Is evolution unworthy of the God of the Bible and the Christian faith?

Does God hate that some believers dare to give him credit for evolution?

Does God hate that some believers dare to give him credit for evolution?

You don’t often see it, but it’s almost always there, the “real reason” I believe Christian anti-evolutionists reject the theory of common descent. It has nothing to do with the scientific evidence, or supposed lack thereof; that’s secondary. It’s not even because of the Bible — not really. The main reason Christians deny evolution is because they simply don’t like it.

They say the problem with accepting the scientific history of the world (which includes not just evolution, but billions of years of geological history), is that it involves mutations, disease, catastrophic natural events, pain, suffering and death — lots and lots of death. I get why Christians don’t like it — no joke. I can understand why a Christian would choose a narrative that involves a few thousand years of human-caused suffering over one that involves billions of years of God-caused brutality — especially when the “expert” who offers the choice tells them the two options are equally valid.

Of course, as I’ve said before, questions like this are sort of irrelevant in determining whether evolution is a viable explanation for the origin of species. If evolution happened, then it happened, and it doesn’t matter if it makes you uncomfortable or wrecks your theology. Tough luck, cupcake.

But, as a Christian, it’s still an important issue to discuss. And, in my opinion, there is one very, very large theological problem I see with Christians using mutations, disease, natural catastrophes, pain, suffering and death as an argument against evolution. You see, I feel fortunate in that — even though I write this blog primarily for Christians and tend to do annoying things like quote the Bible pretty frequently — I do count a number of atheists, agnostics and non-Christians among my readership.

And when I’m talking with them, do you know what they most commonly use as evidence against the existence of the all-loving, all-powerful God of the Christian faith? Why, it’s the fact that the world is chock full of things like mutations, disease, natural catastrophes, pain, suffering and death. In other words, natural evil. Now, as a Christian, I have a different perspective on suffering and death than a non-theist does, and I do my best to explain that to them, even though it’s not always easy.

But, do you see where I’m going with this? Quite simply, when a Christian uses natural evil as an argument against evolution, they are accepting the non-believer’s definition of suffering and death. They are, in fact, rejecting the Bible’s more nuanced views of death and suffering, and enthusiastically agreeing to look at creation exactly the way an atheist does.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s a very good idea.

Again, this is something I’ve said before, but the idea that there ever was a point in history where physical pain and death was impossible is not in scripture. You can believe in it if you want to — by all means. But you can’t say the Bible supports the notion because it’s simply not in there. It’s a fairy tale, every bit as cartoonish and ridiculous as Answers in Genesis portrays it to be.

Disagree? Then find me a verse — a single verse — that says physical death was impossible in the prelapsarian world. Genesis 1:29? Nope. It says green plants are God’s gift. It does not say animals were forbidden to eat meat (this would be like me telling a friend, “Help yourself to the fridge,” and him interpreting that as a prohibition against eating food from a grocery store or a restaurant).

God calling creation “very good”? Iffy at best. All throughout scripture, we see God calling for genocides and directly causing natural catastrophes and plagues that kill hundreds of thousands of people. God’s body toll in the Bible is higher than John Rambo’s on his best day. But at the same time, “God is all light, and in him is no darkness at all.” So, although it certainly makes for a nice story, the evidence does not support the idea that the God of the Bible wouldn’t call the world “very good” simply because death was possible in it.

Romans 5:12-19 and 1 Corinthians 15:21? Nuh uh; Paul is obviously talking about spiritual death, not physical death. Notice what he goes on to say in Romans 7:9, “Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.” I see only two possible interpretations here: Either Paul was an extremely eloquently zombie when he wrote the Epistle to the Romans, or he’s talking about a different kind of death.

Now, I have a few questions for the literalists who insist the “plain reading” of scripture reveals there was no death in the world before human sin. For one, what possible purpose could the tree of life have served in the garden of Eden, if no living thing was capable of death anyway? It would have been completely useless. And another thing — a world where all creatures are called to be fruitful and multiply would soon be a very unpleasant one if there were no death. The earth would have been “filled,” and its resources completely exhausted, within a handful of generations. Also, in a world where there is no pain, why did God curse Eve saying he would increase (or multiply) her pain in childbirth? Sounds like Eve already knew what pain was and was fully capable of experiencing it.

There’s more. God’s warning about the tree was that Adam would die “the day” he ate of it (“day” means “day,” after all; right, literalists?). Eve clearly expected the death would be immediate, to the point she thought she would even die from touching the fruit. But they did not physically die that day. The literal reading of the text would indicate they both lived hundreds of years after the Garden. And, last one: God’s words in Genesis 3 say nothing of animal death being part of the curse. You’d think he might have mentioned it. He thought Adam should know about thistles and thorns, but not the fact that the lions and crocodiles that used to be harmless would now be killing machines?

