Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hard Truths for Theistic Evolutionists [2]

shepherd On Death, Dying, and Suffering

Theistic evolution is the belief God brought about the present variety of life on earth by the process of evolution.

BioLogos is a group of theologians and scientists who adhere to theistic evolution. Their purpose statement says, We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. We also believe that evolution, properly understood, best describes God’s work of creation. Though the folks at BioLogos say they affirm biblical inspiration in their statement, as I pointed out in the previous post on this subject, their affirmation of inspiration is inconsistent from what the Bible claims for itself concerning its own infallibility and trustworthiness in matters pertaining to physical reality, the history of the earth, and the origin of life.

In a manner of speaking, the very term “theistic evolution” is oxymoronic. A radical discontinuity exists between the tenets of modern evolutionary theory and the eternal creator God revealed in Scripture. Yet, as sharp as the inconsistencies are between what is taught in Scripture about the origin of creation and what evolutionary theory believes about origins, theistic evolutionists insist the biblical revelation of creation can be woven together with evolution.

But could God have providentially used evolution to create? Can one hold to modern evolutionary theory and still fully confirm the infallibility of God’s Word? I don’t believe so and I think there is clear reason why I say that.

Consider death and dying. The death of living things is taught in Scripture as being a bad thing; an unwelcomed intrusion in God’s creative order. After God originally created the world, He declared that all He created was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). But, Adam’s act of disobedience in the garden by eating from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 3) is understood as the introduction of death and suffering into God’s creation. Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, separated from an intimate relationship with God and the earth was also cursed so that it would no longer serve Adam in the manner it once did. The end result of Adam’s sin was physical death, and the eventual physical death of all of his progeny. Within the genealogies of Genesis 5, the repeated phrase that rings in the ears of the reader is …and he died. Ultimately, eternal death would result when men were divinely judged for their rebellion against God. Adam’s sin did not stop with only him and his human descendents, however, but it plunged the entirety of God’s creation under the curse of sin so that all living things will suffer the pains of dying and eventual death. As Paul summed up the situation in Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death.

Evolutionary theory, on the other hand, understands death as one of the mechanisms that is a part of the process of evolution. The author of the article Evolution for Beginners notes the second important thing that drives evolution is, the disproportionately high percentage of deaths of organisms who are less well suited to their environments and predatory conditions, and therefore are unable to leave as many offspring. The idea being that death of a weaker individual organism allows the stronger organisms to thrive and pass along their offspring. Additionally, competition among species contributes to the function of natural selection and the evolution of those species. Competition then, … occurs when two species each require a resource that is in short supply, so that the availability of the resource to one species is negatively influenced by the presence of the other species. Hence, when environments lack the food sources necessary to sustain the life contained in it, weaker species will thin out due to the inability to adapt and survive. In other words, they die off.

Theistic evolutionists, instead of understanding that death is the negative consequence of Adam’s sin, insist “death” is an important part of God’s creation and it is necessary to maintain God’s “perfect” world. Death is viewed as a creative agent facilitating the majestic work of God as He providentially guides His creation to reflect His glory. This is also the position of other old earth creationists who would reject the concept of evolution. For example, Hugh Ross and the apologists at his ministry Reasons To Believe as well as Greg Koukl and Stand to Reason.

But seeing “death” as a creative act of God and a necessity for His created order is strange in light of the fact the Bible identifies the introduction of death with Adam’s sin. Death is the eventually curse upon man’s sinfulness, and the Bible states the entirety of creation groans under death’s curse. Death is an enemy to be abolished at the coming of the new created order (1 Corinthians 15:26). If “death” is a work of God’s creative action, why does Revelation 21:4 say, And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away? The “former things” are contrasted here with the New Heaven and New Earth. Where as the “former things” – our current world in which we live – are marked by death, sorrow, crying, and pain, the New Heaven and New Earth are not. The “former things” are certainly not described as being good or an important part of God’s perfect creation.

On top of this, famine and the scarcity of resources is revealed in the Bible as a judgment by God against His people and against sinners in general. For example, in the curses promised to Israel if they did not obey the covenant made with God, the LORD says in Deuteronomy 28:24 that He will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed. We see this promise kept in 1 Kings 17 when the prophet Elijah announces no rain will come upon the land for 3 years. In the prophecy of Jeremiah, chapters 14, 42, and 44 particularly, God threatens to send famine and pestilence upon the people as a means of judgment. Other prophets record similar threats and acts of judgment by God. In all of these instances, death, disease, and famine, is an extremely negative thing and never is creativity attributed to them.

A lot of the dying of God’s creatures involves the scarcity of resources – the idea of competition noted above. Yet it is clear from Genesis 1:11-13, 20, and 22, that God originally created His world with the abundance of life in the seas and on the land, and the necessary resources for that abundant life to thrive. This is especially true with God’s command to “be fruitful and multiple” because the resources must be available for His creation to fulfill that mandate. But the lack of resources in a given environment on the earth is one of the primary causes of death. In light of what God stated about His original creation multiplying abundantly and being fruitful, the reality of competition, the struggle to survive, and the lack of much needed resources, is problematic to affirming both evolutionary theory and what the Bible teaches concerning God’s creation now under the curse of sin.

