Saturday, February 15, 2014

Will Our Pets (and other Animals) Greet Us in Heaven?

Dan Story photograph

Part Two:  “Why Did God Create So Many Animals if Only a 

                      Few of Them Benefit People?”  *

I recently heard the host of a well-known, nationally broadcast, talk radio program make this statement: “There is no reason for animals to exist unless people exist.”  Although there is no doubt that God had the human race in mind when He created the earth (Ps. 115:16) and that humans are the “crown” of creation (Ps. 8:4-8), his comment was both  presumptuous and overly human-centered. Nor can it be substantiated in Scripture. As we move along in this series, I will demonstrate that animals are extremely important to God. In fact much of the earth was created to be a home for wild animals.

Nevertheless, the pundit’s remark does raise a valid question. Did God create all the animals that inhabit the planet solely for human use and pleasure? To it put differently, if animals have no purpose except to serve people, why did God create so many varieties that have absolutely no instrumental value for humans?

To answer these questions, we must begin with the Bible’s earliest comments on the relationship between humans and animals.

According to the biblical narrative, God created animals and the first humans on the same day—and in that order. Sometime afterwards He placed Adam in the Garden of Eden to “work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15). Because it was “not good for the man to be alone,” God brought “all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air” for Adam to name and to be his “helper” (18-19). We’re not told how long, but for a spell animals were Adam’s only companions. God knew all along, however, that animals would not be a “suitable helper” for Adam, so God created Eve (20b-22).

At this point in incipient human history, assuming the Genesis narrative is in chronological order, animals continued to be the first couple’s only companions, until Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden and had children (3:23 - 4:2). In fact humans and animals probably continued to enjoy peaceful relationships for many generations beyond Adam and Eve. There is no biblical record of antagonism between humans and wild animals in the first eight chapters of Genesis. It wasn’t until after the worldwide flood, which occurred during Noah’s generation, that humans began to eat animals—and that animals began to fear humans (Gen. 9:2-3). 

There are two significant things revealed in this account. First, God’s intended relationship between people and animals was one of companionship and peaceful co-existence. Second, animals were not only companions they were also “helpers.” Apparently, God intended for some animals to become domesticated and serve the human race: “Abel kept flocks,” Genesis 4:2 tells us, probably to provide wool for clothing and perhaps milk for food.

Domestication reached new heights when wild canines became more than helpers, when they became our friends. They initiated a remarkably new relationship between humans and animals; the first of an amazing menagerie of creature that over the centuries would become our pets: cats, horses, hamsters, rats, monkeys, rabbits, parakeets, parrots, fish, turtles, lizards, snakes, and even insects (think ant “farms”) have been welcomed into our homes. Some of you can add to this list.  

Nevertheless, the Genesis account doesn’t explain why God created so many “kinds” of animals that are of no benefit to humanity—and sometimes a nuisance. The animals most of us are familiar with represent only a tiny fraction of the total number of creatures that inhabit the earth. Tens of thousands of incredibly amazing and wonderfully diverse animal species have so far been scientifically named, and it is estimated there may be many millions more yet to be discovered. Considering these statistics, it seems evident that God had other purposes in mind than just serving humanity and providing us pleasure when He created so many animals. I believe He also created them for His own good pleasure, His own enjoyment (Ps. 104:31).

The Bible clearly teaches that God loves, finds joy in, and carefully provides for the survival and welfare of non-human life—not above, but independent of His even greater love, joy in, and provision for human life (Ps. 36:6). We’ll look at the biblical evidence for this beginning in my next article. ©

*  The blog articles in this series are adapted from copyrighted material and may not  be reproduced in book or article form, either electronically or in print, without my written permission. But feel free to send links to these articles, with a brief introduction, to your personal email list, Facebook friends and groups, or other people who may enjoy them. Or post a link on your own website. If you would like to be added to my personal blog email list (people who receive an email notice whenever I post a new blog article), contact me through my website:

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