Monday, April 05, 2021

Anonymous Asks (139)

“Were animals created carnivorous?”

We know from Genesis 9 that mankind was not originally carnivorous, and from Genesis 1 that animals too were originally herbivores. If that were not enough, two plain statements in the New Testament about the introduction of death into our world make conjectures about carnivorous animals in the original creation order a bit … er … hard to swallow.

Not Originally Carnivorous

First, the apostle Paul writes in Romans that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin.” Then in 1 Corinthians he says, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.” Both verses teach that death did not exist before the fall of mankind. The latter passage refers to death as an enemy and tells us Christ will one day destroy it after putting all other enemies under his feet. If, as the apostle taught, death not a normal feature of the creation order but rather an enemy that will one day be eliminated entirely, it is difficult to imagine why death would have any part at all in a creation God repeatedly calls “good”. And if animals did not die prior to the fall of mankind, the question of carnivorous animal behavior becomes a non-starter.

But in addition to the plain statements of scripture about animals being originally herbivores and the theological problems posed by the alternative, there are also pictures presented to us in the Old Testament prophetic scriptures of the millennial kingdom of the Lord Jesus, in which:
“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox … They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.”
It is reasonable to assume that if such conditions are certain in the future of our planet, then they may as easily have occurred in the unfallen creation order.

An Original Design with Unused Optional Features

But that still doesn’t completely answer the question. After all, it is entirely possible both men and animals were created with the capability of digesting meat, but did not use that feature of their makeup until sin entered the world. Eating meat was not permissible prior to the Flood, just as murder was not permitted, but it is likely both men and animals engaged in it anyway.

In fact, one of God’s reasons for sending a great flood to destroy the world of Noah’s day is stated in Genesis 6:
“And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them.’ ”
“All flesh” presumably includes animals.

Agents and Automatons

The question that is often asked is why God would give either man or animals the capability of digesting meat in Genesis 1 if the world as God originally intended involved no death at all.

One answer is to remind ourselves that God often allows for the possibility of something that is less than ideal. Indeed, the possibility of doing things God never intended us to do and with which he is not pleased is a necessary precondition to human freedom and the ability to choose good over evil, and the difference between being agents or automatons.

If this were not the case, neither the tree of the knowledge of good and evil nor the tree of life would have been planted in Eden. Moreover, the introduction of laws to the world, whether at Sinai, before or after it, demonstrates that God is committed to allowing the consequences of choice to play out in the world even if those choices often produce pain and suffering. Laws exist not only to show us the right way to go, but to deal with the consequences of our actions when we have chosen the wrong path.

The End from the Beginning

A second answer is that God know the end from the beginning. The fall of man was not something he desired, but scripture teaches it was a possibility (inevitability?) for which he made provision in eternity. If, as the apostle writes, the people of God were not merely created for his glory, but specifically “chosen in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world”, then God took Adam’s failure of leadership into account long before there was ever an Adam, and made provision to deal with the spiritual needs of Adam’s children in the person of his Son.

And if God could make the greater provision for the redemption of his creation in the person of Christ, it is not unreasonable to suppose that he would also anticipate the physical needs of his creatures, both man and animal, during the inevitable periods in history during which being able to settle peacefully in one place long enough to grow grains, fruit and vegetables for food was a luxury enjoyed by few.

In those times, the very useful ability to ingest and process large quantities of protein, vitamins and calories in a single, very rare meal may have been what kept many species of omnivores alive.

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