- If God is all loving and all powerful, then he would not have created a world in which there was so much animal death and suffering.
- There is a lot of animal death and suffering.
- Therefore, God is either (or both) not all-loving and (or) all-powerful...and may not even exist.
This is a form of the problem of evil. It is also frequently used by young earth creationists against old earth positions- since the old-earth views tend to recognize that the fossil record provides solid evidence of death prior to man's introduction into creation (thus death existed prior to The Fall). Anyway here's the cartoon (for those with limited time or attention span, you can skip to 5:05 for the main part I want you to see):
The junior cat basically challenges his father's choice to catch and eat birds. Jr. appeals to his father's "humanity". His father counters it by pointing out the obvious thing: he's not a human; he's a cat, and cats catch birds. He stated it in quite a matter-of-fact way, and Jr. had nothing to come back with.
Grounds of the Challenge
It seems that the foundation for this challenge is the anthropormorphization of (projection of human qualities onto) animals. The naturalist does it via the idea of common ancestry (man and animal are really no different). Young earth creationists make the assumption (in their challenge) that animals are moral beings just as humans are, thus their suffering is necessarily just as evil as human suffering (also assuming that all human suffering IS evil).
The Grounds of the Challenge Challenged
Let me first address the naturalist. The anthropomorphimization of animals is consistent in the naturalist's worldview (see my post "Human Equality and Evolution"). So this is not where the argument fails. Where it does fail is when they decide to call it "evil". "Evil" is only a relative term (and likely merely a subjective term) in naturalism. Since there is no objective standard to determine what is "good" or "evil", it is up to the culture or the individual to offer their opinion about the "goodness" or "evilness" of something. Since evil does not have an objective meaning, the challenge makes no sense within the naturalist's worldview.
Of course, the naturalist is not always posing the challenge from within his or her own worldview. Instead, they are posing it as an inconsistency in the Christian worldview. They typically appeal to God declaring his creation "very good". They say that the evil that is the pain and suffering of animals is not "very good". Starting from this point, the young earth creationist and the naturalist are posing the same challenge to the old earth Christian view, so I will address both of them simultaneously.
As mentioned before, this challenge (from either camp) rests on the assumption that man and animal are both moral agents. However, scripture never attributes anything to animals that would allow us to believe that they are moral agents. But man is given an attribute that allows him (and him alone) to be a moral agent- the Image of God. Since this attribute was not ascribed to the members of the animal kingdom, they are not moral agents.
Evil is a term relative to the morality of God's nature. Since animals are not moral creatures then we can't use "evil" to describe anything about them. "Evil" is a term that we use to describe things that happen to humans (moral agents), and since animals are not moral agents, "evil" cannot be used to describe things that happen to them. Here is the formulation:
- Morality is a necessary attribute of a being that has the possibility to sin or possess a sin nature.
- Scripture does not ascribe moral or spiritual attributes to animals, but does explicitly ascribe the Image of God to humans
- Therefore, animals are amoral and aspiritual. (1 and 2)
- "Evil" is a term of morality.
- Therefore "evil" is a term that cannot be used of animals (3 and 4)
- Things that happen to moral agents can be described as "good" or "evil"
- Therefore, things that happen to animals cannot be described as "good" or "evil" (5 and 6)
Some may wish to challenge the idea that something "evil" cannot happen to an amoral creature. However to respond to that challenge, I will appeal to and argue from scripture (since I am now arguing from within the Christian worldview, and the Bible is a proper authority in the Christan worldview, it is appropriate to appeal to it). First, God cannot contradict himself (2 Timothy 2:13). Morality is part of God's nature, so he cannot act immorally. Second, God took skins to clothe Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). The skins had to come from some dead animal. We have a couple options:
- The animal was already dead. If it was dead prior to the Fall, then there is no need to go further. If it died just moments after The Fall, it would have had to be orchestrated by God because nature does not work that quickly
- God killed the animal
Regardless of the option, to continue to the argument, God must be involved in the animal's death. If God is involved in the animal's death and God cannot contradict his nature, then what he did was not evil. What God did was to kill the animal, therefore the death of an animal cannot be necessarily described as "evil".
Here is the formulation:
- God cannot contradict himself
- Morality is part of God's nature
- Therefore, God cannot do anything immoral (evil) (1 and 2)
- God is involved in the death of an animal to clothe Adam and Eve
- Therefore, the death of animals is not necessarily evil (3 and 4)
I want it to be clear that what I have presented here does not, in any way, serve as a defeater to the worldviews or models of the challengers. The purpose of these arguments is to defeat the specific challenge that the view is internally inconsistent. This is a defensive presentation not an offensive one.
Since it does provide a way for the Christian worldview (and specifically the old-age version) to be internally consistent, the challenge provided by both naturalists (against Christianity) and young-earth creationists (against the old-age view) is not able to stand logically.
Here is another post on the same issue from J.W. Wartick: Animal Death?- A Theological Argument Against Young Earth Creationism