Does the Bible Mention Dinosaurs?

Dear Reader,

My high schooler this year is studying biology. The main curriculum I have for him, DIVE Biology, is a Christian one and takes a 6-day creationist approach. I am okay with this but I want him to also get an idea of what other people belive about the origins of the earth and its creatures. My own view on the topic is still  — if you will pardon the word choice — evolving; you can read my many posts on the creation/evolution topic here. So to supplement the video portion of the DIVE curriculum, I am not using their internet textbook nor one of the other many textbooks they recommend but am instead providing him with a selection of reading materials I have chosen. On the subject of evolution specifically, I had him read Paul Fleisher’s book Evolution . If you have never looked at them, Fleisher has some wonderful thin volumes on a number of science topics. He does a great job of taking tough concepts and making them accessible. Not all of them are as controversial as evolution so even if you don’t agree with him on this issue, you might want to check his books out. At any rate, Fleisher represented the main stream science view. Wanting to also give the other end of the spectrum its say, I then had him read Ken Ham’s The Great Dinosaur Mystery Solved! If you don’t already know, Ken Ham is the big guy behind the Young Earth Creationist group Answers in Genesis. Now the particular volume we used is not one of Ham’s most recent so I can’t say that it represents his best, most current effort, but I already owned it so it was what we went with.

One of the main tenets of Ham’s book is that dinosaurs lived at the same time as humans. This, of course, is based on their view that all land creatures, including people, were created on the same 24-hour day. There are a number of arguments made to support this position. There is the theological one that sin and death could not have occurred before the fall and therefore before humanity existed — I have thoughts on this but won’t take time to elucidate them here; I have touched on this topic previously in this post. There is the scientific argument that human and dinosaur bones have been found close together. I am not able to evaluate the scientific arguments myself. One group says one thing; the opposing one says the opposite; I don’t have the expertise to say who is right. Then there is the biblical argument — that the Bible itself seems to mention dinosaurs. Now this is an area in which I feel a little more competent. In case you haven’t heard me mention it before, I studied biblical Hebrew in college and grad school and was ABD (all but dissertation) in a Ph.D. program when I quit due to an overabundance of babies.  So when my son came to me for his narrations and told me that Ham’s book said that the Bible mentions dinosaurs, I had to pull out my Hebrew concordance and start looking up references.

Ham starts with the assertion that when people in the past have spoken of dragons they were really talking about dinosaurs. I have no problem with this point. Dragons as they are usually depicted are quite a bit like the larger dinosaurs. I don’t think it is by any means necessary to believe this — dragons could be entirely fictional, but it does make sense to say that if people in, say, ancient China had seen a large dinosaur, they would have called it a dragon. I would point out, however, that in all cultures that I know anything about it seems that dragons were a rarity. The stories never seem to have a colony of dragons living on the other side of the mountain; they are always rare beasts and quite to be feared. Because of this, I would find it a lot more plausible to believe that an isolated dinosaur or two survived and was seen by men than that humans and dinosaurs always coexisted. But the number of cultures which have dragon stories does at least make one think there must have been real creatures people saw which inspired them. And personally, I kind of like the idea that there are Nessie-like holdouts out there surviving way past their peers.

So if other cultures mention dinosaur-like creatures, what about the Bible? Does the Old Testament contain any references to creatures that could be dinosaurs? Ham says yes:

“It is highly interesting to note that the word ‘dragon’ (Hebrew: tannim) appears in the Old Testament at least 21 times. . . . There are passages in the Bible about dragons that lived on the land . . . Biblical creationists believe these were references to what we now call dinosaurs. There are also passages in the Bible about dragons that lived in the sea.” (p. 39)

In his end notes on this section, Ham cites Henry M. Morris who says that ” ‘Dragons, for example (Hebrew tannim) are mentioned at least 25 times in the Old Testament'” (p. 140) as well as two other authors who say that tannim meaning dragons appears 21 times.

