A new online article that I wrote on the topic of death in the Garden of Eden has now been posted to the website of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding.
Here is a summary of the article:
It has been a common (though not universal) assumption in the history of Christian thought that humans were created immortal, and only lost their immortality with the entrance of death as the consequence for sin. This is, however, a misreading of the biblical data, which suggests that humans were created mortal with the possibility of attaining eternal life—a possibility that was lost through sin and is now realized in Jesus Christ.
Were Humans Mortal before the Fall?
The article is published in an online journal of the Henry Center called Sapientia, in the Areopagite forum (the Aereopagus was the meeting place in Athens where Paul preached in Acts 17).
My piece is the first in a series of blog posts that were invited to respond to the question Were humans mortal before the fall? Each blog post will give a different author’s perspective on this issue.
The Creation Project
I’ve been involved for three years now with the Creation Project of the Henry Center, which has explored the themes of Reading Genesis (2016), the Doctrine of Creation (2017), and Theological Anthropology (2018).
Each summer (in June) the Creation Project has run a conference (called Dabar, Hebrew for “word”) on the topic for the year, held on the site of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, near Chicago.
At the first two Dabar conferences I gave paper responses, first to a paper on Genesis 1–11 (2016) and then to a paper on God as an Agent (2017).
Death, Immortality, and the Curse
This year (2018) I was invited to write a paper for the conference, which will have two respondents (one by a theologian, the other by a biblical scholar). I’ve been asked to give a brief response to my respondents.
My paper is entitled: “Death, Immortality, and the Curse: Interpreting Genesis 2–3 in the Context of the Biblical Worldview.”
It’s an expansion of the shorter Sapientia article, attempting to connect the discussion of death and mortality (from that article) with the broader “ecological” picture of how humans affect the non-human world for good or ill, which is first articulated by the “curse” on the ground because of human sin (Genesis 3:17).
The shorter article, entitled “Humans Created Mortal, with the Possibility of Eternal Life,” is available online.
My Ambiguous Relationship with Carl Henry
For those interested, you can check out the blog post I wrote in anticipation of attending the first Dabar conference (2016), where I recounted my initial (unpleasant) encounter with Carl Henry over twenty years before.
Luckily, my experience with the Henry Center has been much more positive than that early encounter. In my evaluation of the 2016 conference, I wrote:
“I found the atmosphere of the Dabar conference to be collegial and open. While the presenters, respondents, and other participants did not agree on everything, there was a welcoming hospitality between everyone, regardless of viewpoint.”
I later recounted my experience of the second Dabar conference (2017), where I was a respondent to philosopher Billy Abraham.
I’m very much looking forward to this year’s conference.