All of this is just to say that the existence of pain, suffering and death is a theological problem for all Christians. The problem does not vanish simply because one chooses to read Genesis 1-3 literally.

Now, to the real question at hand: Is evolution worthy of God? I say, unequivocally, yes it is.

I think grandeur can indeed be seen in the evolutionary process (once one stops insisting that we accept the atheist’s view of creation, that is). Yes, death is part of the world as we know it. But in the light of evolution, we see that death — far from purposeless — is in service to the emergence of new and greater life. Even when something is destroyed, it is in the creation of something else. A God who brings new life out of death, out of even the worst possible darkness? This is not just a Christian theme; this is an idea at the very core of the gospel message.

In light of evolution, we get some sense of the glorious mystery of God’s creation and the complexity of his power. This, unlike the simplistic account peddled by the young earthers, is consistent with the God who called to Job out of a whirlwind and asked if he could even understand the answers he sought. In light of evolution, we see his devotion to his creations, that he is not a God who created strict kinds and abandoned them to a corrupted world, to fend for themselves, fight each other and, in many cases, go extinct. He is, instead, revealed as a God who created life so masterfully that no catastrophe has ever managed to extinguish it, and who — over countless ages — perfected it into endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful. Evolution shows us God’s immense wisdom, patience and creativity.

And finally, it shows that God takes joy in life. That’s right. In Job, God takes great pride in his creations: the mountain goat, the wild donkey, horses, birds of prey. I, for one, am not inclined to believe that God just sat around for 4 billion years, twiddling his thumbs and waiting for humans to come down out of the trees. No, I think he exulted in the fearsome and terrible power of the dinosaurs as much as he ever did in the lion or the Behemoth (whatever that thing is) and sang with the blossoming of the first flower, nearly 130 million years ago.

So why, I ask you, must billions of years of evolution mean that God revels in death? It is just as reasonable — and far more supportable biblically — for the Christian to suppose that billions of years of evolution means that God revels in life, and that only a few thousand years of it simply wasn’t enough to satisfy him.

Tyler Francke

Category: Latest Developments, The Bible, Theology

  • Zachary Lawson

    Sorry, but I’m I bit confused. Is evolution unworthy of God or not? You say it is unworthy and then go on to say its central idea of new life is the core of the Gospel. I think I missed something.

    I also like how you point out that evolution means God revels in life just as much as he ‘revels’ in death. I don’t think I’ve heard it cast quite that way before.

    • http://godofevolution.com/ Tyler Francke

      You didn’t miss anything. That was a typo, which I’m correcting now. Thanks so much for pointing it out to me! Glad you liked the other points :)

  • Sam Haylor

    Again, this is something I’ve said before, but the idea that there ever was a point in history where physical pain and death was impossible is not in scripture.

    This is interesting. For whatever reason you demand the Bible explicitly states “death was impossible” for it to be true but don’t have a problem believing in evolution. Even though the Bible states three times that the world was created in six days (Gen 1, Ex. 20:11 and 31:17) and there isn’t a single verse that would remotely suggest otherwise you hold firmly to a billions of years, evolutionary origin. You might reply with “the Bible doesn’t deal in science” to which I would ask, then why are looking for the Bible to explicitly state that physical death was impossible? If it doesn’t say it was impossible before the fall it equally doesn’t say it was possible.

    However, the Scriptures are pretty clear that death and sin are related and that death is wicked and not part of the “goodness” with which God created the world. Dismissing Paul’s use of the word death as spiritually only is untenable and very naive. If you read through all of Romans 5-7 you should see pretty clearly that Paul is speaking of death as a whole which includes the physical and the spiritual. Christ’s death was ONLY physical yet Paul mentions it to build his argument that death was the ruler until Christ was raised. There’s no distinction. Death is death. So we see in key verses like Rom. 5:12 (which clearly states that death entered through sin), and Rom. 6:23 (we earned death with our sin) that sin and death (physical and spiritual) are linked. Paul even exclaims at the end of chapter 7, “who will set me free from the BODY of this death?!” That was just scratching the surface, as these chapters are extremely thick with theology.

    All throughout the Bible, and particularly the NT, death is associated with evil. Apart from Christ it is a sad end, full of sorrow and grief. The culmination of Christ’s vanquishing of evil is seen in Rev. 20:10-15 where Satan, his followers, DEATH and Hades are all thrown into the lake of fire. Death is clearly seen to be associated with Satan and evil and has no part in God’s “good” design. Freedom from death (both physical and spiritual) is what Christ secured for us and is what “eternal life” means. Rev. 21:4 is one of the greatest promises the believer has for the future, no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. All of those are inextricably tied to sin and it is simply unnecessary for the Bible to explicitly state something that is so obvious.

