It has long been held that the background of Romans 8:18-25 is formed primarily by Genesis 3:15-19. Augustine of Hippo, whose influence on the church has been and still is, even in the 21st century, enormous, taught that in the beginning God created a perfect world over which a perfect, holy and righteous Adam and Eve exercised dominion. However, when they fell under the spell of the devil, sinned and were cursed, the world also ‘fell’ and was cursed with them and like them was in dire necessity of redemption. So even today in the 21st century theologians and commentators adhere to the view that we live on a cursed earth full of sinful people requiring urgent salvation. For instance, C.E.B.Cranfield in comment on Romans 8:18-25 (ICC Vol. 1, p.413) tells us that there is “little doubt that Paul had in mind the judgment related in Gen. 3.17-19”. J.D.G.Dunn along with various others endorses his view (e.g. Vol. 1, p.471). (1* F.F.Bruce may be mentioned as one among the various others. In 1964 he wrote a major commentary on The Epistle to the Hebrews. There he recognized creation’s natural transience and final doom to destruction. However, the revision of his commentary on Romans in 1985, especially so far as Romans 8:18-25 is concerned, is strangely at odds with views he, in my opinion, correctly expressed in Hebrews. For instance, he refers in comment on Hebrews 11:25 to the transient pleasures of sin and then, in note 180, p.319, to 2 Corinthians 4:18, which is of course by Paul, as indicating the transience of the visible world by contrast with the eternity of the invisible. Bruce’s theological inconsistency is patent, unless of course he thought the biblical authors contradict one another.) But in the light of other teaching, even that of the apostle Paul himself, the question I am prompted to ask is: Is it correct?
In the nature of the case it would seem appropriate to take a look initially at Genesis 3 which I accept is rather difficult to understand, especially against the traditional Augustinian background.
The Context of Genesis 3:15-19
First, it is vital to bear in mind the context of Genesis 3 early in the Bible. Far from implying that man at the beginning of his career on earth was physically and morally mature, it points, perhaps somewhat opaquely, to his extreme immaturity. Otherwise expressed, Adam was not like Athene springing full-grown from the head of Zeus in classical mythology, but “intricately wrought in the depths of the earth” (Ps. 139:15, RSV, ‘woven’, NRSV, cf. Gen. 2:7; 3:19,23), like the rest of the animals (Gen. 2:19). So, extrapolating from modern experience of procreation which recapitulates creation (Isa. 45:9f.) when we are all sired by (the seed of) man (cf. Heb. 7:10) and born of woman, this surely suggests that the Garden of Eden is the womb of the race. If this is so, the inference we reasonably make is that Adam himself was created, not full-grown as tradition has it, but as seed before being conceived in the Garden womb (Gen. 2:8,15, cf. Ps. 139:13). When we consider that in procreation the man Adam who is made in the image of God recapitulates the creative activity of God (cf. Isa. 45:9f.; Heb. 7:10) and that the woman, who is his glory (1 Cor. 11:7) or delight (Isa. 62:4f., cf. Ezek. 24:16,25; Rev. 21:9-11), plays the role of the earth as mother (Gen. 3:20), this view is confirmed. (Against this background we may well infer that just as Jesus pre-existed in heaven and became imperishable seed (cf. “contracted to a span”, C.Wesley) sown in Mary’s perishable womb, so Adam pre-existed in the earth as perishable seed before being sown in the Garden of Eden, cf. 1 Pet. 1:23.)
Seed-bearing as such, especially in Genesis 1, implies recapitulation. This is still further borne out by the recognition that during his period of gestation in the Garden womb, Adam had done neither good nor evil (cf. Gen. 2:17; 3:5,22), not least since he did not know the law or commandment apart from which he was morally neutral (cf. Rom. 4:15, etc.), or rather amoral, like an animal. But what is immediately relevant is the fact that his experience provided the pattern or blueprint for Esau and Jacob in Rebecca’s womb, which for them typified the Garden of Eden (Rom. 9:11).
