Essay: Does God Value Animals?
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Essay: Does God Value Animals?

Last week I argued that if God cared about humanity, it was reasonable to expect God to have similar concern for other conscious beings. Many Christians who disagree argue that humans are special creations. Scientific evolutionary theory holds that humans are simply one of many species whose set of attributes have helped us propagate impressively in the very recent geologic past, but humanity’s long term success is very much in doubt.
What does the Bible say? It offers diverse views on the value of animals. There are passages in which people kill and eat animals without evident condemnation, and there are passages that indicate equal concern for human and nonhuman beings. The latter include the vegan Garden of Eden (Gen 1:29-30), the peaceful, harmonious “Peaceable Kingdom” (Isa 11:6-9), and the denunciation of animal sacrifices by many of the later prophets. The Hebrew Scriptures describe humans and animals as having the same essence: nephesh. Translators have obscured this by translating this term differently when describing humans and animals. For example, the King James Version and the Revised Standard Version translate nephesh as “soul” for humans in Genesis 2:7 and “creature” for animals in Genesis 2:19.
The writer of Ecclesiastes recognized the essential sameness of human and nonhuman beings: “For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down to the earth?” (3:19-21)
Humans in their vanity have routinely claimed that their religious stories and traditions place themselves at the apex of creation, entitling humans to harm other living beings as humans see fit. In politics and in religion, the victors write the stories, and when it comes to humanity versus the natural world, humans have been victorious for the past few millennia. Should Christians listen to what science tells us about humanity’s relationship with the natural world? I will explore this question next week.

Go on to: Science and the Bible, part 1
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents 

Return to Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion