A question arose in response to a recent sermon at Fellowship Church, and I paraphrase: If we are so pro-life, then why didn’t we even mention animals. Sure, the pro-life position has enough nuance already in the human realm with ethical debates on birth control, point of conception, abortion, euthanasia, just war, self-defense, governmental authority and capital punishment. But for many, the protection of animal life (and perhaps plant life) should be as high a priority as the protection of human life.
Let me begin with some bad news for those over-the-top animal lovers:
Animals and humans are not equal according to Scripture.
Animals are good, fun, enjoyable companions (some more than others). Still, animals are not humans and are not equal. Dressing your dog in clothes and carrying her through the park does not make your dog a baby. It makes it a clothed dog. Still good. Not human.
The scriptural basis for this understanding of the priority of humans over animals, and all of nature, is evident in the creation account. Several indicators are given and a value assessment is made.
- Genesis 1:24-25 – God creates the beasts of the earth “according to their kind” and saw that it was good.
- Genesis 1:26-29 – God creates humans and gives them dominion over all of the animals of the sea, air and land. He creates humans different than animals as He creates man “in the image of God”.
- Genesis 1:30 – God instructs all creatures with breath to eat plants
- Genesis 2:20 – Adam names all of the animals, but a helper is not found that is fit for him. So God creates woman.
What do these passages tell us about the relationship between humans and animals as well as the rest of creation?
- Humans were not made to be equal with animals
- Humans were instructed to rule over the animals
- Before sin, neither humans nor animals were intended to die and only replenishing plants would be eaten
- God created woman partly because man was not intended to find relational fulfillment with animals
So again, animals are not humans and are not equal to humans. An animal life is not equivalent to a human life. I can almost feel that spiteful gaze I’m getting right now through the computer screen from those who LOVE their pets. Let me move quickly to the next point:
Scripture does not allow humans to hate animals.
This is a tough one for me. I really don’t like cats. I’m allergic to them and they annoy me. Still, I’m called to love cats. Notice again in the passages above, humans were given dominion over animals before sin. That means the dominion would not have been one of spite, pride, harm, or abuse. Dominion over animals, along with all of creation, was a stewardship entrusted to mankind.
The first account of any bloodshed in Scripture is not Cain’s killing of Abel; it is God’s killing of an animal to cover the nakedness of man and woman after their sin. We see in the law given to Israel and Peter’s vision in Acts that animals are good to eat. The stewardship of man over creation, and animals in particular, is no longer as gentle and peaceful as before the consequences of sin took effect. That stewardship, however, still exists. Mankind is called to steward this planet along with all of the plant and animal life within it.
Based on all of this, here are some Pro-Life take-aways for all of us:
- Care for all of creation. Don’t cut trees unnecessarily. Conserve energy and recycle where possible. Care for animals as you have the opportunity. Don’t needlessly kill anything. Respect and protect life.
- We are living in the effects of the fall. Animals eat each other and we eat them. Some animals seem to exist only to do harm or damage. Not all resources are renewable. Recognizing this as a tension in our stewardship of this earth is critical. Christians should be leading the way in protecting this world without exalting creation to a godlike or even humanlike status.
- The height of relationship on earth is between humans in the church, the Body of Christ. That might sound self-promotional, but it is scriptural. Those who are in Christ have a unity that transcends heredity or emotion. They are being transformed into His likeness. They will share eternity in His perfection. A priority on the protection of human life is appropriate. Beyond protecting human life, we should value human relationships first. Call those who are not in Christ to surrender to that calling. Consider those who are in Christ as the most valuable gifts on earth.
God sent His Son as a human. Humans are greater, but are called to live out that privilege with great responsibility toward all of creation. This is yet another way that we can truly be pro-life.