Death before the Fall
Sun, 01 Aug 1999 11:32:47 +0000

Over the past few years it has amazed me how often we theologically
conservative Christians, believe things that are not actually stated in the
Bible. For instance it is not ever stated that 'animals give birth to
animals after their kind,' yet Christians often believe that is what the
Bible teaches. Another misperception of what the Bible actually says is
that the the world was created perfect. 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. The
Bible does not say that Eden was perfect, yet many YECs act like it was a
perfect place. Whitcomb and Morris misquote God when they state,

"The Bible teaches a perfect Creation followed by a Fall and
subsequent deterioration, requiring the intervention of God Himself, in
Christ, to bring about redemption and salvation. Evolution postulates a
gradual progress from crude beginnings through innate forces, to higher and
higher levels of achievement and complexity. " ~ John C. Whitcomb and Henry
M. Morris, The Genesis Flood, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1961), p. 447

The Bible (in the Hebrew word choice) teaches a 'good' creation not a
perfect one. The misunderstanding this noew will address is the one that
claims there was no death before the Fall. Nowhere does the Scripture state
"animals were immortal" or "no living being could die". These beliefs are
inferences from one's manmade theology but are not found in the Bible.

Let us start with an assumption that all can agree with. God created the
living life forms. If God created the living life forms then it follows
that God created all the marvelously complex biochemical systems, as well
as the complex developmental process which takes a fertilzed egg and turns
it into a human being. Let us look at this with the view of elucidating
God's role in death.

Developmental processes.

We have seen that God designed the developmental pathways as part of His
grand design of life on our planet. Yet what is little know in YEC circles
is that death plays a big role in the creation of a human. In order to
understand this we need to look at how cells die.

A cell can die in one of several ways but what concerns us here are
starvation and apoptosis. Killing a cell via starvation (either oxygen or
food) is an ugly way for a cell to go. Clark describes this type of
cellular death. The lack of oxygen causes the mitochondria, the cells
energy generators, to shut down. Finding the power source dimming, the
cell kicks in back up systems which burn emergency stores of starch and fat
and maybe even protein. Messages pile up all over the cell as instructions
are ignored. The lysosomes, the garbage collectors are overworked as
cellular trash pile higher and higher As all sources of energy run out,
metabolic stillness comes over the cell. The last crucial system to cease
are the pumps that man the cell walls. The pumps at the cell wall which
keep potassium in and water and calcium out of the cell finally fall
silent. The calcium rushes in and distorts the mitochondrea. Next water
pours through the cell wall in untold quantities, placing a huge pressure
on the outer cell wall. Finally the cell wall bursts spilling cellstuff all
over the place. The cell is dead. The macrophages, cellular cannibals, come
and eat the remnants of the dead cell.

There is a second form of cellular death which is more peaceful, but it is
death nonetheless. It is apoptosis, cellular suicide. A cell that has
been instructed to commit suicide behaves very differently. There is no
inrushing of water, no explosion as the water. The cell, in this case,
chops its own nucleus into millions of small snippets of DNA. The rest of
the cell doesn't even notice for a while but the cell is already
irreversibly dead. The cell then physically detatches itself from all of
its neighbors. The cell begins to undulate with small pieces of cell
pinching off and floating away. These small pieces are called apoptotic
bodies. Inside each apoptotic body, the cellular machinery continues on,
mitochondria making ATP and cellular pumps continue pumping. The apoptotic
bodies are then eaten by neighboring cells

What is interesting is that God uses apoptotic death to create each and
every animal. In the case of human development, our hands look like
paddles at the end of the sixth week of development. But then the cells
between the fingers undergo apoptosis and die. What they leave behind are
the fingers. Look at the inside of one of your fingers now. The ancestor
of the cells you are now looking at barely escaped death during your
development. If they had been a smidgen closer to the webbing, they too
would have been instructed to die.

So, what does this have to do with Eden? Well if God created the cellular
biochemistry, then He also created the instructions for cellular death and
God himself used death to create us!

What is even more amazing is that God created a system in which death is
the primary state. Clark states:

"The death of cells by suicide is involved in a great deal more than just
the shaping of fingers from a webbed hand. In the developing human fetus,
cell suicide also plays a major role in the formation of the nervous
system. Nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord (neurons) are connected to
other parts of the body by nerve fibers-long,thin extensions of cells
residing in the brain or spinal cord and carrying electrical impulses that
stimulate targeted cells to perform specific functions. At a certain stage
of fetal development, these neurons begin generating enormous numbers of
nerve fibers, which they simply cast out in the general direction of
tissues and cells needing nerve connections. If a particular nerve fiber
happens to find a cell with a nerve attachment point on its plasma membrane
(a muscle cell, for example), it makes a connection. That fiber and the
brain or spinal-cord neuron from which it came) survives and becomes the
nervous system's communication line to the targeted cell for life. If, on
the other hand, the nerve fiber fails to establish contact with an
appropriate cell-and fewer than half do-the neuron that sent it out must
commit suicide, dying the same quiet apoptotic death that helped to form
the hand.
"The role played by cell suicide in the genesis of the nervous system
represents an interesting and fundamental fact about the biology of this
kind of dying in many cells: death is actually the default state for each
of these neurons. From the moment a neuron is spun out of the central
nervous system toward potential target cells, it is destined to die. Only
if it finds a connection with another cell will it be rescued from an
otherwise certain death; it will receive chemical substances (called growth
factors) from the target cell that in effect switch off the death program.
In some respects this seems an incredibly wasteful way to build a nervous
system." William R. Clarkson, Sex & the Origins of Death, (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1996), p. 37-38

