Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Word about Animal Suffering

The issue of God's having a purpose for suffering in this creation has a critical bearing on a divisive intramural debate within Christendom today. And while I don't want to take this blog down that rabbit trail at this time, I think it would be worthwhile to mention this here.

Christians who accept the evidence from general revelation (the creation itself) for an old Earth and universe and others who insist that the Bible clearly describes a 6-day creation process only thousands of years ago have spent a great deal of energy and rhetoric defending their views (and, often, attacking their brothers and sisters who take the opposite view). Specific areas of disagreement include the relative place of general revelation and special revelation (Scripture), the flexilibility (or lack thereof) of the Hebrew word yom (translated 'day' in the creation account), and the reliability of our fallen senses and reasoning when it comes to interpreting the evidence (especially from the creation, though there is, of course, interpretation required when it comes to Scripture as well).

But when all of these issues have been discussed and all responses given (when for example, it has been shown that sound exegesis indicates that Romans 5:12--"by one man death came into the world"--is speaking not of animal death but only human death), the trenched-in objection of most young-earth creationists is this...
God would not create a world with suffering in it and call it 'very good'!
In other words, "My view of what God should do does not include a place for billions of years of animal suffering and death prior to the Fall of Adam." Now, we could discuss at length some of the obvious and not-so-obvious benefits that have resulted from billions of years of plant and animal death. But what I am driving at is that (as we saw yesterday) our claiming to know how God is or should be is idolatrous and blasphemous.

In this instance, the claim "my view of God doesn't include His allowing for animal death" is eerily similar to the claim for which our Lord roundly rebuked Peter. If you'll recall, Peter had just confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, for which the Lord praised him. But then, when Jesus went on to tell Peter that the Messiah would suffer and die, Peter's response was, "Not so, Lord!" In other words,
My view of God does not include His having a purpose for your suffering and death!
At this point, Jesus is recorded as responding, "Get behind me, Satan!" I believe that the reason Christ was passionate about this is that suffering--His own suffering--was not tangential but central to His purposes for creating this universe in the first place.

Again, the take-home message is this... Suffering is not incompatible with the existence of the omnibenevolent God of the Bible. Indeed, according to the Bible, all suffering is within His sovereign control and He has very good reasons for creating this universe as we find it--with suffering and evil as undeniable aspects of it.

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