Friday, July 27, 2012

Soulish Qualities

The “soulishness” of many wild creatures we observe in our environment is a characteristic of great significance. The definition of this interesting term is worthy of repetition: Soulish life includes creatures described beginning with Genesis 1:21 in which God endowed mind, will, and emotions so they can form relationships with members of their own species as well as with human beings. Scholar Hugh Ross has written enlighteningly on this topic. We credit him with much useful thinking with respect to the Hebrew term bara, to identify the soulishness described in Genesis 1. There are other Hebrew terms of God’s creation activity such as asah used with respect to other divine acts of creation. Bara however, is usually reserved for creation events having a special character, usually creation ex nihilo, where nothing existed before. Soulishness encompasses a plethora of wonderfully intriguing qualities. The ultimate in soulish beings are humans, who also possess spirit and were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26).

Before elaborating on the wonderful qualities of soulishness possessed by the creatures produced on day five and six of the creation account, we outline the three specific uses of Hebrew bara within the first chapter of Genesis. These are the creation of (1) the entire universe in verse 1, (2) soulish animals in verse 21, and (3) human beings in verse 27. God’s acts of creation provided for the miraculous sudden onset of life billions of years after the creation of matter, energy, time, and space. The life present on earth before about 150 million years ago was not soulish as we define it. The birds and livestock described as created during days five and six were soulish, as were Adam and Eve who also possessed spirit and were created recently in the image of God.

One reason many secular scientists do not note soulishness as a characteristic of life is because evolutionary theorists prefer to place life on an evolutionary continuum. They prefer to perceive the fundamental differences between non-soulish animals, soulish animals, and soulish animals having spiritual qualities such as human beings, as mere naturalistically produced differences in degree rather than fundamental differences in kind. Scholar Hugh Ross states, “God intervened from outside of nature to introduce something of great value…The Bible credits God’s creative involvement, not just natural processes, for the big changes scientists observe in the record of Earth’s life.” But Darwin’s philosophical descendants a century and a half later are “understandably reluctant to let go of their conclusions” because newer biological research strikes at the heart of their naturalistic paradigm. I invite readers to research persuasive scientific affirmation of differences in kind, fundamental differences between non-soulish, soulish, and soulish humans. The first book of the Bible outlines these differences as God created them.

In Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job (2011), Hugh Ross devotes an entire chapter to three major categories of soulish creatures from the Book of Job and outlines how each category benefits humanity. Such animals are also included under the broad Hebrew term nephesh. These animals are a diverse group including some wild and difficult to tame, some easily domesticated, some four-legged, some two legged, some birds, and some mammals. They are all catalogued in Job 38-39. Each reader could identify with the most well known soulish animals. Almost all have owned a dog or cat at some point but we may need to work harder to identify the soulish qualities in Ross’s “Top Ten Nephesh” ensemble: the lions, ravens, goats, deer, donkeys, wild oxen, ostriches, horses, hawks, and eagles. A study of the list from the author of the Book of Job together with Ross’s scholarly study may depict the characteristic of soulishness in a different light.

Soulish creatures bring much pleasure to humans as we observe them. Virtually everyone in our community shares their animal stories with obvious delight. Our own residential community has been dubbed “bird heaven” by committed bird lovers. Our personal ornamental water fountain has been visited in the last year by at least eighteen bird species drinking or bathing exuberantly just outside our office window. Who could deny their special soulish qualities as they interact with each other and with us? The drinkers and bathers are exuberant in their joy, not to mention the joy we humans experience while observing them. We watch them zestfully splashing and flying off to dry themselves while they tilt their bodies toward the sun. Some birds are cautious; some are bold; some take quick dips; some wish to stay for some time like teenagers unwilling to get out of the pool. Recently one robin partook of long draughts of water and serenaded the neighborhood between drinks for several minutes while perched at the edge of the fountain. We limit our discussion of soulishness to just one aspect of animal behavior of many we have observed.

We return to the sudden geological record of novel appearances of new life forms as evidenced by the geological record. Our God has created (1) morphologically simple, yet bio-chemically complex life forms beginning suddenly roughly 3.8 billion years ago, (2) life forms from the Cambrian Explosion where geologically sudden appearances of dozens of non-soulish phyla quickly appeared in the fossil record over a relatively brief period about 530 million years ago, and (3) birds and mammals about 150 million years ago marking the appearance of soulish creatures. Finally, and most significant, (4) we observe the recent appearance of modern man according to the record of Genesis -31. It is the fourth and final leg in the sequential progression of created life forms. The brief record of Genesis 1 contains an account of this creative activity: the creation of non-soulish animals, the creation of soulish animals and finally, the creation of soulish animals with spiritual qualities--man created in the Image of God.