December 1, 2020

One of the Stickiest Issues

By Chaplain Mike

The interpretation of the creation narrative in Genesis 1 and the subsequent stories in Genesis 2-3 forms one of the battlegrounds in the current “creation wars.” However, the arguments go beyond Genesis. In fact, the stickiest issues grow out of the way the Apostle Paul makes use of the story of Adam in such passages as Romans 5 and 1Corinthians 15. And one of the most important involves the reality of death in the world and how we are to understand it in light of the Gospel.

I am working through the NT texts and will be posting on them later this week.

In the meantime, I want to refer you to an article by Daniel Harrell, former minister at Park Street Church in Boston, and now Senior Minister of the Colonial Church in Edina, Minnesota. He also has a PhD in developmental psychology and has show great interest in issues of science and faith. You can read his contributions and watch video conversations with him at BioLogos, and he authored the book, Nature’s Witness: How Evolution Can Inspire Faith.

On his blog, Harrell wrote a post called, “Evolution, Christianity, and Death.” It provides a good summary of the view that death existed before Adam’s sin and that this is compatible with an orthodox evangelical understanding of the fallen human condition and its remedy in Christ.

Harrell’s general position may be summarized in the following words from his post:

“Death has occurred since the first breath of biological life (and some would say since the first “breath” of cosmological life), long before Adam inhaled. Ironically, therefore, death must be a part of God’s good creation. Moreover, human death due to sin must be something different than the physical death we all die. Theologically speaking, death is alienation from God. It is death as the termination of relationship. It’s what Jesus describes as an ethereal chasm between the rich man and the beggar named Lazarus (Luke 16:19-26).”

In our thinking, we tend to think of one side of death—death as the wages of sin, death as a penalty, death as a separation that causes grief and anguish. But Harrell encourages us to think of “another side” of death. Jesus spoke of death as an ultimate act of love that provides life for others. Pointing to the way the natural world itself works, he said, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24 NIV).

More than stating the horticulturally obvious, Jesus is making a much larger point about the way all things are. Just as the death of an organism will allow for its flourishing reproduction and continued genetic life (not that the Bible would put it this way), so would the death of Jesus and the subsequent deaths of Jesus’ followers lead to a new flourishing and continuation of life in Christ. God redeems death for good.

Sacrificial giving is a part of God’s nature. Why should we be surprised to see it revealed in nature’s nature? If the earth reveals the handiwork of God (Psalm 102:25), we would expect to see the marks of God on the world as science observes it even if science doesn’t acknowledge it. God gives himself in creation and for creation, ultimately dying to redeem it toward new creation.

But isn’t death itself called our “enemy” (1Cor 15:26)? Harrell asserts that it is not the mere cessation of physical life on earth that is our enemy, but eternal alienation from God. Even believers, who have been given eternal life through Jesus, still die physically. However, the “sting” of that physical death has been forever removed, transforming death from an experience that ends in hopeless darkness to a gateway that leads to life and light.

Daniel Harrell concludes with these words about the future:

Granted, the Bible does promise an eventual end to death (Revelation 21:4). If “no death” literally means no death (which it must mean if we’re talking eternity), then we should anticipate a new creation with a new sort of biology and physics—at least one where entropy no longer holds sway and death is no longer required. With no death there would be no evolution, since in heaven, presumably, everything achieves its perfection. And yet just as evolution previews Christ’s death and resurrection, so also do aspects of heaven already exist on earth. As people are made in God’s image, so creation is made in heaven’s image. Humans are not rescued out of the world; the entire created order participates in the redemption of humanity. Christians hold that the created and cursed is the very stuff that gets redeemed and glorified. Though all things die and return to dust, it is out of that same dust that resurrection happens.



  1. Thanks so much for posting this. I live not too far from Park Church and have visited there. I have a number of friends who attend there as well. I look forward to reading more of Daniel Harrell. It’s good to see more Christians, especially evangelicals, willing to tackle this difficult issue. But as a Christian who understands something of science, we must deal with this forthrightly or else we deservedly will be seen as irrelevant.

