Science and the Bible: Concordism, Part 2

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July 3, 2012 Tags: Biblical Interpretation

Today's entry was written by Ted Davis. You can read more about what we believe here.

Science and the Bible: Concordism, Part 2
Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)

Note: In the first half of this column on June 19, I presented four core tenets or assumptions of Concordism. We resume our discussion of that view today with certain conclusions that follow from those assumptions. A short history of Concordism will follow on July 17.

Some important conclusions of Concordism

(1) Scientific evidence for an old earth is generally reliable and needn’t be refuted.

Unlike the YECs, OECs do not contest the enormous body of evidence showing that the earth and the universe are billions of years old, and that complex, macroscopic life forms have been on this planet for hundreds of millions of years. Quite the opposite. OEC authors often review selected pieces of the evidence, supplemented by arguments about how to read Genesis in light of that evidence, hoping to persuade YEC readers that mainstream scientific conclusions are indeed very well founded and do not contradict the Bible.

Indeed, concordists usually seem to be writing with one eye on YEC readers. Hugh Ross, an outspoken advocate of the day-age view whose views have already been discussed, is probably the most obvious example of such an author today, although many other examples could be given. Thirty-five years ago, when Scientific Creationism was still relatively new, an influential group of evangelical authors very actively pushed progressive creationist interpretations with both eyes on YEC readers. Although obviously dated, their works still have value for those interested in the age of the earth & universe in relation to Genesis.

The late Dan Wonderley taught biology for several years at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana, where YEC pioneer John Whitcomb taught at the seminary. A Baptist with master’s degrees in both theology and biology, Wonderley had to resign after his OEC views became publically known. A few years later he published a book, God's Time-Records in Ancient Sediments: Evidences of Long Time Spans in Earth's History (1977), in which he presented his day-age position. Perhaps its most useful feature is the detailed account of scientific evidence unrelated to the radioactive processes that are so often criticized by YEC authors, undermining their credibility for many conservative Christian readers. It’s not that Wonderley denied the validity of radiometric data, but he wanted readers to understand that even if they did not accept such data there was still abundant evidence for the great antiquity of the earth. A revised edition is available here. For a shorter version, see his article, “Non-Radiometric Data Relevant to the Question of Age”. I recommend that interested parties examine these sources and place comments below.

Wonderley’s essay was soon reprinted as an appendix to another important OEC book, Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth (1977), written by astronomer and biblical scholar Robert C. Newman and a scientifically-trained pastor, Herman J. Eckelmann, Jr. The revised edition of this book is also available on the internet. The authors advance an esoteric OEC interpretation of the Genesis “days,” in which each of the six creative “days” was an ordinary day, but vast periods of time are interspersed between them; this is known as the “intermittent day” view. A Reformed scholar who taught New Testament at Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, PA, for thirty-five years, Newman has in recent years been interested in ID. That should not be surprising. Many, perhaps most, ID supporters probably hold to some type of concordism, but this is hard to sort out since ID’s official stance is to keep the Bible out of the conversation, as far as possible. Indeed, to some extent the OEC view has been subsumed within ID, though covertly rather than overtly. I will say more about this in my upcoming columns about ID.

Simultaneously with the books by Wonderley and Newman, geologist Davis A. Young published Creation and the Flood: An Alternative to Flood Geology and Theistic Evolution (1977). Young’s father was a very conservative Presbyterian biblical scholar, the late E. J. Young. In the early 1960s, as an undergraduate at Princeton and a master’s student at Penn State, Davis Young enthusiastically supported Whitcomb and Morris’ flood geology, but he changed his mind as a doctoral student at Brown, subsequently becoming an energetic opponent of the YEC position (Ronald Numbers, The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, 2006, pp. 304-306). As a professor at Calvin College (now retired), he has written many excellent books and articles combining scientific, historical, and biblical information on the flood, the age of the Earth (and an expanded version), human antiquity, and even John Calvin's understanding of nature. Young might still be a concordist of some type, but several years ago he gave up the day-age view and many of his later works don’t fit naturally into any of the boxes I’m using in this series. However, his scholarship is impeccable and everything he writes is well worth reading, whether or not it advances a concordist model. The consistently high quality of his work led The Geological Society of America to name him recipient of the Mary C. Rabbitt History of Geology Award in 2009. Creationist Jonathan Sarfati, on the other hand, accuses Young of “poor scholarship and self deception”, while YEC geologist John K. Reed responds to Young and several other conservative Reformed geologists who accept an old earth here.

