Is death Natural?

As Christians we know that death is not the natural state of how things were meant to be and is the result of original sin. Death therefore entered into the universe in a real time in history, when man fell from grace. I have a problem however squaring this with our scientific understanding of the universe. I’d like for some of your advice on pointing out where i’m going wrong

The Universe came to be billions of years ago giving way to our planet that could support life eventually leading to humanity which was God’s plan. The earth Adam and Eve (whether literally or figuratively) lived in would look drastically different from this one as there wasn’t any death. How does this square however with the fact there are destructive natural disasters that shape the earth that predate man’s existence, the earth’s beauty is caused by catastrophic disasters, would it be that God would simply have shielded us from such disasters?

Another point i have issue with is evolution, we can see throughout history the advances life has made in form and intelligibility that eventually led to us. The evolutionary process describes events where life is created and eventually passes away. We as products of such a process guided by God would be subject to this same fate. There is nowhere where we can look in the past and see humanity before it’s fall as eternal and not subject to death. It’s almost as if the process or being and born and dying was the most natural state of reality even before the fall as we can observe with animals and other life that existed long before us. Just wondering on your guys thoughts on this? Thanks

There are several possibilities that one could consider. One is, that the Garden of Eden was initially protected, in natural ways from outside dangers to humanity. Man and woman were created not such that they could not die, but that they did not have to die. Death was not a necessity for them, but was a possibility if, for example, they fell off a cliff by accident.
When they fell - by choice - into sin, and thus apart from God the Source of Life, their bodies were no longer rightly ordered by their (previously) righteous spiritual souls, but fell into disorder (and thus subject to fatal malfunctions both within their own bodies, as well as external mortal dangers from other sinful human beings. In punishment they were “exiled from the Garden,” into a universe of disorder and futility, and ultimately, personal death.

Another possibility is that modern science - which is by definition (i.e. the choice of modern scientists) - a God-free zone of reasoning and investigation - is simply fundamentally wrong in their dating calculations (all our “billions and billions of years” are wrong). I grew frustrated with science when I began to see how the presumption of this God-free zone limited analysis of observations and experiments. The presence of an active God in creation could make radical differences in our understanding of what is possible and what is impossible, or at least highly improbable, in the universe, and on earth in particular. Dating methods that rely on presumed “natural” concentrations of isotopes, for example, could radically change if God’s choices of the initial states of things were by design and not according to “scientific” presumption.

There are many other possibilities that can come to mind, if a living and active God is admitted into the universe.

I made a choice of what battle I wanted to fight - and left science in favor of theology and spirituality.

I would start out by saying that the creation story is not a literal version of history. It’s an allegory, and almost every culture has its own allegorical creation story, wether they believe it to be allegorical or not. Each culture wants to put their own creation story on a pedestal as being the true creation story. We can even see this within Christianity itself - differing interpretations of the same story. Some denominations believe the story is literal, and some do not. And since it’s a Abrahamic story, it holds relevance for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. So it’s not disrespectful to see Genesis’ creation story on a literal-to-mythological scale. Each religion, and individual, can show due respect for what another religion or individual believes regarding the creation story.

I believe the core concepts of the Christian (Jewish?) creation story to be true. That being said, I am cautious about pulling anthropological details out of it, and I am also not a fan of binding/tying Christology around it - such as original sin. I don’t think that’s necessary. Seeing Christ in the creation story is one thing, but building binding doctrine on it is another and IMO has only ever led to problems. Those are my thoughts.

As for your question, I suppose you’re asking why the Catholic Church teaches certain things. First, I would want to make sure that what you are saying is true about what the Catholic Church teaches. You’re taking a narrow literal interpretation of what the Church teaches. I’m not sure that that is a correct way to see the Church’s teaching on death. I’ve never heard a priest take the stance that the fossil record, according to most scientists, is incorrect, and that nothing ever died before a certain period in time. So, that’s where I’d start - making sure your premise is correct.


In the state of original justice, Adam & Eve probably would have been distinct from the rest of creation.

That’s not what the Church, teaches though. The Church teaches that the whole world is fallen as a result of their sins, and that death was part of the fall. That means they were not exceptions to the rule.

The following is not related to what I posted above, but is an article worth reading: (it won’t let me include links yet, so just put them together)


All of the natural evils of the universe existed before Adam & Eve.

It could mean that with sin present in the world, creation cannot ascend into a glorified state.

They did not, that is not Catholic teaching.

Catholic teaching is that all natural evils exist because of their sin.

I remember hearing before that God perhaps created the universe in such a way in advance because of the Fall (just like he had the Redemption in mind before the creation of the universe). I can’t remember who wrote it but I think it’s been tossed around by a lot of people.

You could have heard that, but that’s not doctrine or dogma, death interning the world at the fall is.

