The racist Adam

Recent internet postings here, here and here make public a disagreement between the movers and shakers at BioLogos and Joshua Swamidass, who of course has posted here and shares our desire to see a genuine rapprochement between historic (particularly Evangelical) Christianity and science. I share his pain in finding his attempt at Peaceful Science being dragged into the culture wars. I regard him as colleague-in-arms on origins and as a brother. I even agree with him sometimes!

Although the current furore arises from Joshua’s support for Tim Keller, whose recent video (which prompted the matter) I covered here, trouble has been brewing for a number of weeks in the wake of Joshua’s writing, at BioLogos and elsewhere, on the genealogical Adam hypothesis, which he has also invoked to show that Keller’s stance contradicts no current established science. BioLogos appears to have disfellowshipped Joshua from the BioLogos Voices team, which indicates more than a little antagonism. Perhaps his critique and call for correction of Denis Venema and Scot McKnight’s recent book had something to do with it.

But far from denying science, the genealogical Adam hypothesis falsifies what appears to be the official BioLogos position (according to Brad Kramer’s comment on the Keller thread there*), that evolution must be the sole explanation for human origins. In particular, Denis Venema has been publically dismissive of Joshua’s statement of the genealogical Adam hypothesis, suggesting that anything’s possible if one invokes miracles.

One should note, though, that neither a creative act to transform an existing Homo sapiens (or any other species) into Homo divinus, nor even the special creation of Adam, would constitute a “miracle”, but rather an act of biological creation by the biblical Logos, as in Theistic Evolution or Evolutionary Creation. Venema’s remark only reveals an underlying semi-deistic theology. That the issue should lead to sanctions on Swamidass shows the semi-deism of BioLogos itself.

It appears, though, that what principally led to the BioLogos opprobium on Swamidass was not his raising even the possibility of a real Adam (rather than asserting it as an Evangelical non-negotiable, like Keller), but the utterly ridiculous claim that the genealogical Adam promotes racism, and that’s what I want to examine here.

Venema writes about “non-adamic hominids”:

Do we really want a theology that names them all as subhuman animals until their lineage happens to encounter and interbreed with Adam’s (Eurasian) offspring? God forbid. Likely this was not Swamidass’s intent, of course, but it seems to me that models like these lead to this decidedly unsavory conclusion.

The first thing to say is that this objection is not scientific – that is, it’s at best theological or moral, and more exactly is based on some kind of subjective “Yuk” factor controlling both doctrine and science. For someone who is willing to overturn historic biblical teachings on human origins because of the “objective findings” of science, to dismiss a scientific theory on the basis that it’s “unsavory” is, shall we say, inconsistent. It would follow that if (as is still being tossed around in the scientific community) mankind turned out from the evidence to have had more than one origin in Africa, Denis would refuse to accept the science on the grounds of human rights. That would be a little postmodern of him.

Current genetics, as opposed to the scientific eugenics movement kick-started by Darwin’s Descent of Man, actually discredits racism. But it does so simply by disproving a myth of race that only arose in modern times anyway, and (academically speaking) from the pretended science of the early anthropologists. Not only do races amongst humans not have any biological validity, but nobody in earlier times even considered they did – and most relevantly, that includes biblical times. In Old Testament categories, there were “Jews”, and “gentiles”, who were everyone else. The blackness of the Ethiopian is mentioned by Jeremiah only to make the very prosaic point that he can’t change the colour of his skin. In the New Testament the gentiles were divided into “Greeks” and “barbarians”, and in all cases the distinctions are partly tribal, and partly cultural – but never racial.

The Bible has no “sin of racism” because nobody was stupid enough in those days to divide people purely on grounds of colour – to do so comes simply under the heading of hating ones fellow-man without a cause, just as it would for bullying redheads or despising the poor. So there’s something oddly anachronistic about throwing charges of racism around respecting a time when the concept of racism didn’t exist.

On the other hand, what the Bible does record as occurring under the wise counsel of God are distinctions. Evolutionary theory actually implies that there are no real or ultimate distinctions between living things, but that the whole tree of life is a continuum. That is why modern genetics, whilst it may falsify racism, cannot actually affirm “humanity” as a moral category, because the universal called “human” has no distinct meaning under Darwinian assumptions. In the Bible, though, man is classed as different from the animals, for all his animal characteristics. If, as Venema says, we should not call hominids “subhuman animals” if they are not in genealogical relationship to Adam (which only he has – societies have long used other, more nuanced, categories), then does he contend that human ancesters were never “subhuman”? If, in evolutionary terms, they were however, there was necessarily a gradual and irregular transition to “humanness” over time and geography, if you discount a supernatural creative act.

But theologically, as well as biologically, the biblical story is also founded on distinctions between people. Leaving aside the possibly arguable distinction between Cain’s line and the “holy” line of Seth, there is no doubt at all that, for the entire Old Testament period, God saw fit to relate to mankind covenantally exclusively in his chosen people Israel, with the exception of those few who, like Naaman the Syrian, might have converted to Yahwism. As Paul says to his gentile readers, before Christ came “you were without God and without hope in the world”.

Abram was called in Genesis 12 so that, ultimately, all nations might be blessed. But the path to that was through a very thorough covenant exclusivity. His cousin and travelling companion Lot did not inherit the land. Abraham’s son Ishmael (the slave woman’s son) and his other children through Keturah were outside the covenant – only Isaac was in. Isaac’s younger son Jacob inherited the promise – his older twin Esau did not. Israel kept his twelve sons apart from the “uncircumcised” in Canaan, and the family went to Goshen in Egypt with Joseph knowing that they could live separately there because the Egyptians despised herdsmen.

Once Moses brought Israel out of Egypt, it was to make them a people apart, separated from “the nations” not only by their unique belief in the true God, but by their God-given law with its circumcision and laws of ritual holiness. Only after the coming of Christ, “when he had overcome the sharpness of death” did God “open the kingdom of heaven to all believers”**. Why that two-millennia delay in introducing a universal gospel should be is an interesting biblical study, which probably involves Paul’s conviction that Christ appeared “just at the right time.” It may even be related to Adam’s genealogy.

But with a history like that, what, exactly, makes it so utterly unacceptable and “unsavory” that God might designate one man to be created in his image before the rest? Does Venema picture pre-adamic humans longing to get to know God, to pray and read their Bibles, and being refused because they are only “sub-human animals”? Might not the image of God in Adam include the very hunger for God that Ecclesiastes describes in terms of God’s placing “eternity in their hearts”?

Lastly, Venema finds it appalling that non-Adamites would remain “subhuman animals” through no fault of their own (my dog is a dog through no fault of his own: it’s not a scandal, but just the way God planned it) “until their lineage happens to encounter and interbreed with Adam’s (Eurasian) offspring?”

Another BioLogos perennial is displayed here – the absence of any robust doctrine of providence. To Paul in Acts 17, God “determined the times set for [men] and the exact places where they should live.” Had he embraced the genealogical Adam hypothesis, he would have taken it for granted from basic theology that the spread of God’s image through the race would be according to God’s providential timing and embrace all those for whom God purposed it. That, after all, is the kind of thing that we must suppose for the slow spread of the gospel – the sole means of eternal salvation – throughout the world since its tiny beginnings in the death and resurrection of Mary’s (Eurasian!) son.

But BioLogos seems to have little regard for providence, whilst its thorough acceptance of methodologically natural science makes it comfortable with the thoroughly un-theistic doctrine of random chance – “their lineage happens to encounter…”

The charge of racism against Joshua Swamidass, then, appears to lack any scientific merit, and certainly makes no sense theologically. We haven’t seen a retraction from BioLogos yet, though.

* Brad Kramer: “[Keller] has never been entirely in the BioLogos tent because he has significant reservations about human evolution, and those reservations are no secret—he explains this in his BioLogos essay. He endorses our efforts to reconcile faith and science but not every aspect of our position on evolution and human origins.”
** Te Deum laudamus, Nicetas, bishop of Remesiana (4th century).

