I'm sure many of you have guessed what it is...death before the fall of Adam. That is, the doctrine promoted by young-earth creationists is that no animals (or in some cases, plants) died before Adam and Eve sinned. Obviously, this would preclude all the fossils we see in the fossil record from being animals that died millions of years before the first humans.
Initially, they will likely bring up passages like Romans 5. But clearly, these passages only refer to human death, and quite possibly only to spiritual death (which animals cannot experience, as they do not sin). As it is the most commonly cited passage, I will quote Romans 5:12-15
"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned-- for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many."
So, who here gets the impression that this precludes animals, like dinosaurs and trilobites, dying before Adam sinned? Anyone? No? Of course not...(assuming you engage your brain for a few seconds). I find it funny how young-earth creationists, especially Kent Hovind, go on and on about the "face-value" reading of the text. Yet, the face-value reading of this passage, to most people anyways, would be that it only applies to human beings, not animals.
They will also bring up God's repeated command in Genesis 1 that his creation was "very good". And claim that if animals are dying then the world is not "very good". Refusing to listen to the possibility that "very good" does not mean "perfect".
I actually feel this is an insult to God. Saying that the ecosystems and designs for carnivores he set up are evil and a corruption of the creation. Nature is great and exquisitely designed by God. To claim otherwise is heresy in my opinion. Passages like Psalm 104 affirm this, as it praises God for giving the carnivores their food.
The fact is, there is no scripture that contradicts the idea of animal death before the fall of Adam. Though I would agree that certain passages seem to rule out human death.
So why do young-earth creationists argue so passionately for this position? Emotions. Not the bible and certainly not science, but mere emotion. You know it's a problem when you base your entire worldview on an emotional point. They don't like the idea that God permits animals to die. But I would ask them, why does punishing animals for Adam's sin make any more sense? It seems to make less to me.
Now, I will admit, much like the problem of human suffering, I do not fully understand all of God's reasons for permitting suffering, both in humans and animals. I think as we are commanded in scripture, we just trust in God to always make the right decisions and to make all things work towards good in the end.
However, I think we do have good reasons to believe God is working animal death towards a good purpose. For instance, all the animal & plant remains in the earth have allowed us technology otherwise unavailable to us that can be utilized to spread to gospel to the whole earth and fulfill the great commission. Thus, bringing about the ultimate good for all of the earth. If necessary for that to happen, *any* amount of suffering and evil is permissible.
Also, although these animals did die, they had the privilege of existing in the first place. Which is good in of itself. The bible makes it clear that existence is preferable to non-existence, even if that existence involves some suffering and eventual physical death.
Lastly, I would like to point out that we really don't have the ability to enter the mind of an animal and experience what they experience. We tend to look at them and anthropomorphize them, but do we really know if they truly suffer the way we do? They certainly react negatively to stimuli. But does that really mean they "suffer"?
After all, suffering, as with all experiences, is a part of the soul, not the body. The bible makes it clear that although animals have souls (the Hebrew word "nephesh" used for soul often is used for animals), they are very distinct from human souls lacking the image of God and the ability to have spiritual experiences. We really have no way of knowing if God has endowed animal souls with the capacity to truly suffer. Their reactions to pain stimuli could merely be pre-programmed instinctual reactions.
I would encourage young-earth creationists to trust the biblical and scientific evidence, rather than relying on their emotions. And to trust that in his sovereignty, God has a good reason for allowing animal death.
Thank you for your time.