John 8:31-32

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Was There Animal Death Before Adam and Eve Sinned?

This posting is a VERY brief overview of this topic which is VERY DEEP and VERY WIDE. There are resources listed at the end if you want to read more about it! It was also very interesting to me because I had never really thought about it before. My brain has definitely been put through it's paces over the last week or so as I try to wrap it around this theological question. Hope you enjoy it too ;-)

One concern I have heard frequently is how could there be physical death before Adam and Eve sinned? Wasn’t God’s creation “very good?” How could anything “very good” include death? For the most part I think people are really concerned about animals, rather than plants, with the question so that is what I'm going to focus on. In order to answer these question we need to look at a number of scriptures that related to both the creation of the earth and humanity as well as God’s plan of redemption.

Let’s start at the beginning with Genesis 2:15-17 - "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

It says in verse 15 that God put man in the Garden of Eden. This indicates that the Garden was a special place on the face of the earth; in fact its geographical location is described in the prior verses. Within the Garden there were special provisions for Adam and Eve including the Tree of Life. The conditions in the Garden were ideal; it was the paradise that we imagine when we hear the word “Eden”. The rest of the earth, however, was “natural” or “wild” as we might call it. I believe that in that natural world animals behaved the same way they do today - the way God created them to act:
  • Job 38: 39-41 - "Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?”
  • Psalm 104:21-22, 24  “The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens...How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”

When Adam and Eve sinned what happened? God said they would surly die! They did not drop dead that very minute, but they did experience something profound and they had something else to "look forward to" in their future. The death that Adam and Eve experienced was spiritual death. They were immediately expelled from the Garden and separated from God. God did kill animals to make cloths for Adam and Eve, but I believe this was more of an object lesson to them about the seriousness of sin – that the penalty of sin is death – rather than some kind of initiation of death into the animal kingdom. Adam and Eve’s physical death would come later.

Another reason I think animal death was not caused by sin is that it is that animals are not spiritual beings. Romans 5:12-13 “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— for before the law was given, sin was in the world.” Death through sin is something that only humanity is subjected to. Also, see I Corinthians 15:21 “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.” This verse discussing death and resurrection is only directed towards people, not animals.

Some people like to suggest that all animals were herbivores before the fall. This seems kind of strange because there are a lot of physical differences between animals that eat plants only and animals that eat meat at least some of the time. Did God originally create these animals to be herbivores and then change their physiology after the fall? Did the carnivores outside of the Garden just not eat? If there was a significant change in animal behavior such that they were now a threat to man would God not have warned Adam about them when He sent him out of Eden?

There is another argument that can come up in a discussion of this topic and that is the “curse” that God gave in Genesis 3:17b-18 ”Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.” Some people would like to take this verse to say that God somehow changed the laws of nature when He expelled man from Eden. There is no physical or scientific evidence for this claim. The ground will become more difficult to work for Adam – life will not be easy as it was in the Garden.

Finally, we cannot leave this topic without looking at Romans 8:18-21 “  consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” This text is often used to argue that the curse of the fall effected all creation including the instigation of animal death, carnivorous behavior and even the second law of thermodynamics being set in motion. There are a number of other interpretations of this “corruption to which creation is enslaved.” One is that Paul was thinking of Isaiah 24-26 where the earth is pictured as a graveyard and then prophecies about the future resurrection of the dead. After this resurrection the earth will then be renewed and be the dwelling of the redeemed.

I would like to propose that just because God pronounced His creation “very good” does not mean that it was perfect. It was very good for His purposes which are to bring a complete end to sin and evil. Is it not possible that death is actually part of this “very good” plan?
  • We know that death and suffering is only temporary. God’s new creation will be perfect.
  • Evil existed before the fall of man – Satan had already disobeyed God before Eve took a bite of the apple.
  • Revelation 13:8 “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” This indicates that it was part of God’s plan that Christ would die for the sins of humanity even before He began the work of creation. This must then allow for death as part of the creation.
  • Physical death is a way to restrain evil in this world; bad people only live so long and can only hurt so many people.
  • Plants and animals do not see death in the same way humans do.
  • Death is what sustains life.
  • To deny that physical death occurred defies scientific observation and data. Without death (and lots of it over a long period of time) where did we get limestone, oil, gas, kerosene, peat, and coral reefs.

So, I hope this at least gives you some ideas to think about. If it is a topic that is of significance to you I would suggest that you study it further. Below are some of the resources I consulted.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Genesis 1 - Why I Believe the Earth is Old

This post is a brief overview of the first chapter of Genesis, verse by verse with some notes about various word definitions and relevant scientific studies. This is by no means a comprehensive discussion, but just something to pique your interest and perhaps give a different perspective on this controversial passage. I put  it together for a presentation to my small group to answer the question Why Do I Believe the Earth is Old? It is basically an overview of the booklet Genesis One A Scientific Perspective by Hugh Ross PhD. So, here we go!

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The Hebrew words for heavens and earth when used together as they are here are defined as “the totality of the physical universe.” The word translated created is used only when God is bringing something into existence. Genesis 1:1 tells us that God brought everything into existence at a finite point in the past from a position outside space and time (He is not a part of the physical universe.) The idea that the universe has a beginning has been confirmed by scientific observation and research over the past few decades. This verse is the “initial setting” for the narrative that follows.

