In response to a question on Facebook about how an Old Earth Creationist or an Evolutionary Creationist can justify animal death before the Fall of Adam. I thought this might be helpful for anyone with a similar question…..

Question: “How does a theistic evolutionist take into account the fact that evolution is built on the mounds of dead, diseased things underneath us, and that thorns and thistles were there and not a result of the curse? I’ve never had someone explain that to me properly.”

Answer:  I am more of an Old Earth Creationist than an Evolutionary Creationist (meaning that while I accept the scientific consensus on the ages of the earth and universe as well as micro-evolution, I remain skeptical of macro-evolution from one species to another).

Animal death occurring historically before the Fall can be explained several ways in either an old earth or evolutionary creationist model.

First, we can read Romans 5:12 closely and see that it mentions the death of “men” but does not specifically reference animals (or the plants Adam would have eaten in the Garden). “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”. God can look at the animal relationship between predator and prey and call it “good” because it is an ecological system that is functioning properly as He wills. Consider Psalm 103 (104):21 “The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.” This is why in many places there are efforts to re-introduce wolves into forested areas. A population of herbivores without predators quickly outgrows the available food supply and becomes sickly and miserable. For an animal population to function at optimal health and happiness the weak and aged members must be culled by predators. If the lions were also eating grass every creature would die miserably in a short time.

Secondly, an old earther can still see the millions of years of animal death being caused by the Fall of Adam before it had occurred historically in the same way we see the Cross as efficacious not only for those who came after Jesus’ death and resurrection but also for the Old Testament saints. The Redemption of Christ, the second Adam, is trans-temporal and affects everyone regardless of when they were born relative to 33 AD. Similarly the Fall of the first Adam and the effects of that upon Creation, which Redemption undoes, could also  have been trans-temporal. In the foreknowledge of God, who is pre-eternal*, cause does not HAVE to precede effect as He Himself declares through the holy prophet Isaiah, “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure (Is. 46:10)”.

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*pre-eternal:
This is a word often appearing in the services of the Orthodox Church that can cause some confusion. I remember one person in particular stumbling over it and wondering how God can be before something which by definition never had a beginning. It is good to remember that the prefix “pre-” usually means “before as in “precede” means to come before something. But “pre-” can also mean “above” or “beyond”. When we speak of a preeminent man we don’t mean that he is not eminent yet but that in among the preeminent he stands above and beyond even them. In the same way when we speak of God as being pre-eternal we mean that He is so far above anything we can conceive that He is above even eternity itself.

8 Responses to Animal Death Before the Fall

  • Philip Martin says:

    The prefix “pre” in this case (pre-eternal) could also be substituted with “super” or “extra”. Those might be easier to grasp for some.

  • David, I think this concept of death existing prior to the First-Created Ones’ Fall:

    1. Death, per St Paul comes “into the world” through sin; and of course, sin comes about only through Adam and Eve’s disobedience. I’d like to see a better treatment of the Romans 5 passage to explore this further.
    2. Man is the key to creation’s condition. Romans 8:19-23 seems to support this assertion:

    For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

    If Man sins, then he and creation die and decay. If Man is rejuvenated in Christ, then he and creation are rejuvenated. Creation is dependent on Man, whereas positing death prior to Adam and Eve’s Fall disconnects this dependency.
    3. How might you, or a typical OEC deal with St Gregory of Nyssa’s comments on Gen 1:29-30:

    We note, however, many wild beasts do not eat fruit. What fruit does the panther eat? What fruit makes the lion strong? But nevertheless these creatures, when submitting to the laws of nature, ate fruits. And likewise when the [first] man changed his way of life and voided the limits set upon him, the Lord, after the flood, knowing humans were wasteful, allowed them to use all foods: “Eat every food as if it were edible plants.” Since [humans] were allowed this [concession], the other animals [also] received the liberty to eat. So the lion is [now] a meat-eater, and the vulture looks for carrion.
    But vultures were not yet circling above the earth to find carrion when the animals originated; nothing created nor imagined had yet died in order to be food for the vultures. Nature had not yet been divided; everything was completely fresh. Hunters did not capture prey, since people did not yet practice this. The beasts did not yet tear apart prey, since they were not meat eaters yet…. So was the first creation, and to this creation will be restored after this [age]. Humans will return to their original creation, rejecting hostility, a life encumbered with care, the slavery of the world to daily worries. Once they have renounced all this, they will return to that utopian life which is not enslaved to the passions of the flesh, which is freedom, the closeness to God, a partaker of the life of the angels. ON THE ORIGIN OF MAN.6

