Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Thanks for being here, reading this blog message, on this special day! It fits in, really, being that God is love, and what he intended our Dominion on earth to be like in the beginning, was all about love. Read on……..
I enjoy very much Lois Wye’s writings on her blog, Dominion in the Image of God. In this post, what I find most disturbing, is about the book she critiques, “Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible” by Ellen Davis. It concerns me that prominent Christian writers continue to take the view that, as Lois says:
“…Davis’s work provides important insights into several problems with our current food system, even while she holds up agrarianism as concerned with “all living creatures,” she fails to take the opportunity to address the cruelty and suffering that our food system imposes on animals. Instead, the attention that animals do receive suggests that she considers them to be resources in the same way the land is a resource (emphasis mine), to be treated well and with a view to sustainability, but not as individual beings with their own inherent value and whose suffering is a theological concern.”
While I am pleased that animals are beginning to get more press in Christian circles, that perhaps some in the faith are waking up to our responsibilities to care for the earth and the animal kingdom, it is disappointing to see a prominent, influential writer and Professor of Bible and Practical Theology (at a prominent divinity school) missing the mark.
There is a HUGE need for “Dominion” to be redefined by church leaders (and writers such as the one above) to reflect what Dominion was established by God to actually be. There is a HUGE need for leadership to begin exploring creation care theology (that also defines proper stewardship of sentient animals separately than that of stewardship of the plants, trees, and land) and to begin teaching this to their church bodies (an important read on this subject: Animal Theology, by Andrew Linzey can be found at Half Price Books). In fact it is most urgent. One way to redefine Dominion that would be scripturally accurate would be to say we practice “Dominion under” rather than “Dominion over” others (a great sermon on this here!). Before the fall, we served one another, the earth and the animal kingdom, in perfect love.
Let’s take a brief look at some of what the bible has to say, both explicitly and implicitly, about Dominion.
Jesus came to earth to “fulfill” the law, which at the time, was given by God to meet the people of Israel where they were at – lost in a world corrupted by Satan’s rule. The law was an effort to move the people forward, away from the influence of the pagan nations surrounding them, toward His perfect love, and toward the state of perfect Shalom that was in the beginning His design for us, and was the ONLY experience we were intended to have. In essence then, upon examining Jesus’ life, He fulfilled the law by showing us how to live in a corrupt world in a God-filled, God-like serving and loving manner. Jesus showed us what God’s character is like, and what kind of character He wants us to display.
In figuring Dominion into the picture, as to how Jesus might have practiced it at the time He walked on earth, one cannot look at the world as it is today. And remember Jesus is entering our world where the nations have built their own empires according to their own fallen nature. So He must live in the world within the structural and cultural dynamics that human kind has built (living in it does not say He condoned what we did with it). The population of the world at the time was significantly different (see this short article), the life-style, the culture, the way the earth was used – they lived very differently upon the land. This was in the days before industrialization! Before chemicals, processed foods, and ready round-up crops! Biblical laws stating what were clean and unclean foods were adhered to (which were put in place in the first place to protect us from what certain animals, in a fallen world, were designed to do to sustain it in it’s current fallen state). Agricultural practices were totally different than they are today, they were small scale, designed to feed the people in the vicinity of where they lived. There was no such thing as these conglomerate corporations we know today, controlling the agricultural industry, stuffing animals into confinement operations (CAFO’s). Fishing was a prominent industry; however, not on the scale as we know it nor by the means that we have available to us today.
For those who argue that “Jesus ate fish” (for one example) as their prominent reason we can eat animals today, let’s take a deeper look, a wholistic look. Did not He say “You are to live mercifully as my Father is merciful”? (Luke 6:36) Proper Exegesis and Hermeneutics in interpreting scripture will take into account the fallen nature of the world, the times, demographics, the technology or lack of it, as well as the different cultures that existed and influenced people, in deciding upon what is biblical use of the earth and the animal kingdom, and if Paul is accurate, then love (biblical love) should be our guiding principle, not just toward each other, but in use of the earth and in caring for the animal kingdom, as well. Paul also said, “Above all (emphasis mine) clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all (emphasis mine) together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.” (Col 3:14, 15) Given the times we live in, is it loving for us to eat animals or fish who were tortured for our sustenance? As followers of Christ who are called to clothe ourselves in love, shouldn’t our food choices also reflect the character of the Creator we worship?
We were given God’s beautiful creation, a living paradise filled with His wondrous creatures to care for. We have defined our Dominion from our “fallen” perspective. But the Father actually defined how we would govern in the Garden – “pre-fall.” (See the Genesis story here) Before the fall, we were given charge of the garden and the animals – the text says to “rule and subdue.” (Gen 1:28) All was peaceful between us, God, the animals when we were given this mandate. So “rule and subdue” what? In a peaceful kingdom (where separation from God, the desire to please ourselves, violence of any kind either between man and man, man and animals, or animals and animals did not exist yet), what were we to “rule and subdue”? There is a school of thought that believes before the fall, we were in partnership with God to guard the earth and the animal kingdom from the evil that was already there (more about this Part Two).
Okay, let’s take a break here. That was a lot to say, and, it took an incredible amount of time to write (though part two is mostly written as well)! I think we’ll break here for this week, give everyone time to ponder what was said before we head into the next bit! Will begin next week’s post, Part Two, where we left off! PLUS – have a look at this short video (it is incredible how well it fits into this topic!); and for those of you who perhaps follow Greg Boyd, watch this sermon, too; even if you don’t follow Greg Boyd, this sermon is fantastic, and pertinent to our subject! Love: It’s All About The Cross
“For the Son of man has come to seek and save that which is lost.” Luke 19:10
Thank you for reading! Your thoughts are important, any feedback is welcome! Stay tuned for Part Two, and, Enjoy your week!! ~Kathy