Death by sin


FUNDAMENTAL TO YOUNG-EARTH CREATIONISM IS BELIEF in a deathless world prior to Adam and Eve's sin. Their transgression, commonly known as “The Fall”, was responsible for introducing every known evil. Let Ken Hamm explain:

When I take the plain words of the Bible, it is obvious there was no death, bloodshed, disease or suffering of humans or animals before sin. God instituted death and bloodshed because of sin — this is foundational to the Gospel. Therefore, one cannot accept a fossil record of million of years of death (which is why the fossil record makes much more sense as mostly the graveyard of Noah's Flood) (1999, p. 1).

Scriptural backing for the claim is found in Romans 5:12:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…

Young-earthers' views on this topic strike this writer as odd; the tendency of young-earthism towards intellectual topiary finds its best expression here. Disease and death are viewed as fruits of the Fall. Prior to Adam and Eve's sin, all was sweetness and light; had they resisted temptation, neither they nor their children would ever have died. Further, animals, too, knew nothing of the beast's version of the angel of death; lambs, lions, bats, baboons, snakes and frogs basked in the bliss of immortality. Well, not all animals. Those without backbones were denied immortality, as Woodmaroppe says:

The death of insects arguably need not be death in the biblical sense, because invertebrates are not conscious and perceptive — ‘nephesh' — creatures in the same way that vertebrates are (1998-1999, p. 32).

Young-earthers are so serious about no death before the Fall that they call any questioning of it “compromise” that “fatally wounds the credibility of the Gospel… and with this the entire logic of Christianity collapses” (Creation ex Nihilo, Dec. 2000-Feb. 2001, p. 4). The subject of the Fall cannot be covered here in detail. This author believes that young-earthism not only misunderstands the Fall saga but also errs seriously in insisting on immortality for all but slugs and snails and their ilk prior to the Catastrophe.

Young-earth creationist literature abounds with unusual ideas about what happened in the animal kingdom at the Fall. Anything that humans tend to judge as unsavory in the animal kingdom is put down to the results of paradise's loss. For instance, since we find the habit of vampire bats to subsist on a diet of blood undesirable, almost a kind of disease, young-earthers ascribe their blood lust to Adam and Eve's lust for fruit:

Anything that humans tend to judge as unsavory in the animal kingdom is put down to the results of paradise's loss.

Obviously, vampire bats would not have been carrying out their habit of craving and drinking blood before the Fall… I suggest that bats were originally created primarily to eat fruit, nectar and/or insects… After the Fall, vampire bats may have begun drinking blood if they accidentally wounded their host. Eventually they acquired a preference for blood, which then became their exclusive diet (Woodmaroppe, p. 32).

The same author hastens to add that kicking the fruit habit for a blood diet required little change in the structure of their teeth since they already had sharp teeth for eating fruit: “It would have taken only a small modification to have them used for piercing flesh instead of fruit”. The concern to show that only slight modifications would be required for any previous fruit lover to start dining on blood or meat springs from the potential objection that any major changes would amount to a new creation, an impossible idea in light of the Bible's teaching that creation ended with the sixth day. And does not this idea of a “small modification” amount to evolutionary concepts slinking in?

Believers believe Scripture; understanding what it means is not always easy. Isaiah tells us that during the New Age lions will eat straw like an ox, bears and cows shall dine from the same table and dust shall be the serpent's food (11:7; 65:25). Assuming these words are meant literally, can one extrapolate from them to a universal condition of herbivory? No, because we know of at least one species that will eat meat — Homo sapiens (Ez. 42:13). Will cats turn their noses up at mice and eagles refuse to swoop down on voles during Jesus' millennial reign? Likewise, to insist that before the Fall vultures thrust their heads and featherless necks, specially-designed for a disgusting lifestyle, into a watermelon instead of into a carcass cannot be sustained. The fossil record shows that many extinct animals, just like extant ones, were designed for a life of predation that meant death to something else; many of those special design features can hardly be reinterpreted as having a peaceful use. The huge club tail of ankylosaurs, for instance, surely was not used for cracking almonds.

Every now and again you almost hear young-earthers fretting over animal designs that just can't be interpreted in any way other than as a tool of violent aggression. Take the Star Wars technology of the Amazonian angel fish. As “Creation ex Nihilo” says,

Their scales form a mirror which is the ‘most powerful and efficient reflector known', bouncing back 100% of the light falling on it. By shifting their body's angle to incident light, they are able to ‘focus the full force of sunlight so that a narrow laser-like beam hits their opponent's eyes'. This beam is able to burst the enemy's blood vessels, stunning and sometimes even killing it (March-May 1999, p. 7).

