Creation Enslaved

Did God really do that?

Contrary to the view that, due to the disobedience of the pair (see Genesis 3) at a point in time, God brought about a dramatic change to the whole of creation so that the created order went from—a utopian paradise, in which there were no harms, to a hell on earth where nature battled for survival—the view here is that, although there were dramatic changes, these changes would not have been injurious to the whole realm of nature.

God’s necessary plans and intentions are not to be confused with the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8:20-21, where the apostle states, “…the creation was [subjected][1] to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in the hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” In this passage, as elsewhere in Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome (Hendriksen, 1980) “Paul is referring to a ‘Post Adamic Fall’ subjugation and not to any plans or actions taken by the creator before the creation of the physical universe.”[2] In terms of the plain reading of the passage, i.e. the cause and the effect of the Adamic Fall, Hendriksen is obviously correct; however, this chronological view of events does not obviate against the possibility of God’s retrospective subjugation of the creation. It is the case, though, as Leon Morris asserts, Scripture never assigns (either to ‘Adam’ or ‘Satan’) the power to bring about such far-reaching change and that there is, therefore, no reason to think of Adam or Satan acting in hope for the future “ …hope is characteristic of God, who may indeed be called ‘the God of hope’ (Romans 15:13) . The Adamic fall is not the last word, the last word is with hope.” (Morris, 1998).

What Paul seems to be saying is something like this: (1) All humanity shares a common subserviency to sin and death. This is not merely a natural freshness, a created mortality. Sin is bound up with it, a falling short of God’s intended best. Death is the outcome of a breakdown within creation. (2) There is a two-sidedness to this state of affairs, involving both sin as an accountable action of individual responsibility…(3) …this state is the consequence of humanity’s refusal to acknowledge God, of the creature’s attempt to dispense with the creator. When humankind declared its independence from God, it abandoned the only power which can overcome the sin, which uses the weakness of the flesh, the only power which can overcome death… (2003)

Dunn’s summary offers a reasonable account of the ‘life potential’ offered to the imago Dei—in contradistinction to mankind ’s adherence to acquiesce to another’s choice—that of Satan.  Indeed, Genesis 3:22 informs us that the man had not eaten of the tree of life, 3:24 and that there were cherubim guarding the way to the tree of life so that they could not partake of its fruit. The occupants of the garden had ‘eaten’ from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:6); this was not at all surprising as the quest for knowledge is empowering.  It would have been the quest for knowledge, independent of God, where the problem lay (and continues thus)—the quest for power and personal sovereignty. Perhaps the same quest sought by Satan and the fallen angels. God had made provision for the sustaining of the life of the first Adam; The Tree of Life had not, previously, been out of bounds. Physical death was, however, the ‘order’ outside of the garden. Without the direct intervention of the source of life, death was the necessary consequence of one of the fundamental laws of physics: the second law of thermodynamics—what William R. Stoeger (2007) describes as “…the underlying physical reason for the transience and fragility of any physically or chemically based system—any material entity…”. Death was natural and yet the possibility of eternal (physical) life seemed to be ‘on offer’, i.e., within the garden. If eternal (physical) existence was possible, why should God have included such a defining set of rules? There are two reasons that I wish to consider as ‘reasons’ for God’s inclusion of the Second Law within the laws that govern physical reality. That, in order to produce ‘conscious physicality’ in carbon-based creatures, a process of biological evolution (NB. Not that of a process of purely ‘Natural Selection’) was the best possible way that God choose in order to bring about his ultimate (good) objectives—the of ‘creaturely value’—ultimately the imago Dei. [1] However, it is not the case that ‘Natural Selection’ is a necessary path through which the telos of God would have had to proceed—as if God had no other choice. Indeed, if we zoom forward to the resurrection of Christ from the dead, we see the intrusion of a different state of affairs. The Resurrection and the Ascension: These ‘earth-shattering events’ point us to a ‘New World Order’—an order in which the Physical Laws produce different outcomes. It is the case that, in our present environment, glasses that smash stay in broken pieces; disease brings death; broken hearts stay broken. Of course, the advances in modern medicine do so much to alleviate these ‘natural outcomes’; but dead men do not ‘naturally’ come back to life. The point here is that the notion of adaptation for survival’s sake is not necessarily the result of any initial state of affairs—it may well have been different pre-fall, i.e., prior to God’s subjugation of the creation. Moreover, ‘the nature of things’ may have been ‘strangely influenced’ by the enemies of God. Yet, there is a new world-order promised in which a different set of laws shall prevail.