This is the point at which the concordance comes out. There are three words I can think of which could be taken to refer to dragons or the like in the Old Testament. They are (pardon my Hebrew): tannin, behemoth, and leviathan. As far as I can find (and it’s possible I am missing some references though I tried to be thorough), tannin occurs fourteen times, behemoth referring to some sort of extraordinary beast occurs once and leviathan occurs six times. If you are counting, that is a total of twenty-one occurrences. I cannot find that tannin alone occurs 21 times, and certainly not the 25 Morris cites, but the three terms together do give us the 21 number which Ham cites.  Let’s look at each of the terms in turn.

I’ll start with behemoth since it only occurs once referring to some sort of extra-ordinary creature. The word behemoth actually occurs quite frequently in the Old Testament. It is the plural form (-ot being the feminine plural ending in Hebrew) of the noun behemah which means beast. It is a common noun, occurring more than 150 times in the Old Testament and usually referring to the beasts of the field (as opposed to domesticated animals). The plural form behemoth occurs around 15 times. An example would be Job 12:7:

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you.” (ESV)

The one reference in which behemoth seems to refer to more than just the usual beasts comes later in the book of Job in chapter 40. Here we find:

“Behold, Behemoth, which I made as I made you; he eats grass like an ox.” (Job 40:15; ESV)

It certainly sounds like God is here speaking of one beast, not of the beasts in general. As the passage continues, we learn that Behemoth eats grass, is strong and muscular, and has limbs like iron. He lives among reeds and lotus plants, presumably in or near the water. We are also told that he is not afraid of turbulent waters and that he is untameable by men. One phrase of which much has been made is found in verse 17: “He makes his tail stiff like a cedar.” This has been used to say that Behemoth had a huge, stiff tail; he has thus been connected with the larger, plant-eating dinosaurs like Apatosaurus. I do not think we need take the verse this way, however. It says not that his tail is large like a cedar but that it is stiff like one. One of my old professors said that Behemoth was a hippopotamus and I have to say the description does sound a lot like one to me — a herbivore that lives by the water and is yet quite vicious and dangerous to people, all of that could describe a hippo. If anything I am more intrigued by verse 19 which tells us that Behemoth is “the first of the works of God.” It makes me think rather that there were creatures who were prehistoric, who came early on in the history of creation. If all land animals were created on the same day, what does it mean to say this one was “first”?

This passage describing Behemoth is followed immediately by the best description we have of another extraordinary creature, Leviathan. In Job 41 we read:

“Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord?” (Job 41:1; ESV)

The following verses go no to tell us that Leviathan, like Behemoth, is untameable. He is strong and has fearsome teeth. In addition, “his back is made of rows of shields” (v.15) and he breathes fire (vv. 18-21). This certainly sounds like a dragon. But again, he seems to be a singular, unique creature, not one of a species. If people really lived alongside dinosaurs, surely they would be aware of more than one of them. There is also the problem that dinosaurs did not breathe fire. If we are to take away that one detail, this passage could describe a dinosaur, but then again it could also describe a crocodile.

The other passages referring to Leviathan add only a few more details. Isaiah 27:1 calls him a “fiery” and “twisting serpent.” Psalm 104:26 says that he plays in the sea. It is hard to know if this is his sole habitation or if he only enters the water sometimes. Again this could refer to a crocodile. I do not know if the large land dinosaurs spent time in the water as well. Lastly, we have Psalm 74. Verses 12-17 of this psalm seem to refer to God’s creative act. They speak of dividing the sea and establishing the heavenly lights. In the midst of this we are told that God also “crushed the heads of Leviathan” and “gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness” (v. 14). This makes it sound as if there was again one Leviathan, albeit with multiple heads, who was destroyed by God in the early stages of creation.

