Preserving Man and Beast
Jeffrey Kluger's recent Time magazine cover story, "What Animals Think," explores new research about the human-like intelligence of animals. A Bonobo (cousin of the chimpanzee) can learn hundreds of words. Dogs demonstrate social skills by following a pointed finger to its object. Crows bend wires to create fishing hooks. Elephants appear to mourn their dead.
Christians can and should marvel at the surprising points of connection between human and animal. But overemphasizing our commonalities can lead to dangerous territory. The Bible articulates a hierarchical model of creation, with humans "ruling" over the animals (Gen. 1:26). (Of course, much depends upon how we interpret the word rule. More on that later.) Genesis depicts humans as set apart from the rest of creation, for only humans have been created "in God's image" (Gen. 1:27). In addition to prioritizing humans through the actions of his ministry, Jesus affirms the distinct nature of humans when he addresses human anxiety: "You ...1