December 20, 2013

Cliff's Edge

Michael Dowd, author of Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World, describes himself as an “exuberantly born-again evolutionary evangelist” whose melding of evolutionary theory with Christianity has taught him to celebrate “14 billion years of divine grace and creativity.” What particularly excites him, he writes, is that “death, more often than not, is a cosmic blessing.” He continues: “Perhaps there is no more alluring portal for discovering the benefits of evolutionary spirituality than death understood in an inspiring new way. Thanks to the sciences . . . we can now not only accept but celebrate that Death is natural and generative at every level of reality. Death is no less sacred than life.”

After all, if death were part of how God created life on earth, and if God declared that finished creation “very good” (Gen. 1:31), then death must also be positive.

But Scripture consistently portrays death as bad, something to be defeated. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). “He will swallow up death forever”(Isa. 25:8). “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”(1 Cor. 15:55). “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil”(Heb. 2:14).“ ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death,’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4). “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).

According to Scripture, death exists only because of sin, which makes its existence before sin impossible—“therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin” (Rom. 5:12); “for if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man” (verse 17). The first time death is mentioned in Scripture is in the context of sin: Adam was warned that if he ate from the tree, he would “certainly die” (Gen. 2:17). Precisely because he ate from the tree, and for no other reason, he would, among other consequences, return to the dust (Gen. 3:17-19).

Thus Scripture consistently links death to sin. “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). “The mind governed by the flesh is death” (Rom. 8:6). Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15).Given these texts, and others, how can one argue that death before the Fall is consistent with Scripture?

Some claim that only animal death, not human death, existed before the Fall. But that hardly mitigates the problem.

First, if sinful, corrupted humans can show compassion for the suffering and death of animals, we’re going to attribute to an infinitely compassionate God billions of years of animal (including advanced mammals and primates) degradation, violence, starvation, suffering, and death as part of the process He called “very good”?

Second, where and how did the sharp transition occur between two highly advanced hominids (a male and a female necessary to pass on their advantageous genetic material), who, though themselves subject to death, nevertheless produced the first two Homo sapiens (Adam and Eve) “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27)? Is it believable that these two sinless and immortal images of God then grew from infancy into moral adults whose wrong choices finally caused them to face the same suffering and death plaguing all other life on earth for billions of years, which was the divinely ordained means of creation?

Unless theistic evolutionists interpret texts about death as loosely and as allegorically as they must Genesis 1 and 2 (yet what’s allegorical about death?), the common evolutionary model of origins cannot be harmonized with Scripture.

But how does one answer the challenge of Michael Dowd, who insists that science teaches death before the Fall?

The answer’s easy. As has often been the case, the science is wrong—that’s all.