Incidentally, I met all three of these men (Wonderley, Newman, and Young) not too long after their books came out. We were all involved with the American Scientific Affiliation. Readers who are very serious about Christianity and science should join that excellent organization: there simply is no substitute for the kind of live human interaction they foster. No blog or list-serve can come close to matching it.

(2) Animals died long before the Fall of Adam and Eve.

OECs not only accept the geological evidence for antiquity, they also accept its implications for interpreting Genesis—including its implications for theodicy. Newman didn’t go into this, but Young weighed in extensively in his first book, Creation and the Flood. I’ll leave it as an “assignment” for readers to investigate more fully and make a report to the “class.” Wonderley’s book includes a short appendix on “The Problem of Death Before the Fall of Man” that should be read at this point. OECs today still talk about death before the fall, partly because the absence of animal suffering prior to the fall is absolutely crucial to the YEC view of God and the Bible.

OECs hold similar views about God and the Bible, alongside different views about natural history, so (pardon the pun) they take great pains to explain pain in a manner consistent with their OEC stance. A nice contemporary example is physicist David Snoke, who is also a licensed preacher in a very conservative denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America. (I don’t want to digress very far, but let me note in passing that the sin-death issue is especially important to Reformed Christians.) Snoke devotes substantial attention to theodicy in his OEC book, A Biblical Case for an Old Earth and in an interesting article, “Why Were Dangerous Animals Created?”. Creationist Lita Cosner calls Snoke’s book “pathetic”, adding that “it takes an amazing amount of arrogance to think that someone can refute young-earth creationism in any kind of detail in a book less than 200 pages long,” despite the fact that dozens of YECs have claimed to “refute” evolution in books that are even shorter!

A recent concordist book about theodicy by William Dembski has drawn substantial attention—partly because the author is a leading advocate of ID, and partly because when he wrote it he was teaching at a seminary owned by the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination in which the YEC view has many influential advocates (especially R. Albert Mohler, Jr.). Entitled The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World , Dembski states that this particular book, unlike his others, is not about ID, even though the problem of evil is highly relevant to the nature of an intelligent designer. Rather, it is essentially an OEC book, written with both eyes on the YECs—with whom he expresses much sympathy: “The young-earth solution to reconciling the order of creation with natural history makes good exegetical and theological sense,” and it was the consensus view through the Reformation. However, he quickly adds, “I myself would adopt it in a heartbeat except that nature seems to present such strong evidence against it.” (p. 55) Indeed, as he says in an interview about the book, the issue of death before the fall “is at the heart of the debate between young and old earth creationists”. Dembski also advocates a local flood, and he treats the garden of Eden as a “segregated area in which the effects of natural evil are not evident” (p. 151; for more, see Dembski’s separate article here). I’ll be more specific about Dembski’s theodicy in the final part of this column, where I’ll highlight an historical connection he makes himself. For the time being, I only note that his views on all of these points have been controversial among Southern Baptists and other fundamentalists, such that he had to retract his position on the flood in order to remain on the faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (see the “Preamble” by Paige Patterson, president of the seminary, here).

(3) Quite a bit of evolution may have happened, but humans and (at least some) other major forms of life were separately created.

Hugh Ross apparently thinks that millions of creatures were created separately. In their contribution to The G3n3sis Debate : Three Views on the Days of Creation, Ross and his co-author, the late Gleason Archer, say, “we acknowledge hundreds of millions of miracles over millions, even billions of years,” but they may lie on one end of this issue (p. 196). Regardless, this is one reason why concordists are often called “old-earth creationists.” It is misleading in the extreme to call them “evolutionists,” as the YECs often do, simply because they accept an “old” earth and universe.