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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58 Responses to The racist Adam

  1. Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

    Hi, Jon.

    I agree with you that any charge of racism against Joshua is ridiculous.

    I also agree with you about the incongruity of TEs/ECs regulating the conclusions that science can come to based on their notions of the repugnance of racism. When YECs regulate science by anything but the “data”, the TEs jump all over them. They are accused of wrongly letting a particular literalist exegesis of the Bible dictate what science can say; but if TEs are letting their moral repugnance toward racism dictate what conclusions about origins geneticists are allowed to reach, they also are guilty of letting non-evidential considerations taint their science.

    About the genetics of Joshua’s proposal, and Venema’s objections, I have no comment due to my inability to follow the technical details. Regarding the theology which might be implied in Joshua’s proposal — the way he puts together Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 and sets forth a theological possibility based on that, I am not inclined to be too fierce in my reaction, since Joshua proposes it only as a possibility; he is not insistent that this is way things happened.

    I do confess, however, to being unconvinced by the idea of harmonizing Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 by referring them to two separate acts of creation. It seems to me that no one would be doing this (and Joshua isn’t the only one offering suggestions along this line — I see the idea all over the place in the past few years) if it weren’t for the widespread acceptance of evolution. When I look at the history of Christian thought, I see the vast majority of Christian writers, from the time of the Fathers through the great Reformers, treating the Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 accounts as if they were two different accounts of the same event. And just as you are wary of an account of a “fall of nature” that you don’t find in the history of Christian thought until very modern times, so I am wary of a two-part account of creation that I don’t find in the history of Christian thought until people started trying to harmonize Genesis with evolution.

    On the ethical side, despite the confusing framing which Dennis Venema gives to his remarks, the defects of which you and Joshua have pointed out, and despite the red herring about modern racism, I do agree with Dennis on one point: I am repelled by the idea of one group of hominids which are supposedly in the image of God mating with another group of hominids which are supposedly not; if “being in the image of God” is what makes man man, then such a mating would be a mating of man with what is not man, and I find that ethically (not to mention theologically) problematic.

    Further, the whole account — at least as typically discussed in passing remarks on BioLogos — I have not read Walton’s account which may be more coherent — seems to me to be confused about what’s in the text of Genesis. Some people are writing as if Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 are in the image of God, and later their descendants mate with the descendants of the primeval horde (of 10,000 neo-Darwinian-evolved hominids), whose “evolutionary creation” is presumably affirmed in Genesis 1. And then, so the narrative goes, the products of these intermarriages “pick up” the image of God from the Adam and Eve line. But that’s exactly the opposite of what the Biblical stories indicate. It’s the collective mankind, the “male and female” of Genesis 1, who are in the image of God; nothing at all is said about Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 being in the image of God. So if anything, it would be the descendants of Adam and Eve who are “improved” by acquiring the image of God from the mingling of peoples, not the descendants of the primeval horde of Genesis 1. But that’s not the narrative that I’m hearing. I’m hearing that the Adam and Eve line is the one that elevates all the other hominids by bringing them under the image of God. And that’s a pretty forced reading of the Biblical language.

    It’s not surprising that it’s forced, because it’s concordist at its very heart. It’s inspired by the need to harmonize Genesis with evolution. I can’t bring myself to read the stories in this way. I instinctively distrust concordism.

    If someone wants to offer a purely textual argument for a double creation, one that in no way depends on the truth or untruth of evolution, I would be willing to listen to that. But then the question would still arise why the overwhelming majority of orthodox Christian theologians for 2,000 years completely missed this teaching of the Bible. I know that when it comes to “the fall of nature”, you put considerable weight on the fact that the Christian tradition knew of no such idea (or barely knew of it, and rejected it); I put the same weight on the fact that the Christian tradition knew nothing of, or rejected, the idea of pre-Adamite or extra-Adamite human beings.

    Sure, it is *possible* that the entire orthodox tradition missed something that is really there in the Bible; but it seems to me that in such a case, the onus is on the Biblical interpreter to make a well-nigh ironclad case for a double creation. And while I have yet to read Walton’s detailed discussion, I haven’t yet seen anything outside of Walton’s discussion that I would consider anywhere near “ironclad”. So for the moment I withhold assent to all double-creation proposals, not because they are inherently racist (I don’t think they are), and not because they contradict modern genetics (I don’t know whether they do or not), but simply because the versions I’ve seen so far read Genesis in an unsatisfactory way, leave theological and ethical problems in their wake, and seem to have no basis in the consensus of the tradition.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Eddie

      Some of your points would best be addressed in full-length articles, but I’ll just address a couple briefly. As Joshua says, the idea of Adam’s divine human line mating with shambling brutes would be somewhat odd (though modern genetics suggests hybridisation of H. sapiens with Denisovans and Neanderthals, so back in the anthropological day there seems to have been a different aesthetic around).

      But actually the thing depends on what, in fact, was actually created anew in Adam (however that came about). Kidner’s original (1967) proposal considered Adam’s being “divinised” (my word, not his!) from the midst of an otherwise cultured race – I guess he had in mind the ANE culture that seems the setting of Genesis 2-3. What changed was essentially spritual.

      Now, a similar change – only in biblical terms even greater, because ultimately a change from flesh to spirit that will last to eternity – occurs when a non-believer is born again to eternal life in Christ – “he is a new creation”. Maybe that’s why NT texts (especially in Paul) suggest that Christians ought only to marry “in the Lord”. Nevertheless, many do marry non-Christians, to which one’s reactions nowadays might range from “So what?” to “That’s asking for trouble”. However, not many people would shudder and think of bestiality.

      It may well be that the “sons of God & daughters of men” episode in Genesis reflects such a theological, rather than a biological, opprobium on intermarriage. Certainly the other traditional explanations all have significant problems, and so are at best tentative.

      On the separate matter of “two creation stories”, in the end it depends on what the author intended to convey, more than on how the church has traditionally understood it, for all that I agree with you the latter has significant weight over johnny-come-lately rationalisations.

      The Church had no reason not to assume that Adam in ch 2 was the first man, which necessitates that the 6th day of ch 1 refers to him, trumping the significant difference in the order and nature of events described in the two accounts (which led the liberals simply to call them separate traditions).

      Bilbo (at BioLogos, though nobody’s replied) has linked to a short video from Michael Heiser https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmvWnqijFs0&app=desktop showing the hints in Genesis itself that the author may have assumed there were other people around in ch 2, but simply not chosen to mention them – and more importantly, Heiser goes on to comment on the way Adam is paralleled to Israel in the literary form of a Genesis that was, after all, intended as the foundational text for Israel.

      The Church has tended to neglect Israel’s covenant history and cut to the chase by seeing Genesis as simply “the origin of the world”. But if the Adam-Israel connection is valid, then the “two accounts of the same creation” interpretation carries much less weight.

      So, incidentally, does a simplistic interpretation as two “separate historical accounts of events”: one has to work very carefully on genre. My current thinking would be that Gen 1 (after Walton) is written to establish that the whole present world, described phenomenologically, has been created as God’s temple (with imagery parallel to Israel’s own tabernacle). Note that from Israel’s perspective, that account would simply say that they (as people worshipping Yahweh) were created as the pinnacle of creation – it wouldn’t be intended to raise “the question of human origins” as we understand it at all.

      And Gen 2ff preserves the (specific and historical) origin of man in relationship (and the loss thereof) to Yahweh, with the same kind of parallels to Exodus imagery that the gospels (especially Luke) make between the Exodus and the work of Christ.

      Such considerations, it seems to me, make sense from the text and its historical context, and give added illumination to ones understanding of salvation history, in a way throughly consistent with the Gospel.

      The fact that it doesn’t cut across legitimate science is just a bonus.

      • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

        Jon:

        You are quite right to say that these questions require article-length discussion. That’s why it irritates me so so much that, so often, TEs from BioLogos, the ASA, and other places toss out the odd Biblical verse, the odd bit of genetics, and then launch into colossal speculations based on very loose connections.

