Does God Care About Animals? Part Two
October 3, 2016
In Part One, posted in September, I showed the two main “negatives” used by Christians to claim that the Bible states (or implies) that God cares nothing about animals. There are a few more negative claims that I will address in the future. Today we will look at some positive reasons to believe that God cares about animals. Today is also celebrated as Saint Francis Day (October 3), so it is a good day for that sort of discussion!
God Cares About All the Creation
Psalm 45:8-10, The Lord is merciful and compassionate, very patient, and full of faithful love. The Lord is good to everyone and everything; God’s compassion extends to all his handiwork! All that you have made gives thanks to you… (Common English Bible translation)
Most translations just use the word “all” or “all His works” in Psalm 45, which has made it harder for Christians to recognize that when the Bible says “all” it means “everything,” including the creation, and not just humans. This is particularly true in the New Testament when Paul speaks of the creation-wide scope of redemption, being not just for human salvation, but for the effects of Christ’s kingdom to heal the harm of sin in the universe. Romans 8 is the most famous passage, where “the creation groans in earnest expectation.” Later, in Colossians 1:20, God works in Christ: “and having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things to himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven” (King James) Ephesians 1:10 is very similar.
“All” means everything in most cases. See John 1:3; Acts 3:21; Hebrews 1:2; I Corinthians 8:6; Matthew 19:28; etc. This also enables us to make more sense of Mark 16:15, the rarely used version of Jesus’ Great Commission. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” The King James version uses “to every creature.” I say that Saint Francis’ went a little overboard preaching to the birds, but that the meaning of Jesus is that the whole world does need the good news that the gospel will bring healing to all of it! I would simply translate the verse, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel for all creation.” Using the preposition “for” implies the good news for all the universe instead of the audience at whom the preaching is directed.
Do you see no love of God for the Creation in the beginning? In Genesis 1, where the Spirit of God “hovers” over the unformed world. That word hover is used again in Deuteronomy 32:10-11, where God protects the people of Jacob, “He shielded and cared for him; He guarded him as the apple of His eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carry them aloft.” God wanted these creatures to multiply and abound and teem abundantly on the Earth, in Genesis 1 and 2. And did God’s will for this abundance end after the Fall and sin? Not at all! Genesis 9, after the Flood, God repeats His command for the spreading of abundant animals over the planet.
Skeptics always find ways to undermine truths, and here is how they try to get around such ideas. “God cares about SPECIES but not INDIVIDUAL animals. As long as the type of creature lives, God is happy, but has no concern for the single being and its life or death.”
Good luck building a case for that stupidity!
Take Balaam and his donkey. Not only did God miraculously enable the donkey to speak in human language to rebuke Balaam’s cruel beating; but God double-teamed the bratty prophet by following that speech by Jesus (or the angel of the Lord’s) rebuke for cruelty! That was an individual animal that God showed obvious concern for.
Then you have Jesus’ own words in Matthew 10:29, “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? But not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” So the Son of God teaches that God the Father is concerned by the fall of EVERY bird. Not the extinction of the species, alone. Each individual bird that has little commercial value to humans, God watches. The word for “fall” is not that the bird just suddenly dies and drops from a branch or the sky. That word is used for catching birds in human nets. The net is thrown over the birds so they fall.
Here again, skeptics will claim, “Sure, God is omniscient, so of course He knows, but that does not prove that He cares.” Sure, Jesus just wants to remind the disciples that God knows everything? Give me a break. The context of the passage was what? Jesus tells the disciples not to fear “those who kill the body” in verse 28. So Jesus says, God watches your lives under danger, just as He watches over animal lives in danger!
God cares about all of the creation, not just the humans living in it. The horrible analogy used by Karl Barth, that the universe is just a stage on which human actors live out their lives for the real life of the future, is blasphemous. The Earth and the universe is not just a human stage where animals and planets are only valueless props for our use! That is an ancient Greek idea that “spiritual” things are good while “physical” things are evil or unimportant. The Gnostics picked it up and polluted Christianity, saying that only “the eternal future” has meaning and earthly bodies are irrelevant. Bodies have value. That is our next proof for discussion.
Animals have Value to God (and us)
Skeptics often cite Jesus’ words in Luke 12:6-7, “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are numbered. Do not fear therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows.” They interpret this verse to mean that God knows about animals, but humans have real value.
They have drawn entirely the wrong conclusions about obvious statements. The word “more” means a higher amount, not an infinitely different amount. There is NO implication here at all that Jesus says sparrows have no value, while humans have much value. Just the opposite. Sparrows have SOME value, though it is not a great as human value. This concept is shown again in Matthew 12:11-12, “Jesus replied, ‘Who among you has a sheep that falls into a pit on the sabbath and will not take hold of it and pull it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep?” The most that critics can claim is that humans are MORE valuable to God than sheep. I have no problem with that. In fact, what the critics are proving is their own folly! Yes, God loves man more than lamb, But that means God does love lambs! So they disprove their own claims that sheep or sparrows have no value to God.
