I am 100% convinced that the earth is slightly less than 6,000 years old. Most Evangelical Christians are also “Young-Earth Creationists,” and take the Genesis creation account literally, as well as the chronological data in the Bible, all of which requires this view.
However, Young-Earth Creation ministries often use a particular argument from Romans 5 & 8 in order to counter “Old-Earth Creationists” who claim that the earth itself is billions of years old, some of whom agree that Adam was created only about 6,000 years ago. In Old-Earth Creationism, death was a necessary component of evolution of animals throughout the alleged millions of years of evolving from pond scum into complex creatures. However, many of them agree with us that death came to man only about 6000 years ago when Adam was first created. The argument used against this view by Young-Earth Creationists is based on Romans 5:12 “just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin …”. The entire weight of this particular argument against Old Earth Creationism rests on the words “entered the world.” This is claimed to refer to the animal kingdom as well as humanity — death itself.
The following video is an excellent presentation of Young-Earth Creationism and the presuppositions held by both creationists and evolutionists which is really what drives the outcome. However, it uses the above argument against Old-Earth Creationism which in my opinion is very poorly exegeted from Scripture and based on bad theology concerning the nature of man, death, and immortality. It is a hinderance to the Gospel in my opinion.
This is a very strong case for why we ought to take the Genesis account literally. However, I believe the claim from Paul’s statements in Romans 5:12,15 is being taken out of context and used in a self-serving manner that is quite contrary to Paul’s intent. In the context, Paul was concerned with the fact that “death” overcame all of humanity, yet Christ’s death provides the victory over death for humans. But this comes through resurrection and access to the Tree of Life both of which the animal kingdom does not partake. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus DEATH SPREAD TO ALL MEN, because all sinned” (v. 12) and again “For if by the one man’s offense MANY died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to MANY.” (v. 15). The words “all men” in vs. 12 and “many” in both statements in vs. 15 do not refer to animals as the benefactors of the death of Christ. Paul was clearly drawing on the Genesis account. But the threat of “death” was given to mankind alone: “… in the day you eat of it YOU will surely die” (Gen. 2:17), and then after Adam sinned, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust YOU shall return” (Gen. 3:19). There is nothing in the Genesis account upon which Paul based his claim which implies that “death” would overtake the entire animal kingdom if he sinned or after he sinned.
Most likely the “curse” certainly affected the whole creation, since the presence of “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:18) are the result of the curse on the ground. Rom. 8 indicates that the “whole creation” groans under the curse. However, “death” of humans did not come about by a sudden change in his DNA or ontological nature, but rather a change in his environment. “Death” came about because access to the Tree of Life was removed when he sinned (Gen. 3:22-24). Humans no longer had access to the FOOD that would prevent gradual decay and eventual death. It is resurrection and the Tree of Life being restored to man when Christ returns that provides physical immortality for believers (Ezek. 47:12-13; Rev. 2:7; Rev. 22:2;14). If we as Young-Earth Creationists are going to insist on a literal reading of Genesis, we also need consistency in how we interpret the “Tree of Life” passages in Ezekiel and Revelation.
In harmonizing these, we should conclude that Adam and Eve were NOT created physically immortal and then their bodies were instantly transformed into decaying flesh when Adam sinned. Adam and Eve were created to always be fully dependent on God’s continued provision for both their immediate external needs and their perpetual survival into infinity. This was originally supplied by their God-created and sustained environment, air, water, daily food, and especially the “Tree of Life” which was specifically created exclusively for man’s perpetual existence and avoidance of death. The Tree of Life was not created for animals, but for man alone. Animals were inherently mortal from their creation. Animals were not created with the potential or intention that they would live forever (with God’s continued sustenance and provision), only mankind was. The natural cycle of life, death, reproduction and renewal has always been an essential feature of the original “very good” creation which cannot be sustained without it. There is no reason to suppose that carnivorous animals were not created that way or that the “food chain” did not exist as part of the original creation.
Some point to Genesis 1:29-30 to prove that all animals were vegetarians when created. “29 And God said, Behold I have given to you every seed-bearing herb sowing seed which is upon all the earth, and every tree which has in itself the fruit of seed that is sown, to you it shall be for food. 30 And to all the wild beasts of the earth, and to all the flying creatures of heaven, and to every reptile creeping on the earth, which has in itself the breath of life, even every green plant for food; and it was so.” (LXX).
This is claimed to limit the food of both humans and all animals to vegetation exclusively. But a careful reading makes no such limitation. Rather, God was indicating that He was personally supplying the necessary food (“I have given you“), and that man as well as land animals and birds were permitted to eat from this source. It is obvious that sea creatures, including mammals which are warm-blooded air-breathers, are excluded from the above statement. This is not only by their omission, but by the impossibility of their coming on land in order to eat. Sea creatures are carnivores by design, as most (especially the larger fist and mammals) have no plant source that could possibly sustain them.
IMO, the better interpretation of Romans 5:12,15, which I believe is consistent with Paul’s explanation of “death,” is that he was speaking exclusively about the “death” of humans. The original threat of death was to Adam, not to Adam and all animals. This is also supported by his comment that death passed upon all men BECAUSE all sinned. Animals do not sin, they merely do what is within their nature. Only mankind sins. Consequently, Paul’s statements about “death” are limited to mankind both by the Genesis account on which it depends and upon the context of Romans 5.
Another problem is the fact that the “curse” is removed from the creation upon Christ’s return according to Romans 8, yet there will be meat eaten during the Millennial Kingdom of Christ as this is required as part of the Feasts which Ezekiel 40-48 indicates will be celebrated then. Also, there will be fishing in abundance even from the Dead Sea, thus fish will die when caught and eaten by humans (Ezek. 47:8-11). “Death” and carnivores (man) will continue after the curse is removed from the ground according to Rom. 8, and the “Tree of Life” is accessible again to God’s people (Ezek. 47:12-13; Rev. 2:7; Rev. 22:2;14). As a meat lover, I would be greatly disappointed in the resurrection if it was otherwise. Likewise, the death of unresurrected people also continues in the Millennial Kingdom of Christ according to Isaiah 65, and “death” itself is destroyed AFTER the Millennium (which is 1000 years after the curse is removed from the creation) according to 1 Cor. 15:25-26 & Rev. 20:14.
All of these things strongly imply that the entrance of “death” into the world spoken of by Paul in Romans was limited to mankind, not the animal kingdoms. I do not believe that using Paul’s statements in Romans 5 & 8 as a defense against old-earth creationism is valid. Those of us who hold to Young-Earth Creationism should not be using this argument against Old-Earth Creationism, IMHO. There are better defenses against that view by sticking to sound exegetical principles in Genesis as well as a great deal of scientific material provided by creation ministries which points to a young earth.