One area that sometimes appears to be an obstacle to Christians preventing them from being able to accept the fossil record is the concept of death.
The reasoning is that there was no death until Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Therefore all death started after that. Everything in the fossil record therefore must have been due to either mass death right at the point of sin coming into the world or due also to the later global flood.
This then restricts creationist theories and flood theories to very narrow bands of options.
So I thought long and hard on this. There are two possible ways this could perhaps not really be a problem.
1. After the fall of man God could have easily gone back into time and basically changed creation from the bottom up, introducing the ecology and fossil record we have today.
2. Death may not have been a problem from the outset and it is only relating to humans that death really applies because the only real entities that could “die” were human spirits.
Option 1 is really self explanatory and I am not going to elaborate on it. You have to perhaps read the sections on creation on this site to understand the resolution of timeline issues. If this option was taken and creation was retroactively reworked to introduce death, predation, parasitism and disease it is quite likely that what scientists observe today in the fossil record will not line up with the Genesis creation account as it was changed too fundamentally after the fall of humans. The extinction of dinosaurs and the reduction of reptiles to a minor species could then have been the retroactive application (via a natural agent) of the curse expressed by God on snakes (representing reptiles) after the fall of humans. The kind of setup that would have existed without death etc. would be so alien to the setup we have now that a total retroactive rework would have been needed. For a being able to create a whole universe this would be an easy option.
Option 2 is more interesting and would require much less intervention after the fall of man. It does not seem to contradict the Bible if you really look into it deeply. It does not mean there were no changes to creation after the fall of man to indicate a change, however here I am focusing on death itself.
If we assume that God created our universe and that it exists inside His world and that it is an artificial universe approximating the real one it creates some interesting scenarios.
If we further assume that God infused a spirit into the human body by some means - that would technically make the human body a kind of an avatar. Now in the movie Avatar the alien body is fully controlled by a human via an interface where the primary driver is the human. However if you take the Biblical perspective of the human body and spirit combination, it is a different kind of an avatar setup. A more equal one where the body and spirit when combined change each other. Thereby actually creating a third unique entity different from both the body and the spirit. A soul. Therefore a trinity of sorts. Literally made in God’s image.
Now if we visit a theme park where they have miniaturized buildings and cities we would take such a setup as an artificial imitation of the real world. If in this setup some figures representing humans were made to walk around and take a few actions we would not view these figures as alive. They would simply be imitations of humans.
If we went a step further and let humans remote control these figures we would still not view them as alive. Only functional at best.
If we could now go even further, miniaturizing humans and putting them into these figures we would still not view the figures as alive but only the miniaturized humans inside them. We would of course now have to issue some warnings to the human operators since their actions could now physically endanger them. If they now left the display and fell off the edge of a display table they might fall themselves to death. In that case the figure might survive and remain functional but the human inside could well be dead. The figure might have an autopilot making it climb back up to the display but we would still see it as a disaster.
So this brings us to the human, body and spirit combination. From the real world, God’s world’s perspective the only thing in the combination truly alive might be the spirit. The soul that arises would be a precious but novel factor. The body might be viewed as essentially a mechanical machine and at most functional. Not really alive from the perspective of the real world where beings are in essence what we call spirits.
So the real danger to a human being from God’s perspective might be anything that could affect the human spirit.
From the rest of the Bible it seems that when a spiritual being does something evil it has a profound eternal impact on it. It seems that spirits are otherwise eternal and indestructible either by God’s choice or by virtue of whatever laws govern them.
Therefore when God warned Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil God had primarily a spiritual effect in mind. He knew that their spirits would be profoundly impacted. They would encounter spiritual death. We do not fully know what that means but it is not good.
So when they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil their spirits died. In fact not just their own but that of all their descendants. To understand why read the section on life the universe and everything.
To signify to humans that something happened to their spiritual components God then introduced what we call death to human bodies. Eventually restricting life span (function) down to about 120 years.
When someone puts their faith in Jesus the perfect life of Jesus and the effect of his sin offering is applied to the spirit of that person restoring their spirit to its original state. This is known as being born again.
However the human body remains unchanged. Since humans are a soul derived from a body and spirit interaction - God is not just interested in retaining our spirits. He wants us to have a body too. The bodies we have are unfortunately inadequate since they are contaminated by bad memories and are not fit for purpose for the coming dispensation. They were among other things an anchor for our spirits to allow for the possibility of rebirth. Once a spirit leaves this world its state becomes unchangeable. The limitations of our bodies giving us plausible deniability which falls away once you leave this world.
The solution is to allow the body to still die and to then eventually replace it with a new different body governed by different laws able to exist in the real world and in this one and possibly in a new type of universe that is going to be set up.
As for plants and animals they might not have spirits infused into them at all in which case they are not alive from God’s perspective. Their deaths are then simply a ceasing of function. Therefore if Adam and Eve and animals ate plants or even meat nothing had really been killed.
In this case death in creation would not have been a problem at all. If that is the case then creationists theories are left open with much more flexibility to address what we see in the fossil record and what we observe in terms of DNA.
What creationists are trying to defend could be correct but because they work from wrong paradigms they could be unable to arrive at correct theories.