Genesis 1:26 tells us of God’s intention to create mankind in his (‘our’) image and likeness and to give him dominion over the rest of creation. Traditionally Christians have believed that God did this in one 24-hour day, but this view is based on a highly questionable interpretation of the word ‘day’ and a dubious exegetical and theological perspective. (1* See further my Twenty-Four Hours? – Reasons why I believe the Genesis days are undefined periods of time
). However, on the assumption that the word ‘Adam’ means both mankind as race and man as individual and we base our view of mankind on what we know to be true of the individual, that is, that the latter once (pro)created is observably subject to development, we necessarily conclude that the individual recapitulates and encapsulates the race. (2* On recapitulation, see my I Believe in Recapitulation
, Recapitulation in Outline
) In other words, in trying to understand the limited and somewhat symbolic or parabolic (Goldingay, p.27) information given us in Genesis 1-3, we can resort to the analogy of faith (analogia fidei) and gain light by recognizing that mutatis mutandis the perfected individual serves as the paradigm of the race, and that individual is supremely Jesus himself (cf. Eph. 1:10). (3* The ‘mutatis mutandis’, or the making of the necessary changes, is important since Adam is presented to us in the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race, in apparent physical maturity but spiritual infancy. To that extent he differs from all his descendants including Jesus who was nonetheless made in Adam’s image, Gen. 5:1-3; Luke 3:38.
) To express the issue somewhat negatively, if the individual is the paradigm or epitome of the race, the idea that the race did not develop or evolve physically is ruled out of court. If the perfected Jesus, the second Adam, the antitype, who began in the womb, underwent a nine-month gestation period and proceeded to mature through childhood, adolescence, etc., we are compelled to conclude that the first Adam, the type (Rom. 5:14), developed too. Denial of the correspondence between the two Adams is to drive a wedge between them and to render both our theology and anthropology unintelligible. (Cf. Psalm 139:13-16; Eph. 4:9f., and see further below.) The Bible, theology, science, history, personal experience and logic all militate against the traditional idea that Adam was created physically and spiritually mature in one 24-hour day. Indeed, it may legitimately be asked why if he was created righteous and holy, Adam was ever put on probation at all? Does not Genesis 2:17 imply that his goal, like that of all human beings, was eternal life which could not be attained apart from righteousness achieved by keeping the law?
Man and Animal
Though Hebraists have apparently found it impossible to distinguish definitively between image and likeness, nonetheless the terminology suggests that man acquires these characteristics by a gradual process of development. First, like the rest of the animal creation man (Adam) begins life as ‘flesh’ created from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7; 6:17, cf. John 1:13). (4* On the creation of man and animal, see e.g. Chris Wright, pp.26ff.) Second, also like the animals among which he lives man begins life in ignorance (Ps. 32:9; Job 35:11) and knows neither good nor evil until, after undergoing some development under the Spirit of God (cf. Luke 2:40), he is able to receive the commandment (Gen. 2:16f., cf. Rom. 4:15; 6:16; 7:9f.; 9:11). (5* One early sign of man’s link with but separation from the animals is his infant/child-like ability to name them and implicitly to exercise authority over them, Gen. 2:19.) So far as the individual is concerned this is beyond dispute and Adam’s development from ignorance to knowledge is recapitulated in all his progeny (Dt. 1:39, cf. Rom. 7:9f., etc.) but certainly not in twenty-four hours!. That it occurred in ourselves and in our children is verified by personal experience. (It might usefully be stressed at this point that this development is the work of the Spirit of God and not to be attributed to naturalistic evolution or Nature! Note Genesis 1:2 andLuke 1:35.)
The Development (Maturation, Perfection) of Jesus
, this development from ignorance to knowledge clearly occurred in the second Adam (cf. Isa. 7:15f.; Luke 2:40-52) who is the antitype of the first Adam, his type (Rom. 5:14). The maturation or process of development that occurred in Jesus is evident from the biblical data. He was conceived (made flesh, John 1:14; Luke 1:35, cf. Gen. 1:2), underwent gestation, was born, became an infant, then an adolescent and eventually attained to both physical and spiritual maturity. (6*
On man as both flesh and spirit, see my Biblical Dualism
, The Flesh
) While his physical adulthood was paralleled by all animals that reach maturity and was basic to his fleshly manhood since it occurred ‘naturally’ with the passage of time (cf. Luke 2:40-52; 3:23; 1 Cor. 15:46), Jesus’ spiritual maturity or perfection was achieved, first, as a ‘slave’ in Egypt in childhood, second, as a servant who was tested under the law and, third, as a son (the Son) after his anointing by the Spirit (John 1:33; 6:27; Acts 4:27; 10:38). In this way he achieved full covenant maturity (cf. Gal. 4:1-7). (On this, see below.) But the point to note above all is that like Adam before him, as a baby he knew neither good nor evil (Gen. 2:17; 3:5,22: Isa. 7:15f., cf. 8:4) and like all infants he began from scratch, that is, from moral neutrality (Dt 1:39, cf. Rom. 4:15). It was only as he developed and became conscious of the commandment that he reacted to it like Adam before him and established his own moral nature (something he could not have done if Adam’s sin was either imputed or transmitted to him). But whereas Adam broke the commandment as Paul, like all others (Rom. 3:23; 5:12), was to do later (Rom. 7:9f.), Jesus kept it and established his righteousness by his obedience (Rom. 2:13; 6:16; 1 John 3:7). In remaining unaffected by sin despite the reality of his fleshly temptations (Mt. 4:1-11; Heb. 4:15) and his dubious human pedigree (Mt. 1:1-5; Luke 3:38), he was unique (Rom. 8:3; 1 Pet. 2:22) and was thus uniquely fitted to serve as the Saviour of mankind (Heb. 2:17f.). (Verses like John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 are not isolated texts but succinct summaries of the essence of biblical Christology.)
