I am delighted, Hans, that your questions about the biblical evidence focus on the atonement. If this was routinely seen as the central issue in the origins debate (rather than say, the genre of Genesis 1), then it would change the nature of the engagement, and I suspect, the outcome. At the very least, it would mean questions about origins couldn’t be dismissed as of marginal importance or a distraction from the gospel.
The Centrality of the Cross
My method is to start from what is most clear and most central, so my focus (reflecting the emphasis in Scripture) is human death. This is certainly what Paul has in view in Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. And while the death he discusses incorporatesAnd while the death he discusses incorporates ‘spiritual death’ (of which I will say more later), it does not exclude the physical. Most obviously this is clear in the way Paul presents the resurrection of Christ as the answer to the problem of death. ‘spiritual death’ (of which I will say more later), it does not exclude the physical. Most obviously this is clear in the way Paul presents the resurrection of Christ as the answer to the problem of death (1 Cor. 15:21). The bodily resurrection of Jesus is central to Christian belief: he was raised to new physical life.
This doctrine of human physical death from Adam’s sinI am assuming here that Adam was real, historical individual—a belief that is shared by many who are not ‘young earth’ creationists. has significant dating implications. If Neanderthals, let alone more ancient species such as Homo erectus are human,It is arbitrary to equate the modern scientific classification Homo sapiens as equivalent to what Scripture describes as ‘human.’ and if Adam is the historical individual described in Scripture then the evolutionary timescale has to be challenged.Placing Adam hundreds of thousands (or more) years ago is incompatible with the chronology in Scripture. For example, see how the New Testament quotes the prophecy of a real individual, Enoch, described as the “seventh from Adam” (Jude 14). This argument is developed in more detail in S. Lloyd, “Chronological Creationism,” Foundations 72 (May 2017): 76-99. (Available from: http://www.affinity.org.uk/foundations-issues/issue-72). Including animal death (to answer your specific question) reinforces this same conclusion.A sharp cut-off between human and animal death is hard to sustain. For example, see N. M. de S. Cameron, Evolution and the Authority of the Bible (Exeter: Paternoster, 1983), 64-71.
Animal death also matters to God (Jonah 4:11) and is linked to human sin. For example, Noah’s flood was a judgement bringing death to animals as well as humans (Gen. 6:12-13). (‘All flesh’ is defined as including more than humans: Gen. 7:15, 16, 21). The Passover judgement and rescue included animals (Ex. 12:12, 29). But which animals? We need to be careful not to read modern scientific terminology into Scripture. Microbes, for example, do not feature and given that plants were eaten from the beginning (Gen. 1:30), cell ‘death’ (to use modern terminology) is not in view. Maybe ‘the line’ should be drawn at animals which can experience severe pain.S. Lloyd, “Christian Theology and Neo-Darwinism are Incompatible: An Argument from the Resurrection,” in G. Finlay, S. Lloyd, S. Pattemore and D. Swift, Debating Darwin. Two Debates: Is Darwinism True & Does it Matter? (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2009), 15-23.[ Maybe further study of the way animals are categorized in Scripture will lead to a more precise definition. But my argument does not depend on being able to define a precise ‘line.’ Even to include only a very limited number of animals such as those included in the sacrificial system is sufficient to demonstrate an unbridgeable incompatibility with the evolutionary chronology.
Death and Atonement
Turning now to your second question, yes, it matters absolutely that Christ bore the wrath of God against sin on the cross! Spiritual and physical death are brought together in the cross. They are two sides of the same coin of judgement that results from rebelling against the one in whom life is found. Similarly, spiritual and physical life are united together in the resurrection. One illustrates the other. Thus, warnings of eternal spiritual death have more traction when earthed in the horrific ever-present physical reality to which it is joined.
On the other hand, if evolutionary history is assumed, then the spiritual and physical pull in different directions: Jesus’ spiritual death is about dealing with human sin of the past, his physical death (and resurrection) is about securing a death-free future that improves on God’s original creation. Whatever else, such a split view of the atonement is a theological novelty that would require extensive exegetical substantiation.
In dealing with your final question concerning John Walton’s thesis, I would distinguish between death and mortality. The only person who is not mortal is God—only God has “life in himself” (John 5:26). Even in his original perfection, Adam’s life was derived from God and depended on what God had provided. For example, he needed to breathe and to eat (from any tree, not necessarily the Tree of Life) in order to live: he was mortal. That is very different to being subject to the suffering-type of death resulting from sin, where death is the inevitable end of aging decay and disease, or through disaster or predation, or loss of provision through, for example, idleness, famine, or eating disorders. This link between illness, death, and sin brings us back to the atonement. Matthew 8:17 understands Jesus’ healing ministry as a “function of his substitutionary death.”