  2. Chaplain Mike,

    I have read Christians writers — I can’t remember who now — exhort us NOT to accept death as natural, that it is an offense and a wrongness, and that it’s more a pagan idea to appreciate death as part of the Circle of Life. What is the physical death that “Ironically, therefore, . . . must be a part of God’s good creation”? I understand the aspect of sacrificial giving and even the practical element of making way for the new, like the grain of wheat; but is every horrifying degeneration through cancer or Alzheimer’s part of God’s good creation? When I or someone else is dying slowly and with difficulty, what should my response be? More like the first or the second?
    Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
    Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
    By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
    Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
    About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

    or Dylan Thomas
    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    • A quick and insufficient reply to your comment: go to last July’s archives and read the post that deals with “surd evil.” There is more to the story than that which comes from Adam’s sin. And Christ’s work will one day overcome and transform it all.

    • Damaris, I think your question is at the heart of the discussion here. I haven’t taken the time to read the post Mike alluded to yet, but perhaps part of the answering lies in the distinction between the ultimate good and the proximate good. That is, perhaps it is helpful to see that death is not ultimately good (and will have no place in the New Creation), but that it is instrumentally good: it (somewhat paradoxically) functions as an instrument to bring the final good (and so is a proximate good).

      Or maybe the whole thing is “beyond our pay grade”.

  3. I appreciate this post. Can you imagine a world without death? Thousands of years worth of reproducing yet ever-living plants, animals, and humans would be stacked so high on top of each other that we’d be unable to move or breathe, yet still ever-living and never being able to die. It just doesn’t make sense. Reproduction makes no sense without death. God commanded us to reproduce, so physical death has got to be part of the original creation.

    • Animals & plants aside, don’t you think an unfallen humanity could have such control over the natural functions as to be able to limit fertility by will & reach such a level of advancement as to allow for space colonization?

      • But that would have been a sin itself, cause they were commanded to be fruitful and multiply 😉 Though space colonization sounds like fun.

    • cermak_rd says

      This was explored in the episode the Mark of Gideon in Star Trek back in 1969.

    • Jason Wyngard says


  4. Pastor Harrell has said some very good things. We always tend to make salvation purely personal, whereas Saint Paul said that the whole Creation groans while it waits for the revealing of the sons of God. The final scene in the Book of Revelation pictures a saved humanity (healed soul and new body) being placed in the midst of a saved Creation (new heavens and a new earth). The goal (and hope) of salvation for us is to become like God in the right way rather than by eating of the wrong tree. The goal for Creation is to be renewed and become new. Salvation encompasses not only our own personal change, but a wholesale change for Creation itself.

    Pastor Harrell is also right in commenting that unless there is something that we do not know about the original Creation, then death was part of it even before the Fall. Seeds have to die in order for trees to germinate. On a closer biological level, cells have to die in order for us to have growing hair. Placental cells have to die after birth is given. Even animals running around in the veldt wear paths where formerly living grasses would have grown. You get the idea.

    In passing, several of the Church Fathers believed that Adam and Eve were created mortal and would not have become immortal until and unless they would have passed their period of probation. For instance, Theophilus of Antioch (180 AD), Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD), Theodore of Mopseustia (350-428 AD), Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD). They were not the majority, but certainly an important minority. A smaller minority of the Fathers held that death existed before the Fall as part of God’s plan, that is, in the sense of seeds dying to give new birth,etc., for instance the aforementioned Clement of Alexandria and Theodore of Mopseustia.

    More importantly, the Church never bothered to declare either side of the debate to be wrong. Nor was this one of the issues that ever came up at a Council. So, certainly, those who were closest to the time of the Apostles never conceived it as damaging to Scripture to believe one way or the other on this issue. That is a particularly modern idea. Which is why the Orthodox, to this day, do not take an official stance on the matter.

    • Fr. Ernesto,

      Would you mind posting some references to the Church Fathers you cited? Quotes would be even better, but I didn’t know how much room that would take. 🙂

      • I will look some up, but let me give you just a couple.

        Origen said, “That the world is originated and subject to decay, since it took its beginning in time.” In other words, that death and decay were part of the world from its origination. He interprets Roman 5.12 as meaning that through sin death came to humans, because they were not expected to experience it ever.

        St. Maximus the Confessor said, “What I am saying is that in the beginning sin seduced Adam and persuaded him to transgress God’s commandment, whereby sin gave rise to pleasure and, by means of this pleasure, nailed itself in Adam to the very depths of our nature, thus condemning our whole human nature to death and, via humanity, pressing the nature of (all) created beings toward mortal extinction.” Maximus is saying that because of human sin, creation itself is being pressed in a direction for which it was not meant.

