Why Animals, Humanity and the Rest of Creation Suffers for Adam’s Sin


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:

  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.

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:

  1. The Bible says that death entered the world by Adam’s sin.
  2. Therefore no death could have occurred before Adam’s sin, human or animal
  3. 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!

Regards,

Tony Breeden

Postscript

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.

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21 Comments Add yours

  1. J.W. Wartick says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful critique. I will be posting a response on my own blog later in the week. One thing I would like to point out here, though is that in no way is it true that “In any case, we can firmly establish that he’s not starting with the Bible as his ultimate authority…” I must object to this subtle ad hominem. I should think that as someone who has publicly defended inerrancy, as well as being a Christian brother, I would not be subject to this kind of personal attack from a pastor, but I am apparently sadly mistaken. I hope that any future discussion can continue without such attacks on character.

    1. JW,

      This is not an attack on you personally, but on your presuppositions, which begin with man’s fallible ideas rather than the Bible… or where in the Bible do you find millions of years being taught? In any case, I would expect an apologist to recognize the difference between an ad hominem and a critique of one’s starting points.

      Regards,
      Tony

    1. Wartick,

      I am disappointed in your response. I will make it clear why I am thus disappointed in two forth-coming posts.

      Regards,
      Tony

      1. J.W. Wartick says:

        I look forward to it. Hopefully, going forward, insinuations about character can be avoid. Let us stick to the issues.

      2. Yeah… That’s one of the issues. Respectfully, there were no insinuations about your character, as I will demonstrate. You’ve made mountains out of molehills, suggesting that I have a great deal more than I actually have and, in the process, you’ve thatched a straw man argument to beat up in my name. Apologetics is an art and like every art, it takes a bit of practice and patience to learn it, so I excuse your errors for I recognize in you my counterpart at an earlier time. Nevertheless, if you do not learn to supress your sophomoric tendency to assume that your opponent means a great more than he’s said, and, more importantly, to separate an attack on the argument or the pressupositions behind it from a personal attack, you will make a lousy apologist… and an excellent whipping boy for every atheist troll who crosses your path. Of course, if you take it as a personal insult every time someone tells you you’re wrong, well, there’s nothing I or anyone else can do for you.

      3. J.W. Wartick says:

        As I said in my own post, let the reader decide. And even readers who disagree with my position have said they agree. One went so far as to say the comments were in “poor taste.” I appreciate that you disagree, but I would very much like to stick to the issues, and that’s what I’ve asked.

        Regarding my own abilities as an apologist, I have no delusions of grandeur here. What I’ve seen is that the vast majority of Christians with whom I interact have benefited from our interactions and said so. I’ve taught apologetics classes for laity for two years; I’m getting a master’s degree in Christian apologetics; I’m one of the founding members of the Christian Apologetics Alliance; and I have witnessed to many an atheist, who have not made me into a whipping boy. I have greatly benefited from interactions with atheists, many of whom are my friends. We have sharpened each other, and one has even been moved to theism.

        I would like to respectfully ask that you stop making comments about me. Stick to the issues. I’d note that the entirety of your comment here has been to imply things about me for which you have no support. If you can’t focus on issues instead of discussing whether I am an adequate apologist in your opinion, then I’m done with our interactions.

        What I would like to ask you is that we stick to the i

      4. Actually, the entirety of my comment [with the exception of the portion in which I offered a pointed rebuke] has been to make statements for which I have promised support for in a later post. I would expect an apologist of your credentials to have noticed that detail.

  2. The reality is the original article by Mr. Wartick did not in fact utilize scripture in order to engage a thoroughly scriptural concept. The response I was provided when I pointed out the lack of scriptural support for a scriptural idea was the author was engaging in analytical theology.