Of course, the crucial issue is human origins: whatever a given OEC thinks about how many other creatures were separately created, God created Adam and Eve ex nihilo!

Looking Ahead

Our study of Concordism concludes on Monday, July 16 (not on Tuesday, July 17 as you’ve come to expect) with a sketch of its history. In the meantime, let’s keep talking about Concordism.

Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

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Jon Garvey - #70904

July 7th 2012


So that just leaves Wesley on theodicy, about which I’ve never expressed an opinion. But I will now. For years I have known that Scripture does not teach the kind of tame-lion creation almost universal in our churches now, as Eddie rightly enumerates on this thread from his careful review of Scripture. But only 18 months ago did I begin to see just how little biblical basis it really has, by studying the actual effects of the Genesis fall, and re-examining “prooftext” passages like Isa 65 and Romans 8 (see I discussed it in several posts on my blog (starting, and was surprised by feedback from “penman” (who is a repected commenter here too and a church historian by training) that all the early Fathers (like Irenaeus, Augustine and Athanasius) taught God’s good creation in a different form from today’s: that it was created good in God’s eyes, rather than in ours, and was not corrupted by the fall. Penman pointed out that then only the Gnostics believed in a creation containing works not fully embodying God’s wisdom and will.

So Wesley’s theodicy, whilst typical of the modern assumption, expresses a later theological development whose history I’d be interested to see traced out. But neither his view, nor the Fathers’, were influenced by evolution - both were straight interpretations of Scripture but, I would argue, the later view became loaded over the centuries with false assumptions about what Scripture says. Unlike the matter of God’s special providence in creation, which as Thomas Cudworth showed, is common to all traditions, Wesley’s particular theodicy is neither doctrinally central nor universal to “classical” theology, though it seems to prevail from Luther on, at least. The former is clearly warranted by the whole thrust of biblical teaching, but the latter, though based on the same axiom of Scriptural inspiration, turns out to be questionably argued out.

The challenge of deep time certainly encourages a re-examination of the Bible, as in my own case with the “fall of creation”, but in this case leads to a more conservative (and historical) interpretation, rather than the radical revisionism required by “statistical deism”.

There is no inconsistency here from the ID people. It’s also notable how those most vocal about the issue are not, as you say, ID people at all, but disaffected TEs like nullasalus, Crude, StephenB maybe, and myself. IDists maintain a range of views on the creation, as far as I can see - many of them are YECs, and so espouse the “Wesleyan theodicy” unthinkingly. Any criticisms you make on those grounds, then, apply just as much to OECs who criticise the (apparent) BioLogos position on evil in nature as to ID. But given what I’ve said, I don’t think they’re valid criticisms at all.

And now I must return to mending my roof in what is currently a deluge of Noahic proportions.

Ted Davis - #70918

July 7th 2012


If the storm gets even worse and you need a couple of alpacas, a farm not far from my house can help you out. I can offer two cats, but both females unfortunately.

I’m grateful for the information you’ve added to this thread.

On divine governance in TE, my own views are (as I’ve tried to convey elsewhere) in the same ballpark with Russell, Gingerich, Asa Gray, and most of the TEs I’ve met through many years of involvement with the ASA. In short, it’s meaningful to say that God *creates* through the process of evolution: God does actually does things in that way that would not happen “on their own,” without an exercise of the divine will.

That by itself of course is a very sharp disconnect with Wesley (pace what Robert Millikan and many others have said about him), Calvin (pace what B.B. Warfield and some others have said about him), and almost the entire Christian tradition prior to the mid-19th century, since for almost everyone it was *necessary* to conceive of God creating humans and other creatures separately, *ex nihilo*, for all sorts of biblical and theological reasons. If that were not so, then the ideas of Robert Chambers (prior to Darwin) would not have been so hotly rejected by so many very thoughtful and highly informed Christians, including people like Tayler Lewis (an excellent Hebrew scholar), Edward Hitchcock (a top geologist), and Adam Sedgwick (who taught Darwin field geology). But, my views on divine governance are consistent with those of the classical theologians, though I’d have to convince virtually all of them that God can indeed “govern” by mediated creation, especially when it comes to humans.

