The Apostle Paul of the New Testament seems to be unpopular with
some people who are advocates for non-human animals.
In reading The Longest Struggle – Animal Advocacy from
Pythagoras to PETA – by Norm Phelps, I am finding similar blame-placing
sentiments expressed about Paul whose dramatic conversion to
Christianity, during his trip to Damascus, is legendary. Until his
change of heart, Paul was driven by his desire to persecute believers in
As any of us, Paul was far from perfect; and his personality appears
to have been abrasive at times. I think we need to remember the
difficult time that he was living in, and the rigid religious laws that
the populace lived with. Animal sacrifices were rampant and Paul had to
explain that sacrificing animals to idols is a demonic activity. He had
to break down barriers, for example: the reluctance of Jews to enter
homes of gentiles. People were far from ready to feel any concern toward
non-human animals. Consider the uphill battle animal advocates face even
two thousand years later.
In effect, Paul appears to have been trying to change people by
little steps, much as so many animal advocates today are afraid to seem
“holier than thou” or ”too pushy” about expressing what they know is the
truth. Yet I am thankful for many of Paul’s teachings. I don’t want to
“throw out the baby with the bathwater,” as the saying goes.
His passion for the work he felt driven to do, as well as his
frustration, is evident in Romans 9:1-5 –
1. I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience
bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit.
2. that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart.
3. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from
Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,
4. who are Israelites, to whom belongs adoption as sons and the
glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple
service and the promises,
5. whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to
the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
Two of my favorites of the Apostle Paul’s sayings are as follows:
20. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes,
His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being
understood through what has been made, so that they are without
22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23. gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.