    • Notably, it’s rational to expect that in the story, Adam and Eve were mortal. After all, they never ate from the tree of life, and God threw them out of Eden so that they wouldn’t be immortal as well as stupid. 😉

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      We always tend to make salvation purely personal…

      Which could explain how Ayn Rand got to be the Fourth Person of The Trinity. You can’t get more Purely Personal than Objectivism.

      …whereas Saint Paul said that the whole Creation groans while it waits for the revealing of the sons of God.

      And that Creation is more than Church and Bible Study, more than Prayer and Prosletyzing, more than 6014 years old, bigger than Earth and some lights in the sky. It includes subcreations, daughters of our imaginations like that Cobra in a White Dress whose picture I have hung at the top of my stairwell, and cartoon ponies in a fairy-tale land.

  5. Death before the Fall is really one of the least problems with OE/TE.

    However, it does highlight many of the issues. The most important being consistency – if “death our enemy” only refers to spiritual death, then only spiritual death was defeated by Jesus (in other words, Jesus would not defeat “good death” which comes from God). Thus the eternal state must include physical death, ala Farmer’s “Riverworld”.

    Secondly, TE’s should worship death as their Creator (or, at least, through death as Creator). Resistance of death, and conservation of species against extinctions are great evils.

    • Hmm, I pointed out that even the Fathers that believe that Adam was created mortal said that the intention was not that he remain mortal, but that he become everlasting, once the period of probation was passed. So, yes, Our Lord defeated physical death as well because that was never God’s intention for humans. On that point, I disagree with Paster Harrell.

      Nevertheless, in order to believe that death did not exist in any way whatsoever before the Fall, one must assume that humans did not need to eat. Well, except that Genesis before the Fall talks about eating, as in you can eat any plant except the fruit from a certain tree. One cannot eat plants without cell death happening.

      So, given what those Fathers said, it would not be contradictory to say that death existed before the Fall, that Adam and Eve were mortal, but that God’s intention was for them not to die, and that therefore Our Lord’s intention was to free them from both their spiritual death and the physical death through which they should have never had to pass.

  6. David Cornwell says

    This turns some of my thinking about death on its head. Which might be good, but it takes some time to process.

  7. Gen 2:17 “…for the day you eat of it, you shall surely die.”
    Why would God use the word “die” as a warning to Adam, if Adam had no concept of what death meant? Adam must have seen enough of death to understand its implications.

    A few years ago, I realized that “NO death before the fall” was my own presupposition based on my wishful thinking of what a perfect Eden must be like. I now believe that prior to the fall, death went from being a possibility (forestalled by eating of the Tree of Life), to after the fall where it became a certainty, a necessary containment of sin (Gen 3:22).

    • You can have a concept of what something is without physically witnessing it.

      • But how would Adam get that concept of death, unless death somehow already had meaning to him?
        God: “On the day you eat of it, you shall surely die.”
        If death was not already known to Adam, the next words out of Adam’s mouth should’ve been: “Die? What’s that?”

        • It’s very possible that is what happened. Note that we are not given the line by line account, but only the highlights.

          For example, God told Adam about the fruit (before Eve). Yet Eve had some concept of it (although she was unable to phrase is correctly). Obviously Adam had told her something about it at some point, but we are not given the details.

          • and of course Adam had to have gained some idea of death in his perfect Garden environment in the few hours he actually existed to even know what ‘death’ really was.

            he had not been alive long enough to have experienced any death whatsoever according to the strict creation account. no wonder mankind is so confused. he only had a few brief hours to figure out all the theological implications of his existence before being ejected from his pristine surroundings…


    • What I never understood is why Eden was presumed to be perfect to begin with. Is there a Bible verse to back that up?

      As far as I remember, God only ever proclaimed everything “good,” not “perfect.” As everyone says: Perfect is boring.

  8. Think of Jesus’ statement: “he who believes in Me shall never die”.
    Eveyone who heard him utter that statement had physically died. I do believe in a coming physical ressurection; yet could it also be that God’s perspective of what it means to die, or to never die, is different / greater than a mere biological state that we ascribe to the creation / fall story?

    • It’s really a question of whether death is pleasing to God. If not, then why did He create it. If it is, why should we believe He will do away with it?

