Sunday, February 01, 2015

Intro to Ronald Osborn's 'Death Before the Fall'

Fresh off of reading David Clough's On Animals: Part One, Systematic Theology -- which got me thinking about the creaturely expanse of God's creative and redemptive plans -- I've turned to Ronald Osborn's Death Before the Fall in an effort to think further about some of the pressing concerns implicit in confessing Jesus Christ as the 'Word made flesh' and Reconciler of all things. Thus far I have only read the Introduction, but I do find myself resonating with the tensions raised in these lines:

'Like millions of Christians, I was raised to believe that God created all of earth's creatures in six literal days in the relatively recent past. In the beginning, there was no mortality and no predation of any kind. The natural world -- my parents, pastors and elementary school teachers all sincerely believed and taught me -- was radically altered as a result of Adam and Eve's decision to eat the forbidden fruit. The blame for all death and all suffering in nature thus fell squarely upon rebellious humans. This was why lions now killed Cape buffalo in Mana Pools and why there were crocodiles and bilharzia parasites in the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. 

But of course no human action could have produced such an instantaneous change, not simply in instincts but also in the anatomical structures of countless creatures. The idea that the lions in Eden were docile vegetarians with dagger-sharp claws originally designed by God for tearing the bark off trees appeared downright silly. Somehow those massive canine teeth and retractable claws for taking down living pray had got there

This seemingly left only one possibility: God himself was responsible for the transformation of all nature in what amounted to a hostile second creation after Adam and Eve's fall. All mortality and all predation in the animal kingdom were the result of a divine punishment or "curse." 

The vexing question of the justice of such an act -- of why God would inflict death and suffering on innocent creatures to punish sinful humans -- did not enter my mind as a child. I simply assumed that older and wiser people whom I loved and trusted had done the hard theological work, and that there were no deeper questions about the creation left to be asked. The task of believers was not to raise difficult problems but to provide confident answers.'

- Ronald E. Osborn, Death Before the Fall, page 16

(paragraph spacing altered for blog-readability)

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