Two Theological Arguments Against Young Earth Creationism (Part 2)

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Ken Ham feels carnivores are gross but, what did the Biblical authors think?

This article was also featured on the theistic evolution site God of Evolution!

Last time, I presented a deductive argument which demonstrated that including “Animals died in Adam” in the theological premise set generated a troubling dilemma: either animals are included in the plan of salvation or Christ is not victorious over death. I suggested replacing this controversial premise with “Animal death is incidental” to escape the dilemma. For convention, this premise will be referred to as the ‘incidental hypothesis’. The gist of this second part is pretty simple. Essentially, if the authors of Scripture had a certain view of animal death, then we would expect particular passages.

First, let’s consider the common view held by young-Earth creationists. Suppose that animal death is indeed an effect of sin and one of the bleak realities of this fallen, cursed world. Take a moment to get into the mindset of an inspired author of Scripture. The Holy Spirit has come upon him as he reflects upon the natural order. His thoughts turn to the ecosystem, the circle of life, and animal predation.  We would expect him to be overcome with sorrow at the dreadful system in place. He would pick up his pen and lament the death of antelope, zebras, and the like.

Next, let’s consider the incidental hypothesis. All of the conditions are the same except, the author doesn’t view animal death as something wrong with the world. Instead, animal death is something incidental, much like the Sun rising in the East instead of the West. If this is the case, as he reflects upon the circle of life, we would not expect him to be overcome with sorrow. He would mention animal predation as a neutral component of the world. These two statements can be summarized as follows:

1. If animal death were a deleterious effect of sin, we would expect to find the Biblical authors lamenting predation and specifically citing such things as unfortunate realities in a sin-cursed world: The probability of Lament given death is an effect of Sin is very high. Pr(L|S) ≫ 0

2. If animal death were incidental, we would expect the Biblical authors to be silent about animal death or reference animal death in a neutral/positive light: The probability of Lament given that death is Incidental is very low. Pr(L|I) ≪ 1

Comments from leading young-Earthers make a nice mould for what we would expect the Biblical authors to write if the incidental hypothesis is false. Here’s an example from Ken Ham:

“[Irven] DeVore recognizes that the fossil record is one of massive extinction. If this has stretched over millions of years, enormous numbers of creatures have become extinct…What kind of god would create such a scenario? The god of an old earth can’t be a loving God…How could a God of love allow such horrible processes as disease, suffering, and death for millions of years? Christians who believe in an old earth (billions of years) need to come to grips with the real nature of the god of an old earth—it is not the loving God of the Bible.” [1]

It goes without saying that the authors of the Bible did not have access to the millions of years of fossil evidence. Nevertheless, they did have their own eyes and could witness predation around them. If it were the case that these authors were of the same persuasion of our friend Ken Ham, we would expect to find passages in a similar theological vein.

The Scriptural data are quite sparse on this issue of animal death. This, in and of itself, is rather interesting considering that animal death is one of the chief arguments used by young Earth creationists today (Stephen Lloyd goes so far as to say it is the only issue in debate over the age of the universe). As it turns out, there is not a single verse in the entire Bible that explicitly references animal predation as an effect of sin. There are some passages that could possibly, implicitly lend credence to this notion. For the sake of time and space, I’ll address the strongest which is Isaiah 11:6-9

6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
 and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
 and a little child shall lead them.
 7 The cow and the bear shall graze;
 their young shall lie down together;
 and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
 9 They shall not hurt or destroy
 in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
 as the waters cover the sea.

Spoiler alert: this passage is probably not literal. Still, let’s think about if it were literal and that in the new universe, animals will be all fuzzy and friendly. It seems to me that God can create the new universe however He wants. Vegetarian tigers? Sure. Cotton candy clouds? Absolutely. However God chooses to make the new universe really doesn’t say anything about the status of the current universe. So, is this the type of passage we would expect to see if animal death is the result of sin or something to be lamented? Assuming it is indeed literal, sure, it’s consistent with such a view. Would we expect to see this if the incidental hypothesis is true? Fifty-fifty. It depends entirely on whether or not God wants lions and tigers and bears to be vegetarians in the new creation. I’m not God, so, I’ll have to say that it’s just as likely as unlikely.
Now, let’s turn our focus to the incidental hypothesis. What types of passages would we expect to see? It’s likely the Biblical authors wouldn’t be too concerned with the issue of animal death and would likely just mention it in passing. As aforementioned, the scarcity of verses dealing with animal death seems to support this notion. In addition, the handful of passages would likely view animal death as something that is a neutral component of creation. There are a few verses that support this notion. As before, for the sake of time and space, I will only address the strongest instance which is found in Psalm 104:20-30.

20 You make darkness, and it is night,
 when all the beasts of the forest creep about. 
21 The young lions roar for their prey,
 seeking their food from God.
 22 When the sun rises, they steal away and lie down in their dens.
 23 Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening. 24 O Lord, how manifold are your works!
 In wisdom have you made them all;
 the earth is full of your creatures. 
25 Here is the sea, great and wide,
 which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great…
27 These all look to you,
 to give them their food in due season.
 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
 when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 
29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
 when you take away their breath, they die
 and return to their dust.
 30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
 and you renew the face of the ground.

