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Creationism and the Fall

QUESTION: Creationism and the Fall - And Behold, It Was Very Good


Creationism and the Fall - And Behold, It Was Very Good.1
Creation days or creation eras, does it really matter? This is a question many Bible readers are struggling with. Is it really worth all the fuss? Isn't it much more important that God created everything than how long it took Him to create? If science tells us that the earth with its layers and fossils is really very old, then why couldn't there by any long creation periods during which all these layers and fossils came to be?

In the first article of this series (Creationism and Fossils), I have examined this view and argued that it leads to huge exegetical and theological problems, for what is the case? In the layers of the earth, the fossils are found in a certain order. At the very bottom we find nothing but bacteria. In higher layers we find mammals. But only at the top do we find remains of mankind. According to modern science, mankind appeared some 3 billion years after the appearance of the first life forms. According to the concept of long creation periods, the fossil bearing layers of the earth were formed during these creation periods. This means that the earth's layers provide an account of God's creative works from the first life form to the creation of man. One of the six consequences of this view I mentioned was that the fossil bearing layers show unequivocally that the world, even before man appeared, was already filled with suffering and struggles, death and extinctions. There also must have been major natural disasters. Fossils must have been present in paradise. It is very difficult to reconcile these consequences with the description of a "very good" creation in God's Word, in Genesis 1. Therefore it seems impossible to place the formation of the earth's layers prior to the creation of man or prior to the fall of man into sin. I reject this presupposition on biblical grounds.

But these considerations raise the following important question: what did God's very good creation look like prior to the fall? Many associate paradise with a place full of peace and harmony, not with death, pain, and suffering. But isn't this belief very naive? Are my objections realistic? Is it possible that predatory behavior, the consumption of meat, the existence of diseases, food shortages, and so on did not exist until after the fall of man? Doesn't that require an unimaginable shift in the conditions of our created world at the time of the fall?

Creationism and the Fall - Lions in Paradise?
Did God create all animals? The predators, the lion, the snake, the mighty dinosaur? These animals display a remarkable fine-tuning of their physical structures, their digestive systems and their instincts to their carnivorous lifestyle. The artistic spiderweb serves to catch food, such as mosquitoes. And consider the curved, dagger-like teeth of T-Rex, or the venomous fangs of snakes. If those were already present in paradise, doesn't this mean that bloodshed and death were "pre-created" prior to the fall of man? Besides, would people and large animals never have crushed beetles and worms while walking through the grass? Would they never have harmed any lice on the leaves of the plants they were eating? Even more, isn't it true that even plants die, in a sense, when they are eaten? Is it really possible that nature was functioning entirely different prior to the fall of man from the way it has since?

What does the Bible say? We find four clues in Scripture that indicate that radical changes did indeed take place in nature when man fell into sin:

  • It was very good - First of all, there is God's own statement: "And behold, it was very good." What does this mean, "very good"? In Isaiah 11:6–9 (see also Isaiah 65:25) we read of lambs, wolves, children, bears, and snakes living together in peaceful harmony. It is not specifically stated this was literally true in paradise or will be literally true on the new earth. But this much is clear: the imagery of peace and goodness is the exact opposite of lions tearing their prey or snakes using their venomous teeth to kill theirs. Next we read: "Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain." This shows that God does not consider predatory behavior to be "very good"; He labels it evil. Therefore the tearing and strangling lion is used as a picture of evil in Nahum 2:11-13.

    Actually, throughout the entire Bible we find that that death, suffering, and disease are labeled evil; they are a punishment. God punishes using natural disasters, which are labeled evil: disease, drought, blight, mildew, locusts (Deuteronomy 28), food shortages (Revelation 6:5,6), the death of a third of all animals (Revelation 8:7, 9) the falling down of burning stars (Revealtion 8:10, possibly meteorites?). These are all used as pronouncements of judgment.

  • Vegetarians - The second clue that nature was functioning differently prior to the fall is that God at the time of creation explicitly gave the seed bearing plants and trees for food to mankind and to the animals, respectively (Genesis 1:29-30). It wasn't until after the flood when God allowed people to eat meat (Genesis 9:3) – the result was that wild animals now developed a fear of man. Nothing more is said here concerning the diet of animals. Nevertheless, it is very possible that people did not have any dealings with predatory animals until after the flood; in Genesis 9:5 we read for the first time that animals that kill people must die. These verses certainly suggest that nature was functioning differently prior to the fall of man, and possibly prior to the flood, because there were no predators.

  • Thorns and thistles - A third indication in the Scriptures of a change in the functioning of nature at the time of the fall is the following: after the fall, God punished mankind with death (Genesis 3:19). Our bodies became mortal and thus subject to weakening, disease, aging, and death. This must have been a drastic change in the physical condition of mankind. God also made life more burdensome with "thorns and thistles." Agriculture, the dealings of man with and the cultivation of nature, turned into hard labor. Mankind now struggled with part of nature. The soil became cursed. All these things can only be understood in a meaningful sense if there were no "thorns and thistles" prior to this moment in history, and work was not as cumbersome. This seems to be possible if living conditions were fundamentally different.

  • Fruitlessness - Finally, we read in Romans 8:18-23 that creation was "subject to vanity," or fruitlessness. It is impossible this was true at the time of creation; the usage of the verb in this verse indicates that this happened at that particular time. When was this? When mankind fell into sin, when the earth was cursed because of the sins of man.2 Ever since creation "has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." Isn't this fruitlessness precisely what we see when diseases, suffering, natural disasters, and death ravage this planet? In nests of little chicks, of whom only a handful lives, and in tsunamis that destroy large parts of nature? In the extinctions of plant and animal species? Romans 8 teaches us that all the misery we observe in nature in our present time is a corruption of the "very good" creation that existed in paradise. But there is hope: all of creation will be "delivered from the bondage of corruption." The new earth will bring a freedom from the slavery to death, decay, and natural violence.

Creationism and the Fall - Conclusion: A Shift in Nature.
The biblical data pertaining to creation, paradise, and the fall of man speak plain language. They show that a drastic change, a shift, occurred when man fell into sin; a drastic deformation not only of human existence, but of nature as a whole. Death entered the creation, again not just for man but for all of nature. Such a change is impossible if long creation eras are assumed during which the earth's layers and fossils were formed. After all, as we showed in the previous article, such long creation periods imply that nature has always functioned as is does today. In that case we would have had "thorns and thistles" and meat consumption even prior to the appearance of man, and the fruitlessness of diseases, suffering, death, extinctions, and natural disasters.

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[1] This article was written by W.A.M. von Lindheim - Westerink and first published (in Dutch) in the magazine Nader Bekeken (Vol. 17, Nr. 9, September 2010). Used with permission and (where necessary) adapted for internet publication.
[2] Genderen, dr. J. van, dr. W.H. Velema (Beknopte gereformeerde dogmatiek (or Concise Reformed Dogmatic Theology, p. 393,394 and 351) say: “These verses cannot be understood without considering the relationship to Genesis 1-3”, and: “The fate of the creation is connected to the actions of people.

This article is also available in Spanish.

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