"And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Genesis 2:16-17
In Adam All Die?
One point that is consistently raised in defense of the young-earth position is the question of death and suffering before Adam's fall. Any quick perusal of material distributed by creationists, whether it is books, tapes or even searching the web, will reveal this objection. The question is often delivered in an almost shocked manner, "How can you believe God would use millions of years of death and bloodshed in order to form His creatures and then call it 'very good'?" A worthy point indeed and one that certainly should not be discarded.
I fully sympathize with this reaction. I held and defended the young-earth position for more than ten years and I freely admit, this element was probably the most difficult to revoke. Certainly, if it could be demonstrated that the Bible in fact held to the teaching that all death and all corruption in this world were due to the Fall, the case would be closed. Yet there would seem to be an insurmountable problem to explain the contradictory scientific evidence. So what is the truth here? Is this solid biblical teaching or is it simply tradition? Are the facts of nature being misunderstood and that most of the fossil evidence is of a recent event? And how do we explain the many astounding mechanisms in the animal world designed for killing - or for not being killed? Certainly important questions.
I hope I have learned over the years to be careful when I feel tempted to limit God and to reduce Him to my own level of reasoning. God's ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. This is a principal reason why cultists come up with some of their twisted doctrine. Whenever we question the Lord's methods or His nature, we need to proceed with caution. The deity of Christ is a good example. To the human mind the Holy Trinity is beyond comprehension. "How can there be one God and yet exist in three persons at the same time?" This question has led many astray for they try to bring God down to their own level of understanding. I believe this form of reasoning is also a stumbling block when we ponder the creation narrative. We assume we understand the mind of God and judge what is good and what is not. It hurts our affections to contemplate carnage and cruelty as part of God's creative plan. But the Scriptures must judge. Let us be careful not to undermine the Bible and to cling to sentiments that cannot be defended under scrutiny. If the evidence leads to the conclusion that living creatures have been struggling for survival for eons and if the position of Scripture is in agreement, so let it be . . . As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts . . . Isaiah 55:9
Young-earth creationists believe their version is not only supported by Scripture, but is also validated by science. I believe their interpretation of the creation account has forced their scientific conclusions. It also seems to me that the handful of passages they deliver in defense of their position do not renounce that death and suffering happened before the Fall. Let's deal with the Bible first and then see what the evidence of nature decides.
Some of the most often quoted Bible verses to defend this position are as follows:
I apologize if this is offensive to some, I certainly was shocked at first. But it is apparent that the Bible does not teach that death, bloodshed and decay were not present in the world before the Fall. I believe the thorns and thistles were already present OUTSIDE the garden of Eden and that Adam would no longer enjoy the luxury of paradise. The animals close to Adam in the garden, were the vegetarians spoken of in Genesis 1:30, and the text says that God would INCREASE birth-pangs, not start them. The Lord's ways are often mysterious but we must be cautious not to put God in a box in which we can try to figure Him out . . . For now we see through a glass , darkly ; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known . . . 1 Cor. 13:12
As a whole, the scientific community will not accept the notion that there was no death beyond 10,000 years ago. The findings of geology alone refute this possibility. I've spent much time on other pages demonstrating this to be so. The physical evidence is overwhelming; I'm convinced that this planet is billions of years old. Apparently, the global flood cannot be defended, and without it, there is no explanation for the fossil record besides there being substantial time. The laws of physics also reject this notion. Whether creation took place in six days or six eons, the moment there was light - entropy began! Life is absolutely impossible without decay. There would be no energy, hence no work, without the second law of thermodynamics already in effect. Even if all creatures were herbivores, plants would still need to be killed, but without decay, food could not be digested or converted into energy. There are animals that cannot live three hours without food, never mind days. A miracle could be the explanation here, but where in the Bible does it say that?
A Philosophical Argument
As I gave other views of creation a hearing, I went through a similar process of conversion for each major point that I examined. Even though the natural evidence would be overwhelming and the Bible would seem to agree, it was still difficult to let go of such deeply ingrained tradition. It was usually one final piece of evidence that would catapult me over. I mentioned earlier that the global flood doctrine was the first young-earth tenet to collapse; many were to follow.
The thought that God's created universe (before sin entered into the world), involved death and bloodshed was repulsive to me at first. However, it was obvious that the earth could not be very old nor could the fossils be explained without them. The geological record became an overwhelming obstacle to ignore any longer, yet I just couldn't seem to renounce this belief! Young-earth creationists had explained to me how lions and tigers and bears (oh my) could eat only vegetation, and that carnivores could live on plant matter only, but I never really thought it through. This is a good example of what I mean when I say young-earth creationists do not give the whole picture, only an over simplified version.
One night I'm brushing my teeth, not thinking of anything in particular, and as had happened so many times before, WHAM, like the Holy Spirit hit me between the eyes, a picture developed. That night it occurred to me: Okay, maybe higher Mammalia could have survived on plants alone, but how do we explain the purpose for the marvelous venom systems of snakes, the stealth of crocodiles, the awesome tongues of the frog and chameleon, were these attributes present just so they could eat grapes? What about the angler fish, the tentacles of the sea anemone or the jelly fish, the sonar of the shark (not to mention the teeth), were these just for better retrieval of seaweed? What about the intricacies of the spider web or those marvelous arms of the praying mantis, to better catch seeds? And even the plant kingdom, the Venus fly trap and the pitcher-pot plant are meat eaters. Now what about the opposite? The incredible mechanisms of defense among all living things. The bombardier beetle, the skunk or the many forms of camouflage - what were they trying to avoid, there were no carnivores correct? That was the final piece of the puzzle! The only logical conclusion is that God made these creatures with these fantastic abilities to kill or to escape being killed. I'm sorry, but it is inconceivable to me that this doctrine is accurate.
I believe that the reality is we've been duped. I am amazed at my own ignorance of things. I have always had such a love for the New Testament that I never really checked out all the commentaries I have on Genesis. When I began this search, I almost fell over when I read the works of great men of God from around the turn of the century. Every commentary I have, except Mathew Henry, held to an old earth view one way or another. It's easy to see they did not carry the prejudice we have for this subject. Such men as H.H. Haley, R. Jamieson, G.C. Morgan. And others more contemporary, G. Archer, N. Geisler, J.V. McGee and C. Smith. My list is abbreviated. These men accepted the findings of science and did not encounter much conflict with scripture. Geologists did not frighten them. Geology began as a hobby by admirable believers and it did not take them long to discover that some traditional renderings were in error. It actually is a modern phenomenon, propagated by young-earth creationists, that belief in an old earth is a threat to the gospel. It is not! You are free to hold to a young-earth rendering but please, allow us our freedom. When I am asked if I believe God used millions of years of death, decay and suffering in order to create His universe, I answer: Yes, because I believe His creation says so and His word agrees. Our gospel IS intact and Jesus is still Lord of all.