The Genesis record is a beautiful picture of God’s creation. Order, purpose and harmony permeate His completed work. Man relates righteously to God; Adam and Eve relate lovingly to one another; and animals dwell peacefully among them. No sign of conflict, fear, violence or death appears, until the day Adam sinned against God.
That’s a problem for evolution—a big problem.
Christians who flirt with evolution have some serious explaining to do when it comes to the existence of death before Adam’s transgression. How can God pronounce a world filled with violence, disease, suffering and death “very good”? Answer: He can’t. Since theistic evolutionists claim death reigned billions of years before Adam’s fall, what did sin do to the world that hadn't already been done? In what way was the “creation subjected to futility” (Rom. 8:20)? How has the “whole creation…been groaning…until now” (v. 22)?So it seems to me that MacArthur argues that for Christianity's assertion of a need for atonement (Christ's intervention in our evil natures that came directly as a result of the Genesis Fall) to be valid, there has to have been a time in which the world did not need atonement. If the universe was created with flaws, chaos and death hardwired into its dna, then that undermines the Creation Story.
This is another wonderful example of Christian's readiness to throw everything out over nonessentials. MacArthur seems to be saying two things here:
(A) The only way to read Genesis is literally.
(B) An atonement model is the only way to understand Jesus Christ.
I reject both of these conclusions.
First, the battle over the Creation Story is not only a sad, tired battle that's cost far too many casualties, but it's a disrespectful rejection of the complex, scholarly-addressed categories of premodern Hebrew narrative and more broadly, Mesopotamian origins narratives. And God's inability to call something complex, paradoxical, and painful "good"? Really? What world - what Bible - can validate such oversimplification?
Second, why do we need to limit God's redemptive power in the world to humanity's need for some sort of legal defense? Or monetary compensation, paid to Satan - landlord of our souls? Jesus came to show us the things that God cares about and the things that God loves: compassion, gentleness, patience, self control, rejecting power and embodying weakness, humility, unconditional love, friendship, generosity, non-judgment, taking care of the sick, widows, orphans, and loving enemies. Good God! Are all those things about Jesus just circumstantial?! Does NONE of how Jesus lived and what Jesus taught matter to our souls and the redemption of the world?! Is it really just about his death, magically saving us from hell through some chess game played by YHWH and Lucifer?!
I mean: Why is is some esoteric “theory” of atonement necessary, when pragmatic reality seems so clear: humanity did with Christ what humanity does with anything pure – we are attracted to it, captivated by it, convicted by it, suspect of it, we come to fear it, and then we kill it. We don’t need a theory of atonement to explain why Jesus was good, and why Jesus died. Human nature’s modus operandi is quite clear. So is the truth of Jesus' life and death.
Thank God for evolution. I pray we continue to do so.