Hans, thank you for your gracious and insightful comments. I appreciate your questions and the way you ask them. I’ve included your questions in my reply.
The title given for the Areopagite on old earth creationism is “Old but Not Evolving.” That’s descriptive up to a point. OEC proponents do not accept the Darwinian paradigm and we understand Adam and Eve to be the special creation of God, but we also believe that natural history shows a progression. We accept the consensus model of the timeline, but argue that the evidence shows clear signs of special providence and even miracles. In addition, we affirm the biblical narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. So OEC advocates are not evolutionists, but we do not think the world is static. With that said, to the five Redirect questions.
“If the primary driver was Scripture, why did the OEC model only emerge after developments in geology?”
I’m glad you raised this question, because it addresses an important point. YEC proponents often ask how one can find millions and billions of years in the seven days of Genesis 1. However, we could just as easily ask what indication does the account give that there are millions and billions of galaxies? That’s a lot to fit into “He made the stars also.” This should let us know that the purpose of the creation account was not to simply provide a historical chronicle.The challenge facing the early church was much greater than the issue of old earth vs. young earth. The debate at that time was over creation vs. eternalism. There are at least three other significant events that the Genesis account does not address: 1) the creation of the angelic hosts; 2) Lucifer’s rebellion along with the portion of angels who joined him; and 3) the nature and magnitude of the impact that the satanic fall had upon the created order.
Actually, the challenge facing the early church was much greater than the issue of old earth vs. young earth. The debate at that time was over creation vs. eternalism. The pagans did not simply think the world was millions of years old; they believed that it was eternal—that it had always existed. Their slogan was ex nihilo nihil fit (“Out of nothing comes nothing”). The dilemma facing the Fathers was in understanding how the eternal God acted in time. Back then, the complaint was not that the creation week was too short but that it took so long. How the Fathers approached these issues provides a helpful model for us today. They distinguished what was non-negotiable from what could be permitted latitude. Therefore they uniformly affirmed creatio ex nihilo but held to a variety of interpretations concerning the nature of the days. As Peter Bouteneff demonstrates in his Beginnings: Ancient Christian Readings of the Biblical Creation Narratives, many of the Fathers understood the days of Genesis 1 as something other than 24-hour periods.
At times some have expressed concerns about how OEC advocates allow history to inform our interpretation of Scripture. They are concerned that this risks undermining biblical authority. Of course we must take care that history merely informs our interpretation but does not rule over the Bible. Careful students of Scripture always use relevant historical evidence when interpreting biblical texts. Two examples come to mind. The first would be the use of archaeological evidences to better understand certain historical narratives. The second would be the interpretation of biblical prophecy. The OT prophets made many predictions, some came true in their day, others came to pass during the intertestamental period, still others were fulfilled in Christ and during the NT era, and finally some have yet to be fulfilled. We (must) use history to properly interpret those biblical texts. OEC proponents utilize natural history in a similar fashion.
“That remark put me in an eschatological mood and had me wondering whether you think there will be animals in the new heaven and new earth. And if so, do you think animal death will be part of their experience?”
John’s description in Revelation 21-22 seems to include all that is good and rule out anything that would cause sorrow and sadness. So one would expect animals to be in heaven and would expect them not to die, or at least not sentient creatures.Maybe my glorified body will not desire rib eye steak. However, this would seem to entail a vegetarian eschaton. Maybe my glorified body will not desire rib eye steak.
There is a question as to whether the final state will be dynamic or static. In his book Heaven, Randy Alcorn argues for a dynamic understanding when he argues that heaven will be more similar than dissimilar to today. To demonstrate he was truly resurrected, Jesus ate fish before the disciples. Therefore all resurrected saints should have a similar ability. This raises very interesting questions. If our glorified bodies will process food, will there not also be elimination?
Contrary to the dynamic view, in Decreation: The Last Things of All Creation, Paul Griffiths argues for the static view. He contends that the final state will be fully actualized, with no remaining potential, or else it’s not truly the final state. There will be no further narrative, novelty, or development. We will enjoy the eternal bliss of gazing upon God’s glory, ever infinitely enraptured. Obviously this view has no room for animal death. I side with Alcorn on this question, but I freely admit I don’t know how to handle some of the ramifications of this view.
“When you say that ‘Genesis 1:1-2:3 covers an indefinite period of time’—I’m confused about your justification for this claim. As best I can tell, your argument is that since this portion of Genesis is written in ‘exalted prose,’ we can infer an indefinite period. If I’m reading you right, my next question is whether your conclusion necessarily follows.”
Genesis 1:1-2:3 serves as a prologue, similar to how John 1:1-18 functions in the Gospel of John (most biblical scholars see John deliberately echoing Genesis). Like many prologues, they do not cover a specific period of time.
I accept the argument that the seven days operate as a theological framework. Creation originally was unformed and unfilled (1:2). The first three days present the forming (1:3-13), the last three days the filling (1:14-31). This is a topical arrangement presented in six panels or episodes. On the seventh day God took possession of his throne (2:1-3). The inspired authors often presented historical events in a topical manner. For instance, when Luke rearranges the order of Jesus’ temptation (Luke 4; cf Matthew 4), he does so deliberately to make a point.
“However, earlier in your response, you insist that human death came after the fall of Adam and Eve. Wouldn’t that put you more readily in the genetic Adam model camp?”
Yes, it does. The genetic Adam model presents fewer theological problems than the genealogical Adam model, namely concerning the divine image and the effects of original sin. As I noted, the genealogical Adam model faces challenges relating to both of the doctrines, and it will be interesting to see where the conversation goes.
How far back does the evidence indicate that M-Eve and Y-Adam lived? At this time the situation seems to be very fluid, with a lot of wildly different dates being proffered. I find myself wondering how far back a reasonable interpretation of Genesis 5 will allow us to go.
“David [Snoke] seems more confident than you that current science aligns with the traditional picture of Adam and Eve. Is there a material difference on this point between the two of you?”
One can safely assume that David Snoke knows more about science than I do. I gladly defer to Fuz Rana and David in the task of assessing the empirical data. Believing scientists present the findings, make hypotheses, and discuss possible models. I see theologians serving the role of examining the theological viability of the various models, and exploring their relative strengths and weaknesses.
Areopagite: Old but Not Evolving