HISTORY indicates a gradual heightening of mankind's respect for human rights, including the dignity of life itself. We have a long way to go, but we see signs of progress. For many, however, consideration of mankind's relationship to animals remains just barely on the horizon. Yet animals have an undeniable impact on our lives, and we on theirs. If we are to recognize -- and not ignorantly or willfully abuse -- our relationship to them, we need to understand better the spiritual nature of God's creation.
The Bible provides a basis for improved understanding, beginning with its very first chapter. Here we find that all that God made was good. Further, ``God created man in his own image'' and gave him ``dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.''1
We can faithfully express our God-given dominion only by thinking and acting in a fashion reflective of the divine nature, as Christ Jesus illustrated through his teachings and works. The Bible defines God as Love and speaks of His bountiful provision for His creation. Expressing dominion reflective of God's love, we would necessarily be loving, sensitive to the nature and role of each of God's creatures and to the proper atmosphere within which these can blossom.
But how are we to know the nature and role of God's creatures? We already have our first clue: God saw that what He had made was good. The adjective good connotes qualities and urges us to look beyond a limited, physiological concept of animals in order to detect the spiritual, qualitative nature of God's creation. Each of His creatures is good, a distinct and essential expression of God in His infinite goodness.
As we are willing to look at man qualitatively, rather than judge on the basis of corporeal factors such as sex, skin color, or age, we are less likely to exploit an individual and more likely to appreciate the vital contribution each can make when free to express his or her distinct spiritual individuality. The same can be true with animals.
Let's take the dolphin, for example. As we discover more about its nature as God has made it, our relationship to this creature changes significantly. We're likely to consider more understandingly the good inherent in it. For instance, the natural caring qualities of dolphins indicate that they may be able to break through, where humans have failed, in communicating and forming relationships with children considered uncommunicative and withdrawn.
Why does a dolphin naturally express a mothering, shepherding concern for humans as well as for its own young? Isn't the dolphin expressing something of the universal nature of God's mothering love for His creation? From this expression can't we learn more about the mothering love that is natural to us as well, thereby enhancing our efforts to cherish, nurture, and attend unselfishly to the needs of our children -- and all of earth's precious creatures?
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ``God gives the lesser idea of Himself for a link to the greater, and in return, the higher always protects the lower.''2
You might at this point be saying, ``Yes, but some animals seem so harmful, destructive.'' That's true, but we might then ask ourselves whether we are seeing something of what God has actually created, which is good, or are misunderstanding the nature of His creatures. Consider Daniel in the Bible.3 What did he see that altered his relationship to the lions? Had his deep devotion to God, held to in the midst of the lions' den, heightened his awareness of the loving nature of God as controlling the action of all His creatures?
As we better understand the divine nature manifested throughout God's creation, and let our relationship to animals grow out of that understanding, our thoughts and actions will be characterized by respect and caring appreciation. We will be neither arrogant nor fearful but will delight in our growing recognition of His creatures' beneficent goodness.
1See Genesis 1:27, 28, 31. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 518. 3See Daniel, chapter 6.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:25