For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
The church teaches that man, by freely transgressing against God’s law, have fallen away from God, subsist in the misery of sin, decay and death in their whole nature and all their doings, and have lost the image of God that was in them. The confessions say “that there is nothing sound or uncorrupted left in the human body or soul, in its internal or external powers. Instead, as the church sings, ‘Through Adam’s fall human nature and our essence are completely corrupted.’
Bethel Confession of 1933
Based upon Alexander Pruss’s rather clever “Just-So Story”, I want to both argue and explain how we can both accept the Genesis 1-3 account of creation as literal and that the Big Bang and Evolution was responsible for the formation of our present universe and mankind. I would also like to unfold a little the theological implications of such a view. I will call this theory Postlapsarian Evolutionism. The basic idea is that the world was created as literally as would please any fundamentalist in six days but after the Fall God obliterated the world, reduced Adam and Eve to dust (as he said they would be after sinning) and reconstituted the fallen world via the processes of the big bang and evolution. After the first homo sapiens evolved, God stuffed the souls of Adam and Eve back into these new people and biblical history continued on.
An Alternative “Just-So Story” of how the Big Bang and Evolution Fit into Genesis 1-3 Interpreted Literally
My account would be an expansion, elaboration, and modification of Alexander Pruss’s original explanation. Now let us assume that Genesis 1-3 occurred as literally as might please any fundamentalist. Then let us fast forward to after Adam and Eve disobeyed God and God curses them,
To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”
And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it’,
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live for ever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
Thus, the essence of my “Just-So Story” is that the entire divine curse is carried out through the processes of the Big Bang and Evolution as God drives Adam and Eve out of Eden.
Here is how it goes. God curses all of creation in his wrath (“cursed is the ground because of you”), in the process the entire creation collapses and melts before the divine fury, including Adam and Eve who crumbles back to the dust from which they came. God however marks a distinction between the “pure” Edenic state, and the rest of creation which falls under God’s curse by “the cherubim and the flaming sword” which protects the Garden of Eden from God’s wrath. Thus in the process of being disintegrated back to dust, Adam and Eve’s falls into the darkness of the sleep of death and are thus effectively “driven out” of the garden of Eden and punished with the rest of creation.
So after the universe disintegrates under God’s curse (except for the Garden of Eden protected by the angels), God then causes the universe to explode back outward again via a Big Bang, but with a very vital difference. The Universe formed by the Big Bang would bear the marks of God’s curse. The order of the “Fallen Creation” generated by the “Big Bang” is a cursed one, a fundamentally and radically different order from the Edenic state. It would cause pain (verse 17), it would be a world indifferent and hostile to man (verse 18), growing thorns and thistles and whatever other natural disasters, and finally we must struggle to survive in this world (verse 19). Thus as the universe develops under the Big Bang, the Earth was formed and the entire process of evolution with all the gory death, decay, struggle and everything which is now part of this new world order. Finally as the first humans arise out of this natural struggle, nature red tooth and claw, God stuffs the souls of Adam and Eve back into these ape-like creatures and they awaken now with their new fallen and corrupted nature, formed not directly by God from the dust of the earth as from the beginning (Genesis 2:7), but via the horrendous natural processes which have been fundamentally corrupted by God’s curse. The new natures of Adam and Eve, formed by the processes of evolution, would bear all the marks of God’s curse, the subjection of the woman to the man and the pain of childbirth, including what the Catholic tradition calls “Original Sin”, the concupiscence and lust of the new fallen flesh of man which seeks not the things of God but rather the things of this world, etc.
Thus as the Lutheran Confessions puts it well, because of the Fall and the Curse, we have truly “lost the image of God”, our human natures radically corrupted, nothing sound or pure or noble left, and have been lowered and punished to be literal animals formed by evolution and no different from monkeys. Now let’s deal with some of the objections.
You Invented this entire story from the thin air! This most certainly did not happen!
I didn’t say it did happen. In fact, I am quite certain it did not. Rather this is a Just-So Story. It isn’t meant to tell us what actually happened, only to illustrate the possibility of some claim, in this context, it is simply meant to illustrate how it is possible for both Genesis 1-3 be literally true, the Big Bang and Evolution to occur, and death and decay enter into the world through a literal historical Adam and Eve. My Just-So Story merely gestures vaguely at the possibility of this and suggests that maybe something analogous to this story occurred in reality.
Just-So Stories are used all the time in scientific work and are a vital process in the creation of theories and models. Here is an example from physics by Peter Van Inwagen. If you get the point of the Just-So Story, you can simply skip this part.
