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the fall

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Animal Death?- A Response to AiG Critique of My Argument

I recently wrote a post called “A theological argument against young earth creationism.” In it, my stated claim was “YEC is morally impermissible…” Why? Because “on YEC, animals died because of Adam’s sin…” not because of anything they themselves did. This argument is intended to use the YEC assumption that animal death is an inherently bad thing against them. Let’s outline the argument:

1. If animals did not die before the fall, then their death must be the result of sin.

2. Animals are incapable of sinning (they are not morally responsible agents)

3. Therefore, animal death must be the result of a morally culpable agent’s sin.

The argument as it stands contains a few assumptions which I’ve found in YEC literature. 1) Animals did not die before the fall; 2) Death is inherently a bad thing; 3) all physical death is the result of sin. Now a denial of these assumptions can undermine my argument; I grant that. My point is that if one holds to these three assumptions, my argument shows that YEC is morally impermissible.

Now, Answers in Genesis has provided a critique of my argument, and I must say that I’m very appreciative of their interaction on this important topic. Elizabeth Mitchell wrote the entry, check out her critique, in its entirety, here (under the “And don’t miss…” section). Let me examine the criticism below. (I recommend reading my entire post prior to this one in order to have proper interaction with it.)

First, Mitchell wrote, that my post “…attempts to show young earth creationism is wrong by demonstrating death documented in the fossil record preceded human sin and was unrelated to it.”

I admit I was a bit befuddled when I read this, because nowhere in my post did I try to “demonstrate death document in the fossil record preceded human sin…” I’m not sure where this claim was made in my original post. I don’t mention the fossil record anywhere in the original post and so I’m a bit concerned by this apparent misreading of my article.

Then, she wrote, “He cites no Scripture…” Indeed, I did not cite a single Scripture passage. However, the argument is directly based upon the assertions that some YECs make. But what kind of rebuttal is it to say “He cites no Scripture…” anyway? An argument must be dealt with whether it has Bible passages in it or not.

The argument itself is based upon the logic of the YEC argument against old earth positions. The picture to the right here demonstrates pictorially the view most YECs present of old earth positions–that animal death before the fall makes God morally questionable (image credit to AiG, accessed here). For example, premise 1 is backed up by this quote from the AiG critique: “the connection between Adam’s sin and animal death…” Premise 2 is indeed mostly an assumption, but I think it is one that most Christians would grant. Animals are not on the same level as humans; they are not moral agents made in God’s image. Three is again backed up by the quote I put above; the AiG (and more generally, YEC) argument assumes that all death is the result of Adam’s sin.

Now, AiG does claim that the Bible backs up this position. They wrote, that I “[seem] oblivious toRomans 8:20–22, which explains the connection between Adam’s sin and animal death” (Mitchell, cited below). Well no, I’m not oblivious to Romans 8:20-22, which makes no mention of animal death. In fact, the word “death” is not even used in the passage. Thus, it looks like this an inference from Scripture, not an obvious connection. And an inference is subject to presuppositions. The YEC presupposition is that animals did not die before the fall, so of course their inference will lead to a reading of Romans 8 in light of that presupposition.

Mitchell argues in regard to my statement, “The post on Answers in Genesis hints that it is because animals are cursed due to the serpent’s deception of Adam and Eve,” that “…we [AiG] teach no such thing” (Mitchell, cited below). That’s fair, and I appreciate the clarification. The reason was that I read the following quote on the original post I was working from: “The first recorded death and passages referring to death as a reality came with sin in Genesis 3 when the serpent, Eve, and Adam all were disobedient to God” (Hodge, cited below).  The wording here does seem to at least “hint” at a connection between the serpent and the rest of animal death, but I could be mistaken here and I’m fine with that.

To sum up, my argument was based upon rather firmly established YEC assumptions. That animals did not die before the fall is argued throughout YEC literature, and both posts I cite have this idea in them. That animal death is due to the sin of Adam is demonstrated in the AiG response to my post. That animal death is somehow inherently bad is shown in the picture above as well as throughout YEC literature. For just one example, Bodie Hodge wrote, in the article I was originally linking (cited below), “God gave the command in Genesis 2:16–17 that sin would be punishable by death. This is significant when we look at the big picture of death. If death in any form was around prior to God’s declaration in Genesis 1:31 that everything was ‘very good,’ then death would be very good too—hence not a punishment at all.” But just from these three theses I can construct my argument (as above) which leads to the conclusion:

“Animal death must be the result of a morally culpable agent’s sin…” (on the YEC position).

And, as I argued in my original post, this seems to undermine the goodness of God on YEC, for “the animals didn’t do anything. One day, they were happily living potentially infinitely long lives, eating plants, and doing their animal things. The next day, Adam sinned, and so God decides to start killing them all… not because they themselves sinned” (here).

So, given the assumptions that YECs make, I have constructed an argument that shows their own position is morally impermissible. What does this entail? I suggest it entails that the reading of the texts that YECs present is incorrect and must be modified. I suggested a few ways to do this in the original post, so I won’t repeat them here. Ultimately, it seems my original post has not been refuted.

Sources

Bodie Hodge, “Biblically, Could Death Have Existed before Sin?” Answers in Genesis. 2010. Accessible here: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2010/03/02/satan-the-fall-good-evil-could-death-exist-before-sin

Elizabeth Mitchell, “News to Note, March 17, 2012.” Answers in Genesis. Accessible here: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2012/03/17/news-to-note-03172012.

