Evolution and Romans 5:12

I just got back from a question and answer session with John Lennox at the Creation Conference here in Birmingham. Among the many questions he was asked, there was a question about Romans 5:12:

Therefore, just as by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin, so death passed to all men because all sinned.

First, as an aside, let me point out that death passes to all men because all sin, not because they’re guilty of Adam’s sin. Let’s dump that version of original sin.

With that aside, the point of the question asked to John Lennox, and the one that’s been asked to me, and the one that all young earth creationists bring up, is that if evolution is true, then there had to have been death before Adam. How can there be death before Adam if death, by sin, entered the world through the one man, Adam?

John Lennox’ answer was that Romans 5:12 is only talking about human death. There could have been animal death before Adam–and there certainly was plant death because they were given for food even in Genesis one–just not human death.

My answer is, "Why in the world are y’all asking such a question?"

According to Ephesians 2, we’re already dead in our trespasses and sins. Romans 5:12 isn’t talking about physical death. It’s talking about spiritual death.

The same is true back in Genesis. I’m not the first person to bring up the point that the punishment for eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was, "In the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die" (Gen. 2:17). Yet Adam didn’t die for 930 years after eating of the fruit.

Yes, some Christians say that God meant that Adam would begin to die, or become susceptible to death, in the day that he ate of the tree. But at least as many say that Genesis 2:17 threatens a spiritual death, a separation from God, not a physical death, and that spiritual death did happen in the day that he ate of it.

Of course, I think that the Adam and Eve story is a creation myth that is not historical, and so it is not meant to be literally accurate in its details. I can’t get technical about "in the day," but I do think God included that story in the Scripture because it tells us something from the Spirit of God—yes, I believe Scripture is inspired. Man sinned, man died spiritually, and men today are separated from God by the death that is in their spirits through sin.

Thus, I don’t think Romans 5:12 has anything to do with death before Adam. It has to do with the rebellion of the first created man—And like all Christians, I believe that there was a first man or men into whose nostrils God breathed the breath of life, even if those men were formed from the dust of the ground over millions of years rather than in a one-day marathon of pottery by God–and all his descendants.

It’s not just Romans 5 that’s talking about spiritual death. It’s Romans 5, 6, 7, and 8. In Romans 8:12-13, we’re told that it’s those who live according to the flesh who will die, while those who put to death the deeds of the body through the Spirit will live. Is that really physical death in those two verses? Those who live spiritually will never die physically, only those who live according to the flesh?

I don’t think so, and neither do any of you.

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14 Responses to Evolution and Romans 5:12

  1. Monster says:

    Listen man, let’s get one thing straight: you know nothing about me. I know way more about you (from your own writing) than you do about me (which is almost nothing, clearly).

    “There is no space here for me to go into the evidence for evolution with someone whose mind is obviously closed and who would never take a diligent look, much less an honest look, at the scientific evidence.”

    Again, you don’t know the first thing about me. You don’t know how much evidence I’ve looked at! It’s quite a lot, by the way, and I’ve never seen anything that proves evolution. As I stated before, there is plenty that proves adaptation and natural selection. I’ve seen nothing that proves evolution (beneficial addition of new genetic information), or even supports it. In fact, it happens to break a couple of natural laws, if we’re being honest and “open minded”.

    Please, show me your evidence; I guarantee it’s not actually evidence. You call me biased, but you’re simply biased on the other end. Do you really think you can claim to not be biased and be taken seriously? Do you think evolutionists aren’t completely biased in their fervent pursuit of legitimizing their craft? That would be like claiming artists don’t like art. It’s absurd.

    All the time the favorite old evidences fall to the wayside as honest scientists approach the evidence. The fact that you came to believe in evolution in the 80’s makes me wonder if you’ve looked at that same evidence 20 years later and can come to the same conclusion. You mock the old belief of the sun rotating around the Earth and yet there are all sorts of BS that scientists once believed that are completely disproven now (such as “embryonic recapitulation”).

    “I think the foundation of that close-minded attitude is a false approach to the Scriptures that is largely responsible for the mess we call Christianity today”

    Again, you have no idea what I believe concerning scripture. You have no idea what I do or do not take literally. I’m sure I believe differently than most anyone you’ve ever met, so you can stop trying to pen me in with the rest of the herd.

    I don’t need Genesis to show me evolution is bunk. To think that man has figured out our origins and how we came to be is laughable. Mathematically, traditional Darwinian evolution (that requiring billions of years) simply doesn’t add up (pun totally intended; deal with it!).

