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Life and Death

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November 16, 2011 Tags: Adam, the Fall, and Sin

Today's video features Michael Ramsden. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

Today's video is courtesy of filmmaker Ryan Pettey, director/editor of Satellite Pictures.

Video transcript

I think there are sometimes a couple of biblical images we struggle to lay hold of. In the New Testament we find when we talk about life, we have the idea of living or ‘bios’. In other words, we talk about how we are alive. But Jesus talks about the fact of “coming to life “ when we know him. That doesn’t suddenly mean that our heart starts beating. It means that there is this whole side to us which was dead… which wasn’t alive and is now… that has actually sprung to life. And we run into complications maybe if we reduce all of these things into exactly the same categories. Now you can have the same issues with ‘death’ too. That word is used in many ways, and different words are used to try and signify various different things.

Now what is interesting is that if you go back into the Genesis account, it says “now do not eat this [apple] or you will surely die”. There is a whole chain of events that happens when Adam and Eve decide they want to walk away from God. The first thing that happens is that they cover themselves up. There’s like a psychological alienation that comes. They are no longer happy with the way they are. The next thing that happens is God steps into the garden, they run and hide. There is spiritual alienation. The voice that was once welcoming where they went, they now find themselves cut off from that. Then there is a social alienation that comes as a result of turning away from God. They start blaming each other. There is a vocational alienation that comes as a result of, of course, judgment. That which was meant to be home for them, all work become labor, and we could keep going.

So when we talk about “death” the picture, to me, seems to be much bigger, much fuller. I can’t think of a more comprehensive view of possibly what it could mean. And so I think we need to again break away from a straight forward, in fact, mechanistic understanding. In no way do I think that impoverishes either or understanding of the gospel or of the cross. As a matter of fact, it enhances it. It makes the work of the cross even more incredible and it makes the idea that God is looking for redemption from us more complete. We are not talking simply about the idea of physically living forever because that’s clearly not what it means. We know that we are going to physically die. All of us. But when you think about it in terms of what that means psychologically, spiritually, emotionally, socially, vocationally and so on it becomes a huge picture. The text is teaching us something which is real, which is true, which is there. I think we just need a bigger more sophisticated handling of the text, than a reductionist one that I think actually impoverishes or understanding of The Fall, the cross, redemption, the ‘coming again’ and so on.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.

Michael Ramsden has been European Director of RZIM Zacharias Trust since its foundation in 1997. He also is Director of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and Lecturer in Christian Apologetics at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. While at Sheffield University doing research in Law and Economics, Michael taught Moral Philosophy and lectured for the International Seminar on Jurisprudence and Human Rights in Strasbourg. He has been invited to lecture to a variety of groups including the White House staff in Washington, D.C., leaders at NATO HQ in Brussels and members of the European Parliament.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #66092

November 16th 2011

Genesis is teaching us that spiritual, relational Reality is more important than physical Reality, although both are important.

Creationism and Atheism in effect put physical and relational reality on the same plane. 

micahmartin5 - #66130

November 20th 2011

I think the speaker in this video hit the nail on the head.  It is time that Christianity re-examine the Biblical definition of “the death"that Adam experienced and what it means to be “resurrected” from that death. 

Biologos.org is just one organization blazing a trail in Genesis studies, however without the corresponding eschatology there will always be dead ends instead of a holistic theology that impacts the real world. 

Covenant Eschatology is that matching book end. 

The last line in the video is a blockbuster. Are we ready for another Reformation?
Norman - #66133

November 20th 2011


Adam and Eve covering themselves; explicitly infers that they chose their own means to cover their shame instead of depending upon God to cover their sin. This is manifested when they chose to eat of the Tree of Good and Evil by using their own mortal abilities to reconcile themselves with God.  Paul describes this Garden scene in Romans 7 where he expounds upon the human frailty of this process. Paul describes below for us the essence of the problem Israel had with the Tree of the knowledge of God and Evil getting to the heart of the matter.

Rom 7:18-20 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  (19)  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  (20)  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. … Who will deliver me from this (corporate) body of (Israel’s) death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

This dilemma is the important concept and story of Adam and Eve and not some ethereal ancient conception of the first humans of antiquity. It’s the story of proto Israel and its failure sown in the earliest of the seeds of their covenant existence with God. This is when they left the trusted Garden life of depending upon God and went off on their own by developing the commandment and the law as the means to righteousness.  Genesis 2 & 3 is a picturesque synopsis of Israel’s plight under the Law and Paul understands this and is explaining this condition to his audience and the need for Christ to rid them of the “law”. 

They indeed drifted under this “law” that brought “spiritual death” until Christ the Messiah restored the foundation of truly walking with God unencumbered by man’s own contrivance. That is the simple foundation of the Adam and Eve story and we know what the ending would be that was prophesized in Gen 3:15. It occurred when Satan represented by the beguiling priestly leaders of Israel; enticing their flock with the Law, were crushed by Christ on the Cross.

Paul consistently illustrated Israel being under this spiritual death therefore recounted the plight of Adam/Israel and thus the rest of humanity whose hope was through Israel and the messiah. That is what Paul infers when he stated in Roman 5 that “all” men are under Adam’s death because the first Adam who worshiped YHWH failed and it took the second and last Adam Christ to rectify Israel and thus all humanity who would call on His name. Paul clarifies this by saying in Rom 5:14 that Adam was typologically pointing to Christ.

Here below is a clear case in Ephesians where Paul illustrates that those who were “dead” were not so biologically but were “dead” spiritually to God until Christ made them alive.  This is Pauline theology 101 and we change his concept of “dead” to a biological condition at the peril of missing his theological narrative that drives the premise of his writings. Including and especially Romans 5-8 and 1 Cor 15.

Eph 2:1-5 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins (2)  in which you once walked, …  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

So Paul would agree with this author that it’s about a “life” worth living in the here and now. Eternal life is simply the icing on the “cake of life” when we live our lives in God through Christ.


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