One can empathize with the difficulty faced by the writer, who obviously admires such amazing design, yet despairs that it could ever have been used. He or she laments, “Efficient design, and yet — echoes of the Fall”.

Let's be realistic. The idea that the very first Mr. and Mrs. Tyrannosaurus rex would still be around today had it not been for Adam and Eve's fatal bite — a natural conclusion for young-earthers — must strike one as odd, to say the least. Without death, every young snake and dinosaur that hatched, every mouse that twitched its whiskers upon birth, every sparrow that broke free of its egg would have lived forever. Humans, too, would never have died. The population of the earth would have quickly reached an untenable level. Eventually, without a recycling of nutrients through decomposition of bodies, earth's nutrient resources would have been exhausted, as Weisz explains:

Without death, every young snake and dinosaur that hatched, every mouse that twitched its whiskers upon birth, every sparrow that broke free of its egg would have lived forever.

Living organisms may be… envisaged as transient constructions built out of materials “borrowed” temporarily from the environment. One important corollary of this is that… the physical earth conserves all its raw materials on a long-term basis, and this makes possible an indefinitely continued, repeated re-creation of living matter. Therefore, the continuity of life depends on the parallel continuity of death (1967, p. 202).

Mass starvation would set in, yet because death was impossible, people would not die even though they did not eat. On top of that, murder would have been impossible. And besides, if God had to create microorganisms for decay, vultures for carrion clean-up, and so on after the fall, then creation had not ended at the end of creation.

Famous young-earther, Henry Morris, recognizes the problem and deals with it this way: “Had the Fall never taken place, animal life would no doubt have remained constant at an optimum population by divinely directed constraints on the reproductive process” (1976, p. 126). Understand what he is saying: when the population of mice, snakes, dinosaurs and human beings reached the maxiumum level the earth could sustain, hens would have started laying sterile eggs and all wombs would have been closed. Mouse traps would have been banned. Young women would have been denied the opportunity to bear children. Family life as we know it would have come to an end. In time, the sounds and sights of children playing would have ceased and the entire human race would have consisted of healthy but very old folk. Joy of joys. Is that what God had in mind?

Is the gospel really jeopardized if one believes in mortality before the Fall?

Romans 5:12

Creationism's insistence on universal deathlessness for backboned animals based on Romans 5:12 is to misunderstand Paul. When God told Adam and Eve that in the day they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would die (Gen. 2:7), He added nothing about giraffes and donkeys. Death in the animal realm from the beginning should not be seen as unusual or unnatural. For man alone should it be considered a great horror.

Further, most all theologians agree that the death spoken of here is spiritual death — failure to be granted eternal life in the kingdom of God rather than the natural demise of a physical organism. Conversely, God also said (by implication), “In the day that you eat of the tree of life, you shall surely live”. Let's face it, if physical death was being spoken of, then God failed to fulfill His promise that in the very day they ate they would die — the serpent was right after all (3:4). Note one theologian's opinion:

The biblical references to death as a consequence of sin are understood as references to spiritual death, separation from God, rather than physical death” (Erickson 1985, p. 612).

He does add, it must be admitted, that, “The problem is not as simple as it might first appear”. R. J. Berry says,

When the Bible — and particularly Paul — speak of “death” they are concerned essentially with spiritual death. Our first parents lived for many years after “dying” in the Garden of Eden… There was indeed physical death in the world before Adam (1999, pp. 34-35).

Much more could be said on this point; suffice it to say that young-earthism's insistence on immortality before the “Great Rebellion” fails against the test of Scripture, biology, and simple logic.

References and notes

Berry, R. J. 1999, This Cursed Earth: Is “the Fall” Credible?, Science and Christian Belief, 11 (1) (29-49)

Erickson, M. J. 1985, Christian Theology, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids

Hamm, Ken 1999, A Young Earth — it's not the issue, Answers in Genesis: Prayer News, May

Morris, H. M. 1976, The Genesis Record, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids

Weisz, Paul B. 1967, The Science of Biology, McGraw Hill Book Company, New York

Woodmaroppe, John 1998-1999, The Dracula Connection to a Young Earth, Creation ex Nihilo, December-February

Further reading

Dawn to Dusk publications

Other printed material

On the Web
The days of creation

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