On Pain, Death, and Suffering

One of the most common criticisms I have read in other blogs when it comes to creation and the fall of man is that we are often times a little wishy-washy and unclear when we state that after the fall of man in the Garden sin entered the world, ushering in an era of pain, death, and suffering. Specifically, the hang-up seems to be with regard to the idea of pain entering the world as a result of the Fall. The criticism often goes something like this:

"Christians say there was no pain before the Fall. So does that mean that if Adam stubbed his toe it didn't hurt? Or was he physically incapable of stubbing his toe? This is just another area where creationists say irrational things."

I have to say that in some ways I can understand the criticism. Obviously, I do fully believe the biblical creation account, and I even quote a magazine article in my book Living with Fish People on page 43:

"But Adam and Eve's rebellion against God in Genesis 3 brought all the pain, death, and evil into the world."(1)

But, I think when we talk about pain entering the world we fail to define our terms adequately. Perhaps we use the phrase a little too freely.

How do we define pain, anyway? Pain can be thought of in several ways. In one sense, pain is a simple physical sensation to something. Another definition of pain would be that it is a state of acute mental, emotional, or physical suffering (Merriam-Webster, paraphrased). The former definition does not necessarily connote suffering, nor does it necessitate a state of what we might think of as suffering. I recently had my cholesterol checked at the doctor. The quick prick of the lancet needle to draw a drop of blood hurt for a moment, it was uncomfortable, but I certainly was not suffering as result. The latter definition of pain on the other hand does imply deep human suffering.

I think that when we talk about pain entering the world after the Fall in the Garden of Eden, we are really discussing a condition of real human suffering, not passing, albeit sometimes uncomfortable sensations. This may be an over-simplified and answer, and I am sure others could dispute my thoughts (I am open to that), but I think that this is a completely valid understanding of the nature of the pain that we say entered the world as a result of sin.

(1) McDorman, Perry and Stephanie. 2012. "Poison Dart Frogs - Drop Dead Gorgeous." Answers Magazine, October-December: 63. As quoted in Living with Fish People, page 43.