With this in mind, the inference we draw must be that in contrast with modern babies Adam attained to physical manhood while still in the womb, that is, in the Garden of Eden. But, despite this, he remained without rational understanding until towards the end of his gestation. And it was only when he acquired it, like a modern baby on the verge of childhood, that he became capable of receiving the commandment, of disobeying it and of being expelled from the Garden womb or, in other words, of being ‘born’. (2* Cf. Israel in Isaiah 48:8 who against a heathen background broke the law and was (metaphorically) ‘born’, but not created, sinful.) As Paul implies in 1 Corinthians 15:46, he was (animal) flesh before he was spirit or recognizably made in the image of God. On the assumption that this is indeed the case, his ejection from the idyllic Garden as a rational human as opposed to an animal ruled by (blind) instinct meant that he was now consciously faced with the kind of world that we all recognize confronts us even today, one that is intractable, inhospitable, difficult to manage and has to be subjected to our dominion (cf. Gen. 1:26-28). If it is not so subjected, it becomes like the field of the sluggard in Proverbs 24:30-34, a desolation characterized by thorns and nettles, a veritable curse in fact. (3* The picture of land uninhabited, or ‘unmarried’ like a woman, Isa. 62:4f., uncultivated and consequently desolate is a frequent one in the OT, e.g. Isa. 6:11; 27:10. See further my The Fatherhood of God, Understanding God)
To say this, however, immediately suggests that the cause of the curse in Genesis was not that the earth was subjected to miraculous constitutional change on account of man’s sin and ‘fall’ from original righteousness as tradition teaches, but rather that it was not properly tilled and cultivated by man who, though physically mature, was both mentally infantile and sinful (cf. Gen. 3:17; 4:12-16; 5:29). Put otherwise, during his racial (antediluvian) infancy, which was the time of his transition from (animal) flesh to human, man as both individual and community was incompetent and unable to adequately fulfil his original vocation of exercising dominion. A modern baby, of course, does not experience the so-called ‘cosmic’ curse because it is lacking conscious intelligence and, in any case, it has parents who are both adult and rational to care for it.
To clarify, as mere flesh man could live off the land as the animal he initially was (cf. Gen. 2:16), but as a conscious rational human being he could not. Tilling the land became a basic necessity inherent in the situation, as Genesis 1:26-28 indicates.
If all this is true, it casts a different light on the interpretation of the early chapters of the Bible we have inherited from the sin-obsessed Augustine and even some of his rabbinical predecessors.
The Interpretation of Genesis 3:15-19
First, the mere fact that creation had a beginning (Gen. 1:1) like all created things implied an end (Gen. 8:22, cf. Dt. 11:21; Mt. 24:35). This indicated that it was not eternal and was therefore not perfect, that is, like heaven and the throne of God, as tradition has it.
Next, the need for the earth to be subjected to man’s dominion (1:26) even subdued (Gen. 1:28), and for its ‘good’ fruit to be eaten (e.g. Gen. 2:9, cf. 1:29), belied any suggestion that it was an autonomous source of supply like the Garden of Eden or a womb. Rather the need for tilling or cultivation became paramount as Genesis 1:26-28 implied even before sin had appeared on the horizon as a possible cause. In other words, it was natural and divinely intended from the start irrespective of sin. Even the sinless Jesus, who was a carpenter in his youth, had to work (Mark 10:45; John 17:4). What is more, as Paul was to point out later, failure to work meant that a man should not, even could not in extreme conditions, eat (2 Thes. 3:10, cf. Gen. 3:19; Prov. 6:6-15; 12:11; 13:4; 19:15; 20:4; 24:34; Isa. 5:6, etc.).
