Tag Archives: death

human sin, then human death

I’m reading a recent interview with Jonathan Sarfati, a well-known anti-evolution Christian author.((Australia’s Reformed Evangelical Periodical, Autumn 2012, 3-6.))

I’m not going to critique the scientific statements he makes, I just wanted to pick up on a theological/biblical claim that he makes, which I hear very often.  He claims:

The whole gospel of Jesus Christ depends on a literal happening in the Garden of Eden where Adam sinned against God and brought God’s curse upon us.  Evolution undermines this account of our origins by putting death before sin.

That’s a big claim.  He presents a choice between a) believing the gospel of Jesus Christ and b) affirming the evolutionary mechanism of natural selection in biology.  For Sarfati, there is no both/and.  He refers to Paul as telling us that “Adam brought death into the world”, and refers to Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15.  So what do these passages say?  And are they appropriate to bring to bear on conversations about animal death before humans?  What would Paul say about us doing so?

Well, it turns out that neither passage is talking about animals at all.  What they are talking about, however, is humans.  Both passages present us with two distinct representatives for, not animals, but humans.  We can either be ‘in Adam’ or ‘in Christ’.  The point is that human sin brings human death.  Adam, no doubt assumed to be the first human by Paul and the rest of his Jewish contemporaries, becomes the representative of all who sin and die, because he (whose name means ‘human‘ funnily enough) was the first human to do so.  Christ, on the other hand, did not sin.  And although he too died, he pioneered the way into a new, un-dying, eternal, glorified state of life that we call the Resurrection.  The physical death and suffering of animals before humans has literally no bearing on either passage.

Sarfati laments that “theistic evolutionists would have us believe that God used [evolution which involves the 'last enemy' of death] to create things which then became ‘very good’ “, but even ‘perfect and young earth’ folk like him have not only to recall that creation is brought from ‘tohu va vohu’ (formless and void) to a state of formed and filled by God’s very good ordering and creativity, but also to explain how a ‘very good’ creation can have a deceitful, crafty and lying serpent in it.  The Sunday-school picture of a ‘perfect’ creation doesn’t hold up, and it isn’t the point.

Sarfati continues:

Christians who believe in evolution also have to face the problem of restoration.  If Christ is going to restore or ‘regenerate’ the world, what will He restore it to?  …millions more years of death, suffering and disease? …evolution is opposed to the biblical ideas of creation, fall and redemption.  We undermine the entire message of Scripture if we try to introduce the idea of evolution into it. (emphasis mine)

Again, if a literal Eden is the prototype of the final restoration – the goal for all things – then it must have a lying snake in it, and we must be able to sin again, and it also might be formless and void and in need of forming and filling.  But in Scripture, it is not Eden that is the prototype.  It is Christ.  Our great hope is not to simply be like a pre-fall Adam, but rather that “we shall be like Him”, that is, Christ.  Our hope is not to be brought back to a state of posse peccare, posse non-peccare (possible to sin, possible not to sin), but to be brought forward to a state of non-posse peccare (not possible to sin).

“Restoration” in the sense of ‘going back to Eden’ is not the right concept.  We don’t go back to the beginning (for another replay?), but forward to the goal, our telos – Christ.  “Transformation” or “translation” or “metamorphosis” is the better image, and that given by the picture of Christ (not Adam) as the “firstfruits” of what is to come.  Moreover, to quote 1 Corinthians 15:49, “Just as we have borne the likeness of the man who was made from dust, we will also bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”  We don’t look back to Adam, but forward to Christ, who has come into human history as the ‘archetype’ of humanity.  We don’t look back to Genesis 1&2 and a ‘very good’ creation, we look forward to Romans 8 and Revelation 21-22 to a liberated creation, and a “new heaven and new earth”.  Or as the great maxim says, “more is gained in Christ than is lost in Adam.”

full gospel

Some presentations and presenters of Christianity are, in my view, overly obsessed with the Death of Jesus such that they over-emphasise it, and end up marginalising the Incarnation of Jesus, the Ministry of Jesus, the Resurrection of Jesus, the Ascension of Jesus and the giving of the Spirit of Jesus.  It probably wouldn’t be fair to use any label for the flavour of Christianity I inherited in my early years as a Christian.  Whatever label is used, this version of Christianity is too prevalent.

In this version I inherited, the only reason Jesus was born was to die for our sins.  His ministry seemed like just some time-filling activity before he died.  The Resurrection is like icing on the cake after the ‘main event’, his Atoning death.  The Ascension is basically ignored altogether.  And the gift of the Spirit is basically about empowering people to tell others that Jesus died for their sins.  The New Testament, and the study and explanation of it over Church History, however, contains a Gospel that is much fuller than this version I inherited (and which most of our modern and quite a few of our older worship songs tend to focus on).

