What attitude should Christians adopt toward animals? This question has forced itself on the attention of many in Britain by the recent observance of Animal Welfare Year. It marked the centenary of the unamended Cruelty to Animals Act (1976), was supported by nearly seventy animal welfare societies, and aimed to promote more humane behavior toward laboratory animals, domestic pets, farm animals, and wildlife.
God has given to human beings a midway position between himself and the animals. In our physiology we are like them: we breathe like them (“living creatures” is a phrase applied to us both: Gen. 1:20, 24; 2:7), we eat and drink like them, and we reproduce like them (the command to “be fruitful” is addressed to us both: Gen. 1:22, 28). But in our higher faculties, and in the activities that these make possible (thinking, choosing, loving, creating, worshiping), we are unlike the animals and like God. In consequence, we combine the dependence on God that is common to all his creatures with a responsible dominion over the subhuman creation that is unique.
One extreme attitude to nature and to animals has been that of worship. Many ancient religions were pantheistic in tendency, identifying the gods with nature. The Egyptians worshiped the gods of sun, sky, air, earth, and water, and the Canaanites the “baals” or nature gods that were thought to have fertility powers. Both groups represented their deities in the form of either birds or beasts.
Still today popular Hinduism leans toward pantheism, and primitive animists live in dread of the spirits believed to inhabit mountains, forests, rivers, and animals. All such superstition is swept away by the uncompromising biblical assertion that ...
John R. W. Stott (1921 – 2011) is known worldwide as a preacher, evangelist, author, and theologian. For 66 years he served All Souls Church, Langham Place, in London, England, where he pioneered effective urban evangelistic and pastoral ministry. During these years he authored more than 50 books, and served as one of the original Contributing Editors for Christianity Today. Stott had a global vision and built strong relationships with church leaders outside the West in the Majority World. A hallmark of Stott's ministry was his vision for expository biblical preaching that addresses the hearts and minds of contemporary men and women. In 1969 he founded a trust that eventually became Langham Partnership International (www.langham.org), a ministry that continues his vision of partnership with the Majority World Church. Stott was honored by Time magazine in 2005 as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World."1
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