Man and animals? Or is it animals and man? What the Bible says about our relationship

By: Chrysta Carroll - Staff writer

While the account of creation in the first few chapters of the Bible is certainly an compelling narrative, the more important information we can glean from it are the principles, ones that merit inspection in light of recent events, most notably animal activism.

What does God have to say about what He created?

In Genesis 1-3, we learn that God formed the world and everything in it, and in the account, the number “3” plays a pivotal role. We see the Triune God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — all involved in creation. Additionally, the “days” of creation are broken into threes. On the first three days, God made habitats, if you will, and on the last three days He filled them. Day one saw the creation of the firmament, and day four witnessed it being filled with the sun, moon, stars, and planets. On the second day, God created bodies of water and the sky, and on the fifth day they were filled with fish and birds. Day three saw God creating land, and on day six, the land was filled with creatures — animals and people.

Of key importance, however, is the fact that living organisms are divided into three categories. The first group are those organisms that have body. These include the beautiful trees, fragrant flowers, and even the awe-inspiring plants like the fern, which some scientists now say has memory, sensory processes, and some form of “intelligence.” On the second level of created beings are those with soul. In this category are organisms that, beyond just having matter and being alive, possess personality, emotions, and thinking/reasoning capabilities. Elephants are able to feel protective of their young and sadness when a family member dies. Dogs are able to learn up to 250 words, researchers say, and respond to complex sentence structure, as are dolphins. Even within a species, certain animals will be reserved and quiet, while others will be dominant and aggressive, still others happy and rambunctious.

What separates mankind from the rest of the animal kingdom is God’s greatest gift to us and the pinnacle of His creation (witness the tender and prolonged care that went into the creation of man in Genesis) — spirit. This is what God meant when He said, “Let us make man in our image.” Just as God is triune, so, too, is man, and being comprised of body, soul, and spirit puts us on a different plane than everything else in creation.

In fact, our spirit is the reason we and everything else were created. In eternity past, I believe, God desired a creation that could know Him in His fullness, could understand the entirety of His perfect character. Since angels don’t possess experiential knowledge of God’s mercy, for example, He desired one that could and created man. Everything else — the joy of watching baby goats frolic, the breathtaking beauty of a sunrise, the life-giving properties of oxygen and water — were put in place as gifts or necessities for us.

But the pinnacle, the reason behind it all, was always us. Since God is spirit (John 4:24), we needed a spirit to fellowship with Him, and He betstowed this wonderful gift on us alone. Only we have the precious capability to commune with God, to have fellowship with the holy, powerful, and loving One who created us. Neither goats nor plants nor anything else in all creation can do so.

Without belief in God’s purposes, however, it is easy to misplace priorities.

I love the way Nathan Morton, pastor of Elizabethtown Baptist Church, puts it.

“In a society that has so devalued human life, it seems odd that animal life is so over valued,” he said. “The problem is that we were created by God to live for something greater than ourselves. So what do we live for in a world that kills the unborn and makes a mockery of God? Therein lies the fountain from which many pointless causes come. Animal activism should be expected in a world that worships the creature rather than the Creator. We call the pro-life movement’s fight for the life of an unborn hateful and then turn and applaud PETA’s fight for the pig, and nobody sees the absurdity. Animals exist for man, not man for animal. Jesus came to save man …”

The Bible also makes it clear that God has given man dominion, or authority over, all the earth (Gen. 1:26). We were told by the earth’s rightful Owner that He has given it, and all the plants and animals in it, to us to cultivate and control. Far from condoning violence, mismanagement, or mistreatment, however, it means man is the earth’s steward and has been tasked with caring for, tending, and using plants and animals to their fullest potential to glorify their Creator. Mistreating animals, or anything else God created, for that matter, does not glorify Him or show appreciation for what He has given us.

If we as Christians are to fight for a cause, let it be one — and there are many out there — that mirrors the mind and heart of God. Nothing in creation is as important to Him as man, and we were made so that we can one day fall at His nail-scarred feet and thank Him for making a way that we might fellowship with Him.

That’s a message worth our lives.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached at 910-862-4163 or ccarroll@bladenjournal.com.

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Chrysta Carroll

Staff writer