God and Animals


Introduction

I write this in reaction to "The Bible and Animals" article by John W. Loftus. As a fundamentalist Christian, I would argue that he is both putting the blame for our environmentalist issues in the wrong place, and not giving a fair treatment of the Biblical basis for responsible conservation.

From the article: "We now realize that all animals are considered interconnected with each other in an ecosystem favourable for the rise of human beings where we are all dependent on each other. Given Darwinian evolutionary biology we now see an obligation to keep species from becoming extinct, as far as is possible." First of all, the existence of an ecosystem that is interconnected has nothing to do with Darwinian evolution and is totally (if not more) in agreement with the Biblical picture of a good God creating everything good. Secondly, if we use Darwinian evolution (and survival of the fittest) as our only basis for conservation, we only need to conserve those species that are important or necessary for human survival. Because of the fact that niche expansion occurs often-times (i.e. when one species goes extinct, one or more other species can fill its niche), from a straightforward Darwinian point of view, there exists little reason to conserve these species (except that it is not always possible to predict which species can be "replaced" by others). Moreover, human dominance can easily be seen as simply the outcome of Darwinian evolution... "survival of the fittest" implies that we are the "fittest" and that any species that go extinct in the process simply were not fit enough. So my first point is that far from being an alternative to the Biblical world-view, if anything, Darwinian evolution would give humans free range to kill off as many species as we want, as long as our own survival is not impacted. And history has already shown us that the demise of the dodo and the quagga has had no effect on our survival.

As a fundamentalist Christian I would also disagree with the viewpoint quoted that there can be multiple "alternative, initially plausible and yet mutually inconsistent ways of interpreting the holy scriptures". Because I hold that Scripture is inspired by God, any interpretation of a specific text that contradicts what is written in the rest of Scripture, would not be a valid interpretation of Scripture at all. While I agree that any specific text can be interpreted in more than one way (although with only a limited range of interpretations), it is exactly the rest of Scripture that will limit the possible meanings of the text. Any other way of handling the Scripture has to make two very tenuous assumptions: 1. The the writers of the later books in Scripture were not aware of what was written in the earlier books OR 2. if they were aware of what was written previously, they did not consider it as authoritive and therefore felt free to change it however they wished. I would suggest, that on the contrary, later scribes only updated the text in terms of grammar, new place names for old names and more "modern" vocabulary. This was standard practice throughout the Ancient Near East as can be seen in many texts that were transmitted over centuries. By contrast, the "documentary hypothesis" has no external evidence. But there is external evidence (e.g. the Ketef Hinnom inscriptions with pieces of both P and D together from before the time either of these sources are postulated to even have existed) that contradicts it. While this might look like I'm going off on a tangent, it is important because a lot of the arguments by J.W. Loftus depends on his ability to simply ignore those verses which would contradict his interpretation of the verses on which he bases his argument. He can do that, because he starts off with the claim that the Bible is contradictory (and inter alia that the later writers either did not know or knowingly contradicted the earlier Scriptures). What I will attempt to show here by contrast is 1. that it is possible to understand the Biblical view on nature in a non-contradictory and harmonious way and 2. that this method of interpretation of the Bible leads one to a high view of nature and of man's responsibility towards nature.




Minority voices?

