Could Adam Really Name All Those Animals?
by William J. Spear, Jr.
The clear pearls of dew are released by the brush of Adam's leg against the dense green leaves. He hurries to an open area the size of a school playground, flanked by a river running with blue water that sparkles effervescently against the deep green of grass-tufted banks. It is here that Adam will apply names that reflect the Creator's careful design and purpose evidenced in each kind of beast. The sun shines, birds sing, and groups of strange animals peer at Adam as he moves wonderingly into the open area, occasionally blinking his wide eyes! What a task set before him!
What a task indeed! How could an hours-old human being walk and talk, let alone name thousands of creatures in the short time allotted by Scripture?
And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him (Genesis 2:19-21).
Did Adam yet "know" anything—how to form ideas, how to speak, how to walk? Was he immediately able to think complex thoughts, and if so, of what? Was his mind a blank tablet (tabula rasa) from which ideas, impressions, and creative thought would gradually emerge as his five senses carried detail of this new world to his newly created brain, or did he have information that was specially placed in him by God in such a manner that it would be available without lengthy learning processes?
Evolutionists teach that the mind itself has evolved over millions of years, gradually becoming more "awake," or aware of its surroundings. For the Christian, the mind is the person's "self" which has the ability to reason and think, feel and understand, and make decisions of the will. It is usually contrasted with material substance or matter. Christian theologians generally agree that the mind itself did not evolve. In this article we shall ponder several theories in an attempt to explain Adam's possession of abilities ascribed to him in God's Word. Often, the questions asked seem to convey skepticism concerning Adam's ability to accomplish this task (i.e., too many animals, too short a time, too little knowledge), all without having weeks or years to develop some kind of appropriate taxonomic list of the thousands of different kinds of animals present in the early world. Some have claimed these statements from Genesis chapters 1 and 2 are not literal in their chronology (all accomplished within six twenty-four-hour days), but figurative (suggesting extended geologic ages). Doesn't it seem odd that Christians believe in a personal God who created the universe, but have great trouble accepting God's more personal touch on the content of information within Adam's mind at creation?
Let us concentrate on the naming of the animal kinds within the twenty-four-hour period of the sixth day of creation. There is adequate defense made for these days being literal 24-hour days elsewhere. The primary thesis here is that Adam (perhaps Eve also) was not only fully capable of adult thought within a mature mind at creation, but also pre-informed or pre-programmed with knowledge essential not only to his own survival, but also to carrying out his Creator's multiple purposes. This information would include, among other things: (1) language—the ability to place into spoken words mind-integrated sense experiences, as well as rational thought about the world around him; (2) physical coordination and strength reflective of an adult age; and (3) awareness of other things that were not perceived and learned via the senses (such as an intuitive sense of an absolute power and absolute perfection within a personality beyond us—intuitive knowledge implanted within us by God!).
Many, perhaps most, theologians have taught God's immanence or presence with us. However, there are some that have thought of God as only a transcendent being that created and has since remained distant from any human contact (deism). However, even though God is transcendent in essence (i.e., a being that is above, beyond, and greater than the creation), He has also demonstrated His immanence by being both present and active personally, evidenced by being involved with us on earth in many ways. For instance, Scripture tells us that God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, has spoken through the prophets, performed miracles (such as the great Flood, the plagues in Egypt, and the parting of the Red Sea), and revealed Himself fully in the person of Jesus Christ.
Scripture clearly will have nothing to do with a God who is only transcendent, but does, in describing His presence with us, prescribe definite limits on His immanence. God is not so immanent as to be considered to be everything. That is, one can distinguish God and His activity from demonic beings and their activity. Also, one can distinguish between human political ideals/ethics and the direct presence of God. Pantheists, on the other hand, do not distinguish God's activity from His essence. But the Creator is very different from any created thing (Romans 1:21-25). Millard Erickson gives a lengthy affirmation of the Biblical doctrine of immanence and adds that God must also be beyond all of history and creation, or we would have no objective standard of right and wrong.
If God is totally immanent within the creation and history, there is no basis for making ethical evaluations. There is no outside objective standard by which to make such judgments. When we overemphasize immanence at the expense of transcendence, God becomes virtually a label for man's highest values, ideals, and aspirations. 
One must remember that with whatever content Adam thought, he was still responsible as a human being before an immanent/transcendent God to carry out God's purposes. Adam was not God. Neither was he a robot nor an automaton even though God gave him abilities and knowledge beyond that which we have now. Adam had the capacity to exercise his will. We are not saying that Adam's ability to name animals rapidly, and perhaps with pre-programmed names, means that all of Adam's thoughts came in this manner. The world was new and Adam was without sin. This undoubtedly made him more capable than we are. The human brain does have amazing capacity for thought and learning (even in humans affected by the fall), a capacity so great that its information content could fill millions of volumes of books! We have often heard that humans today utilize only 10-20% of our brain's capacity. Adam may have been able to utilize what he did know much more rapidly and with greater acuity than we can. It is reasonable to suspect that this is the case, but this alone may not fully account for his astounding ability to name all the animals and be anesthetized for Eve's creation all in a single day! The point, then, is that God may have interacted with Adam in such a manner that Adam could make value judgments and volitional decisions with the information that God had already supplied to him at his creation.
