Friday, December 05, 2014

Sin and death

Do suffering and death have any legitimate place in the natural order? The Bible makes it clear that death entered the world because of sin, but this must be interpreted in context. Sin is a spiritual rebellion against God,which means that the death it brings is also spiritual. ... That physical death is a part of the natural life cycle within the created oder seems obvious, since if it were not, none of us would be able to eat anything. The "food chains" in the animal world remind us that many species could not exist without the death of other creatures, and there is no reason to think that this state of affairs came about as a result of the fall of man. ... [Gerald Bray, God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 234]

Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Rom. 5:14)

The issue of death before the fall it seems is something taken almost as fact in some Christian circles. Coupled with that is near total ignorance of YEC arguments, and here in this section of his book, Bray proves that in many parts of the academy, questions relating to origins are done in an echo chamber without the need to actually interact with what others have said.

Bray's arguments about positing death before the Fall consists of (1) construing the consequences of the Fall as being about spiritual death, (2) arguing that ecosystems require death due to the existence of food chains. The latter argument shows ignorance of the YEC thesis that biblical death that does not exist before the Fall pertains only to the nephesh chayyah while other plants and animals do "die" in the biological sense of the term. Moreover, food chains are not set in stone, but rather they change as animals adapt to their environments. Just because current food chains involve death of the nephesh chayyah does not necessarily mean that it was always the case, so Bray's argument from the existence of food chains does not prove his case.

The former argument is rather interesting, because it is true that the primary focus of the consequences of sin is spiritual death. Yet here, we see that Bray is not true to Scripture. We read in Romans 5:14 that death reigned from Adam to Moses, which is stated to be a mystery why that is happening since they did not have the Law which informed them what sin is. If we interpret this as speaking about spiritual death, are we saying that spiritual death reigned over Adam to Moses? That suggests that from Adam to Moses, all of them died without being saved, and presumably everyone from Adam to Moses are now in hell, a conclusion which we should reject. Rather, we should keep to the traditional interpretation that the death here is physical death, or rather physical death that conveys spiritual realities. Those from Adam to Moses died physically as proof that they have sinned, and thus they have the Law in some form, which is the thrust of the rhetoric of Romans 5:13-14.

Biblical (physical) death therefore cannot exist prior to the Fall. To affirm that there is death before the Fall undermines one's doctrine of sin, the Federal headships of Adam and Christ, and thus the Gospel itself. While one can inconsistently hold to death before the Fall and the Christian faith, one cannot consistently hold to any version of death before the fall and remain a Christian.


Gregory Gill said...

Amen. You're so correct, and your article has added to my knowledge concerning physical (and spiritual) death from Adam to Moses.

Daniel C said...