If this is so, then personhood, which implies the possession of recognizable human characteristics, is not evident either at conception, during gestation or even immediately after birth. As Paul intimates, we are, first, (animal) flesh, and, second, spirit (1 Cor. 15:46, cf. John 1:13; 3:6). At birth a baby, like all mammals, feeds only on milk or perishable food (cf. John 6:22ff.; Heb. 5:13) and is incapable of ingesting the word of God by which alone man is able to live eternally (Mt. 4:4). Furthermore, Jesus himself says nothing explicit about either the salvation or the damnation of the very young when like his Father (Gen. 1:31) he blesses them. He simply says that of such (not of all in their present condition) is the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14-16). (See further below.) To pinpoint the issue, at birth our difference from the rest of the animal creation with which we are linked (Gen. 2:19; 6:17) is evident only on the physical level. It is not until we acquire moral consciousness after a process of development (cf. the work of the Spirit of God, cf. Gen. 1:2; Luke 1:35,80; 2:40-52?) that we as those whose goal or destiny is to be like God and his children are properly distinguishable from the rest of the animal creation. This becomes even more patent in the Bible when we examine covenant revelation.
, it is plain that initially there is no covenant agreement made with creation. (7* See my Did God Make a Covenant with Creation?
, Covenant Theology
, Covenant Theology in Brief
) After all, since it is inarticulate, like Adam himself during the period of his ignorance, a covenant or unilateral agreement, as opposed to a sovereign imposition or command, is a contradiction in terms. (8* Cf. J. Murray, pp.47ff., who denied that the Adamic arrangement had covenantal status.
) Thus the first covenant is not established until Noah comes on the scene by which time a process of anthropological development has occurred and mankind, whether as community or individual, has gradually acquired what are clearly human characteristics including speech, understanding, the ability to think, reason, make choices (cf. Heb. 5:13f.), appreciate the significance of rainbows, control bodily functions (cf. 1 Pet. 3:21), express gratitude (cf. Acts 14:17; Rom. 1:21; 1 Cor. 10:30, etc.) and above all understand the commandment (law) and hence become morally conscious.
Then, after promises are made to Abraham and his offspring, the next dispensational covenant following that with Noah is a covenant of law made through Moses. This is clearly an extension of the single commandment given to Adam in his (spiritual) infancy (cf. Israel on leaving Sinai, Ex. 32; Isa. 48:8). Again, it should be noted that by this time the Hebrews had undergone yet further development and were ready to progress beyond bondage to child-like heathenism (cf. Gal. 4:1,3; Col. 2:8,20). But the same is true of the individual, for it can hardly pass without notice that while girls remained uncircumcised (and were often regarded in Judaism as little better than the heathen), boys became responsible for keeping the law when they reached their bar mitzvah at the age of thirteen (cf. Luke 2:40-52) as sons of the commandment. According to Leviticus 25 this established Jewish men as the servants rather than the slaves of God which they had been both literally and metaphorically in Egypt.
Then again, following the promise to David there was a further stage in dispensational covenant theology which was paralleled by more development in both the community and the individual. Jesus as man, or more specifically as a circumcised Jewish man, having already served his stint like all Jewish boys as a son of the commandment attained to life (received the Spirit, cf. Gal. 3:3:1-5) at his baptism and gained the status of a son, the Son, the first-born (cf. Rom. 8:29; Ps. 89:27; Col. 1:15) who would inherit all things (Heb. 1:2; Rom. 8:32), by flawlessly keeping the law (Lev. 18:5, cf. Gen. 2:17). So it was as the spiritually regenerate Son of God that, after fulfilling all righteousness (Mt. 3:15; 19:21), Jesus attained to full maturity (Mt. 5:48) at his glorification. It was then that he finally achieved the pinnacle of perfection (cf. Mt. 5:48; 19:21) and became the exact imprint of God’s nature, the bodily fullness of deity (Heb. 1:3; Col. 2:9, cf. John 17:5,24). (Some readers whose outlook is dominated by Augustine and sin are bound to object to this presentation of the life of Jesus on the grounds that he was already the Word of God made flesh at birth. So, to emphasize my point, if he was truly incarnate, a true man, the Man, I maintain that he had to go through the mill like the rest of his fellows, cf. Heb. 2. There were no short cuts. Though virgin born, he was, like Adam, Luke 3:38, nonetheless initially God’s ‘natural’ son for whom it was necessary, not imperative a la Augustine, to be born again like the rest of his fellows, John 3:1-6. If not, the charge of docetism applies.)
