“Vegetarianism is a More Biblical Diet!”

I, as a vegetarian and a Christian, thought it important to point out that being a vegetarian is the more “natural” form of diet considering the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 1:29 we see that God gives the the fruits and seeds, vegetables etc…”as meat,” causing one to consider then obviously He (God) made a distinction between the meat of animals and the meat for humans to eat. I personally try to eat as close to Gen 1:29 as possible….this is not saying that meat is wrong–Jesus ate meat–yet Hinduism is simply ripping off God’s original plan and adding a twist of spirituality to what God intended to be natural and common sense. I am also not making a blanket statement that meat is unclean…not calling unclean what was made (or possibly created to be?) clean…considering the mass production of cattle in the U.S. and horrible sanitation we have adopted as common practice in the meat industry largely as a whole…we owe it to ourselves to consider these points that:

  1. God created man for a plant based diet
  2. That changed when sin entered the picture
  3. We are God’s temple, BODY, soul and spirit
  4. Animals being killed and eaten was symbolic also of Jesus’ sacrifice and our remembrance of Him in communion (a bit of foreshadowing). Also possibly why when meat consumption is documented it is only in special occasions–e.g.: symbolic feasts, sacrifice of the priests, celebrations of significance–but not frivolously. One would soon run out of cattle if you were eating them all the time. You wouldn’t sin too much either if you had to sacrifice cattle all the time.
  5. We are never commanded to eat meat.
  6. The meat back then and the meat now are almost two completely different things (as far as healthy content and environment are concerned.

Anyhow, I thank you for you time and on a final note…nothing in this world is the Devil’s original idea…it is simply a twist of God’s original idea…this goes for religions as well as health practices. The religions of the world have truth to them but those truths belong to Christianity and have been twisted and blown way out of proportion. May God bless you richly. Grace and Peace.

I agree with much of what you wrote but I would not go so far as to say that vegetarianism is more natural from a Biblical perspective. Clearly that was God’s initial intent, but the Fall changed many things as you indicated. Sin was not natural to our being before the Fall but is quite natural after. So it is quite possible that most of our bodies are going to struggle on a purely vegetarian diet as a result of changes wrought by the Fall. In fact, the care and knowledge needed to follow a strictly vegetarian diet and remain healthy, may indicate that in our fallen state, a diet that includes meat may be more natural. Just a thought.

Also we are clearly told that we can eat meat in Genesis 9:3, “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.” It is the same language and tense as in Genesis 1:29. Neither statement is strictly a command but God’s intent is made quite clear.


Ray Bohlin
Probe Ministries

“Please Consider the Christian Vegetarian Position”

Greetings Mr. Williams,

I enjoyed your well-written and thoughtfully-considered article “Probe Answers Our E-Mail: Eating Animals.”

I urge you, therefore, to consider the Christian vegetarian position, developed in scholarly literature and now, finally, summarized on the Internet (www.ChristianVeg.com).

Like your own perspective, vegetarian Christians do not typically equate human and animal life and shun exploitation in order to be the best stewards we can be of the Creation God has made. Take a look for yourself and tell me what you think!

Some “food” for thought: you stated, “God provided a food chain involving plants and animals for man.” But much modern research in nutrition is showing animal protein to be hardly necessary for the proper development of humans. In fact, an animal-free (vegan) diet is shown to be optimum (for human performance, growth, etc.). It certainly avoids many risks related to cancer and especially heart disease (which it virtually eliminates)–the two biggest killers of North Americans!!!

Consider the facts for your self–I am genuinely interested in your perspective in light of this knowledge. As a starting point from this perspective, from an “outside” (i.e. nonvegetarian) source, see the American Dietetic Association at http://www.eatright.org/cps/rde/xchg/ada/hs.xsl/index.html

Thanks for your time and consideration. I am looking forward to your response!

P.S. Relevant titles are listed on the bibliography on the website. See especially Is God a Vegetarian? by Richard Alan Young (student of Luke Timothy Johnson). And works by Stephen H. Webb, such as On God and Dogs: A Christian Theology of Compassion for Animals another title forthcoming from Oxford University Press this October.