        In a lengthy discussion in a more scholarly setting I would of course discuss why certain phrases in Gen. 4 seem to suggest the existence of other unmentioned humans — that’s a valid question. (I don’t think that a “two creations of man” model would be needed to provide a plausible answer, but I’m not trying to prove that here.)

        I realize that the nature of “the image of God” is contested among Biblical scholars (and systematic theologians as well). I wasn’t declaring for any particular interpretation of the phrase. I was merely noting an internal inconsistency found in some of the versions of the “two creations” view. *However* one reads “the image of God”, if one really believes that God created two different groups of men, one by Darwinian processes and the other by direct divine action, and if one holds that those two groups correspond to Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 respectively, then the flow of “the image of God” has to be from the Darwinian-evolved group to the Adam-group, not the other way around.

        Venema objects to certain theological and ethical implications of the mating of two different created groups of men, but he doesn’t notice the textual inconsistency I’m talking about. He assumes that the “flow” of the image of God must be from the Adam group to the hominid horde. He never asks my question, i.e., *on the premises of the hypothesis under discussion* (which are not my premises, as it’s not my hypothesis), what is the basis for saying that the Adam *of Genesis 2* bears, or carries, or embodies, “the image of God”?

        I haven’t seen a textual argument which *both* separates the two accounts as reporting two different events, *and* justifies assigning the image of God to Genesis-2 Adam.

        As for the biological discussion about genealogical vs. genetic, and how long it would take before both hypothetical groups of humans were so completely blended that they all might have something of Adam in them, I’m just not able to spend time of those things at the moment. I wanted to make only one simple point about incoherence of Biblical exegesis. So at this point I will exit.

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          Eddie
          You’re quite right about the tendency to detach “the image” as a concept from the text, which clearly nestles it in the creation of ch1, and only later hints at the application to Adam in the genealogy of Seth.

          That’s why I prefer an explanation that makes them, primarily, orthogonal rather than sequential accounts.

          • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

            Jon:

            I definitely see Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 as serving different purposes, and I see the differences in literary form and style, and in contents, as connected with those different purposes. So in broad terms, we agree, even if we don’t have exactly the same account of those purposes when it comes to detail.

            My approach differs from those, whether YEC, OEC, or EC/TE, which try to fit all the statements in both stories into a completed jigsaw puzzle, with no pieces missing and no pieces left over. One can try to batter the differing details of contents and order into submission, force them into a unified single narrative that is patched together like Frankenstein’s monster, in the interest of proving that “the Bible doesn’t contradict itself”, but to me, that is taking a three-dimensional text and dealing with it on a two-dimensional plane. Your word “orthogonal” conjures up the right notion; it makes me envision a plane surface, with a vertical plane at right angles to it. We have to think three-dimensionally, as it were, to successfully relate Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3. (And that this is not the only case in the Bible where such thinking is required; duplicate but differing accounts are found in many places.)

            • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

              It helps that I’ve been teaching Revelation recently – apocalyptic visons are as “orthogonal” as they come, and it’s nice to see the scales fall of people’s eyes when they stop trying to turn it into a narrative and realise it’s a single jewel viewed through different facets.

              Genesis isn’t quite so specialised as literature, of course.

    • drnmud says:

      Hi Edward,

      I was surprised by this statement of yours to Jon:

      “And just as you are wary of an account of a “fall of nature” that you don’t find in the history of Christian thought until very modern times, so I am wary of a two-part account of creation that I don’t find in the history of Christian thought until people started trying to harmonize Genesis with evolution.”

      I know little of the details of Christian thought prior to very modern times, but I would be surprised if the “pre-modern” leaders did not assume a “fall of nature”. I’d think this would be the case especially for the Christian thinkers born centuries before the advent of Darwinian and old earth views. Going really far back, the apostle Paul certainly seems to assume a fall of nature in Romans 8 –

      “for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope;
      because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.
      We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now;
      and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

      • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

        drnmud:

        Thanks for reading my comments.

        Regarding your question, Jon has written many times here on Hump of the Camel about this subject. He has devoted more than one column to it, I think, and numerous remarks in other columns. I think he has probably discussed it in his comments on BioLogos as well. Finally, he deals with it at length in his online book, “God’s Good Earth”, which you can read right here at the Hump. See the menu at the top of this page for the link.

        Here is one chapter:

        http://jongarvey.co.uk/download/pdf/GGE/Chapter_5.pdf

        The Paul passage is dealt with in Jon’s third chapter:

        http://jongarvey.co.uk/download/pdf/GGE/Chapter_3.pdf

        Jon does not deny that there is a “fall”, but he denies that there was a “fall of nature” as that phrase is usually understood. He makes the argument in great detail, with reference to both text and tradition. After reading Jon’s book, you will be on guard against casual references to a “fall of nature” ever after!

      • swamidass says:

        I have not addressed this yet, but there is a mainstream scientific case to be made for the fall of nature. I am occupied with “adam”s family-tree now, and will consider his fall at a later time.

  2. swamidass says:

    Eddie, your “somewhat” agreement with Venema is incorrect. You feel for a classic, and brilliantly executed, rhetorical ploy. The model he has proposed has absolutely nothing to do with what I have proposed. There is absolutely no reason to think that “one group of hominids which are supposedly in the image of God mating with another group of hominids which are supposedly not.” I have never asserted nor endorsed this. It is not an obvious or required entailment of my argument, which (also) is not a model. Venema executed classic example of a strawman and an ad hominem, did you fall for it?

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

      Joshua:

      I’m very glad to hear that you aren’t suggesting what Venema says you are suggesting, and very glad not to count you as one of those who hold the view I’m objecting to.

      So the next question to ask it: Why has Dennis Venema imputed this view to you? I would guess, because this view has been floating around BioLogos and other TE/EC circles (e.g., in the ASA) for years. Dennis must have seen something in your proposal that reminded him of that view, and then attacked you as if you held it. So he should have had a conversation with you before making his comments, to learn the difference between your view and that other view.

      But why not take your objection to BioLogos? Do you still have the power to start new topics there? I would think so; every commenter can start a new thread. Why not start a topic directly on the question of how Dennis has misrepresented your view in his comments about hominids not in the image of God? Just focus on that one quotation from his article, and stress that you have never affirmed the view that Dennis is attacking, and ask him point blank why he imputes that view to you. Maybe that would start to clear the air.

      (P.S. Note that, beyond agreeing to de-link your own view from what Dennis imputed to you, I have no need to change my argument above. I would still say that the “two creations” position I have outlined is defective. So the only modification I need to make at the moment is modifying the proposition, “The two-creations position, which is held by Joshua, is defective,” to read, “The two-creations position, which has been held by some TEs (but not by Joshua), is defective.”)

  3. swamidass says:

    I person such as me would only resort to making a public protest like this as a last resort, after all other options are exhausted. I would encourage you to ask those you know at BioLogos their position on Venema’s statements and my scientific work.

  4. Robert Byers says:

    I don’t agree racism ever existed. its a myth of the left wing to discreddit opinions people have about other peoples. right or wrong, good or evil.
    The bible sees all humanity from Adam/eve and all the rest is due to minor biological changes due to issues in the envirorment etc etc.
    i disagree that there are not RACES. Or rather there are species of humans.
    This is real and based on real; biological mechanisms.
    so race/species is a true term for mankind just as animal kind.
    for example the bible hints blacks come from Shem/semetic family origins and hamitic family origins. however they are black just because of where they migrated to soon after the flood.
    likewise people groups, japhet, speaking already segregated languages migrated to cloudly northern europe and became white. not first a white group but only white aFTER separating.
    it was only a envirormental influence and not from families. likewise non japhetic peoples like fINNS also became white.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Robert
      In this case the phrase “not even wrong” comes to mind.

      On the science, there is simply no basis even for claiming sub-species of humans (the current term for biological “races”), still less species. Not only do humans freely interbreed, but the genes that govern the “typical” appearances and characters of different geographical regions constitute a tiny percentage of the total. What is more, all those genes are also represented in the other populations, just at lower frequencies.

