On Death, Dying, and Suffering
Theistic evolution is the belief God brought about the present variety of life on earth by the process of evolution.
In a manner of speaking, the very term “theistic evolution” is oxymoronic. A radical discontinuity exists between the tenets of modern evolutionary theory and the eternal creator God revealed in Scripture. Yet, as sharp as the inconsistencies are between what is taught in Scripture about the origin of creation and what evolutionary theory believes about origins, theistic evolutionists insist the biblical revelation of creation can be woven together with evolution.
But could God have providentially used evolution to create? Can one hold to modern evolutionary theory and still fully confirm the infallibility of God’s Word? I don’t believe so and I think there is clear reason why I say that.
Consider death and dying. The death of living things is taught in Scripture as being a bad thing; an unwelcomed intrusion in God’s creative order.
After God originally created the world, He declared that all He created was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). But, Adam’s act of disobedience in the garden by eating from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 3) is understood as the introduction of death and suffering into God’s creation. Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, separated from an intimate relationship with God and the earth was also cursed so that it would no longer serve Adam in the manner it once did.
The end result of Adam’s sin was physical death, and the eventual physical death of all of his progeny. Within the genealogies of Genesis 5, the repeated phrase that rings in the ears of the reader is …and he died. Ultimately, eternal death would result when men were divinely judged for their rebellion against God. Adam’s sin did not stop with only him and his human descendents, however, but it plunged the entirety of God’s creation under the curse of sin so that all living things will suffer the pains of dying and eventual death. As Paul summed up the situation in Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death.
Evolutionary theory, on the other hand, understands death as one of the mechanisms that is a part of the process of evolution. The author of the article Evolution for Beginners notes the second important thing that drives evolution is,
the disproportionately high percentage of deaths of organisms who are less well suited to their environments and predatory conditions, and therefore are unable to leave as many offspring.
The idea being that death of a weaker, individual organism allows the stronger organisms to thrive and pass along their offspring. Additionally, competition among species contributes to the function of natural selection and the evolution of those species. Competition then,
… occurs when two species each require a resource that is in short supply, so that the availability of the resource to one species is negatively influenced by the presence of the other species.
Hence, when environments lack the food sources necessary to sustain the life contained in it, weaker species will thin out due to the inability to adapt and survive. In other words, they die off.