Many Christians believe that creation was cursed because of Adam & Eve's fall into sin, and that death entered creation because of the fall but not before. In other words, the idea of pre-fall death is rejected. I personally believe that this is a very reasonable position to hold from a Scriptural standpoint and that compelling Scriptural arguments can be made in its favor. However, matters get complicated when secular scientific theories are brought into the picture. In particular, a mass extinction event known as the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (which is commonly believed to be the responsible for the mass extinction of dinosaurs about 66 million years ago) might become a non-trivial complication for the "no pre-fall death" view. Below a few quotes from the Wikipedia article:

The Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) extinction event[a] (also known as the Cretaceous–Tertiary (K–T) extinction)[b] was a sudden mass extinction of three-quarters of the plant and animal species on Earth, approximately 66 million years ago. With the exception of some ectothermic species such as the sea turtles and crocodilians, no tetrapods weighing more than 25 kilograms (55 pounds) survived. It marked the end of the Cretaceous period, and with it the end of the entire Mesozoic Era, opening the Cenozoic Era that continues today.

As originally proposed in 1980 by a team of scientists led by Luis Alvarez and his son Walter, it is now generally thought that the K–Pg extinction was caused by the impact of a massive comet or asteroid 10 to 15 km (6 to 9 mi) wide, 66 million years ago, which devastated the global environment, mainly through a lingering impact winter which halted photosynthesis in plants and plankton. The impact hypothesis, also known as the Alvarez hypothesis, was bolstered by the discovery of the 180 km (112 mi) Chicxulub crater in the Gulf of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula in the early 1990s, which provided conclusive evidence that the K–Pg boundary clay represented debris from an asteroid impact.The fact that the extinctions occurred simultaneously provides strong evidence that they were caused by the asteroid.

A wide range of species perished in the K–Pg extinction, the best-known being the non-avian dinosaurs. It also destroyed myriad other terrestrial organisms, including some mammals, birds, lizards, insects, plants, and all the pterosaurs.

If we assume that 1) those who reject pre-fall death are right and 2) the scientists advancing the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event are also right, then it would logically follow that Adam and Eve had to have existed millions of years ago prior to the extinction of dinosaurs -- an idea that I would find hard to reconcile with the genealogies connecting Adam to Jesus in the Bible.

Question: How do Christians who reject pre-fall death reconcile their views with the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event that is believed to have caused the mass extinction of dinosaurs and other species about 66 million years ago, according to scientific sources?


To expand on GratefulDisciple's answer...

...the short version is that a lot of them don't.

There are, as I see it, three-and-a-half options. GratefulDisciple already explained the "young-Earth Creationist" approach, which is to "reconcile" the two views by rejecting the Uniformitarianist worldview outright. There are many excellent resources that can help you argue that belief in a "young"¹ earth is not "unscientific", as Uniformitarianism (which is itself a religion, albeit an atheistic one) would have you believe. Answers in Genesis, the Creation Research Society, the Institute for Creation Research and Creation Ministries International are some of the better known, and if you aren't already familiar with them, I commend you to spend some time looking around. (I also commend anyone that supports Uniformitarianism to get to know their "opponents", because, frankly, if you aren't familiar with the science that contradicts Uniformitarianism, you have absolutely no business dismissing it out of hand.)

(¹ Personally, I think 7,000 years is pretty old!)

Option two is to adopt a belief system that rejects the doctrine of Original Sin. Note that this may occur insidiously, by accepting belief in death prior to The Fall without considering the consequences. However, death is "the wages of sin", and the existence of death necessarily implies the existence of sin. (But note also this question.) Thus, any belief that death preceded The Fall (i.e. Adam's Original Sin) is to deny scripture which clearly tells us that God's original creation was "very good". (This other question also goes somewhat into the contradiction of believing in both Original Sin and Uniformitarianism/Evolutionism.)

Option three is... to simply choose to ignore the issue and not even attempt to reconcile the two beliefs.

Options two and three, which unfortunately cover all too many people that consider themselves Christian, are both, to some degree, a literal exercise in doublethink. Thankfully, it sounds like you have not yet fallen into that trap. Rejoice that God has called you to faith, and strive to surround yourself with those who would build up that faith rather than try to tear it down.

Okay... but I said "three and a half". What's the "half"? Well, that would be the (second) approach described in k_n_c's answer; believing in a cause-and-effect relationship but not a temporal relationship. Personally, I (and many other theologians) reject this view, and I would consider this a variant on the second option. While there is certainly an argument to be made that God must have known "in advance" that Man would Sin, arguing that Creation was imperfect before Sin seems tenuous, at least to me. A reading of the Bible (Genesis 3:16-19 in particular) which prefers to take a direct ("literal") interpretation would seem to imply that the cause (Original Sin) temporally preceded the effect (Death entering into creation). However, it may well be that many Christians believe this, and since you asked how Christians approach this dilemma, not which approach is correct, I have upvoted k_n_c's answer accordingly.

