Leaving the Fold

Leaving the Fold

Monday, 21 April 2014

Questions on the Biblical Creation Story and the Role of Humanity

On Creation

Why did God create humankind? Was he bored, or lonely? Acts 17:25 suggests he does not need humanity to fulfil any wants or needs. The verse in full:

“Nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”-Acts 17:25

God had, and still has as far as the bible is concerned, quite a few angels to minister to him so lacking something such as companionship or worship cannot be the case. Why was it necessary to create humanity for the sole purpose of performing a function that the angels were more than capable of themselves? Is creating humankind with the knowledge that they would sin, and billions would go to hell just so he could be revered and glorified a satisfactory explanation? It is essentially saying the loss of billions to the eternal torment of hell is worth that outcome despite the fact those in Hell would feel very disinclined to agree. Again, the angels were capable of performing the function of revering and glorifying God and being in a relationship with him so why was humanity needed? According to Revelations, and Isaiah from the Old Testament angels are more than capable of glorifying and worshipping God and, at least in the Old Testament they do not screw up on a regular basis unlike the New Testament where it occurs to fulfil an apparent plot device. It is never specified why God needs angels to do tasks for him either, or at times requires them to act as messengers. When angels did act as messengers in the bible, it was often obvious they were not just another human claiming to speak of God’s behalf (needing an angel to do the speaking seems unnecessary anyway) as the characters encountering them often are described as being afraid in some way. God's plan was apparently to be glorified (to whom exactly, himself? It's not like he needs to be told that he's great and he is God, he already knows that which some Christian's might want take note of).He also does not want anyone to perish, as the following quote from 2 Peter suggests:

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9

This verse seems so bittersweet when considering most of the Earth’s population, from the time of Christ on wards will end up in hell according to theologians, and many missionaries will not fail to point out that two-thirds of the world’s population are not Christian. It would seem that God’s will is far from accomplished. The ‘God did not want robots’ explanation is often used here, but one must ask why would God who is love and is the epitome of compassion and mercy create such a flawed, sin prone race if the price of free will is the loss of countless millions, nay billions, to the depths of hell. Would he truly be happy with that? What happens to people who die and do not know who Jesus is? It is often said that those who do not know who Jesus is will go to heaven, some Christian’s do not believe that nobody has heard of Jesus partly because of literally interpreting Paul’s writings. If people who have not heard of Jesus go to heaven, then this presents a paradox for missionaries and would suggest that their attempts to convert people are inadvertently sending some people to hell. This would also mean that it was better not to tell anyone about Christianity despite the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20. The fact that there is even a need for a Great Commission or missionaries conflicts with any literal interpretation of Paul’s writings where he states everyone knows who Jesus is in their hearts and therefore have no excuse for not believing.

Why Earth was probably not created specifically for humans as Genesis suggests

This world, or rather nature, does not appear to have been created solely for humankind. This is because nature is more than capable of killing people, which it frequently does. This does not just happen by natural disasters either. Many environments are incredibly hostile to humans and frequently kill people. The sea, which I cannot blame Paul for hating if he did get shipwrecked several times, is not tame by any means and people are frequently killed in it. We are not born with an inbuilt ability to swim or survive underwater, leading to tragic circumstances where people drown, even in small amounts of water. God is  well aware in Genesis of mankind's inability to survive in large volumes of water for long, which he makes use of in the early chapters of Genesis (no need to mention where). 70% of the planet is covered in water, all but a small percentage of it undrinkable by humans, as evident by this quote from Samuel Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”
Of the 1% of water which is fresh a considerable portion is not particularly safe to drink, and those with weaker immune systems are likely to be worse off from drinking it, or is not readily available as it is located in relatively inhospitable environments.

There are also vast deserts with little to no water, the Israelites and their neighbours were aware of this fact. A large portion of the north is covered in snow for months on end, and until the last few centuries, this was associated with an extremely high risk of mortality, particularly among the very young and elderly, and in some places still is.

A perfect original creation?

The presence of carnivores, parasitic insects some of which are quite nasty, other parasitic animals and microbes that cannot survive without harming, or killing, another organism all seem to suggest that the world was designed with the existence of death in mind. These were all presumably created by God as it is not suggested in the Bible that Satan can create things although some have theorised he can. Though many microbes and insect larvae are harmless, many kill their host in order to ensure their own survival and some even have to kill their host in order to reproduce (The film Alien does draw some inspiration from these creatures). Many microbes and viruses can kill even the healthiest and fittest people. Some microbes, called decomposers, cannot exist without death as they process dead tissue to gain nutrients, some other organisms do this as well.

In order to be nutritious soil requires death; to be less vague it requires the breakdown, of deceased organic tissue, sometimes processed by other animals, such as by bacteria and other microorganisms to help it remain fertile by providing a source of nitrogen input into the soil. This is essential for plant health, growth and development.