    • http://godofevolution.com/ Tyler Francke

      For whatever reason you demand the Bible explicitly states “death was impossible” for it to be true but don’t have a problem believing in evolution.

      I think I made it pretty obvious why I made such a “demand.” Those who read Genesis 1-3 literally assert that they are following the “plain meaning” of the Bible, and yet they must add numerous ideas to the text in order for their exegesis to make sense. One of these is the idea that physical death was impossible before the fall of man. That notion is, literally, foundational to the young-earther’s worldview, and yet, not only is it not found anywhere in scripture, it seems to clearly be refuted by the text in question (in the verses that are mentioned in the above article, and which you seem to have completely ignored).

      The six days is a completely separate issue. Young earthers are the ones who insist the passage is meant to be understood as literal history; therefore, they are the ones who must present textual evidence for why they think the Bible teaches physical death was not possible in the universe until two humans sinned.

      I do appreciate your thoughts, Sam, and I think you make some really good points, but I’m not convinced. As you mention, Romans 5-7 is a very complex text, “extremely thick with theology,” and I don’t think it can be explained by the simple idea that “death is death.” I mean, look at even one of the verses you alluded to, Romans 5:12: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” How does that fit into your theology? It would seem to suggest we aren’t capable of physically dying until we sin, which would mean babies and the unborn should be immortal.

      Even the passage in Revelation 20 you mention appears to be far more nuanced than you suggest: ” And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done.” Why the distinction? Why is there dead people standing before the throne, dead people being given up by the sea, and last of all, dead people being given up by “death”? How can you be dead and not be in “death”? You can’t, unless the “death” that’s being referred to is different than physical death.

      Of course, I find great hope, as you do, in the promises of heaven, that death in all its forms will be the last enemy to be destroyed. But the future is one thing, and the past is another. Simply because the Bible says there will be no death in heaven does not provide evidence that there ever was a point in history where there was no death in the world.

      • Sam Haylor

        I think I made it pretty obvious why I made such
        a “demand.”

        I was just calling out what I see as a double standard. You’re claiming the
        text does NOT declare the world was made in six days yet you don’t reference
        any Scripture to support that claim. So because I read it as historical fact I
        must cite specific verses that explicitly state death did not or could not
        happen before the fall, but because you read it as myth you don’t have to
        provide any support that death in fact DID occur before the first sin? There
        simply is no way to interpret any Scripture, mythologically or
        “literally” and conclude that death was good or part of God’s plan or
        even occurred before Gen. 3:21.

        …One of these is the idea that physical death was
        impossible before the fall of man. That notion is, literally, foundational to
        the young-earther’s worldview, and yet, not only is it not found anywhere in
        scripture…

        The Bible does not need to explicitly declare what it clearly infers. The world
        was made in six days, completely and perfectly, without the need for anything
        to die in order to improve. You’re putting the need for death into the text
        when it doesn’t even fit. And I hardly think it’s “adding numerous ideas
        to the text” to understand the good and perfect character of God to be
        absent of death. “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; you
        are greatly mistaken” (Mk. 12:27). Death has no place with God. There is
        only life within Him. For death to be good and a part of His “good”
        design there must be death within His essence, and that is truly abominable for
        me to even think.

        I replied only to the Romans passage because I didn’t want to be so lengthy and
        your argument about Paul “clearly” meaning only spiritual death was
        patently false. Many references throughout Rom. 5-7 directly mention physical
        and spiritual death. They are linked. In a sense, it is that simple.

        How does that fit into your theology? It would seem to
        suggest we aren’t capable of physically dying until we sin, which would mean
        babies and the unborn should be immortal

        I hope you were teasing! If not, please read verses 12-19 a little more
        carefully. Paul is declaring “ground zero” of sin and death to be
        Adam’s disobedience and that with the one act all men are made sinners. We sin
        because we are sinners. It is our nature to sin. We’re already dead before we
        even exit the womb. There’s a lot more in there but no, he is not suggesting
        babies would live forever if they didn’t sin because sin and death go hand in hand.

        it seems to clearly be refuted by the text in question (in
        the verses that are mentioned in the above article, and which you seem to have
        completely ignored)

        I wasn’t ignoring them. I picked the one passage in Romans
        thinking it was enough for now. I’d be happy to address the others:

        Gen. 1:29 – You’re arguing from silence again which is never a
        good basis for supporting a doctrine. However, the import of the text is
        completely lost if you see it as just a passing statement. God went out of His
        way to use two whole verses to talk about food. Surely it’s a little more
        profound than Him saying, “Hey in case you were wondering what else to eat
        besides meat, your welcome to the plants.” Rather, in the same way He
        defines the animals’ nature and boundaries of the sky, sea and land in verses
        21-25, He is defining not only their food source but also one of the primary
        (if not the primary) purposes for the fruit-yielding plants. He is literally
        giving them their meaning by His powerful commanding word.

