In a post called “A theological argument against young earth creationism,” J W Wartick has argued that Biblical (young earth) Creationism is “morally impermissible.” His reasoning? Because animals died because of Adam’s sin, not because of anything they themselves did.
If you’re reading that from an orthodox Christian worldview, something about his argument should be bugging you right from the get-go, but we’ll get to that. He outlines the argument thus:
- If animals did not die before the fall, then their death must be the result of sin.
- Animals are incapable of sinning (they are not morally responsible agents)
- Therefore, animal death must be the result of a morally culpable agent’s sin.
At no point does his argument start with the Bible because he is supposing he can simply use Young earth Creationism’s presuppositions against us. So he’s not asking if Young Earth Creationism is Biblically correct but whether it will stand up to his rational critique. In this regard, his objection is more philosophical than theological. Note that he does not argue thus:
- The Bible says that death entered the world by Adam’s sin.
- Therefore no death could have occurred before Adam’s sin, human or animal
- Therefore the death recorded in the fossil record must have occurred after Adam’s sin
This line of reasoning would have caused him to ask what could have caused the death we see in the fossil record after Adam’s sin; inevitably, he would have been drawn to the Noachian Flood as a probable candidate.
In any case, we can firmly establish that he’s not starting with the Bible as his ultimate authority. Furthermore, we can note that his argument here is no different than similar objections presented by atheists, who claim that God is unjust for making us morally culpable for Adam’s sin. [Both objections are answered below].
Nevertheless to support his premise, Wartick notes that “[a]nimals are not on the same level as humans; they are not moral agents made in God’s image,” which is true enough. He then further agues that, since “[a]nimal death must be the result of a morally culpable agent’s sin, …this seems to undermine the goodness of God… 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.” But does this undermine the goodness of God?
In answering his argument, Answers in Genesis stated that he “seems oblivious to Romans 8:20–22, which explains the connection between Adam’s sin and animal death.” In his rebuttal, Wartick admits that he remains oblivious, so perhaps the case must be made more obvious. (Fortunately, I’m as blunt as a bag of hammers and about as subtle as a chainsaw, so maybe my approach will fare better!) Wartick objects that:
“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.”
This is obfuscation. The passage referenced notes that all of creation has come under the bondage of corruption. It also admits that the whole of creation was not made subject to this futility willingly, which admits the point that it suffers but not of any decision it made itself. So why was it made bondage to decay, so that the whole of creation groans and travails in pain until now?
The answer is found in Genesis 1:28, where God gave dominion over all creation to Adam. This is the answer to Wartick’s objection and to the more common atheist objection that God is unjust for making the rest of us culpable for Adam’s sin: just as when a kingdom suffers for the actions of its king, all of creation [including animals and humanity itself] suffered for the sin of the one who had been given dominion over them. When Adam rejected God’s word and will in eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he rejected all those things that pertain to God [life, love, perfection, truth, etc.] and accepted the opposite instead [death, hate, corruption, error, etc.]. The funny thing about folks is that they want to judge God for meting out justice because it likewise affected the rest of us, animals included – as if any man has ever existed in a vacuum, as if his actions have ever only affected himself and him alone. Men who murder leave more victims than those they kill. Of course, his actions affected others; as the head of creation, his actions affected the whole of it. Additionally, Adam’s sin nature infected humanity, rather like an inherited corruption of our spiritual and/or volitional genetics, if you will.
God dealt with Adam justly and graciously offered a way of redemption as well. Far from being a position which is, as Wartick charges, “morally impermissible,” the Biblical young earth creationist position is a picture of true judgment, the awful effects of sin, including collateral effects, and the utter majesty of God’s grace to a fallen world.
Wartick suggests that his argument cannot be refuted, though he has not at all considered the ramifications of Adam’s dominion over creation, nor the collateral effects of personal sin, and thus is refuted when these things are taken into account. Likewise, if he were to examine the consequences of his own worldview, he would come to some troubling conclusions.
For example, he suggests that a traditional orthodox reading of the text is incorrect and must be modified. This impugns the doctrine known as the perspicuity of Scripture, for he suggests that the traditional reading of Genesis is unclear; it also suggests a form of neo-Gnosticism, for it suggests that the Scriptures cannot be understood without an understanding of 21st century science. While he claims that his argument shows that the traditional Biblical interpretation of Genesis is morally impermissible, he admits that his argument is partly a reaction to [dare I say, rebellion against] the point that a compromise with extraBiblical millions of years requires pre-Fall animal death, and that, as he notes, “animal death before the fall makes God morally questionable.” Why? Because the fossil record as interpreted in terms of millions of years stands as a witness to millions of years of pre-Fall death, suffering, thorns [which are likewise described as a result of Adam’s sin in (Genesis 3:18)], disease [evidences of tumors have been found in the fossil record], and mass extinction as the process by which a loving and good God created! What sort of an ogrish would use such a process and then declare His finished work of Creation “very good” [Genesis 1:31]?? Not the personal God of the Bible, who cares so much about individual creations that He numbers the hairs upon our head and sees when each sparrow falls, as recorded in Scripture, but rather a God who only cares about the big picture, the finished product, the greater good, and affirms the concept that the ends justifies the means. In other words, such a God, the God of millions of years of microbes-to-man evolution is not the God of Scripture!
As I was perusing the comments on Wartick’s article, something I usually do before writing a post, but neglected to do this time, I came across the following question from one of his readers:
“We would both agree that even in its current degenerate state, there’s a lot of beauty in creation. I’m eating a bowl of freshly picked strawberries as I write this. They are beautiful and they taste fantastic! But “very good” might have some limitations. For example, many of us YECs point to cancer (seen in the fossil record) as not “very good”. Could animals death post Adam’s sin have anything to do with the dominion man was given over the Earth and animals (Genesis 1:28)? (That man’s actions affect the environment, including animals. Look at the flood; the point mentioned earlier by one visitor about the flood during Noah’s age resulting in the death of all animals too. It would make more sense if the destiny of animals were somehow intertwined with humanity’s exercise of responsibility over them, or lack of.)”
Wartick’s response was as follows:
“Regarding animal death and Adam’s dominion over the Earth–that seems like a possibility, I suppose. One could counter my argument simply by saying that God tied the fate of animals into the fate of humanity by giving humanity dominion over all the animals. That, I would think, would provide a possibly sound defense of the YEC position against my argument. I’ll have to reflect on it.”
So it appears his argument is refuted by his own admission.