To dispose of the ‘problem of evil’—the problem that had manifested itself within the physical cosmology—within the present universe—a universe in which carbon-based-life sustains its temporal manifestation. Moreover, it is within the physical/material reality that evil presently pervades but shall not obtain at the eschaton as God will have completely eradicated its potential source as well as its sustenance. Belief in the sovereignty and integrity of God leads me to the conclusion that God is working his purposes out and that belief in God’s benevolence can be sustained. However, the world ‘has been’, ’is being’ and ‘will be’ subjected to degradation of all kinds until the eschaton. Scripture tells us (Ps. 24:1-2) that this world and all that is in it belongs to God, and yet Scripture also states that ‘the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.’ (1 John. 5:19) And that, ‘…an enemy has brought corruption to the earth…’ (Matthew. 13:28). There is, I maintain, no contradiction here as ‘ownership’ or ‘authorship’ does not preclude either intrusion or the ‘temporal’ out-workings of the decisions of ‘minds’ other than God’s.

Gregory Boyd (1997) argues that “If the cosmos is not something of a democracy [1], it has to be something of a tyrannical monarchy.” I do not hold that the cosmos is anything like a democracy, neither do I suppose that ‘sovereignty’ necessitates tyrannical monarchy—at least not where the God of the Bible is concerned—‘gods’ and tyrants are another matter. What is clear from both observation and Scripture is that the earth is not anything like ‘heaven’ but that it is a place full of all that might be expected if an enemy of God ‘wished to’ usurp God’s authority and to tarnish God’s reputation.  This ‘present’ state as recorded in Scripture and as observed by the discerning eye—is not an example of chaos ruling over sovereignty or any other kind of alleged (dualistic) cosmic conflict. It is not at all what it seems; it is, in spite of what seems to be ‘evidence’ to the contrary:

God’s future and this is more than the future time. It is the future of time itself—time past, time present, and time to come. In his future, God comes to his creation and through the power of his righteousness and justice, frees it for his kingdom, and makes it the dwelling place of his glory. (Bauckham, 1999)

Eden is central to God’s desire/plan; it was in this environment that God so desired to dwell with the creatures made in his image. [1]

Considering the pre-existence of Angels, it can be concluded that, though created by God, they were not created along with the rest of the creative order within a biological-evolutionary-system. In other words, Angels were created outside of the biosphere in which reside carbon-based life forms in all their multifarious variety. Moreover, as angels are considered to be far more advanced than we might possibly imagine.

The event that precipitated the rebellion of some of these angelic agents, I maintain, would have been ‘known’ by God prior to the ‘beginnings’ of the universe. Ergo, this would have been a major factor regarding God’s planned intentions for the material universe—even the existence of certain physical laws that allow for the existence of what is considered by some transient observers to be ‘Natural Evil’. That is an observation in which this particular transient observer sees rather a different picture.

Derek J. White (2022)

[1] In his book entitled ‘The Unseen Realm’ (2015) Michael Heiser maintains that the description of Eden as “…the home of humankind, deflects our attention away from Eden’s primary status—God’s home on earth—and where the King lives—is where his council meets…”

[1] Whilst not sharing Boyd’s particular views of the openness of God I appreciate his sentiments here, i.e. that there has to be activity in the creation that is not under the control of a cosmic puppeteer; this applies to the actions (causes and effects) of both humans and angels.

[1] NB If, as Marshall Perry suggests, an Invalid source specified. ‘randomness brings us to a dead-end then Classical Darwinian evolution would have been nothing but a 3.8-billion-year string of singularity events: none of them can be further investigated beyond ‘The Fittest Survive and everything else dies.

[1] Greek Hupotassὅ meaning to rank under—denoting subjugation. (Vine, 1109)

[2] NB: It was God who subjected the creation—not: angels, demons or mankind. The subjugation that the apostle refers to, moreover, is not related to the creation of the universe but, specifically, to the Adamic Fall as recorded in Genesis 3

Eden is central to God’s desire/plan; it was in this environment that God so desired to dwell with the creatures made in his image. [1]

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