On theodicy, however, apparently quite a few of the earliest Christian authors were on the same page with the OECs, and with me. That’s good to know. We do need a decent history of theodicy, don’t we?

Jon Garvey - #70940

July 8th 2012

Hi Ted

We were cut off for a while by waist-high floods, our chickens had a stream through their coop and a bit of road washed down the hill, but I managed to get to last night’s gig. The show must go on…

I’ve not traced the theological history of “special creation”, but strongly suspect that the theological necessities were after the fact, as nobody was seriously suggesting an alternative until the 18th century. “Why did God deem it necessary to create each kind separately?” is a different kind of question from “Does the text actually teach separate creation?” Warfield himself, I think, had no trouble with man as a product of directed evolution, but at least early on felt it necessary to maintain the special creation of Eve. His genius (not unique) was to see past the worldview projected from the biblical data and realise that it was just that - a modern projection.

“Directed”, as ever, is the crux - you maintain Russell’s mechanism, I believe, for special providence. It would make little difference if you were agnostic as to scientific means, but still maintained the providence theologically. We don’t know most things.

But it’s hard to keep naturalists sweet  with any conception of direction, and it’s still incoherent to try to balance “directed” with “undirected”. I’m willing to bet that it would be a whole lot easier to sell old earth and directed evolution to an Augustine or a Bucer than it would be to persuade them that God set up evolution to see what it would do.

The history of theodicy - I think that would be a corrective to Hick, whom it seems to me has misrrepresented the older traditions. But theodicy itself wasn’t the major concern of old - maybe we’ll just get penman to do a complete history of the theology of creation, in 6 volumes. I’m sure he’ll have a weekend to spare.

Francis - #70922

July 7th 2012


You wrote: “On theodicy, however, apparently quite a few of the earliest Christian authors were on the same page with the OECs, and with me. That’s good to know. We do need a decent history of theodicy, don’t we?”

Which of the earliest Christian authors espoused OEC? Did they also believe in ages of disease and death before Adam?


What do you mean by “We do need a decent history of theodicy, don’t we?”

Ted Davis - #70925

July 7th 2012


I’m going by Jon’s comments (above). You’ll have to see them, including his blog, for details on the early authors/theodicy.

What I mean by a decent history of theodicy is this: we could use a full-length work (i.e. a book) surveying various approaches to theodicy since the early church. Likewise, we need a history of deism; it’s often unclear to modern authors (I include myself here) what deism actually was, at various points in time. So, e.g., the question whether Jefferson was really a “deist” is a good one, and the answer isn’t entirely clear (at least not to me, and I suspect to many others as well). That’s a digression I won’t elaborate on further; I mentioned it simply to illustrate that we need good histories of lots of things, not just theodicy.

One thing we have a good history of, for example, is theories of extraterrestrial life; see Steve Dick for this:

Jon Garvey - #70941

July 8th 2012


As Ted said - there are some tasters on my blog from the links above. Some more extensive (and telling) quotes from Augustine) on this one.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #70926

July 7th 2012

I look at this issue from a different perspective.  It seems to me that Jesus Christ demonstrated that pain, suffering, and even death are not evil if they done for the right purpose.

Sin is the real problem and sin does cause pain, suffering, and death because it causes hatred, war, greed, murder, corruption, etc.  God did not create sin, but God gave humans the abilty to sin because God gave them freedom, the ability to choose. 

The ability to choose, to be indeterminate is given to humans through their creation in God’s Imaqe, thus it is based on the Triune Image of God.

Having the ability to make real choices means that there must be real consequences to those choices.  Part of the real consequences of these choices is pain, suffering, and even death for ourselves and/or others.  Thus freedom requires death as a possible real consequence. 

