Where Science and Faith Converge
Reasons Newsletter

Animal Death and the Atonement

By Krista Bontrager - March 2, 2012

Every Easter we give thanks for God’s remedy for sin: Jesus’ atoning work on the cross and glorious resurrection from the dead. His death in our place bridged the gap between humans and our Creator, a gap that formed in the Garden of Eden.

At the heart of a controversy among Christians stands the issue of animal death and its relationship to the Atonement doctrine. After pronouncing the curse, God clothed Adam and Eve with the skins of animals (Genesis 3:21). According to some creationists, God’s provision of these animal skins is the first occurrence of physical death. They see this event as Adam’s introduction to bloodshed and, consequently, to the high penalty for sin. They go on to argue that if animal death had already occurred in the world for millions or billions of years (as an old earth implies), then the Jesus’ atoning work on the cross is compromised.

Such a charge can be troubling and may persuade some believers to reject an old-earth view of creation on that basis alone. However, a closer study of the data reveals that the charge is anchored outside, rather than inside, the biblical text. It fails to consider that the atonement applies to humans, the one and only sinful species. And, it arises from pre-commitment to an overarching assumption: God would not have allowed animal death before Adam’s sin. This a priori belief is then imposed upon the text itself as an interpretive lens.

Although it is certainly true that the new creation will not include physical death (1 Corinthians 15:53–55; Revelation 21:4), the Bible does not state that plant or animal death was introduced the moment Adam sinned (Romans 5:12; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:21). Nor does the text say that the creatures killed to make Adam and Eve’s clothing were the first animals to die. It doesn’t even say God killed the animals involved. Once again, assumptions are read into the text based on a previous foundational belief, namely that there was no death of any kind before Adam sinned.

Christians are right to want to preserve the integrity of the Atonement. But to say the old-earth belief of pre-Fall animal death undermines Jesus’ work on the cross is to make a serious charge based on insufficient biblical evidence.

  • Animal Death Before Adam
  • Publications

What's Holding You Back?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vestibulum magna nulla, egestas sed lectus id, posuere cursus leo. Praesent metus leo, dignissim eget laoreet vitae.

About Reasons to Believe

RTB's mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

Support Reasons to Believe

Your support helps more people find Christ through sharing how the latest scientific discoveries affirm our faith in the God of the Bible.

Donate Now

U.S. Mailing Address
818 S. Oak Park Rd.
Covina, CA 91724
  • P (855) 732-7667
  • P (626) 335-1480
  • Fax (626) 852-0178
Reasons to Believe logo

Reasons to Believe is a nonprofit organization designated as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)3 by the Internal Revenue Service. Donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. Our tax ID is #33-0168048. All Transactions on our Web site are safe and secure.

Copyright 2020. Reasons to Believe. All rights reserved. Use of this website constitutes acceptance of our Privacy Policy.