Thursday, August 30, 2012

Death Before Sin?

This is a re-post, with some minor changes, from 2009. My thoughts have not changed on this topic in the past three years:

With this being the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, there will undoubtedly be much discussion this year of his impact upon society. Since 2009 is also the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species, Darwin will be difficult to ignore.

It does not surprise me that secularists in general and atheists in particular believe that the world came about through evolutionary processes. It makes sense that people who do not know Jesus Christ will also hold faulty views about the beginnings of the universe.

It does surprise and trouble me that some Christians believe that God used evolutionary methods to bring His creation into existence. I've heard this many times from people who I have no doubt are followers of Jesus Christ. I believe that these Christians mean well.

Despite their good intentions, Christians who believe in some sort of evolution (macroevolution, not microevolution) have a big theological problem on their hands. The big problem is this: in their view, death must come before sin. If plants and animals existed for millions of years prior to the first humans, then there must have been a great deal of death before any humans walked the earth.

However, the bible tells us that death is a consequence of sin. Death comes from sin and after sin. This is what we see when we give a literal reading to Genesis 1-2. Years later Paul writes, "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..." (Romans 5:12, ESV)

A related problem for Christians who hold to evolutionary beginnings is this: if death comes before sin in Genesis 1-2, then to be consistent death must still exist in Revelation 21-22. Is the Christian/evolutionist ready to say that death will exist after sin is done away with by Christ? We certainly can't believe that this will be the case. Revelation 20:14 even says, "Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire." Death will be done away with forever by Christ.

It saddens me that many Christians are willing to sacrifice theological truth on the altar of secular scientific theory. Christians must realize that evolution today is pushed and promoted by secularists. It is secular scientists who are trying to force their beliefs on our culture. On the other hand, many scientists who are also Christians believe that the objective scientific data corresponds closely with a literal reading of Genesis 1-2.

It is a great biblical truth that death only came after sin. We also know that after sin is gone, death will be gone as well.

I have never once heard a good answer from a Christian/evolutionist as to how death can come before sin.

I'm still waiting.


Chris Jefferies said...

I don't expect to make much real progress by writing this comment. I say that because I think you and I both know where we stand, have thought the issues through very thoroughly already, and will not be able to persuade one another.

Having said that, there are two issues with what you have written. As I see it, you misrepresent physical truth, but you also misrepresent spiritual truth.

There is a great deal of evidence for evolutionary biology, and also for the age of the Earth being around four and a half billion years.

It seems to me unreasonable to dismiss all this evidence on the basis of texts written thousands of years before the evidence became available.

How can we square the circle when the evidence runs against a literal interpretation of the words?

To do so we need to recognise that the Bible is not intended to teach us biology, or geology, or indeed poetry, or maths, or agriculture, or astronomy, or music, or literature, or warfare, or cookery, or medicine, or geography. It contains elements of all these topics, but they are not the purpose.

The Bible (the written word) and Jesus (the living Word) both reveal the nature of the Most High, the nature of people, and our relationship with him.

Therefore we should not be looking for physical truth in the Bible, but spiritual truth.

Eric said...


Thank you for reading and commenting. We have the same Lord, which ultimately unites us even if we disagree on creation-related issues.

I'm not sure what you mean by "real progress." If it means that either of us will change our minds, that appears unlikely (as you said).

You've made two strong charges against me. I'd like to reply.

First, you've stated that I misrepresent physical truth. That would be the case if all the evidence pointed in one direction. However, it does not. Some scientists hold to an evolutionary theory of the earth's beginnings while others do not. To write as if it is an open and shut case is irresponsible. Instead of letting mixed scientific findings, much of which comes from secularists, be my source of authority, I'll go with the bible instead.

Second, you say that I misrepresent spiritual truth. You go on to say, "the Bible is not intended to teach us biology, or geology, or indeed poetry, or maths, or agriculture, or astronomy, or music, or literature, or warfare, or cookery, or medicine, or geography." I'll assume that my misrepresenting spiritual truth comes from my looking to the bible for some of the above things. The fascinating thing is that you've made an strong absolute statement about the bible, but have failed to support it with any evidence. How do you know that the bible is only for spiritual truth?

I have a few questions for you:

1. Why believe anything the bible says?

2. Why believe in miracles?

3. How do you select which parts of the bible to believe literally?

4. How do you explain death before sin?

Chris Jefferies said...

Hi Eric,

I'd like to begin by apologising for writing a careless and hasty comment (never a good idea). When I wrote that you 'misrepresent' truth I should perhaps have written 'misunderstand' instead. I certainly didn't mean to imply that you deliberately distort the truth.

So, to your four questions. They're such good questions that I might write a blog post of my own for each one. But here are the short answers.

First though, what I meant by 'real progress' was just 'progress'. I don't think I'll persuade you to a different view.

Why believe anything the Bible says? Because it's the truth, spiritual truth. And it provides much historical truth too (though I and many others don't include creation as historically true).

Why believe in miracles? I don't 'believe' in miracles, but I know that remarkable, unexpected, miraculous things happen when we put our trust in Jesus and follow him.

How do you select which parts of the bible to believe literally? I would say that all of the Bible contains spiritual truth and much of it may be true in other ways too. But where there's strong evidence that it's not intended literally, I look for a deeper meaning. Jesus said that looking at a woman lustfully is sinful, he also said that if your eye causes you to sin you should pull it out. I take that to mean it's a very serious matter, but I don't think many people would take him literally. I don't think he intended anyone to take him literally.

How do you explain death before sin? I don't explain it, it's self evident. There are many, many wild plants that are annuals or biennials. They germinate from a seed, they grow, they flower, they drop their seed, and they die. Again, I look for spiritual truth. Sin shatters our connection with the Father, that spells spiritual death. But it doesn't change the life cycle of annual meadow grass (Poa annua).

Eric said...


Thank you for responding. Often we I ask questions in this format I do not receive answers.

Our big area of disagreement is the range of information we should pull from scripture. You limit it where I don't.