No Backdated Punishment in Eden
by James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D. *
At the end of Day Six, God said all was “very good” (Genesis 1:31), which means no death existed on earth because death is not good (Romans 8:20-22, 1 Corinthians 15). No animals died or were eaten before Adam sinned (Genesis 1:29-30, 9:1-4). Likewise, the Bible doesn’t mention the existence, much less the death, of any pre-Adamite subhuman primates before Adam sinned.1
Adam’s sin triggered the curse of death, fulfilling God’s warning (Romans 5:12-21). Only then did Adam experience the death that God had warned about. But dying was not limited to Adam! The animals under his authority (Genesis 1:26-31, Psalm 8) also became cursed with death (Genesis 3:17-19, Romans 8:20-22).
Theistic evolutionists argue that animal death existed before Adam sinned, alleging that because God foreknew Adam’s sin, He justly imposed death on creation before Adam actually sinned (retroactive punishment).1 Yet the Bible never says that God punished Adam or animals before Adam sinned—to do so would be unjust. To punish a bad choice in advance would negate the decision as a true test of faith and loyalty.
Consider how people are tested by their choices.2 Joseph tested his brothers (Genesis 42-44), not revealing himself until after they made character-revealing choices. Daniel’s three friends were also tested (Daniel 3), yet they could not foreknow whether their godly choices would be rewarded with miraculous deliverance or agonizing martyrdom.
So why do theistic evolutionists teach death before Adam’s sin? They reject the authoritative truth of Genesis and Romans in order to accommodate evolutionary teachings (e.g., eons of death before Adam sinned).3
But the Lord Jesus Christ did not accommodate false teachings when He physically walked this earth. Rather, He healed the blind on the Sabbath (see John 9) to prove that the Pharisees taught bad theology.
Why does it matter? The New Testament directly links sin’s cause and its cure by tying the gospel of salvation to Adam’s sin (Romans 5, 1 Corinthians 15). Paul’s definition of the gospel of Christ contextualizes the gospel as being “according to the [Old Testament] scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The gospel depends on the Old Testament being true!
Indeed, the Old Testament is authoritatively relevant, true, and perfect—every “jot and tittle” (Matthew 5:18) of it. Christ Himself said that Moses would judge people after they die according to whether they believed the words of Moses (John 5:45-47).
If the books of Moses, which include Genesis, were authoritatively good enough for the Lord Jesus (Matthew 24:35, John 17:17)—and they were—they are authoritatively good enough for us. What we believe about death being the consequence of Adam’s sin in Eden is a test of our own loyalty to God.
- Some theistic evolutionists imagine eons of time, with animals and pre-Adamite subhumans dying, before Adam sinned. All of these are imaginary concepts accommodating secularists’ evolutionary dogmas that clash with Genesis. See Dembski, W. 2009. The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Academic, 77, 154-155; Dembski, W. 2011. Christian Theodicy in Light of Genesis and Modern Science. In Ham, K. and G. Hall, eds. Already Compromised. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 173-174, 202.
- Consider the amazing testing of Job’s faith in God. Job praised God throughout his undeserved suffering (James 5:11, 1 Peter 4:19), yet he did not foreknow how his suffering would end. Likewise, because God wanted to truly test Adam’s character (as He later tested Job), God did not reveal the consequence of Adam’s sin visibly until Adam actually made his historic choice. Only then did the horrible reality called “death” arrive on earth.
- Johnson, J. J. S. 2011. Biblical Devastation in the Wake of a “Tranquil Flood.” Acts & Facts. 40 (9): 8-10; Johnson, J. J. S. 2011. Culpable Passivity: The Failure of Going with the Flow. Acts & Facts. 40 (7): 8-10. This controversy challenges Genesis’s perfect authenticity, accuracy, authority, understandability, and authoritative relevance. See also Cooper, W. R. 2011. The Authenticity of Genesis. Portsmouth, UK: Creation Science Movement, 7-27, 33-99, 109-130, 162-359, 369-405.
* Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Johnson, J. J. S. 2013. No Backdated Punishment in Eden. Acts & Facts. 42 (1): 10.