Why I’m Still a Young-Earth Creationist, Even Though It’s Getting Increasingly Lonely over Here
So far I’ve laid out my thinking regarding the biblical creation account and the evidentiary weaknesses in the competing evolutionary account. There’s one more area to address: the theological one.
The Bible’s theology of sin is rooted squarely in Adam (not in Eve, despite the allegations of some feminists—but that’s a topic for another post, preferably in the far, far distant future). According to the Scripture, Adam was a real, historical figure, whose willful sin—disobedience to a specific divine command (Gen 3)—had three results. First, since he stood as the representative of the human race—their “first father” (Isa 43.27)—the guilt for his sin was imputed to all his descendants (Rom 5.12, 18-19). Second, his nature was corrupted by his choice, so that for the rest of his life he was inclined in the direction of sinfulness rather than righteousness. This change in nature has been inherited by all his descendants as well (Rom 3). And finally, as God had warned (Gen 2.16-17), Adam and his descendants became susceptible to death (Rom 5.12).
Consequently, any theory of origins that claims to be biblical must address two theological issues that arise from this biblical view. First, the theory must account for biological death in the way that Scripture does. And second, the theory must account for the redemptive work of Christ, the “second Adam” (1Cor 15.22, 45), in the way that Scripture does. Both of these issues deserve a deeper examination.
Scripture asserts that sin entered the world through human agency, specifically Adam’s, and that death is a consequence of that event (Rom 5.12). Any theory of origins, then, must date fossil evidence—the one thing you can say for certain about fossils is that they’re really most sincerely dead—after Adam’s sin, and thus, obviously, after Adam.
Old-earth creationists would respond that since the Romans 5 passage is clearly talking about only human death, then the fossils in the geologic column would not be included in that passage and thus were free to die millions of years before Adam. But that seems to mean that hominid fossils must not be related to Adam, since they died before he did. Further, it’s not so clear that the Romans 5 passage refers only to human death; Paul speaks elsewhere (Rom 8.18-22) of “all creation” groaning under the consequences of Adam’s sin. My colleague Kevin Bauder has artfully and soberly captured the problem of the old-earth creationist view on this matter.
[Sidebar: This question on the reference of the word death does present an interesting opportunity for meditation. We know that Adam and Eve were free to eat fruit; since digesting a mango would result in cellular death in the fruit, it seems that Paul’s use of “death” in Romans 5 would not include that. It’s worth noting, I suppose, that the tree survives the “death” of its fruit. How about root vegetables? Did Adam and Eve eat carrots before the fall? That would kill the plant, after all. Most young-earth creationists would draw the line not there, but at organisms “in which is the breath of life” (Gen 7.15), which God chose to protect through the flood, by which he decreed that “everything that is in the earth shall die” (Gen 6.17). I’m inclined to think that this definition of death should be considered in interpreting Romans 5. And if that’s valid, then nothing in the fossil record that respired could have died before Adam’s sin.]
The presence of fossils as evidence of death before sin, it seems to me, remains a problem for old-earth creationist.
The second problem is the meaning of the work of Christ. Paul finds the significance of Christ’s work in the undoing of what Adam did (Rom 5.17-19; 1Cor 15.22). If there was no historical Adam, then there’s nothing for Christ’s work to undo, and the evolutionary view simply cannot be squared with biblical theology. Suggesting that Adam is a symbolic everyman really doesn’t get you there; we’d think it was silly if Paul based the work of Christ in undoing the sin of the boy who cried wolf or some other fabulous figure. Nothing in the text of Scripture, in either Testament, inclines us to believe that Adam was merely symbolic. You don’t list symbols in genealogies.
So the significance of Christ’s redemptive work hangs on the question of whether a particular man disobeyed God, and whether we—all—are the biological descendants of that man. I can’t find any of the other choices appealing.
Next time, we’ll summarize and draw some conclusions.