The Incarnation of Jesus is not a mere stepping stone to the Cross (though it is not less than that).  It is the Creator entering and uniting to the Creation in general, and human nature in particular.  This, the Eastern Orthodox rightly emphasise, is itself a saving act.  All creation participates in the salvation that Christ effects.

The Ministry of Jesus does not merely fill time until the Cross.  Jesus life and ministry is an enactment and fulfillment of genuine humanness.  Everything that humans were meant to be and do, which was focused in the call of Abraham and his people ‘Israel’, Jesus achieved and demonstrated in his life.  He finishes the race we could not.  This is a saving act.

The Resurrection of Jesus is not a mere happy ending to the Cross.  Whereas the Cross entails Jesus taking Death (and Evil and Sin) onto himself and extinguishing it, the bodily transformation and translation of Jesus, the Resurrection, enacts and achieves the defeat of Death (and Evil and Sin).  It also achieves a kind of ‘beachhead’ (or ‘first-fruits’) into New Creation, the ultimate destiny and intended goal for all Creation.  This is a saving act – for all creation – including humans.

The Ascension of Jesus is not an undoing of the Incarnation (which would be a huge heresy), where the Son of God strips off his humanity and reports back to the Father that the atoning death was accomplished (and thus the body no longer needed!).  It is about the enthronement of Jesus to the place of ultimate authority – which among other things, entails a denial of any other entities claiming such ultimate authority.  This is a saving act, saving us from false authorities.

The Giving of the Spirit of Jesus is not simply a bit of personal motivation to tell people about Jesus dying for us (though it is not less than that!).  It is the gift of the ongoing personal spiritual presence of Jesus, enabling us, correcting us, leading us, empowering us, shaping us to become more like Jesus.  It’s not just about ‘evangelism’ (or exciting private experiences), but about becoming more human – more like the true human, Jesus.  The Spirit of the true human, Jesus, makes us truly human.  This ‘humanisation’ (or ‘re-humanisation’) is a saving act; it’s what salvation is all about.

And that’s the “full gospel” that the New Testament communicates.

fiery survivor of abortion

Here (I don’t know if you have to have a Facebook account or not).

On emotion. This morning an abortion-activist (pro) was on TV – then this evening I get forwarded this.  My wife’s comment about the activist this morning was that she seemed far too ‘clinical’ about a very sensitive issue.

On free speech. Both sides (and various positions in between) have reasons to say that emotive statements from the other side are offensive, and hurtful.  Whilst I strive for an approach that tries to respect emotions and protect life, when push comes to shove, life is more worth protecting than emotions.

On reality. The reality is a rainbow of varied circumstances.  In the mix of those considering abortion will be a tiny percentage of women who’ve tragically suffered rape, incest, or a combination of the two.  Also in the mix will be a less-than-tiny percentage of women (and their absentee male partners and absentee community/family/friend support) who just don’t want to be bothered with the responsibility of parenthood (not to mention a sexual relationship).  It is naive to say that selfishness is not part of the picture, and non-PC to say that it is.

On relationships. Abortion is one part of a problem with sexual ethics, which is one part of a problem with human relationships in general.  Sadly, modern/western (read: over-convenienced, over-entertained, over-bandwidth-ed, over-socialised, etc.) people have few friends/family that they have a deep/trusting enough of a relationship to be able to a) get the support they need (before and after the unplanned/unwanted/inconvenient pregnancy), and b) have loving truth spoken to them when needed.

On urgency. Whilst screaming ‘murder’, ‘genocide’ or using phrases like ‘silent holocaust’ are maybe not advisable, this is still a freaking life & death issue.

On law. If you know me at all, I’m not for Christians trying to enforce our beliefs through law.  But if the role of government is not to protect life (survival first, quality of life and personal ‘rights’ second), then I don’t know what government is for.  This is one hairy beast of a problem, and I don’t claim easy fixes.  In isolated and short-term cases, an abortion of a 3-day old foetus may look ‘better’ than a drugged-addicted teenage couple being non-parents.  Though there has to be some form of legislation to protect life and people from their own selfishness and indifference, merely making abortion illegal wouldn’t solve the problem.  Whatever one thinks about free abortions or free contraception, etc., hopefully we can agree that families, communities, and yes, even nations need to stop band-aid-ing the problem and address the sexuality and relational confusion that underlies all of this.  “To each their own” (or “live and let live”) is so indifferent and uncaring a philosophy it might as well be hatred.