    Let’s get down to the basis of how one should engage scripture. As Tony Breeden so rightly noted, the issue revolves around whether one acknowledges scripture as their foundation or whether the perspective of scripture is impacted by presuppositions. The line of logic used in Mr. Wartick’s article is based on faulty hermeneutical assumptions. That has been demonstrated by Tony and numerous other articles by many YECs. The underlying assumption presented by Mr. Wartick is based on faulty reasoning as well as poor biblical exegesis. Furthermore, biblical exegesis is exactly that….the engagement of scripture. If that is not the fundamental element of how you engage topics such as sin and its impact on all of creation, then that demonstrates a lack of understanding on to do apologetics. If you are not “defending” scripture with scripture then there is a big problem. To state that defending the word of God can somehow be done outside the bounds of scripture as the foundation for one’s argument is indeed sad.

    It seems as if correction regarding faulty hermeneutics always brings with it the return response that biblical correction is castigating one’s character, essentially character assassination. Such a response demonstrates a redirection of the issue at hand, namely incorrectly exegeting scripture based on faulty assumptions and presuppositions.

    Mr. Wartick’s serious of articles on this issue are merely a smokescreen that seeks to question the validity of the scriptural message regarding the universal impact of sin and redemption. It is also a smokescreen that seeks to hide the underlying fact that his assumptions are based on the influence of evolutionary dogma. If one presents death as not a result of sin but as something that has taken place since God said Let there be light, then millions of years of death and decay before the curse placed by God on man and all of creation in Genesis 3 can somehow be seen to be acceptable. Well the truth is such a position is not found in scripture. It is only found by those who seek to insert evolutionary concepts into scripture. That is by definition eisegesis, a cardinal sin in the area of theology or apologetics. It is akin to the trick used in Genesis 3, namely, “Indeed, has God said….?” The posts by Mr. Warticks are replete with logical assumptions or rather attempts at logical arguments rather than seeking to cogently and fully interact with the scriptural evidence. With that said, Tony has every right to question the starting point of the statements made by Mr. Wartick despite his objections. This is not an ad hominem argument. Conversely, it is a demonstration of the necessity to utilize scripture when make theological arguments. That is something this Graduate level theology student learned in one of his first undergraduate level theology classes.

    Thank you Tony for confronting this type of poor apologetics and biblical exegesis. I appreciate your willingness to present the truth in the face of attempts to question such important concepts as the impact on sin and death on the universe and the very concept of the scarlet thread of redemption that flows throughout scripture.

    Keep up the good work Tony. Your responses obviously do not sit well with those in the CAA or other groups who continually insist on inserting science and logic into scripture instead of letting scripture determine how to do science and logic.

    1. Thank you for the kind words of encouragement, Michael, and for correctly pointing out that by assuming that we can somehow “independently” establish the ultimate authority of Scripture without appealing to Scripture, we really admit to some other ultimate authority by which all things [including Scripture] must be judged! It is God Word that produces faith, that convicts and convinces, that is God-breathed, and will not return to Him void but will accomplish what he has purposed… not our feeble arguments of logic. All we apologists do is remove the stumbling blocks [in obedience to His foreordained will and commandment] to the Gospel; it is still God alone who grants saving faith.

      God bless you and everyone at the CAA,
      Tony

  3. Tony,

    I stopped hanging out in the CAA several months ago. I just could not stomach any longer the constant attacks against those such as myself who hold to believing that what God revealed in scripture is what actually took place. The attitude by many, though not all in that group was far too accommodating to evolutionary dogma for my taste. I have since moved on to other Facebook groups that hold to a more orthodox and biblically centric view of origins.

    Keep up the great work.

    1. Thanks for the heads up, and God bless you.

  4. jim0211 says:

    The reference to man’s dominion over Earth provides a useful perspective on the relationship between man’s sin and animal death. But I wonder if you could address a point that this brings up for me. How would this concept apply to Satan? He is described variously as the ruler/prince/god of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11, 2 Cor 4:4, Eph 2:2, etc). And he fell before Adam, so some sin was in the world before human sin. So if the “ruler of this world” sinned, what would happen to the world, and what does that imply about the state of creation between Satan’s fall and humanity’s fall?

