The Days of Creation and Death Before the Fall

What follows is my response to Gavin Ortlund‘s response to Douglas Wilson. Check them out for context on this conversation that plunges right in mid-stream.

Gavin tries to deal with death before the fall, but I don’t think we can retroject onto the pre-fall situation what “must” have been the case given the way things are now.

If I grant that humans would not have died had they not sinned, can I not imagine a situation where low-level organic life might not have died either? Gavin says the world would have become uninhabitable apart from those kinds of death. How does he know? Couldn’t there have been some pre-fall, uncursed, very good way that God had in the offing to deal with those realities? I suspect he could have handled the logistics.

As for the overhaul of creation that is proposed if predatory behavior only begins after the fall, again, we don’t know what those eagles and eels and saber toothed tigers might have used their peculiarities for in a very good world. It sure looks to me like the animals weren’t afraid of people until after the flood (Gen 9:2), which would seem to imply that maybe they weren’t a threat to humans until that point, either.

Could God have designed eagles and eels and tigers with some other purpose than predatory behavior? I suspect the pre-fall world was different in ways we don’t conceptualize, so I’m not prepared to close down that possibility.

Acknowledging what I don’t know and can’t imagine seems a lot safer than elaborate speculations about demons and a fallen creation prior to human sin. (Gavin acknowledges the speculative nature of his proposal that “nature fell when angels fell.”)

I would rather believe what the Bible says and need more information than it gives me than adopt a hypothesis that entails extra-biblical information requiring exegetical gymnastics to pretzel the Bible’s statements around my theories.

I trust the Bible more than I trust that extra-biblical information.

The Bible’s material provides us with a grammar of sorts, and out of that grammatical material we construct our lexicons and syllabaries and mental books on syntax that we use to conceptualize and talk about the world.

It seems to me that the grammatical data on this one is pretty straightforward. Note the avoidance of the word literal, here. What I’m saying is that the grammatical data that the Bible gives us builds up an interpretive world where “in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed'” (Exo 31:17 ESV) means that we are to think of God making the world in what we think of as a normal week. Then a bunch of other statements in the Bible get built out of that same stuff.

There is another set of grammatical pieces of information that drives people to look at a verse like that and say something like: well, actually it wasn’t a normal seven day week at all but was in reality a longer period of time than we can begin to conceptualize. The grammatical data that leads to that kind of interpretation of those words and phrases comes from outside the Bible, not inside it.

As for the three-tiered universe, I want to think further on that. I want to keep reading the Bible and see if what has happened to me in the past doesn’t happen to me on this one – I come to an understanding of the texts that makes total sense and gives the lie to the conclusions that, in my view, folks like Peter Enns have jumped to on these matters. Would love to tell you what I’ve come to conclude about Enns’s vaunted movable well.

On the specifics of the scientific evidence, I remain untroubled by the distance light has traveled from the sun or very distant stars. If God can create Adam as a full grown man, he can create a lot of other things that look like they’ve been growing for a while, too.

The idea that God did such things is easier for me to stomach than the alternatives. In fact, it’s not hard to stomach at all, and it begins to taste like honey from the comb.

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  1. Saturday Six (2/14/2015) | Thoughts from Everyday Life - February 14, 2015

    […] creation days were 24-hour periods. SBTS professor Jim Hamilton responds to Taylor’s claims here and here. In October, I attended a creation conference hosted by Institute for Creation Research […]

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