How should Christians view animals?

Introduction

Human beings are called by God to be good stewards of his creation. As such, we are to balance our dominion over animals with the duty of caring for and respecting their lives. The past century has brought about significant changes in our global treatment of animals that I believe should cause us to strongly reconsider our personal and societal responsibilities towards animals. I’ll briefly discuss an uncontroversial Christian view of animals, then argue for a more obliging view of animals given our 21st century situation.

Theology

After creating animals, God creates humans. He distinctly creates humans “in our image, after our likeness,” with the imago Dei, and gives them a divine injunction called the cultural mandate: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). God uniquely entrusts humans to be his vice-regents over the planet, to “subdue” the earth and to “have dominion over” every other living creature in it. This authority we’ve been given by God and the command to steward his creation should be taken seriously and exercised humbly. God then tells them, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food” (1:29−30). God graciously sustains animals, which are said to have “the breath of life” like humans. We also see here God’s perfect plan for creation; before sin and death, God gave only plants as food for both humans and animals.

Then humans sin. As a consequence of the fall, their relationship to nature is disrupted. They would no longer enjoy the abundance of the garden of Eden but have to toil for their food (Genesis 3:17−19). After the flood, God tells humans for the first time that, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Genesis 9:3−4). Right after this, God establishes the Noahic Covenant with humans and animals together (9:8−17). (Because of sin, animals would also be offered as sacrifices, but Jesus’ ultimate atoning death ended that sacrificial system.) Even in the postlapsarian world, Proverbs 12:10 reflects God’s hope for how humans are to treat animals: “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast.”

There is no biblical justification for saying that meat-eating is sinful. The Levitical dietary laws meant for the nation of Israel were included in the fulfillment of the law by Jesus (Matthew 5:17, Hebrews 9:8−10), and on top of that Jesus declares all food clean (Mark 7:19, Acts 10:9−16). Paul reiterates that God accepts men regardless of what they eat (Romans 14:3). However, there are additional factors to weigh when thinking about animals today.

Contexts

Women

Slaves

Animals

Conclusion

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store