Recent events that have transpired in my life have forced me to ask again, “Does our society have an inordinate affection for animals?” From the earliest days of the Bible, God made it clear that animals were not a help suitable for man (Genesis 2:20). This is not to say that animals provide no service for mankind.
The Bible is clear that animals are “living creatures” (Genesis 1:24), and here God uses the same terminology that is translated “living soul” with regard to mankind (Genesis 2:7). Both the animal kingdom and mankind possess an immaterial element. Animals have lungs that breathe and hearts that beat, and when an animal dies, some immaterial element leaves his body. In this sense, animals have souls. This allows us to use animals for laboratory experimentation and learn something of our own physiological makeup. Because animals have this immaterial component, they can experience emotion to some degree. This is why a dog may experience fear when you blow your car horn, or whimper when he is smitten with the newspaper.
When God made man, however, God put within that man a spirit that differentiates him from the animal kingdom. Man is uniquely made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). This differentiation makes several things immediately apparent.
First, man operates in a moral arena whereas animals do not. Butch never comes home and tells Fifi that Fido is cheating on Princess. When our dog comes home expecting a litter of pups, it never enters our mind to think that she has disgraced the family name. As a matter of fact, when humans live without a moral compass, we say that they are living like animals, for animals do not function in the realm of morality.
Second, man possesses a creativity that animals do not possess. If we bear the imprint of deity, then certainly part of that reflection is creativity. After all, this is the primary revelation concerning God in Genesis 1. To be sure, a dog may go in a doghouse when it is raining, but you will never see two dogs studying a set of blueprints to determine what kind of house they will build. Birds may “build” nests, but you will never see a bird build a high rise with multiple floor plans. Animals function according to instinct; man, in contrast, possesses creative juice.
Third, man has sovereignty over the animal kingdom. Because man functions as God’s vice-regent, he is to “have dominion. . . over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). It is our job to tame the animals, not to allow our animals to have control of our lives.
Fourth, man possesses value that animals do not possess. Because man is made in the image of God, his blood cannot be shed (Genesis 9:6). The same passage, however, that prohibits the shedding of man’s blood permits the shedding of animal blood (Genesis 9:2-3). Therefore, when animal rights activists protest hunting expeditions by holding up signs that say, “Thou shalt not kill,” they prove that they are unfamiliar with the context of Scripture.
There is no denying that pets have brought a tremendous amount of enjoyment to families. Widows and widowers have testified that pets have been a source of comfort in days of bereavement. I am sure that many women who cannot have children have found solace from the animal world.
This all having been said, however, animals cannot replace humans. A bird is not the same as a boy, and a dog is not the same as a daughter. When mankind substitutes his unwillingness to fulfill the Adamic covenant (Genesis 1:28) through a purchase at the local pet store, he violates the command of Scripture to procreate ourselves and dominate the animal world.
One wonders if those who have shed multiple tears over the plight of their neighbor’s dog, have spent the same amount of time in tears over their neighbor’s soul. Indeed, the second great commandment is to love our neighbor (not our neighbor’s dog) as ourselves (Mark 12:31). How sad that many are willing to jeopardize long standing human friendships over animal rights. I tend to think that puppy love often causes us to fight like dogs.