Does animal death glorify God?
Kevin B., Australia, wrote in response to Animals eating animals:
Deuteronomy 32:39 “‘See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god beside Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
Your expectation of God's creation in there being no 'Death' before the fall in the animal kingdom is unreal and unfaithful to the majesty of God's character. It is fanciful and unbelievable. To imagine a world where animals promulgate to plague proportions without restraint and cannot die and therefore have eternal life apart from the Command of God entrusted to Man alone is a fairytale religion and not the reality of the only true and Almighty God. Your credibility with unsaved people would be greatly enhanced if you could ditch this weird notion of a T Rex or perhaps a herd of elephants not stepping on a mouse or crushing the odd gopher in his hole and extinguishing his nephesh - breath. Man had dominion over the animals in the administration of life - death in the animal kingdom pre-fall and the cunning and hunting ability of animals was under the dominion of God alone. There is no other being apart from Him who has dominion over these attributes in creatures - until man's rebellion hands his dominion over to the Devil and Death.
Lita Sanders, CMI-US, responds:
Thanks for writing in. There is an important exegetical principle that everything in the Bible after the Fall presumes a fallen creation, and we have to look to the original biblical account of the created order to see God’s perfect will, and if possible, look forward to what is said about the future restored creation. Jesus actually instituted this principle of exegesis when the Pharisees and the Sadducees asked about marriage, presuming God’s decree about divorce in the Mosaic Law reflected God’s will. But Jesus said, “From the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8). We can also say about carnivory and death of animals, “From the beginning it was not so”. Genesis clearly depicts a creation in which all animals ate plants (Genesis 1:30), and Isaiah 11 and 65 envisions a time in the future when carnivores will return to a vegetarian diet. So while the passage you reference shows God might be glorified in even the fallen created order, we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that it reflects His original design, or the ultimate destiny, of animals.
Is it unbelievable to think of a world without animal death? The goal of reproduction was to ‘fill the earth’. Once the earth was filled, had it remained unfallen, perhaps animals simply would have stopped reproducing. See Was there really no death before the Fall? We know that in the restored creation, humans will cease to marry and give in marriage (Matthew 22:30)—that is because the full number of human beings to fill the restored creation will already exist, and there will be no more reproduction.
Would ‘ditching this weird notion’ enhance our credibility with lost people? Even if it would, a pragmatic argument would not be a good reason to ignore the clear teaching of Scripture. But many creationists report that they have greater success when sharing the Gospel precisely because they stand strong on Genesis and the biblical account.
I would encourage you to take your beliefs about creation from Scripture alone, without reference to what the culture might consider ‘weird’ or unbelievable.
Jackson C., U.S., wrote:
A Christian told me that since it's fine to kill a cow and eat it, that it is fine for someone to kill and eat their dog. I am greatly bothered by this. Is my dog no more valuable to God? Please tell me the truth.
Lita Sanders responds:
Thanks for writing in. Today we assign differing values to animals. Some, like rats, we consider disgusting disease vectors. Others, like dogs and cats, we consider beloved companions. Others, like horses, we consider useful for certain types of work or recreation, but as unsuitable for food. Others, like cows and chickens, we consider useful for food, to the extent that the majority of cows and chickens are bred for that specific purpose.
However, if we look at peoples’ views in different times and places, we find that people have eaten just about every type of animal flesh available. In especially dire circumstances, people even violate the ultimate taboo by becoming cannibals. In wartime or famine, even beloved family pets can be dinner. Sentimentalism is a luxury that people in some instances simply didn’t have.
Now, what value does God assign to animals? God created animals and people to eat plants—so originally, animals were not on the menu. Rather, they were created for God’s glory and to be useful to man in various ways. But today we see that carnivory is necessary for some animals and most people (a good vegetarian or vegan diet that provides all human dietary requirements is a luxury that most people in the world do not have—most populations have to take whatever nutritious food they can find).
Various verses in Scripture show that God assigns value to animals and cares for them. He gives them their food and provides for their needs (Psalm 104:14), and not even a sparrow falls to the ground that He doesn’t know about (Matthew 10:29). God also provided various laws in the Mosaic law that protected animals. For instance, an Israelite who came across a donkey that had fallen under its burden had an obligation to help it (Exodus 23:5). It was illegal to muzzle an ox that was treading out the grain (Deuteronomy 25:4). Anyone who came across a lost animal had an obligation to take it back to its owner if the owner was known (Deuteronomy 22:1), or to care for it until its owner came looking for it (22:2). And while it certainly isn’t Scripture, the rabbinic literature also contains statutes about animals that reflect that later Jews interpreted Scripture to require certain protections of animals against cruelty and destruction for its own sake.
Yet the same Mosaic law required the slaughter of countless bulls, rams, and doves. It also required that an animal that killed a man must also be killed.
So, the short answer is—God assigns value to animals as living creatures, and He forbids mankind from being needlessly cruel to them. But they are not image-bearers of God as humans are, and thus the Bible permits animals to be killed and eaten—and that principle applies to even animals that we would normally consider friends, not food.