I am in a discussion with a friend in St. Louis. One issue he has brought up and its implication is that theistic evolution cannot be true as death did not enter into the realm of creation until Adam and Eve sinned and thus the geological sediments and all the animals and plants could not have been involved in any type of death or decay (per Romans 8 and 5) until Adam and Eve. I told him that the term thanatos or death in Romans 5 refers only to people so would not include animals and plants. However Romans 8 seems to indicate that decay (death?) came upon creation as a whole with the Fall. That would mean that death came with Adam and Eve and not before. I am not sure of that though. I am wondering what type of “decay” is meant and if death in creation excluding humans could have actually occurred before the fall of Adam and Eve.   Do you have any comments on this or any resources that speak about this?   Thanks


I believe that people are getting caught up in Calvinistic doctrines and reading them into the scripture. We should begin by taking off our Calvinistic glasses. Heaven forbid!!!! We are not Calvinists!!! Oh really? Are you sure? What is your doctrine of the fall, and where did you get it from? Answer: Calvinists!!!  (a couple of rhetorical questions to get you started thinking about this difficult and important question)

I would ask the person giving this not-completely-unreasonable interpretation to step back a bit and ask:

1. In the big picture, what is God teaching here?

2. Before we interpret this admittedly difficult passage, what are some possible interpretations which should be eliminated, either by other, less difficult or more clear passages, or by what we already know as virtually proven fact, even from other directions, such as science. (I am not joking here…. Geocentrism was a principle tenet of late Medieval Christian doctrine, and the same people who take this position on the Fall of man are, VERY likely, the ones who would have counted as non-Christian those who believed in heliocentrism…. So I am not kidding. Bottom line, life has been on the earth for many many millions of years. Lions have been eating flesh, birds have been dying, dinosaurs have been eating other dinosaurs, fish have been dying, saber-tooth tigers have been eating mastadons and so forth for a very long time–long before Adam and Eve lived. It is as unreasonable to deny this as it is to deny the resurrection of Jesus or the inspiration of the Bible)

My answer to 1.

The death which came into the world with the sin of Adam Romans 5) is spiritual death. The decay in Romans 8 is spiritual decay. I know the chapter talks about the natural world groaning, but he is using a subtle kind of metaphor. We need careful study of Romans 8 rather than cavalier use of it as a proof text for Calvinism or any other doctrine. Because animals cannot suffer spiritual death, this did not apply to them, the passages referred to have absolutely nothing to do with animals and plants. I cannot absolutely, categorically eliminate the possibility that God is talking about animals here as well, but we should remember that, even if that is a possibility, this is clearly not what God is talking about in Romans, at least in the big picture. Application to great white sharks is speculative at best.

My answer to 2.

Whatever it means, it certainly does not mean that before Adam and Eve sinned, there was no death in the world. In the first few minutes they were alive, billions of bacteria were killed in their digestive system. Outside the garden, lions were not eating grass. They would die within a few days. Invoking some sort of miracle to explain this is NOT a good argument. It is begging the question. Millions of years before a lion or Adam and Eve ever lived, trilobites were eating other sea animals and dying, as were pleisosaurs and Allosaurs. We have millions of fossils, including carnivores with the skeletons of the animals they ate before they died in their stomachs, which prove this interpretation to be a false one. Such responses as “I believe the Bible and that settles it” are not arguments. They are intellectual dead ends which are the equivalent of covering one’s ears and shouting na na na na na na na. (Do not quote me on that, please). This kind of argument leads to Mormonism and a lot of other really bad things.

My suggestion: 1. Troubling Questions for Calvinists by F. Legard Smith (CoC… wrote Who is My Brother?) 2. Life in the Son (by a former Calvinist Baptist guy named Shank, the best I have read–my strongest recommendation)

My response to this person would depend on whether he is a Restorationist or an Evangelical. If he is a restorationist, I would emphasize that we have, inadvertantly, accidentally, and subliminally bought into Calvinism, which is the REAL doctrine behind the young earth assumption, which relies on the false doctrine of Original Sin and Total Depravity. These are the bottom line supporting the false reasoning and weak biblical interpretation in your friend’s argument, not a rational, careful exegesis of Romans 5 and 8.

If he/she is a committed Calvinist, I would be more subtle about using an anti-Calvinism argument, for sure, but would keep it simple—just using point 1 and 2 and other arguments of that nature. Calvinism, although clearly false theology, is logical in its own strange way, which leads us into quagmires which should be avoided more often than not, unless the issue is actual Calvinism.  A wise rhetorical approach is to avoid arguments which might give your friend the opportunity to steal the question away from the actual question.  I would suggest crossing the Calvinism bridge in another conversation–a much more important one that one about the age of the earth!

John Oakes


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