The original couple did die because of their sin, but the main problem was the sin itself, their estrangement from God and others which brought guilt, shame, hate, crime, greed, envy, etc.  Death became something to be feared, because it meant judgement, instead of acceptance.  Death changed from natural to unnatural, so to speak. 

Sin is a uniquely human trait.  We brought sin into the universe where it did not exist before,  Sin is the opposite of our Image of God.  Because humans sinned they brought nature down.  Think of it as ecology.  Humans pollute the universe through sin, as well as improve the universe through making it more livable.

Certainly these days we are seeing the effects of human sin on God’s green earth.  

Jon Garvey - #70942

July 8th 2012

Postscript for Ted…

Have you seen this recent article by Elliot Sober and Michael Ruse? In an earlier thread you pointed us to an older Sober article, in Debating Design, in which he proposed that the scientific detection of design in evolution is impossible without knowing about the designer himself.

I only had access at the time to an enthusiastic review of his article, and devoted three posts to it on my blog, concluding that design could nevertheless be deduced on other grounds of human intuition, which are actually grounds assumed elsewhere in science - in other words, that design detection might still be possible, if not strictly in scientific terms.

The new article, on the general question of God’s “intervention” in evolution, seems to take a similar line by saying that belief or non-belief in, or even agnosticism about, such intervention cannot be deduced from evolutionary theory, but only from philosophical additions to it - which many have been arguing all along. That seems to me to be a pretty sound argument - how say you?

Two additional things strike me, wrt R J Russell’s work in Cosmology - Alpha to Omega (which he actually cites in the references).

(a) I note that, despite Russell’s care to contruct a theory of divine control that is not intervention (because of quantum indeterminacy) Sober consciously sticks to the word “intervention”. That confirms my suspicion that scientists are not impressed by such a fine distinction.

(b) If his article is correct, then the whole requirement to remove “intervention” in Russell’s sense from the picture is unnecessary anyway. Science, qua science, is not legitimately qualified to exclude even “law-breaking” intervention. So Russell is not making an accommodation to science at all, but to a philosophical addition to science - which is self-defeating, as his very proposal is a denial of the truth of that particular philosophy.

I hope that’s not off-topic. It seems a relevant new bit of data.


Gregory - #70944

July 8th 2012

Hi Jon,

With respect to the article you link to in #70942, a correction to say that it is by Sober alone, not by Sober and Ruse. It is a forthcoming publication in Essays in Honor of Michael Ruse, Cambridge Univ. Press. Of course, they forgot the ‘u’ in Honour


p.s. I’m watching and cheering for Andy Murray (first time in 76 years) vs. Roger Federer!

Jon Garvey - #70945

July 8th 2012

Thanks Gregory. Didn’t realise the second point, so assumed Ruse’s name was there for authorial reasons. My point is neater if the dialogue is restricted to Sober.

Sadly Murray lost - but a better story is the Brit/Danish wildcard doubles win. Two finals in 1 year is not bad, really. I met Greg Rusedski’s cousin in Mexico - a big hero over here, but a villain (it seems) in Canada for deserting his mother-country!

Gregory - #70970

July 9th 2012

You’re welcome for the correction, Jon. If these things help, I consider it just a service that we all can humbly offer to each other in blog format. E.g. earlier in the thread I corrected Ted for speaking about Falk wrt ‘theistic evolution,’ when the term ‘evolutionary creation’ is more appropriate. Perhaps the distinction isn’t that important, thus Ted didn’t comment. But the article I linked to seemed to suggest it is in some sense significant for BioLogos to properly prioritise ‘creation’ and ‘evolution,’ and not just as ‘theists’ but specifically as ‘evangelical Christians.’

[Regarding tennis, yes, agree with the great doubles story (first time in 56 years)! A good year for the U.K. at Wimbeldon (finally), though a hard loss in front of royalty. As for Rusedski, I used to watch him and wasn’t that upset about his new citizenship. He was snubbed in Davis Cup by Tennis Canada in preference of Daniel Nestor, who’s gone on to have a far better int’l career. (& I always preferred Henman anyway!) G.R. is not a villain in my books. Bring on Olympics-at-Wimbledon!]