, it may be asked, what is the relevance of all this to the issue in question? The answer is that man becomes the image and likeness of God not by being instantaneously stamped with it as a kind of donum superadditum but by a process of development or evolution (cf. the idea that God creates in the womb, Job 31:15). Initially, he is profitless flesh (cf. John 1:13; 6:63; Rom. 7:18), and like the rest of the animal creation he undergoes a period of unconscious (prehistorical) gestation (cf. Gen. 6:17; 1 Cor. 15:46.). In this state like Adam at the beginning he knows neither (the) law nor good and evil (cf. Dt. 1:39; Rom. 9:11, etc.). In light of this it is necessary to infer that the image of God in which man is made initially is only potential. (The reader might find it helpful at this point to meditate on the implications of Romans 7-8 and Galatians 4:1-9.) If this is so, it is quite wrong for anti-abortionists, for example, to argue on the basis of Genesis 1:26 that babies, even fetuses, are persons. Not only do the latter fail to evince all the normal characteristics of persons as we know them but they also fail to measure up theologically. (As a lad, I once heard a Methodist minister describe a baby as a creature with a loud noise at one end and a complete lack of responsibility at the other. Those who have ever been with cows, for example, will recognize the similarity.) What I mean is that while abortion on demand and without adequate reason is doubtless reprehensible, it is not well supported by appeal to the suggestion that a foetus is a person and that killing it is tantamount to the murder of a man or woman who has attained to full personhood of which Jesus is the prime example! This conclusion would appear to have biblical support, for Exodus 21:22f. seem to differentiate between the ‘murder’ of a wife and the concomitant death of her child. While the penalty for the death of the wife is apparently death in accordance with the lex talionis, a fine is sufficient to cover the harm done to the fetus. (It is interesting to compare this with Dt. 22:6f.). In sum, to abort or kill a baby is to kill a potential person not a person who is already being recognizably conformed to the image of God. (9* See further on this my essays on Concerning Infant Salvation)
The Genesis Days
With the above in mind it is imperative for us to reconsider Genesis 1:26 which has traditionally been understood as though the Genesis days were literal 24-hour days and man was created holy, righteous and even perfect without any process of development (cf. Job 31:15; Rom. 9:11). The reasons for questioning this are vital. For example, as has already been noted Scripture talks of God creating or forming in the womb (Job 31:15; Jer. 1:5, cf. Gal. 1:15, etc.) and Psalm 139:13-16 (cf. Eph. 4:9f.) certainly suggest a process. Now if the individual recapitulates the race (or ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny) as a truly biblical covenant theology surely indicates, we are compelled to conclude in the absence of a definite time scale in Genesis 1 (unless of course we unwarrantably insist on interpreting ‘day’ literally) that our creation in the image of God is developmental or evolutionary (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18, etc.). As was suggested above, as embryos and even in the early stages of infancy we are only potentially, though, on the assumption that we attain to maturity, also predestined persons (cf. (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:5,11; 1 Pet. 1:2), who are called to be the children of God (1 John 3:1-3). This inference would appear to be supported, first, by God who blesses man in the process of his early development (Genesis 1:28) but fails to make a covenant with him, then, secondly, by Jesus who blesses little children only as potential members of the kingdom who as individuals may or may not eventually exercise faith apart from which they cannot be saved (Mark 10:14-16, cf. Luke 18:15-17 on which see e.g. Bock, ad loc.).
All this suggests that when modern scientific theory tells us that mankind as a race was first (animal) flesh before he became recognizably human (or that Adam had fleshly precursors who were pre-Adamites but not monkeys (!) who came short of being truly human), it has biblical backing. The traditional idea associated with Augustinian theology that man was created perfect and/or completely adult is beyond question a contradiction in terms. For all the evidence at our disposal tells us that undeveloped he is not (a) man at all but a freak like Minerva (Athene) who sprang fully mature from the head of Jupiter (Zeus) in classical mythology. The truth is that man who is both flesh and spirit develops on both levels, that is, first physically and second spiritually under the aegis of God (1 Cor. 15:46, cf. Heb. 5:11-6:1; 1 Pet. 2:2). Man (and indeed creation as a whole it would appear) is the end result of a teleological process. (Pace supporters of naturalistic evolutionism who ridicule purposive design. It must be conceded, however, that there is a sense in which so-called intelligent design is open to criticism in that even the Bible teaches that the visible creation, Rom. 1:20, is ultimately futile and after reaching maturity is headed for final destruction, Heb.12:27. Note Ecclesiastes, Romans 8:20, 1 Corinthians 15:17. On the other hand, we need to acknowledge as believers that all things work together for good for those who love God, Rom. 8:28.) To express the issue differently, if Jesus the ideal man, the antitype of Adam began his earthly life imperfect, that is, immature, then so did both Adam and the rest of his posterity. If this is not so, it is difficult to acknowledge Adam as man at all, least of all representative man according to the flesh. (The reader should note again that in this scenario Adam the race, mankind, is epitomized or miniaturized in Adam the individual. Thus Jesus is depicted as the last Adam, the true vine or Israel, etc. And it is worth noting that national Israel who is sometimes personified as an individual, Gen. 46:4; Ex. 13:8, experiences birth, youth, and so forth, Isa. 48:8; Jer. 3:24f. Note also how Christians are epitomized all together as one mature man in Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 2:15 and 4:13, and elsewhere as the bride of Christ, Rev. 21:2,9.)
