Is the whole creation fallen?
Published: 8 March 2011 (GMT+10)
Chris H, USA, wrote in after reading Did God create life on other planets? agreeing with us that there probably isn’t life on other planets, but arguing that the whole universe isn’t fallen, and that in theory, God could have a relationship with other beings without it being based on dying for them. His message is printed in full, followed by a response from CMI-US’s CEO Gary Bates and Information Officer Lita Sanders.
I disagree with a premise and the conclusion of this piece. I believe in the infallibility of Scripture, and in YEC. I agree that Christ’s work on Earth saves humans only, that “other sheep” are gentiles, that SETI is a waste of resources, and that if there were intelligent alien life elsewhere in the universe, they wouldn’t be able to personally come here in a reasonable amount of time. I also see no evidence that life exists anywhere in the universe other than Earth, or even that it could naturally exist elsewhere.
However, I dispute your premise that Adam’s fall resulted in the cursing of the entire universe. The English translation “whole creation” in Romans 8:18–22 sounds like everything God created, but the apostles used that phrase elsewhere as an idiom with a different meaning.
The Great Commission as recorded in Mark 16:15, using the same Greek root, commands us to “preach the Gospel to all creation”. Unless you’re into misguided legends of Francis of Assisi, you understand this means all people on Earth, not everything in the entire universe. Colossians 1:23 says the Gospel has been preached to “every creature under heaven”, which is clearly an idiom meaning “everyone around” seeing as those living in outer Mongolia and South America had not yet heard the Gospel at that time.
The Bible has many literal statements that we should take literally (like “There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day”)—but we need to properly interpret the Bible, properly understanding parables, metaphors and idioms for what they are.
“The heavens” … When we say “heaven” or “heavens” in English we are generally referring to either outer space or the place where God lives. But when the Bible says “the heavens” it also includes the air and near space (Deut 4:11, 11:17, Job 12:7, 20:6, Ps 18:13, Matt 3:16–17, 26:64, Acts 2:2, 14:17, Rev 8:13 etc etc). The Revelation refers to the destruction of stars, but explicitly not all the stars. Also in some cases the stars are definitely obscured from our view rather than destroyed, and in other cases are more like meteorites than balls of gas massive enough to sustain fusion. There is no Biblical reason to believe that the events of the last days will involve the complete destruction and rebirth of the entire Universe.
I have some problems with C.S.Lewis’s theology, but he rightly postulated that Jesus could have different kinds of relationships with other creations of His without dying for them. As for Jesus being a polygamist … that is the subjection of human logic upon God … and see Jeremiah 3.
So—I will be surprised if we ever find evidence of life not from Earth, but if that evidence were to appear —including evidence of an intelligent race outside our solar system-it would not contradict the Bible
Thanks for your faith-building ministry!
First, thanks for the encouragement. It’s much appreciated.
Mark 16:15 is not included in the earliest manuscripts of Mark (which ended at 16:8), so does not appear to be part of inspired Scripture (see further comments in our post-script).1 But the same Greek word is used in the same context in Colossians 1:23, so our argument for that would apply here as well. Also, please note the corresponding passages that describe this same event: Matthew 28:19, Acts 1:8. So in this case, the word in question here translated “creation” (κτίσις, ktisis) refers to humanity specifically. Matthew’s version emphasizes the inclusiveness of the Gospel (it is to be taken to all people. πάντα τὰ ἔθνη panta ta ethnē here is translated “all nations”, but the word emphasizes people groups, not geographical political boundaries.) while Luke’s emphazies the geographical scope with ἕως ἐσχάτου τῆς γῆς heōs eschatou tes gēs (unto the ends of the earth). So, only preaching the Gospel to human beings makes sense using the hermeneutical principle, the universal convention used by Protestants, which is to ‘interpret Scripture using Scripture’.
πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις (pasa hē ktisis, ‘the whole creation’) does refer to the whole creation in Romans 8, and Paul cites this as a matter of common, accepted knowledge among his Christian audience. It includes all of non-sentient, moral decision-capable creation—i.e. excluding humans and angels, because Paul goes on in the next verse to talk about the believers’ state, and angels are excluded by οὐχ ἑκοῦσα (ouk hekousa, not willingly) in verse 20—Schreiner (Baker Exegetical Commentary, 1998), is of the view that this excludes any being with a will. So basically what κτίσις denotes in the passage is all of non-human physical creation. For more, see our detailed paper Cosmic and universal death from Adam’s fall: an exegesis of Romans 8:19–23a.