Thank you for your recent E Mail concerning my article on “Eating Animals.”

I appreciate very much your contacting me, and I will make a note of your resources at ChristianVeg.com. I will be happy to refer your efforts to people who struggle with this issue, and I will explore your information myself as my dialogue with users continues.

I think there are many unanswered questions about this. For example, the human digestive system which parallels the herbivores (long) and not the carnivores (short) is an argument for your position. I have often pondered this.

On the other hand, if we take the Bible at its word, and recognizing the nutrition, disease, and environmental factors, etc., which you mentioned, I still do not think we can develop an exclusive doctrine of vegetarianism based on the Scriptures. The fact that God gives explicit instructions about which animals could and could not be eaten in the Hebrew community would indicate some meat eating is allowed.

I also turn to the New Testament and discover that Jesus celebrated Passover and ate portions of the slain lamb.

Further, there are passages in the New Testament (Peter’s vision in Acts 10, or Romans 14, for example) which indicate that this is a matter of conscience, indicating that some may choose to eat meat, and others who do not. But one is not supposed to judge the other, because God has sanctified both.

I will look forward to reviewing your material.

Warm Regards,

Jimmy Williams, Founder
Probe Ministries

Dear Probe,

I find your correspondence with the Christian vegetarian to be so interesting. . . It’s got to be the best dialogue I’ve seen on this topic in almost all of my 30+ years. I just wanted to add that I don’t think the choice to eat or not eat meat is one of just conscience. See, I quit meat (long before becoming a Christian) and had several problems physically/medically. I’m anemic, and not eating meat seemed to complicate the matter. I tried vitamins, eating more beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables (especially spinach) and still couldn’t raise my iron level to where it needed to be. . . The only thing that worked (and had I been honest with myself I would have heeded the strong cravings) was a 6-8 ounce piece of beef liver prior to my monthly cycle. I’ve since taken to eating meat again (although I’m still more a veggie eater) and I’ve been a lot healthier for it. I say all of this to say, that I and many others are not wired for life without flesh. The Lord’s intricate work will never be fully figured out as it regards the body (although we’ve seen some of the best medical advances known to man and that’s a good thing). . . Nothing could take the place of meat in my life. I’m not sure why this happened or why it’s still a necessity, but I would love to be meatless, I just wouldn’t be as healthy. I hope this all makes sense. I’m looking forward to the next installment regarding vegetarianism. Thanks and keep up the good work.

Well, your comment IS the next installment! <smile> As a lover of chicken and cheeseburgers, I freely admit to a pro-meat-eating bias. . . but even with my personal preferences aside, I think your experience adds an important element to the discussion. Vegetarianism can cause problems for women of childbearing age that men do not face, and this needs to be considered as we seek to be wise stewards of the bodies God gave us to use for His glory.

Thanks for writing!

Sue Bohlin
Probe Ministries

Bridging to Common Ground: Communicating Christ Across the Cultural Divide

Have you ever felt like an alien in your own culture? What was your reaction to the people in that other group? The other day, mine was negative, then a bit hopeful. It all left me very humbled, but ready once more to build bridges and sow spiritual seed over shared common ground.

Always Ready?

There I was, in a vegetarian restaurant, talking to the Chinese owner about my motivations for patronizing this rare refuge for vegans, vegetarians and other people far removed from my day-to-day world. I just like to eat healthier sometimes, I weakly offered. After all, when I recently found it closed, I had sauntered to the Texas-style barbeque joint in the same shopping center feeling little irony.

Not so for most of the old man’s clientele. They just seemed to fit the veggie-eaters mold. I felt conspicuously out of place as I mingled in the buffet line with pony-tailed guys, gals with their hair in doo-rags, Indian and Chinese immigrants. Yet there I stood, representing white middle-America in my Tommy Bahama knock-off shirt and dress slacks.

I spied a rack of religious booklets promoting an off-beat Asian religious group. Hey, I thought to myself, if you want authentic tofu-based cuisine, you have to mix with the diversity. No problem.

