One of the stickiest issues of all for those Christians who do not hold to a literal six-day creation that happened about 10,000 years ago is the question of death. Was death a part of the world prior to the Fall?
Common sense would indicate, to me at least, that the answer is yes. It is not unusual for me to be out riding my bike and see squirrels who died after falling out of trees and hitting the ground. Did squirrels just not climb trees prior to the Fall? Was there some kind of magical mojo hanging over the world prior to the Fall that kept squirrels from losing their balance and falling out of trees? I find it very hard to believe that either of these was the case.
Daniel Harrell offers his take on the possibility of death existing before the Fall. In his view, physical death was part of the equation all along. But when Adam and Eve sinned, death became something completely different. Death was no longer just the end of physical life, it became a state of separation from God, the complete and utter end of any possibility of relationship with God.
Death has occurred since the first breath of biological life (and some would say since the first “breath” of cosmological life), long before Adam inhaled. Ironically, therefore, death must be a part of God’s good creation. Moreover, human death due to sin must be something different than the physical death we all die. Theologically speaking, death is alienation from God. It is death as the termination of relationship. It’s what Jesus describes as an ethereal chasm between the rich man and the beggar named Lazarus (Luke 16:19-26).