    Logic itself, at least if you are Christian, defies the idea of man evolving. Man was put here for a reason, and it wasn’t so we could be Jesus’ ant farm for 6 billion years. If God used evolution to create modern man, what’s the deal with sin? We were sinning before we even became men, so how is it mankind’s fault that we sin? Did the angels evolve too, some sort of spiritual evolution? God couldn’t make man from dust but He could make fully functioning spirit beings ex nihilo? Are all the ape-men going to be resurrected too? Or did men only come to have souls once that last magical beneficial mutation took place that made us take the final biological step into our modern man bodies? The whole idea is a joke and incompatible with reality.

    Genesis 1 may or may not be literal, but evolution, as least the way it is preached now, is a complete misrepresentation of the truth, and you’re doing no one any favors preaching it from your virtual pulpit.

    • Shammah says:

      Well, I’m willing to rest my case with your response. I hope you are, too.

      You can’t debate evolution in the comments of a blog. You can do what you now have done for the second time–ask questions that need to be asked, but then get really offended and act like having to ask those questions is “a joke and incompatible with reality.”

      I have an entire web site presenting evidence for evolution. On the creation pages of that site, there is opportunity for people to present their best arguments for creation. It is, however, remarkably easy to answer those arguments even for a non-professional like myself. See http://www.proof-of-evolution.com

  2. Monster says:

    “As it turns out, the question you ask–”Which one of these in the line of Jesus were made-up characters?”–is a really important question that can start the process of leading us out of our modern version of Christianity back into apostolic Christianity.”

    The apostles believed in a literal Adam. How can you call your belief apostolic Christianity when you deny even Adam?

    Evolution is not a fact. Natural selection and adaptation are facts: real, observable phenomena. Evolution is neither a fact nor has it been observed. Every supposed observable evolutionary phenomenon (which always turns out to be natural selection or adaptation) is always over a very short period of time, usually no more than 100 years, which flies in the face of the billions required for evolution anyway.

    “…but instead “straying from these into fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions””

    And here you have started a fruitless discussion of evolution. How does supporting evolution help Christians in any way? It’s hypocritical to say someone who disagrees with you is going into fruitless discussion. Indeed, I’m telling you exactly what the Bible says and asking you an honest answer: which part of it do you think is made up? And yet you use weasel words to dance around the question and instead accuse me of engaging in fruitless discussion. Incredible! I have tremendous respect for you normally, but you are way off on this and I’m not going to avoid calling you out on it.

    From what I understand, your equation literally means “Evolution minus literal interpretation of scripture equals abundant faith”. So now that you don’t have to take scripture literally when it’s convenient, your faith is greater? So now we can believe in the lies of men over the words given to men by God? Whew, what a relief. AI WIT indeed.

    • Shammah says:

      Fruitless = producing no good fruit.

      There’s a real problem nowadays. I think looking around, we all have to admit it’s true. *Something* needs to change … or nothing will.

      Yes, now that we don’t have to take Scripture literally when truth dictates otherwise–it has nothing to do with convenience–yes, my faith is greater.

      In what possible way does evolution and a figurative Genesis one convenience me? What’s inconvenient is Luke 14:26-33. What’s inconvenient is the Sermon on the Mount, and I take both those in a very literal and very inconvenient way.

      The alternative to a literal interpretation of Scripture, for those that are disciples, is to walk in the Spirit and hear and believe God *together* as a church. Scripture both says that is trustworthy, and it gives plenty of examples of the conflict between following God and following a literal interpretation of Scripture. Look at the Pharisees, for example. One of Jesus’ complaints to them is that the search the Scriptures, thinking that they have life in them, but the Scriptures actually testified that they should come to him for life (John 5:39-40).

      So, that said, I did not choose to bring up evolution. Evolution has brought itself up. The question is how we’re going to respond to it.

      Our response to it can involve fruitful discussion, or it can involve fruitless discussion.

      Christians, together in the church, can have fruitful discussion, but not if we’re all being Pharisees.

      My answer to which of the descendants of Christ I believe to be figurative is that it doesn’t matter if we’re just arguing on the internet. Instead, my answer is that once we agree it’s a legitimate question we have to honestly talk about, not a rhetorical one that involves walking around offended and exasperated with one’s nose and chest thrust in the air, then there are answers that need to be come to.

      I definitely think Adam, being nothing but the Hebrew word for man, is symbolic. I think the story of the garden, with talking snakes and fruit called “the knowledge of good and evil” is clearly symbolic and was known to Moses to be at least likely to be symbolic. I think the apostles purposely taught a figurative approach to Scripture, and even Augustine says that the first and most important interpretation–in the Old Testament–is the figurative one. Only after that do we ask whether there is also a literal interpretation. He says that in chapter one and paragraph one of a book called _On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis_.

      So I think I can make a case, not a conclusive one, mind you, but a good one, that at least some of the apostles were prepared to see Adam as figurative and that all of them believed and taught an interpretation of the Old Testament is first and foremost figurative.

