On Talking Snakes and Donkeys

By Evan Minton

One criticism that’s become extremely common from atheists is the mention of talking animals in The Bible, specifically the snake in the garden of Eden and Balaam’s donkey. In fact, on Facebook pages and in forums, I’ve heard this complaint so much it’s coming out my ears! Their point is that we never see animals talk. Animals can’t talk in the same way that humans talk. We’ve never seen any animal have the ability to speak in a human tongue and therefore, The Bible is in err. This critique is actually question begging as it presupposes that atheism is true. If God exists, why couldn’t He give one or two animals the ability to speak? After all, He gave human beings the ability to speak when He created them. If God can give human beings the ability to speak, then why couldn’t He give Balaam’s donkey or a snake the ability to speak? IF atheism were true, then I would wholeheartedly agree with the atheist that any account of a talking donkey or any other animal would be absurd. But since I believe in an all powerful God, I don’t think it’s absurd to say that God acted upon Balaam’s donkey and temporarily gave it the ability to communicate with its master.

Question: If there is a God and He had the ability to create the entire physical universe out of absolute nothingness (as current astrophysical evidence shows), which is the greatest miracle reported in The Bible, would not causing a donkey to speak Hebrew be child’s play? Of course! The question “Is an account of a talking donkey absurd” all boils down to the question “Does God Exist”? If God does not exist, then miracles can’t occur. If Miracles can’t occur, then certainly no animal could ever just spontaneously start talking since that would be a miracle. In syllogistic form, it would go like this

1: If God does not exist, then miracles can’t occur.
2: If Miracles can’t occur, then certainly no animal could ever just spontaneously start talking since that would be a miracle.
3: God does not exist.
4: Therefore, Miracles can’t occur.
5: Therefore,  no animal could ever just spontaneously start talking.

If the 3 premises are true, the conclusion follows. I agree with the first two premises, but I deny the third premise. The question as to whether or not a donkey could ever spontaneously start talking all boils down to the question “Does God Exist”. Since Christians believe God DOES exist, this objection has little to no weight to it and it’s clearly question begging.  I think all Christians would agree that if God does not exist, then in fact all of the miracles in The Bible couldn’t possibly happen, be it Jesus turning water into wine, walking on water, raising Lazarus, Moses parting the Red Sea, etc. etc. etc. But once again, and I cannot stress this enough, it comes down to question “Does God exist?” Is there a miracle working God?

Visit Evan’s blog at CerebralFaith.Blogspot.com


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2 replies
  1. Byron says:

    Respectfully, I cannot accept Premise #1 as stated. I don’t know that it’s true. First, which God? And second, why should a God be required for miracles to occur? Do miracles require a divine agent with a personal will and intelligence? There are a lot of questions here. I do get what you are saying, though. If the Christian God exists, then anything is possible, including “talking” animals, however that took place. I just see it as extremely unlikely, personally.

  2. Jenny Tokumei says:

    What you are doing here is the appeal to possibility combined with argument from necessity.

    Premise A: Someone’s donkey is reported to have talked.
    Premise B: A god can make a donkey talk.
    Conclusion: Therefore a god did make a donkey talk.

    This is also begging the question, because you’re routing back to the preassumed conclusion that a donkey talked, without actually establishing that a donkey did in fact talk. The appeal to possibility is merely the route you use to arrive back at the preassumed conclusion.


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