But I wasn’t prepared for the group of youths who walked in next, sporting dreadlocks, torn Goth stockings, studded leather boots and T-shirts that would offend the most tough-minded. The “F” word assaulted me in a slogan scrawled across the back of several wearing the official T-shirt for the punk band P*ssChrist.

I have to admit, I wavered between repulsion and compassion, amusement and offense. Then I began to fantasize about striding right up the large table of vegan-gothic-anti-social kids and introducing myself. I imagined chatting, asking about the band their shirts represent, then moving on to the fact that not all Christ-followers are hypocritical haters—see, I’m talking to you!

My two-fold goal in my little daydream, admittedly: to challenge their perception of an establishment-looking right-wing Christian guy like me and to test their own assumed sensibilities regarding acceptance, tolerance and diversity. After all, I judged, can they themselves show tolerance for a fellow who represents a polar opposite worldview and set of values? Or will they be found out as just another brand of bigot? All of this I dreamed up perhaps without even finding out their names! I never went over to their table.

Bad Thinking Means No Bridging or Burned Bridges

Upon reflection, I saw how off-guard I was spiritually and how deeply my gut reactions represent some questionable thinking, even unbiblical attitudes. I would probably have come off as, well, a hypocritical hater, despite the better intentions I mixed in with my prejudices. That drove me to prayer and back to a book that is still worth reading: Finding Common Ground: How to Communicate with Those Outside the Christian Community—While We Still Can by Tim Downs.

My response revealed several unhelpful presuppositions about people on the other side of the cultural divide and how to deal with them that still have roots in my soul, although I should know better. My private syllogism went like this:

They’re obviously not for us (biblical believers), but against us, so

The best way to deal with such people would be to confront them or ignore them (and I don’t prefer the latter).

Although confronting them outright would be wrong, it wouldn’t take long for the tolerant approach to necessarily give way to an uncomfortable, confrontational proclamation of truth, so bring it on!

Somebody’s got to reach these folks, and it’s apparent that sooner is better. These are the last days, after all.{1}

But building bridges with the eventual goal of sharing the gospel fruitfully—something I’ve worked at full-time for two decades—requires much more. More thought, compassion, understanding, wisdom and patience. The kind, writes Downs, modeled not by grain harvesters, but rather by fruit growers. This is biblical, but often ignored by Bible-believers.{2}

As a member of an out-of-balance evangelical Christian subculture, I have unconsciously bought into a worldview that overvalues the spiritual harvest at the expense of spiritual sowing. In so doing, I am implicated in a scorched-earth mentality that neither tends the spiritually unready nor makes allowance for future crops.{3} I repent, and not for the first time.

This way of thinking assumes a vast conspiracy of God-haters. Although the caustic, outspoken atheism of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins has risen to prominence recently, it is not the norm. Rather a muddled middle of persuadable unbelievers and confused born-agains is still a large part of the American scene.{4} The us vs. them approach tends to be self-fulfilling, writes Downs. If approached as an enemy, defensiveness is understandably generated in those who dont fit cleanly into our community. Even for announced enemies, like the T-shirt-wearing punk rockers, turning the other cheek while engaging with love can be a powerful witness.

Another evangelical myth, according to Downs, is the certainty that we’re experiencing the final harvest.{5} Indeed, the coarsening of the culture is a mainstay and we are promised that, in the End Times, things will go from bad to worse. That’s sure how it looks, increasingly. Also, we conservative Christians, who shared the heady age of the Moral Majority, are now being blended with every other social group into a stew of diversity where no group is a majority—and we sound like jilted lovers, says Downs. We need to ask, How much of the spiritual fruitlessness in America might we be contributing to by our own perceptions and resultant attitudes?

To act out of such worldview-level angst and fail to prepare to reach future generations is dereliction. Picking low-hanging fruit, if you will, and plowing under the remaining vines is neither loving nor wise. It’s certainly not God’s way, thankfully.

