The Great Debate on Science and the Bible – Program 3

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Ken Ham, Dr. Jason Lisle, Dr. Hugh Ross, Dr. Walter Kaiser, Jr.; ©2005
What Kind of World Did God Create?

Program 3: The Great Debate on Science and the Bible – What Kind of World Did God Create?


Today on The John Ankerberg Show, the Great Debate on Science and the Bible. My guests are Ken Ham and astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle of Answers in Genesis, debating astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, and Dr. Walter Kaiser, distinguished professor of Old Testament and President of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.

Today, has science proven through astronomy, modern physics, and geology, that the universe and the earth are billions of years old? If this is true, are Christians who teach that the universe is only 6,000 years old erecting a hindrance to those looking for a factual Christian faith? Or is the opposite true, that Christians who teach the days of Genesis are six long periods of time are really the one’s not interpreting the Bible literally?

These four men model how Christians who strongly disagree can discuss their different views with love and respect.

Join us for this important debate and hear both sides present their case.

Ankerberg: Welcome. This week we have a very controversial topic. What kind of world did God create? And did plants and animals die before Adam and Eve were even created? And what happened at the Fall? What happened to man? What happened to the world? Well, the answers that you give have a lot to do with whether you hold that the universe is billions of years old or just 6,000 years old. And I want to start with a verse that has an impact on all of these questions, and it’s Romans 5:12, which says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Now, Dr. Kaiser, I want to know, what does that verse tell us about the creation? What does it tell us about Adam and Eve? And let’s start to talk about the impact that had on the world.
Kaiser: Well, obviously, it’s a bad situation. Man, through the sin of Adam, has gotten himself into a real mess. We call it the fall of man. Indeed he did fall, and as a result of that, death came on him and on all of his descendents. Not only that, he had a proclivity toward sin, as well as actual deeds. So we talk about a sin nature, we talk about sin deeds. That text is saying that the decision there of Adam and Eve was very, very determinative for the whole problem of what the gospel is now, which is the solution to the problem. So the presence of evil, the gospel is all about; the solution to evil in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, is clear. The origin of it, though, why in the world did God ever allow this, is one of those things that we just spend hours and hours and hours on. And I imagine, John, we’ll have to go to seminars in heaven. I don’t have a verse for that. It’s just a hunch that we’ll do more than music lessons.
Ankerberg: Alright, Ken, you believe that this tells us more than just what happened to man, but this also impacted the animal world, the plant world. Tell me why.
Ham: Actually, I have to disagree with you.
Ankerberg: Okay.
Ham: I don’t really believe that. I need to explain. I mean, this is where Dr. Kaiser and I need to shake hands and agree.
Ankerberg: Okay.
Ham: Because what he said there, I totally agree with Romans 5:12. And, you know, I know that we would say, and this is another issue, when we talk about animal death, Romans 5:12 is not talking about animal death there, it’s talking about human death. You know, it’s interesting. When you read Calvin, when he talks about angels, he says a bit and then he says something like, you can’t build a whole theology of angels on the basis of the fact that the Bible’s not about angels, it’s about man and his relationship to God. And the Bible’s not about animals, either. It’s about man and his relationship to God. So therefore, when we come to look at animal death, we’ve got to look at a whole different series of verses. But, I mean, I agree with Dr. Kaiser here in regard to this.
And I’d just add one thing, which I believe you were saying, and we’re saying here, too. It talks about death reigned from Adam to Moses, and it compares the death of Christ there to the death,… for instance, in verse 6 it says Christ died for the ungodly, [Rom. 5:6] talking about His physical death, and then His resurrection. So we’re talking about physical death here. I mean, God told Adam, “From dust you come, to dust you’re going to return.” [Gen. 3:19] And He sent him out of the Garden of Eden so he couldn’t have access to the Tree of Life and live forever. So he died spiritually, obviously, when he rebelled against God. But then physical death was a consequence. So that’s the issue of man. Animals is a separate issue.
Ankerberg: Alright, the question then is, on the day that Adam ate the fruit, did he die physically or spiritually?
Ham: Well, you know, Genesis 2:17, again is an example of that be yom, “when.” He died spiritually immediately, obviously. And of course, the phraseology there is basically “you’re going to die. Die.” I mean, it’s just saying, “You’re going to die!” And it’s interesting that God then specifically said, you know, “from dust you come, to dust you’re going to return.” And He said, “lest ye take from the Tree of Life and live forever,” [Gen. 3:22-23] because, you know, the Tree of Life is symbolic of the fact that God,… a real tree, but you know, God is obligated to give you eternal life if you have access to that tree, which is why we see it again in the new heavens and new earth. [Rev. 22:2] But He sent him out of the Garden so he couldn’t have access to it, so then he would physically,… God could carry out that judgment of physical death. So then he would die.
Ankerberg: Okay. Then what verse do you use to base animal death coming from Adam’s sin?
Ham: Here’s what I would say. There’s no one verse that you can specifically speak to, and you know, look at in regard to that. But, definitely by very strong inference from Scripture in a number of verses you put together. For instance,…
Ankerberg: But if it’s a strong inference from Scripture, but there’s no verse, what are we going to do? You need a verse.
Ham: Um. You know what, let me just run through a few things and show you how strong it is. Genesis 1:29-30. Genesis 1:29, God told Adam and Eve to eat fruit, and you know, and vegetables. In other words, vegetarian, which is confirmed by the fact in Genesis 9:3, God said, He’s basically saying, “Just as I gave you that, now I make a change.” Verse 30 is written in the same way for the animals. Exactly the same way. And they were told to eat plants, not to eat meat. It didn’t say,… it just said, you’re to eat plants. It’s interesting. Dr. Norm Geisler, in Lee Strobel’s book – I’m sure we respect Dr. Norm Geisler, even though he believes in billions of years, and I don’t agree with that – he says this is definitely talking about the fact that Adam and Eve and the animals were vegetarian.
Ankerberg: But here’s the thing for the people that are listening is, the fossil record seems to suggest that animals, plants, died by the truckload before Adam and Eve were even created. Okay?
Ham: An interpretation of the fossil record by certain people. But not the fossil…
Ankerberg: Okay, I agree that’s an interpretation, but the fact is that’s what people see. But what I want to get is, what do you base your conclusion on that animals couldn’t have died before Adam and Eve?
Ham: Well, let’s go on here. There’s a Hebrew distinction between animals and plants. Animals have a nephesh, is a particular word, their living soul, spirit. Plants do not have that. They’re never given that. And plants don’t die in the same sense that animals do. I know Dr. Ross has given some Bible verses in regard to supposedly plants dying. But I would challenge those….
Ankerberg: Well, tell our people why it makes it difference that the plants and the animals are that.
Ham: Okay. Because plants were given for food, so Adam and Eve were eating plants. They’re not living beings, they don’t have spirits/soul. Plants are different. But in the fossil record, let me just come to that….
Ross: Now, Ken, are you saying that nephesh applies to all animals?
Ham: Nephesh doesn’t apply to all animals. No, because you’ve got to look at what Scripture says. It certainly applies to …
Ross: How do you define nephesh?
Ham: Well, it’s certainly applies to the ones that God created: the beasts of the field, and the cattle…
Ankerberg: Alright, slow it down. What does nephesh mean, Dr. Kaiser, for our people?
Kaiser: Well, the full expression is nephesh ha haiah. And nephesh ha haiah is a kind of hendiadys here, in which – hendiadys means one by two. So you say one idea by means of two. Or you have a hentriadys – “I am the way, the truth and the life,” [John 14:6] the one true living way. So it’s only talking about one thing, but he uses three words here. So I would think nephesh ha haiah is just basically, “alive.” They became alive. Nephesh sometimes means “soul,” and ha aiah is a life. But “the soul of life” is two expressions to mean one idea – alive. Just being alive.
Ham: Yes, we are basically agreed. And, see…
Ankerberg: Okay, so the plants and animals are alive?
Ham: Plants are not alive in the same sense animals are, because that phrase is never used for plants. And it’s never used for invertebrates.
Ankerberg: And the significance of that, if the plants are not alive but the animals are, is what?
Ham: The fact that there was no animal death, there was no, what we call nephesh, nephesh ha haiah death before sin. And, John, I want to say something that is very important here.
Ankerberg: Okay, I’m still trying to get down, why is it, if they are a living thing, why does that mean that the animals couldn’t have died?
Ham: Well, let’s come back to what we said there. We need to also talk about the fact that the first death was when God killed an animal and shed blood because of sin, which is the basis for the atonement. There’s an atonement there, a covering….
Ankerberg: That’s true there, but…
Ham: …and that connects through to Christ.
Ankerberg: …why does that mean, if that happened, but why is it still that animals couldn’t have died before the Fall?
Ham: Well, okay, number 1, God says everything was very good. [Gen. 1:31] When you look at the fossil record, if you believe in millions of years, there’s already animals with bones in stomachs of animals. So they were eating each other. If you believe in millions of years or billions of years like Dr. Ross does, and I’m still not sure where Dr. Kaiser stands on that, but if you believe in billions of years, and if you believe the fossil record is millions of years old, then you’ve got animals eating each other. You’ve got thorns, thorns 430 millions years old, for one example. But the Bible says thorns came after the curse, from what I read in Scripture. You’ve got cancer, you’ve got animals with cancer, animals with brain tumors. You’ve got God saying all that is very good. God…
Ankerberg: So you’re saying that the animals couldn’t have died because God said the world was very good?
Ham: Couldn’t have died for a number of reasons. One, God said the world is very good. Secondly, He told the animals and man only to eat vegetation, plants, Genesis 1:29-30 confirm that. And Genesis 9:3 [changes] from that.
Ankerberg: Okay, back it up. Aren’t you assuming then, that you know what “very good” means? In other words, some of the philosophers would say, this is the best possible world to get us to the best world.
Ham: You know, in Hebrew when you, obviously, when you have good, good, good, good, six times, and then very good, which means exceedingly good…
Ankerberg: Alright, let’s stop it right there. Dr. Kaiser, what do you think? When God said it was very good, does that rule out the fact that animals could have died before Adam was created?
Kaiser: No. Matter of fact, we’ve got some problems, because we have the Tempter in the Garden already, ha nachash, the serpent, always with the article. I think that’s the same one identified in the book of Revelation, the serpent, the dragon, the Devil. So that exactly what the medievalists and many of the early writers said, you really can’t put – Ken’s mentioned this – you can’t put angels, God wasn’t talking about angels, He was only talking about the earth and about men. So there must have been a prior creation of angels in which they fell. Lucifer, we think is hinted at, and spoken in both Isaiah and in Ezekiel, fell at that particular time and he shows up here in the Garden.
And furthermore, God has put a Tree there, which tree stands for evil. So now I’ve got a good world, with a good God, but also one Who is sovereign over everything. There is no loose end here. He has to permit this Tree, and He has to let loose this one who is that old serpent, the dragon, the Devil. And he comes to Eve, and tempts her by saying, “Has God said…? You people are real narrow.” “No, no, no,” she said, “It’s not every tree, it’s only this tree.” And almost as if, everyone makes the comment that she says, “And God says we shouldn’t eat of it. Yea” – and she gets evangelistic at that point, and says, “Yea, we shouldn’t even touch of it.” And therein lies the entrance to evil. So I’ve got a good world that God created, at least the cosmos in which we’re talking about that which effects man.
But I begin with “In the beginning, God created [hashamayim v’et ha’aretz] heaven and earth.” [Gen. 1:1] Heaven and earth is a hendiadys, too. I’ve got two parts here. He created the universe. And then it goes on to say that this is in a formative stage. It was tohu wa bohu, which is like a hurdy-gurdy construction, or zoot suit. It just says it’s bad-bad. It’s unformed, it’s not yet come together. And many of the Church Fathers, especially the medievalists, put at that point the whole work of God creating the angelical world, and then of Lucifer wanting to be equal with God. And he and the angels, which Jude and 2 Peter talk about, [Jude 1:9; 2 Pet. 2:11] were put in chains and cast out. But he was given permission to wander to and fro, and to also tempt Eve.
So I’ve got a good world, just as I have a good world here. The present world has a lot of good in it, but indeed it does have cancer, it does have all of these thing which the whole gospel is addressing. That’s where God says, “I’ve thrown down the gauntlet” on Easter Sunday morning, “and I’m telling you, that stuff is raw meat. It’s had it. I’m going to get it!” And so it would be…
Ham: Dr. Kaiser, was there cancer before sin?
Ankerberg: Alright, hang on…
Kaiser: Was there cancer before sin?
Ham: Do you believe there was cancer before sin? Because…
Kaiser: Oh, my goodness, I don’t know that they knew about cancer. They talked a whole lot about various kinds of skin diseases, and so, you have…
Ham: But that was after sin. But, my point is, if you’re going to believe in millions of years, you’ve got cancer before sin.
Ross: Well, what Walt was saying was that you’ve got the earth formless and void. That’s part of God’s very good creation. You’ve got the fall of the angels, that obviously takes place before the Fall of man. And therefore, I think we go back to…
Ankerberg: You also have Satan. You also have the Tree of Good and Evil.
Ham: Well, I think…
Ross: You’ve got the Tree of Good and Evil, …
Ham: You know, I think we’re missing something here, and that is that in Scripture it’s not said that Satan is the reason why there’s death in the world. Adam is given the blame; Satan is not given the blame. And I think that’s important for us to understand, because Adam was given dominion, and so it’s Adam who gets the blame, “as in Adam all die” and so on, “it’s in Adam all sin.” [Rom. 5:12] And, you know, it makes sense of Romans 8:22, the whole creation groans. In fact, the first part of that section talks about the creation itself is looking forward to redemption. Then it talks about we ourselves are looking forward to redemption, because all of us…. and that’s the dominate view, too, that Romans 8 connects to the Fall. We live in a fallen world; it’s a cursed world. This is a changed world. It’s groaning.
But see, here’s a point. And the point is, I know Dr. Ross believes in millions of years and billions of years. If you do, you have to have death of animals, animals eating each other, before man, before Adam sinned, because they believe the fossil record with all it’s death and diseases like cancer, and thorns, is there before sin. You can’t have thorns before sin. You can’t have animals eating each other before sin.
Ankerberg: Why?
Ham: You can’t have cancer before sin.
Ankerberg: Why? Why can’t you have thorns before Adam sinned?
Ham: Because the Bible says, as part of the curse, now, thorns – and it’s a future – they shall grow….
Ankerberg: But that’s making an assumption that there were no thorns before that.
Ham: Yes. Yes. Exactly.
Ankerberg: Do you make that assumption?
Ross: No. I mean, we have Adam and Eve in the Garden. And keep in mind the text tells us that Adam was created outside of the Garden and placed in the Garden. So when God talked to Adam about death, he knew exactly what God was talking about. He’d seen it outside the Garden.
Ham: Where does it say that?
Ross: Where does it say he was created outside the Garden?
Ham: Where does it say that he saw death outside the Garden?
Ross: Okay, if God is speaking to him about death, we have to appreciate that he would know exactly what God is talking about.
Ham: Because He programmed him with a language. But where did he see death outside the Garden?
Ross: I’m…
Ham: Where does it say that, where does the Bible say that?
Ross: Okay, I’m making an implicit deduction, that if God is speaking to Adam about death, he knows what God is talking about.
Ham: Because he had a language.
Ross: Okay, the Garden of Eden I see as a local event. I don’t see it as global. It’s a local garden that God had created and He had planted the garden. It was a very beautiful garden. It was protected by God. And when Adam and Eve sinned, they are ejected from the garden. Now they’re in the real world where there are thorns and thistles. And God basically says, “Now you’ve got to plant your own garden. You’ve got to do your own weeding. You’ve got to take the thorns out yourself. You’ve got to take care of all that.”
Ham: Where does it say that?
Ross: What?
Ham: Where does it say that?
Ross: Where does it say that he was going to…
Ham: Well, no, you’re the one making the statements. I want to know where it says that.
Ross: Well, I mean, he was cast outside the garden, and you do recognize it says that?
Ham: Oh, yes, but it doesn’t say, “Now you’ve got to take out your own thorns…” As part of the curse, there’s going to be thorns.
Ross: Right.
Ham: And it never says, “Adam, you saw all this death outside the garden, now that’s what death means.” He had a programmed language. How did he know what “not” meant?
Ross: Well, that’s your interpretation. Yours is just as implicit as my interpretation. There’s nothing in the Bible that supports what you’re saying either, in explicit fashion.
Ham: No, mine fits with the fact that the whole of creation groans and that God said everything was very good before sin.
Ross: It says the entire creation groans. That would have to encompass the entire physical universe of space and time,…
Ham: True…
Ross: … which means its groaning from the very beginning of the universe,…
Ham: No, it’s ….
Ross: …not the beginning of sin, but the beginning of the universe.