On increasingly moralistic society. Has anyone else noticed how moralistic society is?  Ads telling people to confront each other about their drinking, and warning people about speeding, and a host of other examples.  This is surface stuff that belies a deep uncertainty about just what to do about some issues.  Tolerance, like ‘rights’, only goes so far.  Convictions, values, responsibilities and real community will go further toward societal change than more laws and more guilt.

On long blog posts. Sorry y’all.

stinking stimulus

Anyone who has a knee jerk (i.e. less than critical) reaction to political events in general and the recent U.S. stimulus package in particular, should shut up and think before ranting.

That said, I just don’t like the thought (much less the passing) of the new stimulus package (and I’m not at all anti-Obama – to be crystal clear).  $US838 BILLION – on what I can’t help but see as a kind of massively over-sized whallop to a horse that is eventually going to die.  Yes, I’m aware of the complexity to all this, and No, I don’t think there are any quick fixes.  But I still cannot understand or begin to support spending nearly a trillion dollars on trying to preserve the “American Way of Life” ™.

What kind of precedent are we setting for future generations?  What are we saying to the rest of the world – much of which is living in some mild or severe form of poverty; a different kind of poverty indeed to the ‘poverty’ some are facing in ‘developed’ nations around the world.

Some may think, “Oh, but financial prosperity for the ‘rich west’ will enable them to be generous to the ‘poor rest’…”  That kind of capitalistic mentality (a.k.a. ‘the rising tide will lift many small boats’) is utter Bull.  Greed does not engender generosity.

Instead of our bank account levels needing to go ‘up’, we need our standard of living to go ‘down’ to a realistic and sustainable place.  And as long as ‘going out and spending money to stimulate the economy’ is part of doing your ‘patriotic duty’, then I think I want to be unpatriotic.

wisdom for a divisive issue

Obama’s recent statements on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, remind us all (like it or not) of the immensely divisive issue of abortion.  The article says… Continue reading

buying rubbish

It’s ‘inorganic rubbish collection’ time in Northcote, Auckland, New Zealand.

Northcote street-sides are loaded down with previously-wanted, cheaply-made, briefly-enjoyed and hastily-discarded stuff.

Interestingly, a rather large percentage of the items you’ll see piled outside homes in the area can be seen in pre-broken, pre-rusted or pre-outdated condition in store advertising fliers like the “Outdoor Living ’08” catalogue from the Warehouse (the near-exact New Zealand equivalent of ‘Wal-Mart’ – that corporation-of-all-corporations emanating from the U.S.).

Yes, the American disease of paying far-too-little for far-too-much is migrating shopping mall by shopping mall to New Zealand. Continue reading

700 billion

700 billion is an incredible amount of money.

I fully admit I know very little about the complexities of the recent situation with the folding-in of large banks in the US.

But I find the hype and hollering about impending financial crisis (not to mention the proposed 700 billion dollar bail-out) to be an insult to the rest of the world, which has much bigger problems than losing their mansion or their high-powered job.

The stark difference in standard of living needs to be kept firmly in mind here.  Yes, people in the US (and perhaps other developed parts of the world which are financially linked to it) appear to be in for some rough times (I honestly don’t know what will happen), but there is a difference between losing a $100,000 home with all kinds of conveniences, and (for example) having to move in with a relative’s house for a few years on one hand, and never even dreaming what it would be like to have your own house, car, blender, toaster, television, electric razor and cotton sheets at all on the other hand. Continue reading

anthropocentric ethics

Anthropocentric Ethics – In Ancient & Modern Perspective

The author/composer/poet/community which produced the text we know of as Genesis 1 observed many things. Just one of these is the uniqueness of humans in relation to our environment.

Day and night, earth and sky, sea and land, vegetation, and fruits, creatures great and tiny, both in the sea and on land…

And then behold – human beings. These humans are at the pinnacle of creation and are invested with the task and responsibility of governing the entire earth. Continue reading

the story of stuff

watch it here (worth all 20 minutes of your time).

Note: The scope of this thing is so huge, please don’t fault it for making sweeping statements – to cover what it does in 20 minutes, it has to make its statements as general as possible.

pain bears a message

This post over at ‘Just Thomism‘ is short, sweet and very thought-provoking.

I’m thankful for pain. Not generally at the moment I experience it, but when I think about it, yes I’m glad (for example) that my body tells me when I’m burning my hand on the stove-top. It’s a painful message that my body sends, but it’s one I desperately need to hear. Continue reading