Proposition 17 of John Walton’s book, The Lost World of Adam and Eve, gets interesting. I had to read the section several times to be sure I understood it, and even still, I’m not certain I follow all of his assertions.
The proposition goes like so: “All People Are Subject to Sin and Death Because of the Disorder in the World, not Because of Genetics.”
As a reminder, Walton differentiates between non-order, which was present from the beginning (things like the sea, darkness, deserts, and chaos creatures), and disorder, which is a result of sin; i.e., “ritual/moral impropriety that damages relationship with deity” (Walton, 154). “Sin comes into the world when accountability comes into the world” (Walton, 155).
Walton argues that God created a world with non-order still in it. In the six days of creation God ordered part of the earth, but his plan was that mankind would continue the ordering thereafter; i.e., naming the animals, keeping up the garden, subduing, and ruling. These were not just tasks to keep them occupied but tasks to allow mankind to continue the work that God had started.
So far so good, I suppose. But I found the distinction between this non-order and disorder especially confusing when Walton argues that suffering, death, animal violence, predation, and human violence were part of the non-order NOT disorder. Walton argues that prior to the fall, the lack of law and accountability made the human population in “a state of innocence (not sinlessness)” (Walton, 159). It seems that Walton is trying to say that there was sin in the world prior to the fall, a kind of unrealized sin.
This may compel you to ask, “Why was Adam and Eve’s sin something new then, if sin was already present?” Walton’s answer to that would be that their sin lost all of mankind the antidote to death; namely, the tree of life and direct relationship with God. Walton seems to be saying that Adam and Eve were the ones God chose to lead mankind in putting the world in order. They failed, so God sent himself, and He succeeded.
I’m not sure what to do with this, but Walton has caused me to think about what the world was actually like prior to the fall. I know very little about it and what I do know is rooted in Milton’s Paradise Lost or Lewis’ Perelandra and some church fathers guesswork. I’ve often wondered if Adam and Eve’s pre-fall existence could have allowed for things like stubbing one’s toe in the dark or drowning in an ocean’s tide or a butchered pruning job that led to the death of a plant. I think Walton would say yes. But these things weren’t considered evils, just non-orders.
This is an altogether different way of viewing Genesis, and it compels me to ask multiple questions. Why did God make humans dysfunctional from the start? If God formed order out of chaos, who made that chaos? If God knew Adam wouldn’t be able to bring order to all of mankind, why did he let him try?
Walton’s answer to this: “Whenever God uses a process (and he often does), his intentions are revealed in the final result and may not be evident in the stages along the way” (Walton 160).
I shall let him have the last word.
Walton, John H. The Lost World of Adam and Eve. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2015. Print.