        Gen. 1:31 – I’m perplexed by this one, mostly because God called
        everything He made “very good” BEFORE the first sin. He never refers
        to the state of the world AFTER sin as very good or even good; I find rather
        the opposite is true. That’s really the point, isn’t it? Everything at the end
        of day six was “very good” then sin happened and everything
        “fell” from that goodness. Now we see the ongoing effects of Adam’s
        sin through death, evil, corruption, etc. Maybe you’re trying to argue that “very good” has to include death because God commanded Israel to kill nations? Wrong. It’s God’s justice and wrath toward sin and evil that demand death (remember Rom. 6:23?) not His goodness.

        The “tree of life” puzzle – All we know is what the
        Bible says about the tree. God did not command Adam to stay away from it so it
        must be included in the “any tree of the garden” directive. God was
        explicit about Adam not eating from it after he sinned, suggesting it was in
        fact a unique tree (its having a name also suggests this) with special meaning
        and properties. We see the tree of life reappear in the New Jerusalem in Rev.
        22:2. That’s about it! To try and speculate what impact it would have had on
        Adam is futile though it most definitely leaves one wondering. But without
        understanding it all I trust that what it says is accurate and that the tree
        would have extended his physical life indefinitely, at least preventing him
        from dying of “natural causes”. To call it “completely
        useless” is rather presumptuous. God doesn’t explain its purpose but that
        doesn’t mean He didn’t have one. The fact that it is in the new Jerusalem AFTER
        sin and death are done away with suggests more that the tree is there
        symbolically (literally and physically there but as a symbol or representative of
        the life God has granted us) and less that it actually was necessary for life
        or that not eating it would lead to death.

        Gen 1:28 “be fruitful and multiply” – A couple of things
        need to be stated. First, God’s command here is much more than an instruction
        that Adam and Eve were supposed to remember and obey. The parallel between that
        statement and the previous verses where God gives the same command to the fish
        and birds, who don’t have reasoning, as well as the “Let there be…”
        statements render the command as His defining the reproductive pattern of man
        in the same way He defined fruit-bearing plants as food. His word went forth
        and it was so. In other words, God was saying, “you are going to be
        fruitful and multiply because that is how I have designed you.” Second,
        God’s plan for Adam to sin is clearly seen in the fact that He allowed the
        serpent to speak to Eve and even put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
        in the garden. His plan of salvation was not “plan B” it was
        “plan A”. It’s really irrelevant to think about the world
        overpopulating with immortal people because it wasn’t ever going to happen. But
        even if Adam had not sinned and man was sealed in his righteousness, God would
        have done whatever He wanted when the earth became “filled”. He could
        have closed up all wombs forever and declared the number of people to be
        sufficient and good. Doesn’t matter though as we’re just speculating about
        something that didn’t happen.

        Gen. 3:16 and Eve’s pain in childbirth – Two thoughts on this one.
        First, you overlooked the second part of His pronouncement to Eve which is
        “In pain [or toil] you you will bring forth children.” Since God is
        declaring what is going to change for the serpent, man and woman, this statement
        must contrast with what would have been otherwise, meaning she would not have
        brought forth children in pain or toil if she had not eaten of the fruit.
        Second, the language does not demand that suffering was the focus of God’s
        pronouncement. The word for “pain” is translated more often as
        “toil” which has its focus on the effort involved and not hurtful
        pain or damage. There are other Hebrew words that better reflect pain as it
        relates to anguish and suffering. Would it have been work to bring forth
        children? Yes, but work does not equate to evil or hardship. God’s
        pronouncement is that the work of childbearing would become greatly increased
        to the point of pain and hardship.

        Gen. 2:17 “you shall surely die” – First, given that I
        already established that there was no need for death in creation since it
        only took six days, and that death is not part of God’s essence or character
        and is in fact directly related to evil and sin and has no part in the definition
        of “good” this passage really should need no further explanation.
        However, to briefly answer how God could say “on the day… you shall
        surely die” we must first (as always) understand the text grammatically as
        well as contextually. Interestingly enough a more literal rendering of the text
        would be “dying you will die.” Now I can’t say with certainty that
        this is a slam dunk as far as it meaning something like “through the process
        of dying you will die” but it certainly allows for that. The grammar
        definitely makes the dying emphatic which is why it’s translated “surely
        die.” But let’s look at it another way. When Adam ate of the fruit death
        became a certainty. There was no escape. Not only was his innocence and
        righteousness stripped from Him and intimacy with God removed (spiritual death)
        his body was “as good as dead” to use Paul’s language regarding
        Abraham in Rom. 4:19. We see this concept of immediate and certain
        pronouncement with eventual fulfillment all throughout Scripture, especially in
        our salvation. We who are in Christ presently have eternal life, even though we
        will all die and are living in corrupt bodies. We are declared righteous even
        though we still sin. In the same way, Adam was pronounced dead even though he
        carried on for another 900 years. The sad clanging of the bells throughout
        Genesis are continual reminders that death is now a reality, “and so and
        so live so many years and DIED… and so and so… DIED, etc.” He did die
        that day, it just took his body a while to meet up with it. And no,
        “day” is not always a 24 hour period. Usually the context makes it
        clear and I believe whenever an ordinal is used with it it always does refer to
        a 24 hour period. In this case both would work as far as I’m concerned because
        I don’t have a problem with the concept of death being a process that started
        on that day and lasted until Adam’s breath expired.

