Incorrect Exegesis at the Final Hurdle?

cmiIf you are at all familiar with the young earth creation position, you’ll know that it is essential to that view that there was no death (whatsoever) prior to the Fall. In a previous post, I looked at an invalid exegetical argument for the conclusion that not even plants died before the Fall. Here is a different sort of argument–this time attempting to show that death was not even “latent” in Adam and Eve (A&E) before the Fall.

Suppose someone said (say, after reading William Dembski’s book The End of Christianity), that it was biologically necessary for A&E to eat the fruit of the tree of life–even before the Fall–since their bodies were not intrinsically immortal, but rather dependent on some causal property in the fruit itself. This wouldn’t entail that human beings died before the Fall, only that they could have died before that calamitous event.

In response to a Canadian reader, who advanced just such an argument, an official at Creation Ministries International (CMI) responded in this way:

The Bible doesn’t teach in Gen. 3:22 that Adam and Eve would have needed to eat from the Tree of Life to stay alive prior to the Fall and while I understand your reasoning, I respectfully submit to you that it is incorrect exegesis at the final hurdle (i.e. the sentence of  yours I quoted above). This is precisely because it doesn’t take account of other Scriptures, such as those I’ve mentioned from Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, plus many others; e.g. Ezekiel 18:20 makes clear that the soul that sins is the one who dies—the obvious implication being that sinless souls don’t die.1

Being Canadian myself, I feel that I must defend my fellow countryman here (whose name, ironically, is also ‘Richard’!). I don’t see this as a case of “incorrect exegesis”–at least not if that charge is premised on the argument stated above. The claim is that “the soul that sins is the one who dies” obviously implies “sinless souls don’t die.” Accordingly, since that original human pair were sinless, then except for their fall into sin, they would never have died, and would have had no need whatever to partake of that life giving fruit.

Somewhat more exactly, the argument unfolds as follows:

1.  (Premise) All sinful souls die.
2.  So, all sinless souls do not die. (from 1)
3.  (Premise) Prior to the Fall, Adam and Eve were sinless souls.
4.  So, prior to the Fall, Adam and Eve were not subject to death. (2 and 3)

The problem, of course, is that inference from (1) to (2). It’s not valid. Here’s a simple little parallel argument that helps us see that:

5.  (Premise) The student who studies for the test will pass.
6.  So, the student who doesn’t study for the test will fail. (from 5)

It may well be that every student who studies for Prof. Franks‘ logic midterm passes the test. But of course we all know students (we wish we didn’t know them sometimes! ) who never study a jot but pass with flying colors all the same–perhaps even scoring higher than those who did study. Consequently, that those who study pass in no way implies that those who do not fail. Sadly then, the argument has an invalid form, in which case I think we must conclude that the good people at CMI have not shown that my fellow Canadian, Richard H., has stumbled into an “incorrect exegesis at the final hurdle.” Indeed, he may well have cleared it.

This is just another reason why we lay so much stress on honing one’s skills in logic (even symbolic logic) in our program. It’s an indispensable aspect–perhaps even the neglected aspect–of biblical exegesis.2


1. “The problem of evil: pre-Fall animal death?” Creation Ministries International (Published: 29 March 2011).

2. Merrill F. Unger, in his Principles of Expository Preaching (Zondervan, 1975), actually has a section entitled “The Technical Equipment of an Expositor,” in which he rehearses the basics of categorical logic no less. His point is that bible exposition cannot escape the fact that at some point a deduction will have to be made from the text. And there are right and wrong ways to do this.

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