I want to start off by letting you know right away that I am not a Christian currently, though I haven’t shut the door on Christianity. I am a philosophical theist. I felt like it is fair to let you know where I’m coming from. If you don’t wish to help me because of this, that is fine, I understand if you wish to focus on Christians. Now, I have two questions. They are basically related but they focus on somewhat different areas.

First issue. I have struggled lately to understand how a God that is good (and yes, I know about the problems of moral relativity without a God and I agree, and believe me it’s not easy to account for morals as a philosophical theist, though I have to make use of a common conscience in humanity as given to us by God, etc.) can create animals who, from what I can tell, don’t have free will, yet they behave in ways that are morally repugnant to us. I am asking you for help because I think we face a similar problem. Old earth Christians cannot accept young earth explanations for the age of the earth, thus the idea that all evil comes from the corruption of Adam and Eve is not relevant for animal behavior. I face this problem as well. My problem is how can people account for animal behavior for which God is ultimately responsible for, since the animals have no free will like us humans to account for our behavior. It’s basically the same problem as natural evil. Yes, God isn’t involved in every single problem out there, but ultimately, it is from God’s initial creative act that the laws of nature came about, as well as ultimately, animal behavior (since you are Christian, I am going to assume you believe in an omniscient God who knows the consequences of what he does in the long run). So, I would like to know what response you give to bad animal behavior. Not necessarily death. Death is needed to maintain the ecology. I view animals and ecology and everything as existing for us, humans. I think most Christians agree. But other behaviors, such as rape, incest, physical abuse, etc. As a Christian, how do you deal with these issues? The animals have no free will so it’s not really their fault.

I’m more of a progressive creationist but I’m not against theistic evolution either. I still face the same problem either way, philosophically, that is. (SIDE NOTE: the only reason why I am for Progressive Creation is because if we are separately created, then philosophically we can truly say we are "different" in KIND and not just DEGREE — but we can still say we’re different in kind in theistic evolution if we have souls as in substance dualism. I’m not decided yet on that to be honest. I believe in free will and I recognize the problems of materialism that CS Lewis pointed out in the Argument from Reason, so I don’t know. Right now I’m more of a property dualist, and a compatibilist in terms of free will, I agree with the concept of "self-determinism" that I think Norman Geisler presented if I remember correctly.) Because ultimately, this behavior (since it is not free, thus it is basically programmed into the animals) goes back to God’s programming. Human evil is excused because of free will. I’m fine with that. But since animals are not responsible for what they do, God is ultimately responsible. So, is there a contradiction between God’s nature which is supposed to be good in the way that humans understand it and what he did with animal behavior? How do you reconcile the two?

My second question is basically the same as the above question, except, rather than focus on animals, I am focusing on us humans: Specifically, our genes. I assume that you know that there are certain genes that can drive a person towards certain behaviors, etc. Yes, I do believe we have free will, that’s not the issue I am worried about. The issue is, again, as above, ultimately, God is responsible for our creation. I read one article on your site from someone who asked you a question, and it said something about psychopathy being genetic, for example. You mentioned genes that make your sex drive stronger, etc. I hope you understand what I’m trying to get at. God is ultimately responsible for those genes, right? So, how can we reconcile God creating genes which lead to evil urges, yet God being good still? Do we apply some sort of "greater good" thing here, where God gave us those genes for the purpose of providing challenges to us, or something? Would this not result in consequentialism? Are God-given morals compatible with consequentialism? Those are my issues. Thank you.


Your first question seemed to imply that animals are committing immoral acts such as rape, incest, and abuse. Charles Darwin himself was troubled by Nature’s apparent cruelty and couldn’t conceive of a good God creating such a harsh world. I would argue Darwin was guilty of anthropomorphism–applying human definitions to animal behavior. Dr. William Lane Craig cites the late philosopher Richard Taylor who notes: "A hawk that seizes a fish from the sea kills it, but does not murder it; and another hawk that seizes the fish from the talons of the first takes it, but does not steal it–for none of these things is forbidden." What justification do we have to apply moral categories to the animal kingdom? It also occurs to me that you accept animal death as a necessary part of our ecology, so I’m not sure why non-fatal violent acts among animals would be morally objectionable to you because predation, reproduction, and comepetition for food, territory and mates are also part and parcel of our functioning ecology.

I would argue that Darwin was also guilty of theologism–insisting that God must conform to a human theological system, rather than conforming our theological understanding to God as He really is. God is not required to live according to the standards of a prim and proper Victorian gentleman; Victorian gentlemen, as well as the rest of us, should conform to God’s moral standards. Animal behavior might offend our human sensibilities, but that does not make it immoral. The behavior is immoral if it violates the holy character of God, and we have no reason to think God has created animals as moral agents capable of morally significant acts. These are my initial thoughts on your first issue. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and I think we agree, or nearly agree, on a lot of things (ex., I am a Christian theist, a moral realist, a substance dualist in my conception of the soul, etc.). I look forward your response and to continuing this discussion with you. Thanks for your patience as well.

Dan Conder  



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