Ted Davis - #70975

July 9th 2012

Actually, Gregory, I commented on this distinction (TE vs EC) already, in my second column, where I said this: 

“Theistic evolution” (TE), which the folks here at BioLogos like to call “evolutionary creation” (EC), because the noun should be more important than the adjective. I will use the older term (TE), partly because I’m an historian and partly because it’s more widely recognized.

I felt no need to repeat myself, but I will come back to this briefly in my columns on TE next month.

Gregory - #70981

July 9th 2012

Yes, Ted, those are exactly your words that I quoted in #70867 above in this thread.

But you also spoke differently of  “the interpretation of TE offered by Darrel Falk.”

My issue with that statement was not to ask you to repeat yourself. But rather to correct yourself. My concern was simply that you didn’t grant Darrel space to defend his own preferred terms, by not acknowledging that he made a specific move to ‘replace’ TE with EC at BioLogos. I do hope you will come back to the topic next month in your columns!

Indeed, if only your statement had said “the interpretation of EC offered by Darrel Falk,” I would not have raised a flag about it. Iow, you were speaking of his interpretation (of EC), not yours (of TE) in this case. Fair enough, Ted?

The difference may not appear that big. But it still seems to be a difference worth respecting, at least, from a semantic point of view in the broader discourse of science, philosophy and religion. I’ve no doubt Ted, that whether or not you personally would prefer to be called a(n TE) ‘evolutionist,’ a (EC) ‘creationist’ or neither will be an important concluding topic in this educational series that you are building at BioLogos.

Ted Davis - #70969

July 9th 2012

Thank you for the link and the comments, Jon. I will be away most of the next 2 weeks, and in the meantime there are 3 projects I simply have to complete. I probably won’t be able to study this article carefully and reply in what bloggers regard as a decent interval (much different from what scholars are used to), in which case I hope no one interprets my silence as having any further significance.

I know that Sober is very interested in this topic; that he’s taken heat from Jerry Coyne for not dimissing guided evolution as pure nonsense; and that he’s interested in quantum theories of divine and human action—indeed I sent him something of mine about this a few weeks ago. But, I haven’t seen this particular paper (your link), and it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to pretend that I have something to say about it until I can study it.

Jon Garvey - #70972

July 9th 2012

No hurry Ted. Prioritising vital, and I’ve retired so time’s less precious. No experience of being a scholar, but some of being a journalist… “Can you get 1200 words to us tonight?”

HornSpiel - #70982

July 9th 2012

Thanks Ted for your aways informative posts.

Reading the comments above I am struck by the passion of many commentors regarding theodicy. Such a discussion seems to me somewhat premature in that one’s theodicy is strongly influenced by one’s understanding of Genesis and not all of the relevant positions have yet been presented. Still, since the subject is broached it  seems to me that it would be useful to compare and contrast the theodicies that naturally flow from each of the major positions.

The YEC creation position, bolstered by Paul in Romans 8, naturally asserts that all death and suffering is the result of the Fall. This is a fairly straightforward understanding of theodicy based on a literal (if selective) reading of Genesis and Paul’s letters. Certainly Satan and the fallen agels figure in there, but those are details.

On the other end of the sectrum, a TE position acknowledges death as a necessary component of creation.  The Fall is about Spiritual death and human moral responsibility and has no effect on creation or “nature” except indirectly through human activity. Genesis is taken as acomodating a primative worldview. Accordingly the TE position is ambivalent both about the historicity of A&E, and whether or not the Fall is a point-in-time historical event.

So the OEC positione is a middle ground. One reads Scripture as containing truth hidden from the original readers and authors, but which we can now see allign with scientific discoveries. Although a certain amount of death and suffering is acceptible prior to the Fall, not all. See for example Wonderly’s position you assigned as a reading  here, where he posits that carnivorous animals’ “diet was restricted in earlier times to invertabrate animals” (p. 239).

