A New Creation: Restored or Renewed?
Are we restored back to Adam as a prior creation, or are we transformed into Christ as a new creation?
Relationship with God
There are a number of recently published lines of thinking that suggest that God desires His creation to be in relationship with him. These are not totally new ideas, since there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9). However, ideas and concepts cycle in and out of favorable consideration and discussion, but with each cycle of a previous concept, the informational environment has changed. An idea that someone might have had years ago can now considered in the context of discoveries or advances in thinking made since that time. The idea make look different in a new context. The idea may be like a red flower that was seen yesterday in a blue light against a pink background, but appears different today in white light against a black background. The concept is seen “in a new light.”
So, the idea that we have fellowship with God is not a new one. What might be new, however, is realizing what that means for our lives and how it applies to what we are supposed to be doing on this earth.
Daniel M. Harrell published a book in 2008 titled, “Nature’s Witness: How Evolution Can Inspire Faith.” This book has been reviewed in a series of posts on Jesus Creed website, one of which is “Being Drawn Toward the Future, “ written by an academic scientist using the initials, “RJS.”
In this post, RJS gives some quotes from Harrell’s book:
Evolution has a forward-facing orientation, propelled by the bang of energy that blasts it into motion from the beginning. However, theology that pairs with evolution works better, not by likewise looking for its energy from the past but by fulfilling its promises with energy from a definite future.
It’s as if redemption was the purpose from the beginning. It’s as if creation is being pulled, called toward that day when all things will become radically new in Christ. If perfection never was and is “not-yet,” the appearance of evil and suffering (including the suffering and struggle depicted by Darwinian science) is no longer inconceivable. That the serpent got into the garden may suggest that everything was not yet right with the world, even before everything went wrong. (Harrell, p. 118)
Eternal life is not about living forever on this planet. It’s about a relationship with God that transcends this world into new creation. (Harrell, p. 113)
And, in the post, RJS, herself, says:
Being drawn toward the future rather than wandering along from the past, God’s plan takes shape.
Once again relationship is the key. God is intrinsically relational and creation is an outpouring of that relationship.
This book by Harrell and these posts by RJS go closely along the same lines that are being proposed on this web site, and the companion site, that the fundamental unifying law of the universe is that we were created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Everything from before the big bang until eternity points to that goal. That is the reason the universe was created; that is the reason mankind was created; that is the reason history developed as it did. That is the reason Jesus came to earth and died when He did and why the Holy Spirit came out of heaven on Pentecost. That is our purpose; that is the purpose of the church; that is the purpose of life. It all points upward in spatial direction and faces forward to the future in time — all toward growing to be like God in this life to prepare for fellowship with Him in eternity. That is the prime directive for the church– to promote that growth in everyone so the body can grow up into the Head. Elevate that mandate to its appropriate place, and everything else becomes secondary. If anything else in a person’s life, or in the church, becomes of greater functional importance, it is idolatry — don’t sugar coat it and call it “modern” or “alternate” or “progressive” or “tolerant” or “fundamental” or “doctrine” or “missional” or anything else. Either our actions make us more like God, or we fall short of that, which is sin — pure and simple.
But this view for the future, by taking precedence over anything else, raises several questions that necessitate a reevaluation of some of our traditional thinking about certain biblical interpretations about the creation, the Garden of Eden, Adam, the serpent, sin, death, and the foreordination of God’s plan.
Back to Adam or forward in Christ?
Other posts (on other web sites) have addressed Paul’s comparison of Adam and Christ, considering whether Christ should be interpreted in the light of Adam or Adam is to be interpreted in the light of Christ. Scot McKnight has a post, “Adam and Christ, where do we begin?” in which he quotes J. Daniel Kirk of Fuller Theological Seminary. “… the cross and resurrection formed the saving act of God … by which all other acts are understood.” …we can now recognize that Adam is not the foundation on which the system of Christian faith and life is built, such that removing him means that the whole edifice comes crashing down. Instead, the Adam of the past is one spire in a large edifice whose foundation is Christ.”
How significant is Adam to the Unified Law of the universe — created to be like God?
Does the imputed righteousness, granted to us by God through Jesus Christ, restore us to the state of fellowship with God that Adam had before he sinned? (Is this even a legitimate question to ask, or is the question already invalidated by the prior assumptions that have been made?)
Was the plan for Jesus Christ to atone for sin made after Adam had sinned, as if the serpent had messed up God’s perfect creation, so God had to scratch up a fix for the program, or was this the plan before the world was created?
Considering this question in two parts.
