Many vegetarian Christians become angry and frustrated when they receive indifference or even open opposition from an anthropocentric Christian church. Why do so many Christians reject our plea for mercy and compassion towards animals by quoting isolated passages out of the Bible? Why do they proclaim that God does not care about the suffering mankind inflicts on the rest of God’s creation? What is the difference between their faith and ours, the God they worship and our God? I believe these are very important questions that need to be answered and understood, if we are to become effective within the church.
In an attempt to answer these questions I must share my faith and my God with you. I agree with the following statement ‘Faith is not belief without proof but trust without reservation’. To have faith in God therefore, you must know Him enough to be prepared to place your ‘eternity’ into His hands, knowing that for ‘all time’ He will look after you. My God is someone very special, a God I can trust without reservation, and that knowledge gives me the joy and peace that defies all understanding.
So what are those all important attributes of my God that enables me to trust Him without reservation? Through the Bible and personal spiritual experience, I discovered that He is:
• Holy Morally pure, perfect, free from sin.
• Divine Above the nature of man, extremely good.
• Love Has great affection and devotion.
• Just Acts according to what is right, fair, impartial.
When I gave my life to Jesus, I put my trust in a God who, by His very nature, is extremely good, morally pure and acts with impartial justice and love, a God who is perfect in every way. I would be very foolish to put all my trust in a God who said He loved me but showed total indifference to the suffering of others, yet many Christians go out of their way to try and convince me that this is the God I worship!
However, these Christians would agree that the God I have described above is also their God, So why, if we worship the same God, do we arrive at different answers to moral questions concerning our compassion and mercy towards Gods creatures? I believe the answer depends on how we a) view ourselves, b) use the Bible, and c) embrace self interest:
A) How do we view ourselves:
• Creation caring Christians consider themselves a part of creation, that to be made in God’s image implies a responsibility towards all of God’s creation, either as Stewards or Servant Kings.
• Anthropocentric Christians will claim that being made in God’s image puts them above creation which was designed to serve mankind alone, giving him/her the right to use and abuse it.
B) How do we use the Bible:
• Creation caring Christians will use the Bible to discover God’s attributes and then use that knowledge to become God’s Ambassadors, by applying as far as humanly possible, God’s moral attributes of justice, goodness and mercy.
• Anthropocentric Christians will use the Bible as a ‘manual of moral absolutes’ relying on isolated passages to excuse their immoral treatment of God’s creation.
C) How do we embrace self interest:
• Creation Caring Christians are altruistic and prepared to sacrifice themselves. I quote :
There is a similarity between the campaign to end slavery and that for animal rights - both are entirely altruistic in that those who fight them stand to gain nothing if they succeed. They are born out of a desire for a better, more equitable, more just world where relieving the suffering of others is an end in itself. Both are noble, both are born of the finer aspects of the human spirit and both are opposed by bigotry, spite, ignorance and self interest. Surely no one would argue that the world is not a finer place because most slavery has ended. And one day, that judgement will be applied with equal certainty to the end of animal exploitation.
• Anthropocentric Christians will guard vested interests by rigidly following a selfish Gospel, where dominion means domination. This philosophy is more aligned to the teachings of the Greek philosopher Aristotle and a militant Roman empire than the compassionate teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Between these two groups is the vast majority of Christians who, through the pressures of working for a living, bringing up children, looking after elderly relatives and responsibilities within the church, would prefer to settle for the the status quo, They are not blind to the violence and cruelty imposed on the poor, the environment and the rest of God’s creatures, by an overindulgent lifestyle, but it is just another worry which they could well do without. However, our hope lies in reaching the hearts and minds of these Christians, whose loving care is at present limited to family, church and the local community.
The aforementioned is my assessment of some of the problems facing us but what about some answers. We may never convince the Anthropocentric Christian but I am sure that we can convince the vast majority of Christians, provided we approach them in a loving and gentle way: