Did God Create a World Full of Death?

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During this COVID-19 crisis (like so many other times of tragedy), one of the most common questions Christians will hear is some version of: “If God is so loving, why are there bad things in the world?” Many feel that if God created a world full of “bad things,” He mustn’t be “very good,” and they use this as an excuse to reject God.

Christians will often rightly explain that these things are the result of the fall (the just punishment of Adam where God cursed the entire creation because of Adam’s disobedience). This of course brought sin, death, and bloodshed into the world (see Romans 5:12 and 8:22). The entire creation groans because of that curse and is evidence that something is desperately wrong with this world. If God had not caused our physical environment to change at the time of the fall, we’d be lost and bound for hell but living in a paradise. How would we even know there was anything wrong and that we were in need of a Savior?

Predatory instincts and venomous fangs would be difficult to explain as once having a “good” function pre-fall.

But the exact timing of when these bad things came into being remains. Physical mechanisms like attack/defense structures (not metaphysical concepts like evil) that exhibit designed ability to kill prey, as well as mechanisms to defend against such attacks, exist throughout the animal kingdom. There are many examples in nature where one can imagine different anatomical structures like sharp teeth that creatures have been used for good; however, predatory instincts and venomous fangs would be difficult to explain as once having a “good” function pre-fall.

Some might argue that God “added” (created) these things after the fall, but Exodus 20:11 states God created everything in 6 literal days (Exodus 20:11), so only modifications to his existing creation would seem likely, not brand-new constructs. But wouldn’t that mean some poisons, teeth, and claws must also have been created/encoded in the genome as part of their original creation during creation week? The answer is yes—perhaps to be expressed later in a different form or for a different use!

The Gospel Connection

People then ask, “Did God create creatures designed to kill one another?” Many (even many Christians) state this defeats the most powerful biblical argument against “millions of years” and evolution, because if God created creatures designed to kill each other from the beginning, then there was surely death before Adam sinned. What are the theological consequences? Well, many professing Christians are now stating that our understanding of the gospel needs to “evolve.” For example, Ian Barbour, professor emeritus at Carleton College has stated,

You simply can’t any longer say as traditional Christians that death was God’s punishment for sin. Death was around long before human beings. Death is a necessary aspect of an evolutionary world . . . One generation has to die for new generations to come into being. In a way, it is more satisfying . . . than to see it as a sort of arbitrary punishment that God imposed on our primeval paradise.1

As you can see, this is no small matter, as it affects our understanding of the gospel and our need for Jesus as Savior (Ian considers himself a “traditional Christian”)! Is there a biblical and scientific explanation to this challenge?

Designed to Adapt

Creatures seem to have the designed ability to adapt to their environments (through mechanisms like natural selection and others).

The answers to this may not always be as clear as we would like, so this is one avenue for creation scientists to continue to ponder. Answers in Genesis has many resources that answer this question generally, such as chapter 21 in the New Answers Book 1. And, for example, we have touched on the particular case of venom more recently. Creatures seem to have the designed ability to adapt to their environments (through mechanisms like natural selection and others), which may entail needing to kill other creatures to survive or means to avoid predation. There are likely discoveries that might shed light on this question in the future, as we now know many things about God’s creation that were unknown just a few decades ago.

For example, scientific experimentation has shown that previously “hidden” genetic information can be activated under differing environmental conditions. The study of the field of epigenetics has taught us a great deal about how genetic information that was previously inactive can be brought “online” so to speak, without even a change in the DNA of the creature involved. Although the term epigenetics was first introduced in 1942, the field of study has grown immensely since after 2000.2

The epigenetic code is a set of switches that turn genes on and off in response to environmental stimuli and is a main contributor to this ability of the “finished product” to vary despite the same DNA instructions. The ability for the same source code (DNA) to express different programming under different environmental conditions is actually quite common. This is known as phenotypic plasticity.

DNA Disguise

For instance, locusts and grasshoppers were once classified as separate species because of significant physical and behavioral differences (locusts swarm; grasshoppers are solitary; locusts have smaller legs, wings, and bodies but have a 30% larger brain3 than grasshoppers, etc.). However, because of observed experiments scientists have now determined they’re the same creature that can transform4 from one variant to another (and back again under certain conditions) while the DNA of the two creatures remains identical.5 This transformation results in behavioral differences immediately and in significant physical changes in neural, muscular, and exoskeletal expression appearing in subsequent generations.

Fish Flippers

Similarly, one evolutionary article highlighted the fact that under specific temperature conditions certain types of fish can have banks of genes activated6 that were not prior to the environmental stimulus. These genes help the fish adapt to varying temperatures. And they admitted in the article “It’s not evolution” (because the genetic information activated was already present in the fish’s genome prior to the change).