Did Jesus exist before the creation of the world? (bold added)
Jesus was the Logos who was with God and was God in the beginning. Everything was made through Him. (John 1:1-4)
John 17:4-5 “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
John 17:24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”
(Col. 1:15-17) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers of authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
(Jude 1:25) to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
Therefore, Jesus Christ not only existed before the creation of the world, but the world was created by, through, and for Him.
Did God’s plan of redemption through Christ exist before the creation of the world?
In the prayer of the assembled church in Acts 4:23-31, the Roman and Jewish leaders conspired against Jesus according to a previous plan — both prophesied and traceable back to creation.
Acts 4:28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
(1 Cor 2:7) We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
(Eph. 1:4) 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 to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.
(Eph. 1:11) In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.
(Eph 2:10) For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
(2 Tim. 1:8-10) But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
(Rev. 13:8) all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world (or, written from the creation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain).
Therefore, it seems clear that God’s plan for us to be holy and blameless was made and predestined before the world was created. The world was created as a part of that plan. Yet the plan was held a mystery until it was revealed through the earthly presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the fulfillment of the Promise of the Father. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, the sins accumulated in our human nature, because of not measuring up to the perfection of God. are continually forgiven so that we can be free to be transformed into the likeness of God instead of falling backwards in a cycle of physical entropy.
Why would this grace have been given us before the beginning of time if there were no sin in existence before “the fall” of Adam and Eve? If sin was not a part of the foreordained plan for redemption, what would be the definition of grace? If sin existed before Adam was created, then it would seem inevitable that Adam would sin — because the answer to that problem already existed before time began.
We look at creation and the Garden of Eden and “the fall” and the first sin as historical events, and, in a sense, they are, but the consequences of these events looks forward. All of the events post-Garden are developments in the forward movement of the implementation of God’s plan before time began. Sin and death are present (depending on how the words are defined), but they will be overcome when the mystery of the predestined plan is revealed through Christ.
The plan has been revealed, the time has come, and we are in that age. We must long to look forward, with eyes on Jesus, not backward consumed by theories about Adam and the Garden. We do not compare ourselves to Adam; we do not compare ourselves to one another; we compare ourselves only to the Lord Jesus Christ, who fills everything in every way.
This thought is encapsulated in 1 Peter 1:19-23
(1 Pet 1:19-23) but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincerely love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
Jesus was chosen before the creation of the world to be the perfect sacrificial atonement for our sins, but the completed plan was not revealed until the creation had sufficiently developed through the phases of physical and social evolution. Our faith and hope are in God, because in the last age, the phase of spiritual evolution, we are transformed into the likeness of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are transformed as we take on the character of Jesus Christ in showing the love of God to one another. The more we act like Jesus, the more we take on the character of Jesus. We are transformed into the likeness of God because we have been born again, out of above, baptized within the Holy Spirit, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, the imperishable DNA, the holy genes of God. By spiritual metamorphosis, the genes of God within us are expressed into the spiritual phenotype of Jesus Christ. This plan was brought into the final revelation by Jesus Christ; the final phase began on Pentecost.
Therefore, we look forward, not backward. We march forward, not fall back. God’s plan has been revealed through Jesus Christ, but the complete revelation of the plan does not mean we have completely implemented that plan and discovered all the revelation of God. The revelation of the plan to become like God is God’s part; the search for God’s complete revelation of Himself is our part. We can’t actively search and find God and run in circles at the same time, chasing someone else’s ideas on buildings, budgets, and attendance, or comparing our doctrine to someone else’s.
If the plan for reconciliation and redemption through Christ, and the promise for His Spirit to dwell in our hearts was committed in the mind of God before the creation of the world, then the plan must have existed before the first sin took place. Either God had the plan available “just in case” sin happened and messed everything up, or else God knew sin was inevitable, and the existence of sin and the plan of what to do about sin was all predestined before the creation of the world.
It follows that the entire plan of animal sacrifices under the Old Law and the development of the religious system along with the social system of the Jewish nation was planned before the beginning of the world, and when the exact and perfect time had come — when everything had developed exactly as planned — Jesus came into the world to complete that part of the plan and bring it to a close, allowing the next and final plan on the day of Pentecost to begin.
Sin (or physical nature), therefore, existed before Adam.
That necessitates asking the question, “What is sin?” — Do rocks, plants, and animals “sin?” Did Neanderthals “sin?” Do Christians “sin?” Does the church, the body of Christ on earth, “sin?” Are these questions worthwhile to even ask, or do they get us off track from the forward trajectory that we are supposed to be traveling?