Now, Colossians 1:23 is much more relevant because it’s πάσῃ κτίσει (pasa ktisei), the same phrase meaning “all creation”, just in the dative not the nominative case. By the way, it is the view of one of us in particular, [LC] that this translates as “all creation”, which makes much better sense of the Greek than “every creature” here (with Dunn, NIGTC, 1996). The thing to remember here is that context determines the meaning. Just as “day” means different things depending on whether its context is “and there was evening and morning, one day”, “the day of the Lord”, “in the day” (an idiom for “when”, for example. If we don’t include or accept the correct context of what is being spoken about, then we could merely pluck any word out from Scripture and invoke whatever meaning we choose. This is clearly not a reasonable thing to do by any normal convention of comprehension. Paul is looking back at his missionary career, at churches he’s founded all across the Roman empire (and if the early tradition is to be believed, the other apostles scattered across the known world to spread the Gospel to far-off countries, which could be in view here, if true). There’s a bit of hyperbole involved, but there has been an explosion of missionary activity in the past 30 years as Paul’s looking back. In any case, Paul’s point is the universality of the Gospel itself—it is the same Gospel which has been proclaimed all over from city to city.
As for your view that not all the stars will be destroyed, we don’t know where you got that because you didn’t cite any passage from Scripture. All the major eschatological views hold to a complete re-creation of the universe, coinciding with the destruction of this one in fervent heat. This is consistent with the images of God rolling up Creation like a scroll or a mantle. Moreover, when Genesis described the “heavens and earth”, this is clearly a merism, meaning that it includes everything that God had created. In Hebrews 11:3, as mentioned in the article, the Greek word αἰῶνας (aiōnas) is correctly translated not as “worlds” but as “universe”, as it is translated in 1:2. When we look at the Bible’s big picture from Genesis to Revelation it is clear that Jesus and the New Testament authors clearly understood man’s fallen state, the need for redemption and a fallen Creation all being as a result of what occurred in the Garden of Eden. In short:
- Genesis describes the creation of the universe.
- In the same context and within a few verses, Genesis describes the Fall and its effect on that same Creation.
- There is nothing in Genesis to suggest some sort of separation or divide in the Creation that the Fall affected. So, if we interpret the Fall based on the surrounding context, we find that there is no reason to restrict it to only one part of Creation. All Creation fell because man was given dominion over the whole Creation (Genesis 1:26–28).
- Revelation talks about both the heavens and the earth being destroyed. The Restoration of the Creation in Revelation is analogous to what happened in the Genesis Creation, pre-Fall. For example, Revelation 22:2–3 mentions the Tree of Life again. So Genesis describes the creation of the heavens and earth (the universe—and you agree on that), and Revelation describes the destruction and re-creation of heavens and earth (pointing back to Genesis for its frame of reference).
- The NT points backwards to Genesis and clearly understands it in terms of the whole Creation→Fall→Redemption→Restoration Gospel big picture. For example, see our articles The Use of Genesis in the New Testament and Genesis: Bible authors believed it to be history.
It is really special pleading to claim that any parts of this Creation have not been affected by the Fall. Quite simply, a straightforward and plain reading of the texts would not infer this, because the Bible is clearly silent about any supposed other inhabited planets and extraterrestrial beings. In our experience, and it may be what is occurring here, mankind wrestles with this idea of humans being the only sentient, intelligent beings in this incomprehensively massive universe—the size factor. In the recent updated edition of Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection, Gary Bates wrote:
“Logically, the universe is not big to God. After all he’s the one who made it. Size is only relative to us as inhabitants of this universe. And size and time are related somewhat. Because the universe is big to us we consider how long it would take us to travel across it, for example. But God is “outside” of the dimensions that he created (the universe), thus he is not bound by it. So size is not an issue for God. He exists in eternity where there is no time and space, yet at the same time, is present everywhere within it. The universe is not big for God, or compared to God— it is, in fact, futile to try to compare the two, as they are incomparable. Many sympathetic to the notion of extraterrestrials widely inhabiting the universe often criticize Christians, believing them to be arrogant for presuming that we might be the only inhabitants of this vast universe. But this is actually a form of presumptive arrogance on the part of the accuser, thinking that if we humans had made the universe we would have filled it with other life forms. It assumes that God would do things our way. He doesn’t, and he states this in Isaiah 55:9:‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
“Perhaps his interest in and love for us are made all the more profound by our tinyness and uniqueness in an immense though otherwise uninhabited universe. Perhaps he’s showing us that size and distance and space and matter, regardless of their vastness, are insignificant compared to the worth of a human soul. God put stars in the heavens, not only for his glory, but, incredibly, for mankind whom he loves.”