      • I can see I’m going to have to re-run my “surd evil” post of a year ago. It addresses a lot of these questions and comments.

        • IIRC, the conclusion we reached there was the God tried to create a good world, but failed (Satan interfered).

        • Mike – I read that post (via the search function). It certainly addresses some of nedbrek’s comments, but I don’t yet see how it fully fleshes out the question of death in nature as an inherently evil. Are you saying that (for example) – the concept of a fruit dropping to the ground, rotting and decaying (dying) in order to spring forth life as a new organism – is God’s result of being order out of chaos (surd evil)?
          Or is this kind of death a morally neutral or even a good part of creation? (Jn. 12:24)

          • I am saying that “death” is a complex phenomenon. Some of it is simply part of God’s good natural order. Some may be attributed to surd evil, sources other than human sin. Some traces its origin back to Adam’s fall.

  9. hey! i happen to like the horticulturally obvious! 😀

  10. slight horticultural point here: God command ‘death’ as soon as He said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden…”

    any consumption of plant and/or animal matter is the breakdown/digestion of living cells. no death meant no digestion. how is that possible?

    and seeds: all seeds are alive in order to be viable. all seeds respirate, ‘ssslllooowwwlllyyy’. they use their stored food reserves very efficiently. no seed can truly ‘die’ & expect to sprout once planted into optimal conditions. all seeds have a natural battery of energy (endosperm) that will simply be used up sitting on a shelf. that energy will eventually be consumed with nothing left for being born again in the process of changing its method of food production ala photosynthesis. amazing things seeds. unless a seed willing to die to its natural state & live a new life process using the Son’s (sun’s) energy, it will not know real life…

    [end of botanical considerations]

    • “Death” in the Biblical sense is not whatever the current cultural definition is. The Bible says that life is in the blood. Also, descriptions of “living creatures” include traits like breathing air and moving around. It is possible that even organisms with open circulation (insects and arachnids) do not meet the Biblical qualifications for “alive”.

      • Good response to Joseph’s interesting comment. I will have to think on this some more.

      • Hmm, I don’t know about how current. After all, it is the Old Testament that says that all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. It is the Old Testament that says that even the hills shall be called to witness against Israel. It is Saint Paul that says that the very Creation groans awaiting the revealing of the sons of God. It is Our Lord who says that the very stones would have risen up to praise him on Palm Sunday if the people had not. I suspect that God’s definition of life is quite a bit broader than simply the blood. I am not, in any way, saying that these are sentient life, but . . .

        I would argue that the “life is in the blood” statement was God preparing His people for the coming Messiah, for the shedding of blood, and for the coming Lord’s Supper when, indeed, we find that we can receive the life from His Blood (and Body).

    • Tim van Haitsma says

      There you go dragging science into perfectly fine theology discussion. Peeing in the punchbowl.

      • ouch. that type of punch ruination maybe likened to the sin issue corrupting all of Adam & Eve’s offspring???

        but keep science out of it? never the twain shall meet? no agreement there?


  11. I can accept the idea of death existing before Adam and the fall. This fits well with the idea that other people may have been around at the time.

    But I find it a leap to define the death of human beings as something that is to be accepted as a natural part of God’s original order and highest intent and purpose. I just don’t see this in scripture. I see that death is conquered and its sting removed and that God can bring good from it, but from the murder of Abel to Jesus weeping at Lazarus’s tomb, I just don’t think the whole cloth of scripture supports the idea that death is accepted, natural or good. If it is, then why is it eliminated in the fulfillment of the Kingdom to which we all look forward?

    • I don’t think Harrell is saying that is the ONLY way to view death. He is merely pointing out that there is more to it than the one side we normally contemplate.

  12. Remember what Jesus said in Mt 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Therefore, it stands to reason that according to Jesus there are two kinds of death, one for the body and one for the soul.

