It’s Not All Perfect; It Never Has Been; But It Will Be

Hey everybody! Long time, no see. A lot’s happened since last we met—an engagement, a wedding, a cross-country move. These things happen. Anyway, it’s good to be back, and you all look terrific (no, really).

I’m prompted to post because of a chapter I read yesterday in a book I want to review in full shortly. The book is The Lost World of Adam and Eve, the chapter s no. 16, for those following along at home.

The gist—without explaining the preceding 15 chapters—is this: When God goes to work creating in Genesis 1, he is primarily establishing order out of non-order. As John H. Walton reads the text, this crucial work of ordering creation, however, is still incomplete at the close of the first seven days. Thus, Adam and Eve are commissioned to help continue the work of ordering creation (Gen. 1:26-28). Then, with their choice to grasp wisdom for themselves, the first couple introduce disorder to the earth.

While this is not an entirely uncommon interpretation (nor is it new), it flies in the face of some readings of the text that had posited that the world had been utterly perfect prior to Adam and Eve’s fall. Among its many values, though, is the way it explains our current state of affairs, as well as the final destination.

You see, we continue to experience all three states of affairs: order, non-order and disorder (these are Walton’s terms). We live and work for order. Whether this be as simple as maintaining a clean home (OK, Maybe “simple” isn’t the right word there), or as dramatic as bringing healing to the sick; order is the goal. It is God’s work, and ours with him.

Non-order is in the elements of the world that remain chaotic and at present uncontrollable. Think, storms and volcanoes and earthquakes and the like. These may at times cause terrible damage, but they are not of themselves evil. They simply demonstrate that the world retains some element of unresolved chaos that had been evident before the Lord got to work putting creation in a functional state (Gen. 1:2).

Disorder, however, is entirely different. Disorder is indeed evil. And it is sin that has unleashed disorder throughout our world. Disorder actively seeks to undo God’s work of creation.

I like three things about these designations.

  1. It discards the need for the earth to have been perfect before Adam and Eve set foot on the stage, a position that many have recognized to be fraught with textual difficulties. That is, the world in which Adam and Eve found themselves initially could have been sinless, but still contained some level of chaos in the form of natural events beyond their control.
  2. It makes quick sense of the state of affairs we all recognize today. Theologians have long struggled with what have been called “natural evils”, like tsunamis and such, because they unleash such awful destruction on the earth, yet they have no will of themselves. How can we call an earthquake a true evil if it did not plan itself? Further, how can we attribute such destruction to a good God? Un-order removes the quagmire.
  3. This manner of reading the origin texts retains the vision of the ultimate destination set out in Revelation 21-22. The Creator is bringing the creation to a place where both un-order and disorder will be no more. He will complete his goal of putting all of creation in order, including that which we set into disorder.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll get back to this down the road, but I liked what I saw yesterday and wanted to share.  Stay tuned for a complete review of Walton’s thoughts on our first parents.