        Finally, the lack of mention of animals dying – Again, arguing
        from silence doesn’t really work for me when it comes to defining doctrine. I
        do agree that it is significant that the death of animals is absent, but that
        is because it makes it abundantly clear that God was addressing the three
        parties involved in the sin. Animals had nothing to do with the offense, save
        the serpent. There is no direct curse on animals because they didnt sin. In fact, I had not really
        thought very deeply about this until now, but there is no mention of any
        aggression in animals until after the flood. The only killing that occurred was
        at man’s hand. This fits rather well with the fact that two of every beast
        entered the ark without a fight. Add to that God’s pronouncement that meat was
        on the menu after the flood and that the entire ecosystem of the planet was
        severely altered, the advent of aggression in animals likely began after the
        flood. As far as death by “natural causes” in animals I am only
        speculating but, given that the whole world was impacted by Adam’s sin (Rom.
        8:22) it is a likely consequence that death struck animals in the same way it
        did mankind, an inevitable process beginning at birth and leading to eventual
        expiration.

        Phew! Much too long for my taste, but you kinda asked for it! :)

        • http://godofevolution.com/ Tyler Francke

          You’re claiming the text does NOT declare the world was made in six days yet you don’t reference any Scripture to support that claim.

          That wasn’t what this article was about, so no, it doesn’t include my complete arguments for why I reject the idea that Bible teaches a six-day creation that occurred less than 10,000 years ago.

          There simply is no way to interpret any Scripture, mythologically or “literally” and conclude that death was good or part of God’s plan or even occurred before Gen. 3:21.

          It’s actually incredibly easy. You seem to be stuck in the idea that Genesis 1-3 is history even as you feign to be entertaining the idea that it’s myth. Here’s a fact, if Genesis 1-3 is not intended to convey historical events as they literally occurred (which is what I believe), then it offers us absolutely zero information about the existence or non-existence of physical death in the prehistoric world. If, indeed, Genesis 1-3 is intended to convey primarily theological truths about God’s role in creation and his view of creation and deeply symbolic accounts of real events (the fall of man, e.g.), then it perfectly accommodates the billions of years of evolution that the geological and physical evidence clearly indicates occurred.

          And I hardly think it’s “adding numerous ideas to the text” to understand the good and perfect character of God to be absent of death. “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; you are greatly mistaken” (Mk. 12:27). Death has no place with God. There is only life within Him. For death to be good and a part of His “good” design there must be death within His essence, and that is truly abominable for me to even think.

          I think you may be misunderstanding my argument, so I will try to clarify. Just because I believe God has allowed physical death to be part of his design for this world does not mean I believe “death is within his essence.” Of course not! Even in your literal view of the text, God is shown to have allowed things within his “very good” creation that are not in line with his divine nature. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all,” and yet, darkness has been part of the universe since the very, very beginning (Genesis 1:2). Notice that even in Genesis 1:4, after God has created the light, the darkness is mentioned again, but it is not called “good” as the light is.

          I believe God allowed physical death to be part of his original design for this world, in order to facilitate the greatest possible amount of good and to shine his glory by showing us all that he can bring life out of death, light out of darkness, goodness out of even the worst possible evil. By all means, think my views are abominable if you like. I thoroughly repudiate your idea that God caused or even allowed the entire universe to be corrupted by pain and suffering because of something one man did thousands of years ago, so I guess we’re even. :)

          I hope you were teasing! If not, please read verses 12-19 a little more carefully. Paul is declaring “ground zero” of sin and death to be Adam’s disobedience and that with the one act all men are made sinners. We sin because we are sinners. It is our nature to sin. We’re already dead before we even exit the womb. There’s a lot more in there but no, he is not suggesting babies would live forever if they didn’t sin because sin and death go hand in hand.

          I wasn’t teasing at all. I think it’s quite clear that Paul is talking about spiritual death in this passage. You alluded to the same thing when you wrote, “We’re already dead before we even exit the womb.” I see no indication in this entire chapter that he’s talking about physical death resulting from Adam’s sin. If he is, then my point holds: Either sinless babies should be immortal, or as you mention, every one of us should have been stillborn.

