As a boy Ronald Osborn took camping trips to the Mana Pools, in Zimbabwe, with his missionary parents. There he saw the splendor of untamed nature, which included the sight of lions gorging on their bloody prey. In Death Before the Fall, he writes: "All around us was a world that was deeply mysterious, untamed, dangerous, beautiful and good, waiting to be explored. And the danger was part of its goodness and beauty.... Mana Pools was very good—its lions, jackals, leopards, fish eagles and cobras included." (pg.13)
This intuitive understanding of creation is quite at odds with the understanding of Genesis that Osborn learned in his young-earth-creationist Seventh Day Adventist church. There he was told that no death existed in the Garden of Eden; death and predation resulted from Adam's sin. Not only were death and predation not intrinsic to the creation, they were evil, reflecting God's curse.
In an evolutionary scenario, death and predation are intrinsic to creation—there could be no development of new species without them. Osborn quotes one Adventist official as saying that those following evolutionary thinking, "don't worship the God of the Bible, for that God didn't use a long, protracted, and vicious dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest paradigm—one that goes against everything He has taught us about love and self-sacrifice...." (17)
With this conflict in view as to the nature of nature, Osborn launches into a full-bore, unflinching assault on literalism in biblical interpretation, particularly in regard to the first chapters in Genesis. His is not a liberal critique, but an orthodox, Bible-centered one. Osborn contends that fundamentalist, young-earth creationists ...