Christ Loves Creatures,
A thesis by: Norma Carol
- Edited Internet Edition -
The New Testament
Let’s skip over to the New Testament to discover how its writers carry on this tradition. One of the most popular passages concerning future glory for both mankind and creation is Romans 8:18-25. The Apostle Paul assures believers that their suffering is shared by creation and will result in mutual future inheritance of the glory of Christ. As a matter of fact, 8:19 is meant for animals and inanimate creation. It, too, is "eager" in its yearning for redemption. The NIV notes on 8:21 inform us that:
The physical universe is not destined for destruction (annihilation) but for renewal (see 2Pe 3:13; Rev 21:1). And living things will no longer be subject to death and decay, as they are today.21
Further commentary tells us: "Nature is thought of as sharing in the stress, anxiety, and pain which we ourselves feel as we wait for the promised redemption."22
What is most interesting is that, despite Calvin’s belief that animals are not immortal (as noted in the "Use" section), he states:
(referencing 8:19): I understand it in this sense: ‘There is no element and no part of the world which, touched by the knowledge of its present misery, is not intent on the hope of the resurrection.’ Paul states two truths—all creatures labour, and yet are sustained by hope. From this too we see how immense is the price of eternal glory, which can excite and draw all things to desire it.23
(referencing 8:21): Paul does not mean that all creatures will be partakers of the same glory with the sons of God, but they will share in their own manner in a better state, because God will restore the present fallen world to perfect condition at the same time as the human race. (Emphasis mine)24
Again I ask, how can animals have a better state and not have immortality? How can they be aware of the resurrection and not experience either Heaven or the New Earth?
John Wesley is well known for his view that, from a biblical point of view, animals go to heaven. He fully expected to see his beloved horse eternally. We can see this from his comments:
While "the whole creation groans together" (whether men attend or not), their groans are not dispersed in idle air, but enter into the ears of him that made them. While his creatures "travail together in pain," he knows all their pain, and is bringing them nearer and nearer to the birth which shall be accomplished in its season. He sees "the earnest expectation" wherewith the whole animated creation "waits for that final manifestation of the sons of God": in which "they themselves also shall be delivered" (not by annihilation: annihilation is not deliverance) "from the" present "bondage of corruption, into" a measure of "the glorious liberty of the children of God."25
Commentary from Stuhlmacher indicates that Paul appropriately confirms that point from 8:23. That is, "…precisely because it is the redeeming work of the creator God, it must include within it the bodily resurrection of the dead and the salvation of the creation as a whole!"26 Despite Stuhlmacher’s liberal theology, his statement in this case is not far off from that of Calvin and Wesley. This reinforces the straightforward meaning of the passage.
Colossians is the book that reveals God’s intent toward animals so clearly. In 1:16e, "all things were created by him and for him" (emphasis mine) we see all that is ours is actually here for Christ—the first humbling reality needing to be addressed. Skipping down the passages we read:
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven by making peace though his blood, shed on the cross. (1:19, 20)
This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (1:23b—emphasis mine)
The NASB states 1:23b as: "…proclaimed in all creation." Creation is translated from ktisis as, in this sense, creation and creature.27 Yet Vine’s states the meaning of ktisis, in 1:23 "has special reference to mankind in general".28 We would have to conclude that Paul is being consistent in his Epistle to Colossians with that to the Romans.
Thomas Aquinas was a supporter of the "Care" Opinion, although he did not believe in an animal afterlife. He quoted Augustine saying the following:
But animals devoid of reason cannot be happy, as Augustine says in the Eighty-three Questions 5. Therefore, other things do not share in man’s ultimate end." 29
But if we speak of the ultimate end of man with respect to the attainment of the end, then irrational creatures do not share that end. For man and other rational creatures pursue the ultimate end by knowing and loving God, and other creatures cannot do this, but they attain the ultimate end insofar as they participate in some similitude of God, insofar as they exist, live, or even know.30
It is all fine and dandy to know what Paul, Assisi, Aquinas, Wesley, Calvin, and Shuhlmacher said, although their messages are encouraging. But what, if anything, did Jesus say?
The Apostle John shared one of Jesus’ comments on salvation and creation in 3:16, 17. This may be surprising to some because this is quoted over and over when witnessing. Few would even think of creation. To quote Hoffman:
This is pure grace, but once we are enlightened, we also have a responsibility. Note the fact that Jesus didn’t say that God so loved the people, but that He loved the whole world, including all inhabitants, both human and animal.31
Furthermore, the word "world" comes from the Greek "kǒsmǒs" meaning: "…orderly arrangement…by impl[ying] the world (in a wide or narrow sense) includ[ing] its inhab[itants], lit[erally] or fig[uratively]."32
To be fair and balanced, others have different interpretations of kǒsmǒs relating to John 3:16, 17. Dr. Gerald Peterman stated: "In my view it refers primarily not to people or animals or earth. It refers to an evil system in opposition to God."33
Vine’s considers kǒsmǒs in this instance to mean: "…by metonymy, the "human race, mankind,"…"34
These three interpretations are provided for consideration. CLCt prefers, of course, to adhere to the interpretation presented by The NASB. If no exegete agreed with Hoffman, this reference would not have been included within this work. Scripture is not to be twisted to suit opinions, but opinions adjusted to Scripture.