What are we to do with all this information? I still find myself fairly uncertain about what to think of Behemoth and Leviathan. Here are the things I think we can say:

  • They are each spoken of as unique, individual creatures, not as members of a larger species. That is, there is no indication that anyone was aware of there ever having been more than one of them.
  • Though God talks as if Job should be familiar with them, they are also placed, by Job 40 in the case of Behemoth and Psalm 74 in the case of Leviathan, in the early history of creation.
  • The only detail about Behemoth that makes it sound unlike creatures we know is this reference to its tail. I do think, however, that this need not refer to an extraordinary long tail but could mean simply that its tail is stiff like a cedar.
  • Job tells us that Leviathan breathes fire. If we are going to take the Bible at its most literal, I would think this is a problem for everyone, no matter their theory of creation. Dinosaurs did not breathe fire anymore than the other animals we know. (Or perhaps Ham thinks they did based on this passage?)
  • Both animals seem to spend at least some time in the water.

This last detail is not as insignificant as it may sound. Israel’s neighbors all had creation myths in which their god had to defeat the Sea (big “S” because it is personified) or a sea monster in order to form the world as we know it. Though Genesis 1 and 2 do not relate such a battle, we find remnants of this idea elsewhere in the Bible, including in the section of Psalm 74 discussed above. The Sea represented chaos and danger to the Israelites (they were not big beach-goers) and therefore was the antithesis of God’s orderly creation. And in the end times when all is perfect again, we are told there will be no more sea.

The last term we need to look at is tannin. The first thing we need to note is that Ham, and apparently the sources he quotes, speak of tannim, but the Hebrew word is with an -n, tannin. There are two very similar words actually. The noun tan means a jackal. Its plural would be tannim (-im being the masculine plural ending). This looks very like the word tannin which is our subject here. The plural of tannin is similarly tanninim. Ham and his sources seem confused by the similarities between these two nouns. Morris, as quoted by Ham in his endnotes, reads tannin in Malachi 1:3, taking  the verse to say that the mountains of Edom “have been laid ‘waste for the dragons of the wilderness'” (p. 140). This is a misreading of this verse. The Hebrew speaks of the tannot of the wilderness. This -ot is again the feminine plural ending; there is no reason not to think it is a plural form of the word jackal. Further supporting this reading, this is not the only place in which the jackals of the wilderness are used in such a context. An example would be Jeremiah 9:11 in which God says,

“‘I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a lair of jackals and I will make the cities of Judah a desolationwithout inhabitant.” (ESV)

My point here is that not all the supposed references to dragons even reflect the word in question, tannin. First we must eliminate those which are really forms of tan, jackal.

Having done so, we are left with 14 uses of the word tannin. These remaining references may be divided into three groups: those which seem to refer to large water animals collectively, those which seem to refer to snake-like creatures, and those which seem, like Behemoth and Leviathan, to refer to an extraordinary creature or creatures.

Let us begin at the beginning, with Genesis 1. Genesis 1:21 says that “God created the great  tanninim and every swarming living being with which the waters abound according to their kind and  all the winged birds according to their kind, and God saw that it was good” (my translation). We learn from this verse that the tanninim are large and that they live in the water. They are distinguished from the swarming creatures which also live in the water; these appear to be quite small things. The word for “swarming things” is also used to refer to insects those these are water-swarmers. Psalm 148 also treats the tanninim as a group of animals:

“Praise the Lord from the earth, tanninim and all deeps.” (my translation)

The association with the deeps seems to indicate that these are again water animals. Later in the psalm the beasts, birds and swarmers (same word as in Genesis 1:21 by the way) are also told to praise the Lord. What I take away from these two passages is that the tanninim are large, aquatic and not necessarily unusual; that is, they are listed along with other ordinary groups of animals (eg. birds).

There are other passages in which tannin seems to refer to a snake or snake-like creature. Most notable among these is Exodus 7:9 in which Moses’ staff becomes a tannin (see also verses 10 and 12). Of course, tradition says that the staff became a serpent and I see no reason to doubt that this is so. It is certainly a logical thing for a long wooden rod to become if it is going to become any animal at all. The connection with snakes is made clear in Deuteronomy 32:33 which the ESV translates as: “their wine is the poison of serpents (tannin) and the cruel venom of asps.” Similarly, Psalm 91:13 also uses tannin in parallel with adder.

