riptiger02I received the following question:

One topic for now. The idea of death before the fall is important to many YEC (Young Earth Creationists.) Some will say that none occurred before the fall and others will limit death to smaller organisms. My thinking is that there is room biblically to accept the concept of physical death occurring before the fall. This would involve all of the animal kingdom and possibly even Adam and Eve. My thoughts concerning Adam and Eve include that they needed to eat. What would have happened if they didn’t eat? The most obvious explanation is that they would eventually die. There was the tree of life. As evidenced by their expulsion from the garden, it seemed to specifically provide immortality which was not acceptable after the fall. Why was it there if no the presence of death was not there.

On a non-human level, it seems that if there is the capacity for reproduction, there is an assumption of death. If one were to apply exponential growth to any number of life forms, one would see rapid overcrowding within days or weeks. It also seems likely that many life form’s daily life activities result in the death of many smaller creatures. How does an elephant walk through the woods without stepping on something?

While none of these arguments trump scriptural authority, they do give a wise student of God’s word, in my opinion, ample reason to consider the possibility that death mentioned in the Bible is spiritual death coming upon the human race. Looking at Romans 5 one also gets the idea that the effect of sin was directed primarily at the human race. While I don’t consider this the only reasonable interpretation, I do consider it a possible interpretation.

Let me know what you think.

The issue of death for animals is a tricky one, since one cannot see a scientific reason why Adam eating poison fruit would affect any of the animal creation other than man. One could argue that man was given stewardship over the animals, so had the right to choose life or death for the animals, and by choosing death for himself, chose death for them as well. But while that works well philosophically, it does not provide any scientific explanations.

The issue for me would boil down to not just all life, but especially soul life. The Bible claims that “the life” (but it should be soul, since the Hebrew is nephesh) “of the flesh is in the blood.” This would seem to indicate that only animals that have blood have the special, “soul” life, and therefore would be subject to death similar to what man experiences. For things like plants and so forth, they may wear out, but do not “die” like man does. But would life before the fall have included death only for non soul-bearing beings, or would it have included death for non-human souls as well?

The problem with claiming that animals would not have died before the fall is just what you stated, that why then would man have needed a tree of life? If men were to eat of the tree of life to heal any injuries they may have sustained, what were animals who were injured to do?

It is quite possible, in my opinion, that the death man brought into the world was death into the world of MAN, not into the world of animals. Animals might have been subject to death. Indeed, when animals die, they seem to just wear out. Man, on the other hand, finds death a singularly unnatural thing. Yet I am not saying I am convinced of this. There is a part of me that finds death odious in the case of non-human soul life as well. Since man was to be the caretaker of the animal kingdom, it could be that man would have been responsible for taking care of injured animals, bringing them the help and healing they needed. Really, it is hard to say exactly what would have been. But physical bodies inherently are subject to injury, if not death.

I am not sure why death in the animal kingdom before the fall would affect Young Earth Creationism. Regarding natural selection, the issue is whether or not the Bible is right when it indicates that neither man NOR THE ANIMALS ate meat before the flood. If animals did not eat each other, it is clear that the idea of natural selection is lost. Really, though, to argue OEC, you would want animals to die before the fall, so it would be important from your perspective.

As far as man dying before the fall, it seems clear that what was true of Adam was that it was possible for him to die, but not inevitable for him to die. In other words, while he could be killed, it was not necessary for him to die, unlike all of us since, for whom death is inevitable. Adam as created did not have death working in him, so nothing else interfering, he could have lived on and on indefinitely. When he ate the forbidden/poison fruit, however, he introduced death into his body, and that of his descendants. Now, it became impossible for us not to die.

This is really the meaning of “immortality.” It is “without death” in the Greek. Adam was without death working in him, unlike you and me today. Yet with a physical body, it was not impossible for him to die. It was just not inevitable. I would strongly disagree with the idea that immortality means it is impossible for you to die. No, it just means you are not in the process of dying, and you will not die as long as your body is allowed to continue to function normally. Your head cut off would still result in death, drowning would still result in death, starvation, though it might take a lot longer, would still result in death, etc.

Let me end by saying that I personally cannot wait to see the world once God restores it to functioning the way He intended it to be! But I will have to wait it out for that one to take place.

Thanks for the thoughts. Keep studying the Word!