Good God, Cruel World
If there is a more distinct separation between the views of biblical creationists and old earthers, than death before sin, I don’t know what it would be. Ross agrees in his opening of chapter 8
One emotional lightning rod stands taller than all others in the creation day controversy: “Allowing for the millions of years for the fossil layers means accepting death, bloodshed, disease, and suffering before Adam’s sin.” The idea of death before the fall (of Adam and Eve) sparks heated debates. Young-earth spokespersons say an ancient fossil record “documents death, disease, suffering, cruelty, and brutality. It is a very ugly record.”? How can such “ugliness” be compatible with a powerful, loving Creator? Young-earth scholars say it cannot. Most people believe death is bad.
The Bible would agree with “most people” in this instance. I Corinthians 15:26 “The last enemy to be defeated is death.” Death is not just some benign operation that cleans up the gene pool; death is the enemy!
Let’s talk a little bit about what death means. Dr. Ross would say that anything that today’s academic paradigm declares as “alive” can experience death. So he has a BROAD range of things that can die: humans, animals, fish, insects, plants, fungus, bacteria, cells…When any of the items on that list ceases to function, he would say it dies. From his definition of death, one could make a reasonable case that there was death before the sin of mankind. Plants no longer germinating or growing. Bacteria expiring. Even the death of cells Dr Ross would consider death that would invalidate biblical creationism.
But is that what the Bible is talking about when God’s revelation refers to death? The Bible talks about creatures which possess the breath of life as being alive. Hebrew scholars realize the plants are not referred to as being alive in the original Hebrew
In Genesis 1, God specifically mandates that humans and animals are to eat only plants, seeds, and fruit. Carnivory is not permitted by God in Genesis, so to assume there was predation and carnivory is something that old earthists BRING TO the text. God does not allow human carnivory until 1500 years later…after the flood. But getting back to Dr. Ross’s claim that plants are alive is a misunderstanding of the biblical understanding of plants. A better description of plants would be that they are a self-replicating food source. The Hebrew word for living things (that could feasibly die AFTER sin entered the world) would be nephesh (H5315).
So, clearly plants, cells, and bacteria would not be considered “alive” by the author of Genesis, and while they might have come to a point prior to the fall that they failed to reproduce or persist, they would not have been seen as having “died”.
However, creationists have often pointed out that ‘no death before sin’ applies to what the Bible calls death, which is not always the way modern biologists use it. The
Bible doesn’t talk about plants dying, even though modern biologists do. Rather, the Bible talks about plants withering, for example. What is the difference? Answer: the creatures affected by death were those the Bible calls nephesh chayyâh. When it refers to man, it is often translated ‘living soul’, but, of other creatures, including fish, it is often translated ‘living creature’. However, it is never applied to plants or
invertebrates. Therefore, there is a qualitative difference between the deaths of the (vertebrate) animals called nephesh chayyâh and plant death. This is further supported by the account of the Flood and Ark. The living creatures (nephesh chayyâh) intentionally rescued on the Ark did not include plants (or invertebrates).
When, at the bottom of pg 89, Ross speaks of the biblical creationist understanding the death came after sin, he seems ignorant of much of scripture:
At the heart of such comments lie profound questions about the advent of evil and God’s response to it. Does the blame for all ills fall rightfully on Adam’s shoulders? …In this case, Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God in the garden of Eden must be responsible for all death and extinction experienced in nature. Such a view of Adam’s sin, however seems to imply that God meted out sudden punishment on plants and animals who did nothing to deserve His wrath, or that He couldn’t or wouldn’t protect the rest of creation from man’s offense. Either possibility called God’s character and power into question.
Ross is in effect saying that the rebellion of humans CANNOT have effects beyond themselves, which is not supported by scripture. Below are many of the places in scripture where mankind’s wickedness is judged directly by God against creation, other people, animals, and plants
- Gen 3:17-19 “Cursed is the ground because of you (Adam)”
- Ex 7:21 Fish cursed for Pharaoh’s sin
- Ex 8:13 Frogs cursed for Pharaoh’s sin
- Ex 9:6 Livestock cursed for Pharaoh’s sin
- Ex 9:10 Animals cursed for Pharaoh’s sin
- Ex 9:25 Animals cursed for Pharaoh’s sin
- Ex 12:29 Firstborn cursed for Pharaoh’s sin (NOTABLE: Pharaoh’s ancestor killed the Hebrew boys (Ex 1:16). Vengeance is the Lord’s, and his judgment is just.)