Then the critics will try a new evasion technique. So maybe God cares about domestic animals and useful animals, but obviously he doesn’t care about wild animals. Animals are meant only as human food and for work and service. Creatures not serving humans are without value to us or God.
Psalm 50: 10-11, “For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are mine.” Here, God is almost sounding like a two-year old, refusing to share his toys. “Those are mine!” Psalm 104 shows God caring for all of his wild animals in their daily food. In the last few chapters of Job, God brags about the wild animals that avoid humans, that He watches and cares about.
God Makes Covenants with Animals
The last scriptural argument I offer for the care of God over animals is that God makes covenants with them. A covenant is a binding agreement between parties. Most of the Bible’s covenants are between God and humans, but there are some major exceptions.
After the Flood in Genesis chapter 9, God provided the covenant with Noah, and his family, and God, and “every living creature with you.” This was a three way covenant between God, humans, and animals. Does God make agreements with useless, unimportant creatures? Of course not. Furthermore, how long is the covenant supposed to last? “Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” Everlasting. With every kind of creature. Does this not have any implication for a potential future of animals in eternity?
But that is not the only one. God promises to make a future covenant, renewing and expanding the Noahic covenant, with humans and animals.
Hosea 2:18-19, “On that day, I will make a covenant for them with the wild animals, the birds of the sky, and the creeping creatures of the fertile ground. I will do away with the bow, the sword, and war from the land. I will make you lie down in safety. I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and justice…”
In this case, in the new heavens and new earth, God makes another covenant, this time promising the humans AND the animals and birds a “forever” time of peace, safety and justice. That would obviously be the new heavens and the new earth.
Now we will take a few arguments not drawn directly from Scripture but from creation itself.
Capacity for Joy
God created humans AND animals with the ability and desire to enjoy life. God and angels also have joy. I share a lot of videos on the God’s Animals Living Abundantly page on Youtube, where animals are seen living an abundant and happy life.
Evolutionists emphasize the horror of life, “nature is red in tooth and claw,” the struggle for survival. Certainly there is a lot of nastiness in the world, because humans sinned and messed everything up. But in spite of this natural evil, animals continue to enjoy life, at times.
If you have pets, you have surely seen puppies and kittens romping. If you watch television you have seen otters cavorting, dolphins leaping, calves bucking, lion cubs wrestling, etc.
It would seem strange to think that if animals were without value, that God would bother to give them the capacity and desire to enjoy life. Why would He give such a gift? Because God cares about them and has plans for their good. Why would God make humans able to have joy? For the same reasons.
You could take the opening verse, Psalm 145, wherein God declares His compassion for all humans and animals, as a proof of “lovability.” Logically speaking, if God loves something, it must have value and loveliness. After all, a holy God would not love evil things, because He is wholly righteous. So, if God does love animals, they must have some goodness and value.
You might object that humans are sinners, and therefore cannot be loved by God. But Romans 5 teaches that God loved us “while we were yet sinners.” There is a love of God that is bestowed on the righteous and the unrighteous. We call that common grace. God shows compassion to everyone, even unbelievers, in the time of His longsuffering. There is a different kind of love bestowed by God upon believers, whom the Father views through the cleansing blood of His son. In that kind of love, we are adopted as sons, and receive a far greater bounty of care than from common grace.
I am not saying that God loves animals exactly the same way God loves humans. Jesus clearly indicates that there is a difference in the intensity of God’s love for humans. However, God does love animals to some degree. They are not without value. And this is also shown, I believe, in the common human tendency to love animals.
If God loves animals, it would make sense that humans should also love animals. Would we not love what God loves, if we love God? Or do you think God is a maudly sentimentalist, while we humans are logical creatures, not bothering with such trivialities?
And if humans do love animals, as I do, and presumably some of you do, is that inherent trait something provided by God? Animals have instincts; provided by God. Humans have instincts, provided by God. We have maternal instincts to protect babies, human and animal. Did God give us a stupid instinct? If it is foolish to love “mere” animals, from whence did we get this tendency? Unless you want to claim it is a demonic influence, or merely a Darwinian evolutionary emotion that tends to our species’ betterment, you must say it is from God.
If it is an instinct given by God for humans to care about animals, then what is the purpose of that instinct? Certainly one purpose is that humans would strive to be kind and not cruel to animals. That is clearly shown in the Balaam incident where cruelty is rebuked twice.
But does it not also imply that animals are inherently lovable?
You may object, that humans love sinning, and yet that is not a good instinct. That is true, but you have changed the subject from the loving of objects to loving of activities. Sin is not an object. An animal is an object, created good, by God. Loving an object created by God cannot be a sin, except in loving it like an idol, more than God. Loving a rebellious activity is loving an evil. Loving an animal is not, except when violating God’s laws regarding that creature.