The typical response by theistic evolutionists, and even old earth creationists like Hugh Ross, is to say the death spoken of in Genesis is “spiritual” death, not physical death. Some even re-define the word “death” to mean only “separation” and chide those who think no physical death existed before Adam sinned as misunderstanding the theology of death. The reason Adam didn’t die, they argue, is because he and Eve were in fellowship with God and had access to the tree of life mentioned in Genesis 1-3. It wasn’t that they wouldn’t die, per se. Their obedience to God and resistance to the Devil’s temptation merely promised them immortality. But once Adam and Eve disobeyed, they were separated from God and they could no longer partake of the tree of life. At this point onward they were to continue being subjected to physical death.

But that is a strained interpretation of Adam’s sin and the death that followed when one considers Paul’s argument for Christ’s cross work of redemption. There are at least two reasons why death by Adam’s sin was not just “spiritual,” but also physical and that physical death had not happened before he sinned. First, In both Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, Paul explains that redemption was only secured when Christ physically died and then physically rose again from the grave. In 1 Corinthians 15:21 and following, Paul contrasts Adam’s act of sin which produced physical death with Christ’s physical resurrection from the dead. If Adam had only died spiritually, then it would only be logical to say Christ was only “raised” spiritually. There would be no need for the bloody death of a substitute to pay the penalty for sin as Paul outlines in Romans 3-5 and then His resurrection from the dead (see also Hebrews 9:16, 17).

Secondly, Paul ties the restoration of creation at the eschaton to the physical resurrection of the saints and the defeat of death as the “last enemy.” He writes in 1 Corinthians 15:42-58 how the corruptible (fallen, mortal, sinful men), cannot inherit the incorruptible (the new “sinless” creation). The corruptible becomes incorruptible when Christ returns and God’s kingdom comes to earth and transforms it. The contrast between the corruptible and the incorruptible and the identification of sin as the “sting of death” in verse 56 clearly implies the condition of “corruptibility” did not exist before sin. Now, if physical death existed before Adam’s sin and was a part of God’s perfect creation, why is there a need for our redemption from “corruption”? Why is physical death even considered an “enemy”? Why would a good thing necessary to God’s perfect creation even be considered an “enemy”? Something that is to be abolished? And if physical death existed before Adam sinned, why is it tied to Adam’s transgression?

What I am seeing with the arguments made by theistic evolutionists – and by extension, old earth creationists – is that physical death isn’t really considered a “big deal” to them. But the theology of death presented by theistic evolutionists creates major difficulties with the whole of Scripture and how the Bible understands death. A person has to wonder what impact theistic evolutionists believe Adam’s sin had first to his progeny and then to the rest of the world. A person also has to wonder how seriously theistic evolutionists believe the plain teaching of Scripture in these matters. From what I can tell, biblical theology suffers horrendously in their hands.


Jonathan Sarfati, Refuting Compromise

Fred Van Dyke, Theological Problems of Theistic Evolution [A lot of my thinking on this subject was pulled from this paper]



Blogger David said...

Can you describe the pre-Fall anatomy and physiology of sharks and ichneumonid wasps?

10:41 AM, June 22, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

No. But what ever it was, they didn't die. Which is the point of the post.

10:49 AM, June 22, 2010  
Blogger David said...

The point is the the anatomy and physiology of sharks and ichneumonids and millions of other predator and parasitic species are all exquisitely adapted to killing. So, was this also true of these species anatomy and physiology before the Fall?

Also, did animals reproduce in the pre-Fall world?

11:02 AM, June 22, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

So, was this also true of these species anatomy and physiology before the Fall?

No. That is one way sin changed things in the world. That is not to say God made them predators at that point, but their functionality changed. Men weren't murders in a pre-fall world, either. Nor where they ashamed of their nakedness.

Also, did animals reproduce in the pre-Fall world?

I take the command to fill the earth to mean they could. Now. I realize your response will be along the lines of "what about over population" and so forth. But I just remind you that we have no information as to how the pre-fall world functioned in this regard and lack of that information does not mean it could not have happened.

11:20 AM, June 22, 2010  
Blogger David said...

“No. That is one way sin changed things in the world. That is not to say God made them predators at that point, but their functionality changed.”

How did their “functionality” change? How did their anatomies and physiologies change so that post-Fall, these animals are beautifully adapted to predation and parasitism?

“I take the command to fill the earth to mean they could (reproduce). Now. I realize your response will be along the lines of "what about over population" and so forth. But I just remind you that we have no information as to how the pre-fall world functioned in this regard and lack of that information does not mean it could not have happened.”

So, your answer would be that we can make this work by using our imaginations? I really don’t mean to be rude here at all, really I don’t, but this is what this sounds like to me. The reality is that if animals are reproducing, then at some point, all of the different animal populations are going to run out of food. So, “no death” simply does not make sense.

Here’s what I’m getting at. A “no death” world doesn’t work and is contradicted by the presence of countless adaptations for killing.

11:31 AM, June 22, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

How did their “functionality” change? How did their anatomies and physiologies change so that post-Fall, these animals are beautifully adapted to predation and parasitism?


Here’s what I’m getting at. A “no death” world doesn’t work and is contradicted by the presence of countless adaptations for killing.

I wouldn't know the actual physiology of such a thing, but beginning with what I do know to be true, what God tells me in His Word what happened to His world after man sinned, features that had other adaptive purposes now are used for killing and predation. I realize you think such is simple minded junior church thinking, but I don't care.

A “no death” world doesn’t work and is contradicted by the presence of countless adaptations for killing.

Well, here is what I am getting at: A "death before sin" world contradicts what God has plainly told us existed in His world before sin. Again, you may think I am naive and silly, maybe superstitious, I don't care. I choose to believe what God has said.

2:09 PM, June 22, 2010  
Blogger David said...

"I choose to believe what God has said."

Ok. Fair enough.

2:11 PM, June 22, 2010  
Blogger RealityCheck said...


I would recommend an article by Jonathan Sarfati of Creation Ministries International located at:


… specifically under the section titled: “Did God create carnivory?”. As he says in the article, Ch. 6 of “The Answers Book” goes into more detail for each of the three positions given.

2:08 AM, June 25, 2010  
Blogger Garrett said...

Hey Fred, I kind of sort of responded to the content of this post at gty (see comment #56 here http://www.gty.org/Blog/B100624). Seems like David's objection has reached a dead-end, so I'll just leave it at that.

3:51 PM, June 25, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I respond to you HERE comment #75

3:07 PM, June 26, 2010  
Blogger yeoberry said...

Hi Richard,
1. To make a positive doctrinal affirmation, one should have an explicit Biblical statement to support it. There is no Biblical statement that there was no death prior to the Fall of Adam, either in Genesis or Romans 5 or elsewhere.
2. While it is true that “death is the last enemy”, I would assume that it is the enemy of man (created in God’s image.) One could reason that God would not create death as part of creation prior to sin but scripture doesn’t explicitly say that. Romans 5:12 specifically narrows the referent as to who death came upon after sin as onto man; it doesn't say that there was no death in creation universally.

3. The Genesis 3 story specifically says that Adam & Eve were expelled from the garden because if they were allowed to stay they would eat of the tree of life. "Lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” (Gen. 3:22) thus implying that they were not created immortal but could only obtain immorality by eating of the tree of life, which they would have been allowed to do if they had kept the "covenant of works" (i.e. obeyed the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). If they were created immortal, why would they need to eat of the tree of life in order to "live forever"? Why have a "tree of life" at all if there was no death?

4. I would imagine that this position is inherent in every “old earth” approach to creation. I don’t see how one could have an “old earth” interpretation and not believe in the existence of death prior to the sin of Adam, as, for example, limestone is largely formed of the skeletal fragments of marine organisms. A YEC advocate would have to say that God created limestone to look as if billions of organisms had died over millennia. An “old earth” interpretation doesn’t have this problem and, as it turns out, doesn’t have a problem with the text of scripture since scripture doesn’t say that there was no death prior to the Fall.

9:25 AM, May 28, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Hey again pastor,

Did you even bother to read my article or did you just cross-post your comments from the AOMin facebook page? I am taking it that the Richard mentioned here is Rich Pierce at the facebook page, right? It would be helpful if you actually read my post and then responded to MY arguments.

In response (1.) I believe there is explicit biblical statements to support our understanding of the age of the earth. It is primarily found in the genealogical material that places redemptive history into a matrix of real history. Adam was a real person, right? He was created on day 6 of creation week, correct? The genealogies, in spite of their maybe being some gaps between links, does not provide us with thousands of years of gaps, let alone millions. Thus, we can get some rough idea how old the earth is from the moment of creation because redemptive history places God's purposes in the chronological context of Adam's creation.

Regarding (2.) let me ask some questions. Then in your understanding, death was a good and necessary part of God's created order, it just wasn't good for man? How does death figure into your theology of the curse? The ground was cursed. Does that mean just the ground itself or was there some other implications for the curse? Why is there a need for a new heaven and a new earth where there is no death if death has always been a good part of God's creation?

As to (3.) I am curious if your theology of the Tree of Life plays out into embracing annihilationism as most who hold this view of Adam, Genesis 3, and the fall are annihilationists?

In (4.) limestone is NOT largely formed by skeletal remains. Limestone is formed by a number of conditions in the environment and does not need to take millions of years to accumulate. Dr. Andrew Snelling has a couple of detailed chapters in his second volume on catastrophism and the flood that explain all this. Curious then. I guess you don't believe in a global flood, either? You certainly seem at ease at allowing the scienticism magisterium control how you read the Bible when it comes to creation.

5:24 AM, May 29, 2012  

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