evidence for the development or perfection (perfecting process) of Jesus is incontrovertible. Against the background of both his physical and spiritual development alluded to in Luke 2:40-52, for example, the process of his spiritual maturation appears especially in Hebrews (e.g. 2:10; 5:9; 7:26,28, cf. 6:1; 7:11; 10:1; 12:23; Mt. 5:48; 19:21). Thus, since Jesus as man was initially spiritually as well as physically imperfect (immature, incomplete, cf. James 1:4) and dependent (it is worth noting that it was Joseph who had a dream warning him to go to Egypt out of Herod’s reach), the traditional idea that Adam began life perfect, holy and righteous and proceeded to lose his ‘high estate’ in “the Fall” is manifestly absurd (cf. my What Fall?). While Adam failed to keep the commandment, lost his innocence and became unrighteous (cf. Eccl. 7:29; Isa. 53:6), by contrast Jesus kept it – the entire law in fact – and thereby became righteous (Lev. 18:5;. Rom. 2:13; 6:16; 1 John 3:7, etc.) However, he was not accepted as legally righteous until he had successfully been tested under and had kept the law. At that point, at his baptism in fact, his Father expressed his pleasure in him, acknowledged him as his Son and gave him the Spirit or eternal life (Mt. 3:13-17) in accordance with the promise (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5, etc.). (10* The traditional Reformed order of salvation or ordo salutis which arises out of the unbiblical dogma of original sin is clearly false. See further my essays on The Order of Salvation
, The Order of Salvation in Romans
, Cart-Before-The-Horse Theology
) Furthermore, it was not until he had undergone death, resurrection and ascension that he was recognized as the Righteous One (Acts 3:14; 7:52; 1 John 2:1; 1 Pet. 2:22) and the Author of life (Acts 3:15; 22:14, cf. 1 Cor. 15:45), that is, on a par with God. Perfection, or rather the perfecting or maturation process, is at the heart of the Christian gospel and is part of the essence of man’s calling (Mt. 5:48; 19:21, cf. Heb. 6:1; 1 Pet. 1:14-16) as Paul, for example, was well aware (Phil. 3:12-16). Little wonder that he calls on his converts to become mature in understanding (1 Cor. 13:11; 14:20) with the goal of being presented mature in Christ (Col. 1:28) both as individuals and as a body (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 2:15; 4:13). (11* See further my essay Perfection
If all this is true, the claim of literalists that the Genesis days are literal 24-hour days is plainly false. It represents a complete failure to think theologically as mature men. The days of Genesis are an inspired way of sketching pre-history for all conditions of people who eventually achieve consciousness in actual history. What is indisputably true is that as human beings, in contradistinction from other animals, we are created with the potential of becoming the image of God like Jesus who at the end of his earthly course and ascension into heaven became the exact imprint of his nature (Heb. 1:3). Not for nothing is he called the founder or pioneer and perfecter of our salvation (Heb. 2:10; 21:2, ESV). (Note how when earlier in his earthly pilgrimage Jesus is called ‘good’ in Mark 10:17f., he claims that only God is good, that is in the absolute sense. Like Paul he might well have said that he was not already perfect, Phil. 3:12, cf. Heb. 5:9, etc.) And this potential or process does not culminate for us until we achieve his likeness (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:21, cf. Rev. 3:21) and, after shedding our animal flesh, gain spiritual bodies as the children of God (John 1:13; Rom. 8:12-17; 1 Cor. 15:42-50; Gal. 4:1-7; Eph. 1:5f.; Phil. 3:21; 1 John 3:1-3). Our progress or evolution is therefore from ground to glory as his was (Eph. 4:9f.).
However, there is a down side to this. Where this process is deliberately resisted and men foster the corruptible (animal) flesh in which they are first made (cf. Gal. 6:8 and note 1 Cor. 6:9-11), Scripture not unnaturally likens them to animals, creatures of instinct whose end is to be caught and killed (2 Pet. 2:12; Jude 10, cf. Eccl. 3:18). Self-control is basic to the sanctification process (2 Pet. 1:6-11) apart from which we shall not see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). Spirit is intended to rule flesh (James 3:3) but only Jesus achieved this to perfection (James 3:2b, cf. Mt. 5:48). What is more, he freely gave his flesh on our behalf (Col. 1:22; 1 Pet. 3:18, cf. 4).
In sum, the truth is that the image of God in us is the result of a process of sanctification and perfection, the progressive work of the Spirit of God which culminates or reaches its fulfillment in the perfect man, in Christ who was himself crowned with glory and honour (Heb. 2:9, cf. 1:3). That goal first implied in Genesis 1:26-28 (cf. Ps. 8:3-8) and 2:17 remains for us to achieve (Rom. 2:7,10; Heb. 5:14-6:1; 1 Pet. 1:7) by his grace and in his footsteps (Heb. 2:9-13, etc.). He became like us so that we might become like him as Irenaeus, who strongly stressed recapitulation, maintained.