      Biblically, there is no evidence whatsoever about skin colour (from environment, genes, curses or anything else) and the table of nations – the idea that the descendants of Ham became black (or that the others became white) appears to have been invented to justify treating black races as cursed and inferior, withing the last few centuries.

      The fact that races are a myth, and therefore that racism is hatred based on a lie, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. After all, all sins are based on believing Satan’s lies.

      • Robert Byers says:

        people groups do look differently. this must have a explanation from either a creationist or evolutionist stance.
        So a mechanism is responsible.
        This mechanism , according to evolutionists, is evolutions mechanism.
        i say a creationist has a different mechanism.
        Simply bodies adapting to environments after migration by innate ability to adapt.
        This makes a big difference in origins.
        A evolutionist needs a original people group, gets evolved, and then spreads out.
        A creationist does not need a original group but only ANY GROUP that moves to the area.
        As my examples.

        Therefore humans are species/races just as surely as in any flora/fauna.

        Its orrelevant to natures mechanism, for either side, whether we can still breed together.
        Its not important that we have like genes in every population alike with each other population.
        The important point is the differences.
        its a real biological difference and not a coincidence.
        Sometimes I say there are no species.
        However my conclusion is that segregated populations have developed biological differences and maintain them by breeding.
        THIS is what a species is. or a race.

        Actually the readers of the bible would see colour as due to envirorment because there was blacks who were semetic(ophir etc) and blacks who were hamitic(cush, phut).
        People in those days just presumed colour etc came from local conditions. Its not evidence of being the same people.

        I don’t agree there ever was racism. or hatred against races. people groups had problems, possibly leading to hatred, against other people groups but not based on race.
        That is the modern myth.
        for example people would of seen Africans asinferior in morals and intellect. however it was based on observation or reputation
        of those peoples. not based on a race concept.
        Race concepts only came with evolutionism.
        also remember race was used for Welsh, english, irish, scottish.
        Its was very general.

  5. drnmud says:

    Hi Jon,

    Regarding the passage I quoted from Romans 8, Edward Robinson had directed me to your Chapter 3’s analysis. I’ve read only a bit of it, but I was disappointed you didn’t appear to address the last verse (v. 23). Taken with the preceding verse, we read

    (v. 22) We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now;

    (v. 23) and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

    The last verse seems to imply that both man and animal suffered/died together until now. But it also requires that “until now” cannot mean ‘for all time or since the beginning of creation,’ because man was not suffering/dying in the time before the fall. Thus, the “until now” implies the meaning of ‘since the time of man’s fall.’

    So, at a minimum, we could say that that the creation and man did not suffer/die together until now.
    And we could posit that neither creation nor man suffered/died in the time before man’s fall.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      drnmud

      Thanks for reading as much as you did, and interacting. In fact I did cover v23, in painting the context of the passage, having already pointed out, and later spelling out, that “decay” in the passage can’t be mapped to death and suffering in the natural world, but instead to the general corruptibility of the material realm. On v23 I wrote:

      Let us instead look at the context of the passage. Having extolled human life in the Spirit over life in the flesh, Paul turns to Christian suffering in the flesh. Our passage leads on to (and paves the way for) the assurance that nothing can separate believers from Christ’s love, and the whole context of this is that our sufferings and subsequent glory reflect those of Christ. Those sufferings cover hardship and persecution, bodily privation and violence, and the opposition of spiritual powers – in other words what we might call specifically Christian suffering. These are the substance of our “groaning” in the Spirit (v23). There is no word there of the common problems of being mortal, except that the culmination of our hope is eternal life in Christ after physical resurrection from the dead, of which Christ himself is the forerunner.

      So the emphasis, I contend, is on the hope of the new “spirit based” mode of life in the new creation, in which all that is corruptible is removed, including both the tendency to decay in nature, and the “specifically Christian” sufferings of the saints. And in the longing for that transformation of the creation, Paul says we participate (in a metaphorical way – the irrational creation, of course, being incapable of literal “longing”) with “the whole creation”.

      So you need (given both the complexity of the thought in Romans 8, and the assumptions commonly imposed on the text) to follow my whole argument, before you can really make a judgement on it.

      • drnmud says:

        I’ll try to get to your whole argument eventually. In the meantime, I’ll have to take it in pieces.

        You say ““decay” in the passage can’t be mapped to death and suffering in the natural world, but instead to the general corruptibility of the material realm.”

        I would think that the only organisms that decay are dead organisms.
        But it would appear that Paul is talking about decay relative to man and animals, not plants. Because although plants are organisms, they would be expected to “decay”, at least in stomachs, prior to the fall of man (cf. Genesis 1:30). But Genesis 1-2 gives no indication animals were decaying.

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          Piecemeal critique -> piecemeal reply!

          I deal in some detail with what is meant by “the creation” in Romans 8. But whatever it means, it is said to be “the whole creation” that is groaning – nowhere does it indicate that it’s talking about animals, and excluding plants, or even the soil that, in Genesis, “cries out to God” for the blood that has been shed on it.

          The word for “decay” needs to be unpacked, too – but for earthly existence it must mean than “what happens after animals die.” To take a couple of small examples, as part of our necessary digestive process we shed a huge number of our gut-lining cells every day, which are helpfully boken down by the process of decay.

          The formation of our very bodies, too, includes “apoptosis”, or planned cell death. That, for example, is how we end up with separate fingers and toes rather than webbed hands and feet.

          But my main point it that to change Paul’s words from “the whole creation is groaning from its bondage to decay” to mean “animals are groaning because of death caused by sin” is reading most of the meaning into the text.

          • drnmud says:

            Jon,

            “I deal in some detail with what is meant by “the creation” in Romans 8. But whatever it means, it is said to be “the whole creation” that is groaning – nowhere does it indicate that it’s talking about animals, and excluding plants, or even the soil that, in Genesis, “cries out to God” for the blood that has been shed on it.”

            If ever there were figurative language in Genesis, the soil ‘crying out to God’ would be part of it.
            Soil (and blood, cf. Genesis 4:10-11) do not literally cry or groan. Neither do plants.

            “The word for “decay” needs to be unpacked, too – but for earthly existence it must mean than “what happens after animals die.”

            As I said in the last paragraph of my previous post, I agree that animals decay after they die, but Paul it seems could not be talking about the decay of animals.

            “To take a couple of small examples, as part of our necessary digestive process we shed a huge number of our gut-lining cells every day, which are helpfully boken down by the process of decay. The formation of our very bodies, too, includes “apoptosis”, or planned cell death.”

            These seem to me to be examples of particulars regarding the living, not regarding the dead which decay.

            “But my main point it that to change Paul’s words from “the whole creation is groaning from its bondage to decay” to mean “animals are groaning because of death caused by sin” is reading most of the meaning into the text.”

            I’m just reading what the text says and applying some logic. As I concluded earlier,
            – At a minimum, we could say that that the creation and man did not suffer/die together until now.

            – And we could posit that neither creation nor man suffered/died in the time before man’s fall.

            • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

              Well, we’ll have to disagree, because I don’t see any mention of the human fall in that passage at all: only the subjection of “creation” to “vanity” by God in order, somehow, to transition it eventually from its bondage to “corruption” and into the freedom of the sons of God (which is, as Paul has just described it, is eternal life lived in the power of the Spirit, pneumatikos, rather than in the power of the flesh, sarkikos).

              The emphasis in Rom 8.18ff isn’t on the correction of the effects of sin, but through the removal of the impediment of human sin, the transformation of the whole cosmos into a new kind of existence (aka “a new heavens and a new earth”).

              That kind of existence did not occur before the fall: it is something beyond a restoration to Eden. In fact the imagery in Revelation is of the “fusion”, as it were, of heaven and earth as God comes to dwell with his people, whereas the original creation, like the OT temple, divided God’s heaven from Man’s earth. The creation is restored by becoming a whole New Creation.

