Many Christians assume that God created animals as ‘natural resources’ for human use. Some even believe it was so that we humans could kill them and eat their flesh. As has been commonly pointed out by Christian vegetarians, that’s not what the Bible says. According to the creation narrative in the opening chapter of Genesis, God gives humans and animals alike, only plants for food:
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. (Genesis 1:29-30)
While Genesis insists that humans are specially made in the “image and likeness” of God, and that God gives humans dominion over the other creatures, it is equally clear that neither implies any right to kill and eat animals. “But,” some may ask, “if animals were not created by God to be food for humans, then what, according to the Bible, is God’s purpose for creating them?” While it’s important to approach the question with great humility, since as Job 39-41, reminds us, we know little of God’s purposes for and relations with God’s nonhuman creatures, the Bible itself seems to suggest a possible answer: Animals are made for companionship,community and relationship with humans:
“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name” – Genesis 2:18-19
While the issues surrounding the theology of animals, and in particular the proper treatment of animals, is admittedly complex, and underdeveloped, and while there arte many other biblical texts to be considered, Christians would do well to recall these passages, when making judgments about the “purpose” or “nature” of their nonhuman neighbors.