Old Testament Indicators
Psalm 139:13-16 (cf. Job 10:11) David, like Paul in Romans 7:9f., clearly recognizes his own recapitulation of Adam’s experience referred to in Genesis 2 and 3. (In Ephesians 4:9f., cf. John 3:13, Paul also arguably sees the descent of Jesus at his incarnation as a recapitulation of Adam’s creation.) In verse 15 David apparently sees himself as seed that is sown to gestate in the womb, v.13. This vividly reflects Adam who is taken out of the ground and put into the garden of Eden to be nurtured there, Gen. 2:8,15.) On the racial level man is placed in the Garden of Eden which surely represents the womb of mankind. So, to all intents and purposes, we all begin in the ground and are dust (Job 34:15; Ps. 103:14; 1 Cor. 15:47-49). But it is only as we develop physically and especially spiritually that we become recognizably human. This is not only what the Bible itself seems to teach in Genesis with respect to Adam and Eve but is evident in our own observation of babies. The death of the stillborn or the infant (cf. Job 3; Jer. 20:14-18) like that of animals is the consequence not of (its) sin but of the natural corruptibility of creation (cf. Rom. 8:18-25; Heb. 1:10-12). It is manifestly paralleled in the early history of the race prior to the giving of the commandment, hence the fossil record and archeological evidence. The arrested development of potential human beings, however, has no moral significance. After all, death could not be the wages of sin until the law was proclaimed and understood. (12* See further my Death Before Genesis 3
) By the same token, life was not promised (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5, cf. Rom. 7:9f.)! And to posit either the damnation or the salvation of infants who never achieve self-awareness and moral consciousness is out of the reckoning (pace Augustine). Thus I no more believe in either the damnation or the salvation of the stillborn (cf. Job 3) than I do of a foetus or even an infant which has failed to experience at least a degree of moral consciousness (cf. Jeremiah 20:14-18).
Consequences of Rejecting Human Teleology
some readers reject all this because it seems too theoretical and arguably appears to threaten their literal/traditional/fundamentalist understanding of Scripture, they have to reckon with the difficulties that their stance involves. First, the idea that man was created full-grown, righteous, holy and perfect undermines the very essence of biblical teleology and is in any case belied by the baby Jesus himself who quite clearly as a son of Adam began with an imperfect (immature) beginning. (If Adam was created holy and righteous as tradition has it, why was he not, having met the condition of eternal life, Lev. 18:5, regenerate? Why, in other words, was he ever put on probation?) It was he above all who Scripture says was not initially perfect (mature, complete) but had to be perfected (Mt. 3:15; 5:48; 19:21; Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:26,28, cf. 1:3; 6:1; 7:11; 10:1; Acts 2:36; John 17:5,24, etc.). It was precisely he who eventually became the perfect man after successfully undergoing the test of life (Heb. 2:10) and consequently became a life-giving spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). (13* See further my articles on Perfection
, The Testing Ground
) Second, as we have already seen, an undeveloped man is a contradiction in terms, a freak. Third, if it is true that infants not to mention embryos are persons who are according to tradition sinners by nature as the victims of original sin and are hence susceptible to redemption as covenant children, then heaven, in contrast with the teaching of John 1:13, 3:1-8 and 6:63 (cf. Rom. 7:18) will be filled with corruptible flesh (cf. Rom. 8:13; Gal. 6:8). In other words, we are forced to believe contrary to the explicit teaching of Paul that flesh and blood can indeed inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). What the Bible teaches, however, is that only those who demonstrate their creation in the image of God as persons and who are righteous either by law keeping or by faith can gain eternal life (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5, etc.).
The wonderful thing about faith is its relativity. Note especially Hebrews 11 and Mt. 17:20. Even young children can exercise it. And the idea that all the heathen are headed for damnation – extra ecclesiam non salus, cf. WCF, 10, The Larger Catechism, Qu. 60 — rests on a foundation of sand. It should be carefully noted by the same token that just as innocent babies that do not know the law cannot be righteous by keeping it, neither can they be unrighteous by not keeping it (cf. Rom. 6:16). They are morally neutral like the animals that likewise do not know the law. Clearly, if those who do not know the law (commandment) and hence neither good nor evil are in that category (cf. Dt. 1:39; Heb. 5:12-14), Augustine’s idea that all babies that are not baptized are damned is a grotesque error. The truth is that Scripture differentiates between man as genuinely infant and man as indulging in infantile “still-in-the-flesh” behaviour during maturity (Heb. 5:11-6:1; 1 Cor. 2:14-3:3, cf. 1 Pet. 2:1-3). There is in other words a scriptural doctrine of diminished responsibility, but this does not apply to those who are mature and know better (cf. 2 Pet. 1:6), yet who nonetheless choose to indulge the flesh and conduct themselves as if they are children.
I conclude then that babies are not recognizably persons capable of being saved and baptized. (14* It perhaps needs to be stated here that the ecclesiastical dogmas of original sin and infant baptism which are alien to Scripture play a fundamental role in concealing the recapitulation, development and perfection of human beings as portrayed in the Bible and evident in human experience. The quarrel of true science is not with the Bible but with church dogma.) Just as we assume that an animal that has never known either good or evil dies and yields to permanent corruption apart from sin, so we must assume that human babies who have not reached the age of spiritual discernment are likewise perishable like the material creation from which they emanate (Isa. 51:6,8; 54:10; Mt. 6:19f.; Luke 12:33; Rom. 8:18-25; Heb. 1:10-12; 6:7f.; 12:27; 2 Pet. 3:7,10-12, cf.1 Pet. 1:4,7,18,23; 3:4, etc.). But if this is true, on the assumption that the individual recapitulates the race, we are compelled by parity of reasoning to conclude that the latter, that is, prehistoric man also developed and perished without ever attaining to a recognizable human status. In other words, the Bible itself implies evolution from animal to man (1 Cor. 15:46). The whole process from creation in the ground to completion in glory is God-ordained and is epitomized in Jesus (cf. Eph. 4:9f.), the perfect(ed) man (cf. Eph. 1:10). As I have already put it above, the human journey is from ground to glory.