The conclusion I draw from this is that since sin depends for its very existence on knowledge of (the) law/commandment (Rom. 4:15, etc.), it was knowledge, not sin, that opened Adam’s eyes (Gen. 3:5-7; 3:22) and enabled him to become aware not of a catastrophic change in nature and of a so-called cursed and fallen world, but of a world of which he had formerly been ignorant like a baby (or an animal) and had never consciously experienced during the purely animal stage of his existence. Clearly in light of Genesis 3:16, for example, pain, animal copulation, physical birth, death, weeds and the like existed, but Adam and Eve in their baby- or animal-like immaturity were almost completely unaware of them. (4* See, for e.g., my Death Before Genesis 3; A Double Helping) As Paul was to say later, because law (and hence understanding) is lacking and therefore sin, death has no sting (1 Cor. 15:56). Expressed otherwise, animal death is natural and as such is without moral significance. Only rational humans earn the wages of sin and they do this by breaking the law which the animals do not have (Rom. 5:12; 6:23). Thus Paul claimed that before he himself received the commandment (note the word!), he was like Adam (biologically) alive (Rom. 7:9f.) What sin did in Adam’s case was prove the existence of knowledge, which opened his eyes (Gen. 3:5-7,22) to the world as it now appears to us in its natural (not specially induced by sin) state of divinely-ordained corruption or decay (cf. Heb. 1:10-12). By contrast, animals, which lack knowledge like Adam before he received God’s commandment, are still blissfully in paradise lacking the attributes that make us human and painfully aware of nature’s intractability and hostility. Not for them philosophical problems regarding the existence of both natural and moral evil! (5* See further my Nature Red in Tooth and Claw)
Of course, expressed in this way my contention immediately raises the question of the sinless Jesus’ knowledge of the world he inhabited. This is important since like Adam before him he was born along with animals in a stable and knew as little as they did (cf. Isa. 7:15f.; 8:4). But whereas he was ‘created’, or rather incarnated, in the image of God and was subject to spiritual development or evolution, they were not. So like all normal babies born of woman (Gal. 4:4), under the covenant with Noah he eventually came to recognize rainbows and to name the animals among which he was born. If this is so, then he acquired knowledge by normal human development as we all do but in his unique case apart from sin. As Paul indicates later, understanding of the law can lead to either disobedience as in Adam’s case or obedience as in Jesus’ case (Rom. 6:16). Plainly sin is not a necessary way of attaining knowledge. What it does is prove that knowledge exists (Rom. 4:15, etc.). If it did not, there would be neither guilt as in the animal world (John 9:41; 15:22,24) nor righteousness. Ignorance is always a mitigating factor in Scripture and total ignorance implies total mitigation.
Assuming the truth of this, we can readily draw the conclusion that creation was naturally, that is, by divine design, destructible, corruptible, provisional and futile from the start as Paul seems to teach in Romans 8:18-25. (6* See my The Corruptibility Of Creation; Creation Corruptible By Nature; The Destruction of the Material Creation; The Transience of Creation; Concerning Futility) It was made that way, and the ideas arising from Augustinian theology of original perfection, sin, fall, curse and future physical redemption are not only false but ludicrous. The plain fact is that the findings of modern science, despite its generally naturalistic bias, are much closer to biblical truth than those of the churches which are suffused with the absurdities of the Augustinian worldview. (7* Edgar Andrews’ quarrel with what he calls emergence or theistic evolution is difficult to understand. His problem would appear to be that he is a committed Augustinian. His false theology gets in the way of the biblical and the experiential facts of human life as we know it. Perhaps C.S.Lewis and Francis Collins were not so wrong as he thinks, pp.259ff. In fact, his quotation from Lewis’ The Problem of Pain, the time scale apart, could be the description of the formation of a baby! If this is correct, it confirms my view that the individual recapitulates the history of the race, on which see especially my If the individual recapitulates ….. )
At this point the critical reader might well be prompted to observe sarcastically that despite my alternative explanation, the Bible, in line with the traditional Augustinian worldview, explicitly refers to a curse stemming from Adam’s sin. It does indeed, but, as I have already suggested, that curse is not a divinely orchestrated, miraculous change in the very constitution of the ground but the natural consequence of its being left un(at)tended, neglected and untilled like the sluggard’s field in Proverbs 24 (cf. Job 31:38-40). After all, though the covenant with obedient Noah (who is presumably the first racial ‘child’ as opposed to an ‘infant’), ensures that a ‘cosmic’ curse by means of a flood will never again be repeated (8:21f., cf. Isa. 54:9f.; Luke 17:26-29.) because man will in general be a worker (cf. the later Protestant work ethic and its fruits). (8* It is worth noting at this point that Noah, the obedient worker, is cast as a ‘saviour’ in Genesis 5:29.) However, there is plenty of evidence of desolation on a lesser scale both in the Bible (Lev. 26; Dt. 28), in history and modern experience. As Hebrews 2:2 asserts, sin always results in curse of a kind. But alongside curse there is blessing (Dt. 30:15, etc.), which would be impossible if the curse was universal, cosmic and permanent. The land flowing with milk and honey, which was nurtured successfully by the wicked but nature-worshipping Canaanites before it became a wonderful legacy, blessing and haven to the children of Israel (Dt. 6:10f.; 8:6-10), would be a chimera if the traditional view is true, not to mention other evidence that the earth reacts to the way it is treated (Prov. 12:11; 13:4; 28:19). For example, we have only to think of the exile, its 70-year Sabbath rest, and its aftermath of recovery. (9* See also e.g. Ps. 107:33-38, Isa. 5:1-7; 51:3; Ezek. 36: 33-38 and my Cosmic Curse?)
