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Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion

Animals, Religion and the Environment
The Bible’s Teachings on Protecting Animals and Nature
by Lewis Regenstein

Part 10: Human-Stewardship Responsibilities

Not only does the Bible stress that nature reflects God's glory and greatness, but the Scriptures also make it clear that humans have been given a special responsibility to protect and care for the natural environment. Yet ironically, this Biblical mandate has often been used as a license to despoil and destroy instead of an obligation to protect and preserve.

Probably no passage in the Bible has been so misunderstood and misinterpreted as the passage in the first chapter of Genesis (1:26) wherein God gives mankind "dominion" over nature and animals. This has often been mistakenly interpreted as a synonym for ownership, giving humans the right to treat nature and animals as they see fit. However, the Bible makes it clear that human dominion consists of stewardship over the natural world. This duty carries the responsibility not to mistreat the earth and to protect it from abuse, as Genesis 1:28 makes clear when God commands mankind to "replenish the earth."

Further evidence of human-stewardship obligations is found in the Bible's stressing that mankind is only a "sojourner," a temporary resident of the land the Lord loans to him. In Leviticus (25:23), the Lord proclaims, "The land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me."

The Twenty-fourth Psalm makes clear that the world belongs not to mankind but to God, observing that "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; The world, and they that dwell therein." Similarly, Deuteronomy 10: 14 proclaims, "Behold, unto the Lord thy God belongeth the heaven and the earth, with all that therein is."

All living things are also God's creatures and belong to Him, as the Lord clearly points out in Psalm 50: “For every beast of the forest is mine; and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountain; and the wild beasts of the field are mine.”

Go on to Part 11: Into Your Hand Are They Delivered
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