    1. jim0211,

      Satan is described variously as the price/ruler/god of this world, but there is no indication that he is anything other than a usurper. God gave dominion over the earth and all its organisms to Adam; Satan was given no such dominion. His power comes in the form of the multitude of fallen angels [one third of the hosts of heaven] whom he managed to deceive. His rule is more akin to an invading force. Since Satan was not given dominion over creation, his sin did not effect it.

      Hope that helps,
      Tony

      1. jim0211 says:

        Yes, Satan usurped his power, but part of my question has to do with the effect that would have had on creation, and why that is no more significant than the statements made about man. The descriptions given Satan indicate a supernatural level of influence. And Job shows his influence on creation, albeit under the ultimate authority of God.

        So in what sense does Gen 1:26-28 give man any sort of ultimate dominion? “Rule” and “subdue” are used throughout Scripture to describe the natural dominion of an earthly king (for example), and extend to the sort of dominion we have over the world today through God-given human abilities. Isn’t this consistent with Adam’s activity in Gen. 2:15?

        So what is the Scriptural basis for extending the natural dominion given to man to a supernatural influence?

        Thanks,
        Jim

      2. Jim,

        Satan was never given authority over creation and he has not been given authority since then… Perhaps I’ve given you the wrong impression by use of the term usurper. Satan is occupying this planet, but he has no [as in ZERO] authority or dominion over the earth. This little prince has power, but it is limited by both God’s restraint [Who alone has power to grant dominion], by the limitations of his finite forces and powers [again, not omnipotent, omniscient, etc], and the fact that he does not have dominion over creation as Adam did. The reason that the curse has thus effected creation and continues to do so, is because Adam’s dominion was never revoked. [I speculate that this may be the reason for the need for a future new heaven and earth, as predicted in Bible prophecy].

        One should note that the dominion mandate given by God [a sort of blessing of kingship, or spiritual dominion] is a separate concept from man’s obligation to fulfill said mandate. Thus your objection concerning natural dominion is rather moot, for the supernatural influence you speak of is intimately connected with the spiritual dominion God imparted to Adam. How else do you explain that all have sinned in Adam, as 1 Corinthians 15 states?

        Tony

  5. jim0211 says:

    Tony, I understand what you’re saying about Satan’s limited power, and how his influence was limited; thanks for elaborating.

    My point about natural dominion had just to do with the Gen 1:26-28 passage, in that I don’t see how that confers the level of spiritual dominion you describe. This is a common teaching that I’ve never quite understood; hence my questions. Thanks for pointing out 1 Corinthians. Verses 15:21-23 and 45-49 certainly describe how Adam brought death to all mankind, Christ’s ultimate authority, and our future heavenly nature. But they don’t describe mankind’s spiritual dominion of which you refer, as far as I can tell.

    Jim

    1. Jim,

      I can only add that the dominion mandate is the traditional interpretation of these passages.

      God bless,
      Tony

  6. Rev Tony I think you have done well in even bothering to answer such an obviously flawed premise. I also don’t see any personal attacks. I recently decided to get to the bottom of what I believe in regard to the age of the earth and young earth creationism and its been a frustrating process Not so much in sifting through the real data – That would have been easy. Whats frustrating is the sheer volume of mental sludge from one sides sweeping generalizations of the other sides positions and at times the level of vitriol between believers because of this issue.

    There is an intellectual dishonesty seldom talked about that is rampant in the debate today and its the intellectual dishonesty of not taking the scholarship to actually study what your opponent really believes. Anyone and I mean anyone that had any respect to the intelligence of fellow believers would have sat down and thought this article through and seen how little it presents as a challenge to YEC brothers in Christ.

    I don’t think however the author felt he needed to think it through, study it and measure its weight. He was dealing with YECs after all and here is the general rub and frustration for someone like me on the fence trying to figure things out. You go to one source and they make sweeping statements of fact that seem compelling and then you go to the other side and see something FUNDAMENTAL left out by the other. Far too many caricatures. On a side not I would not be disturbed greatly about claims of not sticking on the subject and going personal. AS Michael Boilng indicated its kind of an emotional hand waving. In my research I did come across the author’s blog and its pretty much how facts the author can’t handle are handled

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