Are Animals Physical Matter and Nothing More?

Share this with your friends:FacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

Are Animals Physical Matter and Nothing More?

My daughter started college this year and today she is coming home for the first time since she left. I’m excited to see her, and while she’s excited to see us, she’s probably more excited to see our dog. I don’t take this personally, he’s a very sweet dog and, while we have visited her several times, she has only seen the dog once since she left. In my last post I talked about whether you and I, human beings, are simply physical matter, a complicated combination of chemicals, or whether we are something more. As we continue to consider that, let’s consider the animals in our lives.

Do All Dogs Go to Heaven?

I think that as a child I thought that animals were more than just physical beings. I certainly had a special relationship with our family dogs. But then when I became a Christian at the age of 16, I started learning about the Creation / Evolution debate and I think that what happened was that, in reaction to the idea that humans were just slightly more evolved animals, I came to see and defend a very clear distinction between humans and animals. Believing that only humans are created in the image of God, I began to think of only humans as being more than physical. Around the same time the movie All Dogs Go to Heaven came out and I thought, “That’s not right because dogs/animals don’t have a soul.” Out of a reaction against the evolutionary idea that we are just animals, I think I went too far in thinking of all animals as purely physical, denying the more than physical aspects I had always seen in some animals, like our dogs.

Scientists have discovered that not all animals can be treated as purely physical entities. There seems to be more to the way certain bird and mammal species interact with humans than mere physical attributes. I was seeing life on just two levels, purely physical and physical plus spiritual, but as Dr. Hugh Ross sees it, God created three distinct forms of life, not just two.

Three Distinct Forms of Life

  1. Purely physical life (reptiles, fish, insects)
  2. Life both physical and soulish (animals manifesting mind, will and emotions)
  3. One species with body, soul and spirit (human beings)

Hugh watched his young son test the idea that any animal could be turned into a pet. Their home became a zoo. Amphibians, reptiles, fish and insects were everywhere. But his son soon discovered that these creatures treated him no differently than any other animal they randomly encountered. On the other hand his son learned that he could experience an emotionally fulfilling relationship with any bird or mammal species. These are the soulish animals.

Hugh believes that the soulish animals exhibit a freedom to choose apart from instinct.They posses a mind capable of exploring new experiences and solving problems.Such creatures bond with members of their own species and can form relationships with members of other bird and mammal species, and soulish animals can form emotional attachments with humans. Yet there’s still a clear distinction between what he calls soulish life and humanity, which has body, soul and spirit.

He says that the Hebrew word nepesh in Genesis 1 and Job 39 refers to the unique soulish attributes of birds and mammals and he believes God created each soulish species with specific capacities to serve or please humans, and these capacities are diverse.

Diversity of Soulish Animals

Carnivores, though difficult to tame, can make excellent household pets. Unlike herbivores, they don’t have to spend much of their time eating and digesting so they can focus more intently and for longer periods of time on serving and pleasing their human owners.
Dogs often form such strong emotional bonds with their owners that they will sacrifice their health and even their lives to serve them.

Herbivores are mammals that sustain humanity’s agricultural work. The first such animals to be domesticated in large numbers were goats.
And it’s easy to see why. Even a goat that has never seen a human will readily approach and follow one. They can eat almost anything and thrive in virtually all climate conditions. These mammals provide their owners with a wide range of agricultural products for very little cost.

Can Mere Physical Matter Explain the Diversity?

Naturalistic evolutionary theory says that we are all just physical, nothing more. But if we are all just physical, then bird and mammal species that are physically similar to one another should also be soulishly similar, they should have the same soulish attributes – the same interactions with humanity, for example.

Donkeys, horses and zebras are physically so similar that humans have easily crossbred them to make mules, zorses, and zebrasses. However, their soulish characteristics are very different.

Horses can form strong emotional bonds with their human owners. They will forgive cruelty. If treated well, they’ll sacrifice their own needs and even their lives to protect their owners. Loyalty to their human owners can be so strong that they will charge into battle with them.

Donkeys are extremely adaptable. Like horses, they can form a lifelong emotional bond with a human. However, if a human loses his donkey, the donkey can take care of itself under almost any circumstances.It easily transitions from domestication to living in the wild and from living in the wild to going back into domestication. Unlike the horse, the donkey hates danger and provides useful service in warning it’s human owner of impending risk.

Zebras are much more difficult to domesticate, harness and ride, than either horses or donkeys. However, they are more alert to imminent danger than horses or donkeys. In the wild, zebras form dense herds providing human hunters an easy source of food and leather.

If they are just physical beings, naturalistic evolutionary theory has no explanation for the different soulish characteristics of animals which are so physically similar. However a creator who had different purposes in mind for all the marvelous creatures he made, could make them, both physically, and soulishly, like he wanted them to be.

More Than Matter

I don’t know about you, but I just called our dog over by me and I believe that there’s something more there than just the physical. I”m even more sure that’s there more than just physical matter to you, as you read this and consider whether you’re just physical matter or something more. I don’t think chemicals wonder if they’re just chemicals. I don’t even think my dog wonders if he’s just chemicals or something more. But I wonder that and you wonder that, and there’s no natural explanation for that. I hope that you realize that you’re much more. I believe that you were created for a purpose, first and foremost to come to know the God who made you and who sent Jesus Christ to be your savior. On this day before Thanksgiving I want to express my thanks to Him for making me and for making all the life I see and enjoy.

Share this with your friends:FacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail
Posted on by Reasons for Hope 315 in More Than Matter

Comments are closed.