              • drnmud says:

                Jon,

                Continuing from the indented dialog above…

                “Well, we’ll have to disagree, because I don’t see any mention of the human fall in that passage at all”

                No disagreement there. Paul is talking only about the “present time” (v. 18) and a period “until now” (v. 22). Both of those times were subsequent to the time of the fall. The time of the fall would have been a time when the creation and man did not suffer/die together.

                “The emphasis in Rom 8.18ff isn’t on the correction of the effects of sin, but through the removal of the impediment of human sin, the transformation of the whole cosmos into a new kind of existence (aka “a new heavens and a new earth”).
                That kind of existence did not occur before the fall: it is something beyond a restoration to Eden.”

                I would grant that Eden before the fall might not have been exactly the same as heaven. (For one, Eden had marriage, but Heaven won’t.)
                However, your words seem to suggest that Eden was not a far better place and time than what we’ve experienced since. I would disagree with that.

  6. Richard Wright says:

    Hello John,

    It’s Richard Wright, the, “Biologos-type”. 🙂 I agree with you that the criticism of racism in Dr. Swamidass’ Genealogical Adam theory is unwarranted and the whole affair is unfortunate. He is back to posting at BL, and we always love to hear what he has to say, most of us anyway.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Welcome back, Richard!

      Yes, an entirely unfortunate and needless episode, it seems to me. Yet who knows if it may not lead to serious thinking and revision of a rather rigid view of evolution and nature?

      Joshua’s certainly brought a breath of fresh air to discussions at BioLogos, and more than one important idea. At least as significant as the Genealogical Adam hypothesis (which, for the sake of historical justice, I always try to trace back to David Opderbeck back in 2010), his stuff on thinking clearly about the limitations of what science can explain is vital in the origins question.

    • swamidass says:

      Thanks for the comment Richard. However, the conflict with BioLogos is not resolved. I hope it will be in the coming weeks.

  7. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    drnmud

    Let’s start a new indent!

    No disagreement there. Paul is talking only about the “present time” (v. 18) and a period “until now” (v. 22). Both of those times were subsequent to the time of the fall.

    I don’t see the passage saying that, and dispute that it does. Hence:

    However, your words seem to suggest that Eden was not a far better place and time than what we’ve experienced since. I would disagree with that.

    Eden wasn’t the whole world – it wasn’t even the place where Adam and Eve served God and had access to the tree of life: that was the exclusive sacred space of the garden. The punishment of the fall included the expulsion of A&E to Eden.

    The case for saying the natural Creation never fell, and that the idea that it did is a relative theological novelty, is the subject of the whole e-book, which I recommend to your reading – and I don’t even get any royalties from the plug!

    • drnmud says:

      drnmud: “No disagreement there. Paul is talking only about the “present time” (v. 18) and a period “until now” (v. 22). Both of those times were subsequent to the time of the fall.”

      Jon: “I don’t see the passage saying that, and dispute that it does.”

      Then you must see the passage saying that not only the creation, but we ourselves, were groaning in travail in Eden before the fall.
      I dispute that it does.

      “Eden wasn’t the whole world – it wasn’t even the place where Adam and Eve served God and had access to the tree of life: that was the exclusive sacred space of the garden. The punishment of the fall included the expulsion of A&E to Eden.”

      The text of Genesis seems to indicate otherwise.
      Before the fall,
      “And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
      The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.”
      – Genesis 2:8,15

      And after the fall,
      “therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.”
      – Genesis 3:23

      • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

        drnmud:

        I think that Jon’s point is that “Eden” is a specific, limited geographical area somewhere on the earth (“in the East”), and that the Garden was *in* Eden, not Eden itself — just as Central Park is *in* New York, but is not coextensive with New York. So Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden, but were then still in the geographical territory of Eden, just as a vagrant evicted from Central Park would still be in the territory of New York City.

        In other words, I think Jon was making a small point, a minor correction to your statement. He was not challenging the idea that Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden, or that the Garden was in Eden. He was simply challenging the identification of the Garden with Eden.

        I really think you should try to read Jon’s book from the beginning. It is quite good — better than the majority of the stuff about creation that one finds in published, bound books these days. It’s more closely based on actual Biblical and traditional texts, and less on sentiment and ideology, than much of what’s out there. I’m not saying that one couldn’t disagree with Jon here or there, but as someone who has studied (and taught) both Greek and Hebrew, and has published bona fide academic articles and books on Genesis and on creation doctrine, I can say that it is a very careful, thoughtful study that deserves to be read. I expect to return to it from time to time, as I meditate upon Biblical and Christian views of nature.

        Aside from Jon’s book, I recommend that you reread Genesis 3, and make a list of the things that are said to have been changed as a result of the action of Adam and Eve. The list isn’t long. When you add up all of those things, do you come up with the teaching that “all of nature” is fallen, or that “the whole creation” has fallen? Is that what an impartial reader, uncoached by preachers or theologians, would derive from the passage, if he stuck to the words of the passage alone? Let me know what you determine.

        • drnmud says:

          Edward,

          You write
          “… I recommend that you reread Genesis 3, and make a list of the things that are said to have been changed as a result of the action of Adam and Eve…do you come up with the teaching that “all of nature” is fallen, or that “the whole creation” has fallen?”

          Here are things I see:

          “cursed is the ground because of you”
          Apparently the ground, the soil, was not cursed before Adam’s sin. After Adam’s sin, the ground was cursed, and apparently would be less good (e.g. less fertile/productive) than before.

          “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you”
          This sounds like a bad botanical development. Unlike the good one in Genesis 1:12.

          “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.”
          This seems to imply that God caused the death of an animal and used its skin. No talk of animal death in the prior chapters.

          It is a short list, as you predicted. But then, I wouldn’t expect to see a great deal of detail about the history of animal life and death in a book directed to man and man’s salvation.

          • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

            Thanks for your response to my suggestion. I don’t think I gave enough context. Let me try again.

            Normally, when we talk about God as the creator of “nature”, we mean that God created (examples from Genesis 1) the sun, moon, stars, sky, earth, ocean, birds, fish, land animals, herbs, trees, etc. Now if “all nature” fell because of what Adam and Eve did, then we would expect to see massive modifications in all of the above parts of nature.

            Now, compare your list of changes with the list of parts I just gave. Did what Adam and Eve did change the sun? moon? sky? ocean? birds? fish? cedars of Lebanon? Was *all* of nature changed, or only selected parts of it? And if only selected parts of it, is it accurate to speak of “all of nature” or “the whole creation” as having “fallen”?

            Does that help any?

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        drnmud

        Eddie in his reply shows the distinction between Eden and the garden in Eden.

        I’d just add that Christian and Greek scholars for over a thousand years (at least) have noticed as a theologically significant point that Adam was created outside the garden and placed in it – the blessing of God’s presence, abundance and (?) freedom from death and so on were by grace, not by nature: it was a covenant relationship, and the command against eating the tree of knowledge was a covenant stipulation, whose penaty was cancellation of the covenant and expulsion to whence he came.

        This is a deliberate parallel in Genesis with the covenant with Abraham – which is, of course, the central subject of Genesis and the Pentateuch, not to mention the whole Bible.

        Thus Abraham is called out of Ur into a new land of promise and blessing. That promise finds its eventual fulfilment in the Exodus – out of Egypt and into a land not their own, where God will dwell with them (Exodus 40) and blessings will abound – but subject to obedience, under penalty of exile (Deut 32) back to where they came – to Egypt (where they were slaves) or Babylon (where Abram had to serve false gods).

        With the actual failure of the Old Covenant (exile to Assyria and Babylon) the prophets promise a new covenant, this time through the Messiah, but that too consists of leaving our native country for a new one where, apart from the presence of God and abundant blessings, the garden-promise of the tree of life (through resurrection) is given (Rev 22).