J.W. Wartick, “Animal Death?- A Theological Argument Against Young Earth Creationism.” 2012. Accessible here: https://jwwartick.com/2012/03/12/against-yec-theology/.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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Animal Death?- A Theological Argument Against Young Earth Creationism

[Answers in Genesis recently posted a critique of this article. I have responded here.] I have explored extensively the varied positions within Christianity about the origins and diversity of life. I come from a background in which I was a young earth creationist for quite some time, but my research has caused me to reject this position in favor of another. Those reading this article, please understand I do not wish to denigrate or devalue those who are young earth creationists (hereafter YEC and YECs). I appreciate that many who are YEC are doing their work in the field because they feel it is closest to the Biblical position and that they often believe science supports their view. That said, I cannot agree. In the following, I present a theological argument against the YEC position.

One of the theological arguments YECs use against other Christian positions (such as Intelligent Design or Theistic Evolutionism) is that it would imply death before the fall. I tried to track down an explicit syllogistic form of this argument and couldn’t find any in the literature with which I am familiar, however the argument is everywhere presented. For example, Ken Ham writes in The New Answers Book 1:

The book of Genesis teaches that death is the result of Adam’s sin… and that all of God’s creation was ‘very good’ upon its completion… But if we compromise the history of Genesis by adding millions of years, we must believe that death and disease were part of the world before Adam sinned… How could a God of love allow such horrible processes as disease, suffering, and death for millions of years as part of his ‘very good’ creation? (36)

Elsewhere, we can find statements like this: “The Bible tells us very clearly that there was no death before sin from many passages. In fact, there are no Bible verses indicating there was death prior to sin.”

Now it is not my point in this post to cite every disagreement I have with such arguments (there are a great deal of them), but rather to show that the implications of an argument like this are absurd. One immediate problem with the argument is that it begs the question in the opening sentence by smuggling in a hidden premise. Namely, the notion that all death is the result of sin, as opposed to the death of mankind or a kind of spiritual death. Further, note the conflation of the terms in the second quote–just because there are no Bible verses which show there was death before sin, it does not follow that the Bible teaches that there was no death before sin. But those parts aside, I wish to show that this argument from YECs actually works against their position.

Suppose we lay out the argument:

  1. Death is the result of sin.
  2. If YEC is false, then things died before sin.
  3. Therefore, if YEC is false, God is unjust.

Now I know this is not the full argument. There are many premises I have left unstated, but it seems that is the gist of the passage cited from Ham. Why do I find this problematic? Well, it seems that the logic is that if death happened because of sin, then animals would not have died before the fall. But if that is the case, then why do animals die after the fall? The post on Answers in Genesis hints that it is because animals are cursed due to the serpent’s deception of Adam and Eve (cited below). One is still forced to wonder why all animals are cursed because a serpent–Satan–deceived Adam and Eve. Thus we are led to the following argument:

  1. If animals did not die before the fall, then their death must be the result of sin.
  2. Animals are incapable of sinning. (They have no culpability.)
  3. Therefore, their death would have to be the result of morally culpable agents’ sins.

But this argument, it seems, shows that YEC is morally impermissible. For on YEC, animals died because of Adam’s sin. The animals themselves didn’t do anything. One day, they were happily living potentially infinitely long lives, eating plants, and doing their animal things. The next day, Adam sinned, and so God decides to start killing them all, putting countdowns on their lifespans. But why? Because Adam sinned, not because they themselves sinned. Thus, animals, through no culpability of their own, suffered the punishment of death for Adam’s sin. This seems to be morally impossible.

Now it seems the YEC position could be modified to get around this argument, but it would have to drop the argument against the other positions that death could not have happened before the fall. The modification would essentially have to hold that animals were part of the natural world which lived and died. Or, the YEC position could charge that animals were moral agents, but that would seem absurd. Finally, the YEC position could hold that, somehow, the serpent’s culpability transferred to all other animals, but that would seem extremely difficult as well, particularly because the serpent is Satan.

The argument,  therefore, has been that animals are not morally culpable because they are not moral agents. Because that is the case, if they died due to sin, it was through not fault of their own. This would make God seem unjust if He caused animal death due to Adam’s fall. I’ve noted that YECs can avoid this injustice, but only by dropping the argument that Ham and others use against other positions.

There have been some interesting reactions to this article, and some of them are confusing my argument. What I’d like to note is this post is written from a perspective inside of YEC. In other words, I’m using the presuppositions of YEC against itself. What I’m not doing is personally saying that the death of animals is a morally impermissible state of affairs. What I am doing is saying that, on YEC, they assert it is morally impermissible, and so they have to accept the consequences of that argument.

Finally, I’d like to note that even if readers are unconvinced by this argument, they still must contend with other theological problems with YEC. For example, the notion that YEC makes God a deceiver. For this and other reasons I am no longer a YEC.

But what of the argument itself from YEC? What of the argument that there cannot be death before the fall? I urge readers to check out the following post over at geocreationism: Death before the fall — an old-Earth Biblical perspective. See also Luke Nix’s phenomenal post on the topic, “Cartoons, Animal Death, and Theology.”
Image Credit- http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:R%C3%B8d_r%C3%A6v_(Vulpes_vulpes).jpg image by Malene

Sources

Answers in Genesis, “Biblically, Could Death Have Existed Before Sin?” – http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2010/03/02/satan-the-fall-good-evil-could-death-exist-before-sin

Ken Ham, The New Answers Book 1 (Green Forest, Arizona: Answers in Genesis, Master Books, 2006).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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