Culture At Large

Sledding crows and our anthropomorphizing God

John Van Sloten

It's hard not to smile when you watch the viral video, posted below, of a sledding crow. The crow seems to be playing, snowboarding down a sloped roof on a jar lid! The giggling delight of the children and their parents, overheard as they record the video, is contagious. Surely God was laughing at this little avian exhibition as well.

But do crows really play? Or was this crow just engaging in a creative way of dislodging some food from the lid of that jar? Often we human beings anthropomorphize animal behaviors; we read ourselves into a cat's attitude, a dog's begging or a crow's amazing downhill run. But is a crow really capable of the advanced thought and behavior of play? I'm not sure we can ever know for sure.

Still, why wouldn't a crow play? In a crowish way, of course, even as bear cubs play in a bearish way and trees rejoice and clap their hands in a treeish way? God seems to have no problem anthropomorphizing creation. In the book of Job, God talks with Leviathan. A few chapters earlier, lightning bolts say to God, "here we are" and stars sing at creation's advent. (These references can all be found in "Engaging God's World" by Neal Plantinga.)

In Job, God seems to have an intimate and almost playful relationship with His creation. Why wouldn't all things in the cosmos play back; in a way that is in accordance with their kind? If all things were created through and for Christ, then surely all things are meant to bring Him glory. Everything in their own way.

And maybe our anthropomorphizing is just our way of apprehending the playful worship that's happening all around us. By empathetically incarnating, we enter into the world of other created beings. For all we know, the crow could be doing the same thing back toward us.

As I think about how I engage God's world, I anthropomorphize all the time. All week long snowflakes have been dancing outside my living room window. Wintering sparrows have been singing songs to each other to keep each other warm. Arctic winds have been howling and the night planets - Saturn, Venus and Jupiter - are silently voicing their orbital truths.


I am made in the image of an incarnating, anthropomorphizing God. When I delight in what He's created, I co-delight with Him and experience His smiling presence.

And as for that sledding crow? There's only one who really knows what he's thinking, which was God's whole point when He answered Job's existential questions with the mysteries of creation.

Maybe our anthropomorphizing is a way to help us appreciate and love creation as much as God does. And maybe a sledding crow is just a beautiful gift from God; a playful creative display for a couple of kids and their parents (and millions of Internet viewers). An anthropomorphized parable of joy.

Topics: Culture At Large, Science & Technology, Science, Theology & The Church, Theology