googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Nor thorns infest the ground

Monday, December 28, 2009

Nor thorns infest the ground

As I discussed in some previous posts, I really enjoy listening to Christ-centered Christmas music. An oldie but goodie is the classic hymn, “Joy to the World.” It’s one of my favorites but I admit my ignorance when, while watching the video on YouTube, I heard the following stanza:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

As often as I’ve heard that song, I can’t remember ever hearing that stanza. It’s a wonderful bit of doctrine. This song was written in 1719 by Isaac Watts – long before the influence of Lyell or Darwin. During Watts’ time, the overwhelming majority of Christians were (what would now be called) young-earth creationists. It was not until the 19th century that Christians began to allow the ideas of secular science to influence our understanding of Scripture. It was then that many Christians began adding millions of years to Genesis.

From a purely doctrinal perspective, one problem with on old earth is that of theodicy. Nearly any belief in an old earth necessarily involves the idea that God created death, disease, pain, and suffering before the Sin and Fall of Adam. An old earth would be what called “very good” in Genesis 1:31. It’s hard to imagine why a benevolent, sovereign God would spend billions of years creating a world full of cancer, carnivory, and carnage when His objective is to create a “very good” paradise for man to possess.

The Bible is clear that the original creation was perfect. There was no death before Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12). Thorns, for example, are the result of God’s curse on the creation (Genesis 3:17-19) – not an intentional adornment in God’s plan to build a “very good” creation.

There will come a day when God will create a new heaven and earth. Revelation 22:3 says there will be “no more curse” in that day. Isaiah 11 describes a world where the “wolf will lay down with the lamb” and where the “lion shall eat straw like an ox.” This harkens back to the perfect creation described in Genesis 1:29-30 when animals did not eat each other but all were herbivorous.

I sometimes wonder what “no more curse” means to those Christians who ascribe an old age to the creation. To what will the creation be restored? Do they believe it will simply revert back to death and bloodshed that supposedly prevailed for billions of years before Adam? That is not a paradise worth looking forward to.


Steven J. said...

Christians seem to have been allowing the ideas of secular science to influence their interpretation of scripture before there strictly was such a thing as science. We know, from writings of early Christians, that by the fourth century AD, most Christians accepted that the world was a sphere. We also know, from earlier writings, that first-century Jews (e.g. the authors of the Book of Enoch, Flavius Josephus) thought that the Earth was a flat disk surmounted by the solid dome of the sky. Even in the fourth century, a few Christians (e.g. Lactantius Firmianus) defended this view. A thousand years later, Martin Luther and John Calvin both opposed the Copernican, heliocentric view as anti-biblical, but a century or two laters, their heirs had no problem with the idea; biblical references to the fixed Earth and to the sun's motion across the sky were viewed figuratively, like references to the windows of heaven in a sky like a giant tent.

It is, to be sure, hard to understand why a God Who opposed suffering and carnivory would permit millions of centuries of it. On the other hand, it's not entirely clear why a God Who opposed punishing offspring for the sins of their parents should punish the entire sentient creation with predation and parasitism for the sins of two human individuals -- or why a God Who wished all humans to love Him and be saved would make a fallen nature inheritable. It's not clear to me that young-earth creationism avoids the problem so much as simply displaces it.

RKBentley said...


Thanks for visiting my blog. I appreciate your comments. To your first point, many modern sciences were founded by Christians who saw no competition between Scriptures and science. Newton, for example, said, “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being.” Newton’s creationist beliefs did not diminish his contributions to science.

You are correct, though, that Christians have, from time to time, allowed popular opinion to influence their understanding of the Bible. This was the mistake of the Church in Galileo’s time; they believed the centuries old Ptolemaic model of the universe was “compatible” with Scriptures. Many Christians today believe evolution is “compatible” with Genesis. Both are wrong. The Scriptures should tell us what they mean and not vice versa. This practice of wedding Scripture with popular opinion is dangerous exegesis.

But when I discussed “secular” science, I was referring more specifically to the ideas put forth by Lyell. Namely that science must be completely separate and divorced from Scripture (or any possibility of miracles or the supernatural). I’ve blogged about this before. There is no scientific reason to suppose everything must have a natural origin. It is a dogma. It’s also most unfortunate for you that the supernatural explanation of our origins is the correct one. The “natural only” paradigm among scientists – made popular by Lyell – completely blinds them from considering that.

To your second point, I can’t claim to understand everything about God’s purpose but understanding the nature of sin and the Curse can hardly be considered as perplexing as believing God had intended misery all along. Death is the enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). It is not God’s tool for creating.

Thanks again for visiting. God bless!