In light of the above, what can be said of Romans 8:18-25 which has usually been interpreted following lines arrived at on the traditional Augustinian view of Genesis 3:15-19?
The very first point to make is that whereas sin played its part in Genesis, Paul makes no more mention of it in this passage from Romans than he does in 1 Corinthians 15:35-55 and Jesus does in John 3:1-8. Sin is read into it (eisegesis) not out of it (exegesis). So attempting to read it without Augustinian presuppositions, it soon becomes apparent that Paul first makes a distinction between this age and the age to come (8:18; Eph. 1:21, cf. Luke 20:34-36). As 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5 especially makes more obvious, the difference has nothing to do with sin but is intrinsic in the work of God. The pejorative or depreciatory ‘hand-made’ (cheiropoietos) world is by nature inferior to the ‘not hand-made’ (acheiropoietos) or permanent heavenly world by divine design (cf. Heb. 9:11,24). (10* Compare the natural difference in bodies in 1 Corinthians 15:42-50 and my Manufactured Or Not So. Pace Gaffin in my essay Did Jesus Rise Physically From The Grave? Additional Note.) The (human) body of flesh is creation in miniature and clearly destructible by design.) Just as the OT Promised Land, though ‘exceedingly good’ (Num. 14:7, ESV), was not a final stopping point or journey’s end (cf. Heb. 3,4), so neither is this present visible material world we inhabit. Still good (1 Tim. 4:4; 1 Cor. 10:26,30), it will serve its purpose and be productive to the end of the age (Gen. 8:22; Luke 17:26-30). Since this is so, it was always the divine intention that man, the image of God as opposed to animal, should escape from this ‘evil’ age (Gal. 1:4, cf. 1 John 2:15-17) and aspire to heaven and the throne of God as his spiritual son. Thus Paul implies in Romans 8:19 that this present temporary creation (which had a beginning and will therefore have an end) far from being perfect is geared to the eventual revealing of the sons of God. Since this is so, while it was intentionally subjected to futility by God himself, it was so in hope of something better (8:20). As a creature like the rest of the animals, fleshly man is part and parcel of that creation and so is subject to the same futility (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50). But he is also made in the image of God and consequently, as God’s image, he needs to be liberated from his physical futility in order to reach his goal of glory (cf. Rom. 2:7,10; 1 Pet.1:6f.) as the son of God (Rom. 8:21, cf. 1 Cor. 15:50). (11* On Romans 8:21, see my Romans 8:18-25 In Brief.) So while the entire creation is groaning in the pains of childbirth as the mother of all flesh (cf. Gen. 2:7; 3:20; Ps. 139:15f.; Mark 13:8), we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit experience the same pains as we groan inwardly awaiting our adoption as sons and the redemption of our bodies (8:23, cf. 2 Cor. 5:1-5). (12* But not our flesh! Soma certainly, but not sarx, Dunn, p.391)!
Paul then refers again in 8:24f. to the hope he mentioned in verse 20 and stresses its invisible and spiritual as opposed to its visible and material nature (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16-18). This being so, the notion of the redemption of the physical creation is ruled out of court. If the perishable flesh cannot go to heaven, neither can the perishable creation (Heb. 1:10-12) from which it derives (1 Cor. 15:50).