It was Thomas Aquinas who got the church going the wrong direction on this topic. Using Greek philosophy rather than Scripture, Aquinas argued that animals are not good enough to be lovable because they are only body, not spirit. God only loves spirit, Aquinas claimed. That is Plato, not Scripture. His flawed interpretation led to the Catholic church and even the later Reformers sometimes claiming that animals have no value.
I challenge you to consider otherwise. The Bible and reason imply that God loves animals, and we should also.
May 26, 2016
Utopian Christian or Dystopian Christian?
A few weeks ago I heard an interview on Pittsburgh WORD Christian Radio, on The Road Home with John and Kathy, (where I have been interviewed a few times), with 2 authors of an interesting book. So I bought the book last week and read it today. Are we utopian or dystopian?
In the future, for this website, I plan to review many books. My intention is not to be a critic, like a paid reviewer. I read because I am interested in animals and science and history. If I find an interesting book, I will tell you what it is, why it is interesting, and how it might be helpful to our understanding of animals. I am not looking for typos or literary style so much. I won’t criticize much unless it is really important. I want to find the good more than the bad. Then you can decide if you want to read the book too…
The most interesting thing about this book is that I don’t think it ever mentioned animals. I bought the book because it is written for Christians and tries to help us understand “Worldviews”. That is, how people look at the world. This book is called How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics by Robert Joustra & Alissa Wilkinson. I bought it especially because they explain modern worldviews by analyzing modern television and movie Science Fiction shows. They talk a lot about Battlestar Galactica, Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, House of Cards, Scandal, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, World War Z, and etc.
Truthfully, of these shows, I have only seen about half. I adored BSG. Hunger Games are OK. Game of Thrones I watched 3 seasons then baled out over the violence and sex. World War Z was cool. I haven’t seen any of the other TV shows. Their book teaches various aspects of modern American (or western) culture by looking at the themes of these popular media programs.
Now, you may be wondering, what does any of this have to do with God’s Animals Living Abundantly?
During the interview on the radio, the two authors talked about the difference between utopian views and dystopian views. In case you don’t know what that means, they are terms referring to our hopes or fears about the future.
A utopian hopes for the beautiful peaceful serene future, like Heaven. And they sometimes also hope to fashion our societies to be very much like that, peaceful and calm and orderly.
A dystopian view is fear that the future will be very dark, violent, and horrible.
A lot of those TV shows they analyzed are dystopian. They show our unconscious (or conscious) fear that society will devolve, and we will be in grave dangers, if not totally destroyed.
Christians are supposed to be utopian, in that sense. We believe that God is in control of the world, and will remove all the damage and save us in the end. We have hope.
A lot of people are not Christians, and do not have hope. What is their opinion of the future if there is no god? End of existence, without pain, is about the best they can hope for. A life “nasty, brutish, and short” is what they fear, perhaps.
The problem for Christians is that we forget that our future is bright. For myself, I am a depressive type, by nature. For some reason, those dystopian shows seem right. I have trouble believing the happy movies because they seem impossible.
So what struck me about the interview and the book, is that in my head I theologically know that the future is bright, Jesus saved me, and I will live forever in the new heavens and new earth.
And yet… I feel like that is an impossible fantasy. My emotions don’t mesh with my brain.
What does that have to do with animals?
I see that a lot of animal-rights folks are dystopian. The world became evil (because of humans), the world is getting more evil all the time, and wow it will just get worse. We will drive all the animals extinct, turn the surface of Earth into concrete, and die in an ugly world. The only solutions they can offer, as people without God, are one-world dictatorships taking control of Earth, to stop global warming, to reduce the human population, and to control everyone.
Whew, that is really depressing!
I forget that Jesus will retake control of the Earth. Not only in the future, though it will be complete then. Jesus uses Christians, and the church, to bring healing. Unfortunately, we are only doing little bits of healing here and there; it is not very obvious to most people. The media rarely reports on good news because good news doesn’t sell. Disaster and death get the headlines. But in our own lives, we can see the healing of Christ. In the lives of friends in church we can see the healing of Christ.
What we need to do next, is do some healing of God’s world, specifically for animals. We do not need to (or want to) take the world domination approach. Jesus is God, and must have some pretty neat plans for how He will improve the world for animals. And we are supposed to be “in on that.” We are Jesus’ hands and feet on Earth, for now.
I cannot conceive of how Jesus can fix the animal world using us. It makes no sense. But then Paul says Jesus used him because he was weak. Jesus likes using weak people, because then He gets the credit, or glory.
So, although my depressive side sees the ridiculous obstacles facing us, in hoping to make a difference for animals; my brain tells me, Jesus can do it. And he can use us to help!
Ponder that, and see if you are utopian or dystopian.