Response to RTB's position on "Animal death before the flood"

This article resulted from a discussion about animal death before the flood as set forth by Fuz Rana in a debate held in 2006 at First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton on April 29th.  The debate was with Dr. Larry Vardiman of ICR and Dr. Jason Lisle, of AIG.  Dr. Vardiman characterized Dr. Rana as holding that "animals are not really alive according to the Biblical definition of life".



This is a verbatim transcript of the section of Dr. Rana's talk regarding animal death.  My comments follow it.  All emphasis is mine.

As I mentioned in the beginning of my talk, I don't think the age of the earth is the issue here.  I think what the issue here is the implications of an old earth and that is mainly animal death before the fall.  And this is what the late Henry Morris said, and this could be, and there are a number of places you see these types of statements in the young earth literature:  "It is nothing short of blasphemy to attribute to the omnipotent and omniscient God of love and grace, the horrific, purposeless, waste-filled and age-long death of billions of living things prior to the rebellion of Adam."  I don't know that I necessarily explain what Henry Morris means here.  I think it's pretty clear: that to take an old earth position, at the end of the day, is blasphemous, because you are impuning the nature of God.  You are saying that God is responsible for animal death, and how could God, as all powerful, all loving God be responsible for animal death, and that animal death is a result of Adam and Eve's rebellion.  This is a serious charge and I'm going  to address this from an old earth perspective. But before I do that, I want to first of all lay out what the old earth position is, to be very clear how the old earth regards death before the fall.  First of all, there was no animal death before the fall.  The old earth position argues...sorry, that that there was no human death before the fall.  The old earth position argues that there was animal death only, that humans died both spiritually and physically at the time of the fall.  In the Garden of Eden, God tells Adam "You can eat of any tree in the Garden that you want to, but the day that you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that is the day you surely will die."  Well Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit.  They did die. They died on that day, but that death was spiritual first and foremost.  They were alienated from God, and that set in motion events that led ultimately to the physical death of humanity, in my particular view...from my own personal perspective.  But the whole point here is the emphasis is on spiritual death and alienation and secondarily is (on) human physical death. Now, with regard to this position, there is a very clear understanding from an old earth perspective, that animals are not humans.  That Genesis 1:26-27 says very clearly that humans beings are made in the image of God, and this is a unique characteristic that human beings possess: that none of the other creatures, none of the other animals are made in the image of God. And it's because we're in the image of God that we have this relationship with God, it's because we're made in the image of God that we can serve as God's stewards, and God's viceroys on the planet.  Genesis 2:7,19 teach again the same idea, Adam is created from the dust of the earth, and God animates him with the divine breath.  The beast of the field and the birds of the air, too, are also created from the dust of the earth, but they are not animated with the divine breath. Now is this an intentional omission?  I think so, and I think that omission is telling us something very important: that we're made physically out of the same materials as animals, but that we're unique in that we possess the divine breath, that We're made in the image of God.  Genesis 9, I think, drives this point home very powerfully: that being made in the image of God is significant and the passage here is telling, is comparing humans and animals.  You can kill animals, you can eat their flesh, but if you kill a human being, this is a great affront to God, and your life will be demanded of you, Why?, because humans are made in the image of  God.  Here it's teaching very clearly a distinct difference between human death and animal death.  So from an old earth perspective, animal death before the fall is not the same, qualitatively, as human death.  These types of death are very different because of the fact that humans, uniquely, are made in the image of God.



Dr. Rana confuses the "image of God" with "divine breath".  He attempts to make a connection between the two which does not exist.  In fact, after you see the difference, you will see that the entire discussion of the "image of God" is irrelevant to the question about animal death.  Since animals obviously die, and RTB holds that they died before the fall, the real question is whether they are alive in the same way that humans are alive, in order to die in the same way that humans die.  When Rana says "animal death before the fall is not the same, qualitatively, as human death", he is then saying that animals are not alive in the same way that humans are alive.  Rana basis this on the assumption that animals do not have "divine breath".  It is a common belief, but it is wrong.  If you look at Psalms 104:29 you will find that is says this about the animals (the numbers in the verses are the Strong's Concordance cross references to the Hebrew and Greek dictionary): 