        Only (as I said in an earlier reply) this promise is better than a return to the garden because the whole earth is re-created and conjoined to heaven to become the “dwelling place of righteousness”. The original creation was never that. But the garden was a foretaste of it for Adam, so that he was never – being in a state of grace – “groaning in travail” until he was expelled from sacred space to “the ground from which he was taken.”
        Once more (to comment on your words to Eddie) I cover the actual scope of the individual elements of the curse in the book: but even allowing them their full force, the humbling of snakes, difficulty in childbirth, and the invention of thorns and thistles does not amount to, or even describe, death, carnivores, suffering and disease affecting the entire creation for the first time.

        • drnmud says:

          Jon,

          “Eddie in his reply shows the distinction between Eden and the garden in Eden.”

          I will gladly revise my words above as follows:

          “I would grant that the garden in Eden before the fall might not have been exactly the same as heaven. (For one, the garden in Eden had marriage, but Heaven won’t.)
          However, your words seem to suggest that the garden in Eden was not a far better place and time than what we’ve experienced since. I would disagree with that.”

          • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

            You still seem to be missing the distinction between the sacred space of the garden – which was a very numinous, localised and special place on earth (not in heaven) where the drama of the temptation and fall is played out; and the world from which Adam came, and to which he returned, which is the world both of Genesis 1 and of 2017, barring sin and its consequences and judgements.

            The garden is no longer accessible to us, being guarded by the cherubim, etc – but the world we live in in is the world God created, and nothing in the text says that has substantially changed.

            The changes for Adam and Eve virtually all came from exile from the garden of God.

            • drnmud says:

              Jon,

              What you seem to be proposing is a very limited but sacred space, which was like a heaven on earth, surrounded by all other space, which was like a hell on earth (i.e. with groaning, disease, death).
              And that Adam and Eve were exiled to that latter space – “the world we live in”, “the world God created”.
              I just don’t see the text saying that God created the world as a hell on earth. A hell, with its groaning and suffering and death, is not “good” and “very good”.

              • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

                “Hell on earth” is your description, drnmud. God’s description on Genesis 1 is “very good”. I live on earth, and it’s not hell, except where men make it so, and where God judges them for it..

  8. drnmud says:

    Edward,

    “Now if “all nature” fell because of what Adam and Eve did, then we would expect to see massive modifications in all of the above parts of nature.”

    That would depend how you characterize “massive.” The appearance and activity of Adam and Eve immediately before and immediately after the fall would likely be little different, if different at all. But time would tell of more differences.

    “Did what Adam and Eve did change the sun? moon? sky? ocean? birds? fish? cedars of Lebanon?”

    I don’t know.
    Perhaps after the fall the sun became more “temperamental” (e.g. periods of greater and lesser sun spot activity) and was given a shortened and lethal life (i.e. scientists say our sun will eventually engulf and destroy our planet and later die itself).

    Perhaps the moon became more changeable (e.g. the distance between earth and moon increases by about 1.5 inches per year).

    Perhaps the oceans and winds became sometimes deadly.

    Perhaps some birds began eating flesh, the flesh of fish and all the other animals which were likewise now subjected to dying.

    Perhaps the cedars of Lebanon, too, became limited in their life. (Although they wouldn’t groan in travail.)

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Perhaps after the fall the sun became more “temperamental” (e.g. periods of greater and lesser sun spot activity) and was given a shortened and lethal life (i.e. scientists say our sun will eventually engulf and destroy our planet and later die itself).
      Perhaps the moon became more changeable (e.g. the distance between earth and moon increases by about 1.5 inches per year).
      Perhaps the oceans and winds became sometimes deadly.
      Perhaps some birds began eating flesh, the flesh of fish and all the other animals which were likewise now subjected to dying.
      Perhaps the cedars of Lebanon, too, became limited in their life. (Although they wouldn’t groan in travail.)

      Or perhaps none of those happened, since none are mentioned in the Bible, and none are indicated by science. Does one not need some kind of Scriptural warrant to take specific words about thorns and childbirth and construct a new and supposedly inferior creation out of them?

      • drnmud says:

        Jon,

        “Or perhaps none of those happened, since none are mentioned in the Bible…”

        Some of them are mentioned in the Bible, just later in the Bible. But they’re not mentioned in Genesis 1-2.

        “… and none are indicated by science. Does one not need some kind of Scriptural warrant to take specific words about thorns and childbirth and construct a new and supposedly inferior creation out of them?”

        You seem to be saying one needs the support of science to decipher Scripture. If so, I would disagree with that, as well.

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          I think you’ll have to point me to where the Bible describes those things changing from imperishable to perishable – I see only the change in the age to come from perishable to imperishable, as in 1 Cor 15.44, where “if there is a natural (psuchikos = produced by nature, inborn) body, there is also a spiritual (pneumatikos) body. So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living soul (psuche)’; the last Adam a life-giving spirit (pneuma). The spiritual did not come first [even for the creatures of Genesis 1], but the natural, and after that the spiritual… flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”

          And that is why it was always God’s intention that the end of all things should be to go beyond the natural/perishable to the spiritual/imperishable, and that this should only happen through Christ and through redeemed man, to whose charge the earth was committed in the beginning.

          • drnmud says:

            “I think you’ll have to point me to where the Bible describes those things changing from imperishable to perishable – I see only the change in the age to come from perishable to imperishable, as in 1 Cor 15.44…”

            First, you’ll have to point me to where the Bible first describes perishing animals and perishing man.

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

      drnmud:

      Since I don’t know where you are coming from, theologically, and don’t know what or how much literature you have read on Genesis interpretation and on the various types of creationism, let me state where I am coming from, and then you will perhaps better be able to see why your answer here would strike me as (a) cavilling) and (b) evading the main, simple point I was trying to make.

      My perception of what most people mean when they say that “nature fell with Adam” or “the creation fell with Adam” is that they mean the entire world (what we might now call the universe) was disrupted by the Fall. They mean that massive and fundamental changes took place all through the created world, and that those changes were for the worse. They mean that the world we now live in is, overall, a very defective version of the world that God originally created. A common assertion made is that as a result of Adam’s Fall, there was a major change affecting the whole animal world: animals used to all be vegetarian, but after the Fall some of them started to eat other animals, introducing the pain and fear associated with predation into the previously harmonious creation. (And of course this particular example is a central plank in the platform of Young Earth Creationism — YEC.)

      In short, for such people, the Fall means not merely that man has gone bad, or that man’s relationship with the soil has gone bad, but that relationships among all kinds of other things have gone bad; Adam’s fall damaged the whole Creation, not just the life of Adam himself.

      That’s how I’ve always understood “nature fell with man” or “the whole creation is fallen.” I assumed that you understood the notion of “fallen nature” or “fallen creation” in a similar manner, and I took it that you were defending this understanding as what Genesis 3 actually taught.

      I therefore undertook to show you that the Fall story in Genesis 3 did not actually sustain a notion of a Fall that echoed all through Creation. But I didn’t want to force my interpretation of Genesis 3 upon you, so I asked you to make a list yourself of what actually changed.

      Your own list showed that only a very few things changed, and that no mention at all was made of any changes in by far the greater part of creation. I hoped, then, that you would draw the inference that wherever else in the Bible a pervasive corruption of the entire cosmos might be taught, it was not taught in Genesis 3.

      You seem to have seen what I was trying to get you to see, but now you seem to be resorting to the desperate expedient of imagining that Genesis 3 implies all kinds of changes “between the lines” that it does not actually record. And this strikes me as evasive. Can you not just grant the point that there is no mention of a fall of the whole creation, or a fall of all of nature, in Genesis 3? And that, therefore, if a Christian holds to the view of a Fall on a cosmic scale, he must find some grounding for that view elsewhere than in Genesis 3? This is all that I’m asking you to concede.

      • Jay313 says:

        “In short, for such people, the Fall means not merely that man has gone bad, or that man’s relationship with the soil has gone bad, but that relationships among all kinds of other things have gone bad.”