Natural disasters, disease, death, animals attacking man, etc. are all results of the fall. Prior to the fall animals were in harmony with man and were men’s friends.

Entropy did not yet exist (per several ecumenical councils).

The Church has taught through the Christmas liturgy all the way until the cultural shifts of the 60’s that the earth was 5199 years old at the time of Christ’s birth (I think I’ve even seen a poster here post that at one time?).

But let’s even use reasoning.

God created all things good. Life is a good, and death is the absence of life. Therefore death is not a natural good. If it is not a natural good, then that would mean that either God created something that is not a natural good in the world, which would mean he did not create all things good, or it wasn’t originally part of the world.

However, when man sinned he took life away (and even reduced our life span several times) as a punishment for said sin. He turned beasts and nature against us, and used death and the fallen world as a way to show us why we need Him.

Out of replies, so edit instead.

Can you explain to me what I made up about dogma? Everything I’ve said has been defined by councils and are in official liturgies of the church (EF).

So either you deny the councils and an official form of the liturgy or you don’t understand how Catholic theology and doctrine work.

That’s not historically correct.

You’re making a lot of stuff up about dogma.

I’m not sure that holds up. The Scriptural evidence speaks to human death. There’s no evidence, moreover, that suggests that carnivores were at one time herbivores. Even if there were such evidence, then you would need to make the extraordinary claim that plant-eating animals weren’t eating plants in a way that didn’t kill their targets (i.e., nuts / berries / fruits, as opposed to whole plants)!

You’re begging the question by presuming that all hominins throughout time were ensouled.

Human death is part of the fall. Animals and plants do not commit sin, so they’re not covered by that Scriptural assertion.

No, they didn’t. However, are we saying that lions who act according to their nature (by eating tasty animals) are participating in natural evil? :thinking:

That doesn’t imply that animals acted in harmony with each other.

That’s the thing. What exactly is “natural evil”. We would normally say things like suffering or disease, which have been around for eons. Animals kill and eat each other, plants and animals suffer from diseases and parasites and genetic diseases, natural disasters have caused major extinction events, etc. That’s how I’ve always seen natural evil defined.

Moral evil (which is worse to an infinite degree) involves a rational creature like an angel or human choosing to sin.

Bodily death is as natural as bodily birth - they go hand in hand. If it wasn’t natural, it would not happen.

I’d agree with some of these, but not all. “Disease”? Doesn’t that imply that some sort of creation of God (viruses, parasites, etc) is acting according to its nature? Is that “the absence of good”? I might disagree. Same with “animals eating each other” – part of their nature, no?

“Natural disasters”, on the other hand, seem to be an indication of a world that isn’t acting according to its nature, so I can see them being IDed as “natural evil.”

Nevertheless, if we’re going to agree with Aquinas and call evil “the privation of good”, then how can we call it ‘evil’ when things act according to their very nature?

In the catechism it states that due to original sin death at least for humanity death entered into history at a certain point :

The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination.282 Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man.283 Because of man, creation is now subject “to its bondage to decay”.284 Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will “return to the ground”,285 for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history .286

The problem i have with this is that as products of a process (evolution) of life being born and dying over time we can clearly see that wasn’t the case when looking back through time. How could such a process give way to immortal life which was meant to be humanity before the fall when we know that all life evolved to grow and eventually decay even before man existed

So called metaphysical evil is not the result of the fall of man.

The Holy Trinity knew death would come to mankind. There is an ecosystem in which assimilation occurs between the domains: Archaea (in extreme, harsh environments), Bacteria, and Eukaryota (animals, fungi, plants).

Allegories are based on a perception of reality, and this allegory was told poetically. A reversal of that cannot work. Reality cannot be based on an allegory - I believe our bishops know this.

I believe one needs to read that passage of the CCC through a spiritual lens, not a physical one.

*[402] All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as St. Paul affirms: “By one man’s disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners”: "sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned."289 The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. "Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men."290

Is Christ an allegory?

You’re conflating Christ with Christology. I suppose some Christology can be considered allegorical, since some of it is based on allegory.

While i do understand what is to be taken figuratively and what is allegory the story of Adam and Eve while also being figurative is also describing a real event in time just as the story of creation describes the formation of the world overtime in a poetic way using 7 days figuratively. Sin came to be in humanity in a real period of history. Allegorical as it is in it’s poetry the Church teaches man’s sin began at a point in time and death among humanity was our punishment. From this point onwards it was necessary for us to die. There is a reason both Jesus and Holy Mother Mary did not suffer bodily death, again real events in history, because they were without Sin.

Bodily death is therefore not how things were meant to be yet clearly from a scientific perspective we can see that it is if we are products of evolution which is now held as the general consensus among Catholicism regarding the origin of life

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