Creationism and the Fall 2QUESTION: Creationism and the Fall - A Limit to Our KnowledgeANSWER:
Creationism and the Fall - A Limit to Our Knowledge.
Let's go back to our original question: what did God's creation look like prior to the fall? Can we discover more than the absence of suffering, death, natural disasters, etc.? How did this creation function? At this point, we run into a limit to our knowledge. This limit is twofold. First, the Bible does not give us any conclusive data on the nature of life in paradise. It does not explain which physical and biological processes were involved when creation was cursed. It is true that the Bible is not a scientific manual. The Bible makes reliable and true statements, but this doesn't mean that this book of faith answers all current questions about natural science. The Bible gives us a history of God's redemptive plan and the things that matter for this plan. Facts about nature are mentioned "in the margins," if you will, and only as far as they are relevant to this history of God's saving and restoring acts.
A second limitation is the fact that we cannot imagine any other world than the one we do know. This is the reason our current study of nature falls short. It is impossible to extrapolate backwards in time to a completely different situation prior to the fall. So our understanding of paradise can never be complete. But we would minimize God's power and glory if we were to suppose that God Himself wouldn't be able to create a nature that functions in an entirely different manner. Modesty befits us in this area. "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?"
(Job 38:4). "People cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end"
(Ecclesiastes 3:11). God has set limits to our knowledge. The angel who sealed the Garden of Eden has also closed our opportunities to research it!
On a side note, doesn't this also apply to our future earth, and for our glorified incorruptible bodies? It certainly will be our own flesh, but still changed in such a way that it will no longer know pain, weakness, and sorrow. What this will be like transcends our experience and imagination. When the Corinthians inquired about this (1 Corinthians 15:35), Paul called it "a foolish question"; he referred to God's 'create'-ivity
and His almighty power, which go beyond our understanding. If it is impossible for us to understand the future and the restoration of all things, why would we expect to have any insight in God's original good creation?
Creationism and the Fall - No Bloodshed.Creationism and the Fall - Variability.
Even though we cannot obtain a conclusive picture of the world prior to the fall, it is possible to (carefully and inquisitively) say more about the other questions mentioned: what about predators, what about parasites and such? And what about beetles, worms, lice, and other bugs? Were they never trampled in the grass, or eaten along with vegetation? And don't plants die when being eaten?
The Hebrew word ‘nèfesh’ (soul) might give us some clarity. ‘Nèfesh chaijah’ is translated with "living creatures," either man or animal (Genesis 1:20–24, Genesis 2:7). The word means "breath," the foundation of life, so "a breathing creature." The word is also connected to feelings (hate, hunger, thirst, passion, love). So this gives us a picture of life with a certain degree of awareness. Plants do not have such a "nèfesh." This means that the fruit did not die in a biblical sense when Adam ate it. And within the animal kingdom, we can make some more distinctions. In Leviticus 17:11-14 and Genesis 9:4 we read: "For the life [nèfesh] of any creature is in its blood." This may signify that animals without blood (bacteria, insects, worms) are not a subset of the "nèfesh" animals. This might correspond with Genesis 2:19-20, where Adam is told to name all the living creatures ("nèfesh chaija"). The "animals that move along the ground" from Genesis 1:24 are not mentioned here. So it is possible that the death of these small animals is not considered "death in a biblical sense." From this we might conclude that there indeed was no violent death in paradise, more specifically no death with the shedding of blood. Animals did not fight or kill each other, did not shed any blood, and were not as cruel as we observe today.1
But what about the predators? Surely they must have been present in paradise? The Bible does not mention any new creative activities by God after the fall of man. We cannot go any further than formulating a tentative answer to these questions. It is very well possible that "predatory" body structures were used differently prior to the fall. Even today this possibility seems very real. Consider the panda bear, some piranha species, bats, vultures, and bears; with their sharp teeth, claws or beaks they are still plant eaters. It is known that lions can survive on a vegetarian diet for long periods of time. These examples suggest that animals that we consider carnivorous, based on their teeth and skeletal characteristics, could have lived as herbivores under different conditions. Furthermore, it is possible that some animals degenerated genetically after the fall; this leaves the plausible possibility open that viruses, bacteria, and parasites did not cause diseases prior to the fall.
Furthermore, recent studies have shown that variability among plants and animals can be very high when climatological changes occur. This flexibility pertains both to physical structures and dietary preferences. A sponge, for example, can adapt very quickly and specialize to become carnivorous. Such a dietary specialization, including the accompanying changes in the physical structure, have also been observed in certain types of fish. This variability2
surfaces when animals are exposed to extreme changes in their environment, like temperature, air pressure, and chemical composition of their surroundings. Mice can develop a completely different set of teeth when stimulated by certain chemicals, while a chicken can developed teeth when a certain substance is injected into the egg.
These types of rapid changes in lifestyle and appearance are not at all related to macro-evolution, in which genetic material is supposed to change to a greater degree of complexity by merely chance and time. No mutations or changes in DNA occur, but these changes are solely triggered by existing genes being turned on or off in the DNA. This differential gene expression suggests that God has built in a large amount of potential latent variability in our genetic material; a built-in potential for rapid change if required by environmental conditions. After the flood (with its huge environmental changes), and possibly after the fall of man, such latent genetic possibilities may have been activated. This would have caused a change in the lifestyle and appearance of many organisms.Creationism and the Fall - Conclusion.
The biblical data with regards to the creation in paradise and the shift in natural conditions after the fall paint a clear picture even without any additional data. God created the world very good, without natural disasters, suffering and struggles, death and extinction. When man fell into sin, the earth was cursed.
Some questions remain. What did God's very good creation look like? What exactly did change when man fell into sin? Two assumptions seem important to me when considering these questions. First there is the realization that limits have been imposed on us when it comes to questions of origins. The Bible only gives a summarized account, and the original conditions are not available to our research and our experience. Secondly I assume the historicity of God's good creation and the fall of man with its unique consequences, when formulating preliminary answers to such questions. In short, I do read Genesis as a reliable, historic account of God's great and mighty creative works, regardless of whether or not they are described poetically -- they are nevertheless factual. These are works that indeed transcend our understanding, but that gives us reason to sing to Him in praise and thanksgiving.
This conclusion has consequences for our attitude towards science. Our third article will deal with this topic. The first consequence is that we must reject the widely accepted worldview on origins, with its old age of the earth and its evolutionary development of all life forms. Is that possible? Or does this require that we ignore apparent and proven facts? The second consequence is the fact that orthodox Christians are facing a great challenge, if they want to maintain the biblical truths of a very good creation, the fall of man and a global flood. This challenge is to show how the layers of the earth with their fossilized contents came to be within the short biblical time-frame, namely during the period after the fall.Learn More about Creationism and Science!Footnotes:
Batten D, Hrsg., K. Ham, J. Sarfati, C. Wieland, Fragen an den Anfang, Die Logik der Schöpfung
, 2004. Christliche Literatur-Verbreitung e.V. Bielefeld (translated from English).
This variability is called differential gene expression. It is the new paradigm in biology, see for example the work of (non-creationists) M.W. Kirschner and J.C Gerhart, The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin's Dilemma
(2005). Wood, a creationist, explains how different types of differential gene expression could have caused the rapid formation of new base groups of animals (baramins
) after the flood.
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