Genesis 3 tells a story of disobedience and consequences for that disobedience, but we must not lose sight of the fact that the snake was in the garden. If the snake is identified with Satan, as later Christian tradition holds, there was a cosmic spiritual battle underway before humankind ever came on the scene. The Bible does not actually give us much insight into the origins of this conflict. Mark Whorton in Peril in Paradise follows the tradition that Satan rebelled before the world was created, quoting John 8:44 where Jesus remarks that the devil was a murderer from the beginning and 1 John 3:8 “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” According to Whorton “If the devil sinned from the beginning, then the fall of Satan occurred before the beginning and not some time after creation was declared very good.” (p. 48)
This gives us two reasons to discount the Perfect Paradise Paradigm.
First and foremost, God’s unchanging, eternal purpose and plan for creation was fixed before He created the physical realm. Second … Evil was present in the garden even before the forbidden fruit was eaten. Since it was Satan who first rebelled, Adam cannot be solely culpable for the introduction of all evil and suffering into God’s perfect creation. (p. 49)
Christ as both creator and redeemer intensifies the first reason. Paul, for example, portrays Christ as our redeemer from before creation.
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Eph. 1:4-6
Whorton points out that “The Creator’s gaze was not fixed on Eden.” (p. 50) In fact Paul continues in his letter to the Ephesians to tell how God’s plan was “to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (Eph 1:10)
In the great Christological hymn in Colossians 1:15-20 Paul writes of Christ as both creator and redeemer.
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities … For God was pleased … through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
And Christ as creator and redeemer is not limited to humankind or to this world. Whorton comments:
Note the cosmic scope of Christ’s mission. His work addresses human and spirit realms, as well as the past, present, and future. This pleases the Father for a reason – Christ accomplishes the Father’s eternal purpose by coming “to have first place in everything.” (p. 51)
More importantly these passages, along with the rest of the New Testament, and especially Revelation, point us toward a realization that “God never intended for man to spend eternity in His presence without the enabling intercessory work of Christ.” (p. 54)
In the Perfect Paradise Paradigm of young earth creationism God’s ideal intention was realized in Eden until Adam and Eve rebelled.
If Edenic conditions prevailed, then there would be no sin to separate the Holy One from His image-bearers. This implies that it was God’s highest preference for there to be no need of or place for a Redeemer. As a consequence, the Perfect Paradise Paradigm implies that the Father’s ultimate intent for Christ was solely as Creator and only in recourse as Redeemer. The redemptive work of Christ was “Plan B” if Edenic perfection was “Plan A.” (p. 53)
This simply doesn’t seem to be a consistent reading of Paul or of the rest of the New Testament. Christ is “the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8)
Whorton concludes this chapter:
The drama of creation was completely written before the stage was even set. Before the beginning of creation, God had an end in view. Creation’s story will end according to the Master’s plan at the final consummation when all enemies will be subjected under the feet of Christ, the kingdom will be handed over to the Father, and God will reign as all in all for eternity. When the drama of all time comes to an end and the closing credits roll, all of creation will see the glory of the Creator. (p. 63-64)
This is God’s perfect plan for his perfect purpose.
But what is the purpose of creation? Whorton emphasizes that “the Creator’s ultimate purpose for His creation is to bring Himself glory,” even calling this “a bedrock truth of the Christian faith.” (p. 65) In the next chapter of his book Whorton digs into this more deeply, but I am left unsure of exactly what this means. Ezekiel (a reference Whorton does not mention) talks quite a bit about the glory of the Lord. The glory of the Lord is, it seems, the presence of the Lord. At the end of the book Ezekiel sees the glory of God filling the temple once again. However we understand the glory of the Lord, it seems clear that the culmination of God’s plan involves all of creation seeing the glory of God.
However we understand the purpose of Creation (or allow it to remain a mystery) it is also clear that God can and does use pain and suffering to achieve the desired ends. The people of Israel were shaped through the Egyptian captivity and the Exodus.Why was Joseph sent to Egypt? Surely not to save Israel from famine. God could have prevented the famine from the very beginning! The image is God as a potter shaping the necessary vessels (Isaiah and Romans). God permitted the fall of Satan (or at least permitted the presence of evil in the garden). He permitted the fall of Adam. He used crucifixion as a tool in the redemption of the world. If Christ as redeemer is plan B, then crucifixion also is plan A. Whorton suggests that God does use these events to achieve his ultimate goals. “The eternal plan of God has always and unchangingly been to permit and use suffering for a time to accomplish His eternal goals. Suffering is an undeniable, although temporary, part of His “very good” creation through which he is bringing His plan to fruition.” (p. 79)
The age of the earth is unimportant. A key point here is that the Perfect Purpose Paradigm says nothing about the age of the earth. It could be young or old and still be part of God’s perfect plan to achieve his eternal and cosmic purpose. It really doesn’t make any difference if the earth is 4.5 billion years or 6000 years old. God is still God. His purposes are eternal and unchanged. We have to reach our conclusions concerning the age of the earth on other grounds.
Does fidelity to Scripture as the Word of God require a young earth? … Not unless it also requires a flat earth, an earth-centered cosmos, storehouses of snow and hail, and a solid vault separating the earth from the waters above. The Bible uses a variety of genres and images to convey the intended message. The truth of the message doesn’t require a woodenly literal interpretation of these images.
We are free to follow the science and see the earth as a sphere-like object in space orbiting the sun accompanied by other planets also orbiting the sun. We are free to follow the science and see the earth as 4.5 billion years old and the age of the universe as 13.8 billion years.
What does it mean to claim Christ as both creator and redeemer from the creation of the world? Is this true?
Can God use suffering to accomplish his plan? Is this only an option after the Fall? If so why?
If God can’t use pain and suffering, doesn’t this imply that neither the fall of Satan nor the fall of Adam and Eve were part of plan A and we live in plan B?
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