- Jer 7:20 Animals/trees/fruit burned for man’s wickedness
- Jer 9:10-12 Land cursed from sin. Animals cursed from sin
- Jer 12:4 Land parched and animals/birds perish due to man’s wickedness
- Jer 14:4-6 Ground, deer, jackals suffering from drought due to man’s wickedness
- Jer 21:6 Because of Israel’s sin, God judges men and animals
- Jer 36:29 Man and animals cut off because of wickedness
- Isa 24:1-6 Earth punished for man’s wickedness
- Ezekiel 36:34 Land desolate because of Israel’s wickedness
- Rom 8:20-21 Creation subjected to frustration and in bondage to corruption because of sin
So, we can clearly see that although Ross thinks it’s unjust for other people, animals, plants, and even the ground to experience repercussions from the sin of mankind, Ross’s claims are contrary to what scripture has revealed
Just two pages previous to this one, Dr. Ross hypocritically lectures about not attributing things to God that are not scriptural. But that doesn’t stop him from attributing false characteristics to God based on his misunderstanding of scripture.
If death of any kind in any context is evil, then a loving God would never design His creatures to die.
On pg91 Ross continues
The death Adam experienced is carefully qualified in the text as being visited on “all men”-with no reference to plants and animals.
Yes, when we read Genesis 3, the curse of sin is far reaching, and Paul’s elaboration on the curse of sin shows it to be even broader.
Romans 8 “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”
ALL of creation has been subjected to the bondage of corruption by Adam’s sin. It is extra-biblical to think there was death in the creation that God called “very good” since God called death “the last enemy” in I Corinthians 15. Sin was a crushing blow to all of creation
Thankfully, the curse of sin will end: Revelation 22:3 “No longer will there be any curse.”
On page 93 Dr. Ross again engages in eisegesis to protect old earthism. For old earthers there HAD to be carnivory since the emergence of predators. But since this is counter to what the Bible teaches in Genesis 1, Dr. Ross and others have to manipulate the text to make it say something more palatable.
Some young-earth creation scholars dismiss the teeth, jaws, and claws of carnivores as inadequate evidence that they always killed prey.
Evidence? Dr. Ross, what evidence do you possess that can overturn what God revealed in Genesis 1 when God said that only plants are to be used for food?
Secondly, biblical creation scientists and scholars do NOT dismiss current evidence.
Thirdly, does anyone know what animals the following animal skulls are from?
The 1st is a fruit bat and the second is a panda. Both vegetarians…but you wouldn’t know that from the bones. Dr. Ross claims he knows the behavior and food preferences of all animals prior to the fall, contrary to scripture just from looking at bones or extrapolating from today.
Ross digs his giant hole even deeper with:
In the wild, carnivores actually help herbivores maintain their health and minimize their suffering…Thanks to carnivores, herbivore health is maximized and death rates minimized
Wait! Earlier, you said animal suffering & death was “very good”. Why would there be a case to be made that animal suffering and death needing to be minimized? Are you backing off the claim that animal suffering and death is “very good”? Why?
The Bible says carnivores receive their prey from God’s hand Psalm 104:21
Dr. Ross again takes this verse out of context. In the same Psalm, we also see the author say “But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more.”
So, we know that the Psalm was both written AFTER the fall and describes the circumstances of carnivory & wickedness after the fall.
Humans are the beneficiaries of the remains of millions of generations of plants and animals that preceded us.
This statement assumes that Genesis was incorrect when it describes the worldwide flood. The flood created the conditions necessary for biodeposit resources.
On pg 97 Ross perpetuates a long refuted idea that layers in ice are annual
If Antarctica and Greenland had tropical climates before and during the flood, then the models to which global flood proponents adhere would allow only 4,300 to 5,000 years for all of Antarctic ice is more than 4,770 meters
I’m sure Dr. Ross is familiar with the P-38 Lightning aircraft that had to crash land in Greenland in 1942. Only 50 years later, these aircraft were recovered buried under more than 250 feet of ice and snow. The men who recovered the aircraft say there were hundreds of layers of ice, so we know that ice layers are NOT annually deposited counter to the modern academic paradigm that is the foundation of Dr. Ross’s claims.
