Death and the Curse in the Garden of Eden—and Beyond

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.

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How Should We Read Genesis 1?

On this coming Thursday, February 8, at 8:00 pm, I’ll be giving a talk in Buffalo, NY on how best to read Genesis 1 in a contested cultural context.

The full title of the talk is: “In the Beginning God Created the Heavens and the Earth: Responsible Interpretation of Genesis 1 in Ancient and Contemporary Contexts.”

Many Christians today try to make this ancient text, which describes God’s creation of the cosmos, fit with modern assumptions. The main assumption that modern people bring to Genesis 1, which distorts what it is actually saying, is that this creation account must be coordinated with what we think science teaches us about the world.

For some, this means rejecting any aspects of modern science that don’t seem to match the text (the typical view of young earth creationists). For others, it means rejecting Genesis 1 because it clearly doesn’t match modern science (the view of many skeptics).

The trouble is that Genesis 1 is an ancient text that has no interest in addressing modern science at all. It has an entirely different focus.

In my talk, I will be taking participants on a journey of understanding, to see what this ancient text was saying to its original audience, and how its amazing message can impact us today (even in a modern scientific world).

The talk is being held as part of the Nickel City Forum, sponsored by Anglicans of Western New York. which hosts various events, including a series of talks typically given in pubs and open to the public.

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This talk will be held at The Place, on 229 Lexington Ave, Buffalo, New York 14222. For more information about the event, including how to register and get tickets, click here.

How Long Are the Days of Genesis 1?

The Days of Genesis 1

I recently contributed to the revision of a BioLogos article on how we should interpret the “days” of Genesis 1.

“How Long Are the Days of Genesis 1?” is one of a number of articles on the BioLogos website that address Common Questions people have raised.

This article was originally drafted by Tremper Longman III and was edited with input from John H. Walton and myself.

You can read the article online here or (if you prefer) you can download a PDF here.

Genesis 1 and 2

A little under two weeks ago, I mentioned my previous BioLogos article (“What Is the Relationship between the Creation Accounts in Genesis 1 and 2?”), which had just been published.

You can download a PDF of that article here. Or you can read the article (along with comments from readers, and my subsequent responses) here.

Humans Created Mortal

Stay tuned for another online article in the journal Sapientia, where I will address the question of whether humans were mortal before the Fall.