A biblical view of animals

Sarah Sawicki ended her post on 8/1/15 with the questions “How can I address injustices toward animals without promoting logic that excludes some people from personhood? Is it possible to balance these two causes, or must one fall in favor of the other?” I think she is correct in her concern about the use of a capacity definition of personhood to establish the personhood of chimpanzees in order to protect them from what is seen to be abuse. I think that a biblical view of animals gives us a foundation for protecting animals while still maintaining a distinction between human beings who have personhood and animals that are not persons, but still have value and who we should care for responsibly.

Biblical Christianity has a long history of supporting the responsible care and treatment of animals while still maintaining the distinction between human beings and animals. One of the things that William Wilberforce and his friends fought for in England in addition to the end of the slave trade was an end to the cruel treatment of animals.

The Bible clearly states that animals are a part of what was good about creation. They are distinct from human beings who have been created in the image of God, but they are still a valuable part of creation. There is a difference between the value of human life and the value of animal life, but both have value. Human beings were created to have a role of being stewards of God’s creation which includes responsible care of animals. Due to our fallen sinful nature we have not done that very well and animals have suffered from the result of our sin. That is something that Christians need to address.

The Humane Society of the US has been working with some evangelical Christian leaders to produce an Evangelical Statement on Responsible Care for Animals which is scheduled to be released in late September. The statement will address in more detail the biblical foundation for how we should view animal life and care for animals responsibly. The Center for Ethics at Taylor University will be hosting a discussion of that statement on October 6 to talk about the responsibility that Christians have to care for animals.

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