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The parable of the cupboard and Genesis 1:29–30

Answering a common old earth claim



If you find yourself in conversation with a relatively well-educated Christian believer who has taken a compromise position on Genesis (believing in an old earth, evolution, etc.), bringing up Genesis 1:29–30 is always a good idea. These verses demonstrate very clearly that, before the Fall, God had given only plants for food to both humans and animals. This, in turn, refutes the vast majority of compromise positions out there, since they mostly all seek to harmonize Scripture with secular views on origins. However, as we are all likely aware, the secular view of origins cannot be parted from the idea of millions of years of death and suffering, including carnivory, prior to the emergence of human beings.

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. — Genesis 1:29–30

I have found with surprising regularity one simple response to the above from the compromise crowd: “These passages don’t say anything about disallowing meat.” And that is a true, but highly misleading statement, which succeeds only in ignoring the obvious intent of the passage.

A simple parable can perhaps elucidate this:

Imagine you are welcoming a guest couple into your home for a short stay. You take them to the kitchen and open a cupboard and say, “You can eat any of the canned goods here in the cupboard while you’re here.” What have you effectively done? You have allowed the eating of canned goods, while disallowing all other foods in the cupboard (without explicitly mentioning them). If you return home to find your guests have eaten all the cereal and candy bars, you will likely confront them. If they retort, “Well you didn’t say we couldn’t have this stuff,” you will undoubtedly not be impressed with their sarcastic and insincere response. Amazingly, this is exactly the type of response most old-earthers will provide when confronted with this passage of Scripture.

This alone would, or should, be enough. However, we have more than this to confirm this interpretation! Let’s briefly return to our parable. Imagine that your grocery situation changes after a few days, and you bring your guest back to the cupboard a second time. Now you say, “Just as before I gave you the canned goods, now you can have anything in the cupboard.” Would this not remove any smidgen of doubt about the intent behind your first statement to disallow certain items? It turns out God made a statement corresponding to this in Genesis 9 following the Flood:

Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Genesis 9:3-4

If, as the compromisers like to say, God “didn’t disallow” meat in Genesis 1, then why was it necessary for God to issue this allowance here? Why does God say, “ … as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything”? The old-earth view here entails that everything was already allowed from the beginning!

The next time you discuss this topic with an old earther or theistic evolutionist, try out this helpful parable to explain the relevance of Genesis 1:29–39 and Genesis 9:3–4 on the topic of pre-Fall death and carnivory.

Published: 8 September 2020

Helpful Resources

The Genesis Account
by Jonathan Sarfati
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Refuting Compromise
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Genetic Entropy
by Dr John Sanford
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