one striving for God's reign to come to earth, bringing his peace, wholeness, completeness, and health to all aspects of life.

Is Hunting Off-limits??

So I have never hunted before.  Let me preface this post with that admission, or claim to the moral high ground, however you see the issue personally. :)  I have never given much thought to the ethical dimensions of hunting, probably because I have never been that interested in environmentalism.  I am starting to wake up to the importance of this issue, although I still am not as cooperative as I should be in the recycling my wife tries to do.  I see how important it is to value and treasure the earth, since it is the only earth God has given us and we are the stewards of that gift (in a similar fashion to how we have been given one physical body and must be good stewards of that).  But I have been slow to act on my realization of the importance of this truth.

I have been even slower to recognize how important it is to treasure animals and all of God's creatures.  Part of this stems from my strong negative feelings toward the "pet idol" movement I have observed in America: pets are like people, and we value them to such a great extent that they become an idol for us, something we value more than human relationships.  Despite that unhealthy tendency, though, it is true that God's creatures are valuable in his sight--all creatures, both human and animal--and we must value them and treat them with respect.

I just read a quote that got me thinking of all this, and here it is:
"The Noachic covenant [God's covenant with Noah found in Genesis 9] emphasizes reverence for the mystery of life, symbolized by the blood.  Permission is given to human beings to slaughter meat for food, but with appropriate reserve and reverence (Gen. 9:4-5).  Their God-given freedom does not entitle them to kill for sport or to destroy species.  The nonhuman creation is not there simply for humans to use or exploit.  Animals too are precious in God's sight, and this valuation may extend to trees, flowers, and other parts of 'nature.'  In short, human beings are caretakers of God's creation... This is what is involved in being made in the image of God: to rule the earth in wisdom, justice, and compassion so that the rule of God may be manifest in human actions" (Bernard Anderson, Contours of Old Testament Theology, 95).

Wow.  That's a great quote in my opinion.  The comment near the end about being made in the image of God goes back to his earlier discussion of what this phrase means.  To be made in the image of God, in Anderson's view, means to have a function or role, to represent God on earth, "just as a child represents the parent on a family estate" (90).  In this view, man "is not an autonomous being, at liberty to rule the earth arbitrarily or violently.  On the contrary, human dominion is to be exercised wisely and benevolently so that God's dominion over the earth may be manifest in care for the earth and in the exercise of justice" (91).

This is what all goes back to hunting!  If we are not free to treat the earth how we want, whether through treating animals violently or through raping the earth's natural resources in whatever fashion we want, then that certainly has implications for how we live.  We must do what we can to treasure the earth and its creatures, both in our own lives and through the laws we support.  And maybe we should take another look at hunting and the underlying assumptions behind it.  I have always felt a little uncomfortable with the idea of killing an animal for fun, but Genesis 9 seems to instruct us to treat the blood of animals with great respect, for the life given to it by God is in its blood.  It is one thing to kill an animal to nourish our bodies.  I believe this is absolutely okay, mainly because Scripture says it is okay and because I do believe that animals are subject to humans, since God set it up that way.  However, does our "dominion" over animals give us the right to kill them for fun?  Isn't there something about this that fails to treasure God's creation?  Isn't there something about this that fails to rule the earth in wisdom and compassion?  I'm just asking the question...


MegganB April 26, 2010 at 4:44 PM  

First, I'll take help with the recycling any time :) Second, I know few if any hunters that truly hunt just for "sport". Most, if not all, use the meat for food. If you're thinking of trophies - typically those are just left over carcass and yes, that's just gross and those parts are generally unusable for human consumption anyway.
I'm actually more concerned with the inhumane treatment of animals on feed lots and those confined into cages for human consumption. Not only are the conditions disgusting but it also compromises the wellness of our food. That seems more irresponsible and concerning to me.

Kevin Bobrow April 26, 2010 at 5:38 PM  

You make a great point when you highlight the fact that people often do not hunt for sport but for food, which in a sense makes the activity no different from going to the grocery store. Surely there are different kinds of hunting, and again, I am very naive to all of that.

I would also say that the post is controversial in my mind not because I am questioning whether hunting is right or wrong (that question cannot be answered here, and I would never try to answer it because it is a fairly legalistic endeavor to go around trying to show what activities are right and wrong, especially when I do not engage in them). The post is controversial to me because it questions the typical understanding we connect with humans having dominion over the earth! This was very challenging to me! We do not have authority over the earth to do whatever we want with it. Rather, we have authority over the earth as God's representatives, and we are charged with administering this authority with wisdom and compassion.

Really I am just using hunting as a spring board to talk about this deeper issue, so please don't think I am interested in condemning the practice of hunting! Someone could find reasons for condemning all of my hobbies too! I am interested in considering how our charge to represent God in taking care of the earth affects how we treat it--in the way we treat the earth, animals, etc. And I would agree that inhumane treatment of animals falls under this category of areas we need to consider. Killing animals merely for fun would also fall into that category.

I am open to my mind being shaped around these issues as I am just starting to consider these things...


on the walk April 27, 2010 at 9:29 AM  

I have a few more questions.

Can I kill termites, rats and mice?

Can I rip the tick off my kids arm?

What about the deer that eat my garden? Venison is fine but I just want those things dead.

I am happy to be a caretaker, and in fact I think that we must be wise stewards of the earth for lots of reasons, but I am also concerned about this approach to scripture. It seems to read a lot into a very few passages that I think are poetic and theological but they are not theology. In particular, to take principles from these very few verses strikes me as a bit risky.

Jesus for instance does not mention it and Paul certainly has no problem with eating meat. Both of them new the old stories very well but they did not think to draw these conclusions.

That's my two cents.


Kevin Bobrow April 27, 2010 at 10:13 AM  

All good questions, Ethan. And I have no answers for you. In regard to Jesus and Paul not mentioning it, this doesn't seem to be an issue that would have captured much of their attention. But I would say that just because they don't speak to an issue, it doesn't mean it's not important.

While I agree with you that Paul had no problem with eating meat, I don't think that is the issue at all. I think most would agree that from Scripture there is no indication that eating meat is unacceptable. Further, I think most would even agree that hunting for food is totally acceptable. What I am getting at is killing for the sake of killing. Or, as Meggan brought up, treating animals inhumanely because it is good for business. This speaks to an issue much deeper than hunting, which is what I was getting at from the beginning.

How are we to view ourselves as humans with dominion over the earth? What does it mean that we have this authority? What does God expect of us in this role? Can we treat the environment as a whole, including animals, in whatever way we choose, since we have this authority? Or have we been appointed to this role with a calling to greater responsibility and wisdom in the way we care for the world?

Though I agree that these passages in Genesis are sparse, and possibly even poetic, I think there is a possibility that they speak foundationally about who we are as human beings, and about what God expects of us. In this sense I think they are deeply theological. Here are the verses his interpretation is coming from:

Gen. 9:3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.
Gen. 9:4 Only, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.
Gen. 9:5 For your own lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning: from every animal I will require it and from human beings, each one for the blood of another, I will require a reckoning for human life.

I don't claim to know what these verses mean, but I think they might be saying something very theological: though God has given us everything on earth for our use and enjoyment, including eating meat and plants, he has also called us to do so with caution and reverence, remembering that God is the one who gives life (in the blood), to both humans and animals. At least this is one interpretation from this thinker, and I think his suggestions ought to make us pause and consider the ways we view and treat our world. Like I said, these things have rarely even been on my radar, but I am waking up to the possibility that I need to be much more interested in caring for the world God has entrusted to our oversight...

Thanks so much for joining the conversation!


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