Do Animals Sin? A Bible Study

by Dr. Michael L. Williams · Print Print · Email Email

Many people consider their animals to be like their children. It is not uncommon then to see some of these same people treat their animals better than they treat other humans. Likewise, they develop strong bonds with these animals, which tends to make these people attribute human traits and qualities to them. This results in many to adopt the belief that when it comes to matters of eternity, their animals will be treated like humans.

What position do animals hold in comparison with humans?

A popular movie in 1989 and the early 1990s was the movie, “All dogs go to Heaven.” The story line is of a dog named Charlie that was murdered while he is intoxicated at a Mardi Gras party (1)(2). After his murder, he found himself in heaven based on the policy that all dogs go to heaven. Charlie arranges by deception to return back to the living. When discovered, he receives a warning that because of his deception he will go to hell because of his actions after he dies again. When he returns back to life, through a series of misadventures, he gets revenge on his murderer, but dies in the process of saving a human girl. Because he gave his life for the girl, he is rewarded with being spared from hell and is allowed back into heaven.

Do Animals sin

Without getting into all the theological considerations that this movie teaches children about heaven and hell, in order for this story line to work you must attribute human features and qualities to the dogs. While some may consider this to be a cute movie, it denies the reality of the position that animals hold as it compares with humans. In Genesis 1:24-25, the Bible tells us that on day six of creation God commanded the earth to bring forth living creatures on the land after “his kind.” If you contrast this with Genesis 1:26-27, you find that God commanded that man be made “in our image,” referring to the creation of man in the image of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of God. Furthermore, God created man in His own image as male and female. These two passages teach us that animals were not created in the image of God and that humans were not created in the image of animals.

It is this truth that also gives us the answer to the position that animals hold as it compares with humans. Genesis 1:26-28 also teaches that God ordained man to have dominion over every living thing on the earth. Therefore, it is clear that animals hold a position below humans and are under human dominion. This directly contradicts the teaching of many that humans are nothing more than highly evolved animals. Likewise, teaching the same that humans are nothing more than animals denies the authority and dominion of God.

How does the position of humans and animals affect their ability to sin?

To answer this question, you must first ask what is sin? 1 John 3:4 tells us, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” Likewise, Romans 4:15 tells us, “Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.” If sin is the transgression of the law, then what was the purpose of the law? The answer is in Romans 3:19-20 as follows:

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

It is easy to get sentimental and humanistic in consideration of an animal’s ability to sin. However, if sin is the transgression of the law and the law is our schoolmaster (Galatians 3:23-26) that teaches us what is sin, how can we honestly expect that animal would have the intelligence and ability to understand the law that teaches about sin? And, if an animal does not have the ability to understand the law, how can it be held accountable for sin? And after all, if human babies are not accountable for sin because of their inability to conceive the idea, certainly animals cannot be held accountable either.

What guides an animal’s behavior?

Psalms 32:9 confirms an animal’s lack of understanding and how humans control their behavior: “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” Likewise, humans that reject God are compared to beasts that behave out of ignorance and instinct (Jude 1:10). Furthermore, these humans are also compared to animals in that they are made to be taken and destroyed (2 Peter 2:12). Therefore, an animal’s behavior is guided by instinct unless controlled by humans.

How do the animals and humans differ spiritually?

This is answered in Ecclesiastes 3:19-22, which teaches that humans and animals are the same when it comes to physically dying. This passage also teaches that spiritually unsaved humans are no different than animals. However, humans who are saved, recognize and embrace righteousness as defined by God are spiritually in a different position. At the moment of their death, the spirit of the saved human goes upward to God while the spirit of the beast goes downward to the earth.

Conclusion

Animals were created by God to be different than humans in both the image of their creation and their position with one another. Animals do not have the ability to sin as defined by the Bible, because they do not have the ability or intellect to understand the law and a consequence of breaking the law. An animal’s behavior is guided by instinct unless controlled by humans. Animals and unsaved humans are no different in that their spirits go down to the ground at the moment of death, but saved humans differ in that their spirit goes upward to God at the moment of their death.

Read more about Heaven here: 10 Bible Facts About Heaven

Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version.  (1) “All Dogs Go to Heaven” IMDb, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096787/, (2015). (2) “All Dogs Go to Heaven” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Dogs_Go_to_Heaven, (2015).





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