A reader writes:

First of all, I find your work really inspirational and I pray it will bring unity in Christ between Catholics and protestants. I have read your book on Evangelicals discovering tradition and have noted some interesting concepts about divine revelation. I am also really inspired by Mary as the Ark of The New Covenant. I just wanted to mention however, I am not on the same page as you in regards to creation. It’s not so much whether God created the world in a literal 7 days or not, ( however I believe He did, and the Sacred Scriptures only confirms that all throughout, even Catholic Tradition confirms that with Saturday evening Mass ) the main point here is the point of the Fall of man which is where the infallible doctrine of original sin comes in. As a result of Adam’s sin death spread to all ( including all the animals ), in this way it was sin that caused pain and suffering, not God! Now when you look at the record from Adam to Christ to now scholars have been able to calculate the approxamite age of the earth. I’m not really a science buff, but how do you tie in the doctrine of original sin causing suffering to creation ( bones dated at millions of years of animals clearly tormenting each other in travail ) with the biblical account in light of Sacred Tradition ( I was under the impression that the Church would have one point affirmed for sure a literal 7 day creation, say for example Augustine, as She assures us that the Deuterocanonical books are infallibly as well the Word of God in the form of Divine Revelation – Jesus Christ Himself being the incarnate Word ). Brother, that just does not make sense to me. I do no Catholics who believe in a true 7 day creation by the way. I am applauding the Holy Spirit on how He is leading the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Praise be our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Praise be to God our Father. Praise be to the Blessed Trinity. Please respond to my e-mail thoughtfully and prayerfully, I will pray for your evangelization to bring many people to salvation in Christ and brothers and sisters to dwell in unity together.

Thanks so much for your kind words. Very briefly. “Is it about oxen that God is concerned?” St. Paul asks this question and assumes that we know the answer: No.

Biblical revelation concerns itself solely with our salvation. It does not pretend to be a science book of Everything. For Paul, “death” refers to human death, not the death of oysters. He gives no hint that the sin of Adam results in the death of anybody but human beings. It is reading into, not out of, the text to assume that he has in mind the suffering of animals at the hands of carnivores.

And, by the way, the Catechism itself tells us that Genesis is using “figurative language” in describing the historic events of Creation and Fall

(390. “The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.[Cf. GS 13 # 1.] Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.[Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1513; Pius XII: DS 3897; Paul VI: AAS 58 (1966), 654.] ”

For my take on Genesis, see my book Making Senses Out of Scripture. To say the writer uses figurative language is not to say the events of Genesis are not historical. It is to say the writer chooses to relate an historic event in non-historical language (as Nathan did when he told of the historic event of the adultery of David in the words of the story of the man who robbed his neighbor of a ewe lamb.)

But Scripture simply does not commit us to the idea that no living thing died before the fall. It has in view only human death.

My suggestion: Read C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain for an attempt to wrestle with that problem.