Welcome to Part Two!
(Please note, this post has been revised from an earlier version and split into two posts)
Thank you for visiting to read Part Two! This is an important topic; it is what animal welfare is really all about – our Dominion!
You’ll recall we were talking about the mandate to “rule and subdue” the earth from the “pre-fall” context, that the earth was yet untouched by evil dominance, and that this is where the definition of Dominion we practice today should come from. The power God gave us in the garden, the trust He had in us over His good and precious creation (of which we are the pinnacle) says a lot in and of itself about what it meant to be made in His Image and how we were to govern. It implicitly implies partnership with Him. Some look at the snake’s temptation as a test from God (scripture tells us God does not tempt us, but He may allow Satan to do so). Perhaps God thought we’d trust in Him, His goodness, and purposes like Job did (even if we did not understand). Imagine how horrified God was when we did not, much like a parent would be when their beloved child get’s into some serious trouble. Satan told us we’d be like God. That God was holding out on us. We lived in a paradise, yet we did not trust in Him. Satan perhaps was looking for an opportunity, for he knew how much was resting on our choice in that moment.
Whether this is how it went exactly we don’t know right now, but the fact is, we did make a choice. God set us upon this earth equipped with free will and a job to do in partnership with Him. We were asked to obey His one command given to protect us out of unsurpassable love for us. We chose to doubt Him and what He said would happen if we did not choose to follow His wisdom. And we were not the only ones affected by the choice we made. All of creation was subjected to corruption. We need only look around at today’s world to see results of this choice.
For those animal lovers who are convinced that Christ is Who He says He is, and the bible story is our history, the evil we see in the world (wars, everyday crime on the streets, homelessness, the injustices humans commit against one another and the animal kingdom, on and on it goes) none of this violence is a mystery. In fact our faith can make sense of the world and its awful horrors through our understanding of scripture and spiritual warfare. We are in the midst of a war between God and Satan. You’ll recall from Part One that our job in the garden was to guard the earth and the animal kingdom. One could extrapolate from this that we were in partnership with Him against evil. A lot was riding on that one choice – the whole created order was thrown into chaos and destruction.
A special note for those who perhaps do not quite agree with the bible story for whatever reason(s). Much of the content reflects absolute belief in the bible as our history and in God as the author, while yet trying to make sense of the experiences we are all having today and fit them into the context of the bible’s overall message. While doing this, the goal and the hope is that not only will the message resonate with you in seeing God’s love for the animals you love, but also in hopes you will see the bible’s message in a practical way so as to relate it to the experiences we are all having in this life; to find some sense of purpose and meaning, perhaps understand a little about the origin of the evil that we all experience and feel, and know that there is a Living God Who loves us all, including the animal kingdom, is with us, is available to us if we but seek Him, and one day will return to us and bring an end to all that is evil.
It appears the Christian faith has up until now largely ignored animals as a part of the bible’s story and message in large part because of the misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the meaning of dominion and the meaning of “rule and subdue” as coming from a pre-fall definition given to us by God in the garden. It appears also that the definition of God’s character as pure love has not been applied to us as those made in His Image, and as the defining factor of our own behavior. This is a great omission, one that has led to a lot of divisiveness and untruth everywhere in our world as one can plainly see by all the issues plaguing mankind. This omission is especially unfortunate for the animal kingdom. Who animals are in the sight of God and how they should be treated desperately needs to be redefined in light of an understanding of what our true dominion and purpose in the garden was and is to be.
It also appears that the faith community’s omission has led, in part, to today’s extreme exploitation of animals. The church as a moral agent should have been present all along in welfare circles. Yet the problem of evil in the world goes far beyond the Christian churches we know today and back to the beginning in Genesis in the Garden. To understand why the church has not been present as a voice in animal welfare, one must understand a little of church history. Many may be angry at the church, don’t believe in Jesus because they have not seen Him modeled toward the animal kingdom, or have not thought much about bible history as it relates to today’s extreme exploitative climate.
Indeed we should not be too hard on the church! In first coming to animal welfare myself, there was anger with the church. It became apparent there was a need to fuel this anger into learning what has been happening in our world both from the secular view of animal welfare and how animals are exploited; by looking at how we got here, beginning with the industrial revolution; by starting an education process in church history, especially focusing on the Reformation period in the 16th Century. Along with some refreshers in general bible history from Genesis forward to today, one begins to see a bigger picture emerge and can see God’s hand continually steering the church in the direction of the Kingdom He originally planned for us. (2 Cor 3:18; Luke 8:17)
Andrew Linzey (theologian, founder and director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics at the University of Oxford) in one of his books said (paraphrased in my own words) that we should not hate the church; we should love the church into loving behavior toward the animal kingdom just as Christ loves us and loves us into right-relatedness with Him. The church, from the very beginning when mankind believed Satan’s lie, has been under fierce attack by Satan who has full reign in this world until Christ comes again. (NOTE: For our purposes here, ‘Satan’s lie’ refers to that moment in Genesis when Satan told Eve she ‘would not surely die’ if she ate the apple; whether one believes the command to not eat of the tree of good and evil was figurative or literal matters little if any. In reading the bible, we should not get hung up on whether this story or others are figurative or actual historical events with solid dates and times. The overall message here is that Satan convinced Eve that God was not to be trusted, and together she and Adam used their own judgment, based on Satan’s lie, as to what was right or wrong, and chose not to trust God.)
When we listened to Satan’s lie, we took on the enemies “characteristics,” those of lying, stealing, cheating, killing, and “lording it over” others. Satan won. We traded a rule under form of governance for Satan’s form of rule over. Our nature was literally transformed from that of being in harmony with one another, living in perfect love as equals, perfect Shalom, lovingly caring for the earth and animal kingdom, to broken relationships – literally severed – with God, each other, the earth and the animal kingdom. Our agape love like (God’s unconditional love) worldview was shattered. It has been our God’s heart of hearts from that very moment to move us back toward the ‘garden of Eden,’ ever since. (Let us define here the ‘garden of Eden’ as the earth in it’s perfect state before the fall; also let us define ‘heaven,’ which will be mentioned, as the state the earth shall return to one day, a paradise, as it was before the fall of man.)
As mentioned in Part One , Jesus came to fulfill the law of the OT that was never designed to nor did it have the power to save us. As seen in the OT, God met the people of Israel where they were at, and was continuously trying to bring them out from among the nations in which they had mired themselves in idolatry and immorality. The laws He set were far better than the lawlessness of the pagan nations, and was a beginning.
At this point we’ll close Part Two, and pick up from where we left off next week in Part Three of Mankind’s Dominion. Thank you for reading, and stay tuned!