The fact that we are regularly considered dust throughout the Bible (Gen. 2:7; 3:19; 1 K.16:2; Job 10:9; 34:15; Ps. 90:3; 103:14; Eccl. 12:7; 1 Cor. 15:47-49, cf. 2 Cor. 4:7) points to recapitulation. While the human ‘animal’ that attains to maturity completes the pilgrimage from dust to destiny (Seccombe) or from ground to glory (Rom. 8:30) only after shedding its flesh (1 Cor. 15:50), the natural animal which is merely flesh and not spirit (Isa. 31:3, etc.) dies a natural death and suffers total corruption and destruction in the earth from which it was taken in the first place (Ps. 49, cf. Eccl. 3:18-21; Gal. 6:8).
The Human Pilgrimage
If this construction is correct, our human course in this world is, first, dust (as emanating from Adam, Gen. 2:7, cf. Ps. 139:15f.; 1 Cor. 15:47-49); second, animal flesh as stemming from the seed of Adam and nurture in the womb (cf. Gen. 2:8,15,19; Ps. 139:13; Job 31:15; 34:14f.,19; Ps. 104:27-30; John 1:13; 3:6; Rom. 9:11; 1 Cor. 15:46); third, knowledge of the commandment followed by reaction to it establishing moral status (Gen. 3:22; Rom. 7:9f. We can only be good or evil in reaction to the commandment, something to which the dogma of original sin has blinded us, cf. Rom. 6:16); fourth, heathen life lived under the first dispensational covenant, that is, that of Noah (see e.g. Acts 14:15-17; 17:24ff.; Rom. 1:18-32); fifth, servanthood for Jewish men under the law of Moses, sixth, adoption or sonship through faith in Christ (Rom. 8:12-25, cf. Gal. 4:1-7), and, finally seventh, glorification in the presence of God. The pattern is familiarly biblical (cf. Luke 13:32; Acts 13:25; 20:24) and in essence covenantal! (15* See again my essays on covenant theology. It is a matter of general interest that Shakespeare posited seven stages of man!)
In contrast with Jesus, and the end-time saints who undergo a transformation ascension like that of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:51f.), we who die like Adam (Gen. 3) and David (Acts 2:29,34) before the second advent dispense with our corruptible animal flesh on account of sin (Rom. 8:10) since it cannot enter the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). But because Jesus conquered death and was glorified, we shall also be raised and changed at the general resurrection (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50-55). Glory is our goal and Jesus is our hope (Col. 1:27, cf. v.5; Rom. 8:20,24f.; 1 Pet. 1:3f.). Since God’s purposes and promises are fulfilled in him (2 Cor. 1:20-22), we shall always be with him (John 12:26; 1 Thes. 4:17) in his Father’s house (John 14:2f.) and will see his glory (John 17:24, cf. 14:19) in spiritual bodies like his (Phil. 3:21, cf. 1 Cor. 15:45-49; 2 Cor. 5:1).
As was intimated above, those who reject him and cultivate the flesh like animals rather than the spirit like Christ are forever cursed (Jer. 17:5; 1 Cor. 6:9; Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:5; Rev. 21:8). They permanently retain the character they have fitted themselves for throughout their earthly lives (Rev. 22:11, cf. Rom. 9:22; 2 Pet. 2:12; Jude 10; Eccl. 3:18).
I have always tended to think of creation, or procreation, as the beginning of life and its later development as the work of Providence, though the two overlap (cf. again Job 31:15, for example). Thus, assuming the truth of recapitulation and using what is known, that is, the fleshly individual as creation in miniature as our template or paradigm, I arrive at the following conclusions. First, my contention is that the early procreation and physical development or gestation of the individual recapitulates mutatis mutandis (making the requisite changes) the prehistory of the race. Second, the early development of the infant/child recapitulates the race’s protohistory. This would seem to be demanded by the fact that while initially there is no covenant with creation, once one (i.e. that with Noah) has been established, we go on to achieve covenant maturity as both race and individual. This would appear to be the necessary inference we draw from passages like John 1:9-13, Romans 1-3 (race) on the one hand, and Romans 7-8 and Galatians 4:1-7(individual) on the other. The basic difference between what I see as the biblical view and the atheistic theory of evolution is the former’s intolerance and rejection of naturalism and the latter’s exclusive acceptance of it. While for the Christian believer (as against all other religions except for Judaism and Islam) a uniquely transcendent Creator God is at work, for the atheist there is only an unexplained force which is continuous with and arising out of an inexplicable creation. Needless to say, for the believer spontaneous generation/creation simply does not make sense.
ought to be clear to the perceptive reader that the prime reason that the church (as opposed to the Bible) finds itself so at odds with science, history and even personal experience is that it is governed by traditional Augustinian theology. The so-called creation/fall/restoration schema, which posits perfection instead of ‘good’ at the start followed by a “fall” and universal curse leading in turn to eventual restoration, results in a devastating distortion of what the Bible actually teaches and to all intents and purposes destroys biblical teleology. So, for further clarification of my thesis, the reader is urged to read my essays on Covenant Theology
, Covenant Theology in Brief
, Creation Corruptible By Nature
, I Believe in Recapitulation
, Recapitulation in Outline
, The Journey of Jesus
, The Ascent of Man
, Romans 8:18-25
, The Biblical Worldview
, Baptism Revisited
, Regarding the Baptism of Jesus
, Concerning Infant Salvation
, etc. Perhaps most important of all are my articles on original sin which, on the assumption that they are valid, undermines the traditional idea that the corruptible nature of this world stems from Adam’s sin, consequent “Fall” and curse (on which see my What Fall?
