Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Musings On Death and The Garden of Eden

I recently read a paper by John Lynch called “PREPARE TO BELIEVE”: The Creation Museum as embodied conversion narrative." The paper is behind a subscription wall so I cannot link it but I will post one paragraph. Lynch is discussing the young earth creationist penchant for disregarding modern scientific thought. He writes:
The amplifıcation of leveling into a disregard for all empirical observations creates a Manichean worldview. Part of this worldview is the Creation Museum’s problematic vision of human reason and sacred texts. Human reason, according to the museum, cannot function accurately or effectively when divorced from God’s Word as manifested in the Bible. Yet, which version of the Bible and what interpretation of the various biblical verses is appropriate? The Creation Museum offers no explicit answer, but its theological edifıce rests on the assumption that God’s Word—a collection of texts written in multiple languages and continually translated, retranslated, and revised in English as well as other modern tongues—is transparent and perhaps even self-interpreting. Human reason plays no role in interpreting or understanding the Bible. Any relationship between human reason and God’s Word is unidirectional. Human reason accepts the self-evident and transparent implications of the Bible and uses those ideas to understand the world. This assumption is the point where those concerned about or opposed to the worldview of the Creation Museum can make their stand. Given the diversity of biblical interpretations within Protestant Christianity, as well as Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity, the assumption of transparency is not tenable.1
I have been rattling around in my head for some time the notion that modern young earth creationism is not just off the rails but gnostic in thought.  They cannot be reached by the science because of what Lynch mentions in the passage.  Can they be reached theologically?  Dunno.  But this whole hermeneutic plays itself out in weird ways in my daily life.

Beispiel: I have been going to a series of sessions called GriefShare, which is a program that helps people deal with the loss of a loved one and, by and large, it has been helpful but something keeps nagging at me.  There is a repeated assertion that we really grieve in ways that we were never supposed to grieve because physical death was something we were never supposed to experience. Physical death was not part of the plan.  This particular hermeneutic keeps reappearing. 

Okay, lets back that one out a bit.  Just for the sake of argument, let's say for a moment that Adam and Eve didn't sin and so, as this theological hermeneutic goes, didn't experience "death."   Say Adam and Eve decide to just have two children, and their children have two children (by some, as yet undiscovered spouses).  Assuming a generational time of twenty years, within a thousand years, you have well over fifteen billion people on the world because nobody is dying.  it becomes much worse if you place Adam and Eve back some ten thousand years.  One of two things is then true: 1). At some point, God would have had to say: "Quit having children right now!"  or 2). God never intended for Adam and Eve to ever have children, in which case, none of us were ever in the plan from the beginning and God's word is something we were never supposed to have.  When Adam and Eve sinned, God "improvised." 

Does this make sense??    Is this, in any way, theologically sound??  This is the fruit of modern fundamentalist evangelical Christianity, a theological construct whereby most of those that practice it don't think it all the way through.  Can they be reached theologically?  Dunno.

Somehow I think I should try...

1Lynch, J. (2013). "Prepare to Believe": The Creation Museum as Embodied Conversion Narrative. Rhetoric & Public Affairs, 16(1), 1-27.


  1. That is actually a compelling question. If sin (and thus death) was never part of God's purpose for creation from the beginning, then why did he command his creation to bear fruit and multiply from the beginning? Was he naive and didn't think it through? Was he bad at math?

    1. Bill Saadeh10:41 AM

      The prolapsarian/infralapsarian debate is about the logical order of decrees regarding fore-ordination of the Christ--whether the father decreed Christ "before" or "after" he decreed to permit sin to enter the world. Taking an intentionally theocentric view of the question helps. According to the promise God made to Eve at the time of her sin, it was her offspring, Christ, who would deal the death-blow to the adversary. This is relevant to the question of continuing human reproduction as it serves the father's purpose in bringing his only begotten into the world to save his elect. The question is also fascinating in view of the merciful provision of exile away from the tree of life in order that man not live forever in such a debased state. This must be the first indication of better things coming--redemption out of a state of sin and into the eschaton of true liberty as the children of God. Another aspect of this is the proposal of a probationary period for Adam in his state of innocence--had he succeeded, what would his role have been in ruling the earth and assisting or accomplishing its redemption from the death and frustration alluded to in Romans 8.

  2. I understand that once Adam and Eve sinned, the only way to redeem that sin was for Christ to come and the only way for that to happen was for him to come into the world and take on the world's sins. In this sense, procreation had to occur. What i am curious about is that, if this hadn't happened, would there have been any other people?

    To be sure, God knew the eventual outcome of events and acted accordingly, so in a sense, the question of whether or not there would have been physical death in the garden is moot. Death was always in the cards.