Some young earth creationists say that animals were vegetarian before the fall of man. There are a few problems with this. If this was the case and they were created to be vegetarian, then the physiology and morphology of carnivores and omnivores is poorly adapted to a vegetarian diet (omnivores less so). Most organisms, except certain bacteria, cannot break down the cellulose wall of plants and are unable to access a large portion of nutrients within a plant, which also suggests that vegetarianism was not at the forefront of Gods plans for creation. The leaves of rice crops for example contain multiple nutrients required by humans that are absent in the edible portion of the rice crop. Carnivores, especially carnivorous reptiles lack the proper dental physiology to chew leaf matter well, they do however have adequate dental physiology to tear chunks of meat that would be unnecessary to have in a herbivorous animal. Animals often have to die so that others can feed and survive in an often complex food chain, this is often slow and painful for the poor animal that gets eaten. An inability to breakdown cellulose means that due to the plants cell wall, much of the nutrients in the plant leaves are inaccessible to the organism consuming it. Omnivores can counter this if they have access to a large variety of plant resources to some degree, including a wide range of fruits or vegetables, while this is the cases for many of us for animals which have a far more limited access to a wide range resources this is less possible . For most animals excluding humans, varying diet to counter a deficiency in a particular nutrient or nutrients is not that easy as not all the nutrients it needs may be readily available.

Only a small fraction of all occurring species of plants, are actually edible to humans, of these plant species only some parts are of nutritional value and some parts are poisonous. Some plants are poisonous and so are some animals and humans have no inbuilt ‘immunity’ to any of these that might be expected if the Earth was created for us. True, some plants have a medicinal benefit but this does not account for all of the plants we cannot eat.

It is also something of a paradox that Australian dry sclerophyll ecosystems require bushfires, they are required for some plants to germinate. The fact that fires are quite destructive, yet are necessary for the survival of some plant species, contradict the idea of a perfect original creation. Either these plants were not created until after the fall of man, along with a lot of other things, or bushfires were part of the original creation otherwise it would not have been possible for some plants to survive. A small minority of creationists believe that God gave animals the ability to evolve so they could survive changes in their environment over very long periods of time, those that do far less likely to not take Genesis literally which I think is closer to the way it is meant to be interpreted, as an allegory.

A Banksia following a bushfire, the maternal plant was killed but the seeds are released as a result of the temperatures associated with the fire after which they germinate.

The mentality that we were created above the animals and they therefore do not matter, has created some exceptionally environmentally unfriendly attitudes and some disregard for animals in general among some groups of Christians. This has not been helped by the sentiment that Jesus is going to wipe out the Earth and start all over again when he returns so there is not much point in caring about the planet if he is going to destroy it anyway and we are living the end times as frequently stated by evangelicals.

Although not directly related to creation, some argue that you cannot prove that elements without substance, or are invisible to the naked eye even with the most powerful microscope, exist and yet people believe in them. Therefore, belief in God is no different. This is false. If their properties can be measured and their effects observed (e.g. Electrons) then we can say they exist. This is achieved through much trial and error and by advances in scientific technology. Examples where this has been argued include the cold and wind, we cannot see it but it is there. The effects of the cold on molecular kinetics alone are well-known to chemists, its effects on human physiology are majorly self-evident. We also know the cold is caused by the absence of heat, and we know what heat is and what causes it, and its effects on molecular kinetics are well-known. Likewise, wind can be measured, and its power is well-known to us and we also know what causes it. God on the other hand, if the bible or other scripture is any guess, cannot be measured or detected by human instruments, regardless of how much technology advances, whereas the aforementioned phenomena can.

God seems strangely obsessed with humans in the bible. If he created the universe then this planet is but a speck among the cosmos. So much a speck in fact, that in one picture of Saturn taken by NASA, the publishers erased what they thought was an erroneous blue speck in the corner of the picture that should not be there, when in actual fact it was not an error. That small speck was in fact Earth viewed by Cassini during a flyby of Saturn. Even our Solar System is a speck, one star among billions in a single galaxy that of itself is but one of a countless multitude of galaxies grouped in clusters. Yet all God’s attention in the bible seems to be focused on one planet orbiting one star among many others. Even ignoring this you might expect him to acknowledge and focus his attention on all the Earth not just a small region consisting entirely of what is now the Middle-East and its immediate neighbours. The existence of the rest of Earth is completely ignored.The regions that appear in the bible encompass only a small percentage of the entire planet. This suggests God had nothing to do with the writing of the Bible and might explain why Paul seemed to think everyone had heard of Jesus because, understandably, he had a very limited knowledge of just how big Earth is.