God appears to really hate non-human animals. Which is an odd thing considering he designed and created them. We know that he hated animals because he pretty much told us so and acted with utmost contempt for their existence. Let me remind you of the famous case of Noah’s Ark and the Great Flood (Genesis 6):
5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved [e]in His heart. 7 The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the [f]sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord….
11 Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.
13 Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth. 14
One of the huge biblical problems is the issue of being punished on account of the deeds of someone or some entity only remotely (at best) connected to you. The idea that you can be punished for the sins of your ancestors is completely immoral. Yet, in this case, it is worse than the normal biblical problem of humans being punished on account of other humans. We have other sentient and non-sentient creatures being punished for the apparently freely willed decisions of an unconnected species. That is like humans being punished for the fact that lions like eating antelope. It is nonsensical.
We also have the obvious issues of God designing and creating the universe and then punishing aspects of that universe that resulted from God’s own design and creation. But let’s park those issues for now.
So what tools does the Christian have to attempt to defend the supposed fact that God punishes the entire scope of the animal kingdom, and indeed the plant kingdom, on account of the actions of humans? There really are only these options.
- The Bible is somehow wrong or inaccurate in its claims of either what literally happened or what God actually said. This would be the preferred option of atheists and liberal Christians and also includes the idea that the story is merely symbolic as opposed to literally true.
- Entities can actually deserve punishment on account of third-parties. Somehow, justice and retribution are transferable.
- God can use entities instrumentally such that the death or suffering of animals can be seen in the context of being necessary for a greater good to come about. In my “God Is a Consequentialist” essay, Noah’s Flood is indeed one of the primary examples I use to conclude that God is a consequentialist. This is problematic for theological reasons, apropos the moral philosophy of God.
- God is less than the God of classical theism. He has the characteristics of anger and contempt with strong retributive feelings.
- Those animals were different in some significant way to how they are now such that they could somehow deserve the punishment they are given.
This certainly is no way that I can see or understand that those animals could deserve the punishment that God metes out. Really, I see this as a theological wrangle that the Christian thinker is unable to reconcile with their common understanding of God.
You could even put this in a thoroughly modern context (and I don’t want to include climate change here because many Christians will deny its human causality) in looking at the massive biodiversity destruction that has taken place as according to every measure of observation over the last 100,000 years. 90% of mammal life is now domesticated and existing for the pleasure of humankind. God appears to either not care about animal life or using it instrumentally and is thus deferring to consequentialist morality.
So the conclusions are either:
- God does not exist,
- God is a poor designer (the animals deserved punishment),
- God is a consequentialist, or
- God is imperfect.
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