First, on the assumption that my reasoning and understanding above are correct, the Augustinian worldview involving initial or original perfection followed by sin, curse, fall and final redemption is not only wrong, it is absurd and turns what the Bible teaches upside down. (13* The very word perfection implies end, teleology, completion, maturity, cf. James 1:4, not beginning. Cf. my Topsy-Turvy Theology.) If God’s power and glory are displayed in the things he has made ‘by hand’ (Rom. 1:20), they are also manifested in their transience and final destruction (Heb. 1:10-12; 12:27). (14* Cf. 2 Pet. 3:5-7 which implies that what God can make, he can unmake!) And this Paul himself clearly accepts not only in 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1 (cf. 1 Pet. 1:6f.), but also here in Romans 8:18 and 8:24f. Like the spirit in John 3 and the body in 1 Corinthians 15:35-55 redemption is confined to the spiritual to the exclusion of the temporal material. If flesh cannot go to heaven and be eternalized (1 Cor. 15:50), neither can the creation which spawns it (cf. Rev. 21:1). (15* See further the other ‘no mores’ of Rev. 21:4, 22:3,5, and note especially the ‘hand-made’ temple in Rev. 21:22, cf. Mark 14:58.) The very idea is opposed to the essence of biblical teaching and the whole tenor of revelation. It fails to understand that the goal of man was his spiritual sonship of God from the start (Eph. 1:4-6) and that the attainment of that goal meant his evolutionary ascent, not his ignominious descent or ‘fall’ from an initial high state of maturity. More to the point, that ascent from ground to glory was most clearly etched in the life of Jesus (John 3:13, cf. Eph. 4:9f.) who alone achieved the perfection of God (Mt. 5:48; 19:21; Heb. 1:3; 5:9; 7:28, etc.) in the flesh and so served as the pioneer of the rest of us (Heb. 6:20; 12:2; Rev. 3:21). Furthermore, it imports a colossal contradiction into Scripture which clearly teaches the fiery final destruction (e.g. Zeph.1:3,18; 3:8; 2 Pet. 7,10-12) of the visible, temporary, material creation (e.g. Mt. 6:19f.; Luke 13:4; Col. 2:22) leaving only the eternal things (cf. Luke 16:9) that cannot be shaken permanently in place (Heb. 12:27-29).
It is arguable that the most serious damage a false Augustinian interpretation of the early chapters of Scripture has done is to deny not simply aspects of Darwinism (natural selection, survival of the fittest, etc.) but the very concept of evolution which is almost never defined in popular Christian literature. The inevitable result of this has been to set Christianity at loggerheads with genuine science, to bring its truth into question and into public disrepute. Biblically speaking, however, it is impossible to pit creation against evolution. For in the Bible the corollary of creation is precisely evolution just as the corollary of procreation, which recapitulates creation (cf. Isa. 45:9f.), is maturation or perfection. (16* At this point, of course, it must not be forgotten that physical evolution, even that of ‘the selfish gene’, always ends in death, but spiritual evolution, which achieves its culmination in the presence of God, delivers eternal life. Since Jesus will never die again but live for ever, so shall we!) The (teleological) goal of every baby beginning with Adam has been to be perfected and to attain to the glory of God (Rom. 2:7,10; 3:23; 5:2; 8:30). And this was made possible by Jesus who having achieved perfection as man himself ensured that all who have faith will do so too (cf. Heb. 11:39f.). On the great Day, faithful men and women of every tribe and nation will stand before the throne of God and the Lamb and give praise for their salvation (Rev 7:9f.).
I have in essence set forth my case, but can it be further validated? Is the worldview implied by Genesis 3 the same as that sketched by Paul in Romans 8:18-25?