        Exactly. Mankind’s choice of evil disrupted man’s proper place in creation; it did not disrupt creation itself. What man lost was his proper relationship to God, to his fellow man, to the creation itself. All of these relationships were twisted and distorted by sin.

        • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

          Jay, in the paragraph you quote, “such people” refers to people who hold the YEC view, or kindred views; they believe that nature itself (not just how man relates to nature) was drastically altered by man’s Fall. In their view, contrary to your statement, the Fall *did* disrupt creation itself. Lions and tigers started eating gazelles, for instance. That is, the previous relationships, the *created* relationships between different types of animals were actually altered because of what man did.

          I agree with you that the teaching of the Fall story in Genesis 3 is about the disruption of man’s relationships with God and with creation; what I’m saying is that there is nothing in Genesis 3 about the relationship of animals to other animals being disrupted, or about the relationship between the firmament and the seas being disrupted, etc. The basic structure and operation of the created order remains as it was in Genesis 1, even after the Fall. That’s what I’ve been trying to point out to dnrmud. But he seems to be holding out for a view that says that man’s Fall actually changed the laws of nature. That’s the view both Jon and I reject. We find there is no textual basis for it.

          • Jay313 says:

            Sorry I wasn’t clear. By “exactly,” I meant to agree with you that many people see the Fall as affecting everything in creation, but what it really affected was man and his relationships to God, to others, and to creation.

            Some days, it takes a while for my brain to reach operating speed!

          • drnmud says:

            “… what I’m saying is that there is nothing in Genesis 3 about the relationship of animals to other animals being disrupted… We find there is no textual basis for it.”

            That is true. But I wouldn’t want to look at Genesis 3 in isolation. I’d consider what came before in Genesis 1 & 2. In the before, there are many mentions of animal life, but not one of animal death. Also mentions of how the lives of animals and men would be sustained – “And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.”

            After Genesis 3, we first read of the death of animal and man, and of them eating more than green plants.

            • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

              drnmud:

              Are you a YEC? You have given the classic YEC reference from Genesis 1.

              There is no mention of the beginning of animal carnivory in Genesis 3. That omission is a poor fit with YEC thinking. For the YECs, animal suffering is a huge problem. They say there was neither death nor suffering, neither human nor animal, before the Fall. They say that God would never have created a world in which animals suffered the pains of predation. They say animal suffering is not God’s fault, but man’s; that it started as a result of the Fall. But if the Biblical author thought that the death of animals was such a big deal, why didn’t he point it out as a consequence of the Fall? Genesis 3 would have been the logical place to indicate that. God is there listing the consequences of the Fall; why would he omit one of the biggest of all of those consequences, from the YEC point of view?

              From the YEC point of view, the whole point of the Fall story is to heap blame upon man for everything bad that happens in the universe. There is no logical reason to hold back from a full statement of man’s perfidy. But instead, the list of consequences is: “You will have to work up a sweat to eat now, instead of just picking fruit off trees; you will have great pain in childbirth; snakes will bite you and you will sometimes have to kill them.” That’s a Fall of the entire Creation? It sounds much more like a very limited set of changes, all focused one way or the other on man. One gets the impression that the rest of nature will carry on as though the Fall had never happened, and as though Adam and Eve had never been put in the Garden. That’s the most natural reading of the text as it stands.

              Where is the first explicit mention of animals eating other animals? And why is it placed where it is, rather than in Genesis 3, where it logically belongs, if the YEC reading is correct? And where in the entire Old Testament do you find natural evils, other than painful pregnancy and snakebite, blamed on the Fall of man?

              Animals in Genesis 1 are told to be fruitful and multiply. Ecologically speaking, multiplication cannot be infinite, or animals would overrun the earth and outlast the food supply. There must be death to balance reproduction. All ancient writers understood this. Animal death is therefore implied in Genesis 1 even if it’s not mentioned.

              As for the single verse you mention, it is adequately explained by a slight looseness of writing: most animals are vegetarian, and even the few that are not ultimately depend on plant life, so “green plant” sustains all. The alternative reading, that there was no predation, implies that lions ate flowers and grass (with teeth poorly suited to the task) — or that before the Fall, lions weren’t like the lions that we know. But no changeover to our present type of lion is ever recorded in the Bible.

              Finally, even if there was no predation in Genesis 1, there would still have to be death, for the reason already given: multiplication would eventually cause the vegetarian animals to outrun their food supply. I don’t think God was so stupid as to design a world that was not self-sustaining. So death, at least by old age, would have to been in the plan for the world of Genesis 1. Even if Adam and Eve had not disobeyed, animals would still have had to die.

              There are two ways of reading the Bible. One is to interpret it in the light of some prior, favored theology. The other is to hold off theologizing until one has carefully read the Bible. Much damage has been done to the Christian mind by premature theologizing about Genesis 3. One of the great reliefs of my life was to discover that Genesis 3 (indeed, most of Genesis 1-11) doesn’t say even half the things that theologians have said that it says. I hope you will one day experience that same relief.

              Jon covers all this more thoroughly than I have done, so at this point I leave the discussion. You have Jon’s book. You can read it at your leisure. If you give it a chance, it will illuminate much for you.

      • drnmud says:

        Edward,

        “My perception of what most people mean when they say that “nature fell with Adam” …the entire world (what we might now call the universe) was disrupted by the Fall. They mean that massive and fundamental changes took place all through the created world, and that those changes were for the worse… a very defective version of the world that God originally created.”

        My perception of “nature fell with Adam” is that the changes would not necessarily be “massive and fundamental”, “very defective”. As I said earlier, Adam and Eve probably appeared very much the same immediately before and immediately after the fall. And as defective as life in this world is, most people don’t like the idea of leaving it.

        “Your own list showed that only a very few things changed, and that no mention at all was made of any changes in by far the greater part of creation. I hoped, then, that you would draw the inference that wherever else in the Bible a pervasive corruption of the entire cosmos might be taught, it was not taught in Genesis 3.”

        I can draw that inference. But I can also note that Genesis 3 is but one chapter of the Bible and so might not detail each and every effect of the fall to man and nature. The many subsequent chapters and books of the Bible detail more of the effects – various diseases and destructions from nature and various shortcomings and sins from man’s heart. Genesis 3 doesn’t mention floods or freezing or droughts or plagues, and doesn’t mention murder or lust or envy or sloth.

  9. drnmud says:

    Jon,

    “Hell on earth” is your description, drnmud. God’s description on Genesis 1 is “very good”. I live on earth, and it’s not hell, except where men make it so, and where God judges them for it..”

    My description was actually “like a hell on earth”.
    If you are proposing an earth with disease, destruction, death, betrayal, hate and murder to be more ‘like a heaven on earth’, I would disagree.

  10. drnmud says:

    Edward,

    “Are you a YEC? You have given the classic YEC reference from Genesis 1.”

    I haven’t decided what I am. I’m sorry if my quoting a particular verse from the subject chapters offended you. I’m just trying to find interpretations of Scripture that make sense to me.

    “There is no mention of the beginning of animal carnivory in Genesis 3.”

    Yes, I already acknowledged that in my last post.

    “That omission is a poor fit with YEC thinking.”

    About as poor a fit as the omission of future fornication, adultery, thievery, murder, etc.

    “… if the Biblical author thought that the death of animals was such a big deal, why didn’t he point it out as a consequence of the Fall? Genesis 3 would have been the logical place to indicate that.”

    See my words immediately above.

    “God is there listing the consequences of the Fall; why would he omit one of the biggest of all of those consequences, from the YEC point of view?”

    Perhaps because Scripture was primarily meant to be a book for man and man’s salvation and not meant to be a biology or paleontology book.

    “From the YEC point of view, the whole point of the Fall story is to heap blame upon man for everything bad that happens in the universe.”

    If that’s so, then perhaps from the non-YEC point of view, the whole point of the Fall story is to heap blame upon God for everything bad that happens in the universe.

    “One gets the impression that the rest of nature will carry on as though the Fall had never happened, and as though Adam and Eve had never been put in the Garden. That’s the most natural reading of the text as it stands.”