To dismiss those passages talking about our obligation towards treating animals well as minority voices is slightly disingenuous. If we read the Bible in its full context (as J.W. Loftus would have us do), those passages are part of the whole message and should be interpreted as such. Then he claims that modern Christians have resurrected these "minority voices" about "texts that are anti-Semitic, chavinist, pro-slavery, pro-war, pro-death penalty, and anti-homosexuality". To that, I would like to respond quickly, just going through the list. Anti-Semitic? If we take into account that all of the Bible (with the possible exception of Luke and Acts) was written by Jews, this claim can be clearly seen for what it is. Only by removing the context of Jews writing to their fellow Jews can we interpret Jeremiah or John as being anti-Semitic. Chavinist (sic)? Once again, this depends on reading into Scripture something that was probably not the original meaning. Of course, the cultural context of the Bible would make it clear that compared to the general culture of the time, it was progressive, even if by no means "feminist" as we know it today. Pro-slavery? This is true only in the sense that it did not require all slaves to be freed (only all Hebrew slaves every 7 years). But a very important part of the Bible allowing slavery, was that it forbid the return of a run-away slave to his/her master (Deut.23:15). Just imagine how different the whole slavery issue and abolitionist movement (led as it was by Christians) would have been if this simple law was actually implemented everywhere where slavery existed!? Yes, in the Bible it is not slavery as such that is forbidden, but throughout the Bible oppression of your fellow-man is forbidden. And once slavery degenerated into the situation where slaves would want to run away, it could be argued (and was) that it is in opposition to Scripture (cf. Abraham's slave who was sent with camels and costly goods to another country in order to find a wife for his master's son. Nothing at all prevented him from fleeing!). Pro-war? Here there are two aspects at play: 1. In general, war was allowed to defend your country and people and was never forbidden as such. Though this can be construed as meaning that the Bible is pro-war, it would seem to me to be simply the way things are in this broken world and therefore is a necessary evil. If nobody was willing to fight against Hitler, we would have a Nazi Europe and possibly Nazi world today... is that truly a better option than being "anti-war"? 2. There is a clear progression in Scripture (once again something that is denied by many "liberal" scholars). Already in the prophets there are numerous promises of a future salvation for Israel without weapons, of a time of peace under the reign of their Messiah. And Jesus in the New Testament clearly enunciated the way in which this promised Kingdom of God should be established on earth, not by might or by power, but by the Spirit of God, by loving our enemies and testifying to Him in all the world. Pro-death penalty? Yes, the wages of sin is death. But if we also take into account that only when there were at least two eye-witnesses could the death penalty be applied, that changes the picture a little bit. This is not the death penalty as we have it today, is it? And again, the New Testament and its message of forgiveness, not as a legal right, but as an act of mercy, comes into play. Without the legal righteousness of the death penalty, forgiveness (as an act of mercy) would make no sense. It is therefore not a contradiction (as some would like to portray it), when sins which require the death penalty under the Old Covenant, are forgiven under the New Covenant because of the ransom paid by Messiah in giving His own life instead. Anti-homosexuality? Yes, definitely. Homosexuality is sin, God created humankind as male and female, meant to fit together and become one in marriage. Homosexuality implies both that this was a mistake, but also that my own sexual desires should define who I am. However, homosexuality is not portrayed as a greater sin than any other sexual sin like a adultary or fornication. And the same struggle against our evil desires are required of both the homosexual and the fornicator.

Now, my answer to the first challenge (why do Christians "seek out these minority voices in the past to defend what they believe") is simple and straightforward: ignorance. Even today most Christians have little knowledge of their own Scriptures (easily more than half in most church gatherings would never have read the Bible through even once). This makes them vulnerable to all kinds of false teachings which, instead of taking all of Scripture together, selected those verses that agree with their own point of view. Of course, our own sinful inclinations also plays a role, as does our cultural background. Many times these "minority" voices were ignored in the past, simply because there were bigger issues challenging the believers at that stage, not because they were seen as wrong. But I will come back to this "challenge" when we look at the Scripture itself.

To the second challenge ("Why didn't God reveal the truth about the intrinsic worth of everything from the environment, to other races of people, to women and to animals from the very start?"), I would respond that He did. He created us with a conscience, but as anybody knows, your conscience objects less the longer you keep on doing something wrong. In contrast to the argument made by J.W. Loftus, I think that it is quite clear from the start that man was meant to be God's representative on earth. And as the representative of the Creator, having to answer to the Creator, should obviously rule responsibly as stewards over creation. The picture from the Bible is not of "anthropocentric barbaric men of the past who saw their relationship to the universe and their world in a self-centered patriarchal manner", but rather one where God is the centre. Only by taking God out of the picture (how???), can you find this caricature of the Bible's message in Scripture by turning it from being God-centred into being "self-centred".