          I don’t at all deny the link between sin and death, but I believe the death is spiritual — the severing of our immortal souls from our source of life, which is God. And because this existence is temporary but our souls are eternal, in my view, spiritual death is a far graver concern than physical death could ever be.

          So because I read it as historical fact I must cite specific verses that explicitly state death did not or could not happen before the fall

          No, I asked for verses supporting the idea since there is so much textual evidence that clearly refutes it. I do appreciate you responding to those verses. I think you’re the first person who takes the creation accounts literally that I’ve encountered who has actually attempted to explain them. I would like to respond to some of your comments further, but I don’t have time right now, so I’ll have to come back a bit later. Thanks so much for your time, Sam!

          • Sam Haylor

            It’s actually incredibly easy…if Genesis 1-3 is not intended to convey historical events as they literally occurred (which is what I believe), then it offers us absolutely zero information about the existence or non-existence of physical death in the prehistoric world.

            That was my point. Filling in where the text doesn’t speak and speculating is not interpreting Scripture. Interpretation is to give the meaning of what is written.

            I wasn’t teasing at all. I think it’s quite clear that Paul is talking about spiritual death in this passage. You alluded to the same thing when you wrote, “We’re already dead before we even exit the womb.” I see no indication in this entire chapter that he’s talking about physical death resulting from Adam’s sin…
            I don’t at all deny the link between sin and death, but I believe the death is spiritual — the severing of our immortal souls from our source of life, which is God. And because this existence is temporary but our souls are eternal, in my view, spiritual death is a far graver concern than physical death could ever be.

            I appreciate your thoughts on this very much. Of course eternal separation from God is graver than our bodies dying but the Bible makes no distinction between the two. When God breathed into Adam’s nostrils “he became a living soul”, physically and spiritually. We are unique, different than angels because we are physical and different from animals because we are spiritual. Death affects the whole.

            Coming back to Romans 5, the context shift really starts in chapter 4 where Abraham’s faith is described as leading to his righteousness, and that it’s God’s power of resurrection that secures our hope. Notice in verse 17 that God “gives life to the dead” then in verse 19 how Abraham believed God’s promise to him even though he “considered his BODY as good as dead… and the deadness of Sarah’s WOMB.” This is physical death Paul is talking about. Paul then mentions God raising Jesus from the dead which can only be physical since He was never dead spiritually. So all the way through verse 10 of ch. 5 death is strictly physical in nature. Where then is the context switch to spiritual only when he mentions death in verse 12? He doesn’t make one because to him it’s all inclusive! Paul then does directly mention the spiritual aspect but in reverse as it’s we believers who have “died to sin”, but verses 7 and 9 are pivotal as Christ’s physical death is credited to us (by faith) so that we are considered free from sin (which chapter 7 goes into greater detail about) and culminates it all with “death no longer is master over Him”. So what kind of death is that? He absolutely means physical as that was how Christ died. No question there’s a spiritual aspect, but he’s specifically talking physical. There simply is NO distinction in Paul’s mind. Death, as I said before, is death.

            …If he is, then my point holds: Either sinless babies should be immortal, or as you mention, every one of us should have been stillborn.

            Babies are not sinless as we are all conceived “in sin” (Ps. 51:5) and as Romans 3 so profoundly states, “there is none righteous, not even one.” And I think you misunderstood my comment about already being dead before we exit the womb. We are all dead both spiritually and physically from conception. Like Adam our spiritual death is immediate and total and our physical death occurs over the length of our time on earth. We can say we’re physically dead because it’s a guarantee and we are dying. “Dying you shall die”.

            Blessings.

  • Jim Cole

    Really liked this post, Tyler. I don’t think we need to worry about death being part of the “very good” creation, either. The terms used there are similar to Joseph’s statement at the end of Genesis (50:20), about God using his brother’s evil acts to accomplish good. Seems that God’s very good actions in creation could be understood to be His work against the evil active since creation fell, much before Adam and Eve. (Perhaps the demonic fall, letting Satan and his minions loose on existence, but Scripture isn’t clear. Although it’s intriguing that only light is called good in Genesis 1:4, and darkness specifically is not.)

    In that case, evolution actually becomes something that God used to turn death and corruption into tools for good. Like he did with Joseph’s brothers, and many other examples. Turning primitive slime into fantastic butterflies. So not only is evolution worthy, but it actually becomes a picture of His divine nature, right out of Romans 1:20.

    As such, it becomes a model for how He works in our lives (Romans 8:28). THIS is the message that the world needs to hear about evolution. It’s awesome when God turns the slime in my life into butterflies, and there are a lot of other people with slime in their lives.

