He proceeds to contrast the difference between God’s version of “good” and mankind’s version of “good.” The author makes an almost immediate switch, from the word good to the word “righteous.” In doing so, he is setting himself up to make the claim that it was not only good, but it was perfect. Indeed he does just that, when he quotes “The world in which Adam was to live …was a perfect environment.” Of course, he then claims that this requires the absence of violence, death, or bloodshed. Therefore the author has read more into the Bible than is actually there. Where the Bible says it was good, he says it was perfect.
If God had intended to say that it was perfect, he could easily have chosen the Hebrew word for perfect. As Glenn Morton states, “God specifically did not inspire the writer to use 'tawmiym' which is Hebrew for 'perfect'. Instead, God used the word 'good', 'towb' to describe his creation in every case.”
As further proof, Shackelford quotes Genesis 1:29-30, which states that Adam and Eve were vegetarian before the fall. He claims that “this precludes any possibility of animal predation, including carnivorous dinosaurs.” Two points here will dispel this claim. First, the fossil record is full of carnivorous activity, and cannot be disputed scientifically. Second, this verse addresses Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, which was a special place that God created for them. In other words, the Garden was different from the rest of the world.
Using young earth logic, one would have to assume that the entire world was perfect. If this were the case, what is the point of creating a special garden for Adam? The entire world would be special, thus there is no need for a Garden of Eden. God could place Adam anywhere on earth. Thus, there had to be something different about the Garden from the rest of the world. I believe that outside the Garden, life, with its death and bloodshed, was the norm. On the inside of the Garden, there was the young earth utopia known as perfection. The reasons for this will become apparent below.
Some may be asking how death and bloodshed can be good. It can be good because God created our world with a fully functioning ecosystem, complete with a life cycle that renews itself. With death comes nourishment for others, which in turn when they die, provides nourishment for others (including plants and animals). Our world was designed to renew itself, and it is a beautiful system that propagates itself over hundreds of millions of years.
Shackelford states, “Those who argue that animal predation existed during this era have to do so at the expense of the clear language of Scripture.” Animal predation is not contrary to the Scriptures, it is only contrary to the young earth interpretation of Scripture. The young earth claim that there was no death prior to the fall is not supported by Scriptures themselves, but only by a young earth interpretation of the Scriptures. A theologian’s job is to interpret the Scriptures. However, YEC theologians have elevated their “interpretation” of the Scriptures to the same level as the Scriptures themselves, to the exclusion of everyone else’s interpretations. Not only is this foolish, it displays a supreme level of arrogance.
Next, he appeals to Isaiah 65 as proof of no death before the fall. However, this passage is referring to the new heavens and new earth. The Garden of Eden provides mankind an image of what we lost because of the Fall. I believe there is a definite connection between the new heavens and new earth, and the Garden of Eden. As in Genesis 1:29-30, the passage is referring not to the created world that fallen man would inhabit, but to the perfect world to come (and was in the Garden).
The Fall, The Curse, The Cross
To his credit the author correctly claims that the primary focus of the death caused by the sin was spiritual death. Physical death was introduced to Adam as well, as he would now have to live in the world outside the Garden, with all its perils. Young earth creationists falsely claim that physical death for all animals started as a result of the Fall, but the fossil record strongly squashes this claim. Add to this the point that physical death is meaningless, as it cannot separate us from God…only spiritual death can, therefore physical death is inconsequential to our relationship with God.
The author then focuses on the curse, and the fact that the ground was cursed because of Adam. What does this curse of the ground mean? This can be taken several ways. One, God cursed the ground, causing it to somehow physically change as a result of Adam’s sin. YECs frequently point out that thorns and thistles were created by God at this point. However, this would mean that God performed a creative act, AFTER he had rested from his creating the world. This line of reasoning contradicts the rest that God entered after He completed the creation.
The other way to understand the curse is that the ground is cursed by mankind. As a result of Adam’s sin, he would have to live in the earth, and subdue it. This would naturally result in the land suffering harm from mankind’s use (and abuse) of the land. Such an interpretation of the curse is allowed by the Scriptures (the ground is cursed "because" of Adam). Concerning the thorns and thistles, these existed prior to man in the fossil record. The curse merely states that the ground would yield thorns and thistles for Adam. The Scripture does not claim that they were created at this point (this is a fabrication of YEC theology).
In the concluding paragraph of the Fall section, Shackelford states, “Crucial to our understanding is the awareness that the situation in which man found himself did not take God by surprise. Scripture reveals God’s purpose to have always been man’s redemption.” This statement actually supports old earth creationism very well. No, God was not taken by surprise. He knew man would fall. Knowing that man would fall, it would be pointless to make the entire world perfect, therefore He created a world for fallen man to live in, complete with death and bloodshed and a functioning ecosystem, and then He created a perfect spot (Eden) for man to have a glimpse of what is to come in the new world.
In this section, man’s predicament of death, and separation from God, is presented, with no major issues for us to discuss. While physical death is important, it is not important when it comes to man’s separation from God (spiritual death). At the end of this section, the author claims that he will “demonstrate briefly why theistic evolution is not an option for the true evangelical Christian.” However, one only need look at the millions of evangelical Christians who believe in theistic evolution to prove this statement false.
The so-called “fallacies” of theistic evolution
The author begins this section by claiming the Gospel of Christ depends on the literalness of Genesis, to include the fact that Adam and Eve were real, the story of the Fall was real, and their deaths were real. I agree, however, none of these issues impact belief in theistic evolution. One can believe in the literal interpretation of Genesis, and believe in evolution. The only difference is that YEC is six 24-hour days, and theistic evolution is billions of years. The difference between YEC and theistic evolution is not what happened after the creation of Adam, but what happened BEFORE. What happened before (how God created) has no impact upon the Fall, the Curse, or the Cross. They are the same for both.
Having said that, I do realize that there are many theistic evolutionists who believe Adam and Eve, the Fall, the Curse, etc, are allegory, and not literal people and events. Much of the author’s arguments against theistic evolution are against the allegorical interpretation of Genesis. However, his arguments have no impact upon evolutionists who hold to a literal interpretation.
Incompatability with Scripture
The author then argues that theistic evolution is incompatible with Scripture. He states, “There are a number of points at which theistic evolution simply cannot be harmonized with the plain reading of Genesis.” Let me re-word this sentence for the author: “There are a number of points at which theistic evolution simply cannot be harmonized with a young earth creationist viewpoint of Genesis.” Evolution will never be harmonized with young earth belief (just like science will never be harmonized with young earth belief).
Fortunately we don't have to worry about harmonizing evolution with a flawed young earth theology. There is nothing wrong with an interpretation of the creation account that lasts billions of years. The problem is not with the Scriptures, but with the interpretation of the Scriptures. Evolution is completely compatible if you interpret the creation account as being billions of years.
Incompatibilities with Orthodox Theology
This section merely expands the argument that Adam must have been a literal person. I agree…so do millions of theistic evolutionists.
While evolution will always be incompatible with the narrow-minded belief in young earth creationism, the author does not present any valid points against belief in evolution. Theistic evolution is a viable option for the Christian, and millions of theistic evolutionists provide testimony to this fact.
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1 The relationship between the Fall, the Curse, and the Gospel, and its incompatibility with theistic evolution by David G. Shackelford, Creation Ministries International Daily Article, 11 Mar 2011
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