Revolutionary Reptiles

This doesn’t support the story of evolution because that requires new information that never existed before to come about via random processes.

Similarly, certain lizards relocated from different islands having different food sources have been observed to exhibit large-scale morphological changes, including the production of cecal valves (to assist the digestion of plants) along with larger heads. They also changed food preference (predominantly carnivorous to vegetarian) and behavior (territorial to non-territorial) in their new environment all in just over 30 years.

Again, it was likely the environment that activated the variant genetic information that caused the changes as the DNA sequence of the newer lizards seemed identical to the parent population.7 And despite the claims of the article, this doesn’t support the story of evolution because that requires new information that never existed before to come about via random processes.

The Biblical Answer

This hidden genetic information is tremendous evidence of design and foresight and may shed light on how the supposedly insurmountable challenge of how organisms could still thrive after the Fall in God’s completed creation.

God created a “very good” world with no bad things expressed or to be used in lethal ways, but the potential for those bad things had already been created.

Firstly, God, being omniscient, foreknew that Adam would sin. And being holy and righteous, God knew a just punishment would have to be administered and would have been prepared to mete that punishment out. God created a “very good” world with no bad things expressed or to be used in lethal ways,8 but the potential for those bad things had already been created. Attack structures have likely become increasingly lethal while the defense structures have become increasingly “clever” in the thousands of years since the commencement of the curse of Genesis 3.

As a simple analogy, the attack structures would be similar to how a soldier carries a gun in case a bad situation occurs. They don’t want to have to use the weapon but are prepared to do so if the situation warrants it. (Although all analogies fail at some point, this explanation not only makes sense from what the text says, it even further highlights God's foreknowledge, i.e. God didn’t just “react” to something he didn't expect).

Foreknowing the fall of man, perhaps God created at least some of the features of a post-fall world in latent form within his very good world. Consider also that creatures are perhaps using their teeth and claws differently now than in a pre-fall world. Those without a pre-fall function only became activated when God cursed the creation as punishment for Adam’s transgression. We know scripturally that thorns suddenly began to appear at the time of the fall. This doesn’t necessitate God creating new genetic information for thorns (a defense structure to keep these plants from being overconsumed), but he could have activated dormant genetic information that had already been created during the six days of creation.

Thanks be to God, knowing what would happen from before the foundation of the world, planning defense structures in plants and animals to mitigate the effects of the curse, and who also had a plan to restore humanity (Revelation 13:8). So at the given time, God the Son became flesh and dwelt among us, gave his life on the cross, and paid the penalty for sin for those who put their faith and trust in him.

Conclusion: God Did NOT Create a World Full of Death

All of the “bad things” in the world came into the creation as a just punishment for the sin of Adam, our first father.

So no, God did not create a world full of death. And there were no millions of years of earth history as the evolutionary story requires. There were no creatures killing and eating each other (as Genesis 1:29–30 states, everything ate plants prior to the fall) in the “very good” beginning as Genesis reveals. All of the “bad things” in the world came into the creation as a just punishment for the sin of Adam, our first father. That is why the Bible states, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), what Jesus came to overcome, and why we need to repent and believe in Him.

Footnotes

  1. Julia Lieblich “Searching for Answers: Templeton Prize Winner Bridges Science and Faith,” Dayton Daily News, March 13, 1999.
  2. Developmental Biology, Volume 416, Issue 1, 1 August 2016, Pages 249-254, Epigenetics: The origins and evolution of a fashionable topic, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012160616302974#:~:text=The%20term%20%E2%80%9Cepigenetics%E2%80%9D%20was%20introduced,between%20the%20genotype%20and%20phenotype.
  3. Swidbert R. Ott and Stephen M. Rogers “Gregarious desert locusts have substantially larger brains with altered proportions compared with the solitarious phase.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B 277, no. 1697 (2010), https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2010.0694.
  4. No author listed, “A brain chemical changes locusts from harmless grasshoppers to swarming pests” Cambridge University, Jan 30 2009, https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/a-brain-chemical-changes-locusts-from-harmless-grasshoppers-to-swarming-pests/
  5. Cassandra Falckenhayn “Characterization of genome methylation patterns in the desert locust Schistocerca gregaria,” Journal of Experimental Biology 216, (2013), https://jeb.biologists.org/content/216/8/1423.
  6. Michael Slezak “Fish flick genetic switch to dodge climate change disaster”, New Scientist, July 22 2015, www.newscientist.com/article/mg22730314-300-fish-flick-genetic-switch-to-dodge-climate-change-disaster/.
  7. No author listed, “Lizards Undergo Rapid Evolution After Introduction To A New Home”, Science Daily, April 18, 2008, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080417112433.htm.
  8. https://answersingenesis.org/animal-behavior/what-animals-eat/no-taste-for-meat/

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