    • http://godofevolution.com/ Tyler Francke

      Hey Jim — excellent! I love your thoughts here! Thanks so much for sharing! You pointed out some really interesting stuff I hadn’t even thought of before, like the fact that he called only the light “good” in Genesis 1:4, and Gen 50:20.

  • Joshua Hedlund

    “what possible purpose could the tree of life have served in the garden of Eden, if no living thing was capable of death anyway?”

    Easy – it’s even explained in the text; it would have enabled them to live forever *even after sinning*

    • http://godofevolution.com/ Tyler Francke

      Easy – it’s even explained in the text; it would have enabled them to live forever *even after sinning*

      Hey Joshua! Actually, if the literalists are correct about physical death being the result of the fall of man, then your statement must be amended to “it would have enabled them to live forever only after sinning.”

      This creates a couple problems. First of all, it would mean that God’s “very good” creation included a miraculous tree that was completely useless. I mean, presumably it provided fruit that could be eaten, but its miraculous properties would have served no function.

      The second problem is that, as you mention, the tree only served a purpose in the event that man corrupted the world by sinning. AND, it was only at the very moment when the tree might have served a useful function that God expressly forbade it from being used.

      So again, what was the purpose of the tree of life? It served no function in the prelapsarian world, and God refused all access to it in the postlapsarian world.

      • Joshua Hedlund

        Clever, but I still think you’re making a lot of assumptions to say it was “completely useless” or “served no function.” What would have happened if they had eaten from the tree of life before eating from the other tree? Would it’s “useful function” had worked then? Or could the tree have had other “miraculous properties” besides a get-out-of-death-after-sin card? The text just doesn’t say much about it, so I am more hesitant to make blanket statements about interpreting its purpose, or lack thereof.

        • http://godofevolution.com/ Tyler Francke

          Joshua, I never meant to imply with my initial question that I didn’t know what the intended purpose of the tree of life was. As you mentioned, the text and the tree’s name itself make that quite clear: to enable a person who eats from it to live forever. The question was what could that tree’s function be in a world where, according to the initial design, every living thing would live forever anyway.

          You’re quite right, we should not infer things into the text that aren’t there. Therefore, it’s quite obvious that the existence of the tree of life indicates that death was very much a part of the world before the fall of man.

          • http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJZ6xiQoOYCLQoE3EBpuaMA Alex Jones

            It was always my assumption that the tree of life was what allowed things in the garden to live forever, and that being separated from the tree meant that they would age and die naturally since they were separated from their one source of eternal life.

            Now a days, I look at it as a metaphor for Jesus. According to John, Jesus was there from the beginning and Jesus is constantly referred as the only way to eternal life with God. The sinful nature (because that’s what we are really looking at here, not some arbitrary solitary sin) of mankind separated us from God, until he came to us as Jesus.

            My biggest question I have had recently since looking at Adam and Eve as mainly metaphor is the question of the genealogy of Jesus. How does one separate metaphor from history when the bible is steeped from both and makes little indication what is what. In fact if you take the genealogy of Jesus as accurate, then what in Genesis stands as metaphor and what stands as history?

          • http://godofevolution.com/ Tyler Francke

            Hey Alex! First of all, although I’ve heard that suggestion before (that the Tree of Life was what allowed humans and animals to live forever), it ultimately doesn’t hold water because, in YEC theology, living things must be inherently immortal. Their claim is that Adam’s sin, and only Adam’s sin, is what cursed all the earth with mortality and decay. This means that, before Adam sinned, humans must have been incapable of dying. Which, basically, means that the Tree of Life was completely useless (I have pointed this out to YECs before, and they don’t like it, but they also have no answer). Under their view, the only time the Tree could have served any useful purpose was after Adam’s sin, which — ironically — was the only time God forbade them from eating from it. So, what was the point of God making it in the first place, if it was a literal tree? Obviously, it’s a metaphor.

            Also, the text of the story doesn’t support the idea that it had to be eaten from repeatedly to maintain immortality. Genesis 3:22: “And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’” For all intents and purposes, it sounds like a one-time deal: eat from the tree and you live forever. Period.

            Now, as to the genealogy thing, remember that it is only Luke’s genealogy that traces back to Adam. Matthew’s goes only as far as Abraham. And we know the genealogies are not all that they might seem to our 21st century eyes. We know there are gaps in them, and we know that there are significant differences between the two genealogies, even over such an elementary question as the name of Jesus’ grandfather. I think there are differences because they have different purposes. Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience, traced Jesus’ lineage back to David to establish his rightful claim as both Messiah and leader of the Jewish people. He also constructs his genealogy in three sets of 14, both numbers being numerologically significant to the Hebew people.

