Our family has had several dogs over the years, but I think Monty is the best. He’s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, presently about 8 months old. He’s smart and easily trained. Monty is loving, sociable, playful, and always eager to please. But even more than that, the other day I was admiring him and the thought occurred to me: this dog is a work of art. But if that’s the case, who is the artist?
You might be tempted, as I was, to answer with God. After all, didn’t God create all the animals? If dogs are animals, then God must have created dogs too. That answer might make sense for anyone who believes what the Bible says about creation. But things are actually not that simple. Let me explain how God didn’t create dogs, yet is still ultimately responsible for their existence.
When God created “the beasts of the earth” on the sixth day, there were no Cavalier King Charles Spaniels among them. In fact, there were no Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, or any spaniels at all. There were no German Shepherds, Labradors, or any other dog breed we’re familiar with today. When God created the land animals at the beginning, he created a pair of four-legged creatures which are the ancestors of all the dogs we know today. This pair was also the ancestor of wolves and dingoes. Latent within the DNA of that original canine pair was a host of possibilities.
A combination of natural selection and selective breeding was what led to the canine diversity we see today. It’s especially the latter which has led to the numerous dog breeds of the present day. Selective breeding means that a human being directs the process. A human being chooses to breed animals with certain traits. If you want to produce a dog breed with floppy ears (like a spaniel), you focus your efforts on breeding males and females with progressively floppier ears. But one of the key things is that this isn’t an unguided process. There’s intelligence and forethought behind it.
Now I know that the breeding of dogs is an imperfect endeavour. Just to take the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, this breed is susceptible to a whole host of genetic health problems. This is because breeding necessarily involves genetic mutations and many of these can be harmful. Responsible breeders will, however, take measures to mitigate the risks and produce the healthiest dogs possible.
So to get back to the question: who is the artist responsible for this beautiful work of art named Monty? God is certainly responsible for creating the “raw material,” if you will. He created Monty’s canine ancestor on the sixth day. But God also created two human beings on that same day. He created them in his image, with the capacity to do such amazing things as selectively breed animals. Sometimes this breeding was purely for utilitarian purposes, but at other times for purposes that can only be described as artistic, bringing out certain features that appear beautiful. That’s how generations of human breeders through generations of dog breeding created the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Yet it would never have been possible without God’s creative genius in the first place. Ultimately he still receives the praise.