Both A&E as historical individuals and the Fall as a point-in-time event are affirmed. Furthermore the Fall is not only about Spiritual death and human moral responsibility but also had a direct effect on creation. Such an effect that it could, in principle, be detected in natural history (e.g. by science). IMO the OEC position is the most difficult to maintain since it is bound to change based on new scientific discoveries. For example who today would agree with Wesley when he says the whale

though he has sight added to taste and feeling, does not appear to have an understanding proportioned to his bulk. Rather, he is inferior therein not only to most birds and beasts.

Quoted in Ted Davis - #70862

These are of the top of my head summaries. Any corrections additions welcome.

Again a more detailed and researched comparison of “Creation” positions and theodicy positions would IMO be helpful in evaluating the their relative merits.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #71056

July 12th 2012

We need a theodicy which makes it clear that sin is the enemy, not pain and death.

There are two reasons for death.  Our physical nature and sin which corrupts our world. 

[God created pain as a warning sign that something is amiss in our body.  Of course the nerves that communicate pain also communicate pleasure and well being.] 

We die because we are physical beings.  The physical changes and does not last forever and thus humans die.  That is a fact of life.  If we die because we are physical beings and God created us to be physical beings, then our death is God’s fault.  If death is evil per se then God is in the wrong, which does not make sense.  

If humans were immortal we would not be humans.  We would not exist.  If humans are immortal, we would have nothing to do, no reason for being.  Almost everything we do, if not everything, like eating, sleeping, earning a living, procreating and having a family, helping others, we do because we are mortal beings.  Is this because life is evil?

God created the physical universe and called it “good.”  Change and mortality are part of being physical, so if change and mortality are evil than the world as God created it is not good.  Dualists tend to think in this manner, physical vs “spiritual.”

Sin is also the cause of death, spiritual death, but through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ believers have eternal life that begins here and now, not in the hereafter.  The Cross is the Tree of Life and those who have hung their sinful selves on the Cross have eaten from the Tree of Life.

Thus for Christians death is not evil per se.  It is the gateway to heaven.  Paul wrote:

1 Thess:5:10  He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep (alive or dead,) we may live together with Him.   

Death is not evil per se.  It is not good in that it separates us from our loved ones, but that it part of nature because we cannot live forever and we cannot be every where awe want to be.  It is wrong if death is unnecessarily caused by sin, but it is not wrong to suffer such a death as Job learned. 

Death and suffering are not pleasant experiences, but this does not make them evil per se.  They are a part of life as God created it.  It is definitely true that sin has increased the amount of suffering and the numbers of those dying, but the problem is with sin, the cause, not death and suffering the result, although we are sinners are called to deal with the results of sin as well as with sin itself.   

HornSpiel - #71060

July 12th 2012

We need a theodicy which makes it clear that sin is the enemy, not pain and death.

What do you say to those that quote Paul?

The last enemy to be destroyed is death

1 Corinthians 15:26

I do agree that deathis part of the created order. If indeed God creates through evolution, death is necessary on many levels.  One might argue that death may be natural, but what about predation, hunting particularly among the higher animals? Chimps attack each other. There are rivalries and “wars” between communities:

How do you handle these kinds of animal behaviors?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #71065

July 12th 2012


Clearly there is “natural” death and “unnatural” suffering and death caused by sin. 

I would call predation natural, but anything akin to war unnatural.

There are gray areas such as the struggle for leadership which is a part of the evolutionary process. 

I really am not concerned about animals.  They are not subject to sin.  I am concerned about humans.

If you read 1 Cor 15 in its entirety, you will see that Paul is agreeing with me.  He is saying that by obtaining forgiveness for the sin of the whole world,

Jesus has defeated the final and ultimate enemy.  Jesus has overcome the sinful power of death, even though redeemed humanity still must die a natural death.  The saved Church receives eternal life, which is our everlasting relationship to God the Father through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.     

(1 Cor 15:54-57 NIV)  When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:

         “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

(55)  “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

(56)  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

(57)  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory [over death] through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God for giving us the victory over death!

(Phil 1:21 NIV)  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.




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