The evolutionary view of death underscores and reveals the impossibility of reconciling evolution with biblical doctrine. This question will therefore be discussed in detail.
Evolution: The following four basic tenets, substantiated by many references, can be deduced.
1. Death is an essential prerequisite for evolution: In evolutionary thought, death plays a fundamental role; it is a necessary precondition for the succession of postulated events. C.F. von Weizsäcker states [W3], “If individuals did not die, evolution would not have been possible, and no new organisms with new characteristics could have originated. Evolution requires the death of individuals.” Hans Mohr, a biologist from Freiburg, made a similar statement [M2, p. 12]: “No life could have existed if there were no death. Death as such was not caused by evolution. Rather, the death of individuals is required to ensure the development of the tribe. There is no way past this precept, this axiom of the doctrine of evolution. Without the death of individuals there could have been no evolution of life on this earth. If we regard the evolution of life as a positive result, as ‘the real creation,’ then we accept our own death as a positive creative factor.” The strong contrast with the Bible, which explicitly characterizes death as a hostile power, now becomes clear (1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 6:8).
2. Death is an invention of evolution: Professor Widmar Tanner of Regensburg, Germany, who, as a biologist, concerned himself with the question of death, concluded that the known laws of physics and chemistry, which also hold for biology, at no point force us to assume that a biological system must grow old and die. From this viewpoint he asks, “How and why did death enter our world when it should not properly be here?” He assumes that evolution itself invented death as a significant factor [T1, p. 46]: “Aging and length of life are adaptive phenomena which developed in certain specific ways for each kind during the course of evolution. . . . The process of evolution was speeded up substantially by the invention of death.” He regards the introduction of death as an opportunity for chance to try out new developments.
The anti-biblical character of evolution becomes quite clear when its advocates elevate death to be the creator of life.
For Ludwig von Bertalanffy, death is the calculated price that had to be paid for upward development, that “dynamic drama full of tension and tragic complications.” [B3]: “With great effort life rose up to increasingly sophisticated levels, paying for each advance. Unicellular organisms developed into multi-cellular beings, thereby introducing death.” That which the Bible describes as a judgment on sin is heralded by evolutionists as a necessary product of evolution [R2, p. 290]: “Death entered this world when multi-cellular organisms developed; pain was introduced when the nervous system originated, and fear was the result of consciousness . . . possessions resulted in worry, and the development of morality caused doubts and uncertainty.”
3. Death is the creator of life: The anti-biblical character of evolution becomes quite clear when its advocates elevate death to be the creator of life. Microbiologist R.W. Kaplan explains this as follows [K1, p. 236]:
For bisexual organisms this pre-programmed death has an additional function: The limited life expectancy and the limitations of sexuality prevent the interchange of genes between successive generations, that is, between “obsolete” predecessors and “progressive” descendants. Aging and death prevent backward fertilization and thus promote evolution. For the individual, aging and death is unavoidable and distressing, especially in the case of human beings, but it is the price that had to be paid for our existence, through evolution.
Tanner also emphasizes the creative role of death [T1, p. 51]: “It is not a very comforting thought that man would probably not have developed if there were no death. But when it comes to aging and death, one should not expect any consolation from a biologist.” Hans Mohr answers his own question about the developmental program that invariably leads to death, as follows [M1, p. 12]: “Because our kind, because Homo sapiens came into being as a result of evolution. The temporal limits of individual life is the unavoidable prerequisite for the emergence of man.”
4. Death, the final and absolute termination of life: According to evolutionary doctrines, life is a condition of matter based solely on physical and chemical laws (M Eigen). This reduction of reality to exclusively material phenomena leaves no room for life after death. Man is reduced to a biological machine, and his death is on a level with that of any organism. In the cogs and mechanisms of evolution, the purpose of death is to give rise to new life. A person’s life is regarded as a mere contribution to the progress of evolution [K1, p. 236]. Even when death researcher Elisabeth Kübler-Ross refers to life after death, she only considers its contribution to evolution [K2, p. 185]: “The obligation of personal maturity requires that every single person contributes to the maturity and evolutionary development of the entire species. In this way, everyone fulfils his or her destiny. Death is the key to evolution.” Let us not be misled: What appears to be Christian terminology proves to be false on closer inspection.