    The concept of a separate death for the soul apart from the death of the body can also be found in the OT, particularly in the book of Proverbs:

    “In the path of righteousness is life,
    and in its pathway there is no death.” – Prov 12:28

    “Do not withhold discipline from a child;
    if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.
    If you strike him with the rod,
    you will save his soul from Sheol.” – Prov 23:13-14

    The parallelism in Prov 23:13-14 indicates that the death that is in view is that of the soul being sent to Sheol, which is probably the OT view of death for the soul. Similarly, the statement in Prov 12:28 is almost certainly alluding to a death for the soul as the book of Proverbs later says in Prov 14:32 that “the righteous finds refuge in his death” and in another passage concerning bodily death it is said in Eccl 9:2 that the “same event happens to the righteous and the wicked”, so while we all experience bodily death (Eccl 9:2) the righteous is nevertheless kept from from death (Prov 12:28) which is the death of the soul in Sheol (Prov 23:14).

    In sum, the OT view is that everyone experiences the death of the body but that the righteous will be delivered from the death of the soul in Sheol.

    Returning to Paul, Rom 5:12-21 is referring to the kind of death that comes from transgressing against God’s law (Rom 5:12-14) and bringing upon oneself condemnation (Rom 5:18), which is referring to the death of the soul and is consistent with the fact that the “free gift of righteousness” (Rom 5:17) that comes from having faith in Jesus (i.e. the outcome of our faith) is according to Peter the “salvation of [our] souls” (1 Pet 1:9). This makes perfect sense on the doctrine of original sin, whereby it is understood that we all inherit a fallen sin nature from Adam and consequently sin and consequently fall under the condemnation of God and consequently are in need of a savior.

    On the other hand, the context surrounding Paul’s usage of Adam in 1 Cor 15 is completely different as it concerns the resurrection of dead. In that discourse, Paul tells us that “in Adam all die” (1 Cor 15:22) because we all “[bear] the image of the man of dust” after “the first man who was made from the earth, a man of dust” (1 Cor 15:47-49). Paul’s teaching is that we all experience bodily death and return to dust because we are all made of dust; transgression against God’s law has nothing to do with it and isn’t mentioned as a reason for death in this discourse.

    In sum, Rom 512:21 is concerned with the death of the soul and the “free gift” that is the salvation of our souls through faith in Jesus while 1 Cor 15 is concerned with the resurrection of the dead and that just as we bear the image of the “man of dust” (i.e. Adam) so also we will bear the image of the “man of heaven” (i.e. Christ Jesus).

    At least that’s how I sort out all these issues…

    • On the strength of the arguments mentioned above, I would say that it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that natural death existed before the Fall and that the first man Adam was always intended to return to dust for the simple reason that he was made of dust (following Paul’s reasoning in 1 Cor 15:47-49).

      The heart of what God said to Adam in Gen 3:17-19 is that until he returns to dust that his natural life will be a lot harder now than it might otherwise have been if he had kept the commandment given in Gen 2:17. Moreover, the death that came from breaking this commandment is that which comes from the condemnation of God (following Paul’s reasoning in Rom 5:18), which is the death of the soul.

      • Would you say that there is physical death in the eternal state, why or why not?

        • No, because in heaven we will bear the image of “the man of heaven” (1 cor 15:48-49). At that time we will have bodies that are “imperishable” and “immortal” (1 Cor 15:50-53), death will be swallowed up in the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:54-56).

          The gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to bring salvation to both soul (i.e. justification) and body (i.e. resurrection)!

          • It seems to me, you are mixing the use of the word death arbitrarily. Either it means physical death or spiritual death (possibly based on context, but there should be contextual clues).

            So, when 1 Cor 15:54 refers to death defeated by Jesus, this must refer to spiritual death (because physical death is good, and Jesus does not overthrow that which is good).

            Therefore, the earlier reference (based on context) must also be spiritual. Thus the “man of heaven” is that which does not suffer spiritual death. Similarly, “imperishable” and “immortal” refer to the spirit.

          • nedbrek,

            Yes, and the contextual clues of 1 Cor 15 overwhelmingly suggest that death of the body in the context of the resurrection of the body is what’s being discussed, not death of the soul as in Rom 5:12-21.

            “So, when 1 Cor 15:54 refers to death defeated by Jesus, this must refer to spiritual death (because physical death is good, and Jesus does not overthrow that which is good).”

            You’re implicitly assuming that if Jesus gives us victory over natural death then it must mean that natural death is bad somehow. I personally don’t share that assumption, I believe that Jesus gives us victory over natural death because he loves us and wants us to be with him and share in his glory and his reign.

