I like when the Church Fathers would see parts of the Genesis story as being simultaneously literal and spiritual (e.g. with their understanding of what the "garments of skin" referred to). I sometimes wonder if such facts makes the heads of literalists nearly explode. 1Co 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
Why do you think animals die?
"Here we must contemplate the meanings of the words death and sin as applied to man and to animals and plants. The word death is full of uniquely human tragic meaning. Can we really apply this word, with its human implications, to the non-human world? Death is, for humans, a tragedy, something that clearly "should not happen." It is not surprising that in Russian philosophy the human fear of death is perceived as empirical evidence of our "otherworldly" origin and destination: if man appeared as a result of natural evolution and of the struggle for survival, he would not find so repulsive that which is "natural." Death has entered the human world through sin — this is certain. Death is evil and was not created by God — this is also an axiom of biblical theology.
It seems to me there is only one possible conclusion that can be drawn from this: the "death" of animals is not similar to human death. If we say "Socrates died," the meaning and implications of this are quite dissimilar to such expressions as the "death of a dog" or the "death of a star" or the "death of a chair." Animals terminate their being, "died," but in application to them, this word is used in a metaphoric sense, and termination of the physiological processes in, say, a monkey, is not the same thing as human death. Animals did cease to exist in the pre-human world. But this is not death — in theology and philosophy we can not discuss the phenomenon of death in the non-human world.
Yes, death is a consequence of sin. But what is sin? It is the violation of the will of the Creator. Can we be sure that the death of animals is a violation of the Creator’s will? Did God create animals for immortality? Was it His will to make them the communicants of eternity? Did He offer them the Bread of Life and the Eucharist?
If not, then the temporal finiteness of animal (and plant, bacterial, and fungal) life is not a violation of the design of the Creator, and is neither a sin nor a distortion of the Creator’s will. If Holy Communion is the only Bread of Life, and yet, obviously, we do not see animals receiving it in churches, this Bread, and this Eternity — are not meant for them. The death of animals is not a violation of the Divine will also because the Bible does not promise eternity to this world in general either; only humans inherit eternity, and the words of the Saviour in Mat. 25:34, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," are addressed to them, and not to animals or other living beings. The rest will burn away, and if upon the new creation (not resurrection, but creation of the "new earth and new heavens") God will want to plant animals there too, they will appear as well, but they will not necessarily be the "immortalized" animals of our current world.
God did not create animals for immortality — and this is why there is no violation of the will of God, no sin — in their departure from existence. St. Augistine wrote, "Animals were created mortal." Prior to him, a similar view is characteristic of St. Methodios of Patara.
"There is usually similarity between the one that produces something and the product. God is immortality, life, and incorruption: a man is a creature of God, and, being produced by immortality, man is immortal as well. This is why God has directly produced man, while He gave orders to the air, earth, and waters to produce the other types of animals . . . and while animals received the ability to live from air, Adam received it from the immortal Being, for He breathed into him the breath of life."
Not being a violation of the Divine will, the death of animals does not imply some defect in the goodness of the original, created world. It is only after the only creature that truly is made in the image and likeness of the Creator, man, himself steps down to the level of the animal world and makes himself subject to the laws of the struggle for existence, life and death, that are present in the pre-human world — this is when we see the violation of the will of God. It seems that we got used to equalizing ourselves to animals too much — to the extent that non-Christians make out of it reasons to justify their own passions and lawlessness, while Christians are inclined to extend the gifts of the Holy Spirit, granted to them, to the animal world . . ."http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/evolution_kuraev.htm