Finally, we are left with those verses in which tannin might refer to an extraordinary creature. In Ezekiel 32:2 God says to Pharaoh, “‘You consider yourself a lion of the nations, but you are like a tannin in the seas; you burst forth in your rivers,
trouble the waters with your feet, and foul their rivers'” (ESV). There is no inherent reason to suppose an unusual creature is here meant, however elsewhere in Ezekiel, Pharaoh is told:

“‘Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt,the great tannin that lies in the midst of his streams, that says, ‘My Nile is my own; I made it for myself.’I will put hooks in your jaws, and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales; and I will draw you up out of the midst of your streams, with all the fish of your streams that stick to your scales.'” (Ezek. 29:3-4; ESV)

This is again, then, like Behemoth and Leviathan, a water creature and one that may be scaly. Also like those two, there are a few references to tannin which make it sound like a prehistoric creature God defeated. Indeed, there are two passages in which Leviathan and tannin are used side by sidse. Psalm 74:13, in the verse before it mentions Leviathan, says:

“You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the tanninim (note the plural) on the waters.” (ESV)

And Isaiah 27 reads:

“On that day the LORD will visit His hard, great and strong sword upon Leviathan, the fleeing serpent, and upon Leviathan, the twisting serpent, and He will kill the tannin which is in the sea.” (my translation)

The reference to prehistoric times we find in Isaiah 51:9 which reads:

“Arise, arise, put on strength, O arm of the LORD,

Arise as in the days of old, the ancient generations,

Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces, who pierced tannin?” (my translation)

These are all the significant uses of the word tannin. The other ones I have found are brief and do not add much to our understanding of the word; they include Jeremiah 51:34, Job 7:12, and Nehemiah 2:13.

What then, can we say about tannin in the Old Testament? In some passages it seems to be a snake-like creature. In others, it seems to refer to a class of large water animals. And like Leviathan and Behemoth, it seems to be either a singular animal God once defeated or perhaps (noting the plural in Psalm 74) a group of animals.

So does the Bible mention dinosaurs? You can draw your own conclusions. Personally, Leviathan sounds a lot like a dragon to me, but not like a dinosaur which does not breathe fire. All three of the extraordinary creatures mentioned, Leviathan, Behemoth and Tannin, live at least partially in the water. I see not indication that Bible people were aware of large land animals like the larger dinosaurs nor of there being many of these creatures, whatever they were, in existence. Finally, God’s defeat of these creatures seems to have happened in the distant past and is tied to creation. If anything, I would think we could say from this that there were extraordinary and large creatures who existed early on in creation (implying a long process of creation) but that God has since killed them off.

What do you thin? Have I convinced you?

Nebby

God’s Laws for Creation and for People

Dear Reader,

[This is part of my continuing series in the book of Jeremiah. You can find all the posts from it here.]

Though I said last time I would cover three chapters of Jeremiah all in one post, the truth is I have a bit more to say on Jeremiah 5-8.

In my most recent post, I hope that you picked up that Jeremiah 6, 7 and 8 hang together pretty well. Chapters 6 and 8 both contain verses in which the leaders are reprimanded for saying “peace, peace, peace” when there is no peace for Judah (Jer. 6:14 and 8:11). Chapter 7 also has a threefold repetition in “the temple, the temple, the temple” (Jer. 7:4). Both of these phrases give the people false assurance of their safety because of their supposed special status before God.

