Ethics: The Environment and Animals

There is a great divide in humanity over man’s usage of the environment and animals.  This divide has led to terrorism.  “During the past two decades, radical environmental and animal rights groups have claimed responsibility for hundreds of crimes and acts of terrorism, including arson, bombings, vandalism, and harassment, causing over $100 million in damage… Automobile dealerships, housing developments, forestry companies, corporate and university based medical research laboratories, restaurants, fur farms and other industries are targeted across the country” (www.adl.org/ext_us/Ecoterroism.asl).  In 1994, one animal rights group (ARM) “Sent letters… to the Safeway and Save-On Foods grocery store chains advising that rat poison had been injected into frozen turkeys which resulted in the birds on their shelves being thrown away and… over 30,000 returned by customers.   The letters were a hoax, but cost the stores over $1 million” (Terry Hightower, 2005 Contending For The Faith Lectureship: Morals For God or Man?, p. 159).

There are those who no longer seem to recognize a difference between man and animal.  Bill Maher, “To those people who say, ‘My father is alive because of animal experimentation, I say, yeah, well good for you.  This dog died so your father could live.’  Sorry, but I am not behind that kind of trade-off” (ibid, p. 132).  Chris DeRose, “If the death of one rat cured all diseases, it wouldn’t make any difference to me” (ibid).  “Cleveland Amory, when asked on Larry King Live show if he would kill a lamb in order to get insulin needed to save his own child’s life that was dying of diabetes responded, ‘I would not knowingly have an animal hurt for me, or my children, or anyone else'” (ibid, p. 141).  Tom Regan, author of “The Case of Animal Rights,” answered when asked if he was aboard a lifeboat with a baby and a dog, and the boat capsized, which he would rescue?  Regan replied, “If it were a retarded baby and a bright dog, I’d save the dog.”  (ibid, p. 142).

What should a Christian think about his relationship with the environment and with animals?

Principles

1.  Man is a steward over God’s creation.  It is His world (Psalm 24:1; 50:10-12).  God gave man the responsibility of caring for the created world.  We’re told, “The LORD God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress [tend (NKJV); cultivate (NASB); work (ESV)] it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15 KJV).

2.  Various passages suggest that God cares how we treat His creation (see: Exodus 23:4-5; Deuteronomy 20:19-20; 22:6-7; 25:4; Proverb 12:10; Matthew 14:20; 15:37; Mark 6:43; 8:8; Luke 9:17; John 6:12-13; 1 Corinthians 9:9-10; 1 Timothy 5:17-18).  We should not be cruel, or torturous of animals (Proverbs 12:10).  We should not be wasteful (Matthew 14:20; 15:37; Mark 6:43; 8:8; Luke 9:17; John 6:12-13).

3.  God has given man dominion over nature (Genesis 1:28-30; Psalm 8:5-8).  (a) Man may use the land: (1) to cultivate (Genesis 2:5; 3:19; 4:2; Job 1:14; 1 Kings 19:19; Jeremiah 4:3; Hosea 10:12; Matthew 13:3-ff; James 5:2.   (2) to build (Jeremiah 29:5; Matthew 21:33, etc.).  (3) to extract resources (Genesis 21:25-ff; John 4:6-ff; Job 3:21 cf. Proverbs 2:4).  (b) Man may use plants: (1) for food (Genesis 1:29; 3:2; Deuteronomy 20:6; Luke 13:6-ff; Matthew 21:19-20; 1 Corinthians 9:7).  (2) for shade (1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4).  (3) for lumber (Deuteronomy 19:5; 1 Kings 5:6; Isaiah 44:14-15).  (4) for fire (Isaiah 44:14-15).  (c) Man may use animals: (1) for food (Genesis 9:3; Proverbs 27:27; Luke 11:11-12; John 21:15-ff; Acts 10:9-ff; 1 Timothy 4:1-5, etc).  (2) for clothing (Genesis 3:21; Job 31:20; Matt. 3:4; Mark 1:6. etc).  (3) for their produce, e.g. milk, eggs, wool (Genesis 18:8; Proverbs 27:27; Luke 11:12 cf. Job 6:6; Proverbs 31:13).  (4) for work (Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Kings 19:19; 1 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18).  (5) Transportation (John 12:14-15; Acts 8:27-ff, etc.).  (6) Observe—man is even allowed to kill animals to protect and defend property (Exodus 21:28; 23:29; 1 Samuel 17:34-37).  Man is not completely distinct from nature.  He lives in a natural world.  He has natural needs.  He has been authorized to use nature to satisfy his desires and needs within the framework of God’s teachings.

4.  Man is of greater worth than animal life (see Matthew 6:26; 10:29-31; 12:11-12; 18:12-14; Luke 13:15-16; 14:1-5; 15:1-7).  This point is also evident from the record of Mark 5:1-13.  Any equating of animal life and human life to be of equal value is dangerously wrong, and a perversion of God’s design.

Other points

1. Man’s care of the environment can have an affect on his well-being. It was once the rule for major cities to have their streets filled with horse manure “Milwaukee, in 1967 had a population of 350,000 and a horse population of 12,500. It had a daily problem of 133 tons of manure… In 1908, when New York’s population was 4,777,000 it had 120,000 horses. Chicago in 1900 had 83,330 horses. Consider what happens to all of that naturally occurring equine pollution when it rains, or when the sun dries it out and the dust that would be created when the thousands of horses and wagon wheels ran over it and a breeze blew” (Gene Hill, The Sixth Annual Shenandoah Lectures, Biblical Ethics, p. 589). “Up to the close of the eighteenth century, hygienic provisions, even in the great capitals, were quite primitive. It was the rule for excrement to be dumped into the streets which were unpaved and filthy… It was a heyday for flies as they bred in the filth and spread intestinal disease that filled millions… deadly epidemics of typhoid, cholera, and dysentery” (S. L. McMillen, None of These Diseases, p. 13).

2. Man is not going to destroy all human life from the earth before the Lord’s return (1 Cor. 15:51; 1 Thes. 4:17). Let us ever live “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13). Eternity is coming. This earth is not man’s eternal home.

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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