I recently asked a friend of mine to riddle me this: Why do we poop? This question gets filed under the category of, why didn’t I ask this twenty years ago. If your thoughts turned to biology, let me assure you, your answer may be technically correct, but misses the point. This is not about biology. It is about creation. Our bodily functions are easily explained in evolutionary terms. There is no making any sense of them in the light of biblical creation.
Let me also assure you that this post is not about the machinations of my rogue, excretory system, though it is indeed worthy of verse and song. No, this is about all of the systems, not just biological, but everything. Growing up, It was drilled into me how great god was as evidenced by his wondrous creation. It was even presented as evidence of his existence. “Behold, the work of his hands!” Surely, only a singular act of directed creation could explain the wonders of the universe, and how everything fits so perfectly together. So I beheld, and continue to behold, but with less and less wonder as the years go by.
Don’t get me wrong, I find the universe a constant source of wonder and fascination, just not an object of worship. In fact, I find the corner of it accessible to me to be rather haphazard and ill-suited to the life to which it plays host. I see nothing about it worthy of a deity’s resume. Take the ecosystem of this planet. It is the most efficient weapon of mass destruction ever conceived. It kills more life than it nurtures, and is utterly indifferent to the survival of any species, let alone, individuals within the species.
Homo sapiens enjoy a coveted spot in the taxonomy of this particular ecosystem. Unfortunately, our predecessors were not so lucky. Our kind was not miracled from the dust of the earth, but crawled out of evolution’s death-grip over the bones of countless, nameless species almost completely forgotten by history.
Even so, we barely survived, and may yet meet our doom in a few, short generations. Whether or not humans stand the test of time, countless, nameless species have not, and will not. Though some environmentalists like to paint the picture of a world in complete harmony with itself were it not for the destructive tendencies of humans, the fact is that species have been going extinct long before humans ever took the stage, and at a rate that humans, with all our technology, are incapable of matching. Without our help, the lion is perfectly capable of hunting the antelope into extinction, just as viruses and bacteria are capable of doing in all seven billion humans without ever being aware of our existence.
Does God Poop?
I said this post was not about bowel movements, and I assure you, it’s not. Obviously, the question is somewhat facetious, but only somewhat. According to the Genesis story, we were created in God’s image. As a child, I used all my powers of reason to discover in what sense we were created in the likeness of God. The answer continues to allude me. Since God is not reported to have a body, then he cannot be laden with bodily functions. Therefore, what possible motivation would he have to conceive of bodily functions.
We presume that an excretory system is a wonderful thing for creatures that have to eat and eject waste material. Blessed be the name of the Lord. However, we presume this without an iota of critical inquiry. According to the biblical account, we were not evolved by some, undirected process; we were created in a trice, fully formed as the crowning achievement of a master designer. We could have taken any form to fulfill any function. There were no predetermined rules of biology or ecology dictating our form and function. Supposedly, the universe was created to accommodate us, not us for the universe. Yet, here we are; creatures enslaved and limited by our environment.
The vast majority of the universe will be forever beyond our reach, and inhospitable to our type of life. Even the part of it we inhabit is largely inhospitable. There is not a single thing on this planet we can eat that is 100% nutritious, and leaves behind no waste for us to eject. Every bite of the healthiest food you can think of is, on some level, at war with our bodies. Everything we eat has a cost, both to ourselves, and the environment.
Too much of the land is not naturally irrigated. Too much of the soil is incapable of nurturing seed. Too much of the water in this world of water is undrinkable. If drank, produces agonizing sickness and death. Too many of the animals are too hard to catch, or are not fit for eating, or could easily be hunted into extinction. Once we find something to eat, we have to process the waste, then safely dispose of it. If we do not, the waste will sicken and kill us. Even the part of our food that stays with us is not all that good for us. Far too much of it gets stored as fat, and comes back to kill us in a number of grizzly ways. Everything about eating has a negative impact on the ecosystem.
Yet that is the way things were designed to function by one who does not eat. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
I say emphatically, there is no reason for us to have an excretory system! There is no reason for us to have to eat food that produces waste. Of course, it makes perfect sense if we are the result of an undirected, evolutionary process. But it makes no sense at all for us to be designed that way. Even as you read this, you may be thinking of a way to redeem the creation story. I will address two common objections to my thesis:
The conservative believer may counter with the argument that, before the fall, things were perfect. The environment was in complete balance. Death, decay, waste and excretion were not a part of the natural order. I can appreciate this position as it was once my own. Unfortunately, it fails both the test of logic and scripture.
The main problem wit the argument is that it tries to explain too much with Adam’s punishment. The Genesis story has God punishing Adam for eating the forbidden fruit. The punishment was that the land would be less productive, and that Adam would have to work in order to eat. There is nothing of this punishment that suggests that food would rot on the vine, or be poisonous to consume. There is no indication that water would become stagnant and foul. There is not a word about perfectly good food turning to waste in the system. The punishment given by God was freakishly harsh. The one we seem to envision is even more so.
Creation by Evolution
The second argument I will address is more popular among liberal believers who do not accept the creation story as literal, but who still seek to give god a role in our development. They say he created everything through the process of evolution. That argument is even easier to address than the first. Regardless of the means of creation, the outcome is still the same. It is better to presume that God brought us to this condition, instantly, than to believe he dragged us through a slow, tortuous process to get to this point.
To redeem this position, some will suggest that God simply started the process, and let it work itself out without further interference. This actually gets you in a worse position. Now you are stuck with a god who starts things without a plan, and is either indifferent or capricious with regards to its outcome. Creation by directed or undirected evolution still leaves us with a creator that is not very good at his job.
Conclusion: Without Form and Void
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Ge. 1:1-2
It was recently brought to my attention that creation went south long before the invention of poop. The first few words of the bible have God creating the earth and sky. The next few words have the earth as a dark, shapeless mass, covered with water, probably undrinkable. In other words, the first glimpse we get of God’s glorious creation is that it was a lamentable mess. It may also be worth noting that the Spirit of God was moving on the water as if he was a physical being that could interact with water. Maybe it wasn’t worth noting after all. 😉
It is abundantly clear that dark, lumpy, and drowning is a less than ideal state of a world intended to support life. Yet that is the condition we find the earth mere moments after the beginning. Why? Why make a bad planet, then fix it after the fact? Was it a mistake that needed correcting, or was God making himself a giant ERECTOR set? Did he find it diverting to create raw materials, them make something interesting out of that? Paul once described us as being nothing but jars of clay: Play-dough ™. Either way, God didn’t create the earth as we know it, but a petri dish, and from there, proceeded to tinker. …And the glorious creation that gives him the right to our undying worship and awe? Poop!
Blessed be the name of the Lord.