But there is another idea that I see beginning even a bit earlier in chapter 5 and being picked up again here in chapters 7 and 8. The people’s obedience to the law (or lack thereof) is contrasted with creation. This may seem like a funny thing to us. We joke about disobeying the law of gravity but really we do not see such things as being the same as moral laws, whether they come from our nation or our God. Even when we are just looking at the Old Testament, we like to distinguish between moral, ceremonial and civil laws. These are not distinctions which the Bible itself makes. The prophet Jeremiah here goes beyond just putting all laws for humans on one plane, he actually equates what we would call natural laws with God’s moral law.

In chapter 7, the people are once again chastised for their many sins. When we read them catalogued, it is hard not to think of the Ten Commandments:

“Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations?” (Jer. 7:8-10; ESV)

It almost sounds like they have gone through the commandments trying to break each one.

As I trued to show in my post on Jeremiah 5, God contrasts the obedience of the sea which, though it always crashes against the bounds He has set, never breaks them with the disobedience of His people. We find this idea again in Jeremiah 8 when the prophet says:

“‘Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding?
They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return.
I have paid attention and listened, but they have not spoken rightly;
no man relents of his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’
Everyone turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle.
Even the stork in the heavens knows her times,
and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming,
but my people know not the rules of the Lord.” (Jer. 8:5-7; ESV)

The comparison here is between the people who are like a horse given its head, plunging forward according to its will and the birds who know their place and obey the rules their Creator has set for them.

What is the significance of all this for us? God tells us in Romans that we can know His character through His creation:

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Rom. 1:20)

In this section of Jeremiah, we get a taste of what that means, at least in part. The laws of nature, things like gravity and th seasons changing in their time, show us that our God is one of laws and regularity and they even give us an example of how to obey Him. So too the birds mentioned in Jeremiah 8 are examples to us, perhaps in their regular migratory patterns, of what it means to adhere to the law. In our very modern mindset we like to separate things out; we don’t like to mix religion with science or politics or much else. But God’s creation is a unity and He made it so that it not only functions as it should but also so that it teaches us if we would only perceive it rightly.

Nebby

Creation and Evolution (Part 4): Is God Deceptive?

Dear Reader,

This will, I think, be my fourth and final post on E.O. Wilson’s book The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth. You can read the previous ones here, here, and here.

Throughout the book, though his goal is to convince Christians to work with him in preserving the environment, Wilson comes off as quite dismissive of Christian beliefs and even a bit obnoxious and offensive when he discusses things like the end times (why this even comes up in such a book, I am not sure). Towards the end of the book, he very briefly mentions and dismisses the theory of creation known as Intelligent Design. This is again one of those passages that had a very mocking tone and I don’t know how he thinks he will convince anyone with the tack he takes. Nevertheless, in the course of it all, he asks a very good question of the young earth creationists (YECs). He says:

“Life was self-assembled by random mutation and natural selection of the codifying molecules. As radical as such an explanation may seem, it is supported by an overwhelming body of interlocking evidence. It might yet prove wrong, but year by year that seems less probable. And it raises this theological question: Would God have been so deceptive as to salt the earth with so much misleading evidence?” (p. 166)

Now I suspect that YECs would reply that Wilson and his fellow evolutionists are misinterpreting the evidence and that it does not say what they think it says. But the fact is that there are an awful lot of people who would see things the way Wilson does, that the fossil record and the layers of the earth and all that show an old earth with a long history of life. So I think Wilson’s question is a valid one: Are the YECs really the only ones interpreting this evidence rightly? If they are correct and everyone else is misreading the evidence, why? Why would God allow so many people to be led astray on this issue? Is He deceiving them on purpose?

Now obviously there are quite a lot of humans, both now and in the past, who have not been Christians. I would say that these people are deceived about a lot of things. Depending on the person, these might include whether there is a God, what He is like, what their stance before Him is, and how they can be saved. The Bible tells us that when it comes to salvation issues that the Holy Spirit reveals the truth to some people and not others. What YECs seem to be implying is that God also reveals the truth about other issues, those not so directly related to salvation like how creation happened and the age of the earth, to His people as well and withholds it from most other people. This is not an argument I can accept. I think God’s truth on matters of science and the like has come through many quite ungodly people. Such truths are not the province of Christians alone. Look, for instance, at how Islam preserved learning through the Dark Ages in Europe or at the wisdom on the ancient Greeks.