Creation and the Dominion Mandate.

"After creating the world God declares it all 'good.' Good for what purpose? Good for whom?" - And right here we have to do with a big world-view issue: from the Biblical perspective God is good (Ps.118). Goodness is a characteristic of God, He is the source of all that is good. Good is not for a "purpose". Good and evil are logical opposites (evil = NOT good) and therefore these are absolutes rooted in the very character God. It simply does not make sense to talk about creation being good only for a purpose. But then the rest of the argument is actually quite true and in agreement with what is written in Scripture. Man was created as the pinnacle of creation and with the express purpose to rule over the earth and animals as the image and representative of God. It should also be noted that of the two words discussed, one is use with regards to the earth (cavash-כבש) while another is used with regards to the animals (radu-רדו). "Trampling" the earth, also used to make roads, is not necessarily evil, since this not mentioned in connection to living creatures. To subdue living creatures actually means little more than simply "subdue" or "rule". He says, "This is no benign way to rule over nature." However, there are other words which could have been used if it was truly meant to imply a hostile attitude towards nature. Words like "oppress", "destroy" and "enslave". My main objection would be that only Gen.1 is considered here and not also Gen.2 with its commands of working and looking after/guarding (l'avdah uleshamrah-לעבדה ולשמרה) the portion of creation where man was placed. But then J.W. Loftus goes a bit further than the text itself by saying, "What God said was for us to make the rest of creation a footstool for our own purposes." First of all it is not legitimate to use the root or derivative words to determine the meaning of a certain word. While there is a relationship, the words "subdue" and "make a footstool" simply does not mean the same thing! E.g. "provide" does not mean "predict", although it comes from the roots meaning "foresee". Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it was never "for our own purposes", but clearly for His purposes and in obedience to Him that we were to subdue the earth. It would appear clear to me that since everything He has just created are declared "good", destroying or hurting it can in no way be interpreted as being good or in accordance with the command to rule over this good creation! I am sorry if I cannot agree with Roderick Nash or John Shelby Spong in their weird interpretation of these verses, but in context their interpretation just does not seem reasonable.

Lynn White Jr "charged that: 'Especially in its Western form, Christianity is the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen.'". And strangely enough, I would agree with him. But not because of the reasons given. I believe there is a much better explanation. First off, as many other authors have shown, the development of science as such, was an outflow of Western Christianity. This was because, in contrast to either an atheistic of polytheistic view, the Bible presented a single Creator, creating all of creation to function according to laws which He established (the idea of "laws of nature") and that since He is a personal, rational Being, we can discover these laws, since we were also created in His image as personal and rational. Moreover, since we are brought into a new relationship with Him as His children, we are allowed to discover these laws. And it was the development of science which enabled the large-scale destruction of nature that followed from the industrial revolution (even if often unintended). However, science is just a powerful tool that can be used either for good or evil and thus cannot be blamed for the devastation that followed. The second important aspect is to remember that together with protestantism and its re-emphasis on returning to the Bible, there was also a rise in humanism in the West. The two viewpoints went well together in many ways. The Bible mandates that all people were created in God's image and are therefore inherently equal before God. It also commands us to love each other as much as God loves us. However, humanism drew from the Greek ideals of democracy etc. to postulate not only that all men are equal, but also that the ultimate good is whatever is good for mankind. But it has one great flaw: God is left out of the picture. Unfortunately, most of Western Christianity is heavily influenced by humanism, including the idea that the ultimate good is what is best for mankind. This is not the Biblical view, however. In the Bible everything centers around God, His will and His Kingdom. We reign legitimately only to the extend that we remain in Him. Take God from the picture, and you do have what Lynn White Jr described: the most anthropocentric religion. Thirdly, mainstream Christianity (non-fundamentalists) have largely accepted Darwinian Evolution as the correct explanation of the origin of life and species. And all the morality of "survival of the fittest" has become part of Western Christian thinking since the 1800's. Of course, I find Peter Singer's ethics (and the "animal liberation movement) simply unacceptable in too many ways to mention, but definitely not something on which to base my ideas of right and wrong.