Sin is the difference in thought and action that is derived from the physically created nature and the perfect righteousness and holiness of God. But it takes a certain level of physical development before there can be any self-realization of a God-like potential. Animals mature in their physical development and their mental and bodily characteristics change during their lifetime, but each animal type reaches a maximum thinking ability based on the size and neuronal connectivity of its nervous system, particularly its brain, particularly its cerebral cortex. During the creation process, this complexity of development, represented by the brain, increased going up the phylogenetic scale (or evolutionary development, or created sequence, doesn’t matter at this point) until a physical animal existed that could understand moral behavior and could understand the thinking processes required to determine right actions from wrong actions. These actions were defined by God, and the definition of right and wrong and the consequences of choice were understood more clearly as physical and social evolution continued.
An entity (as in a person) is responsible for what the care capable of knowing and understanding. Adam represents the physical characterization of man, who had sufficient mental development to understand right from wrong and to make appropriate decisions — in Adam’s and Eve’s case, whether or not to choose to be obedient to God’s command. Adam had developed sufficiently physically that he could understand that he was the representative of God on earth and that he was created to be the image of God on earth. The earth, and everything else in it, was in submission to man, and man was to be in submission to God.
As depicted in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had fellowship with God in that they shared the physical creation together. But Adam and Eve were able to make decisions between right and wrong, between obedience to God or not. They were able to reason and consider and evaluate the evidence. But they did this when God was not present, and all they had to use was the physical development of their minds — the flesh. The flesh cannot make decisions that will please God; the natural flesh is predestined to fail — and Adam and Eve demonstrated that. The tree of knowledge of good and evil must have symbolized the development of additional mental ability to predict the consequences of actions and their effect on other people. But they already demonstrated they were capable of making rebellious choices. Having the knowledge of good and evil didn’t mean they would always choose the good. After all, they already had a track record of making the wrong choice. Considering this, they were not yet ready to receive God’s Spirit of truth and enter into the plan to become like God in true righteousness and holiness in preparation for eternity. So they were prohibited from eating of the tree of life.
Subsequent development of humans and the human race physically, mentally, and spiritually occurred until the time was reached for Christ to come into the world. This gets into another discussion, and we will have to keep focus on Adam and our present questions.
Jesus Christ and the plan for salvation, redemption, reconciliation, forgiveness of sin, and becoming like God all existed before the creation of the world. The world was created to bring the plan to God into operation. This took three phases of development, or evolution — physical evolution, social and religious evolution, and spiritual evolution. We are in the third age. Many of those in the Old Testament times knew that something was coming in the future according to the prophecies inspired by God, and they longed to know what it was.
Did sin “enter the world” through Adam?
The capacity to do wrong (sin) must have existed before Adam because the plan of forgiveness existed before Adam. Perhaps a certain amount of physical development had to occur before a created being could be held accountable by God for their choices and actions. Adam (whether one mankind, mankind at one particular time, or literally one actual single man) was the first recorded instance of any part of God’s creation who had the capacity to choose obey God, but instead chose to do wrong in disobedience to God’s command, and to be held accountable for it. Adam and Eve knew of the goodness of God’s creation; they knew of the fellowship and interaction with God; they knew, understood, and could accurate repeat God’s command. However, upon consideration using their brain and their human nature, they chose to follow their human nature instead of God’s nature. The difference between their action and the righteousness of God was sin.
Consider the sequence of the creation of man and of the responsibilities given to man.
Made in God’s image.
God said He would make Adam (and Eve) in His image (“in our image, in our likeness” Gen. 1:26); and God did so in Gen. 1:27. Much speculation has been made over what it means to “be in the image, or likeness, of God,” including cranial volume, number of brain cerebral sulci, mental abilities, conscience, ability to create, ability to communicate, social skills, altruism, religious searching, etc. The problem with defining God’s image in terms of physical or mental substrates such as these opens the origin of man to experiments on communication between monkeys, socialization and altruistic behavior in lower primates, and questionably religious etchings on cave walls with some holy pebbles in the hand of a skeletal find. Creationists (not YEC who are in their own group) want to deny any correlation between hominid-types dated a million years ago, but favor possible correlations between, for example, Cro-Magnon Man and a yearning for a deity and an after-life. These may be interesting academic questions, but they bear little relevance to our being transformed into the likeness of God as revealed by Jesus Christ, not by Adam.
A better view of the Genesis 1-3 “created in the image of God” is that the creation story represents God forming the world as His temple, and He assigns man to be His representative to the earth, serving as a priest in the temple of creation. Man is God’s image to the rest of creation. When along the evolution of humankind did this occur? Whenever God saw that there was sufficient physical development of a hominid who could be called “human” (Adam), who could receive the “breath of life,” and who could handle the chores of being in charge of the temple.
