Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Animal Death, the Fall, and the Age of the Earth

Does the Bible speak definitively on the age of the earth? Some argue that the word for "days" in Genesis 1 can refer to long ages of time.  Whereas I'm convinced that the language used in Genesis 1 clearly depicts creation occurring in 6 days as we would normally understand "days" (with each day delimited by a 'evening and morning,' in the same way that the Jewish people came to recognize their calendar days), I believe that the term for "day" is not the ONLY reason to consider the Bible as depicting the world as (relatively) young. Another key reason to believe in the "young earth" position is based on the biblical account of how death–not just for humans, but also for animals–was brought into the world through sin.
Examples of evangelical proponents of the "old earth" position: Dr. Ted Cabal of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Dr. Jack Collins of Covenant Theological Seminary are two examples of "old earth" proponents who are truly evangelical. They are "evangelical" in the good, old sense of the word, meaning that they hold to the "first-order doctrines" of the Christian faith. Touching this debate, it is important to note that "old earth evangelicals" like Drs. Cabal and Collins explicitly hold to a special creation of a historical Adam and Eve: an original, historical man and woman, who fell into sin as the result of succumbing to a specific temptation, thus bringing humanity into sin, for which we all need redemption through the second Adam, the God-Man Jesus Christ.
The Issue Raised 
I believe that the "old earth" position (even when held by those who are otherwise sound) is problematic for a number of reasons. This blogpost focuses on one. Though the affirmations that Drs. Cabal and Collins make concerning the impact of a historical fall upon humanity are most crucial, there are other results of Adam's sin impacting creation as a whole. One aspect of the way that sin disrupts the original created order may be seen in the death of animals after the Fall. Whereas the "old earth" view necessarily holds to animal death occurring to the appearance of man (the [seemingly] ancient fossil record being a key piece of evidence cited for an "old earth"), the Bible depicts animal death as being the result of Man's violation of the Creation Covenant.
Following the worldwide Flood recorded in Genesis 6-9, there was a difference in how Man related to animals. This difference demonstrated in both the ongoing effects of sin and God’s gracious provision even in light of the curse. As originally created, the relationship between Man and animals was characterized by peace. Both Man and animals were originally vegetarian (Gen 1:29-30). Nothing that had “the breath of life” in it–Man or animal (Gen 1:30; 2:7; 6:17; 7:15, 22)–would need to give its life as food. When God brought the birds and beasts to Adam in order to name them (Gen 2:19)–and again when Noah brought birds and beasts onto the ark (Gen 6:19-20; 7:2-4)–there was no hint that the animals were afraid of Man (or vice versa). There was also no hint that the animals were afraid of each another.
         The first death recorded in Scripture came as a result of sin, when (instead of immediately striking Adam and Eve dead) God provided animal skins to cover over the sinners' shame (Gen 3:21). Even before God provided the animal skins, the peaceful relationship between humans and animals (and between animals with each other) began to be eroded in the curses following the fall of Man into sin, when God pronounced enmity between the woman and the serpent–her seed and the serpent’s seed–as recorded in Genesis 3:15. Though the typical, natural enmity between people and snakes pointed toward the enmity between Christ and Satan, it was also indicative of the cursed state into which the world had fallen. As marriage, childbearing, and work in general became accompanied by frustration and suffering due to the Fall (Gen 3:16-19), Man’s original dominion over the animals (Gen 1:28) also became accompanied by frustration and suffering. Following the great flood, enmity between Man and animals increased, so that now animals usually fear Man (Gen 9:2), and now animals–rather than being properly subject to Man–sometimes go so far as killing people (Gen 9:5).
         God’s words allowing Man to eat animals (Gen 9:3) are a gracious permission. Man had been expelled from the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:23-24) and the ground had been cursed, so that growing food was no easy matter (Gen 3:17-19). The great flood would have drowned all growing plants, and it would have taken time for harvests to return. Furthermore, the climate conditions on Earth post-flood were likely quite different than prior to the flood (for example: the rains bringing the flood seem to have established the current water-cycle as we know it; previously, plants were watered by a mist going up daily from the ground, Gen 2:5-6), and post-flood climate changes probably made growing crops even more difficult. Therefore, it would have been important for people to have another food-source other than fruits and vegetables.
         Though mankind was vegetarian according to the original created order, there is no sin involved in making use of God’s permission to kill and eat animals. From a biblical worldview, killing an animal is in no way equivalent to killing a human being. Following the Fall, God clothed Adam and Eve in animal skin (Gen 3:21), and the LORD found Abel’s animal sacrifices pleasing (Gen 4:4); in these cases–and in later sacrifices, in which the priests are commanded to eat the meat of the sacrifices (Lev 6:26; Deut 18:1)–the death of animals involved is in no way presented as morally problematic. Furthermore, passages such as Romans 14:2, 6, 1 Corinthians 10:25-26 and 1 Timothy 4:3 make it clear that a vegetarian diet does not make a person more spiritual.
         However, in eating beasts, Man is not to become beastly. God’s prohibition against eating blood–beginning in Noah’s time (Gen 9:4), before the Mosaic Covenant, and carried over into the New Covenant era (Acts 15:20)–is intended to promote moral sensitivity. We are not to tear into animals as if we were predators or scavengers in the animal world. We are to be dignified, thoughtful, and even worshipful in our food preparation (1 Cor 10:31).
         A state of perfectly peaceful co-existence between Man and animals–and even between animals and other animals–will be restored in the new heavens and new earth, as described by the Prophet Isaiah:
6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.
7The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.
9They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Isa 11:6-9 ESV)

         And again:
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind… The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the LORD. (Isa 65:17, 25 ESV)

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, famously described Nature as “red in tooth and claw.” And that is how nature DOES often appear to us today. But that is NOT how it was originally created. When God pronounced each aspect of nature “good” upon its creation, as recorded in Genesis 1, He did NOT do so with a view that animals would immediately start doing violence against each other and that there will be hundreds of millions of years of animal deaths prior to the arrival of humanity. Sin placed Man under a curse, and it fundamentally disordered creation. But there will come a day when all things are set right, when all of creation is rightly ordered (“on Earth as it is in Heaven”), and when universal peace is restored.

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