First, the attentive reader of the Bible can hardly be unaware that there is a difference between sin and nature. (17* See further e.g. my Sin And Nature; Death and Corruption; Two ‘Natural’ Necessities; Transgression And Transformation.) In Matthew 6:19f., for example, Jesus refers to natural moths and rust on the one hand and to sinful thieves on the other. He does the same in Luke 13:1-5 where he distinguishes between the lethal effect of the sinful acts of Pilate and the equally lethal effect of the natural corruption of the tower of Siloam. (On this Bastille Day on which I write in July 2019, Australians have been killed by falling trees!) Again in Luke 21 the same distinction appears (e.g. vv.10f., etc.). Since this is so, ultimately on the Day of the Lord mankind will be caught in a trap (Luke 21:34f.; 1 Thes. 5:3; 2 Pet. 3:10-12). Here what must happen ‘naturally’ will be used to bring salvation to the faithful and destruction to the wicked.
It is difficult to read the accounts of Paul’s missionary journeys and not to become aware that the apostle has to deal with tribulation (cf. Acts 9:16) in the form of both (sinful) persecution and the afflictions stemming from nature. On the one hand, he suffers at the hands of human enemies, on the other he has to overcome the trials imposed on him by nature (Gen. 1:26,28, e.g. Acts 27; 2 Cor. 6:4f., etc., cf. Jonah).
It should also be noted that both Job and Jeremiah, who suffered much from both natural disaster and human hostility, wished they had remained in their mother’s womb which recapitulated for them the idyllic Garden of Eden. But there was no going back (Gen. 3:24, cf. John 3:4). Birth into the present world meant seeing toil and trouble (Job 5:6f.; 7:1; 14:1ff., etc.) as Jesus did, even though they had never like Adam sinned (cf. Dt. 1:39). Yet it was nonetheless like a curse (Job 3:1ff.,20; Jer. 20:14-18). To generalize, Job suffered mainly from the natural world, though his comforters were less than helpful, and Jeremiah from persecution. (18* See further my Job And Romans 8:18-25.) We do well when studying Scripture to realize that corruption can be both moral and physical. Perhaps we can learn more from Ecclesiastes than we normally do. After all, we usually view it through ‘Augustinian’ eyes.
But the difference between sin and nature is also brought out on the linguistic level by the word ‘ananke’, denoting necessity (19* Vine, p.176.) It refers to things like distress and affliction that must be, that is, naturally necessary, quite unrelated to sin. They are nonetheless integral to the will and purpose of God who tests us not merely by law (Dt. 8:2,16) but by natural events (Job; Ecclesiastes; Acts 14:22; James 1:12, etc.). Thus it is stressed that Jesus alone overcame the world, the flesh and the devil in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.; John 16:33; Heb. 2:9; 1 John 2:15-17).
Then there is the difference between (im)mortality and (in)corruption often ignored in the EVV (e.g. Rom. 1:23; 2:7). While Jesus as incarnate was in contrast to his Father both mortal (he died) and perishable (like creation he grew older), by keeping the law he brought to light both the immortality and incorruption or imperishability that were his Father’s attributes (2 Tim. 1:10; 1 Cor. 15:53).
In addition to other evidence, the fact that the sinless Jesus grew older proves beyond question that the creation of which he became a part at his incarnation was intrinsically corruptible (cf. Heb. 1:10-12). So, the idea that obsolescence is simply the fruit of sin is unsustainable, even though it (sin) is usually an exacerbating factor (cf. Heb. 12:1). Two examples will suffice: smoking can result in cancer and early death by corruption; global warming which is the consequence among other things of excessive burning of fossil fuels can arguably contribute to the destruction of creation. But both death and destruction will occur, no matter what (cf. Num. 16:28f.). They are divinely intended (Isa. 51:6; Mt. 5:18, etc.) and can only be avoided by man if he either keeps the law or is saved by faith in Jesus. Hence Peter’s warning (2 Pet. 3:11).
On the assumption that I have argued correctly, it has become apparent that Augustine’s original ‘perfect’ world was not creation in general but the Garden of Eden or womb of the race. Needless to say, it constituted paradise (cf. Ezek. 28:11-16). And the fact that it re-appears in enhanced form in Revelation 22 confirms this and should not surprize us. It was regained by Jesus who alone achieved perfection. As he himself intimated, he descended in order to ascend (John 3:13; 6:62) with his sheep behind him (John 10:4; Rom. 8:28-30).
