Thursday, June 21, 2007

DEATH AND HOPE ( ! ) versus Tennyson's "Nature, red in tooth and claw"

DEATH AND HOPE ? ! ? ! ?

We often speak of "suffering and death" and also of "life and hope", but rarely in the same breath.

This posting is about DEATH AND HOPE - all in the same breath..

The lines of Alfred, Lord Tennyson,
"Man...Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law --
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shrieked against his creed."
are oft and famously quoted to portray the idea that death and suffering in this world are antithetical to (and hence proof against the existence of) the Eternal Creator God of the Holy Bible, Genesis chapter one.

Two points will follow:
(1) death and suffering were not a part of God's original "very good" creation, but only followed the "fall of man"; this provides the definitive argument against theistic evolution over long ages of time; and
(2) only in death did God provide seeds of true hope ... that is, "no death, no hope."

(1) Death and suffering were not part of God's original "very good" creation:

I first became aware of Tennyson's "nature, red in tooth and claw" many years ago when I saw it quoted by the ardent antitheist George Bernard Shaw, referring to it as "bloody tooth and claw." Shaw set up not a "straw man", but a "straw god," to then knock down. Shaw's "straw god" would be so cruel as to perform the creation through a long and gradual hit-and-miss process of survival of the fittest, leaving weaker animals dragging themselves around with useless or half-formed limbs and organs to be at the complete mercy of the stronger, the eaten at the (non)mercy of the eater.

Where did George Bernard Shaw get his "straw god?" I call it a "straw" proposition because it ignores the clear teaching of scripture that all life forms were created "according to their kind" from the very beginning. Instead, Shaw took his "straw god" from theistic evolutionists who try to compromise scripture with what they incorrectly perceive to be "science". Shaw and others of his ilk actually do us a favor in pointing out the total inconsistency (or implied weakness or ineptness or uncaringness) of a "loving " God who would create by survival of the fittest.

So it seems that atheists, agnostics and God-haters have a much more precise understanding of the implications of theistic evolution than do the theistic evolutionists themselves.

Holy Scripture declares "God saw all that He had made, and it was very good." (Genesis 1:31a, NIV). Biblical creationists correctly point out that when God saw that His newly completed creation was "very good," this precludes the possibility of pre-existing death and decay implied by theistic evolution. To me, THIS IS THE MOST DEFINITIVE ARGUMENT AGAINST THEISTIC EVOLUTION. The Bible provides the correct view: there was no death and decay in the "very good" creation. Death and decay only came later, as recorded in Genesis chapter 3. This "bondage to decay" is reiterated in the New Testament in Romans 8:18-25.

(2) Only in death did God provide seeds of true hope.

What father, if his child disobeys, will simply take out a gun and blow the kid away? There may here and there, now and then, be a father who would do such a thing, but for all but a very few this would be unthinkable. Loving fathers typically will invoke some correction (sometimes even inflicting a few non-PC strokes to the gludius maximus). The loving father applies the correction, even if some pain is involved, for the greater good of the child's long-term social and spiritual behavioral growth. This is a result of true "love." The love that does not correct for the greater good is not true love.

So how about the "death penalty" God assigned to man (and apparently animals as well) following Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden? Is this like a fit of anger on God's part, like the angry dad just blowing the kid away? NOT AT ALL. IN FACT, QUITE THE CONTRARY.

In the death consequence of sin, God lovingly provides the seeds of hope. As pointed out by Jonathan Sarfati (Refuting Evolution, Master Books, 2004, p. 202): "...the curse of physical death has a benefit to man, in that it prevents an even worse evil: living forever in a state of sin [and hence eternal separation from God - DU]. And it provides the means of redemption, via the physical death of the God-man Jesus Christ on the cross."

Scripture tells us:
"For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God." (Romans 8:20-21, IV)

Death and hope? Hope in death? In Jesus, for sure! Without Jesus, surely not.

Respectfully submitted,


P.S. One article that includes further discussion on "red in tooth and claw" is:


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