by Henry Morris III, D.Min.
“Look! It’s moving. It’s alive…it’s alive, it’s alive, IT’S ALIVE!”
— Dr. Henry Frankenstein1
Those highly charged words from the classic 1931 horror film Frankenstein reflect a basic awareness about living things—they move! Obviously, that single quality is not sufficient to define life, but it does identify a major component and, at the same time, exclude many other “things” in our universe from the category of living creatures.
Just what does the Bible have to say about life? Or, perhaps more to the point, what makes something “alive”? The more we dig into the mechanics of molecular biology, the more our awe increases at the amazingly complex processes on which life is based.
Poor old Dr. Frankenstein stitched together bits and pieces of various “fresh” human parts in hope that he could energize them with the terrible force bound up in lightning flashes during a thunderstorm. We know now that such an effort is silly, but less than a hundred years ago those concepts were the staple of theories that attempted to find a natural explanation for how life got started.
The Bible simply states that the One who is Life created life.
But how can we recognize life? What is the difference between botany and zoology? What makes the cell in a petunia different from the cell in a platypus?
Life is unique.
“And God created…every living creature that moveth” (Genesis 1:21).
Obviously, animal and human life are different from plant life. In fact, the Bible uses the Hebrew word chay (life) and its derivatives 763 times in the Old Testament, never applying that term to plants or vegetation. No place in Scripture attributes chay to plants; only living creatures possess life.
Plants are indeed marvelous, beautiful, complex, and able to reproduce “after their kind,” but they are designed by the Creator to be a source of energy to maintain life. Plants are food—they are not alive.
Life has independent movement.
This may seem like either an obvious point or an irrelevant one. However, one of the descriptive terms that the Creator applied to living creatures was “movement.” The Hebrew word is ramas, used 17 times in the Old Testament—never about plants or vegetation of any kind. Living things move.
And living things eat plants! Plants do not travel from one location to another, except on the backs of animals, blown on the wind, or transported by men. They are “rooted.” They do not have the power of ramas. Living things have the ability to move independently, but plants do not….
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