Ham: The dominant view even with today’s theologians, is Romans 8 there is connected to the Fall.
Ross: Well, it says the entire creation. Does that not imply….
Ham: And it’s talking about… Oh, yes, it’s talking about redemption. You know, it’s looking forward to redemption. There’s going to be a new heavens, a new earth. In fact, Isaiah 11:65, regardless of your view of eschatology, point to a future state where righteousness is equated with peace and harmony and vegetarians.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’ve got a couple of assumptions going on. One is Romans 8:20 and what it means, okay? And it says, “The creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it.” Now, who was the one who subjected it, and what was the reason, Dr. Kaiser?
Kaiser: The word there, interesting enough, that Paul uses in Romans 8 is the same word that occurs in Ecclesiastes. The Greek translation, “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.” [Eccl. 1:2] It was subjected to… I don’t like the word “vanity” for havel —by the way, that’s the name of Abel, the second boy born – I don’t like the word in NIV, which says “meaningless,” as “meaningless, all is meaningless,” which is a meaningless statement. But rather, it’s “fog” or “mist,” or it is that illusiveness. And the whole creation is subjected to this fogginess, this mistiness, this inability to penetrate through and to see the entirety of it.
We already established from Romans 5 that the Fall impacted man, particularly. But when you get to the whole creation, though, it looks to me that in the Genesis 3 narrative we’ve got an evil creature who represents evil, is doing evil, and is here already prior to the Fall. So that must come in the whole rubric of Romans 8, too, as well. So it’s encompassing all of that evil, both which was done by the angelic world that fell, and Adam and Eve that fell too, as well. And that is what redemption takes care of.
Ankerberg: Jason?
Lisle: Well, yet, you know Adam’s sin affected, it did effect all of creation. And in fact, there, Genesis 3:17 it talks about “cursed is the ground, for thy name’s sake.” I mean, God cursed the earth as a result of Adam’s sin. It wasn’t just death and suffering, you know, in human beings, that entered the world at that point. And it also comes back to, you know, what does God mean when He says “very good”? But I think it’s even deeper than that. It goes back to the nature of God. What kind of God do we serve? Do we serve a God who created a paradise for us to enjoy? And one sin ruined it? I think sometimes we minimize the effects of sin, don’t we? One sin destroyed paradise. That’s why even one sin can’t enter into heaven. It would destroy that paradise, too. That’s why we need the blood of Jesus Christ.
Ankerberg: But are we talking about degrees of, for example, when he says, “you’re to work, you’re going to work harder.” Eve was going to have pain, but she would have greater pain. So the fact is, it seems like before the Fall there was pain. It seems like they were working. They’re just going to work harder after the Fall. So are there are degrees here? Because you’re making the assumption there couldn’t have been any work at all, couldn’t have been any pain in childbearing, and I don’t see that in the text. Do you?
Ham: I think big difference here. I mean, talking about work, he was to tend the Garden. But the work described because of the Fall is, you know, you’re going earn your food in the sweat of your brow, and now it’s going to be really hard. Tending the Garden was a very different situation. It’s where God was providing the food, basically. Now, I mean, even in Genesis 2, the details are given; and that is that you’re going to have to cultivate plants, you’re going to have to earn your food and earn your bread in the sweat of your brow. There’s a whole difference in the type of work there.
Ankerberg: Well, I agree; I love everybody’s passion on this one. And Dr. Kaiser, you’ve written a lot about what this curse is, and we need to define, what is the curse that came on the world as a result of what Adam did?
Kaiser: I think the curse involves the frustration of everything that God had intended it to be. And therefore, it falls on the shoulders of Satan and the angelic host; it falls on the shoulders of Adam and Eve; it falls on the shoulders of all individuals. Matter of fact, that there can come, and does come, in times of revival, substantial healing to the order; not Romans 8, it’s still not total yet. But when God’s men and women start turning back to Him, there can come substantial healing of a nation, of a city, of churches. And therefore, part of our message is not only to come to join the family of God, but it is also turn: do a 180 and head back to the One who is our Savior.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’ve got one that we’ve got to start off with next week that’s attached to all that you guys are saying, and that is, does the bloodshed of animals before Adam sinned alter the doctrine of the atonement? In other words, as one side or the other, are you denying the gospel here? Okay? And this is very important, so join us next week.

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