The creation or harsh outside world that confronted Adam in Genesis 3 when he emerged from the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race, is essentially the same as the one sketched by Paul in Romans 8:18-25 and is part of our present experience. Its futility, corruption and eventual destruction were part of the divine purpose from the start and like the law (Dt. 8:2,16, etc.) designed to test mankind (Gen. 1:26-28, cf. Rom. 2:7,10). Death and decay are natural, that is, divinely intended, and are characteristic of this ‘evil’ age (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:16-18) from which we must escape either by law-keeping, which is impossible, or by faith in Jesus (Gal. 1:4). In light of this, sin and curse must be seen as exacerbating factors, signs of human failure (cf. Heb. 12:1). While change has occurred and continues to occur, not least in our own bodies, it is the result of the passage of time, evolution, natural corruption and deterioration including wear and tear (cf. Mt. 6:19f.; Col. 2:22; Heb. 1:10-12). But alongside this there has been blessing and the positive contribution of faithful man in his maturity, that is, his commitment to civilisation, the well-being of human society and final salvation in Christ, who alone conquered the world (John 16:33; Heb. 2:9), achieved perfection (Heb. 5:9) and proved worthy (Rev. 5:9,12-14).
As I remember, Sir Fred Catherwood wrote a book entitled The Christian in Industrial Society. At the end of it he tabulated the prosperity of many of the different countries in the world and argued Protestant countries headed the list on account of their faith and work ethic. At some time in the 1960s or 70s I remember reading a German work arguing along the same lines. Of course, counter arguments have been promoted. One that I seem to recall was that the reason for the rise of the West was that it occupied the best grasslands of the world!
Thoughts to ponder:
- According to Paul, creation is still good (1 Tim. 4:3f.; 1 Cor. 10:26,30, etc.)
- He does not mention sin in Romans 8:18-25.
- Therefore there is clearly no permanent ‘cosmic’ curse.
- The curse of Genesis 3: 17 arose from Adam’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race, which had been an autonomous source of supply. The world outside the womb was and is naturally hard to subdue by divine design (Gen. 1:28; Job 5:6f.; 7:1; 14:1f.).
- The curse of the flood was the consequence of the sin of the knowledgeable antediluvians (Gen. 6:7), but in making his covenant with obedient Noah God promised that neither the ground nor animal life in general would be cursed again till the end of the age (Gen. 8:21f.). At that time destruction will be by fire (Heb. 6:7f.; 2 Pet. 3:5-13).
- The Garden of Eden or womb of the race like a woman’s womb which typifies it (cf. Gen. 3:20) is a place of delight where ignorance is bliss (cf. Rom. 9:11). Whereas man created as seed gestated to physical maturity like an animal at creation, modern man is born a baby and enjoys an innocent infancy (Dt. 1:39, etc.). His goal once he achieves rational and moral consciousness is glory (Rom. 2:7,10).
- After creation as seed and conception (Ps. 139:15; Job 31:15), man evolves from embryo (Rom. 9:11), to animal at birth (cf. Luke 2:7; John 1:14; 1 Cor. 15:46), to heathen (cf. Mt. 2:15), adolescent under law (Jew, cf. Luke 2:40-52 and school), to Christian under the Spirit (cf. Mt. 3:13-17; John 1:13; 3:1-7), where again beginning with seed (1 John 3:9), followed by babyhood (1 Pet. 2:2), childhood (Heb. 5:11-13), mature manhood (1 Cor. 14:20; Heb. 5:14), physical decline, death, bodily resurrection, to final glorification and heavenly session.
In other words, after creation we evolve from conception (Isa. 45:10) to coronation (2 Tim. 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4; Rev. 2:10).
See further my:
Edgar Andrews, Who Made God?, Darlington/Carlisle, 2009.
F.F.Bruce, Romans, Leicester, 1985.
The Epistle to the Hebrews, London/Edinburgh, 1965.
C.E.B.Cranfield, ICC Romans, Vol. 1, Edinburgh, 1975.
J.D.G.Dunn, WBC Romans 1-8, Dallas, 1988.
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, Nashville, 1985.