      From there, we can have a fruitful discussion, but all that I have just mentioned has to be discussed first. There is no space here for me to go into the evidence for evolution with someone whose mind is obviously closed and who would never take a diligent look, much less an honest look, at the scientific evidence. You need to be honest with yourself that’s where you are. I think the foundation of that close-minded attitude is a false approach to the Scriptures that is largely responsible for the mess we call Christianity today. It’s founded in an intellectual trust in Scripture that combined with a lack of understanding about the church, the pillar and support of the truth, produces a spiritual lack of trust in God through his Spirit. No, worse, it produces a spiritual **opposition** to trusting God, exactly the same as was in the Pharisees.

  3. Monster says:

    “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,

    Which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Janna, which was the son of Joseph,

    Which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Amos, which was the son of Naum, which was the son of Esli, which was the son of Nagge,

    Which was the son of Maath, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Semei, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Juda,

    Which was the son of Joanna, which was the son of Rhesa, which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the son of Salathiel, which was the son of Neri,

    Which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Addi, which was the son of Cosam, which was the son of Elmodam, which was the son of Er,

    Which was the son of Jose, which was the son of Eliezer, which was the son of Jorim, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi,

    Which was the son of Simeon, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Jonan, which was the son of Eliakim,

    Which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David,

    Which was the son of Jesse, which was the son of Obed, which was the son of Booz, which was the son of Salmon, which was the son of Naasson,

    Which was the son of Aminadab, which was the son of Aram, which was the son of Esrom, which was the son of Phares, which was the son of Juda,

    Which was the son of Jacob, which was the son of Isaac, which was the son of Abraham, which was the son of Thara, which was the son of Nachor,

    Which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala,

    Which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech,

    Which was the son of Mathusala, which was the son of Enoch, which was the son of Jared, which was the son of Maleleel, which was the son of Cainan,

    Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.”

    So which one of these in the line of Jesus were made up characters? Just Adam? Perhaps Seth, or Enos? How about Noah? Why stop at Adam, let’s just throw out the Great Deluge as a fairy story as well. Seriously, where do the real people start and the made up people end? Where do the made-up events stop and the real events start? If Adam was a real person, just from a long line of sinning cavemen who died, then why does he take the rap for sin? That’s not very just; in fact, I would call it false witness.

    Your watered-down version of Genesis just doesn’t add up.

    • Shammah says:

      I know that Christians love to reason from “if x is true, then y.” For Christians, if they don’t like y, then x must be true. I’ve started referring to such Christians as AI Wits (meaning “Anything I Want is True”).

      I can’t do that. Wishful thinking doesn’t work for me. I like to take a good, long, hard, and evens years-long look at the evidence to determine whether x is true. Then, once I find out whether x is true, then I deal with y.

      In this case, x is true. Evolution happened, whether we like it or not.

      This affects our interpretation of Genesis, whether we like it or not.

      This means we have to deal with the question you asked, not complain about having to deal with it and throw out evolution because we don’t like it.

      As it turns out, the question you ask–“Which one of these in the line of Jesus were made-up characters?”–is a really important question that can start the process of leading us out of our modern version of Christianity back into apostolic Christianity. What do I mean by modern version of Christianity? I mean the one that is powerless to produce “love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith” but instead “straying from these into fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:5-8, NASB).

      The approach we have to Genesis, which you are offended to have questioned, is part of the reason that our Gospel, with some exceptions, can’t produce “the power of God to salvation” (Rom. 1:16) so that saints are “zealous for good works” (Tit. 2:14) and rarely have love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and an unfeigned faith.

      X (evolution) shocked me back in the mid-90’s. The incredible power of leaving American Christianity’s rigid, novel, and mostly powerless approach to Scripture (Y) shocked me even more.

      Amazingly, in this case, x-y=z, where z is abundant grace and faith.

  4. Joel says:

    I’d like to hear that 1986 speechless story sometime:-) (I was 3 years old then) 😉

    • Shammah says:

      Pretty simple, really. I was waiting at the door for a man who was the unbelieving son of a very devout woman, a friend of mine. As we got ready to go out, he asked me, “Psalm 23 says, ‘thou shalt not want,’ but all Christians I know want something. Why does it say that?” I opened my mouth, literally, to answer, and I felt God say, “Don’t say something stupid.” So I closed my mouth–again, literally–and turned around, and we walked off together silently.

  5. I have nothing to say either

  6. I’d be shocked at you being speechless.

    just sayin

    • Shammah says:

      What’s frightening is that I can remember at least twice that I’ve been speechless. One of them was in 1986.

  7. John Michael says:

    It is an important distinction.

    It totally changes the meaning of the message.

  8. Allison Musick says:

    Um…is it bad that it would never occur to me to ask those kinds of questions, nevermind try to debate them or form a dogmatic opinion about them? o_o

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