Three Questions on Creation, Angels, and Satan’s Fall

The other day, someone shared an interesting post in a Facebook group that I belong to. It posed some questions from someone named “Dr. Sherlin”, who I am unfamiliar with, but no one in our group commented on it. Sort of surprising, since the subject matter was pretty much on topic for the group. Well, I copied down the original post and decided to attempt a response in a blogpost, so… ta-daa! It has been very slightly edited and reformatted with my answers following each question.

Sherlin begins with an unfortunate observation:

“I see in many places very rough conversations among very devout and godly people over the issues of creation and the age of the earth. For both sides of those in this conversation I want to ask you three questions that both sides must wrestle with and seek to answer with reasonable answers rooted in the various texts of Scripture. Would love your thoughts.

SPECIFIC REVELATION ON AGE OF THE EARTH
1. If the age of the earth is essential or a fundamental doctrine (defined as on the same level as affirming the deity and humanity of Christ or the truth of salvation in Christ alone) then why does Scripture itself not give us the specific age of the earth? All of the doctrines fundamental to the core faith are specifically stated in a direct way. Why would God not have specifically stated how old the earth is if he meant for us to know that?”

Fair question; great one, in fact. I suppose one might appeal to Proverbs 25:2 (“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” (ESV)) Of course, it isn’t just kings that enjoy (or get accolades for) investigating things. But, as an Old Earth Creationist, I don’t believe that the age of the earth is an essential/fundamental doctrine, so I don’t have a problem with this particular detail being unaddressed in Scripture. I’d rank the whole topic of the specifics of Creation (as distinct from the historic Doctrine of Creation) as of tertiary importance at best.

“LITERAL HERMENEUTIC ON WHAT WAS CREATED
2. In Genesis 1 & 2 we have very detailed and specific statements as to what God created. He created “light,” “the expanse of the heavens,” “dry land,” “vegetation, plants, & seed,” “lights in the heavens” which included “two great lights” along with “the stars,” “creatures” of the water, “birds,” “livestock & creeping things and beasts of the earth,” and then in the capstone the creation of male and female, “man in our image.” In all of that God never listed anything about angels. Why did he not if these were part of this creation period? If we use a literal hermeneutic and take this text as is with nothing else added to it where would it teach that God created angels or the sons of God, a common OT term for angels, in these six days?”

I would preface my answer by pointing out that a) different Hebrew words are used in these chapters that are sometimes translated “create”, but they don’t always refer to de novo creation; and, b) there is at least one place (Day 4) in which the verb form refers not to action being taken right then but to something already completed in the past (i.e., prior to Day 4). Now, re the angels…

Taking Gen. 1 & 2 in isolation as stipulated, there is indeed nothing that teaches when the angels/sons of God were created. They aren’t mentioned. The Genesis account may have been intentionally limited to the physical creation, thus the creatures in the “heavenly realms” would be off-topic, so to speak. Depending on how one reads the first few verses, many recognize that if Day 1 begins in 1:3, there may have been some time between the initial creation and the start of Day 1. So, creation of the angels may have occurred during this earlier period.

Another thing to consider is that many scholars believe the phrase “the heavens and the earth” from 1:1 to be a Hebrew merism used to refer to all matter, energy, space, and time. Thus, if the angels were not created during the 6-day period OR time preceding it, it is possible that they were created outside this larger creation period but within a separate time dimension. (Though, of course, we know that they are able to act within our time dimension.)

St. Michael Expelling Lucifer and the Rebel Angels, by Peter Paul Rubens

“THE TIME OF SATAN’S FALL
3. We discover that Adam and Eve in the Garden meet Satan, who is already seeking to turn them away from God. He displays his evil character in the Genesis 1-3. Where would you place the fall of Satan if he is already evil in the first scene of history? Certainly we know he was created by God (see Ezek 28 & Isa. 14) and as such he could not have been evil from the beginning. So for him to fall into sin and then appear in the Genesis account leads us to ask when did this happen?”

Technically, Satan (aka “the serpent”) only appears in chapter 3. Despite inferences made by some Gap Theorists, he does not appear before that.

In Eph. 2:2, Paul refers to Satan by one of his titles, “prince of the power of the air” (ESV). This “air” may refer to the Earth’s atmosphere either literally or metaphorically. Of course, his God-given authority allows him to affect much more than the air, nor is he limited to hovering over the Earth. Regardless, Satan’s rebellion may have occurred after Earth’s atmosphere formed (Day 2?); on the other hand, he may have rebelled long before that (see answer to #2 above) and only received the “title” much later. There is really not enough information to do anything more than speculate. Since there is nothing in Scripture to narrow down the time of Satan’s rebellion, we can only say it was sometime in the ages preceding the events in Gen. 3, which I would date to roughly 100,000 years ago, give or take a few thousand years.

There ya go! If you’d like, feel free to chime in below. I’m particularly curious how a Young Earth Creationist might respond to Sherlin. Just keep it respectful and on-topic….

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