WHAT HUMANS DO
BUT animals don’t
■ David Christie and Russell Grigg
IF WE humans are not evolved animals, then we should possess abilities and features that animals lack. We will here consider six of these, which are also features of God. They are language, literacy, music, mathematics, creativity, and ominion. These features not only make us special, they also make us accountable. We can use these features to glorify God or to
rebel against His will—even to practise “the works of the devil” (1 John 3: 8).
Humans are the only species with a spoken language,1 and “there is no society known
which lacks speech.” 2, 3 Not only does language enable us to communicate with
each other, and with God in prayer, God used it to communicate with us. The Bible
has many references to God speaking; e.g. to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3: 9–19),
Noah (Genesis 6:13–7: 4), Abraham (Genesis 18: 22–33), Moses (Exodus 3: 4–
4: 17), Saul (Acts 9: 4–6), and the Apostle John (Revelation 1, 2 and 3), to name
just a few.
Animals communicate in several ways, including by the sounds they make,
facial expression, posture display, body movement, physical contact, and
odours, but no animal is capable of speaking grammatical phrases or sentences.1
Nevertheless, in the Bible there are two occasions when animals spoke. In
Genesis 3, the serpent spoke to Eve. In Numbers 22: 28–30, God used Balaam’s
donkey to speak to Balaam; this was a one-off divine miracle for a specific purpose
and not the donkey’s normal habit.
This is a subset of language, and while not all humans are literate, all have the
capacity to become so. 4 The sophisticated cultures that sprang up in Mesopotamia
just after the Flood were literate. Of course, hallmarks of civilization like writing
and technology can become lost, especially in rapid dispersion migrations such
as would have occurred following the language confusion at Babel.
We know that God writes because He gave Moses the Ten Commandments on
two tablets of stone “written with the finger of God” (Exodus 31: 18). And God has
written the names of all born-again Christians in His ‘book of life’ (Philippians 4: 3;
Revelation 17: 8; 20: 12; 21: 27). We also know that “All Scripture is God-breathed
…” ( 2 Timothy 3: 16). God chose to communicate with us by means of His written
Word, which also enshrines the Gospel in the text of Scripture. 5
No animal can read or write, so none uses the written word to communicate.
Literacy is thus a gift commensurate with our having been made in the image
Music is a truly wonderful feature, both in our creation of it and our appreciation
of it. It can express and even stir up emotions like suspense, happiness,
sadness, humour, love, etc., including in situations where words would be
inadequate. We can listen to The Creation by Haydn and be awestruck by the
images of the magnificence of creation that the music engenders in our mind.