    4. If the restoration of all things shows “the wolf lying down with the lamb”, implying no hostility, predatory behavior or death, and if the restoration is to that originally given in Paradise, then either there was no death or prey in Paradise, or that Paradise was limited and death existed prior to and outside of Paradise.
    5. That God created death as a good, rather than as a merciful punishment for sin.
    6. This view seems to teach that the death of animals (and plants?) is distinct and different from the death of Man. The former is “good” and created by the Author of Life, whereas the latter is bad and allowed by God as a merciful punishment to limit Man’s sin.
    7. When Christ overcame death in his Resurrection, then did he overcome animal (and plant and Creation’s) death as well? It is not clear here. If He did not do so, then His redemption is for Man only, not for Creation. If so, how is Creation redeemed?
    8. To say that the effects of Christ’s redemptive work in AD 33 are not also bound by historical circumstance is not easily supported: many of the salvific events of God’s redemptive work occur in space and time and depend on each other: [a] The Spirit could not come until the Son was glorified, [b] the Spirit could not be poured out until Christ had completed his work, [c] Just as death is not prior or independent of Adam and Eve’s sin, so also Resurrection and Restoration are not antecedent to Christ’s Resurrection, which is why the OT Saints were not in the presence of God prior to Christ’s Harrowing of Hell.

    I look forward to your comments and feedback.

  • The text you quote in Psalm 103 (104):21 is poorly understood when reading in the English translation, especially with our poor understanding of the archaic English used in most translations.
    The word you quote as “meat” simply means “food”, as opposed to the word for “flesh” which we would, today, use the word “meat” in place of.
    See the Hebrew word o’kel versus baw-sawr’ H400 Vs H1320 (Strongs Ref)
    Baw-sawr’ is used in Genesis 9:4 where God gives permission to Noah to eat flesh of animals, but He forbids the consumption of blood, of which He says it is “with the life”.

    If mankind was eating flesh, why did God now need to give permission to do so?

    Also how does God saying that the blood with the flesh (repeatedly through the scriptures) is “life” measure up with your position?

    You have an assumption that sharp teeth denote a God designed carnivorous diet, however how does the Panda bear fit with that picture? Compare a panda skull with a brown bear, for example.
    The position that sharp teeth denotes a carnivore is an evolutionary one and assumes evolution to be true, while molding the interpretation of the facts to that presuppositional world view.

    Clearly the animals were designed not to eat flesh, otherwise why would God tell us that the Lion will eat straw like the ox in Isaiah 11:7 when speaking of the restoration of all things under the reign of the Lord?

    • David says:

      I understand the early modern English very well, Leigh, the KJV is my main Bible and I know what all of the archaic words mean through being well read in it. But I appreciate you posting that explanation because many people do not understand the older English as readily as they would a modern translation.

      Pandas have sharp teeth because bamboo shoots are extremely hard and they also eat rodents, insects, and carrion in addition to their bamboo diet. They are omnivores, not herbivores. As for lions eating straw in the NEW heaven and earth, isn’t Isaiah’s point that the new heaven and earth is going to be radically different from this heaven and earth? I do not see a problem here.

      The first eleven chapters of Genesis are not history in the sense that the books of Kings or the Gospels are, Leigh. There is no evidence for a global Flood and there is evidence of carnivorous activity for millenia before Noah ever would have lived. If carnivorous behaviour is an evil then why does God provide food for the wild animals?

      Job 38:41 Who provides for the raven his prey, When his young ones cry to God, And wander for lack of food?

      Psalms 104:21 The young lions roar after their prey, And seek their food from God.

      It would be an evil if predation stopped because it would destroy the ecosystems and eventually all living creatures.

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