Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Moving Towards a Theology of Animals

First of all, let me apologize for my prolonged blogging silence, though I doubt many of you really noticed. Without further ado, allow me to introduce my next topic of conversation.

Introductory Questions Related to Building a Theology of Animals

Theologizing is all about answering questions. My next blogging topic is a consideration of animals from a Biblical view. This post will present some questions that I see as central to understanding how Christians ought to treat and think of animals. Subsequent will deal with these questions, though satisfactory answers may be lacking.

1) What is the essential distinction between Humans and Animals? The automatic answer is "image of godness", but what does this mean? What are the implications of this? What do humans have that animals do not? As we examine this in more depth, I hope to be able to convince you that this is much more difficult than one might think.

2) What is the essential relationship between humans and animals? Humans were given dominion over creation, but what does that mean? Does that mean that we have the right to do anything we want to animals, kill them, eat them, torture them, domesticate them, or wipe them out? Or does this give us responsibilities and duties towards animals?

3) What is the value of animal life in the eyes of God and, subsequently, why did God create them? Animals are not made in God's image, but do they have value? Are they all equally valuable? Is the life of a dog worth more than the life of a gnat? Probably, but why?

4) What effect, if any, did the fall have upon human-animal relations? Will animals be on the new earth? Will the original relationship between humans and animals be restored?

4) And finally, what are the practical implications for the Christian? Is eating meat okay? Is killing animals for furs okay? Is wiping out a colony of ants or termites because they threaten your house acceptable? Animal testing? Killing animals for pleasure? Hunting? Fishing? Is there a difference between what is ideal and what is permissible in these areas?

This may not seem like an important issue to you, but I would submit that, though probably not as important as a proper understanding of the trinity, a proper understanding of animals in God's plan and the practical implications of Scripture for the Christian is crucial. Animals suffer, often at the hands of humans. Humans were given responsibilities as God's representatives on earth to rule and have dominion over the earth. Understanding our proper relationship with animals and the essential difference between animals and humans are, I think, essential to understanding what it means to be in the image of God. In my neck of the woods, the pacific northwest, this is an extremely important issue to many people. Being able to explain what the Bible teaches about animals is crucial for living out and helping others live out their faith in the world. If there is inconsistency between our theology and our praxis we can misrepresent our faith to those who listen to our words and watch us for inconsistencies. Teaching the "whole counsel of God" should not only include teaching all of Scripture, but the implications of Scripture upon every area and aspect of our lives.


Sabrina said...

this is so timely that it's slightly scary. i've been discussing this with a friend, and she recently asked me if i thought animals had souls.

i'm looking forward to your thoughts. did you know i'm a dietary vegan?

Caleb Suko said...

Although this question for the most part has been taken for granted in churches there is certainly reason enough to ask it and attempt to find Biblical answers. Especially, in a world/culture where animals are often given a higher value than humans!

theone withabeard said...

When I was little, I stepped on ants for fun. My parents said this was cruel. And I was sad.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to seeing what you think, Matt.

About Me

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Tacoma, Washington, United States
"It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt." Fyodor Dostoevsky. I'm a Northwest Baptist Seminary graduate (MDiv) and current student (ThM). I plan on someday going to Africa and teach Bible and Theology at a Bible College or Seminary level. I hope to continue my studies and earn a PhD, either after I go to overseas for a few years or before. I'm a theological conservative, but I like to think outside of the box and challenge conventional thinking and consider myself a free thinker. I am currently serving in my fourth year as a Youth Pastor at Prairie Baptist Fellowship in Yelm Washington. My blogs will reflect my thoughts on both seminary and ministry life, though not (of course) exclusively. I enjoy literature and occasionally try my hand at writing stories and poems. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes..." Paul