[Anyone, please feel free to wear yourself out determining the day and hour when God made that decision. I sure it happened sometime in history, but my theology doesn't depend on that answer. I am looking forward to the day and hour when I can be further transformed into the character of Jesus Christ. We were created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.]
Caretaker for the earth
Adam and Eve were given responsibilities on the earth that were consistent with the role of a priestly caretaker — fill the earth and subdue it, rule over .. every living creature (Gen. 1:28), to work in the Garden and take care of it (Gen. 2:15). God assigned Adam authority over the animals, symbolized by the Adam naming the “beast of the field and birds of the air.” To try and interpret this literally gets things pretty tangled. What about the fish; did they float by? What about amphibians and reptiles? Are they “beasts of the field?” Did the snake slither by Adam? What name did Adam give the serpent? On and on.
Adam had the physical ability to hear God (or hear from God) and understand what he was to do. He (and Eve) could carry out these responsibilities. Adam was the official designated representative of God’s authority and God’s custodian over the earth. There is no indication that Adam or Eve had any problem handling these assignments. They had fellowship with God as they shared the creation, the Garden of Eden. God was depicted as visiting the Garden whenever He wanted to, and He expected everything to be ship-shape. And it was, until that sneaky serpent had to go and mess things up.
The serpent represented an external appeal to the sinful nature of Eve, and then Adam. The serpent represented an evil influence which appealed to the natural creation, the flesh of man. That physical nature came with creation — it came through human evolution. God said the creation was “very good” after the 6th day (Gen, 1:31); God didn’t say the physical creation was “perfect.” If it were perfect, would it have needed a caretaker? It had a priestly caretaker, but the physical caretaker wasn’t perfect either.
Adam: A priest operating from out of the human nature
Adam and Eve had the authority of choice with an ability to understand the nature of the different options and the consequences that followed their choice. They had the ability to think and to evaluate and to provide an ability to make a logical decision. But it was in the physical; it was from human nature. When the human nature was stroked by the serpent, selfishness, desire, and pride took the throne instead of God, and Adam and Eve made the wrong choice to disobey God. This is represented as the first sin or the first wrong choice with a consequence — including an eternal consequence. Faulty sinful caretakers could not operate in God’s image — as priests with the authority of God. So Adam and Eve had to hit the road. Since they were operating in the natural, they would have to join the natural creation in travail and death — essentially being subject to the same laws of thermodynamics as everything else.
Adam and Eve demonstrated the necessity of the plan of God through Jesus Christ. They showed that man could never become like God by human effort alone — that was destined for failure. The flesh could never be good enough.
Sin was defined further when the Law of Moses was given, because people had developed physically, mentally, and spiritually enough to understand specific laws and commands given by God in writing. Laws were given along with blessings for obedience and consequences for disobedience. But, again, the attempt to perfectly obey the laws was futile, because the power to do that was not from out of the flesh. The emphasis of the Old Law was on the sin — the Law was the definition of righteousness but also the assurance of human failure.
Post-Christ does not = pre-Adam; through Christ we are >>>> pre-Adam
The entire system was changed by Jesus Christ. It was like creation occurred all over again, but this time, the sin was removed and the emphasis was not on condemnation, but on becoming like God. A new creation — which will have to be picked up in another post, because we still have a question to address.
Our being born again as a new creation does not restore us to a pre-Adam condition. We live in the third age of evolution – of having the genes of God within us being transformed into the characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ. Adam and “the fall” demonstrated the need for the rest of the cosmic plan of God, the eternal design, the implementation of the Unified Law of the universe, formed before the world was created. We are reconciled to God and can become like God in a way that Adam could never do. Adam had God with him; we have God within us. We do not look backward to a pre-Adam state; we look forward to being like God which is our future and which all of creation is groaning to see. The creation was groaning before Adam, during Adam, and after Adam. God’s people were groaning also. Now, the Holy Spirit does the groaning for us (Rom 8:), and we keep our eyes on Jesus and stretch forward toward the goal of the high calling (Phil. 3:) of the true righteousness and holiness of God (Eph. 4:24).
So, what does that mean for the theology of “the fall?”
“The fall” from what? What was Adam’s state with God? It’s possible that Adam had God’s spiritual genes in him, but got them taken away when he and Eve left the Garden. Or, maybe God just repressed His genes until Jesus opened the way for the Holy Spirit to come and de-repress the genes of God so the character of Christ could be expressed. Before Christ the character and model of God had not been revealed. So, what is “the fall?”