So if God’s truths on matters not directly related to salvation are not available exclusively to His people, why are so many people(in the YEC view) wrong about the age of the earth? It sure makes it sound like God is deceiving them on purpose. And if so, we must with Wilson ask why. This does not sound like the God I know. He is not the sort of God who would plant bones or strata or rocks in the earth that look old just to fool those silly scientists. He is a God whose creation makes sense and He does allow humans to find out about Him and His creation by studying what He has made.

So whatever the faults of Wilson’s book, I think we need to take this question seriously. How about it, YECs? How do you respond to this question?

Nebby

Low-Carb and Gluten-Free Snickerdoodles

Dear Reader,

While on vacation this summer, my older daughter got a real bakery snickerdoodle, as big and sugary as can be (bought by her aunt). My younger daughter, who is off gluten, soy and most dairy, got a leftover brownie. Now the brownies were good, but she still had to watch that snickerdoodle being eaten. So I promised her I would figure out how to make gluten-free snickerdoodles when we got hoe. Here they are. These ones can also be made dairy-free and they are low carb.THMers, these are an S. I am indebted for this recipe to both Betty Crocker, whose recipe they are based off of, and Maria Mind Body Health, whose biscuit recipe I used as the base.

Low-Carb and Gluten-Free Snickerdoodles

Ingredients:

1/2 protein powder (use egg white if dairy-free)

3 1/2 c blanched almond meal (must be blanched; it has a different consistency)

1 tbsp xantham gum

3 tbsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs

1/2 c butter (if dairy-free, omit and increase coconut oil to 1 cup)

1/2 c coconut oil

2 c xylitol

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 c xylitol

1/3 c cinnamon

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon liners.

2. In a medium bowl, combine protein powder, almond meal, xantham, powder, and salt. Stir until uniform.

3. In a large bowl, combine eggs, butter, oil, 2 c xylitol, and vinegar. Stir.

4. Add dry ingredients to wet. Mix well.

5. In a small bowl, mix 1/2 c xylitol and cinnamon.

6. Roll dough into 1″ balls and then roll each in cinnamon sugar. Place on cookie sheets.

7. Bake in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes. The cookies may just begin to get brown and should crack at the tops. These cookies spread out a little when baked but still remain a fairly thick cookie.

Makes 30 good-sized cookies.

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

Fresh out of the oven. They have spread just a little and have a few cracks across their tops.

Fresh out of the oven. They have spread just a little and have a few cracks across their tops.

The finished product

The finished product

My 9yo can't wait to start eating.

My 9yo can’t wait to start eating.

Enjoy!

Nebby

Christians and the Environment, Part 3: Wilderness?

Dear Reader,

This is the third post I am writing in response to E.O. Wilson’s book The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth. In the first one, I discussed the problems I had with the book. In the second, I looked at what Wilson has to say to Christians. Now I would like to look more closely at one statement Wilson makes.

In the third chapter, Wilson asks “what is nature?” In the course of answering this question he does a good job of describing just how vast and invasive the effect of humanity of the earth has been. The gist of the chapter if that, for Wilson, nature is at its best when it is wilderness, that is, when it is as unaffected as possible by human beings. His call to preserve the earth seems largely to be a call to keep as much of it a wilderness as possible, or even to return it to that state if we are able.

While I do think Christians should be concerned about the state of the environment, I am not sure that I agree with Wilson’s goal. In Genesis we were told to “fill the earth and subdue it” and to “have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28; ESV). There is no denying that a lot of what humanity has done has had a negative affect on the earth, but the fact is that we are commanded to affect it. Wilderness is not the biblical ideal.  

