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Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, by Snoke, part 5: Death before the Fall?

I have been occasionally posting about David Snoke's A Biblical Case for an Old Earth (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006). For the most recent post, see here, or click on "David Snoke" among the tags at the end of this post.

Snoke, in his third chapter, says that the main reasons that many Christians believe that the earth is not very old are beliefs that the days of Genesis 1 were 24-hour days, and that the Bible says that there was no death before the Fall. Snoke says that the second belief is the more important objection, and chooses to deal with it first.

Why do many Christians believe that there was no death before the Fall? One reason is Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— (all Bible quotes are from the ESV)

A second reason is Genesis 9:3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. God told Noah this, and it seems to imply that humans didn't eat animals before the Flood, which, of course, came after the Fall. Eating meat is one of the main reasons for killing animals.

To quote Snoke:

Proponents of the young-earth view, however, would say that the statements of Genesis 1:29-30 rule out meat-eating before the fall. In so saying, however, they are arguing from a positive command to a negative one. They take the statement, "I give you x for food," to mean, "You are forbidden to eat anything else." This does not necessarily follow. The parallelism of Genesis 1:28-30 and Genesis 9:1-3 may be taken to imply the opposite, that is, that Genesis 9:1-3 is simply a repetition of the same charge given in Genesis 1:28-30, and that the expansion that includes eating animals is the same as other expansions of parallel passages in Scripture, such as the different versions of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 or the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-26. The later version dos not negate the earlier version; rather, it is taken as simply saying the same thing with slightly more information. . . .
If eating animals was not forbidden, then why would God single out green plants as food in the charge of Genesis 1:28-30? There are several plausible reasons. The best reason, in my opinion, is that God was establishing the hierarchy of his creation: green plants are the basis of the food chain. (pp. 65-66) Genesis 1:28-30 is here.

If animals didn't die before the Fall, then significant changes in animal types couldn't have been brought about by natural selection. Also, fossils, indicating that significant changes have occurred, wouldn't have been laid down a long time ago if animals didn't die before the Fall.

What does Snoke say about this? He argues that the death referred to in Romans 5:12 and other passages about the effects of the Fall is spiritual death, not physical. Adam, after all, did not die immediately when he and Eve first sinned, but, says Snoke, he did die spiritually, immediately. Since his death was spiritual only, it didn't affect the animals directly.

I will not reproduce all of Snoke's arguments here, but will mention one more such. Job 38 mentions, in the last verses of the chapter, predators and prey. Predators, of course, kill other animals. The context of the chapter is about God's creation. This strongly suggests that there was predation before the Fall. (An article by Snoke, about dangerous animals and the Bible, may be found here.)

I believe that Snoke makes a good case. I hope to post more on his book later. Thanks for reading.

(Note that Snoke, nor the Bible, say very little about the death of plants, so I haven't either.)


intrigued american said...

One of the greatest things is thought. Your blog makes me think.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, intrigued. Writing it makes me think, usually.

zuma said...

Great to have many comments from Snoke. To me, I do not find any contradiction with the Bible for his criticism.
The Bible does not promote the people to be vegetarians. When God warned people to eat meat, He simply is interested whether they would consume the blood from meats instead of total avoidance of meats.
The following is the extract:
Genesis 9:4, "But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood."
The same is mentioned below about the blood:
Acts 15:20, "but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood"

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks. And I hope God forgives, (or no longer holds us responsible for Acts 15:20) the vast majority of Christians in our day, including me, who do eat meat, and meat which hasn't necessarily had the blood drained out of it.