Character and responsibility

"How can someone 'trample upon' a slave or a sheep beneficently? Saying this is an oxymoron." Yes, but we are forgetting now that the term is actually "subdue" and does not actually mean "trample upon" in this context? And yes, it is possible to subdue a sheep beneficently. As a sheep farmer, we did many things to the sheep which they didn't like (vaccines etc.), but which were nonetheless to their own benefit. Marti Kheel is quoted as saying, "'Whether as dominators or as caretakers, humans still occupy the hierarchical position of managers of the rest of the natural world. I find the idea of a God who, through divine act of nepotism, selects a 'chosen species' to manage the rest of the natural world deeply disturbing, and at odds with my feelings of kinship with the rest of nature.'" But with regards to this "feelings of kinship with the rest of nature" I will argue it could give us a good excuse to evade our responsibility towards creation. Yes, we have a kinship with nature even from a biblical point of view, being created from the dust of the earth like all animals, but we also have a responsibility towards nature that implies more than simply being part of it.

"This God can slam the world with a flood for disobedience, require Abraham to sacrifice his only son, pulverize the Egyptian nation with devastating plagues, send snakes to kill 3000 people for their disobedience, and be pleased when babies are dashed against the rocks (Psalms 137:9)." The flood because of what disobedience? Surely because of violence (probably towards animals as well) (Gen.6:5-6, 11)? When did Abraham sacrifice his only son? Oh, God stopped him from doing that (Gen.22:11-13)? Yes, He did send plagues against the Egyptians... for no reason at all? Oh, only after He sent the plagues were they finally willing to let His enslaved people go? And 3000 people died from snakes? Surely only those who were unwilling to look at the bronze serpent to be saved (Num.21:4-9)? Surely Ps. 137:9 is the prayers by those who have seen their own babies dashed against the rocks. How can this be seen as presenting the pleasing will of God? "This God also threatens us with eternal punishment if we don't think the evidence to believe in him is convincing." And this is truly a caricature of what the Bible teaches. The final judgement was always going to be about our deeds, what we did, not because "we didn't find the evidence convincing". Yes, for those who put their trust in Jesus instead of themselves, there is the promise that they will not fall under this judgement, since they have already been forgiven. But if you never did anything wrong, there is nothing to fear from the judgement at all, even if you "didn't find the evidence convincing"! "This God is described as a God of War, a Jealous God, and an Avenging God. This would be the divine model we find as the model for man's lordship over the earth." But a very skewed model that would be! He is not only a God of War, Jealous (and why should He be jealous of us if He is not also in love with us?) and Avenging, He is also Holy, Just and Wise. Moreover, most of these attributes express his relationship to people and not so much towards nature. For that (and therefore as a model for us in relating to nature) we need to turn to other texts.




Old Testament Passages Both Good and Bad.

First J.W. Loftus mentions a number of important passages that addresses how Israelites were supposed to treat animals. Then he proceeds to show why these passages does not mean what they obviously say! One important aspect that is not mentioned is that man was not allowed to eat animals from the beginning. His food is explicitly stated to be fruits and seed. Only after Noah saved the land animals by building the ark (once again, in obedience to God), were he and his descendants allowed to eat meat. And the Mosaic law again narrowed the allowable use of animals for food down to the clean animals only. However, to question the reason why the Israelites treated their animals kindly is a little irrelevant to why they were commanded to do so? We know (both from the Bible and also from archaeology) that they freely participated in idolatry; does this tell us anything about the Bible's stance on idolatry?