Thou hidest5641 thy face,6440 they are troubled:926 thou takest away622 their breath,7307 they die,1478 and return7725 to413 their dust.6083

Notice that "breath", Strong's 7307, is Ruach.  This is the same word found in Genesis 1:2:

And the Spirit7307 of God430 moved7363 upon5921 the face6440 of the waters.4325

Ruach is used in this way throughout the O.T.  We see from this that animals have spirits (divine breath) the same as humans do.  This should not come as a surprise, as animals have a mind, will, and emotion, just as we do.  The difference is that humans have a spirit created in the "image of God" which animals don't have.  Dr. Rana assumes that since they don't have a spirit created in the image of God that they have no spirit at all, but this is not true.  Animals _are_ animated by the Divine breath, in spite of what Dr. Rana prefers to believe.  See for example the account of the Flood:

Gen 6:17  And, behold,2009 I, even I,589 do bring935 (853) a flood3999 of waters4325 upon5921 the earth,776 to destroy7843 all3605 flesh,1320 wherein834 is the breath7307 of life,2416 from under4480, 8478 heaven;8064 and every thing3605 that834 is in the earth776 shall die.1478

Notice that God includes both animals and humans in the group He calls "all flesh, wherein is the breath (ruach) of life".  God here is saying that all flesh that breaths air will die, irrespective of whether they are animal or human. 

In order to head off an objection in advance, I will point out that in Genesis 2:7, a different word for breath is used when describing how man was created:

Gen 2:7  And the LORD3068 God430 formed3335 (853) man120 of the dust6083 of4480 the ground,127 and breathed5301 into his nostrils639 the breath5397 of life;2416 and man120 became1961 a living2416 soul.5315

the word  for "breath" is 5397, which Strongs defines as:

nesha^ma^h
nesh-aw-maw'
>From H5395; a puff, that is, wind, angry or vital breath, divine inspiration, intellect or (concretely) an animal: - blast, (that) breath (-eth), inspiration, soul, spirit.

Both ruach and neshamah are used for breath.  In fact, in Genesis 7:21-22,
both words are used together for the word translated "breath":

Gen 7:21  And all3605 flesh1320 died1478 that moved7430 upon5921 the earth,776 both of fowl,5775 and of cattle,929 and of beast,2416 and of every3605 creeping thing8318 that creepeth8317 upon5921 the earth,776 and every3605 man:120
Gen 7:22  All3605 in whose nostrils639 was the breath5397, 7307 of life,2416 of all4480, 3605 that834 was in the dry2724 land, died.4191

One more comparison before I close.  Please look at the use of the word "life" in Genesis 9:4:

Gen 9:4  But389 flesh1320 with the life5315 thereof, which is the blood1818 thereof, shall ye not3808 eat.398

This is the well known verse prohibiting eating of blood of animals.  The word for "life" is 5315, which is nephesh. 
The Strongs definition for nephesh is:
"From H5314; properly a breathing creature, that is, animal"
This is the same word we just saw used in Genesis 2:7:

Gen 2:7  And the LORD3068 God430 formed3335 (853) man120 of the dust6083 of4480 the ground,127 and breathed5301 into his nostrils639 the breath5397 of life;2416 and man120 became1961 a living2416 soul.5315

The KJV here translates nephesh as "soul" when talking about man, but it's the same word used in Gen 9:4 for animals. 

Since the Bible describes animal creation and life before and after the fall as "qualitatively" the same as humans, I must conclude that animal death before and after the fall is the same, qualitatively, as human death before and after the fall.  Dr. Rana is therefore mistaken to say that "animal death before the fall is not the same, qualitatively, as human death", and I find no problem with Dr. Vardiman's characterization of Dr. Rana as holding that "animals are not really alive according to the Biblical definition of life". Animals are alive in the same way that humans are, die in the same way we die, and therefore could not have been dying for billions of years before Adam's sin unless the Bible is in error.  The fossil record is therefore a record laid down after the fall, during Noah's flood, just as the Bible says.