If I’d waltzed up to that table of vegetarian punkers the other day, I’d have likely displayed the attitude Downs critiques and confesses having owned: I’ll proclaim the truth. What they do with it is their business. In other words, ‘Id walk away self-justified, ineffective—and likely having done harm rather than God’s purposes. My commitment to justice would have overridden my practice of love.{6}

To make any genuine impact for Christ among a crowd so foreign to me as these youths would require more than mere personal chutzpah and a bag of evangelistic and apologetic “tricks.” I’d need to wade humbly into their world, eyes wide open and skin toughened, expecting no respect (initially at least), hoping realistically only for long-term results. I could not be effective in my current state—from dress to time commitments to my mindset. To be missional about it long-term, I’d need to be surely called of God and make a monumental life-change, like a missionary I met here in town.

Becoming All Things to All People

I first heard of Dale{7} when he spoke to parents at our kids’ Christian school. I marvelled that he and his wife—both in their 40s—along with their three girls would pack up their middle-class home, leave a thriving youth pastorate in a Baptist church and take up residence in the grungiest, hippest part of Dallas, Texas. When I met with Dale down in Deep Ellum, I could feel the gaping divide between my suburban existence and the urban alternative, Bohemian art-music district scene he’d adopted.

When a couple of 20-something chicks interrupted our meal, I was annoyed that he left me hanging for some time. But Dale’s apology stopped me short in my own self-absorption. He and his wife had befriended one of the gals, a bartender, and were seeking to slowly, carefully build a relationship with her without scaring her off. And it was working. She had noticed the non-confrontational yet uncompromising difference in this loving Christian couple and asked about it. Now, when she introduces these Christian friends, she openly initiates conversations about spiritual things with rank unbelievers. There’s no threat felt, but plenty of curiosity.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.”{8} To use the hackneyed phrase, “Walk a mile in their shoes”—even if the shoes are foul (some punkers don’t do hygiene) or not your style.

When I researched the band with the sacriligious name on the T-shirts, I was introduced to a subculture that not only was foreign to me, but one that actively alienates itself from the larger culture. Part of a movement called anarcho-crust punk, this particular band is known for blasphemous rants. Counter-cultural lifestyle, vile language, themes of death, filth and anti-religious, anti-conservative and anti-capitalist identity politics all mark this underworld of dark lostness.

To bridge across cultural canyons—even such a radical one—to begin on common ground with those outside the Christian community, we need to:

adopt a bridging mentality—think of outreach as a process and pass your perspective on

avoid fueling intolerant stereotypes and show genuine, biblical tolerance

don’t burn bridges—avoid unnecessary confrontation but rather persuade by modeling uncompromising love and concern along with truth

remember from where you fell and recall who the Enemy really is—our struggle is not against flesh and blood{9}

cultivate, sow, harvest and begin again. Patiently use art and subtle, effective communications{10}

relate genuinely: share your own foibles, ask sincerely about their anger and pain

wait on God’s timing, but don’t fail to offer the gospel and help them grasp faith

For those called to go native to bridge across cultural divides, one couple reaching out in the London music-arts district serves as a model. In a four-hour conversation with a Londoner deep into the local scene—a definite unbeliever who knew of the couple’s Christian commitments—the husband was asked:

What do you think of homosexuality?

After thoughtfully pausing, he deferred, Well, I’d prefer to not share that with you.

Why not?

Because I believe my view on that will offend you and I don’t want to do that; you’re my friend.{11}

Compromise? Wimpiness? No. Curiosity caused the non-Christian to ask again some time later, to which the believer responded gently, “As I said, I don’t want to offend you, but since you asked again. . .” His reply led to Jesus Christ Himself. His biblical response evoked a thoughtful, “Oh—now I’m glad you warned me. That is very different from my opinion.” The message was heard and respected. The relationship, still intact, grew in breadth and depth and led to a fuller witness.

Our London-based missionary took care, as a vinedresser, not to bruise the unripe fruit. His eventual impact with the life-changing good news of Christ was made possible by the patience and love he balanced with the hard truth. He and his wife, an accomplished musician, now have high-level contacts in this London subculture.

I’m taking mental notes and rereading Down’s important book for some really useful and specific strategies for bridging to common ground with those alien to me.