There are numerous examples in Scripture of God giving volumes of information to His prophets in relatively short periods of time. Consider just how much information Isaiah was given, for instance. The other prophets were commissioned in similar ways, always with instruction to speak for God with information from God. As a matter of fact, the doctrine of inspiration of Scripture emphasizes that all Scripture is God's Word. Admittedly, the way prophets were given the information (as adults, by the Lord speaking) was somewhat different from how Adam received it (at creation). If God communicated to prophets and other authors of Scripture in supernatural fashion to convey information to us today, why then should we question the possibility that Adam was given direction and information supernaturally at the time of creation? Is God not capable of this? This would have been done so that in the process of naming animals that God brought before him, he would be recalling mediate information that God had directly given him. Of course, it would have seemed to Adam that he had immediate possession of this knowledge because he did not have to learn it; he knew it! His memory would treat all this information as if it had always just been there.
Here is an illustration (gleaned from R. C. Sproul) that may be helpful. Modern technology has introduced to us a phenomenon called "Virtual Reality," VR for short. Computers make it possible to replicate three dimensional situations in such a way as to make them very real. Soon, it may be possible for us to "enter" into films via highly technical optical equipment. We will "be" involved in action and surroundings! It will be just like being there! After experiencing a VR portrayal of a scuba diving trip to Cozumel, one would think he had actually been there among the brightly colored coral, exotic fish and. . . sharks! When one actually makes the real trip, it will be like an occasion of deja vu. But, our memories would actually come from virtual reality, not true reality. They are not the same, but very similar. The difference is that the person experiencing VR senses at the time that the setting is immediate because it is so real, but it is only an experience mediated by the technical equipment. As we later go on our real trip, memory tells us we have already been to Cozumel. Especially as we see the surroundings and dive in the clear, blue water. We have not! We have only experienced the amazing sensory stimulation of VR. So, the experiences may be the same, but the sources are very different.
Experiences, though, may now be described or associated with words. Each time we apply words to our experience it heightens a human's ability to remember and construct the objects of experience more completely. Memory is heightened via this cycle. For instance, some theologians have stated that human beings have an a priori concept of God. This is a vague awareness of Him that has not been extinguished because of the Fall of man and resides within each of us. As we study about God and read about God in the Bible, we hope to increase our direct knowledge of God (the one we already know exists) and engage in a real relationship to God Himself rather than just in words we read about Him. This idea that we remember God or know that He exists is similar to the idea that Adam had innate knowledge of animals. Both sets of information have the same source and the same method of instillation in us. Because Adam named the animals before the Fall, his recollection was crystal clear, accurate, and voluminous. It may even have been like VR in the sense that Adam could see, smell, feel, and hear the creatures within his memory. At any rate, it may have felt as if it were immediate knowledge rather than knowledge mediated by God at creation. Adam's memory would be able to tell no difference.
Why are we reluctant to believe this scenario as a possibility? The effects of the Fall are enormous. Our understanding was darkened (Ephesians 4:18; I Corinthians 2:14), our hearts became deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9,10), our minds and consciences were defiled (Genesis 6:5; Titus1:15), and our wills were weakened (Romans 7:18). It is no wonder that we do not understand and even willfully reject the record of creation from the Bible. It is human nature (fallen, sinful nature) that suggests that today we are at the pinnacle of our success and progress. We wrongly and arrogantly think we not only know more than the first man knew, but also have better developed intellectual abilities than he. But, even though arrogant, deceived, and ignorant of all the truth, we are held accountable for the truth we do know. As Christians, we should not casually dismiss information from the Bible simply because it does not "fit" with our present technological ideas or our present-day secular explanations of science. We should realize that we are not getting better and better (the evolutionary thought). Human abilities have decreased because of the far-reaching consequences of sin and the original Fall of man. Should we not be very thankful that God has chosen to redeem and eventually restore our abilities through the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ?
- Erickson, Millard J., Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1985), p. 310. There are many passages of Scripture that demonstrate God's immanence, such as Jeremiah 23:24, or Acts 17:27,28, and, of course, the creation accounts themselves in Genesis, the Psalms, and the first chapters of John, Colossians, and Hebrews.
- Sproul, R. C., Not A Chance (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1994), pp. 113-125. This book presents an apologetic against chance as a mechanism of the beginning of the universe.
- Drs. Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce Demarest have written a thorough explanation of the effects of the fall in their Integrative Theology, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Academic Books, Zondervan Publishing House, 1990), 2:206-224.
* Dr. Spear, a veterinarian by training, is president of Mountain Ministries, an apologetic study . center in Dillon. Colorado. Dr. Spear speaks at ICR seminars from time to time.
Cite this article: William J. Spear, Jr. 1995. Could Adam Really Name All Those Animals?. Acts & Facts. 24 (7).