For the past couple of centuries, Christians have been debating the age of the Earth. The rise of naturalistic evolution
has not been a help to this debate nor has its press in such events as the Scopes case. Unfortunately, this has often become
a claim of orthodoxy where if someone does not believe that the Earth is 6,-10,000 years old, then such a person can be seen
as denying the gospel.
Fortunately, there are many Christians who are
young-earth creationists (YECists) who do not take such a stance as those of us who are old-earth creationists. (OECists)
We should accept our brothers and sisters we disagree with and realize that we are united on Christ and that is what matters
However, for those who do have concerns that
the gospel is being denied, Mark Whorton has written “Peril in Paradise.” To show that this account of being enemies
of the gospel is a real event, he starts with his own story where his own wife was in a women’s class at their church
hearing the teacher talk about two heretics in the leadership of the church who were denying the gospel. She knew her husband
was one being seen as a heretic.
What was the contention? Whorton’s contention
is that it rests on two words. Genesis 1:31 starts saying “God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was “very
good.” Those words are the lynchpin of the argument. After all, if old-earth creationism (OECism) is correct, then there
was animal death at least before the fall. Young-earth creationism (YECism) on the other hand would tend to deny this view.
Whorton places the debate then between the Perfect
Paradise Paradigm where the belief is that God created the world in order for man to have a perfect paradise, versus the Perfect
Purpose Paradigm, where God created the world for his glory knowing that man would fall and that this world is the battleground
between good and evil and a way to deal with the rebellion of Satan.
On page 23, Whorton writes that “It is
very important to recognize the distinction between paradigms and truth.” He points out that what we can take as the
clear reading of Scripture can often just be our own preconceived paradigm being read into the text. (How many Calvinists
and Arminians can point to the same passage and talk about the clear reading of it?)
This is important because Whorton wants to make
clear that he’s not denying the truth of Scripture. Scripture is true, but our interpretations of it aren’t always.
After all, if all interpretations were true, then we’d have to say that the Scripture is teaching entirely contradictory
ideas as, for instance, pre-tribulationism and preterism are both correct. Calvinism and Arminianism would not really disagree.
Having said this, Whorton goes on to quote the
quotes of leading YECists as to their opinion of the view of there actually being “peril in paradise.” When reading
such quotes, they generally break down to “A loving God would not do it this way. Surely there could be a better way
What happened supposedly? The creation was perfect
and man came along and screwed it all up. This resulted then in natural disasters and carnivorous animals. Sin apparently
caused a ripple effect that shot through the whole creationism and ruined it all.
However, upon hearing such a view, I too have
to wonder. Did we not have the fall of Satan already? Also, are we really to say that all was created perfect? Do perfect
creatures really rebel against their creator? We all call that a foolish decision, even though we make that foolish decision
ourselves everyday. Was it really perfect or was it just as is said “very good”?
Whorton contends that the problem with the view
of perfection is that it is focused on us. Instead, all throughout the Bible, God speaks of doing things for his own glory.
You can read in Isaiah and the gospels, especially John, about the glory of God and what God does for his glory. He quotes
also Rev. 4:11 pointing out that this is the goal of creation.
One problem with the Perfect Paradise Paradigm
is that it seems to say that God created the world and didn’t know what was coming. If one was an open view theist,
this would make sense, but for those of us who say that God knows the end from the beginning, can we not easily say that God
created man knowing that man would fall and that the lamb was truly slain from the foundation of the world? (Rev. 13:8)
Whorton will contend that the redemption is not
a plan B. We are still on the same plan. God created this world and he knew that the fall was coming and he knew how he wanted
the story to end and what it would take in order to bring about that ending. Who are we to say after all, that man can ruin
the plans of God?
In fact, when we are said to have a return to
Eden, Whorton will conclude that this is not enough. God’s plan is not to return us to Eden. God’s plan is to
restore us to that which is even better than Eden. He is going to then bring us into a world with no suffering or pain or
evil or tears as Rev. 21-22 makes clear.
Throughout the book, Whorton points to how God
allows suffering to bring about a greater purpose, the victory of good. He points to the suffering of Joseph in Egypt as the
innocent who though he suffered, brought about the salvation of the known world when famine struck. He also writes about the
Israelites in Egypt who were allowed to suffer so God’s glory could be made known throughout the world.
Of course, the Christian can point to the ultimate
example of Christ on the cross. Is it hard to really imagine that Mary Magdalene and the other women saw Jesus on the cross
and prayed for him that God would deliver him somehow? Could they have ever wondered “Why is this happening?”
We don’t see any clue in the text that they were expecting him to rise again.
From an earthly perspective, we might also wonder
“Surely a loving God could come up with a better plan than this.” However, we know that this was the plan that
took place and God could not have chosen a “better plan” as he always has the best choices being played out in
time. We must be careful then when evaluating the condition of Eden that we don’t make the mistake of looking only from
our temporal perspective. We must view try to view time with an eternal purpose in mind instead of focusing on the temporal.
When he gets to explain Adam’s life, he
points out that Adam was told to go out and conquer his world essentially. The same words used in the command are the words
used to describe rape and pillage in other parts of the OT. Man was placed in a garden, but are we to assume the world was
the same outside of the garden? Did a garden in the Middle East have polar bears walking around in it for instance?
Whorton also points out that it was not really
creation that fell but man that fell. My contention has often been that when man fell, man fell in a relational sense in four
Man is separated
from his God.
Man is separated
Man is separated
from his neighbor.
Man is separated
I think Whorton would agree with these points.
He will point out later that the ground developed thorns in that area simply because man was not enjoying his work the same
way. Man’s work had become a burden and he did not do it with joy and enthusiasm.
Whorton then goes on to explain the nature of
the design of the universe and that we see no indication that it has changed. The basic patterns we see in weather and geology
are also those which lead to tornadoes and volcanoes and earthquakes. If we did not have these patterns, we would not have
tornadoes and volcanoes and earthquakes, but we would also not have life on this planet.
I will leave it to the reader to decide if he
wants to hear about the scientific arguments ultimately, as Whorton is no doubt far more skilled in this area than I am. Of
course, Whorton points to Scripture as well as Psalm 148 says that the stormy winds are bringing the glory of God. The Perfect
Paradise Paradigm though would call for an entire overhaul in the laws of nature.
Whorton points out many other problems that he
sees and I do urge the reader to consider the viewpoint that is presented in them. For instance, man ate, but was man incapable
of feeling hunger? Animals were to reproduce, but was there ever to be a stopping point? If animals kept reproducing and didn’t
die, would we not reach a point where the world was overrun with animals?
He also points to symbiotic relationships between
animals in the next chapter. At what point did the Nile crocodile decide to let the Egyptian plover clean his teeth for him?
Instead, both creatures have apparently been designed for this relationship, yet this would mean that the crocodile has also
always been a carnivore.
There are other examples that Whorton brings
out. What about the bombardier beetle? This creature has a mix of chemicals in its body that allows it to shoot a lethal stream
at any opponent. Is this design or was this added after the fall? In fact, to say that such changes take place after the fall
is to subscribe to a sudden act of macroevolution. This requires more than just a few parts in an animal’s body being
changed. This requires an entire system overhaul.
These are all valid questions and I find Whorton’s
answers highly satisfactory. Could it bet that maybe we at least need to reconsider the Perfect Paradise Paradigm in favor
of the Perfect Purpose Paradigm? Is it actually possible that God created the bombardier beetle as it is today with the ability
to shoot a lethal stream and called it “very good”?
Whorton then goes to his conclusion looking at
the view he sees often on animal suffering in paradise in a series of four claims on page 156.
of the curse included animal death in a fallen creation.
of the atonement depends on original animal immortality.
The last few chapters are spent looking at each
Whorton points out an observation I find quite
astute. The animal kingdom is never directly mentioned as cursed because of the fall. He even points out that the curse passage
of Genesis 3 even indicates pain before the fall as the woman is told that she will have her pain greatly increased in childbirth.
He then goes on to say that we can trust the
revelation that we see in nature. Passages like Romans 1 and Psalm 19 tell us that nature is a revelation of God. This has
been a position of the church throughout the ages. While nature cannot lead us to the plan of salvation, we can get truths
from it on the nature of God. While it can be misinterpreted also, we must say that the same can happen with Scripture as
well. (That cults exist is proof enough of this.)
We should remember that true science and true
theology will never differ. When the two seem to contradict, then one viewpoint is incorrect and needs to be addressed as
two contradictory truths cannot be true. (This is a view Aquinas rallied against known as the double-theory of truth.)
One passage brought up often is Romans 5:12.
It is said that because of sin, death came to men. The question is, what does this say about animals? The answer is nothing.
In fact, it is explicitly limited to man. I would also say that this death is not physical death but spiritual death. After
all, when the passage says that through the one man life came to all men, does this mean physical life or spiritual life?
Whorton handles other passages much the same
way. His hermeneutic is quite sound and again, that will be up for the reader to decide. His contention in the end is that
animal death does not effect the doctrine of sin in anyway. The point of animal death was never to bring about atonement and
that was only in certain animals at certain times anyhow. The sacrifices always pointed to Christ who alone could take away
He then goes on to address the view that such
suffering would never be viewed as very good from a loving creator. This ultimately strikes me as an appeal to emotion. My
first question to it would be “Why?”, but we will have to wait to see the answer to that.
Psalm 104 gives an account of the creation from
the Psalmist point of view. The aspects of creation that a loving God would never allow are the very ones that the psalmist
praises God for. Verse 21 says that the lions roar after their prey and seek their food from God. Job 39 speaks of the ostrich
as one cruel to her young because God did not give her a share of wisdom. In Job 41, the crocodile described as a leviathan
is pictured as a fierce monster that God created.
Whorton then goes on in the last claim to deal
from a scientific perspective with the idea that all animals were created as herbivores as well as exegesis of passages like
Genesis 1 and Genesis 9. I find that Whorton’s conclusions are difficult to deny and the case seems to be the best way
to avoid macroevolution.
Of course, Whorton does go on to explain how
suffering can be beneficial for our lives in the long run. We are under watch from the world and our answers have to be accurate
when dealing with the problem of natural evil. The Christian needs accuracy in all areas that he speaks on, be it Scripture,
science, psychology, or philosophy. All truth is God’s truth.
In conclusion, I do recommend Whorton’s
book. I believe it views creation from the eternal perspective that it should be seen from and returns us to the belief that
all is done for the glory of God. In the end, whichever side one falls down on, we must remember that all our evangelism must
still be to the glory of God, as everything else must be as well. (1 Cor. 10:31)