Sacrifices is a whole different topic. First of all, the very fact that the animals actually belonged to them made the sacrifice costly. If they cared for the particular animal, even more so. And that was part of the very message meant to be demonstrated by the sacrificial system. God is worthy of our very best and atonement for our sin costs something... the very lifeblood of an innocent animal. This was shown graphically when the ram was given in the place of Abraham's only son, when the blood of the passover lamb saved Israel from the death of their first-born, and finally fulfilled by the only Son of God giving his blood on the feast of Passover. The fact of the matter is that sacrifices were costly and were meant to be so... it was not with "utter disregard for the animals that were sacrificed". J.W. Loftus then talks about "the insurmountable intellectual problems in understanding how Jesus' death does anything to atone for our sins". What is atonement? How else would you atone for sin? Yes, the reason why the blood of animals could not remove sin, was exactly because they were not people. But neither could any other person give his life for another's sin, since his life would simply be what he was due for his own sin (Ps.49:7-9). An animal sacrifice at least demonstrated that it was innocent blood that was spilled to pay the due penalty. However, it was not the life of a rational, speaking, thinking being, equal to the life of the one who deserved death for his/her sin, and therefore insufficient. It is only when sin and wrongdoing is really not an issue, "no big deal", that J.W. Loftus can casually say "this was a completely unnecessary waste of animal life".

Animals benefit with their masters whenever their masters are blessed by God (even though the animal did nothing deserving this goodness). They also suffer with their masters when these persist in sin and/or use the animals for evil purposes (like the Pharaoh chasing after the Israelites at the Red Sea). Keep in mind that animals owe their very existence to their Creator, whenever He withdraws his breath, they die (Ps.104:29). And in this world all animals die. From an evolutionary point of view, as long as they have made their genetic contribution to the next generation, they have fulfilled their purpose. The survival of the species is all that really matters. A God who actually cares about animals dying (Jonah 4:11) is an unexpected surprise. But the interesting thing is that while a modern, evolutionary view should accept and welcome death (both animal and human) as natural and the way things are supposed to be, the Bible presents death as an enemy that will be destroyed, the result of humanity's rebellion against our Creator. And our rebellion has real consequences, also for the animals over which we were placed as rulers (just as Hitler's evil leadership had consequences for the whole German nation).




The "Prophetic Tradition."

While the prophetic tradition does embody a moral core, I would think it is abundantly clear that their morality derives from the Torah. Their call was always a call to turn back to God and live according to his commandments (e.g. Is.8:20). Yes, it was motivated by emphasising his love and faithfulness, but then the call was to let go of their evil ways and to search Him and live under the covenant He cut with them when bringing them from Egypt. So I find no evidence for the claim that the morality of the prophetic tradition was anything else than the morality of the Torah. While the first nine chapters of Leviticus emphasized the role of sacrifices in atonement and restoring the relationship between people and God, all the rest of the book (and most of the rest of Torah) emphasize a way of life, rather than simply religious service (including sacrifices). The prophetic books are no different in this regard, as J.W. Loftus rightly points out. Moreover, one of the main reasons given for the exile of Judah (2 Chron.36:21), is that they did not give the land the 7th year rest as they were commanded (Lev. 25:2, 26:34-35).

When it comes to the future of animals, I am not convinced that these poetic verses will not be literally fulfilled (compare Isaiah 53, one of the "Servant Songs" and yet literally fulfilled in so many ways). The very fact that animals are mentioned as part of the Messianic reign, does imply an important function for them, else why even mention them? There are other better ways to picture peace between people, but here peace in nature is also promised. Even if only symbolic and poetic, it does imply a change in nature itself. If meant literally, even if animal death existed before Adam's sin (the fall), the prophecy is not simply about a future return to the garden in Eden, but rather to a new heaven and a new earth (Is.65:17), better than the original. Eden was simply the foreshadowing of the greater future reality. It does not then hold that whatever was true before Adam's sin would again be true in the exact same way.




New Testament Passages - Jesus and Animals.