    I have no doubt you get that impression. But it’s not the impression I necessarily get from a natural reading of the text.

    “Where is the first explicit mention of animals eating other animals? And why is it placed where it is, rather than in Genesis 3, where it logically belongs…”

    See again my above comment on the non-mention of fornication, adultery, thievery, murder, etc.

    “And where in the entire Old Testament do you find natural evils, other than painful pregnancy and snakebite, blamed on the Fall of man?”

    I don’t know. I’ll see if I can find some instances. In the meantime, perhaps you can cite some O.T. verses blaming instances of sinning on what happened in the sacred space.

    “Animals in Genesis 1 are told to be fruitful and multiply. Ecologically speaking, multiplication cannot be infinite, or animals would overrun the earth and outlast the food supply. There must be death to balance reproduction.”

    And economically speaking, five thousand hungry men, besides women and children, would overrun five loaves and two fish and outlast that food supply.
    Biologically speaking on reproduction, a man must be involved in the impregnation of a woman. Except when he mustn’t (cf. Luke 1:34-35).

    “As for the single verse you mention, it is adequately explained by a slight looseness of writing: most animals are vegetarian, and even the few that are not ultimately depend on plant life, so “green plant” sustains all.”

    I would think that to be not slight but extreme looseness.
    About as loose as a Ruth’s Chris or a Morton’s mentioning only salads in their advertising and on their menus.

    “The alternative reading, that there was no predation, implies that lions ate flowers and grass (with teeth poorly suited to the task) — or that before the Fall, lions weren’t like the lions that we know. But no changeover to our present type of lion is ever recorded in the Bible.”

    Except for perhaps a vision of an ideal state, like perhaps the original state, noted in Isaiah 11:6-7.

    “Finally, even if there was no predation in Genesis 1, there would still have to be death, for the reason already given: multiplication would eventually cause the vegetarian animals to outrun their food supply.”

    Yes. Like I said before, it would seem to take what we would call a miracle.

    “Even if Adam and Eve had not disobeyed, animals would still have had to die.

    This raises an interesting question. Even if Adam and Eve had not disobeyed, would Adam and Eve still have had to die?

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

      drnmud:

      “I’m sorry if my quoting a particular verse from the subject chapters offended you.”

      It didn’t. Nothing offends me. If you told me that you thought Genesis was nonsense and that you practiced Buddhism or Hinduism, you would not offend me. I merely wanted to point out that almost the entire YEC case about a “fall of nature” rests on that verse in Genesis 1, and that it is not followed up on in the chapter (Genesis 3) where — to sustain the YEC thesis — it most required a follow-up. Genesis 3 is the story in the Bible that records the Fall. The Fall is central to YEC thinking. The claim that all of nature, not just man, fell is central to YEC thinking. If Genesis 3 does not mention a fall of the rest of nature, then YEC is clearly off-base.

      “About as poor a fit as the omission of future fornication, adultery, thievery, murder, etc.”

      No. There is no misfit there. The moral decay of humanity is traced further in Genesis 4ff. Genesis is logical in that respect. But nothing about animal carnivory is mentioned in Genesis 4ff. Yet in YEC the rise of animal carnivory is the main thing that proves that not just man, but all of nature, fell. Thus, if YEC is right about the meaning of that verse in Genesis 1, there should have been a follow-up, in Genesis 3 or immediately afterward, showing the decay of nature, with the rise of animal carnivory being one of the prime pieces of evidence. But there is no such follow-up. Clearly the writer of Genesis 3ff. did not have a “fall of nature” in mind — or else he was a very bad writer who didn’t know how to express the key themes he was trying to get across.

      “And economically speaking, five thousand hungry men, besides women and children, would overrun five loaves and two fish and outlast that food supply.
      Biologically speaking on reproduction, a man must be involved in the impregnation of a woman. Except when he mustn’t (cf. Luke 1:34-35).”

      These cases are not parallel. The narration in the Gospels makes it clear that these are extraordinary actions of God. The narration in Genesis makes no mention of any extraordinary action of God to keep animal populations down. It mentions only what we call natural reproduction — which in our experience is always accompanied by the eventual death of each individual animal. And it’s bad exegetical practice to insert unrecorded miracles, merely because they would be required in order to enable one to hold onto one’s interpretation. It makes the Bible into a tool of theologians and sectarians. Theology should follow from the Bible, not dictate the interpretation of the Bible.

      “Yes. Like I said before, it would seem to take what we would call a miracle.”

      No. It wouldn’t be a miracle if animals reproduced indefinitely and the earth wasn’t overrun. It would be a violation of the laws of logic. God can do miracles, but he can’t violate the laws of logic — as any classically-trained theologian would tell you. God can’t make a square circle, for example. For the same reason, God can’t make animals increase indefinitely on the earth and not end up with an overpopulation problem, unless there is animal death. However, God could accommodate both infinite increase and no animal death, by making the earth steadily bigger, to accommodate more and more animals — that would be a miracle, but not illogical. However, there is no evidence in the text to suggest that God planned to alter the physical size of his creation on a regular basis, by miraculous action, in order to accommodate quadrillions of immortal lions and elephants and monkeys. It’s a bad habit of YEC folks to supplement the text with unmentioned miracles, in order to sustain their interpretations. The temptation must be resisted.

      “I’m just trying to find interpretations of Scripture that make sense to me.”

      If you are sincere about that, i.e., if you do not already have a pretty firm view about what Genesis means, and are open to new interpretations (I say that because in the past here we had a Catholic YEC who pretended to be just asking questions about the text but in fact had a hardline interpretation of it, which he pushed slyly but relentlessly), then I recommend that you read Jon’s book, which covers not only Genesis but Paul’s reading of Genesis, and much else. When you have read it all, rather than isolated fragments, you may find that his interpretation makes sense to you. And there are many other good things you can read. But try to find writers who derive their theology from the text, rather than hammer the text into the form of their preferred theology.

      Reading Genesis afresh, without layers of theological preconception, is a frightening experience for many. Many fear that if Genesis turns out to teach something different from what they have assumed, their faith will be shattered. I had the opposite experience. Once I learned that Genesis did not teach what many Christians thought it did, I felt an immense liberation from traditions — largely originating in the US Bible Belt — that I never liked in the first place. For the first time, I thought that Genesis might actually be true. Whereas the Bible Belt readings of Genesis had kept me away from Christianity, a fresh read of Genesis without fundamentalist presuppositions made Christianity possible for me again. I came to this understanding long before I had heard of Jon’s writing. But now that I have read his stuff, I highly recommend it. And now I will try to keep to my previous resolution, and not reply again.

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        Eddie

        A few more miracles are required, too: if we insist on taking Gen 1.30 literally, it doesn’t say that no animals were meat eaters, but that all animals ate only green plants.

        There were therefore no dung beetles or other scavengers to recycle faeces , nothing to control or benefit from non-green fungi, no filter-feeders in the sea.

        But hey, why think when one can fantasize?

      • drnmud says:

        Edward,

        “Theology should follow from the Bible, not dictate the interpretation of the Bible.”

        That sounds good.

        One last thing –
        I’m also wondering about the Genesis verses saying God formed man from the dust and not from other animals. If you know of some works by Jon or others which give the proper Biblical interpretation of those verses, I would appreciate you noting them here. Thank you.

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          “The proper Biblical interpretation…” is a counsel of perfection. As St Augustine said long ago of the creation story: “…it is so profound a passage, that it may well suggest, for the exercise of the reader’s tact, many opinions, and none of them widely departing from the rule of faith.”

          But consult the commentaries. Their approach will depend on the degree to which they’re simply trying to understand the text, or else to apply it to life, or to map it to historical reality. But (to name only a couple) you could try Gordon Wenham’s Genesis 1-15, or John Walton’s NIV Application Commentary (or his other extensive works on Genesis), both of which ground the expression both in the culture of the day and the theological and linguistic significance. Eddie may have other favourites.

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