1. Finding Common Ground: How to Communicate with Those Outside the Christian Community…While We Still Can, Tim Downs, (Moody Press: Chicago, 1999), Chapter 3, “Calling Down Fire,” pages 33ff.
2. Ibid, 46.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid, 44.
5. Ibid, 47. See also: End Time Anxieties.
6. Ibid, 38.
7. Not his real name.
8. I Corinthians 9:22 (NASB).
9. Ephesians 6:12 (NASB).
10. Downs, T., op. cit., 66-71.
11. Based on second-hand account without attempt to check details of the conversation. The meaning was clear: by waiting and building credibility, the door to sharing more opened where none likely would have otherwise.

© 2007 Probe Ministries

Animal Liberation: Do the Beasts Really Benefit?

Are You a Speciesist?

“When it comes to feelings, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.”(1) That is the moral bottom line for Ingrid Newkirk, founder and director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (or PETA). I intend to discuss in these pages the contentious issue of animal rights; yet for Ms. Newkirk the issue is settled: a boy has no more (and no less) rights than a rat.

Almost every week there is a story in the media about a research project stopped by an animal rights group, a protest against women wearing furs, a laboratory bombed by a militant animal rights activist, or a media figure protesting the conditions of animals on factory farms. What are all these protests about, and how should a Bible-believing Christian approach these issues? That is our subject in this pamphlet.

In 1975 Australian Peter Singer wrote a book whose title was to become the banner of a new movement: Animal Liberation. This book laid the foundation for most of the discussion since 1975, but it also set the tone of that discussion as specifically anti-Christian. Singer is quite clear about his distaste for Christianity: “It can no longer be maintained by anyone but a religious fanatic that man is the special darling of the universe, or that animals were created to provide us with food, or that we have divine authority over them, and divine permission to kill them.”(2)

By using the echoes of specific passages from the Bible and claiming that only a “religious fanatic” could still believe them, Singer is making clear not only that his view is not based on anything resembling a biblical worldview, but that, in fact, the Bible is the root of much of the problem.

It was Peter Singer’s book that also made popular the rather ponderous term “speciesism.” He writes of this as, “a prejudice or attitude of bias in favor of the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species.”(3) Singer says speciesism is just as bad as sexism or racism.

So what does “speciesism” really mean? If you think it’s acceptable to test a medicine on laboratory animals before giving that medicine to a sick child or a cancer patient fighting for life, then you, too, are a speciesist. If you believe it is all right to eat meat or fish or shrimp, you are clearly a speciesist, just as guilty as someone who thinks that slavery is an acceptable way to treat another human being, according to Singer and others in the animal rights movement.

Why should Christians even bother to think about issues like animal rights when people are not even treated as well as animals in places like Bosnia or Iraq or many inner cities? Christians need to be actively involved in speaking out and acting clearly on this issue because the very definitions of humanity, of human dignity, and human responsibility are being rapidly reconstructed and any hint of man as created in the image of God or of a God who creates and gives value is seen as “speciesist” and dangerous.

Are We the Creation’s Keeper?

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them…. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. That’s how God describes His coming kingdom in Isaiah 11.

Clearly God is concerned for all the animals He has created, and they will share a future, a non-violent future, with us. But what of today? How does God intend us to treat animals now?

The animal liberation movement opposes favoring humans over other animals. “Speciesism,” they say, is treating humans as if they were more valuable than other animals. What does the Bible say?

God, in Genesis, tells us we have a responsibility as stewards to care for His creation. We are God’s representatives on earth, but we are not Lords of the earth. In Proverbs Solomon says that “a righteous man cares for the needs of his animal” (Prov. 12:10). It is a mark of righteousness that we give animals the care they need. But at the same time we must understand that both we and the rest of creation have value because a sovereign God created us and gave us value because He cares about us. Our value comes from God and not ourselves.

Our concern for animals does not mean we should give up the Bible’s insistence that we are unique in all of God’s creation because we bear His image, or that we should immediately eliminate all use of animals for any purpose and live resolutely vegetarian lives. What place, then, should animals have? In Matthew 12:11-12 Jesus berates the Pharisees’ willingness to help an animal on the Sabbath but not a human.

If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.

Jesus’ point is clear: we should have compassion on animals in trouble, but have even more compassion for human beings, because they are “much more valuable” than sheep! But Christians sometimes show little compassion for either.

