The Problem of Death
Why is the world filled with death?
Why did my friend’s three-month-old
son recently die in the ambulance on
the way to the hospital? What kind of
God would make a world where three-month-old babies die?
And what about natural disasters
like the earthquake that killed hundreds
of thousands in Haiti in 2010, or
the tsunami the next year that killed
thousands in Japan, or the hurricanes
and tornadoes that kill hundreds every
year? Did God make a world with
earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes,
and tornadoes? Indeed, we struggle with the problem of death.
But we don’t just struggle to explain
human death. What about the death of
so many animals that we find buried in
the earth’s fossil-filled rocks? On every
continent, thousands of feet of sedimentary
rock layers are filled with
billions of dead plants and animals.
Why are they there? Did God make
the world that way?
And it’s not just the death seen
in the fossil record. We also see evidence
of pain (some creatures were
buried alive), killing (some creatures
were in the stomachs of other creatures),
disease, thorns, and extinction.
Mass graveyards are full of bones
from thousands of animals jumbled
together. Would a truly good God create
such a world?
A Good God and the Problem of Death
God is good. He didn’t create a world
riddled with death, disease, and natural
disasters. You see, Genesis 1:29–30 tells
us that humans and animals (“every
beast” and “every bird” and “everything
that creeps on the earth”) were all originally
vegetarian. They didn’t eat each
other; they ate the plants and the fruit
of the plants. And God called the creation
“very good” (v. 31).
But it didn’t stay very good for very
long because Adam and Eve rebelled
against God, and their rebellion
resulted in God’s judgment not only
on mankind but on the whole creation.
Genesis 3:14–21 tells us that God
cursed the animals. He cursed the
ground so that thorns and thistles
would grow. He caused increased pain
in childbirth, and the physical death
process began in Adam and Eve. Furthermore,
the passage implies that
God killed the first animals to cover
Adam and Eve’s nakedness.
But God did not leave mankind
without hope. He created us to know
him and enjoy him forever, and he
cursed the creation to turn our eyes
back to him.
Romans 8:18–23 says that the whole
nonhuman creation was “subjected to
futility” and now groans in “bondage
to corruption,” waiting to be set free at the return of Christ. The vast majority
of Bible teachers throughout church
history have taught that this futility
and bondage result from the Fall and
were not part of the original “very
good” pre-Fall creation.
Sadly, many Christians have bought
into an unbiblical view of death. For
the last 200 years, the majority of scientists
have been telling the world that
those rocks and fossils represent millions
of years of earth history. Those
scientists have convinced most people,
including most Christians, that
the Bible is wrong or that it doesn’t
teach that the creation is only a little
more than 6,000 years old.
But this introduces a serious conflict
for a Christian. The evolutionary
view of death is diametrically opposed
to the biblical view.
According to evolution, millions
of years of death, bloodshed, disease,
and extinction occurred in the animal
world before people came into existence.
But the Bible says that humans
were created before all this death and
natural evil. So evolutionists say death
came before man. The Bible says man
came before death. Both statements
can’t be true.
If we accept scientific claims
about earth and cosmic
history over millions of
years, then we must reject
or ignore the biblical truth
that the Fall brought death
into a perfect world.
If we accept geologists’ and astrophysicists’
claims about earth and
cosmic history over millions of years
(even if we reject belief in biological
evolution), then we must reject or
ignore the biblical truth that the Fall
brought death into a perfect world.
And that means accepting a God who
calls death “very good.”
If God cursed the ground with
thorns after Adam sinned, Christians
who follow the majority of scientists
have a big problem because rock layers
that evolutionists say are 350–400
million years old contain fossil thorns.
If true, then God lied in Genesis 3:18.
We also find evidence of cancer,
arthritis, and brain tumors in dinosaur
bones. If dinosaurs truly lived
over 65 million years before humans,
then God called all that disease “very
good.” But what kind of God would do
that? Not the loving God of the Bible.
So the conflict over the age of the
earth is a conflict over two different
histories of death and two different
views of God’s nature. The Bible
teaches us there was no death in the
beginning and there will be no more
death when Jesus comes again. Death
is an enemy and a temporary intruder
But in the evolutionary view, as long
as there’s been life, there’s been death;
in fact, evolution requires death. It’s
gone on for millions of years, and it will
continue for millions more.
Every Christian attempt to fit millions
of years somewhere into Genesis
1 puts all that death, disease, and natural
evil before Adam. But that destroys
the Bible’s teaching on death and the
curse. It also calls into question the
Bible’s teaching about Christ’s future
redemptive work in the whole creation
(Colossians 1:15–20, Acts 3:20–21, and
Revelation 21:3–5 and 22:3). The age of
the earth matters because the Bible’s
teaching on death and redemption
Because of Adam’s sin, even three-month-old babies die. But our suffering
is only temporary. The gospel
assures us of a future without death
when Jesus comes again and removes
the curse of Genesis 3.
for Answers in Genesis–US. He earned his doctorate in
history of geology from Coventry University in England,
and his master of divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical
Divinity School in Chicago.
SourceThis article originally appeared on answersingenesis.org