Are You Guilty of Speciesism?

Jan 28th, 2012 | By | Category: Christian Life, Featured Issues

One of my favorite writers is Andree Seu, who writes for the magazine World.  In her most recent column, she writes of reading through a bird magazine she bought at a local PetSmart store.  One article particularly in this magazine caused her to write of the author:  ?. . . by the end of her remarks I felt just a little bit ashamed of being human.  It?s hard to put your finger on a tone of voice, but here is a sampler:  ?We love our avian family members and know they love us.  Unfortunately, we often hinder the development of a deeper and more precious relationship with them because of how we have been trained to think of animals. . . [A]s humans we are hindered by our egocentric tendency toward assessing intelligence by how much an animal thinks or behaves as we do . . . Their ability to adapt to our world is usually far superior to our ability to function in theirs. . . The animal world . . . possesses a state of sophistication that is inconceivable and unattainable to most human beings, yet we like to hold ourselves above it.??

Wow!!  After reading what Seu quotes from this article, I too felt almost guilty that I am a human being.  Perhaps C.S. Lewis provides an antidote to our perceived guilt:  He observes that the problem is not that we love animals too much but that we love God and other human beings too little.  In The Four Loves he wrote:  ?It is the smallness of our love for God, not the greatness of our love for the many that constitutes the inordinacy.?  There is a clear creation-order distinction in the Bible.  Humans are created in God?s image, not cats.  Jesus declared that humans are worth more than birds, even though God cares for both.  Further, humans are the ones whom God declares are ?a little lower than the angels,? not dogs.

How then do we think biblically about such a subject?  Francis Schaeffer once argued that the church needs to be a ?pilot plant? where the proper relationships between human beings and the physical world is modeled.  The church, he states, must be a place ?where men can see in our congregations and missions a substantial healing of all divisions, the alienations, man?s rebellion has produced.?  This macro-plan for reconciliation must begin with the church.  It involves five dimensions:

  • Humans properly related to God.  For any type of reconciliation to occur, humans must trust Jesus Christ for salvation.  This is what the Apostle Paul meant when he referred to his ministry as one of ?reconciliation? (2 Corinthians 5:18) ? reconciling God and humanity through the finished work of Jesus Christ.  Humans will never exercise proper God-honoring stewardship without first being reconciled to Him through Christ.
  • The human properly related to self.  Humans must see themselves as God sees them ? of infinite value as creatures and, in Christ, as redeemed.  Because we have God?s view of self, there is proper respect for the body as eternally significant.  A mark of the redeemed Christian is a commitment to care for and respect one?s body.  It belongs to God and to allow it to be an instrument of sin or to treat it with disrespect is to say something about God, for He created and redeemed it.  The Christian is no longer independent but forever dependent on the Lord who purchased him (see Romans 12:1-2, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
  • Humans properly related to other humans.  Because we now have Christ?s mind, Christians view other humans through God?s eyes.  Christians treat all humans with respect, realizing shared creatureliness and shared value as image-bearers of God.  This is at the heart of Jesus? command to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbors as ourselves.  The Good Samaritan story powerfully illustrates how one loves one?s neighbor (Luke 10:30-37).  All humans, redeemed and unredeemed, are of value and worth to God.
  • Humans properly related to nature.  Humans are to treat all aspects of God?s physical creation with respect and honor.  If all of God?s creation is ?good,? then His disciples must have the same regard He has.  It is ethically wrong to destroy wantonly what God has created.  The non-human creation serves humans, that is the point of having dominion status.  But humans serve God?s creation with respect and honor; we are God?s stewards representing Him.  Stewardship also implies accountability?to Him.
  • Nature properly related to nature.  Romans 8:20-23 makes clear the present ?groaning? of creation; it awaits the return of Jesus when it will be restored.  Then nature will be properly related to nature and the horrific consequences of human sin that so wreak havoc on the physical creation (see Genesis 3) will end.  In 1988, Mother Teresa and James Lovelock, advocate of the Gaia hypothesis, got into an argument at Oxford University?s Global Forum for Survival.  Mother Teresa argued that if we take care of people on the planet, the Earth will survive.  Lovelock countered that if we take care of the Earth, humanity?s problems will be solved.  In light of God?s Word, both are needed.  God makes it clear that if there is repentance and cleansing, He will cleanse the earth as well (see 2 Chronicles 7:14 for example).  There is the crying need for balance focusing on humans and focusing on animals and the earth.  Both are important to God.  But only humans have dominion status; only humans experience redemption; and it is only for humans that Jesus died.

See Andree Seu in World (28 January 2012), p. 71 and James P. Eckman, Biblical Ethics, pp. 89-97. PRINT PDF

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