As Christians we have often not lived up to our responsibilities to animals as creations of God. Frequently we have acted as if all animals are here only for our use, to do with whatever we wanted. We have taken God’s statement in Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth,” as giving us the right of despots, not the responsibilities of stewards. As Christians we have not set an example for the world of valuing the rest of creation because it belongs to God, and we have often abused the creation with no sense of damaging a creation that is not our own.

Next, we will look at what happens when people who deny God try to find an adequate basis on which to build value for themselves or animals, and how far into dangerous territory this can lead them.

From Animal Rights to Abortion: A Small Step from Man to Animal

“Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses.”(4) This is how Ms. Newkirk of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sums up her outrage at the killing of animals. What happens when well- meaning people try to give animals value without God? Ms. Newkirk may think she has improved our view of chickens by comparing them to Jews who were killed in concentration camps. But actually she only trivializes one of the most brutish examples of evil in our century. In her view numbers are everything; if more chickens than people were killed, then poultry farming is worse than Nazi Germany.

What is the foundation of Ms. Newkirk’s sense of value? She speaks of Peter Singer’s book, Animal Liberation, as “the Bible of the animal-rights movement.” Singer develops a purely utilitarian view of the greatest good for the greatest number of beings that can experience pain. For Singer there can be no God over creation. He almost sarcastically says: “The Bible tells us that God made man in His own image. We may regard this as man making God in his own image.”(5) So Singer turns to evolution to consider how we are related to other creatures.

Singer believes the evolutionary history of humans and other animals, particularly mammals, makes our central nervous system and theirs very similar. His conclusion? That many animals must feel pain like we do. Since we have no basis, in his view, to see humans as any different from other animals, if it is bad to do something to another pain-feeling human being, then it is wrong to do it to any other pain-feeling animal. The logic is simple, but it leads to just the kinds of confusion that cannot separate Jews dying in gas ovens from chickens dying in processing plants.

Where does a view like this ultimately lead? Singer willingly points the way in its application to new-born children. Writing for physicians in the journal Pediatrics, he shows how his ethic applies to humans,

Once the religious mumbo jumbo surrounding the term “human” has been stripped away…we will not regard as sacrosanct the life of each and every member of our species, no matter how limited its capacity for intelligent or even conscious life may be.(6)

With chilling clarity, Singer says that once we come to his position of valuing a life only if it meets certain requirements, it is much easier to take the life, not only of the unborn, but of those who have a “low quality of life.” He argues for the right to take the lives of new-born children who do not have certain capacities for “intelligent or even conscious life.” Singer concludes:

If we can put aside the obsolete and erroneous notion of the sanctity of all human life,…it will be possible to approach these difficult decisions of life and death with the ethical sensitivity that each case demands, rather than with a blindness to individual differences.(7)

In other words, if a baby does not measure up to Singer’s standards, it is not kept alive. The values of animal rights, applied to people, lead coldly to abortion and euthanasia.

While there are many areas where Christians might disagree with the animal rights movement, one might well ask, Have we Christians lived up to the responsibilities God gave us towards animals?

Are Farm Animals Just Machines?

After the Flood, God tells Noah: “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.” God also makes a covenant, not only with Noah, but “with every living creature that was with you–the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you–every living creature on earth” (Gen. 9:3, 10).

So, while there is no question that God has given us permission to eat meat, we must also remember that we are moving towards a kingdom in which, as we saw in Isaiah 11, all of creation will live at peace with one another. So what should we be doing now, as we await perfection?

We have already looked at problems with the animal rights position. On the other hand, there are some uses of animals that should cause Christians significant concern.

One of the great changes in Western economies has been the change from the small family farm to the huge “agribusiness.” With this change has come not only increased production and lower food prices, but the treatment of animals as machines and land as a commodity. One area where animal rights activists have done commendable work is in showing the appalling conditions under which most farm animals now live.

Chickens live in battery cages that, on average, allow them only 36 to 48 square inches. This means that two chickens live in less space than a page of paper. Generally four or five chickens share a cage, so that they must almost physically live on top of each other. Does this sound like what Solomon means when he said that “a righteous man cares for the needs of his animal”?