In the 19th century, Lord Kelvin (one of the pioneers of thermodynamics; we still honour his work by measuring our temperature in kelvins), scoffed at the postulates of geologists that the fossil evidence shows that there has been life for hundred of millions of years old (whom he denounced as mere “stamp-collectors”). Lord Kelvin argued that the Sun has been shining for at most 20 million years and so life couldn’t be hundreds of millions year old. Lord Kelvin contended that the only conceivable mechanism for the Sun to work is for it to convert its gravitational potential energy into radial energy by the gravitational contraction of the Sun. So, if you plug in all the figures of the mass, radius and surface temperature of the Sun, the Sun could have only been shining for twenty million years.
According to later physicists, they understood that Lord Kelvin was correct in his calculations. However, what Lord Kelvin was wrong was the mechanism. 20th century physics now knows about nuclear fusion and reactions and that the internal reaction and action of the atoms would be sufficient to generate the energy for the Sun to burn for hundreds of millions of years.
But even in the 19th century with pre-nuclear physics, it is possible to argue against Lord Kelvin via a Just-So Story. A Just-So Story to give an alternative account of solar radiation which can account for the Sun burning a hundred million years could go like this:
Suppose that all of the Sun’s atoms where spinning rapidly and these spinning atoms were colliding into each other with a certain velocity. Then the kinetic energy of the rotation of all the atoms lost per collision, in addition to the gravitation contraction, could together, provide the necessary radial energy needed for the Sun to burn hundreds of millions of years.
This “Just-So Story” provides a conceptual possibility for a phenomenon, but it strictly isn’t true. But yet in some sense, it is true. There is one important truth which the “Just-So Story” reveals and shares with actual solar radiation production. The inner actions and dynamics of the atoms contributes to the production of radial energy. In the story, kinetic rotational energy, in the real world, nuclear binding energy.
The Bible Does not Record This Story Anywhere!
True. But the Bible doesn’t record a lot of other things God did as John 21:25 puts it,
Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
Thus, what we do know from the Bible is that God curses creation and mankind, but the Bible doesn’t tell us how God curses the universe and mankind and alters their natures, and for the purpose of divine revelation he does not need to record such detail. It is no more a flaw for the Bible to not have recorded the details of the Big Bang and Evolution as the processes by which the universe is cursed and mankind corrupted than it is a flaw for the Bible to not have recorded Maxwell’s Equations in its description of the creation of light. Besides as Peter Van Inwagen once pointed out, God recording such detail into the Bible would defeat its purpose as revelation to the pre-scientific Hebrews who haven’t even invented the concept of zero nevermind understand Maxwell’s Equations or the intricate genetics and biology of Evolution.
You Are Postulating a Rather Huge Gap Between the End of Genesis 3 and the Beginning of Genesis 4 where so many Supposed Earth Shattering (literally!) and Momentous Events Occurred, Furthermore, it isn’t very literal to treat God driving Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden as involving crumbling to dust, big bang, evolution and then awakening as pseudo-monkeys.
I admit the lack of “literalness” in which I am treating the end of Genesis 3 to the start of Genesis 4, as well as the huge gap which it postulates in the Biblical account, but in my defence, I would argue that not even the most staunchest fundamentalist believes in the “literalness” of the end of Genesis 3 either, as well as there are also gaps which the fundamentalists postulates to reconcile their own account. Let me explain.
Now no one, no matter how much of a “literalist” they maybe, truly believes that there exists in some part of this world a literal flaming sword alight with fire which literally turns back people who stumble upon the Garden of Eden physically and geographically. Thus, this illustrates the point that the meaning of the event behind God “driving” Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden as well as the placing of the flaming sword and cherubim to guard the Garden against them is not to say that there literally is such a place in this earth angels and gardens with a sword that turns people away from the Garden of Eden literally by threat of being cut to pieces by it. Rather, it is simply to illustrate the radical difference and distance which exists between the Edenic state and Fallen Adam and Eve who now may not partake of the life everlasting from the tree of life, thus in the process of being cursed, they crumble back to the dust and are forever “banished” from the Garden of Eden, unsuited to everlasting life in communion with God, and the flaming sword and angel exists precisely to mark this distinction between the Edenic state and the fallen creation and mankind. We must remember that what is recorded is God’s curse, banishment, etc, but what is not recorded is how this curse or banishment is carried out, and we must admit that somehow this radical curse and corruption was carried out and a cosmic alteration to nature and mankind happened.