, Cosmic Curse?
). The truth is, as a correct understanding of Romans 8:18-25 (cf. Heb. 1:10-12) makes clear, that creation is naturally corruptible (perishable) and requires man to exercise dominion over it with a view to escaping from it by gaining eternal life and transformation ascension (cf. Gal. 1:4; Eph. 6:12). Obviously man’s sin or moral disorientation leads to the exacerbation of nature’s corruptibility and his total failure or absence (e.g. in exile, cf. Jer. 26:6,9) leads inevitably to desolation (see e.g. Isa. 6:11, etc., cf. Ex. 23:29). The inference I draw from this is that when the harvest of the world is reaped, since it no longer has inhabitants the world becomes a total desolation and, like the desolate ‘hand-made’ temple (Mt. 23:38; Mark 14:58), is destroyed (Heb. 12:27, etc.). (For excellent comment on Mt. 23:38, see France, pp.883f.)
Additional Note (1)
The attempt of many to argue on the basis of bad theology that as individuals we are persons from conception is in my view absurd. References like Psalm 51:5 and Jeremiah 1:5 do nothing to help their cause. Psalm 51:5 as translated in ESV and NASV, apart from the fact that it could apply to Jesus, is at worst a prime example of hyperbole like Psalm 58:3 (cf. Isa. 8:4) and Job 31:18. In any case, since at birth David did not know the law, he could not have been born ‘guilty’ (NRSV) or sinful (NIV), or by the same token righteous (cf. Rom. 6:16; 9:11). This error is in the same category as the idea that Adam was created holy, righteous and perfect while still in ignorance of the law (commandment).
the assumption that my view of the issue is correct, it inevitably raises the question of the status of foetuses and small children who die before attaining to the age of understanding. The obvious answer is that in the words of Ecclesiastes 12:7: “the dust (flesh) returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit (or breath) returns to God who gave it”. Clearly moral considerations are no more involved than they are in the death of animals (cf. Ps. 49:12,20; Eccl. 3:19f.; 9:11f.). In saying this I am taking it for granted that the attempt to make death (which in the case of morally aware human beings involves breaking the law and earning wages) on account of sin a universal principle is massively misguided. It fails to reckon adequately with the evidence and is characteristic of the Augustinian worldview not the Bible. (16* See further my Death Before Genesis 3
, Not Only But Also
, Thoughts on Sin in Romans
, Some Arguments Against Original Sin
, More Arguments on Original Sin
, J.I.Packer on Original Sin
Additional Note (2)
Shortly after completing the above I read Who Made God by Edgar Andrews. On page 259f., he takes issue with what he calls “standard TE” (theistic evolution) on the grounds that it “implicitly assumes a form of emergence”. While it involves, he claims, the creation of man’s physical form by a thoroughly naturalistic evolutionary process (for which Andrews rightly gives the credit to God), his unique nature as man is the result of a special intervention by God. Thus he comments, “In other words, true man only came into being when God injected a soul or spirit into selected members of a pre-human race” and attributes this view to C.S.Lewis (The Problem of Pain, p.65 Fontana ed.) whom he quotes as follows (slightly abridged):
“For long centuries, God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers …, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all of the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed in this state for ages before it became man…. But it was only an animal because all its physical and psychical processes were directed to purely material and natural ends. Then in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism … a new kind of consciousness which could say ‘I’ and ‘me’ which could look upon itself as an object which knew God….”
then proceeds to make comments on this which I find somewhat difficult to follow and leave me wondering what exactly his point is. However, I suspect that since his worldview is thoroughly Augustinian and clearly unbiblical (he believes in original perfection and the “Fall” of man, p.243, on which see above and further my Worldview
, The Biblical Worldview
), it arises from it. However, if the reader has followed my own reasoning above, he/she will not be at all surprised that the first thought to strike me was that Lewis was describing (making the necessary changes) the development of a baby which I claim recapitulates the history of the race! If this inference is justified, then Andrews’ objections to what he calls ‘emergence’ is belied by all children including himself as a child and hence by our corresponding racial history. But even more to the point this is precisely what Scripture itself teaches. Does not Paul indicate in 1 Corinthians 15:46 that we are (animal) flesh before we are spirit (cf. various other texts which point to the same conclusion, e.g. Dt. 1:39; Ps. 139:13-16; Isa. 7:15f.; 8:4; John 1:13; 3:6; 6:63; Rom. 9:11)? Does not the entire Bible describe the progressive advance (cf. revelation) or ascent of man from Genesis to Revelation, from ground to glory (see my The Ascent of Man
, The Journey of Jesus
), from earth to heaven, from flesh to spirit? Does not a truly biblical covenant theology point in the same direction? And does not the incarnate Jesus himself, the pioneer of our salvation, reflect exactly the same process (cf. Rom. 2:7,10; 1 Pet. 1:7 with Heb. 2:9)? If he as the second Adam is our model or paradigm, he began like his father the first Adam (Luke 3:38, cf. Gen. 5:1-3) knowing neither good nor evil (Dt. 1:39; Isa. 7:15f.). As he grew, he was progressively perfected in the image of God (Mt. 5:48; Heb. 2:10; 5:9, etc.) until he finally regained as man his own former glory (John 17:5,24) and sat at his Father’s right hand (Heb. 1:3, etc.). If all this is true, then we have no alternative but to accept Lewis’ basic point even if we reject his questionable theology elsewhere.
