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)”.
*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.