Protestants who subscribe to either Old Earth creationism (or progressive creationism) and those who subscribe to Theistic Evolution, often also believe that there is no Biblical warrant for the Young Earth Creationist to say that animal death must be the result of the fall. When one looks to Genesis one finds no explicit claim to the effect that death itself was introduced into the order of living things by sin. Therefore, the debate doesn’t take the passages in Genesis to be at the root of contention. Rather, it is in the book of Romans, where Paul is fleshing out his doctrine of original sin, that the debate begins. Paul says:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned”
This passage seems to suggest that death came into the world through sin. However, the progressive creationists and theistic evolutionists will argue that when you continue reading from that point, successive passages make it clear that it is speaking of spiritual death, for it contrasts the death introduced by this sin, with the life introduced by the Grace of God through Jesus Christ, and suggests that eternal life and righteousness are the opposite of this ‘death’. Young Earth creationists respond by pointing out, however, that though Romans goes on to speak of spiritual death in particular, that doesn’t preclude this initial passage of speaking of death in all its senses. The Young Earth creationist thus reads the fall as a cosmic catastrophe. Thus they will point to other passages in Romans which may reflect this more cosmic sense of the way death is introduced into creation.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved.”
However, too hastily do Protestants of either the Old Earth creationist or Theistic evolutionist persuasions conclude that there are no passages in the Bible which directly indicate that the fall was also the cause of animal and even plant death. Evidence for such passages, however, may be found somewhere protestants wouldn’t think to look. In the book of Wisdom it says this:
God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things so that they might exist; the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them, and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.
Granted that this passage is taken more seriously by Catholics and Orthodox than by Protestants, precisely because the reformation removed this book from the Canon which Protestants use, still this passage may be a good reason for even the Protestant to change her mind. How? Well, when one reads Romans in the light of the book of wisdom one finds close parallels throughout. For example, the famous passage in Romans about the beauty of creation (Romans 1:20-23) is almost exactly paralleled by Wisdom (Wisdom 13:1-9). We can also point out, as I have elsewhere done, that Paul clearly makes use of the book of Wisdom in some other of his epistles. Clearly Paul was both familiar with the book of Wisdom, and freely used it in developing his articulation of Christian Kerygma. That doesn’t entail, to the Protestant’s credit, that the book of Wisdom is inspired, but as a merely exegetical point it seems worth asking whether in the controversial passage above (in Romans) he was not also drawing directly from the book of Wisdom. I think it plausible that he was, and moreover plausibly more plausible than not.
So, the Young Earth Creationist (with whom, for the record, I do not agree) may not be so obviously wrong about this point in particular. The Scripture, read properly, does seem to suggest that sin was cataclysmic, and introduced death of both physical and spiritual kinds into the world. However, I am approximately a theistic evolutionist (with some reservations about how the theory of evolution is best articulated, as I agree with the Intelligent Design theorists to this extent at least: that natural selection is not a sufficient mechanism on its own to produce the diversity of life we observe), and I would hold both of those beliefs by appealing to the idea of an angelic fall which precedes the fall of man, and argue that this cataclysmic event was what caused the introduction of death into the physical world. In that, the Book of Wisdom seems to articulate its theology such that it confirms this speculation:
but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.
As a further note, Dr. William Lane Craig recently argued on his Reasonable Faith podcast that Dembski’s view that Adam and Eve caused the fall from the point of the big bang, presumes middle knowledge on God’s part. However, I think he is mistaken – on the presumption of the B-theory of time, one need only appeal to two-way determinism (or else two-way causation) to argue that events in the future can cause events in the past. I have reservations about Dembski’s theory, as I have already said here, but it remains an intellectually live avenue by which one can concede this point to the Young Earth Creationist (that sin introduced all manner of death into the world) and yet not follow the YEC all the way to their Young-Earth position.