Genesis 1:2 Now the earth was (or became) formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

The universe, galaxies, solar systems and planets have been created and now God is going to tell us what He did to make earth ready for humanity. The frame of reference has changed from a view of the universe to “the surface of the deep.” The rest of this narrative is from the perspective of the Holy Spirit at or on the surface of the earth.

The initial conditions of planet earth, according to astronomers who have studied other planets in our solar system as well as planets at various stages of development in other solar systems, are as described in Genesis 1:2: formless, empty, and dark (due to a thick atmosphere and much interplanetary debris). See also Job 38:9 I made the clouds it’s [the sea’s] garment and wrapped it in thick darkness.

DAY 1: Genesis 1:3-5 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

Light becomes visible from earth’s surface and so day and night are now discernible. The atmosphere is translucent at this point, but not yet transparent. The word for “let there be” is not the same word as “create”, but rather “to be, become, exist, or happen.” Without going into a lot of details, it is nothing short of miraculous that the atmosphere on our planet is as thin and light as it is.

The word translated “day” is [yôm] in Hebrew. It has many definitions and we must be careful not to make assumptions based on our preconceived ideas or what we read in English. Here are the choices:
  • day (as opposed to night)
  • day (24 hour period)
  • a working day, a day's journey
  • days, lifetime (pl.)
  • time, period (general)
  • year
  • temporal references (yesterday, tomorrow, etc.)
“And there was evening and there was morning.” This is not a normal Hebrew expression for a day, which would usually be evening to evening (think Shabbat/Sabbath) for a 24 hour day. It is more likely an expression meaning from beginning to ending of these particular creation activities.

DAY 2: Genesis 1:6-8   And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

This is the formation of the stable water cycle on earth, which is necessary for the support of all life. See also Ecclesiastes 1:7 All streams flow into the sea, yet the ea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. And Isaiah 55:10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that is yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater. Again, the word for “made” is not the same as the word as “created” in vs. 1.

DAY 3: Genesis 1:9-13 And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good. Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

Plate tectonics and volcanic activity begin to raise the land above the surface of the water so that life can begin. Plant life also appears. There are three words used for the various kinds of plants and the English translation of those words tends to be more specific than the Hebrew words imply.

DAY 4: Genesis 1:14-19 And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

This day is often the most controversial because people forget that we are still observing what’s happening from the surface of the earth and things that God already created are just now becoming visible from that vantage point. Verses 16-18a are a parenthetical statement reminding us what happened “in the beginning”; now that they are visible the author is telling us why God created them for the earth.

Finally, by day 4 the atmosphere begins to become transparent due to a number of changes that have occurred on the earth:
  • Stabilization of air temperature and pressure
  • Slower rotation rate
  • Consumption of carbon dioxide by plants, and
  • Decrease of volcanic activity.
DAY 5: Genesis 1:20-23 And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth." And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

The word translated “living creatures” in verse 20 refers to “swarms of small aquatic creatures” which when used for water life include mollusks, crustaceans, fish, and amphibians – the most primitive creatures that require light for regulation of their body clocks. The earliest fossils are of these types of creatures.The word translated “great creatures” in verse 21 refers to “soulish” animals – those that can form relationships with each other or with humans. There are two words used for “created” one which indicates that previously existing materials were used (i.e. the dust of the earth), but they were fashioned into something completely new.

DAY 6: Genesis 1:24-31 And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

Verses 24-25 focus on three types of animals God created (not all animals are mentioned here, just those that would interact closely with humans), long-legged land quadrupeds which are (1) easily domesticated and those which (2) make good pets and (3) short-legged land mammals like rodents, rabbits, etc.

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Again on day 6 two words are used for “created” indicating previously used materials (i.e. the dust of the earth) being fashioned into something completely new. The “new” aspect for mankind is the spiritual dimension, the “image of God”. DNA evidence now shows that all humanity descends from one man and one woman who lived about 50,000 years ago. Personally I think this is majorly cool! No evolution for this mama!

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

God now gives His command to Adam and Eve to populate the earth take care of His creation. The entire chapter of Genesis 2 goes into the details of the sixth day.

DAY 7 Genesis 2:1-3 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested (or ceased) from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Note that the repetitive phrase “there was evening, and there was morning” is not included for the seventh day. This leads us to believe that the seventh day may not yet have ended. There has been no evidence of anything new having been created since humanity appeared on the scene.


From scientific observation the universe and the earth appear to be old. I believe that these observations do not contradict the creation accounts found in Genesis and throughout the Bible. It is contrary to God’s nature to be deceptive.
  • The universe is currently observed to be 13.75 billion years old.
  • The earth is currently observed to be 4.5 billion years old.
I also take exception to the idea that people who believe the earth is old are on “a slippery slope” regarding inerrancy of the Bible. The Christians I know and whose work I have read that believe the universe and earth are old tend to be exceptionally strong in their belief that the Bible is God’s infallible Word and that no part of it should be changed or ignored.

A question that has come up in my small group regarding a number of topics is "What would it take for me to change be view?" My answer regarding the age of the earth is this: evidence that is independently verifiable and accepted by both Christian and non-Christian scientists showing the age of the universe, earth, and humanity is different than currently observed and measured - this could go either way younger or older.

I hope you have found this interesting and perhaps new. As always I would love to see some comments or discussion about this post. I have lots of other topics in mind, but if there are specific things you like to see address please let me know.