In Christian theology it seems to be an important idea that humans are more than just animals. Is that an area where science is in accord, or in conflict with Christianity, considering how we’re uncovering more and more about how primal instincts drive much of human behaviour.
Nothing about being human is unnatural. To wrap eternal infinite nature in the goodness of God is entirely a matter of faith. Having such faith does not change nature in any way, post hoc, and allow us to say ‘Ohhhhh, that’s why nature is like that!: God’.
- My biological parents were Deaf, from infancy. My step-mother was also Deaf. When someone-- probably her Baptist preacher, first told her and other Deaf members of his congregation about evolution and the “evil, scientific belief” that “humans are animals”, she became angry.
- To her, that belief was an idea that some Hearing person or people came up with in order to justify “treating Deaf People like animals”.
- My step-mother, blessed be her memory, died in 1973, at the age of 87 years old, … still believing that the “belief that humans are animals” was wrong, a sin against God, and an excuse to discriminate against Deaf people. I never tried to change her mind.
- My father by adoption, however, was a Hearing person. He learned about evolution in school, became a Lutheran minister, and eventually believed that humans are animals, if he ever did not always believe that. I never tried to change his mind.
- If I believe that humans are animals, do I believe that my step-mother was wrong and that my father by adoption was right? If I do not believe that humans are animals, do I believe that my step-mother was right and that my father by adoption was wrong?
- Does Jesus care?
Would you mind giving some examples of the theological topics you have in mind?
Regarding YOUR question:
I think, in part, it matters what we mean by “animal.” Biologically, we are. We fit all the descriptors.
But there are things about us that are distinctly different from other animals…
…… Such as what we are doing at this very moment and the means by which we are achieving it.
In the scriptures Christians use, humans seem to be understood as a different category than “mere animals.” But clearly seen as having similar qualities. I’m thinking at the moment of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4.
Like Terry mentioned regarding his parents, there are different views held by reasonable people. And like Klax said, being human is natural.
I’m talking about the specific kind of objection many YEC have for evolution being compatible with a christian worldview, which is to say that evolution reduces people to instinct-driven animals and takes away the image of God and our spiritual nature.
What do you think? Is their claim true?
My view is that the claim is irrelevant and cannot disprove evolution. So, we need to better understand scripture, our natures and our relationship to God, particularly through the work of Jesus.
I think there’s an element of pride to that objection. Ecclesiastes 3:18-21 says this:
I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”
The thing that struck me most when I first read those verses was the three words in verse 18, “God tests them.” Let’s face it – it does take a certain amount of humility to view yourself in terms of being like, or related to, the animals, and if the idea offends you, then you’ve failed the test.
Having said that, there does seem to be a difference between humans and animals in Scripture, and that difference is one of authority and responsibility. In Genesis 1:26-28 God talks about creating humans to rule over the rest of the animal kingdom. But with great power comes great responsibility. God’s only command to the rest of the animal kingdom was just “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” It was only when people came on the scene that He started giving more detailed and specific instructions, such as as what we see in the very next chapter with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and their command not to take of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
The question is too general. We might as well ask are humans more than living things? The answer is clearly yes to that one. Let’s try are humans more than mammals? Anything we might say in answer would simply get at something that sets us apart from other mammals but there are things to say about any mammal that sets them apart too. But of course we are the ones doing the asking and the only ones we can imagine capable of asking something so abstract. Likewise we are the only ones we can imagine asking about the existence of God. But I wonder if our asking makes us closer to or further from God and how do we compare in that regard to the experience of other animals?
And YECism doesn’t rescue one from this “demeaning” perspective of origins - they may complain that they don’t like the thought of shared lineage with animals, but they turn around and have us coming directly from dirt! There really isn’t any way to escape the eventual humility imposed on us. May as well wear it like a crown - since as you and the ecclesiastical sage note, all animals including us return from whence we came.
2 posts were merged into an existing topic: “The End of Apologetics: Christian Witness in a Postmodern Context” by Myron B. Penner
In other creation myths the lesser gods were angry and rebellious at being forced to work for the higher god so humans were made. Genesis has a different take on things: we alone are said to be made in God’s image and share in his creation as its stewards. Everything in creation is deemed good in Genesis. On the sixth day" very good." The Bible clearly teaches (or starts with the accommodated assumption?) that we are higher up on the ontological ladder than other life on the planet. The apple in Daddy’s eye. Though not a few chapters later during the flood!
Biologically speaking, we are simply the top rung on the evolutionary latter but are we the pinnacle or does it keep going? We control our environment now to a solid extent but yes, humans are animals but we are somehow very different from all the rest in our capacity for thought, religion, love, art etc. It may be a ramp more than steps but were are different. I know I don’t have the same moral expectations of animals or think an animal’sl life is as valuable as a human life. If it came down to saving one child vs saving one hundred cows or even my own pets, its a no brainer.
There is no evolutionary ladder. There is an evolutionary tree.
Are you insinuating that the entire biome of this planet exists primarily to serve as our exclusive larder?
Tallest branch if you want to be pedantic with analogies. Maybe I am ignorant but did live evolve from complex to simple? Or was it the other way around? I don’t think my ladder analogy is wrong from that perspective but I’m no biologist.
Not for us. Not on this mote. We have insufficient capacity for social justice. I fear that’s an opportunity cost that evolution cannot make anywhere.
No, I’m trying to be accurate. The tree of life better reflects reality than any ladder. Life can become simpler. And we have lost entire branches from the tree of life.
And what about what I said about Genesis? Do you agree or disagree?
“In other creation myths the lesser gods were angry and rebellious at being forced to work for the higher god so humans were made. Genesis has a different take on things: we alone are said to be made in God’s image and share in his creation as its stewards. Everything in creation is deemed good in Genesis. On the sixth day" very good." The Bible clearly teaches (or starts with the accommodated assumption?) that we are higher up on the ontological ladder than other life on the planet. The apple in Daddy’s eye. Though not a few chapters later during the flood!”
We are the pinnacle of creation in Genesis. But what I was addressing was what you said “biologically speaking,” and only that.
We are “feeder mice” for human hookworms!
I am asking if you agree with Genesis on that point.