Of course, just like previous prophets, Jesus confirmed the Torah and any laws about caring for nature would still be just as valid (Matt.5:17-20). In contrast to J.W. Loftus, I do not consider these as minority voices, but as the only teaching of the Bible on animal care. There are not that many, but those commands that do mention nature and animals, are generally beneficial to them. Yes, Jesus also agrees with both Genesis and with the contemporary market prices, when He claimed that his disciples are worth more than the sparrows. But He still emphasized that the Almighty God even cares about the sparrows. The fact that I care more about one thing than another, does not imply that the second thing is unimportant. Lesser importance does not equal unimportance. Does it really mean that my work is unimportant to me if I say that my wife is more important to me than my work? The same is true for the great commandment. I do not agree that not mentioning nature (but mentioning people) implies that Jesus did not care about nature. While loving creation easily follows as a result of loving the Creator, loving people (who are destroying the work of the Creator in many ways), does require a special mention... otherwise it would be all too easy to claim (as some do) to love God, while hating people. Animals are generally innocent, people not. Responding to Bauckham, he, J.W. Loftus, says, "And while Bauckham may be correct to suggest these animals have some intrinsic worth to God as the creator and caretaker of them, it doesn't follow that they should have intrinsic value to human beings." But that is exactly the point of us ruling over earth as His representatives! As stewards of his earth, it follows that if animals have intrinsic value to God, they should have intrinsic value to us. While this was not the main point of what Jesus was teaching here (but rather that God would also take care of us as his children), it confirms that God does care about all of creation (and therefore, so should we).

Commenting on another parable by Jesus: "What will he eventually do with his sheep? He will eventually sell it to be killed for a meal or kill it and eat himself." This assumes that the sheep is kept for meat and not for their wool. But here the words of Proverbs 12:10 seems applicable ("A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel."), since what will happen to that sheep if it is not killed? Yes, it will slowly die of starvation as its teeth become too worn down to chew. Until the day comes when it is too weak to even get up to drink water and it dies over a few days from thirst (unless the shepherd can provide it with water and extend the dying period to a few weeks). Surely this "mercy of the wicked" is rather cruel?

Commenting on the passage of Jesus driving out a legion of demons, J.W. Loftus writes: "So Bauckham merely admits that the supposed sinless Jesus 'permits a lesser evil' here. He says that 'the destruction of the pigs is preferable to the destruction of a human personality,' [Ibid., p. 48] as if there were no other alternative options for Jesus who as God's 'Son' had 'all authority over heaven and earth' (Matthew 28:18). I see no reason at all why Jesus, if he is who Bauckham believes he is, couldn't have sent them back into the 'abyss,' as they requested, especially since these demons would surely have some idea what was possible for him to do when they pleaded with him not to send them there." I should mention that only after his resurrection from death did Jesus claim that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to him. However, in the context of this specific event, just a number of comments: 1. The fact that J.W. Loftus can see no reason for why Jesus did what He did, does not mean there was no good reason. After all, I doubt that he has much (if any) experience in driving out demons! 2. Other passages does make it clear that there were a time aspect relevant to how Jesus dealt with demons in that they still had certain rights and authority (because of human sin) until later e.g. Luk.10:18. 3. It was also an act of mercy towards the demons, giving them a second chance. While this might not seem important to us, it probably was a factor in Jesus' decision. 4. By allowing them to enter into the pigs, He demonstrated 2 very important points: 1. How destructive these demons were, since they immediately caused the death of the pigs and 2. how many of them there were. It had a huge impact on the nearby village (when the swineherds went to tell them what happened) and on the testimony of the man who was freed from these demons. Just imagine how easy it would have been to say that he was only delusional and simply came to his senses again if Jesus did not allow this demonstration. To conclude that it "shows a wanton disregard" towards the swine by Jesus, is to attribute motives to Jesus for which we simply have no evidence.

The rest is simply an argument from silence. Since we have no explicit mention of animals by Jesus in his summary of the greatest commandment, it does not follow that He did not care about them at all. The fact of his mention of God's care for even the smallest, most common, bird (a unique emphasis of Jesus), and His teaching that we ought to live as children of our heavenly Father, would rather argue for the opposite.




New Testament Passages - Peter, Paul and John the Revelator.