          • Two aspects:
            1) Death is either good (in line with God’s desires and attributes) or bad/evil (against God)

            2) “I believe that Jesus gives us victory over natural death because he loves us and wants us to be with him and share in his glory and his reign”

            But we only know what love is from God. If death is good (part of God), then we must come to grips with it. Similarly, there is no contradiction between living with God and sharing and death (there can be mini-resurrections in the eternal state).

          • nedbrek,

            It is my opinion that the most faithful representation of the NT and OT on this point is that natural death was always intended as a temporary institution, according to God’s purposes and not according to Adam’s transgression. For we are told that there will come a day when the garments of creation wear out but that God will put new garments on creation (Ps 102:25-26) when all things are made new (Rev 21:1, 5) at which point the creation will finally be liberated from its bondage to decay (Rom 8:20-21).

            I would encourage you to go back and reread Gen 3, the events that took place at the Fall brings the condemnation of God on the serpent, the woman, and the man. Contrary to what Piper teaches, God does not hold the rest of the plant and animal kingdoms responsible for Adam’s transgression, which is where many people locate the beginning of natural death and decay.

            “If death is good (part of God), then we must come to grips with it.”

            That’s exactly my point! We must come to grips with it and accept it as a temporary aspect of God’s good creation, which we typically avoid by attributing it to Adam’s transgression.

          • I don’t see why it would be temporary. God does not change. Creation reflects the attributes of God.

          • nedbrek,

            “I don’t see why it would be temporary. God does not change. Creation reflects the attributes of God.”

            Yes, but the creation is not itself God and therefore need not reflect every aspect of his divine nature.

            You know, as much as I don’t like pain and suffering and death I must admit that these things (and/or the prospect of them) have a way of getting my attention and causing me to reach out to the one true God. It’s unfortunate, but we seldom seek God without the prodding that comes from the harsher realities of life. Perhaps that is one of the purposes of living in a world whose garments wear out.

  13. I would say that Christian tradition has typically attributed natural death to the Fall for reasons that are more emotional than exegetical, none of us likes the prospect of our own bodily death and to varying degrees are uncomfrotable with the realities of the natural world more generally (being “red in tooth and claw” and all). Methinks we need to grow up about this sort of thing, the same God who saves our souls and resurrects our bodies and loves us intensely also created a world of death and pain. Life is mysterious, God is mysterious, we just need to get over ourselves and accept the reality of our situation sometimes.

    Sorry about spamming so many comments to this thread…

    • no apologies needed. I find your comments very helpful, and am glad you took the time to write them.

      Your exchange with nedbrek (above) is internet discussion at its best, and all too rare.

  14. Michael H. says

    For those who like to read theologians, check out Karl Rahner’s little book “On the Theology of Death.” Some of Rahner’s thoughts are simialr to Harell’s. Among other things, he argues that death has both good and bad aspects, basically. He also suggest that certain aspects of death would have occured even without the fall. A difficult read and one which I don’t always agree with, but a very worthwhile contribution to the Christian understanding of death from a Catholic perspective.

  15. immortality was only promised to the first God-bearing image bearers: Adam & Eve. that it hinged on eating of the Tree of Life a good indication that mankind, or even its ‘first’ parents were not immortal to begin with…

    having been driven from the Garden the natural state of death+decay the norm for all living things had its designed effect. whatever enzymes or esters or proteins in that Tree of Life something to keep the human condition going i would assume…

    and i would believe one would have to keep eating freely of it to maintain such immortality. yet i wonder also about the physical limitations regarding accidents. were accidents also part of the curse? i mean, if Jumbo the Elephant got a bit excited during Adam & Eve’s wanderings thru the Garden & he sat on him, would Adam have survived? the leaves of the Tree of Life in the New Jerusalem said to be for the healing of the nations. interesting consideration…

    • David Heddle (of the “He Lives” blog) has a pithy way of putting it – “Spiritual Arrogance, The Garden of Eden, and How I Learned Not To Worry That A Dead Mouse Could Render Jesus Inconsequential “.

      My reply is that before the Fall, everything proceeded according to God’s perfect will. Therefore, every animal was exactly where God desired, and acted as God desired. An elephant could not step on a mouse (or Adam), because God did not will it.