To sustain his thesis, Walton needs a somewhat ‘magical’ Tree of Life that can counter all the death-inducing effects noted above. Such a view hardly commands respect from the evolutionary establishment, and worse, it is ad hoc and theologically incoherent. Why make a world full of dangers such as brain tumors and stomach ulcers that necessitate a special tree to counter such death-inducing processes? It is as bizarre as an inventor expecting acclaim for providing an antidote to the poison pumped out by the air-filtration system they created. The goodness of God is at stake in the origins debate, as well as our understanding of the atonement.
Ironically, what isn’t at stake in this debate is a shared approach to scientific evidence. My methodology with scientific models of origins is no different than what I pursued in my own secular (not origins related) scientific career.The argument I made that evidence for one model doesn’t necessarily count as evidence against a different model is not unique to origins models, still less creationist ones. The argument I made that evidence for one model doesn’t necessarily count as evidence against a different model is not unique to origins models, still less creationist ones. The fact that the same evidence can be consistent with more than one model is true across all science and unremarkable.Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970).
Worldview commitments (and other human factors) may stop a scientist being convinced by a particular model but they do not make a scientist incapable of assessing its scientific validity in terms of how well different pieces of evidence fit with a model.To answer the question you posed to Marcus in part five of the redirect. For example, if investigation of the Coconino sandstone produced evidence of a desert origin, that would count against a flood model whether the research had been undertaken in a creationist or evolutionary paradigm. Similarly, as you note in your response to Joe,See part one of the redirect. an evolutionist like Senter can apply a creationist-derived tool (baraminology) in his own research and derive conclusions consistent with evolutionary models.
All this means your summary statement: “Scientific evidence cannot invalidate young earth creationism if the evidence has been interpreted through the lens of evolutionary theory,” is misleading. Evidence (wherever it has come from) can invalidate a particular creationist model. In other words, science undertaken in these two worldviews does not need to proceed in parallel universes. There can be fruitful engagement and mutual learning between scientists working in different research paradigms.L. R. Brand, “A Biblical Perspective on the Philosophy of Science,” Origins 59 (2006): 6-42. (Available from: https://www.grisda.org/assets/public/publications/origins/59006.pdf). Hence I am definitely at the ‘realist’ end of the dichotomy you propose, a position that flows from a Christian worldview in which we are people made as God’s image able to truly (but not exhaustively) understand God’s creation.
So the difference between the creationist research I advocate and evolutionary alternatives is not the scientific methodology. It is the possibilities we consider, the questions we ask, the data we look for. This is why it is a fruitful research program that can enrich scientific understanding for everyone, not just creationists. It is not that those from a different worldview cannot undertake such work in principle, it is more that they lack the imagination or motivation to do so. You don’t advance your career by confirming what your research community sees as well established, e.g., confirming that the Coconino sandstone is of a desert origin. Belief in a global flood inspires you to explore the evidence afresh, and the work on the Coconino sandstone is an example of the sort of ‘fruitful research’ you asked for.See J. H. Whitmore and P. A. Garner, “The Coconino Sandstone (Permian, Arizona, USA): Implications for the Origin of Ancient Cross-Bedded Sandstones,” in Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Creationism, ed. J. H. Whitmore (Pittsburgh: Creation Science Fellowship, 2018): 581-627. I would also cite Catastrophic Plate Tectonics as an example of an integrative model that provides a fruitful research framework with predictive success, but also as would be expected for such a large-scale model, plenty of (acknowledged) problems.See S. A. Austin, J. R. Baumgardner, D. R. Humphreys, A. A. Snelling, L. Vardiman, and K. P. Wise, “Catastrophic Plate Tectonics: A Global Flood Model of Earth History,” in Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, ed. R. E. Walsh (Pittsburgh: Creation Science Fellowship, 1994), 609-621. More examples are cited by the other contributors and I would particularly highlight baraminology studies, especially of hominins.
For all the value of models such as these, plenty of problems remain. This is not surprising given the limited resources (both of personnel and finance) and the vastness of the fields of study. However, as in the example of the Coconino sandstone, where specific problems are addressed with significant research, the trend is for the problems investigated to become less troublesome. Hence it is important that critiques engage with the substance of the particular research and don’t dismiss the work by pointing to a different, as yet unaddressed, problem.
Overall I am not aiming for a ‘win’ but a ‘draw.’ I want to show that a wide-ranging, detailed creation model is comparable in power to the evolutionary model. There may be some things evolution explains better, and some better explained by a creation model. Both models will have big things they struggle to explain. That is the nature of scientific models, especially those concerning past history where much data is still to be investigated. It is, as Marcus highlighted, an infinite game strategy.