Starting off with Peter's vision is surely a misinterpretation, since the context makes it clear that the vision was actually about gentiles becoming believers and joining the church, rather than anything to do with food! Paul's comments on Deut.25:4 should be understood in its Hebrew context similarly to the verse in Jeremiah 7:22-23 on sacrifices as a typical form of hyperbole. When the prophets claim that God did not require sacrifices, but obedience, J.W. Loftus correctly concludes that this did not mean that He never commanded the sacrifices, but rather that the sacrifices with the wrong attitude was worthless (and not what He requires). In the same way Paul is not saying that the command is no longer applicable to actual oxen, but rather that it is not only applicable to oxen. If it applies even to oxen, how much more to people!

Revelation is rooted in the Old Testament prophecies and cannot be understood without that context. It does show 4 animals in the closest possible position to the Lord (also translated as living creatures [Ezek.1:5-14], cherubs[Ezek.10] and seraphs[Is.6] in the two Old Testament books where they are also described). It uses the imagery of animals (Lion of Judah, Lamb of God) to describe Jesus Himself. But it also use the Old Testament images from Daniel 7 with different animals representing the world empires (and the Kingdom of God represented by the Son of Man). I fail to see how this actually have any relevance to the position of animals living today. While it is true that there is no specific references to animals in the future Messianic Kingdom, it clearly refers back to the original promises found in the Old Testament prophets where animals are a prominent part of the picture. "Using 'dogs' to represent wicked people who will be eternally condemned to the lake of fire is surely a disgusting image unbecoming of a caring attitude toward them, even if dogs at that time were scavengers." But if we knew Scripture a bit better, we would know that "dogs" were used in the Old Testament already to refer to male (temple) prostitutes and would be understood as such, rather than as real animals. Even today we talk in the English language about somebody as a "pig" when he is dirty or "an animal" when he is unthinkingly cruel. This does not mean that we don't care about animals. We do not blame pigs for wallowing in the mud, since that is what pigs are supposed to do, or wild dogs for ripping apart their prey, since that is their ecological role, but we do blame a human being if (s)he acts like them, unbecoming of a caring attitude.

I also need to add two additional points. If human beings are not even capable of taking care of their own species, what are the chances that they would truly take care of other species? As revelation, the Bible addresses those aspects that are most in need of being addressed. Only once our relationship with God and with each other are sorted, can we honestly consider our relationship to the earth and animals. Secondly, I consider any morality that consistently put humans on the same level as animals, as immoral. And I believe that most people who claim that view-point, do not actually live according to it. We would expect a field guide to protect the tourists in his care from an attacking lion, even if it means that he has to kill it and even if the attack was provoked by a careless tourist in the first place. He might be sad and angry that he had to do it, but it would still be his moral duty. And very few, if any, people who claims that animals are equal to people would willingly give their own lives to be killed so that an animal can survive. We might claim that killing people in order to save nature is OK, but very seldom would we actually consider killing ourselves and our loved ones in order to reduce the human impact on nature. And even if we did, it would surely be an immoral act from a biblical perspective.




My final note

I agree with J.W. Loftus that the approach taken by Wennberg is special pleading. However, I also assert that it is unnecessary. I believe that the very first command given to humankind includes working and taking care of the earth (Gen.2:15). It also puts us in charge of earth as his representatives, to rule according to his will, as his image (Gen.1:26-30). We are responsible to Him for how we look after his creatures. Only by twisting the straightforward meaning of the text can this be understood as giving us free rein to exploit and destroy. By contrast, an evolutionary point of view see us as equal to any other species; strictly speaking this would mean that like any other species our only concern is and should be the survival of our own species. Any other species that is not required for our own survival can go extinct without regret, since it was not "fit enough" anyway... their extinction would simply be the result of natural selection, since we are competing with other species for resources. We have no more responsibility for taking care of other species than any animal species. And I would suggest that it is this kind of thinking, even within the Christian church, rather than any Biblical principle, which allows the wilful exploitation and destruction of the natural world seen today. By contrast, the biblical view of our position as stewards of God's world (not our own!) implies that we are responsible for every single species on earth, whether important for our own survival or not.


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