Interesting, isn’t it? The Psalmist looks out at the same creation that young-Earth creationists do. He sees the same animal predation, et cetera, but, instead of lamenting this cruel effect of man’s sin, the Psalmist is moved to express praise to God for this magnificent creation. This is more than consistent with the incidental hypothesis. But, this is diametrically opposed to what we would expect to read if the incidental hypothesis were false. While folks like Ken Ham and Stephen Lloyd may point to animal death and say “Gross! How could a loving God allow THAT?!”, the Psalmist says “Wow! God is truly a wise and powerful creator. Blessed be His name!” Let’s now summarize these data and add them to the premise set:

3. The Biblical text has no lamenting in specific reference to animal death/predation.

4. The Biblical text is silent on animal death in general and references animal predation specifically in a positive light.

When all four of these premises are put together we can draw the conclusion:

5. Therefore, the testimony of the Biblical text strongly favours animal death as incidental over animal death as a result of sin.

How then should we view animals? Are they just disposable components of this world? No! Of course not! The Bible actually is explicit when it comes to how humans should treat animals (Proverbs 12:10, for example). So, while the Bible seems to favour the incidental hypothesis, this is not a free ticket to be cruel or harm animals. We are still the stewards of this planet and we are charged with taking care of all creatures great and small, even if they do eat each other.

[1] – The “god” of an Old Earth. Ken Ham. A Pocket Guide To . . . Best Evidences: Science and the Bible refute millions of years (Kindle Locations 1372-1374). Answers in Genesis. Kindle Edition.

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About caplawson

biomedical engineering // christian theism // texas a&m // molinism // coffee // ratio christi

5 responses to “Two Theological Arguments Against Young Earth Creationism (Part 2)”

  1. Remington says :

    Here are a few thoughts.

    1) Your method of argument seems unreliable.

    Consider,

    If slavery were a bad thing, we would expect to find the Biblical authors lamenting slavery and specifically citing such things as unfortunate realities in a sin-cursed world: The probability of Lament given slavery is an effect of Sin is very high. Pr(L|S) ≫ 0
    If slavery were incidental, we would expect the Biblical authors to be silent about slavery or reference slavery in a neutral/positive light: The probability of Lament given that slavery is Incidental is very low. Pr(L|I) ≪ 1

    The Scriptural data are quite sparse on this issue of slavery. This, in and of itself, is rather interesting considering that slavery is one of the chief ethical issues in human history. As it turns out, there is not a single verse in the entire Bible that explicitly references slavery as a bad thing.

    What types of passages would we expect to see on the incidental hypothesis? It’s likely the Biblical authors wouldn’t be too concerned with the issue of slavery and would likely just mention it in passing. As aforementioned, the scarcity of verses dealing with slavery seems to support this notion. In addition, the handful of passages would likely view slavery as something that is a neutral component of creation. There are a few verses that support this notion. For instance, 1 Cor. 7:21 “Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.)” Or Titus 2:9 “Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative,”

    Interesting, isn’t it? The Apostle looks out at the same creation that abolitionists do. He sees the same slavery, but, instead of lamenting this cruel effect of man’s sin, the Apostle is unconcerned about it and tells slaves to be submissive. This is more than consistent with the incidental hypothesis. But, this is diametrically opposed to what we would expect to read if the incidental hypothesis were false. While folks like Martin Luther King Jr and William Wilberforce may point to slavery and say “Sinful! How could a loving God condone THAT?!”, the Apostle says “Don’t be concerned about it, be submissive!”

    Or, instead of the slavery example, we could plug in women’s equality or racism.

    2) Lloyd explicitly states that whether Isa. 11 is literal or not does not effect his argument, but you seem to think there is some significance to it not being literal. (I believe Lloyd says this in the Ross debate, as well as in his other talks).

    3) The force of your argument tracks with the assumption that animal death is as much an evil as Ken Ham makes it out to be. However, it’s possible that while animal death is lamentable (and thus something that results from the fall) it’s just not something that falls onto the radar of the biblical author that much. For instance, I would view it as a bad thing if my dog got ran over by a car today… but to be honest I wouldn’t shed any tears over it or write a lament about it in my diary.

    4) However, while I don’t find any significance to the fact that the Biblical authors don’t lament animal death in the way Ken Ham would, it does seem more significant that a biblical author would look at predation as a glorious thing.

    • caplawson says :

      1) This is a perfect critique. In its current form, this argument really hinges more on silence than anything.

      2) I’ll look for Lloyd’s quote. I think the issue is that if this passage is literal, it’s a knock down case for no animal death in the new creation. If it’s not literal, then animal death in the new creation could be a possibility which (in some cases) undercuts the warrant for no animal death pre-Fall (although, as mentioned, may not be relevant for Lloyd).

      3&4) I think this captures the essence of the argument or at least the part that I want to take forward. When YECs use animal death as the chief piece of evidence for the Fall of man, it doesn’t line up with the Biblical writers’ emphasis. At minimum, it establishes that animal death is not as open-and-shut case as is often portrayed.

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