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    Two minor points: (1) The entirety of this answer would be more clear/accurate if it stated clearly that this framing is the position of Christians who believe Creation happened 6–10k years ago. If someone were to post an answer dismissing this one, they would need to indicate it described the view of Christians who read the Bible differently. (2): "A plain reading" really shows the cards of this answer. I don't know how meaningful or helpful it can be to discuss the way a minority of Christians approach this question without discussing the Biblical hermeneutic that leads them there. – user53478 Apr 4 at 19:10
  • As to (1), I think most answers here are going to be biased. As to (2), I acknowledge my terminology may be leading, and TBH I'm not really happy with it either. What I mean is something like an "Occam's razor" reading; that is, assuming that the most obvious possible reading is the one that is intended. I'm not aware of a more neutral way to phrase that absent a long explanation, but suggestions are welcomed! – Matthew Apr 4 at 19:19
  • (2) The issue isn’t the terminology; it’s the hermeneutic and the silent role it’s playing in this discussion. (1) ”Biased” is fine/good if there’s a clear signpost of: this is a description of the view of a Christian who holds x view. (3) Your answer mischaracterizes mine: I didn’t endorse or privilege any Christian group/position in my answer; I simply described varying Christian positions as close as possible to their own self-understandings. – user53478 Apr 4 at 19:27
  • obviously this is going to be sort of contentious, but please leave that stuff in chat. This answer appears to be sourced and cuts the mustard and appears to have answered the OP's question well enough to have it selected. So any extra stuff, you probably want to hash out in chat or just VTC the question as opinion based. It doesn't say YEC specifically, but I'd read that into it. – Peter Turner Apr 5 at 20:26
  • @PeterTurner, for the record, we did, here (chat was started from a different answer). Since chat isn't forever, I'll note for posterity that we in fact had a very civil, productive discussion which improved this answer, and I'm happy to say "thank you again" to k_n_c somewhere that won't disappear in a month. – Matthew Apr 6 at 1:27

Those creationist Christians typically place the "extinction event" in Noah's day, thus long after the fall of the historic Adam.

An example is from the well-known Young Earth model defender, Institute for Creation Research, who published a rebuttal in their 2001 article Chicxulub and the Demise of the Dinosaurs written by one of their scholars: Donald B. DeYoung, PhD who is also the President of the Creation Research Society.

After summarizing Luis Alvarez's theory, he highlighted that scientific support is not unanimous, that there are 5 major extinctions in the evolution view, that there are still 3 basic remaining questions, and that the creationist explanation is still viable.

Excerpt from the article: (emphasis mine).

A Creationist Conclusion

In the evolution view there have been at least five major extinctions of life during earth history. We may expect continued zealous efforts in coming years to tie these alleged extinctions to crater-like blemishes across the earth. Creationists challenge the time scale which widely separates these extinction events. In one alternative view, there was just one single major earth catastrophe of judgment which caused the near extinction of life, the Genesis flood of Noah's day. Thus the separate extinctions actually are closely related episodes taking place during the year-long global flood.

The K-T clay layer is just one small portion of sediment accumulation during the flood. There was both volcanic and collision activity associated with the flood, perhaps including Chicxulub and other craters (Froede and DeYoung, 1996). However, the dinosaurs were not driven to extinction at this time. Instead, living dinosaur types were sheltered aboard the Ark. They then gradually disappeared in post-flood centuries due to climate changes and other possible causes.

Several dramatic movies have portrayed deadly asteroids or comets pummeling the earth and endangering humanity itself in the years to come. The creation view is far more optimistic about the future, realizing that there is a definite future plan for mankind. We are not the result of chance, nor do we, or the earth's animal and plant life, face imminent extermination from a random space collision.


Most or all Christians (I have yet to encounter an exception) believe that death entered the world through sin. Only Christians who believe in a young-earth — who are a small minority among Christian groups — believe that there was a short period without death, then the arrival of human beings and a short period with human beings and without death, then the arrival of sin and the introduction of death into the remainder of human history. Other Christians (Catholics, Orthodox, and several major mainline Protestant sects, for example) admit the possibility of the theory and timeline of evolutionary biology, and therefore also the existence of death before human beings and before sin (“before sin” taken in the sense of linear time, not in the causal sense).

So essentially the question here asks why Christians who believe the world is <7,000 years old don’t accept the existence of evidence of an extinction event 65 million years ago. Well, they don’t accept the existence of any evidence of anything existing before 7,000 years ago. So the issue is rather further upstream than the focus of this question.

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    YECs don't accept the interpretation of certain evidence as "proving" evolutionism or an "old" Earth. Conversely, many "scientists" dogmatically reject any and all evidence that the Earth might not be billions of years old. Those that reject a young Earth, for which there is plenty of evidence, and plenty of viable alternate interpretations for what evidence is claimed to support a billions-of-years Earth, are no less guilty of dogma than YECs. Incidentally, this is an excellent question that illustrates the fundamental incompatibility between Uniformitarianism and Christianity. – Matthew Apr 4 at 16:56
  • @Matthew This sounds like a take on how a Christian who believes in a young Earth would describe the disagreement. I imagine Christians who reject the validity of the biblical herme – user53478 Apr 4 at 18:00
  • neutic associated with belief in a <7k year old year would probably describe the disagreement differently (disagreement between various positions that assess biological/geological evidence). – user53478 Apr 4 at 18:11
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    Indeed, and unfortunately there are many, many such people. I don't mean to knock your answer in general, I just disagree (emphatically) with your claim that YECs "don’t accept any evidence ..." (emphasis altered). It isn't that YECs "don't accept" evidence, but interpret it in a way that supports their position. Which is what Uniformitarianist also do (while also rejecting much evidence against their dogma). – Matthew Apr 4 at 18:11
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    Right that (what you just described) is more or less the language I would associate with Christian belief in a young earth — the view that it’s not a question of accepting evidence but of interpreting it, or of saying ”Uniformitarianists” (I’m not familiar with using that term in this way) have dogmas. I would not expect Christians who reject a literalist biblical hermeneutic — or whatever hermeneutic leads to these positions — on the most part to use this kind of language or accept these depictions. I say that because I’ve never seen a case of it. – user53478 Apr 4 at 18:18

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