A vast number of conservative theologians accept animal death before Adam’s Fall. No significant doctrines are impacted, they say, if animals have been killing each other for millions of years.
Many pastors and theologians today believe that the earth is millions or billions of years old. But based on my reading and interactions, it is clear that most of them have never really considered the theological implications of allowing animal death, disease, predation, and extinction prior to Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden.
When challenged about this seeming inconsistency, they usually point to the “overwhelming scientific evidence” and say or imply that their perspective is easy to harmonize with the Bible and it doesn’t significantly affect any important doctrines. This attitude is being promoted in theology textbooks widely used in conservative evangelical seminaries, colleges, and churches.
An example is Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (1994). This work is helpful in many ways and immensely influential, having been translated into at least eight major languages. Like many other evangelicals who reject the young-earth view, Grudem believes that the Fall had an impact on the whole creation. And he teaches that when Jesus returns and renews the creation, “there will be no more thorns or thistles, no more floods or droughts, no more deserts or uninhabitable jungles, no more earthquakes or tornadoes, no more poisonous snakes or bees that sting or mushrooms that kill” (p. 836).
But this outstanding, highly respected theologian apparently does not see how the concept of millions of years of deah before the Fall destroys the Bible’s teaching about the goodness of the original creation, the prospect of goodness in the new heaven and earth, and the goodness of God Himself.1 Are you prepared to answer Christians who say the age of creation isn’t important?
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