Before being aware of the John 3:16, 17 connection to Jesus, and knowing that my interpretation of Romans is accurate, I was still troubled in "preaching" these views, being ever so cautious not to distort Scripture. In my search to find out if Jesus said anything about resurrection of animals, lo and behold, four days before my yet-to-be prepared sermonette on the subject, God woke me in the middle of the night and led me to Matthew 13:44, the parable about the Hidden Treasure. The NASB notes interpret this passage as follows:
…Parable no. 5 (v.44) about the hidden treasure found in the field are the people in the world in whom He establishes His kingdom. In order to possess them, He gave His own life. He hides this treasure, God’s redeemed saints, in the world until He redeems or purchases the whole world when He will come again to liberate not only the believer within the world but the world itself. (Rom. 8:19-26; Rev. 21) (Emphasis mine).35
I chose NASB that morning because I knew it was closest to the original Greek and believed that whatever I read would be true. This is the only place I’ve read this interpretation. Due to my experience related to its discovery, it had to be sent from God.
Lastly, Jesus also told his disciples in what as known as the Great Commission, to preach the Gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15 NASB). I called a church I was attending to ask what "creation" meant, and the intern confirmed it meant literally all creation. Assisi certainly interpreted this to mean animals.
The three sources I checked did not give an example of an exact sermon by Assisi. However, the way he spoke to animals in other areas demonstrate similar lessons to those given to mankind. For example, in "How St. Francis Tamed the Very Fierce Wolf of Gubbio," Assisi gently but firmly convicted the wolf of his "horrible crimes by destroying God’s creatures without any mercy...[and] the even more brazenness to kill and devour human beings made in the image of God";36 that he deserved to die, but Assisi wanted to make peace with him. The wolf indicated through body language that he agreed to the pact of peace. This can be related to people concerning our sin debt, that we deserve to die, but Christ made a peace pact by giving His life for us and our part is to accept it.
Preaching to animals, should we choose to do so, would need to be within the Great Commission. For if we believe God has a relationship with animals, that He communicates with them in a manner known to them, then the Holy Spirit should somehow work to let the animals know what we are saying. The difference could be that, while people hear sin debt forgiven first, animals would hear reconciliation and liberation first. Both are biblical. Paul wrote to the Colossians that the Gospel has been proclaimed to creation. Assisi continued preaching. I baptized my pets and frequently tell them that they were created by God just for me to love and care for and we’ll be together forever because of what Jesus did for us.
This leads us to the question of animal souls. Hebrews believed that people have five stages of soul. The lowest form, called nepeš is the one shared between people and animals. This is one basis on which those who do not believe animals go to heaven reach their conclusion. Nepeš is the soul of God-breathed life, but it does not live on after death. This form of soul includes the whole person.
The New Testament builds on the principle of the Old Testament soul, but the word changes to psychē wherein the soul is not only personified but spiritualized. The soul is viewed as immortal.
Another opinion concerning animals returning to dust is that animals and people are created differently because creatures of the air and sea came from the water and animals came from the earth (Genesis 21, 23). It is my contention that being created differently is more in the area of being "their kind" and humans being in God’s image and, as Hoffman puts it, somewhat exalted.
Others say that God did not breathe into animals as he did to Adam. If we are to go with this assumption, then women are animals. If we take the Bible literally, women were created out of man, but we do not read that God breathed into woman! The God breath argument is "grasping at straws". People who do not want to believe animals share creation and eternity with us do so in order to justify eating meat.37 I have been told, "If I knew animals had souls, I couldn’t eat meat." They just do not want to hear it.
It is my conclusion that, just as people have resurrected souls, animals do. This is based on looking at the Cross, not at the Torah. This is looking at the New Covenant, not the Old. This is the most important message CLCt can get out to Christians.
…God does communicate with the animals in ways we do not understand, and are even more reluctant to accept. However, if we accept the fact of animals having bodies, souls, and spirits as we do, then all this becomes understandable.38
Respect and love for animals spills over to respect and love for humans, and that should work in the reverse as well. It is common knowledge that most serial killers and mass murderers started their campaign as children by abusing animals. Christians need to realize that love is love is love.
We have only "scratched the surface" of biblical authority toward caring for animals with the most important themes and passages. Part 3 focuses on four animal abuse subjects. Circumstances and views of those involve in those circumstances will be covered. Part 4 will include opinions expressed by Christian authors on the subject of animal stewardship. This is purposeful in establishing the dire necessity for CLCt and all those already established which are reaching out to the world.
21.The NIV, 2228 Return to text
22. The NRSV, 218NT Return to text
23. Calvin’s Commentary, 172. Return to text
24. Ibid., 174 Return to text
25. Snyder, Howard A. "This World Is Not My Home?" in The Best Preaching on Earth: Sermons on Caring for Creation (Stan L. LaQuire, ed.) (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1996), 50, 51. Return to text
26. Stuhlmacher, Peter Paul’s Letter to the Romans, A Commentary. (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1994), 135. Return to text
27. Zodhiates, S. ed. The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible. New American Standard Bible. (Tennessee: AMG, 1990), 44 of "Greek Dictionary of the New Testament". (Hereinafter "The NASB".) Return to text
28. Vine’s, 137. Return to text
29. McInerny, Ralph (ed). Thomas Aquinas: Selected Writings. New York: Penguin Books (1998), 495. Return to text
30. Ibid. 495, 496. Return to text
31. All Creatures, Ch. 1, 4. Return to text
32. The NASB, 43 of the "Greek Dictionary of the New Testament" Return to text
33. Margin notes on the draft of this work. Return to text
34. Vine, W. E., Merrill F. Unger, and William White, Jr. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1996), 685. Return to text
35. The NASB, 1280. Return to text
36. Little Flowers, 89. Return to text
37. Vegetarianism will be addressed further in this piece. Return to text
38. All Creatures, Ch. 7, 5. Return to text
Go on to Part 3
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