I think we Christians could use a lot more discussion on what our impact on the earth should be. Should we be making everything farm land? That doesn’t seem right, but where are the lines? How do we cultivate without inadvertently destroying as we have so often? I know Wilson would like to see Christians and non-Christians on the same page at least in terms of preserving our environment but I am skeptical of how possible that will be when we come from such different philosophical foundations. Can we even agree on what it means to preserve and how much influence it is okay to have on the earth?

Nebby

Christians and the Environment (Part 2)

Dear Reader,

In my previous post, I had a fair number of negative things to say about the book The Creation: An Appeal to Save LIfe on Earth by E.O. Wilson. The short version of that post is that I find Wilson’s own position so contradictory and illogical that his book was very aggravating for me to read. Nonetheless, in the midst of all that, Wilson does have some very useful things to say to Christians.

The object of Wilson’s book is to convince Christians, particularly  literal 7-day creationist ones, to join him in the fight to save our environment as we know it. Wilson himself is a professor of biology at Harvard University and a secular humanist. While I can’t see his book being very convincing to his target audience, Wilson does have some good points that I would now like to pull out.

Wilson speaks of stewardship which was actually a word that I had not heard outside of Christian circles very much. But this is exactly how we Christians should be thinking of our relationship to the environment. Genesis 1 and 2 give a picture of man (and woman) as the caretaker of the earth. It is our job to tend it and to cultivate it and I think Wilson is right that we need to be careful to not in the process abuse it or waste its resources.

Why this is not already a big deal in Christian circles in somewhat of a mystery to Wilson. Early on in the book, he says:

“I am puzzled that so many religious leaders . . . have hesitated to make protection of the Creation an important part of their magisterium.” (p. 5)

Wilson does not say it so straightforwardly, but I think we Christians do deserve to be asked: If you believe God created all this and you want to please Him, why do you not care more about preserving it? It is a fair criticism of us I think. While preserving the environment is not by any means the heart of the Christian message, it is part of God’s command to us to care for His world.

One point I think Wilson fails to get is that while we may mourn the destruction of so much of our environment and may seek to work to preserve what there is, for Christians there is never a loss of hope nor need there be a sense of panic about the state of the world. We are called to tend the earth but we do not do so alone. As in all things, God is ultimately in charge and the world will not go down the tubes unless He wills it. I realize this argument can be used to trash our terrestrial home; if God is ultimately taking care of it all, why should we bother? No doubt there are some Christians who think this way but I would venture to say that most are not so irresponsible. While I believe in a sovereign God, He can and does choose to work through us and He has commanded us to care for creation so we must do so, but at the same time we need not fear about its future in the way that Wilson seems to.

Wilson is at his best when his love for nature shines through as it does a number of times in this book. He does a wonderful job of showing how our environment serves us and even how obscure fungi benefit us. In fact, as I read through such passages, I was inspired to greater awe at how God has interwoven the parts of creation so that they work together and also work for the good of His people. How Wilson can see and describe such things without then seeing the Creator who made it all, I cannot understand, but I suppose that is where the work of the Holy Spirit comes in.

Christianity should have a lot to say about the environment. One of the issues that I struggled with in Wilson’s own outlook was how we humans can be a part of the ongoing process of evolution and yet rise above it and have such an impact on the environment. As I mentioned in that earlier post, I find Wilson’s arguments on such issues confusing (whether he himself is confused I have no idea; but I find the way he talks about such things contradictory). He says we are but a part of a purely naturalistic process and yet at the same time speaks of our ability to and responsibility to affect what is happening. Christianity has the power to reconcile these contradictory strands. It says that while we are created, we are also imbued with unique qualities which Scripture calls “the image of God.” It also calls us to affect but also to care for the Creation. We are a part of it and yet above it. This, I think, is not so far from what Wilson believes, but he is unable to account for the above-ness of humanity, or for the spiritual element he alludes to so frequently, in his purely naturalistic philosophy.

There are two more issues arising from this book that I woudl like to address but I think I will save them for future posts.

Nebby

 

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