My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

04 February 2008

Toward a theology of geese

Since the post a little ways down generated some feeling, I thought we might have a fruitful discussion about a Biblical view of animals. It's really a fascinating topic. Toward this end, here are some theorems, thoughts and ideas I have about the topic and how I think Scripture supports them. Please comment - do you agree, disagree? Are there other points to add?

[Note: once more, let me say that the whole goose-kicking thing was fairly serious but written for a laugh. For those who laughed, grand. For those who didn't, please know I don't chase down animals just to kick them. I'm pretty sure it was going to bite me.]

Sorry for the bullet points. It's probably harder to read, but it helps me think more clearly. Here we go:
  • Animals aren't people. Man and woman are made in the image of God, birds, beasts and fish aren't. (Gen. 1:26-27) Therefore, the idea of "humane" treatment is somewhat oxymoronic. They have value, clearly. But it isn't even on the same continuum of the value of human life.
    • If there is ever a choice to be made, we go with human life rather than animal. Always. Risking a car accident to avoid hitting a squirrel is unbiblical.
  • Animals aren't plants. Obvious, yes, but worth pointing out. (Gen. 1:11, 20) Though we may eat meat, God told Noah not to eat meat with the blood still in it, because the life is in the blood. Plants have no blood, therefore no life, in the Biblical sense.
  • Animals are part of the creation over which humanity is given dominion and stewardship. (Gen. 1:26) Animals exist for mankind, not mankind for animals. So there should be no talk about humanity serving animals. (Gen. 2:20)
    • Along the same lines, check out Genesis 9:5 where God tells us that animals are held responsible for their actions toward humanity. If one kills a human, God decrees its life should be taken. But it doesn't flow the other way - we aren't responsible to pay in any way for the spilled blood of animals. Also see Exodus 19:13 where God promises punishment for both men and animals who might touch the mountain.
    • After the flood, God clearly and specifically gave animals to humanity to eat (Gen. 9:3). Perhaps because the curse of the fall (i.e., how hard it would be to farm), perhaps as a measure of kindness and mercy. Either way, animals belong to man (in a stewardship sense, see below).
  • If you're like me, Proverbs 12:10 comes to mind in this discussion: Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel. Some thoughts:
    • The word regard is the very general Hebrew word "to know." So "regard" simply means "to be aware of", not necessarily to have a great passion about or even to value highly, but simply to be aware of. So I take the verse to mean "the righteous person has an awareness of his animals' lives, and seeks to provide for them based on that awareness."
    • Deuteronomy 25:4 is a good example, that oxen shouldn't be muzzled when they're treading grain. Why? Because it would be cruel. Because being full is better than starving and animals should share in the fruit of their work if at all possible.
    • Cruelty to animals for fun or spite is unrighteous.
    • A theory: because modern Americans are (1) often pet owners and (2) often very removed from the animals which they eat, we may be quite off-balance in what it means to "regard" animals. It doesn't mean treat them like pets.
  • I think the overriding rule is that of stewardship. We are stewards of the animals. Stewards don't own that which they care for, but are responsible for it. Humanity will have to answer for how we cared for creation, including animals.
    • Therefore, species' extinction is a bad thing. Interestingly, Darwinian evolution cannot account for why extinction is bad. Yet macro-evolutionists are more passionate about this than most Christians.
    • Conversely, refusing to control animal population is also bad. See modern India for an example of how religious beliefs lead to a refusal to take animal life which leads to economic and health problems.
  • For Christmas, we bought our family this great series on nature/creation. It's astoundingly beautiful. The great variety and beauty among God's animals reveal His beauty and majesty. So a fully Christian ethic of animals must include delight in their beauty and diversity.
Well, surely I'm missing something. What would you add? Or disagree with?

24 comments:

Kurt said...

"This is how you know it's going to be a great day. When you get to kick a goose in the head."

Jared, we all make mistakes. We all say and write things we wish we hadn't.

Sometimes it's best if we just admit it and move on.

Apples of Gold said...

It seems you're trying to change the subject, Jared. I agree with your theological points on animals. That's not the issue. To say that it's going to be a good day when you get to kick a goose in the head, twice, leaves readers with the impression that you took pleasure in kicking a goose.

Your comment that "Cruelty to animals for fun or spite is unrighteous" is a step in the right direction, and it sends the opposite message of that of your first post on the subject.

Micah said...

Shucks Jared, might as well hang up your hat. I mean, you're so *sarcastic* that it's not even funny anymore. I mean *)@(#& man! Grow a heart! Goose kicking = great day? That's the most seriousest thing I've heard from you in a long time. And I believe it. Just keep loving the anti-joke out of people and maybe all of this will go away.