Scientific Objections: Science can tell us nothing about the origin and essence of death, because it lies beyond the reach of scientific methods. Consequently, medical science is only concerned with the precise moment of death (brain death or the cessation of cardiac activity).
The Bible: The Bible explicitly states that the earth and all life came into being by direct creative acts of God. When creation was finished, God pronounced it completed and described it as “very good.” God is love. He is full of mercy and He created everything through Jesus (John 1:10; Col. 1:16) and through His wisdom (Col. 2:3). In creation, He was true to himself, because He does not change (James 1:17; Heb. 13:8). That is completely different from the evolutionary “strategy” of pain and tears, gruesomeness and death. Anybody who regards God as the cause of evolution by assuming such a method of creation distorts God’s nature into something contrary to itself. Then what is the origin of death if it is neither an evolutionary factor nor derives from God?
We know that death is everywhere. All people die, including recently born babies as well as the aged, people with high moral standards, and also thieves and robbers; believers and unbelievers, all are subject to death. Such a universal and radical effect must have a universal cause. The Bible states that death is a result of human sin. Although God had warned the man and woman (Gen. 2:17), they misused the freedom given them and thus fell into sin. From that moment, the law of sin came into effect: “
The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Man found himself on the thick black line of death as indicated in Figure 1.
Since the time of Adam, who was responsible for the introduction of death (1 Tim. 2:14), all of mankind is bound by this chain of death: “
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Before the fall into sin, death was unknown throughout creation. Although the Bible unambiguously emphasizes this fact, the doctrine of a perfect, untainted original creation has been widely forsaken and sold out in present-day university theology. They have been misguided by philosophers like Lessing, Kant, and Hegel, who described man’s fall into sin as the starting point of man’s history of freedom and progress. But according to the Bible, man was originally good, with no pain, sickness, or death. Even in the apocryphal book the Wisdom of Solomon (1:13), it is explicitly stated that death was not a component of the original creation: “But God did not make death, nor is he pleased with the destruction of the living.”
When the Bible refers to death, it is never in the sense of a termination of existence. The biblical definition of death means “to be separated from.” Because man’s sin encompass a threefold death (Figure 1), it implies three kinds of separation:
- Spiritual death: At the moment of the first sin, man “died spiritually,” meaning that he was separated from communion with God. Today, everybody who does not believe in the Creator, finds him- or herself in this condition. They have no relationship with Jesus Christ, nor with the message of the Bible; they are spiritually dead, although they may be physically very much alive.
- Physical death: A second result was the death of the body: “
. . . until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken” (Gen. 3:19).
- Eternal death: The line of death finally leads to eternal death; but man’s existence is not terminated (Luke 16:19–31). It is the final situation of being separated from God. God’s wrath rests on him, because “
the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men” (Rom. 5:18).
The bridge between God and man collapsed when man sinned. Anybody who moves along in life without considering this breach will end up in the abyss because of the threefold death. Is there an alternative? God is not only wrathful toward sin, but He is a God of love who loves the sinner. Anybody can leave the train which is speeding toward the destination of “eternal death” because of man’s sin, and cross over to the train of life moving toward the destination called “eternal life.”
Eternal life or eternal death is the final destination of our imperishable existence; we have been created for eternity. Which way we go is our choice as free creatures: “
I have set before you [eternal]
life and [eternal]
death, blessings and curses. Now choose life” (Deut. 30:19). It is abundantly clear that God’s will and purpose for us is life.
The following simple but extremely important corollary can be derived from Figure 1:
If you have only been born once (physical birth), then you die twice (the body dies first, followed by eternal death); but if you have been born twice (physical birth and born-again spiritually), then you only die once (physical death)!
The biblical doctrine of redemption is very closely linked to the doctrine of death (Rom. 5:12, 14; 6:23; 1 Cor. 15:21). Belief in the Son of God frees us from the damnatory judgment and assures us of eternal life: “
Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from [spiritual]
death to [eternal]
life” (John 5:24).
When considering the implications of this decision, the tragic effect that evolution and its view of death has on evolutionists becomes quite clear. The danger of eternal death is eclipsed, and many people miss the offer of salvation. Adherents of theistic evolution accept the evolutionary view of death. Then one assumes that God employed this hostile power (1 Cor. 15:26) to create living beings, but the New Testament earnestly warns: “
Do not let anyone . . . disqualify you for the prize” (Col. 2:18).