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.
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.”