Maybe it wasn’t a “fall” from anything. Maybe the Adam story represents a straight line continuation of the evolution of the plan of God, showing that physical evolution was not enough to make a created being who could be like God and who could have eternal fellowship with God. The theology of “a fall” goes along with our being reinstated to a “pre-Adam,” “pre-sin,” “pre-separation from God state,” as though perfection existed on the earth until Adam and Eve messed it up and let the sinful nature out of the bag in with that snake. That view is looking at the plan of God and Genesis 1-3 from a limited retrograde human perspective, as though time extends backward and forward from where we are now, and the significance of all events are determined by us.
People who study the physical universe are ahead of theologians on that one. Cosmologists can go describe the physical evolution of the universe in terms of a continual process. The earth and we are a part of that process. The universe doesn’t revolve around us. Well, just may Adam doesn’t revolve around us, either. Maybe Adam is part of a continuum of God’s plan, designed before time began, that involves and integrates all processes in the physical and spiritual realms — all things in heaven and earth, in the earth, on the earth, under the earth, above the earth – the creation story and Adam and Eve and the Garden do not represent a “fall” from anything — they didn’t have anything to “fall” from — they were a straight line data point in a continuum of eternity, a segment of which was physically placed into this universe as the “big bang,” with a design of phases of changes — each overriding over the other. Physical evolution, social evolution, /[Jesus]/, spiritual evolution — all pointed to the over plan of God that we could grow to be like Him. THAT is what should concern us. The only glitch in the straight line of the design implementation through the eons of time was when Jesus came and changed everything. That was a big bump, but it was not a “fall” down, but a “spring up” for us, because on the Day of Pentecost Jesus brought in the third phase of God’s plan — spiritual evolution — to be like Him.
Theology that is based on looking back to recovering from “a fall” would seem to be very incomplete; it does not focus on looking forward to becoming like God. That is one reason why our rate of progress in the church of growing into the fullness of the Lord Jesus Christ is too slow. We are too busy arguing over “original sin” and “saved by grace” and “the fall of mankind” and “once bailed out of the consequences of ‘the fall’, always bailed out,” a literal Adam or not, and “young earth or old earth.” As a result the handbasket of the world is traveling south at a faster rate than the church is growing into Christ, and we are going to get dragged down into a negative turn. It is already happening. Why does it take the latest poll or survey to tell us that?
If there is “a fall,” it describes the church. The church today is in “a fall.” It is abusing the grace of God to feel free to divide and compete within the body. Parts of the body defend their pet interpretations instead of growing to be like God. The church today loves the new buzzword, “missional,” when the church, itself, has lost its own mission.
Physical creation was “very good,” but “perfection” comes through Christ. We look forward to becoming like Christ, not backward to a “pre-fallen” Adam.
There are other discussions regarding Adam and evolution, a topic discussed by Peter Enns, in books and in a post.
Perhaps the church needs to have its theology updated. Maybe there’s an app for that. And it’s already been bought and paid for. It’s called “i-Christ-in-me.”
We need to remove that app called “i-Adam” from our tablets of gorilla glass. That app conflicts with the proper function of the device.
These are attempts to conceptualize the ideas presented above within the organization of a diagram. No method of communication is perfect, and these diagrams are no exception.
The first diagram reflects the idea of “the fall” and the idea that through Christ somehow one is reverted back to the perfect state before Adam. This interpretation assumes that the Garden of Eden was supposed to represent a perfect fellowship between man and God.
Rather than the interpretation given in the first diagram, we are suggesting that the happenings in the Garden represent the documentation that man cannot become like God out of man’s physical human nature alone.
The end of the Garden experience started the beginning of the development of social and religious organization of humankind. This reached its fulfillment (fullness of time) and Jesus came to earth and demonstrated that human attempts at religious, social, and political organizations could not transform into the likeness of God. Jesus died to put those systems away, made us free from sin, and ushered in the third age of evolution, the spiritual transformation by the Holy Spirit, expressing the genes of God given as the gift of the Holy Spirit into the characteristics of Jesus Christ.
The Day of Pentecost started the last earthly phase, and, in a sense, it has been “the end times” ever since. Now we hold the responsibility to choose to be transformed to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Adam failed the spiritual inventory at the end of the first phase (physical evolution alone); Abel was killed by a sinful act; the second age began. The Jews failed the spiritual inventory at the end of the second phase (physical evolution overlaid by social evolution); Jesus was killed by sinful men; the third age began. The third age ends at the “second coming of Christ,” at which time the spiritual inventory will again be taken; the criteria for that inventory are given in scripture.