We have also pointed out that King David (Psalm 8) and the medieval theologians were well aware of the vastness of space. But now modern atheists like Stephen Hawking think it’s a wonderful new argument for their atheistic faith, as if God needed a small universe to exist.
As for your point about God being able to have a relationship with the rest of His creation without dying for it, well, God obviously has a relationship to the rest of His Creation, even though Jesus died for humanity—His providence extends to all of His Creation. But He has a special relationship with humanity that is different from His relationship to the rest of Creation, by virtue of man being in His image. Scripture teaches that the fate of Creation is inextricably bound up with the fate of believers. This is precisely Paul’s point in Romans 8. Creation is groaning now; it’s subjected to ineffectiveness, inability to reach its raison d’être, because of sin, specifically Adam’s sin which caused the Fall (although God, not Adam, is “the one who subjected it”). Creation longs for the sons of God to be revealed—for the Resurrection—because the creation itself will also be liberated at that time. So yes, God has a “relationship” with the rest of Creation in that He is upholding it and is concerned for its wellbeing—a sparrow doesn’t fall without His knowledge; etc. But the redemption of all creation is extremely anthropocentric (man-centered) in that it is tied up with the salvation of mankind. It is an anthropocentric Gospel, and it leaves no room for sentient moral beings on other planets.
As for Lewis’s statements, we feel as free to disagree with him as with any other Christian.
Also your statement, “As for Jesus being a polygamist … that is the subjection of human logic upon God … . Often this statement is used as a kind of pious defence, but the Bible is written to instruct us (2 Timothy 3:15–17), and this would be impossible if there were some difference between ‘God’s logic’ and ‘human logic’. As theologian Herman Hoeksema pointed out, “Either the logic of revelation is our logic or there is no revelation”. As we are made in God’s image, our logic is the same as God’s. The difference is that God knows all true premises and commits no logical fallacies. Please see the article by CMI’s Jonathan Sarfati, Loving God with all your mind: logic and creation.
Gary Bates and Lita Sanders
Excursus: How did Mark end his Gospel?
by Lita Sanders
The uncials1 Sinaiticus2 and Vaticanus3 both end Mark at 16:8. Both Clement of Alexandria and Origen seem ignorant of the longer ending (though there are indications that Irenaeus knew of it), and Eusebius and Jerome claim that it is missing from most of their manuscripts, too.
There are two variants added on after 16:8—these are called the shorter ending and the longer ending. The shorter ending is only found in some Greek manuscripts dating from the seventh to the ninth centuries, the Old Latin manuscript Bobiensis,4 and a few minor witnesses.
The earliest witnesses for the long ending are Alexandrinus, Ephraemi and W, all in the fifth century. The other manuscripts contain the longer ending, but are on the whole much later than the major ones cited above.
The most common argument against Mark ending at 16:8 is that the last word of 16:8 is γάρ; gar, meaning ‘for’. However, recent articles in the scholarly literature have shown that γάρ frequently ended a sentence or paragraph. But it is a difficult argument for either side to use, because at best it’s a very clumsy ending. Yet this sort of thing didn’t bother Mark, whose Greek writing style was unsophisticated and direct, any more than “Don’t end a sentence with a preposition” bothered Winston Churchill.5
The long ending seems cobbled together from the other Gospels and Acts; Mary Magdalene is introduced in verse 9 as if for the first time, but she was featured earlier in the chapter. The Road to Emmaus appearance is taken from Luke. The appearance to the Eleven and the Great Commission are similarly from the other Gospels. The driving out demons could come from one of the commissioning of the disciples, and immunity to poison and snake bites could be an allusion to Paul’s survival of the snake bite in Acts. The command about Baptism has frequently been mishandled by some who commit a logical fallacy. So there is no material in the long ending that we don’t have elsewhere.
- A type of Greek manuscript which uses all capital letters without spaces.
- From the mid-fourth century (somewhere between 325–360), represents the earliest copy of a fairly complete Greek New Testament we have. It generally agrees with the Alexandrian text type, but in some places agrees with the Western texts against other Alexandrian manuscripts.
- From the fourth century, another very early witness to the Alexandrian text type.
- Dating from the fourth or fifth century.
- An apocryphal Churchill parody of this is “This is the sort of arrant nonsense up with which I will not put.”
- This statement and post-script reflect the views of the author, not necessarily those of all CMI staff or of our ministry as a whole. Return to text.