Saturday, 6 March 2010

Could Adam’s sin have retroactive effects?

In his new book, William Dembski discusses whether sin could have an effect on creation before Adam’s Fall.

Joel Kontinen

In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul explicitly writes that death came to the world because of man’s sin. For those who believe in an old earth this causes a problem since the fossil record suggests that many animals died long before Adam and Eve chose to disobey God.

William Dembski, who is known for his contributions to the ID movement, addresses this issue in his new book The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World. Dembski, a professor of philosophy, says that Christians are faced with a hard choice:

"They can go with a young earth, thereby maintaining theological orthodoxy but committing scientific heresy; or they can go with an old earth, thereby committing theological heresy but maintaining scientific orthodoxy."

Dembski’s solution is a creative compromise. He points out that the Greek New Testament has two words, kairos and chronos, that refer to time. He thinks that God’s idea of time differs greatly from ours. This, as such, is a logical conclusion. It is actually an old idea that goes back to the writings of Augustine of Hippo.

However, Dembski then builds a hypothesis on the basis of these words. He suggests that while human sin causes death, it can also have retroactive effects. Thus, animals could die because of Adam’s sin before the Fall.

Terry Mortenson has shown that Dembski’s hypothesis has serious theological problems. The New Testament often uses the words kairos and chronos in the same sense. Moreover, the Bible does not lend support to the view that God would punish anyone before they do wrong.

Dembski’s book is well-written and it addresses profound theological issues, making the reader think about the gravity of sin but it does not solve the problem of pain. I’d still follow Paul.


Dembski, William A. 2009. The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World. Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing.

Mortenson, Terry. 2009. Christian Theodicy in Light of Genesis and Modern Science. A Young-Earth Creationist Response to William Dembski. Answers Research Journal 2, no. 1:151-167.