The same thing happens with the cells of our immune system. Death is the
default state.

. Cells of the immune system, including the warrior cells we met earlier,
are also generated in great excess. These cells-white blood cells called
lymphocytes-are allowed to circulate throughout the body for several weeks
after they are formed. If they encounter a threat to the body-a foreign
protein in the bloodstream, or a virally infected cell-and eliminate it
during that time, they will be granted longevity. As when neurons make
contact with a targeted cell, lymphocytes detecting a foreign protein or
engaging a virlly infected cell are rewarded with growth factors that
switch off their death program. The resulting cell may survive five years,
or ten, or enve for the life span of its hose, providing a type of 'memory'
of pathogens previously encountered by the immune system. But if they fail
to find and eliminate a foreign invader during the allotted trial period,
they are invited, in effect, to fall on their swords. Again, death is the
default state for these white blood cells. They undergo exactly the same
kind of death as cells in the webbing that binds embryonic fingers
together. The phenomena of cellular overproduction, selection, suicide,
and memory are examples of the many ways in which the nervous system and
the immune system seem to parallel one another." William R. Clarkson, Sex &
the Origins of Death, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), p.39

But what is even the most amazing thing, God created a secret code which
instructs any cell given this code to self-destruct.

Cells selected by CTLS [cytotoxic T lymphocyte-grm] for death are not
murdered; they commit suicide.
"So it turned out that all of the years spent looking for special CTL
weapons had, after all was said and done, been wasted. CTLS are not
equipped with weapons for destroying altered cells. What they are equipped
with is knowledge of a special security code. Every cell in the body-not
just a few extraneous cells in the developming fetus-has embedded in it a
self-destruct program. What CTLs know, uniquely among all the cells in the
body, is how to punch in the security code that activates that program and
ultimately causes the selected cell to commit suicide." William R.
Clarkson, Sex & the Origins of Death, (New York: Oxford University Press,
1996), p. 43-44

And as we develop from a single cell, our cells become mortal. The death
gene, designed by God, is still active.

"The death genes themselves are never fully shut off. Again, as we saw
earlier in a different context, death is the default stae. Tumor cells
appear to have found a way to turn some or all of the death repressor genes
back on, or to turn the death genes off, and to a greater or lesser degree
mimic germ cells." William R. Clarkson, Sex & the Origins of Death, (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1996), p.100

So the question for the YECs who believe that there was no death before the
Fall is: Why did God Himself create special security codes, instructions
and machinery for death if there was NO death before the Fall?

If cells could not die before the Fall, how were animals created when cells
didn't die between their fingers?

If cells didn't die before the Fall, would one of Adam's cells that fell
off of him end up creating a clone of Adam?

Furthermore, God took steps to avoid cellular death from starvation by
telling the animals to eat in Genesis 1:30. If cellular death could not
occur, then there was no need for food.

Many young-earth creationists will then respond that cellular death is not
real death. But it is. If the cells in a small region of your heart die
due to lack of oxygen, your heart will stop beating effectively and cut off
the oxygen to your brain. If the cells of Adam's children's brain could
die during development (as God intended and designed) then it proves that
they are not immortal. If they are not immortal, then they could also die
from lack of oxygen. If, when the heart stopped beating, the brain cells
died from oxygen deprivation, then that human would die.

One natural question concerns whether or not Adam and Eve were immortal.
Traditionally it is beleived that they were born immortal. This is also
not stated in the Bible. God gave them food to eat. If they couldn't die
from starvation, why did they need food? If they couldn't die from
starvation then the cells of their body couldn't die either. (One can't
have all the cells of Adam's body die while Adam continues to live. That
makes no sense.)

I would contend that God intended man to live forever but they were not yet
immortal. The Tree of Life was in the Garden to impart immortality. If
they already possessed immortality, then the Tree of Life was useless
because it was giving them something they already had. But if they were not
yet immortal, they could die. God's intention was to prevent that death
via the Tree of Life but man's sin circumvented God's intention.

Foundation, Fall and Flood
Adam, Apes and Anthropology

Lots of information on creation/evolution