bible christianity ethics science theology

falling out with animals

I’m just getting my teeth into a research essay for my Humanity and Hope (Anthropology and Eschatology) paper, which will be about The Fall in Christian Evolutionary Perspective – in other words, how to biblically, Christianly, and Theologically understand the Fall in a framework that accepts evolutionary science. As usual, I’ll post the essay on my Essays page – it’s not due for another couple weeks, so won’t be until after that.

For now, I share a quote regarding the effect of the human fall upon the rest of creation – from a lovely little book called Living with the Animals: The Community of God’s Creatures, by Charles Birch & Lukas Vischer:

“God’s creation is so designed that one part depends on another. Life is born from life. Life must come to an end so that new life can begin. The creation is characterized by constant dying away and coming into being. It lives by the continual sacrifice of living things. All living things – humans, animals and plants – share in this process, each in its own way. They all pass away and serve one another by their passing away. All form part of the vast sacrifice that life as a whole makes possible. In the end, no part of the whole can escape this common feature of creation.

By rejecting God, however, humans bring a new dimension into this factual state of affairs. They upset the fragile equilibrium of all creation in order to establish and implement their rule. Having exceeded the boundaries laid down for them, they then make humankind the centre of their universe to such a degree that they lose sight of the community of creation as God intended it to be. They believe that the only purpose of living creatures, animals and plants is humanity as the centrepoint of creation. The use of violence is taken as self-evident. The basic rule of creation is perverted. Instead of producing new life, humans work death and destruction.” (p.13)

3 replies on “falling out with animals”

Hi Dale,

I will be most interested to read your essay. I do not believe in the fall because I cannot see how there was ever a time in human history when we were not sinful. There was therefore no perfect state for us to fall from. I believe that Gen 3 does not detail a fall, but rather highlights our natural susceptibility to temptation and desire to do what is wrong. It portrays how as a result of our sinful actions we are separated from God.

Here are my thoughts, since this subject interests me, for what they may be worth.

I think the quote that you give is very good. Physical death is an integral part of creation. I do not see how creation could function without it. It seems necessary to me for physical death top be God’s plan A. Not only does sin result in ecological imbalance, as suggested by the second paragraph you quote, but also, and more importantly, eternal death and a lack of fellowship with God. God has remedied all on the Cross whereby eternal death and separation from God become eternal life and fellowship with God in Christ. Also the cross remedies the ecological imbalance, in that all of creation will be redeemed through mankind’s redemption (Rom 8).

Many Christians take it as a tenet of their faith that ” humankind (is) the centre of their universe”. While it seems to me that humankind is indeed chosen by God to be His image bearer, and in that regard human life is sacred above animal life, an evolutionary view of creation acknowledges our part in an inter-dependent web of creation in which we hold a unique responsibility as stewards and as such Christ as a man becomes a part of that web, through which all creation is redeemed. There is therefore, a place for Christian environmentalism that is not the loony people are a curse upon Gaia, whales need human rights sort of an environmentalism, but rather a creation that must be valued as God’s handi-work that we must cherish out of our responsibility as stewards and for our co-preservation. Adam was given authority to name the animals but he was also given the task of gardener.

Where does sin come from? There is no question that there is not a single historical Adam to whom we can all trace our ancestry. But, was there an historical moment where an innocent individual, who was innocent as in terms animals are early in our evolution, came to comprehend God’s commandments and chose to disobey? Could one mans sins then spread horizontally to all other living humans at the time? Perhaps that individual was God’s chosen corporate representative? Or, is sin the natural expression of our human nature that evolved to suit self first and others only if self was also served in the process? This sinful inborn nature then leads each and everyone of us to his or her own garden on Eden moment where there are none of us who can truly say for themselves that they did not come to a point of the comprhension of God’s commands (to know right from wrong) and then willfully choose to disobey it.

They all pass away and serve one another by their passing away. Really? What about dormancy rather than death? I’m thinking of viruses; they just prey on life for the sole purpose of replication.

Also, the quoted bit is very puzzling to me. By rejecting god (assuming the god hypothesis is true and rejecting belief in an actual creator is a mistake) humans have upset the ‘natural’ equilibrium of all creation (who knew that merely by misplacing a belief we were so powerful a species to upset all of creation?) by ‘exceeding’ our god-sanctioned boundaries… whatever that means in detail. In either case, humans are far too powerful for god by this argument or god is simply too weak to cope with this change in belief, neither of which is a very good argument in a theological sense because it vastly reduces god to be subject to the vagaries of human beliefs, which we know to be rather fickle. And it’s a very convoluted means to explain why killing is a bad ‘choice’ for humans; life eats life for survival so I fail to understand why this brute fact needs to be twisted into a sense of overall anti-god guilt specially designed for humans when we do what all other critters do with little angst whatsoever. But then, I’ve always found the christian reading of the creation myths to be intentionally self-flagellating… a clear indication that the interpretation of the mythological symbols is strikingly wrong and deeply counter-productive.

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