People tell me all the time that the “age of the earth question” is a side issue and does not relate to the gospel. For the most part, I agree with them about the age of the earth. There are some areas though where the “age of the earth question” and the gospel intersect. Here are 2 of them
- What does scripture teach? It is important that we trust what God has revealed in scripture. As I have shown and will continue to show, old earthers are forced to redefine the words and texts in scripture to accommodate their mantra. When, to accommodate modern academic paradigms, they insert billions of years, death, suffering, thorns, and bloodshed into scripture, it sullies the nature of the gospel. Jesus came to save sinners and defeat the curses of sin.
- On p98 Dr. Ross teaches that Satan (not Adam) should be blamed for sin. But this is discordant with the Gospel revealed in scripture. Jesus became a human in the line of Adam to save sinners. His form as a man allowed Him to be a kindred redeemer. Satan is not eligible for redemption because there is no means for which Satan’s sins could be atoned. Romans 5 and 8 tells us that all of creation was cursed because of the sin of Adam, which Jesus is able to redeem by his sacrifice.
Ross titled this chapter “Good God, Cruel World”. He tries to dilute the what goodness means:
In Genesis 1, the creation is called “good” and “very good” but not “ultimate perfection.”
God DOES reveal in Genesis 1 that his creation is very good. Twenty-nine times God also reveals that HE is good using the same Hebrew word with which He describes his creation prior to sin. But Dr. Ross believes and teaches that death/corruption/suffering/thorns were in creation prior to the sin of mankind. But it’s likely that Ross would inconsistently/arbitrarily flinch from attributing death/corruption as being part of the character of the Holy One. But this is the natural progression of thought into which he is bound.
In the next paragraph, the inconsistencies of Dr. Ross continue:
In the Old Testament times, the Israelites shed animal blood as part of their worship. These sacrifices illustrated the horror of sin and the price that must be paid to undo its consequences.”
But according to Dr. Ross, animals have been dying for millions of years. To him, bloodshed is ubiquitous, common, and valueless. So, why would the death of animals somehow now be a “horror” with terrible consequences? He tries to have it both ways that animal death is both endlessly common and a horror. It’s inconsistent.
At the bottom of pg102, I find a very serious implication for the old earth view that Hugh Ross is teaching. Regarding Romans 8, Dr. Ross says
The human effect on the environment is analogous to sending a two-year-old child to clean up a closet. Just as one must wait for the two-year-old to grow up before expecting him to full comprehend and bring order to the problem, so too God waits for the human race to mature enough to understand and obey God’s “care instructions” for the new creation.”
This is certainly incompatible with the teaching of total depravity. Ross is essentially saying that man can learn to overcome the corruption that plagues this age with greater learning and science. This again, is a terrible problem for the old earth dogma. The only hope for reversing the curse of sin’s corruption is Jesus
Chapter 9 ends on a very sad note as Dr. Ross continues his praise of death
A kernel of wheat cannot fulfill its destiny to become a plant bearing many seeds of wheat unless it falls to the ground and dies. Similarly, humans gain eternal life in the new creation through dying. The message of the New Testament epistles is that the pathway to life everlasting is through physical death. Why, then, should any believer in God look upon death as something that is fundamentally bad in all contexts and counter to the will of God? Only through death can evil be conquered. Death for the Christian is in one sense a gift.
It’s mind-numbingly callous to look into the eyes of a child who’s lost his mother or even the family pet and say: “death is a gift!” But this is the progression of thought for Dr. Ross.
The Bible tells a different story. Death is a result of sin. I Corinthians 15:26 “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
Death is the enemy, and the Lion of Judah who defeated death Himself will ultimately crush the final enemy to redeem his creation from corruption.
UPDATE: Here’s what scientist and apologist Dr. Jason Lisle had to say about animal death prior to the sin of mankind
As biblical creationists, we praise God for the consistent nature of his revelation. We do not have to redefine the words in the Bible to accommodate modern academic paradigms or cultural changes in sexuality or political revolutions as we have seen Dr. Ross do. God’s Word is eternal and we can trust God to keep his word regarding the future since we can trust his revelation from the past.