The reader must come to his/her own conclusions on this. However, my basic contention remains: if we want to know something about mankind as race, the most effective way to do it is to study the individual. With regard to this, judging by some excerpts from his posthumously published writings on Genesis, D.M.Lloyd-Jones, despite his commitment to the traditional dogma of original sin (pp.25-27, and see his well-known sermons on Romans 5, etc.), maintained that “All of us, as it were, in addition to inheriting certain things, repeat what was done at the beginning by Adam and Eve” (pp.44ff., cf. 61f.,80). From this I am forced to infer by sheer logic, first, the redundancy of original sin, and, second, recapitulation which is at the heart of Scripture, as Irenaeus indicated long ago. At this point the relevance of B.B.Warfield’s essay on The Human Development of Jesus becomes obvious for he freely alludes to Irenaeus. It is also interesting to note that Warfield’s next essay is on 1 John 2:2 and entitled Jesus Christ The Propitiation for the Whole World. On the assumption that what is not assumed is not healed (Gregory Nazianzen, cf. Hebrews 2) 1 John 2:2 would be an impossibility if recapitulation were not true. Clearly the Bible implies that Jesus was the perfect embodiment of the race (cf. Eph. 1:10). And his journey was unquestionably from ground to glory (Eph. 4:9f.).
My rereading in July 2010 of Lewis’ The Problem of Pain reminds me of something else. In his chapter on animal pain Lewis, rightly in my view, differentiates between what he calls ‘sentience’ and ‘consciousness’ (pp.118ff.). In doing so, he supports my own long held view that while animals feel pain, they do not know it.* On this basis Lewis deduces that the appearance of reckless divine cruelty in the animal kingdom is illusion (p.118). One might almost say, no brain no pain. What Lewis does not do, however, is draw another conclusion, that is that if we are animal flesh (cf. John 1:13; 6:63; Rom. 7:18a; 8:8; 1 Cor. 15:46) when we are babies, then the same applies. Babies may appear to suffer and in a sense doubtless do, but they have neither consciousness nor recollection of it. It is only as consciousness ‘emerges’, to use Prof. Andrews’ word, that the situation changes and that quite dramatically. Again I urge the reader to meditate on this.
But we may go even further. Traditionalists tell us that Eve was simply an individual, the first woman God created from Adam’s side, whose first child was Cain (Gen. 4:1). If that is so, how do we explain Genesis 3:16? How could God increase the pain of one who had never had any children? Ten times no pain equals no pain at all! If, however, we recognize that Adam and Eve are also corporate personalities and had fleshly or animal forebears who resembled babies before they gradually arrive at self-consciousness, then the problem evaporates. If flesh precedes spirit (1 Cor. 15:46), then pre-Adamic ‘man’ like babies belongs to prehistory. For most of us conscious life begins roughly at a time subsequent to weaning when we learn to recognize animals and rainbows and to manage our own bodily functions (cf. 1 Pet. 3:21). Little wonder that the book of Genesis has so little to say about “prehistoric” human beginnings. But what it does say is quite remarkable, a model of condensation for people all over the world at different stages of their growing perception and proving yet once again what an amazing book the Bible is.
Before leaving the subject of pain, we must consider the fact that millions of Jewish baby boys are circumcised on the eighth day. While this may be distressing for their mothers in particular, it does not seem to bother the babies themselves who have no recollection of the ceremony. To my knowledge there has been no move to ban it on grounds of cruelty. The same goes for circumcision for “hygienic” reasons common in my own childhood. I have no recollection of it at all. So if I felt pain and cried, I had no consciousness of it. How different from the situation described in Genesis 34. Circumcision for Shechem and his men (vv.24f.) proved not only painful but acutely incapacitating!
There is another point. Pain begins and increases as we gain self-consciousness and moral awareness. This is precisely what Genesis implies. Just as where there is no law there is no transgression (Rom. 4:15; 7:8, etc.), so where there is no knowledge, there is no pain.
* I must have read Lewis first in 1958 when his book was given to me as a birthday present and inscribed by a female student friend, now Mme M.Dolmazon who lives in St. Etienne, France. While I do not remember being impressed with his view at the time, I certainly remember arriving at it on the basis of my own experience and reflection.
Edgar Andrews, Who Made God? Faverdale North, 2009.
Darrell L.Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53, Grand Rapids, 2002.
R.T.France, The Gospel of Matthew, Grand Rapids, 2007.
John Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone, Louisville, 2010.
D.M.Lloyd-Jones, The Gospel in Genesis, Wheaton, 2009.
D.M.Lloyd-Jones, Romans 5, London, 1971.
J.Murray, Collected Writings 2, Edinburgh, 1977.
B.B.Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings 1, ed. Meeter, Nutley, 1970.
C.J.H.Wright, Knowing the Holy Spirit through the Old Testament, Oxford, 2006.