Some Christians challenge that death could not have existed prior to the fall since God is good. If God is good, and if he declared his creation as being “very good” (Gen. 1:31) then how could death exist prior to Adam and Eve’s sinning? Some have alleged this “very good” to be comparable to the good works of Jesus such as raising the dead, being compassionate, loving, and willing to heal those with impairments.
Given the general idea of evolutionary theory, which requires elimination of weak individuals, survival of the fittest, death, and struggle, how could God call this “very good”? Now, one needn’t subscribe to evolutionary theory to be able to ground the answer I shall provide. One could, after all, be a Christian theist who does note the existence of death prior to the fall but does not believe in, nor subscribe to, a theistic evolutionary model. However, the way I look at this is that God had put in place a system of renewal which includes both death and decay. He created such a system because he intended for the world to last. If God had not created this system of renewal it wouldn’t have been too long until the Earth became overrun with the organisms that he created. A world overrun with organisms would likely lead to mass extinction; a process that would only have taken a mere few days or weeks unless there was a way to prevent such growth. Alternatively, one might argue that the exception to this was the Garden of Eden where death and decay did not play a role. This was a special place of which God placed Adam within. The Garden of Eden also seemed, given the biblical text, isolated and bordered; a way of separating it from the rest of the Earth. This is itself a clue. If God’s entire creation was perfect then he wouldn’t have decided to cordon of a little piece of real estate for Adam. Essentially, he could have placed Adam anywhere on the face of the earth. However, since God didn’t do that, but rather created a special place for him, it informs us that the Garden of Eden was a place very different from the rest of the world.
Secondly, if God had meant to say that his creation was perfect then he would have easily said it. After all, God could have chosen the Hebrew word for perfect, as Glenn Morton explains, “God specifically did not inspire the writer to use ‘tawmiym’ which is Hebrew for ‘perfect’. Instead, God used the word ‘good’, ‘towb’ to describe his creation in every case” (1). Morton thus identifies the notion that some Christians view the pre-fall world as “perfect” to be one of the bigger misconceptions. Morton even explains how death, particularly some types of cellular death, is instrumental in the development of a human being, “What is interesting is that God uses apoptotic death to create each and every animal.” In other words, death has to be part of the process for us to even exist today which makes it necessary. Lastly, one could point out that death itself may even be considered good since it supports and nurtures a functioning ecosystem. This is because with death comes the nourishment for other living creatures (including plant and animal life). God created and designed the Earth to renew itself.
1. Morton, G. 1999. Death Before the Fall: God Created Cellular Death Codes. Available.