    From a palaeontological perspective, the notion of the lack of physical death in a planet that is 4.5 billion years old is a non-starter since we have a fossil record of extinctions of almost 99% of all species that have lived.

    If Adam and Eve existed and if they can be found in the Neolithic (as has been argued) then, even if they hadn't sinned, physical death still had to have been part of the plan. Otherwise, you run into the peculiar notion that Adam and Eve were granted eternal life when everything and everyone around them were dying off.

    1. Bill Saadeh11:53 PM

      Put the notion (that death in general began with Adam's disobedience) down, and slowly back away. There, we did it.

      And biblical Christianity survives another step into the modern world of scientific discovery.

      How about an understanding of Eden as a place protected within the larger context of the waste howling wilderness which was the earth. In the wilderness there was death and decay. In Eden, the Lord "kept him from striking his foot against a stone" Psalm 90.

      How would the threat of death have meant anything to Adam had he not been acquainted with it? The significance of Eden is in that it is a place of special protection for the man while he remains in a state of innocence and unencumbered friendship with his creator. Once the innocence ends, there is exile.

      Who actually were Adam and Eve? That's an interesting question. How should we read the Bible on that? Does the Bible talk about the nature of nature in a way that is even meaningful to modern science?

      Found an interesting post by Norman that sheds serious light on this topic:

      Norman - #65063

      September 26th 2011

      I would like to point out that these DNA genetic developments in the last few years are nothing more than astounding. I want to echo Dr. Falk’s exuberance he wrote with in his article “A Geneticist’s Journey” concerning the frontier we are now entering in understanding our human ancestry. I can only imagine what genetics are going to illustrate for us in the next few years and decades.

      However I want to caution the science crowd to not follow the path of the Hugh Ross’s and attempt to match scripture with what science is currently presenting. Genesis is a Hebrew theological piece of literature that is very different in scope than meets the casual eye; and the story of Adam and Eve is written as a microcosm of Israel in effect. What I mean is it is not written from the perspective of the human race at large but is written from the Hebrew historic faith perspective. Adam does not go back to Mitochondria Eve in or out of Africa but he goes back to an ANE humanity that begins to embrace the God of the Hebrews which Genesis 4:26 plainly states as the time when the Adamites begin to call upon the name of YHWH; the God of Israel. This is clear because YHWH was a Hebrew description of God contrasted to the universal name Elohim that connotes the God also of the Gentiles. The usage of YHWH and Elohim is used strategically throughout Gen 1-4 to illustrate these nuances in the story line.

      The beginning time of Adam finds his historical faith beginnings around 4000 BC; this is not a projection of Bishop Usher centuries ago but is determined from Jewish literature itself that meticulously tracks the arrival of messiah from that vantage point. The second Temple Jewish book of Jubilees is written from this time keeping perspective; as verified by any who examine it. This is not a mistake of the Hebrews because it is not written from the perspective of the dawning of the biological human race but is written from the dawning of the human race coming into focus with the Creator God of the Universe. He will enable humanity with the Highest calling of His Image upon those who seek him as the First Adam attempted to do, but pitifully so. The Hebrews did not write mistaken science but wrote accurate messianic prophecy projecting to the time when the deceitfulness of those who usurped the Garden away from the First Adams (Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David) would be set aside by the Last Adam. That is the Genesis and Biblical perspective; not an ANE false mythological creation account. Indeed this story was serious and mockingly of those accounts which they parodied the pagan gods and their feebleness.

  3. Short comment because it is 1:00 a.m. The Tower of Babel story is also mocking. It is a satire of the ANE temples that were supposed to go up to where the gods came down and met with the humans.

    I like the idea of "slowly Backing away" from physical death in the garden but in dealing with most of my church friends, I find it chasing me down the street!!

  4. Bill Saadeh8:01 AM

    There is an ironic wrinkle in the recent demographic decline of the so-called liberal Judeo-Christian institutions. Reform Judaism and mainline Protestant groups such as the United Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran, American Baptist, Presbyterian Church USA, and United Church of Christ, while declining in membership have succeeded in establishing for many Americans a definition of religion's value primarily in terms of social and economic justice. They also have been intensely committed to the cultural prestige of science in public life.

    It's a shame that there is a reaction among biblically conservative Christians which impels them to hold onto incorrect notions of interpretation. It can be embarrassing. I don't get chased down the street much mostly because I keep to myself in certain company. I think however that there is an opportunity for scientifically credible people with a robust understanding of the God-breather nature of Scripture to bring an equally robust testimony of the death and resurrection of Jesus before our still-to-some- extent-tuned-in culture. I think there are plenty of people who want their spirituality to go beyond social and economic justice.

    Looking for that opportunity, any ideas out there?

    1. Bill Saadeh10:29 AM

      typo above, read "God-breathed"