Extinction and God's Control of History
Many Christians wonder how the fact that God is the Creator and preserver of His creation fits in with the extinctions of so many creatures. In fact, it was this problem that made it seem as though proof of extinctions in the past was proof of evolution.
In this discussion it is helpful for us to see how much the world has changed from the world which God originally created. In Genesis 2:6 we read about how a mist, rising from the ground, watered the earth. In fact, we don’t find mention of rain until the start of the great flood, in Genesis 7:4. In Genesis 2:8-17 we find the description of the Garden of Eden, a place which was closed to man after sin (Genesis 3:22-24). In this garden there were plants which we do not have today, such as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And don’t try to find Eden on a map of the world today because, although you will be able to find rivers named Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates, there is no place in which their relationship to each other matches the description of the text. But this should not be surprising to us since, as we read Genesis 7:11-24, we see the terrible violence of the flood. It is therefore easy to see how the entire face of the globe was changed by the flood. Therefore we conclude that the post-flood rivers which carry these names were simply named after their pre-flood counterparts.
Man himself was vastly different before he fell into sin, too. In Genesis 1:27 we read that God created man in His own image. The first man was perfect, sinless, and evidently very intelligent. In Genesis 2:19 we read how Adam, seeing all of God’s animals for the first time, named each one. The text here very clearly indicates that this was not just a chance process, but that Adam evidently knew something about these animals he had never seen, so that he was able to name them with names which God Himself would honor. At this point man was immortal.
When sin came into the world everything began to change - the very nature of the creation itself was modified. Man was now subject to death (Genesis 3:19). But even worse, man was now no longer in God’s image. Many Christians fail to study the opening verses of Genesis 5 carefully. Note how Genesis 5:1 pointedly states that Adam was created in the image of God, but his son Seth (verse 3) was in Adam’s image! This image was one which had been in the image of God, but was now also fallen into sin. Today we can only say that man is in the image of God in the sense that a wrecked, burned-out automobile may still be called a “car.” With sin death entered the picture, and while 900+ years of life may seem like a long time to us, it was a shocking drop for Adam and Eve. And today, reaching the age of 90+ is considered quite an accomplishment.
So life today, under the reality of sin and its effects, is vastly different than it was before sin. Things that could never happen before are very commonplace now. St. Paul talks about how sin changed all the creation in Romans 8:18-25. As you read these verses think about all of the things we see in the natural world around us that reflect what Paul is saying here. The entire creation groans under the effects of sin - and it waits for the deliverance from sin which is only in Christ Jesus. Note especially what verse 23 says, “also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” This is a clear view of reality that Christians dare not forget. Although we have faith in Christ’s atonement for our sin, and know by faith that we are once again in fellowship with God, even having the first fruits of the Holy Spirit, we, too, must still cope with sin and its effects. As Martin Luther said, we are at the same time saints as well as sinners. Many Christians live and talk today as if they have been magically transported back to Adam’s condition before sin when they come to faith in Christ. But while it is true that we are saints and sons of God, sin is not without its influence. (If you want to make this point to someone else, you may wish to go from here to a reading of Romans 7:14-25).
Even the sinful deeds of believers have evil consequences. Note that David, a man after God’s own heart, sinned and had to suffer the consequences, as did the church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22). So, there is evil in the world on account of sin, even though God is good. And there can be evil results from sin even in a believer’s life despite the fact that he stands forgiven for Jesus’ sake. And this state of affairs extends to the whole creation.
This situation makes it all the more important that we understand the nature and depth of God’s intimate and personal involvement in His creation. The God of the Bible is not a God who formed the original creation and then just left things to go on by their own natural principles. In Matthew 10:29, 31 we read that not even one of the many sparrows falls to the ground without the knowledge of the Heavenly Father. But He did not bring death upon the world, we did. The conclusion that is left to us is that animal extinctions are allowed by God, although not part of His original design. Death, whether of one small sparrow or of a whole species, is a stark and accusing finger pointed in warning directly at us. Banning guns or melting down bombs won’t stop death - the death rate remains 100%.
The good that God works out of death, and especially mass extinctions, is to get us to look to the only Solution there is to death - our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Who has already proven His mastery over death and Who now seeks an ever growing personal involvement in our lives. May the death of those men and animals before us impress us with the urgency of the mission that God has given us today!
Photo: Gutenberg Bible. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Copyright © 1988 Bible Science Newsletter, Pastor Paul A. Bartz. Creation Moments, Inc. PO Box 839 Foley, MN 56329