Jared said...

Thanks, Micah. Seriousestly.

Jared said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jared said...

Kurt, I don't think I made a mistake.

Apples, I am changing the subject. To clarify - I thought this would be a great chance to have an interesting conversation. If you'd like to talk about the previous post, feel free to comment there.

Sir Ryan said...

I got the joke. Even before you explained it.

So what do you think about the meat industry? "They" (mostly PETA-types) say it's all cruel and horrible. Keeping too many chickens in too small of a cage (on top of slaughtering them and eating them). Is that showing disregard for the life of your animal?

Jared said...

Hey Ryan,

I've wondered about that one. I haven't seen the documentaries, but I've heard some of the chicken's conditions is pretty awful. I could be pretty easily convinced that would count as disregard for their life. What do you think?

marlene said...

I don't want you to kill the goose, but you may kick it for our family! That thing went after Bobby once, and nothing hurts my boy!!!

Anonymous said...

Jared,
It looks like you stepped in the proverbial goose doo-doo a couple posts ago. There was a comment made at work about a day after your original post about several geese that had been killed in a thunderstorm when they were driven into the sides of buildings and into trees by the force of the wind while they were flying. Knowing God was neither threatened by them or took pleasure in their death, I wonder what your critics would say since he nevertheless permitted them to die a rather violent death.

Anonymous said...

Jared:

I'm not drawing any conclusions from the following, but I do find it interesting that:

-Your blog entries on the goose have now received 29 replies.
-Your blog entry on the 35th ann. of legalized baby killing only received one real reply. The other 5 had to do with your email address.

Jeff Kessler

Jared said...

Jeff - Good note. I plan on drawing conclusions in a future post. :)

But more importantly, what does the hog farmer say about his hogs?

Apples of Gold said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sir Ryan said...

@Jeff: I think most of Jared's readers probably agree that abortion is bad. Humor and regard for animals are both more controversial subjects. Especially humor.

@Jared: I agree, it doesn't seem like the chicken farms (described in PETA brochures) have regard for their animals.

Also, there is supposedly a higher instance of disease and lower quality meat because of those conditions.

Free range 'organic' chicken just tastes better.

Jared said...

Yeah, I don't think Jeff was implying what you took, apples. His observation is interesting. It's something I've noticed after doing this blog for a couple years - controversy and disagreement make us swarm like flies to the zapper. But when there is an opportunity for a genuinely encouraging conversation (such as I am hoping for with this post), pertinent comments come few and far between. I don't direct this at anyone specifically, because I'm as likely as anyone else to be drawn to the negative than positive. But I wish it weren't so.

Anonymous said...

Apples:

ALL I said is that I found it interesting. I implied nothing. I even said "I'm not drawing any conclusions". I hope that is clear enough.

I was one of the original replys to the original "goose" post. And I did NOT reply to the R v. W post. I even found that interesting.

Jeff

Anonymous said...

Jared:

You asked me a serious question about hog farming and hogs.

I no longer raise hogs. I've not had any since March of 2006. I thank God I don't as the cost of feed is so high thanks to the ethonal craze. Most hog farmers are probably losing $30-40 per hog presently.

Due to how easy it is for words to be have meanings applied to them that were never intended on these blogs (see above), I'm going to answer your question w/out much detail. I would have never dreamed that my above words would have offended anyone, but it has made me seriously consider never commenting on a blog again.

Answer: I was around hogs almost every day from the time I was 5 years old till I reached 41. I was converted to Christ at 22. Let's just say that my thoughts, words, and actions, towards pigs changed (to the better...although not perfect) post-conversion. I could go into much detail, but won't.

Jeff Kessler

Brad said...

There is a lot more to talk about when you disagree.

Gabe said...

The levelheaded among us are aware it was a joke. I wouldn't worry about it, Jared. However, my own opinion is that the Christian community too often errs in favor of animal cruelty in the name of dominion, reflected by a very callus attitude towards animal pain and death. I thought that was somewhat evident in the comments of the goose entry, but not necessarily by you, since it was clearly a joke.

I personally have a huge problem with some of the "efficiencies" of the meat industry. Environmental groups are often made up of members who have a passion for protecting God's creatures, great and small, and aren't demanding animals be put on an unreasonable, unbiblical pedestal, but 'we' a lot of times wave off everything they say because of some few extremists.

Christians SHOULD be environmentalists. There is scripture which speaks against animal cruelty (numbers 22:32 - balaam is rebuked for beating his donkey), so maybe there should be some more balance to your list.

Gabe said...

oh, there was more balance than I thought, after reading through the blog post a second time. Oops. I fail at reading comprehension.

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