As for the “huge gap” objection, I would argue that no less fanciful are the “patch-up” explanations of the fundamentalists in attempting to explain where Cain got his wife by postulating an equally unrecorded sister of Cain from Adam and Eve, including the rather elaborate explanations of how incest was acceptable then but not now, etc. Thus, the literalists and fundamentalist are as much engaged in Just-So Story weaving as I am to make sense of their “literalist” account, my Just-So Story at least is able to account for the existence of Cain’s wife, e.g. the formation of entire fallen human populace all over the world by evolution, and has the additional purpose of serving to reconcile the literal reading of Genesis 1-3 with evolution and Big Bang.
It could very well be objected that by postulating the existence of entire human populace and societies which are not generated from Adam but instead evolved I might have some problems explaining this verse,
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned
But this isn’t really so. It is enough that we agree that sin did come through one man in the sense that sin entered the world through the disobedience and sin of Adam, and through this sin, which resulted in the curse of the corruption of nature, death spread to all man whose nature are now formed by the cursed processes of evolution, etc. To argue that biological begetting is somehow the only and sole mechanism for how the sin and death of Adam spreads to all mankind would be creepily and weirdly reminiscent of the Church Fathers speculation about how Original Sin is spread through sexual intercourse and passed on through the sexual lust in sex, etc.
Aren’t you Postulating a rather Radical Discontinuity between our Present Human Nature, and the Nature of Mankind at the Original Creation? In what sense are we still of the same human nature as Adam if our own biological and physical natures are formed in such a drastically different manner from that as the prelapsarian Adam?
Let us begin with a basic premise. Whether or not we believe in this “Just-So Story”, we accept that our present human nature is radically different from human nature which exists in the Original State. As long as we subscribe to some form of original sin, we necessarily believe in the corruption and change in not only human nature but the entire cosmos as well. Therefore the only question is that of degree of difference and not whether there is any difference or not.
Once we accept this premise, we need to ask ourselves then what does our “human nature” consists in? What is it that makes you, me and Adam human, of the same “human nature”? While this is a huge discussion in philosophical theories of universals (e.g. realists believe that there is a platonic form or universal property of “humanity” which everyone somehow “has”, while nominalists believe that there are many particular resembling things which we apply a common label “human” as a term to capture a range of resembling entities), it is not necessary for us to enter into it. It is sufficient merely to postulate that our present postlapsarian evolution formed human nature somehow resembles, or shares common characteristics and features with, Adam’s prelapsarian human nature without identifying the two, leaving a gap for God’s curse and corruption of human nature. It is this “resemblance” or “sharing common characteristics” which constitutes the continuity of our natures without needing for there to be a literal temporal lineage and continuity. Imagine if God, by a divine fiat, created one man in America and another in Australia at the same time, even though they would possess no temporal lineage or continuity with each other, yet they would both be still “human” because they possess the common characteristics and resemble each other.
Conclusion: Some Theological Implications
Admittedly, my theory that the Big Bang and Evolution is a postlapsarian curse upon mankind would imply an extremely high doctrine of Original Sin and the Fall. However one might feel about the extent of our Fall or corruption, what is essential is simply that there has been a radical alteration to both our human natures and creation by the divine curse, and my attempt to tie evolution, not as the process of which lead to the creation of the form of mankind but as its corruption, is an attempt to explain how our entire fallen physical being through and through, is the result of these “fallen” natural processes, and bears the marks of God’s curse and wrath inside out or as the Bethel Confessions put it, “human nature and our essence are completely corrupted.” Thus, this account postulates a truly radical distinction and difference between nature and mankind in Eden, and the cosmos and human nature postlapsarian as formed by Big Bang and Evolution, and since human nature is formed not as it “originally” is in God’s loving hands in Genesis 2:7, but via God’s cursed natural processes, thus truly we no longer image God or are “totally depraved”, and our entire being is shot through and through with God’s wrath and curse.
I guess my account would fit in nicely with those of Magisterial Protestant instincts, especially those theologies with a high doctrine of Total Depravity and the utter corruption of mankind and nature, etc, whereas those who have a slightly more romantic conception of human nature and ability would not really like this account. But as the Scriptures puts it, “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham” (Matthew 3:9), thus, no matter how radically fallen, alienated from God and unspiritual we are, yet we know that God’s love and power is greater than all the sin in the cosmos, and God can raise us up again as his children by the overwhelming power of the grace of Jesus Christ.
In any case, I believe that this account does successfully serve the purpose for which it was postulated, that is, reconcile a literal Genesis 1-3, historic Adam and Eve and fall event, with the Big Bang Theory and Evolution.