Great theologians on the subject of animals

Grant Swart

John Calvin devoted much time in his extensive (exhaustive) teachings to animals and nature. Here is one link which describes this briefly, there are more, of course:;content

It becomes obvious from this, and from much work of other similarly great theologians, that far too little attention is given to teaching on these matters in the church. People have become obsessed with human earthly matters and how to deal with those things from the point of view of the church. Adaptation to a comfortable life while attempting to conform to biblical standards.

This is a reality, even though the natural world is a subject which affects every moment of Christian’s lives, as we play our part in all of creation. It is also a very common topic of informal discussion among church members. I feel it deserves far more attention from the pulpit and bible teachers should devote more time to and focus on the subject.

Think: creation days, a donkey, another donkey, important sparrows, lost sheep, hungry lambs, Jesus and a white horse from heaven, Noah, doves, the lion, den of lions, end times, …the list is extensive. How often is the subject addressed in the church as opposed to say, politics, finance or entertainment?

Does that not seem a little absurd, when none of those things were deemed important in all of the biblical account of creation. I have not read of any liberal or conservative manifestos, cheque books or movies on board of Noah’s ark, yet those things are favoured above nature and animals as topics for Christian sermons and articles.

Martin Luther:

Here are a few things that Martin Luther had to say on the subject. While commenting on the fact that animals have compassion on one another where humans often do not, he said:

Wild beasts and irrational animals keep this law.  When a pig is slaughtered or captured and other pigs see this, we observe that the other pigs clamor and grunt as if in compassion.  Chickens and geese and all wild animals do the same thing; when they see one of their own kind in trouble, they quite naturally grieve with it and are sad, and if they can, they help it.  Only man, who after all is rational, does not spring to the aid of his suffering neighbor in time of need and has no pity on him.  What a shame and scandal! (Luther’s Sermons 1)

In this next statement, Luther sees animals as portals of higher spiritual truths:

We are to remember that animals are God’s creation, that He provides for them (Matt. 6), and that they may serve as very fitting images for higher spiritual truths, most especially truths about how the Kingdom of God comes (Luke 15:3-7; John 10).  They are not to be treated with cruelty, but received as God’s good gifts over which He has placed us as stewards (Gen. 1:28).(Commentary on Luke)

And here he sees the imprint of the divine upon all animals:

The sun warms; but it would bring nothing into being unless God said by His divine power: “Let a mouse come out of the decay.”  Therefore the mouse, too, is a divine creature. … [F]or its kind it has a very beautiful form … (Commentary on Genesis 1-5)

John Wesley:

John Wesley had this to say, while preaching on Romans 8: 19-22 “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now;”

To those who ask why animals would be part of the new world, Wesley replies:

“Since we don’t truly know their purpose in this life, how could we have any idea about their purpose in the future?”

Wesley gives reasons why we should spend time considering the condition and fate of animals:

“When we see how much God cares for creatures, we can rest assured God cares more for us.  And because God cares for animals, we also should care for them.” 

Wesley notes that since animals are not moral agents they cannot sin, but yet they suffer. The problem of animal suffering may cause us to question God’s justice. Wesley writes:

“Something better remains after death for these poor creatures also; that these, likewise, shall one day be delivered from this bondage of corruption, and shall then receive an ample amends for all their present sufferings.”

Dr Albert Schweitzer:

These quotes by the famous theologian and philosopher are not necessarily based on any particular Scripture, but are certainly worth contemplating:

“Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace. “

A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as that of his fellow men, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help. “

Of course, Christians know that this one from Dr Schweitzer is useless, but I’ll include it anyway:

“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats. “


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