As one other example, pigs too are treated as machines to produce food. The United States Department of Agriculture tells farmers: “If the sow is considered a pig manufacturing unit, then improved management…will result in more pigs weaned per sow per year.” This is surely not man acting as a good steward of created beings that belong to God. The decline of any belief in God has been accompanied by a decline in any attempt to treat animals on farms as anything other than “manufacturing units” to be treated in whatever way will cause them to produce the most.

If we truly believe what the Psalmist says, that “The earth is the LORD’s and all it contains” (Ps. 24:1), then we must not accept how those who do not believe this have acted. While we are directly given permission in Scripture to eat meat, it might well make a great difference in how animals are treated if Christians choose not to buy from those meat producers who do not tend to their animals as if they really did belong to God.

In the same way that if we believe in the sanctity of human life we must stand against abortion, so too, if we believe that “the earth is the LORD’s” then we must consider whether we can support those who do not treat animals as animals but only as “manufacturing units.”

I want to conclude this discussion with some suggestions about how we can both uphold the uniqueness of humans and stand against the mistreatment of God’s creation.

Recovering the Creation as Compassionate Stewards

I have pointed out the disturbing consequences of abandoning the biblical view that humans are created in the image of God. As theologian and social critic Richard John Neuhaus perceptively puts it: “The campaign against `speciesism’ is a campaign against the singularity of human dignity and, therefore, of human responsibility…. The hope for a more humane world, including the more humane treatment of animals, is premised upon what [animal rights activists] deny.”(8)

If we are merely animals, we have no reason to be less species- ist than other animals. Dogs show no concern for the welfare of cats. If we are moral in a way that other animals cannot be, then we are both different from other animals and responsible to God for that difference. Because we have a spiritual aspect that no other animal shares, what the Bible calls the “image of God,” we also have a responsibility to care for what God has entrusted to us. How should we live out that responsibility?

First, we must live in obedience to Jesus Christ. It was Jesus who reminded us that God clothes even the grass as an example of His care for all His creation. We need to demonstrate in our actions and in how we teach our children that we, too, consider all of God’s creation as something that shows His glory.

Secondly, we must consider what our own role is as God’s stewards. Just as not all are called to give their lives in vocational missionary service, so, too, not all are called to be full-time activists for better treatment of God’s creation. But we are all called to be missionaries, and we are all called to be stewards and not spoilers of the natural world.

Medical research and experiments on animals provide an excellent place for Christians to be proactive. Animals must be humanely treated, but at the same time we have much to learn about the treatment of cancer, diseases of the nervous system, and the management of serious injuries from animal experiments. If a cure for AIDS or any one of a number of genetic diseases is to be found, it should first be tested on animals. However, just as on farms, we have a duty as stewards to see that animals are treated with the respect due them as part of God’s creation. Like Jesus, who regarded helping the sheep out of the well as more important than keeping the Sabbath, so too we must speak out strongly for the humane treatment of animals whenever they are used by humans.

We have been given the right and the responsibility to rule over the earth by its Owner, God. Once Christians led in this area, starting the whole movement for the humane treatment of animals. Now we have little to say to our culture about real stewardship. We must read our Bibles carefully and prayerfully consider how God would have us help recover His creation. Animals may not have rights, but we as Christians clearly have responsibilities to them.

As Christians we must stand for man as created in the image of God and His creation as a reflection of His glory. Let us say with the Psalmist: “How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (Ps. 104:24).


1. Ingrid Newkirk cited in Charles Oliver, “Liberation Zoology,” Reason (June 1990), p. 22.
2. Peter Singer, Animal Liberation (New York: Avon Books, 1975), p. 215.
3. Peter Singer, Animal Liberation, new revised ed. (New York: Avon Books, 1990) p. 6.
4. “Liberation Zoology,” p. 26.
5. Animal Liberation, new rev. ed., p. 187.
6. Peter Singer, “Sanctity of Life or Quality of Life,” Pediatrics (July 1983), pp. 128-29. (Cited in Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster.)
7. Ibid.
8. Richard John Neuhaus, “Animal Lib,” Christianity Today, 18 June 1990, p. 20.


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