Charles Templeton raised the issue of suffering in the animal kingdom when he wrote in his book Farewell to God:
The grim and inescapable reality is that all life is predicated on death. Every carnivorous creature must kill and devour other creatures How could a loving and omnipotent God create such horrors? ... Surely it would not be beyond the competence of an omniscient deity to create an animal world that could be sustained and perpetuated without suffering and death. 15
"What about that?" I asked Geisler after reading Templeton's quote to him.
"He's got a lot of truth in there," Geisler replied. That wasn't the response I was expecting. "You think so?" I asked.
"Yes," he said. "But, unfortunately, it's like a glass of good water with a drop of arsenic in it. There's good water there, but it's poisoned."
"The good water is, yes, God can create those kind of animals. And the fact is, he did. The original paradise had those kind of animals and the paradise to come-the paradise restored-is going to have those kind of animals. In fact, we're told that God originally created animals and human beings to be herbivorous."
With that, Geisler reached under his chair and removed a Bible. He opened it toward its beginning; his eyes scanned the page until he stopped near the end of the first chapter, reading:
Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground-everything that has the breath of life in it-I give every green plant for food." And it was so.16
Shutting the book, Geisler continued. "God did not appoint animals to be eaten in paradise, and animals weren't eating each other. The prophet Isaiah said someday God will 'create new heavens and a new earth' where 'the wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.17 In other words, there's not going to be the kind of killing that goes on now.
"In sum, everything that God created was good. What changed things was the Fall. When God was told, in effect, to shove off, he partially did. Romans 8 says all creation was affected-that includes plant life, human beings, animals, everything. There were fundamental genetic changes; we see, for instance, how life spans rapidly decreased after the Fall. God's plan was not designed to be this way; it's only this way because of sin. Ultimately, it will be remedied." "But in instituting the animal sacrifice system in the Old Testament, wasn't God being cruel to animals?" I asked.
"The manner in which these animals were killed was quite humane. It was the most painless way to die. And there was no waste. They ate the meat, they used the skin for clothing, so essentially they were growing and harvesting animals. This was not an attempt to eliminate a species. And of course, there was an important reason for the animal sacrifices-they pointed ahead toward the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the lamb of God, on the cross as payment for our sin."
"What about all the pain in the world as a result of animals hunting and killing other animals?" I asked. "The sum total of suffering that God allows in the world is absolutely enormous."
"I think that entire presupposition is wrong," he replied. "As C. S. Lewis said, there is no sum total of pain. It's a misnomer. No one person or animal experiences the sum total of pain. In fact, no one person experiences at one time the sum total of pain of their lifetime. If you had thirty ounces of pain spread over thirty years, you only get an ounce a year and therefore only a fraction of an ounce a day.
"As far as animals are concerned, we have to remember that the Bible clearly forbids their abuse. Christians should oppose any mistreatment of animals. However, I would challenge the premise of the animal-rights movement that animals have moral rights. They are not moral creatures. Now, moral people can do immoral things to animals, but the Bible says, 'A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal."" They are to serve us and help us, and it's morally wrong to be cruel to them."
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