            Luke’s genealogy, instead, seeks to establish Jesus’ humanity and his link to all mankind, and thus, he traces it back to a man who the human author and his human readers had ever reason to beleive at that time was the first person. Luke did not then know of the evolutionary history of life on our planet (just as the author of Genesis 1 displays no knowledge of other planets, other galaxies, quasars, black holes, micorbial life or the subatomic world) and the Holy Spirit obviously chose not to correct him, because it didn’t matter. The point that is being made is a theological one — Jesus is not just God, but fully man — not a scientific one, and the theological point is not changed by what we now know of evolution.

          • http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJZ6xiQoOYCLQoE3EBpuaMA Alex Jones

            That is a solid point in regards to the theology, but it does seem like there have to be things that are set in stone about the Bible’s history otherwise Christianity is of no more value than Greek Mythology, and It’s still hard to wrap my head around the two separate genealogies (though, I haven’t compared them side-by-side or studied them at an length, so I could be simply speaking out of my proverbial rear here) that don’t mesh up as well as the question “If Adam never existed, what does the Genealogy in Luke truly establish”. I mean, metaphors for creation is one thing, but the closer you get to Jesus the more historically accurate things need to be, right? I guess, what I am getting to is that, if his genealogy is not rooted in solid fact, what is there to state that he is?

            Like I said, it’s my roughest issue I’ve had to face yet and it’s the one that is ultimately thrown in my face when I try to talk about my faith. Where do the parables and metaphors end and history begin?

            I’m not really looking for an answer, because I doubt it’s as simple as that (nothing ever is) just trying to work through things and it’s always solid to get things out of your head and get input from others.

          • http://godofevolution.com/ Tyler Francke

            Hey Alex, I appreciate the conundrum. I’ve had difficulty with the genealogies, too. But the bottom line, for me, is that they simply don’t match up. That’s not a matter of opinion, that’s just a fact. They both purport to be the genealogy of Christ, and they are wildly different. So, if you believe they’re both true and divinely inspired, as we both do, you have to make sense of that somehow. Believing that the genealogies contained some gaps and different purposes is how I make sense of it.

            As far as Adam “not existing,” that’s not even necessarily what I propose. I believe there certainly was a “first human,” the first people to whom God revealed himself and were held morally accountable by him. The theory of evolution does not suggest a first human never existed; it only suggests that the “first human” had parents of their own. I.e., they were not specially created out of dust.

            At any rate, I believe Luke did base his genealogy on fact — on the best information available to him at the time. I also believe the goal of both Luke and the Holy Spirit who inspired him was to demonstrate to his contemporary audience and readers today that Jesus was a man, that he had a common brotherhood with all mankind, and as such, he can identify with our struggles and could bear our sins when he died for us on the cross.

            In the light of evolution, we know that the Holy Spirit could have dragged the genealogy on for millions of pages, describing every single organism who was part of Jesus’ ancestry, going back to the first cell. But what would that have done? Would it have really helped the main point?

          • http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJZ6xiQoOYCLQoE3EBpuaMA Alex Jones

            I guess, in the end this is something I have to come to my own conclusions on through study and prayer. I appreciate the Point of View, and it definitely gives me things to think about. I actually have recently come to subscribe to the belief that Adam and Eve most definitely existed and are our first spiritual ancestors (and through inter-marriage all humans are also directly related to them, which may be how God dispersed souls to all of mankind but that is more of a musing than a belief… and is only loosely supported by scripture.)

            I mean, I think it’s safe to say that many Christian beliefs are myths (myth does not necessarily denote falsehood, and most if not all are based on history) and as such the Adam and Eve story is no different. I actually believe that they existed, lived in the Garden, and maybe even were made out of dirt and ribs as the bible states (I’m not going to put the possibility past God, I mean he got Mary pregnant with no help from Joseph, and ignored the natural process of death when he came back to life… All throughout the Bible, God clearly has no problem stepping outside the realm of what is naturally possible whenever necessary) and ultimately sinned in one way or another (be it by eating from a tree or something else, I don’t know. I mean the Tree of Life seems obvious metaphor, the serpent is an obvious metaphor so why not the tree of Knowledge?) and were sent out into the world ultimately to become God’s first Ambassadors to mankind.

            The thing is, though, from what I am reading in Genesis, is that any reference to “life” or “death” seems to be spiritual life or death. Which means that in the creation story, most likely any reference to life is a reference to spiritual life. Thus when the bible says that Eve is the mother of all who live, it means that she is the mother of all who are alive in the glory of God. Odds are, any human alive at that time were not alive in the glory of God.

            Anyway, I’ve been rambling and got way off topic, so I’m gonna stop typing now.

  • Leandor Vicente

    Great text! Evolution is as beautiful as whatever religious explanation for life’s begin.

    • http://godofevolution.com/ Tyler Francke

      Thanks Leandro! And thanks for your email! I’ll be replying straightaway :)

  • Will

    This article is yet another clear stroke of genius!