In order to believe in an old earth, do we not have to accept that death occurred prior to the fall?

hughross
old-earth
death-before-the-fall

(RZIM Connect Member) #1

Hello Hugh,

Thank you for taking the time to hear and answer our questions. I have only recently joined this group, so I apologize if this is asking you to repeat yourself, but I have been troubled by the fact that, in order to believe in an old earth, we have to accept that death occurred prior to the fall and that death is therefore not a disruption or consequence of sin, but the way things were created after all. I have read that C. S. Lewis speculated that, given the “craftiness” of the serpent, perhaps the animal kingdom fell or was corrupted by sin some way prior to human’s sin.

Can you address this?

Thank you!


(Hugh Ross) #2

I give a detailed answer to your question in my book, A Matter of Days, 2nd edition, and a slightly briefer one in Navigating Genesis. The key biblical text is Romans 5:12-19, especially Romans 5:12. Romans 5:12 states that “death through sin” “entered the world through one man” (Adam) “and in this way death came to all people.” The only life forms on Earth that can experience sin and human beings. Note, too, that Paul ends Romans 5:12 with “death came to all people.” He did not say “death to all life.” Therefore, Romans 5:12-19 and the parallel passage 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 speaks about the first moment that death came upon humanity, NOT the first moment that death came to plants, non-human animals, and bacteria. Before Adam and Eve sinned they ate. The process of a human eating demands the death of another life form. Nowhere in the Bible is there any statement or hint that plant and animal death did not occur previous to Adam first sin. Given the constancy of the laws of physics that have persisted since the cosmic creation event (Jeremiah 33:25 and Romans 8:19-22) bacterial, plant, and animal death must have been occurring previous to Adam’s sin. For people who presume that death is bad in all contexts and, therefore, something that God would never allow outside of human sin, the message of Romans 5 and Genesis 3 is that God blessed humanity with physical death to make possible our deliverance from spiritual death. As every New Testament book teaches, the only way to truly live is to die and thanks to Christ’s death on the cross we humans can experience eternal physical and spiritual life.


(Kay Kalra) #3

(RZIM Connect Member) #4

Thank you for responding. I will see if I can purchase the referenced books. I suspected that this would be your answer, but if this is the case, it seems to me (admittedly, I am an animal lover) that the original creation was never intended to be all that “good.” Even if death only occurred in the non-human realms, sentient creatures would have experienced terror, panic, and excruciating pain preceding their death, and those who were social creatures, remained in family units, or functioned by bonding in some way (and presumably even the humans who named the animals, nurtured them, and lived with them), would have experienced grief and loss during and after their deaths. In this sense, even humans would not have been free from sadness, loss, and pain. So, do you believe that the world as created, even in it’s pre-sin status, was never actually free of those things? And if so, will heaven, or the new heaven and earth, be entirely free of them?


(Hugh Ross) #5

One of things that attracted to me to Christianity was that compared to all the other religions of the world it presented a two-creation model as opposed to a one-creation model. In Christianity, the ultimately perfect creation follows after God uses the present “very good” creation to permanently eradicate evil and suffering. As I explained in my book, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, God designed the laws of physics that govern our universe as tools to restrain to some degree the expression of human sin and evil. The Bible declares that these laws of physics have remained unchanged since the cosmic creation event (Jeremiah 33 and Romans 8) and will remain in effect until the full number of humans God intends to redeem have in fact been redeemed (Romans 8 and Revelation 20). Once that full number has been reached God will deliver redeemed humanity from this universe, remove the universe from existence, and place all of redeemed humanity into the new creation where those redeemed humans will enjoy life with radically different laws of physics and radically different dimensions.
This biblical theology implies that gravity, electromagnetism, and thermodynamics always have been present in the universe. Consequently, as Solomon states in Ecclesiastes and Paul states in Romans everything in the universe is subject to a pervasive law of decay. This decay implies God’s creatures in the universe, minus access to the tree of life, must experience physical death. However, God designed the universe, Earth, and Earth’s life so as to minimize the suffering of his creatures from death. God’s creation of carnivores, for example, actually lessens the degree of disease, suffering, and death on the part of the herbivores that the carnivores prey upon.
In my book, Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job, I describe the roles of the nephesh (soulish) animals in teaching us humans vitally important spiritual lessons. As our sin ruins the depth of relationship we can enjoy with a nephesh animal, so also it ruins the depth of relationship we can have with God. As it takes a higher being to tame a nephesh animal, so also it takes a higher Being to tame a human. As the full potential of a nephesh animals only is manifested when it is strongly bonded to a human being, likewise the full potential of a human is only manifested when that human is strongly bonded to God. God designed the nephesh animals to serve and please and to form powerful emotional bonds with us. When one of our pets dies, we feel a deep sense of loss and grief. Likewise, God feels a deep sense of loss and grief when we who were designed to serve, please, and relate to him run away from him or pretend he does not exist. For a complete list of the spiritual lessons that the nephesh animals teach us see Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job.
In Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, chapter 13, I describe the physics of the new creation. Yes, it is a realm where for the rest of eternity there will be no death, decay, sin, evil, pain, grief or suffering. it is realm where are relationships will be geometric and not linear. Love will be magnified beyond what any of us can think or imagine.