      • interesting consideration…

        it does not add up though to God allowing Adam & Eve ‘choices’ that were very detrimental to their spiritual condition (primarily) & their physical existence…

        so, no, the idea of a pre-determined perfect environment without accident or angelic air-bag stations throughout the Garden is too much of a stretch…

        i think the idea of a ‘perfect’ world both inside & outside the Garden specifically set aside by God too much of a religious idealism not necessary to the story. especially the idea of it being ordered by God since it was Adam & Eve commissioned to guard, care, oversee, tend, etc.

        i think the world outside the Garden wild, untamed, grand & the Garden a type or pattern mankind was going to expand throughout the various ecosystems & envrionments wherever he multiplied…

        and the Tree of Life most likely to be carried/transplanted wherever the people went throughout the earth. i think the idea of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good+Evil a temporary ‘test’ seems plausible if it were intended only for Adam & Eve. in other words, it was their unique test that could have resulted in godly character being established for all succeeding generations. just my speculation of course…

        yeah, i am liking these cerebral contemplations as the whole Genesis account with its associated ‘what-ifs’ & how did it work fascinating stuff…

        • “it does not add up though to God allowing Adam & Eve ‘choices’ that were very detrimental to their spiritual condition (primarily) & their physical existence…”

          Ahh, but the point is, it is in keeping with God’s will.

          • the ‘good, perfect & pleasing will’ of God permitted disobedience. and He holds all the created order in existence still in this chaotic state…

            [just thinking out loud here…]

            although there was a ‘potential’ pristine result/existence for Adam & Eve & their progeny, it was never realized. seemed the ‘fallen’ or corrupted state still worth all the divine effort at reconciliation/redemption…

            and yes, the restoration of all things does include all the ‘perfect’ aspects of a sinless existence, yet the effort+cost+glory God expends/exhibits of using our condition for His grander purposes tells me this is the real reason for mankind’s existence…

            no, God did not create evil or tempt Adam & Eve or even have in mind our purpose was to suffer pain, struggle, sweat of the brow & eventual death, but it does seem the game was rigged with its outcome, no?

            the briefest of brief implications of the Edenic environment that was truly the exception, not th norm. and is the ‘norm’ that the grandest of God’s ‘workings’ occurs. amazing really…

            thanx for the interaction…

          • “the ‘good, perfect & pleasing will’ of God permitted disobedience”

            There is an even weightier element – in some way, it required disobedience, so that God could demonstrate mercy, forgiveness, and wrath…

            “thanx for the interaction”

            No problem.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Ahh, but the point is, it is in keeping with God’s will.


            Who was it that quoted some early Church Father that “God could turn a tree into a cow, but has He ever done so?”

  16. Спасибо Вам за этот пост

  17. Aidan Clevinger says

    I think that this is a really good concept – the idea that death (at least for the biological world) existed prior to Adam’s sin. Luther had much of the same perspective: death is the punishment upon humans for their sin, not animals, plans, etc.

    With that said, I have only one qualm: the idea that physical death is not just as much part of our punishment as spiritual death is. I don’t think the Scriptural text can be interpreted that way. For instance, Harrell cited 1 Corinthians 15 and said that the statements about death being the enemy can only be applied to eternal alienation from God. Why, then, does that same chapter say that death is the last enemy to be destroyed even for believers? If physical death is not a punishment imposed upon mankind, then why is the Resurrection a part of God’s redemptive plan?

    I’m not arguing that we have to believe in a young earth, or that we have to reject the theory of evolution. But I DO argue that we can’t give up clear scriptural teachings just to accomodate the findings of human reason. There are other ways in which the biblical text ITSELF suggests an older earth. For instance, Genesis 1:1 says that God created the heavens and the earth (the universe). This is not part of the “days” of creation, and the text does not say how long it took. Could that allow for millions or even billions of years? Likewise, Gensis does not say how long man was in the Garden of Eden before his Fall. Could not that have taken millions of years? This is only speculation of course, but I think that there are ways we can accomodate scientific findings while remaining faithful to Scripture. The above view of death does not, for me, do this.

  18. Jason Wyngard says

    To me, discussing the practicalities of immortality and resurrection is a bit like arguing how the dilithium crystals work in Star Trek. The answer is, they do whatever they need to do in the story–just don’t expect anything like this to happen in real life.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Didn’t Medieval theologians weave these Uber-Uber-Detailed practicalities of Angels & Demons with all the intricacy of a fanboy worldbuilding obsession? And how much of this elaboration from a minimal foundation will prove to have been accurate?