|By: Jim Virkler; ©2011|
Some creationists propose that from the time the creation was completed by God as described in Genesis 1, it has undergone some fundamental changes in its physical operation. They argue these changes occurred as a result of man’s sin and subsequent alienation from God in the Garden of Eden after a period of sinless innocence of unknown duration. This idea appears frequently in the writings of creationists who believe the earth is only six to ten thousand years old.
No one knows the duration of man’s innocence before the introduction of sin into the fabric of man’s experience. The Genesis 1 account of the creation of “living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds” also tells of the creation of “man in our image, after our likeness.” All of these events take place on day six of the creation narrative. Theologians tell us “in our (God’s) image” means man is a willful, intellectual, rational, moral, and spiritual being. As the only living being created in God’s image, man is distinct from all animals.
Based on the many events of day six described in Genesis 1:24-31, we may confidently conclude the time elapsed was substantial. Toward the end of that time frame the Genesis passage reviews the general instructions God gave to the humans created on day six. They were to be fruitful and multiply. They were to fill the earth and subdue it. They were to have dominion over every living thing.
The second chapter of Genesis shifts its narrative focus. It is a day seven account occurring after all God’s acts of creation were complete. It relates more detail of the creation of Adam. It tells of his placement into the garden of Eden God had prepared (Gen. 2:8). Adam was instructed to work and keep the garden, eat certain plant foods, and avoid eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam was given the task of naming the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens. Finally, to Adam’s delight, Eve was created.
Then comes the heartbreaking story of the initial human fall into sin and man’s alienation from God. Satan the tempter was cursed and life would become far more difficult for Adam and Eve than ever before as a result of their new fallen, sinful state. They would eventually die a physical death. Their spiritual death, far more serious, was already a reality.
Three brief chapters do not answer even a small fraction of questions we may have concerning earth and human history. The Genesis 1-3 passage provides information God considered essential for us to know: God created the universe and all living things on earth, and sadly, man fell into sin of his own free will. Given my personal choice, I would want a library of many inspired volumes detailing creation events answering when? how? and where? questions and a host of others. In God’s wisdom the creation narrative is quite succinct.
Many sincere Christians delight in dramatizing the effects of the fall of man into sin. They say it has resulted in animal death and animal predation which did not exist before the fall. In addition, they claim the physical laws governing the operation of nature’s geological and meteorological forces have been altered to permit violent, tragically fatal earthquakes and storms which would not be a part of our world had sin not been injected into the cosmic mix. They assert that a loving, all-powerful, good God should not and would not permit suffering and death for any of His created creatures. Their comments apply to the world they suppose existed for the limited time before the spiritual fall of Adam and Eve. But even in that short-lived world, if it existed as they suppose, it would be difficult to realistically envision a condition where no death or no decay were possible for any creature.
The great age of the earth has been established by sound mainstream science using dozens of independent methods. This is not godless, atheistic science. Wholesale death is evident in the record of paleontology among countless quadrillions of creatures within tens of millions of species existing on earth since life forms suddenly appeared 3.8 billion years ago. Suffering and death of our favored pets or beautiful wildlife are not conditions we wantonly celebrate. But to negate a divine purpose for events we cannot begin to understand with merely human wisdom is to set ourselves above the wisdom and purposes of God. The world of Genesis 1 was described as good or very good on multiple occasions by God as He looked upon His completed works. Such is the world we inhabit yet today.
Hugh Ross, in a new volume entitled Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job (Baker Books 2011) reports his startling perspective: “If I were to name one controversy with greater power to inflame passions than all others associated with creation, evolution, and judgment, it would have to be whether any animals experienced death prior to Adam and Eve’s sin. In my experience this issue is far and away the most divisive aspect of the dispute over the age of the earth and length of creation days.” If the No Death before the Fall paradigm of our young earth fellow Christians is accepted as factual reality, it is then an easy step for them to allow an earth only several thousand years old.
Genesis 1-3 speaks of the role of God as Creator of all things. In brief, it also speaks of man’s fall into sin and the consequences of that fall. We may rejoice in scientific discovery of how God has designed the cosmic operating system of our current dimension of time. In modern times our God has lovingly provided multiple opportunities for the discovery of “…the fixed laws of heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25).