Many of us feel a little silly if we react strongly to the death of a pet or the plight of an animal. “Well, it was just a cat,” we say, embarrassed by our grief. Where does this attitude come from? It’s certainly not biblical. Our modern view of animals can be traced primarily to such Enlightenment philosophers as René Descartes, who argued that animals are biological machines unable to feel pain or experience emotion and unimportant except as they affect the lives of human beings. In the Bible, by contrast, value and redemption extend not only to humans but to all animals.
In Genesis 1:1–2:4, God first creates the heavens and the earth, then the plants, fishes, birds and all the other animals—and God repeatedly declares that this creation is good. Finally, God creates male and female human beings in God’s image and gives them dominion over the earth. They are to fill and subdue it.