In the Fall 2010 issue of Adventist Today J. David Newman presents his article entitled: Death Before Sin – No
I thought I would take some time to counter a few of his statements.
So Christian evolutionists say that death is natural and normal, while the Bible says that death is an enemy. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. ...The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:22, 26, NIV). And it will not exist in the new earth (Rev. 21:4).
This is one of those techniques which frankly we see all the time right now during the political ad season. Blanket statements which seem so certain but are in fact really misinformation. Take the above as the example. The Bible says that death is an enemy. Does that mean that all death is the enemy? After all when I eat my apple or pull up my carrot and eat them I am in fact killing the fruit or for my carrot the whole plant. The Genesis story talks about eating of the fruit of the Garden that means the cessation of life for at least the fruit, or perhaps the nuts which after all are the seeds which if their life cycle was to complete they would grow into a new tree. So actually even in the Genesis story death is not treated as an enemy. At least not until it concerns the human being. And after all that is really what the text quoted above is about. It is not about plants, animals or bacteria it is death that is the enemy of Human beings, those individuals who are capable of understanding the consequences and lost opportunities that make death our enemy. Death as the enemy of man is the concern and that is the death that will not exist in the New Earth. That statement in Revelation is not really meant to indicate that all things we know will cease to exist and all laws of the universe will change. Perhaps they will but that is not very likely the intent of a statement that reads:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 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 21:3-4 NIV)
Newman then quotes the texts from Paul in Romans chapter 5 about how through one man sin entered the world, strangely missing the literary device Paul uses contrasting Jesus as the one man that brings life with Adam the one man who brought death because everybody in the family of Adam dies, which includes Jesus who died but stopped the death cycle by promising resurrection. It is a literary device because of course death still reigns everybody still dies, the hope of resurrection is still future for all the rest of us. So we see that being overly literal when we read these texts is not the wisest course.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned--(Rom 5:12 NIV)
Newman uses the above text but is Paul consistent here or is he using it as part of his literary comparison? According to most conservative scholars Paul also wrote 1 Timothy and it says:
And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. (1 Tim 2:14 NIV)
We must therefore ask if Paul wrote both of these verses which is true? My answer is that Paul uses what will fit the comparison or point he is trying to make. He is not bound by the kind of literalistic view that subsequent traditional Christians have placed upon his writings. To Paul we all sin and we all die, the cure for one is the cure for the other. It is simple and pragmatic. We can’t really argue about it we don’t see anyone who does not sin nor do we see anyone that does not die; salvation, the healing; heals both. Death cured by resurrection and sin cured by reconciliation but you have to alive to be reconciled. The cure to sin is meaningless if you are still dead. Resurrection to a life filled with sin and misery is not a terribly appealing idea either; just doing it all over again and again, the two are intimately connected in Paul’s usage.
If death were taking place in the world before Adam, and if Adam was simply the end result of the evolution of human beings, why would death be an enemy? And why would it need to be destroyed?
In the above I answered Newman’s second question as to why death would need to be destroyed. What about the previous question? This is a purely philosophical question which could probably be answered many ways depending upon ones presuppositions. The most common would be that death that was leading to the human being capable of individual understanding and reasoning to things beyond himself was not the enemy just as the death of my apple or carrot are not my enemy. Death only becomes the enemy when we understand the larger issues involved to thinking individuals. After all is the hawk grabbing up a mouse evil because the hawk lives upon the flesh of the mouse. Is the hawk sinning because Adam sinned? Or if we looked at it from a six day creationist viewpoint who made the hawk behave the way it behaves, who created it with the talons and beak made to rip flesh? Some I am sure would say that Satan did it. That being a popular excuse when all explanations fail but at least we have to admit that such an idea is not presented in the Bible.
Newman than uses the argument that is so very popular among traditional Adventists, the argument those of us who read the various discussion forum of Adventists see often.
This subject is very important, because it impacts how we look at Jesus, at the cross, and at the whole question of sin. If science explains where we come from, then the same science tells us that people do not come back from the dead, and that Jesus may have lived and died on a cross but could never have come back to life again. The same people who believe in Christian evolution also believe what the Bible says about the end of this age—that one day death will no longer exist—even though that is not what science says. So why accept what science says for the beginning of this world but not accept what science says for the end of this world?
In fact science does tell us that ordinary people don’t come back from the dead on their own. It says nothing at all about what would or could happen if there was a God, a supreme being with all power and knowledge involved. Again science tells us what would happen to a man hung on a cross but not what would happen if God came down and became a man and was hung on a cross. Science can tell us nothing about God resurrection Himself if He came as a man and died on a cross. It does not even try to tell us these things. Science has the limitation of only being able to really study what exists now. What the evidence we have now says. Granted there are scientists who will produce theories about things that happened and are not currently observable or without much evidence. For example some scientist will produce theories about what happened in the first 10th of a second after the big bang. But like a lot of science those theories come and go, science obviously changes it grows and expands and corrects itself but it does not attempt to explain the Christian Atonement.
Ultimately Science never tries to tell us what will happen if there is a supreme being who wants to step into our time and space and do something. So why accept what science says for the beginning? Because there is evidence for the beginning, we look at that evidence we compare different observations and see a lot of evidence which is very compelling. Why not accept what science says for the end of this world? Because there is precious little evidence about the end of this world since it has not happened yet, if there were multiple big bangs in a collapsing and expanding universe all the evidence from a previous end of the world would be gone so all that is left is various speculations and speculation is not science. This is Newman’s most important point and it is totally contrived and meaningless.
I will conclude by discussing the following quote:
If Adam and Eve were not historical figures, then we have no information on how we became sinners. If human beings gradually evolved from the Neolithic man to Homo sapiens, at what stage did they become sinners? If other humans existed along with Adam and Eve, how did they become sinners? Who, then, did Christ save?
This is another commonly held Traditional Adventist idea. It tends to ignore the reality of what we as human do since recorded history which is we hurt each other and often ourselves. Pragmatically we understand we are sinners; is it all that important to know which of our ancestors was the first to realize or to be accused of being a sinner? It does not change the reality of where we are one bit. I suppose it is about as useful as asking where did God come from. We don’t have any idea so we say He always was, fine then why not say humans were always sinners. Historically it certainly works; actually this wanting to know the beginnings of everything generally does not work for anyone. We have a whole Adventist sub doctrine about how Satan was once Lucifer and how sin began in him. It is not from the Bible, it is not from Jewish religion it is based upon early church traditions. Jesus was more pragmatic and simply said of Satan that he was a liar and murderer from the beginning. He did not see a need to invent a back story, just give the present reality. Surely the present reality of being sinners is enough. As for who then did Christ save? He saves whoever He wants and whoever will accept His salvation. I think I can trust Him on that issue, and I only see problems when I try and say who God saves or not, being that I am not God it would only be speculation based upon lack of knowledge and I am enough of a scientist to know that such speculation is not good for science or religion.