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A Faith Embracing All Creatures, reviewed by Stephen Vantassel

Permit me to provide just a few examples of their fanciful treatment of scripture. Andy Alexis-Baker, in the chapter “Didn’t Jesus Eat Fish?,” reviews various ways to interpret Christ’s fish eating behavior. Strangely, he argues that we can’t eat fish just because Jesus did as that interpretation is too simplistic (p. 73). Really? We can’t eat fish because our Lord did? What about when Jesus declared all food clean (Mark 7:19)? I’m confident the response would be, “That statement was a later editorial insertion.” Perhaps, but Christianity is an apostolic faith, we only know Christ through the eyes of the Apostles so we had better come to grips with all that the Scripture teaches. Either their viewpoint was correct, irrelevant, or it was wrong. At minimum, Christ’s behavior suggests that the burden of proof is on vegetarians to show that we are obligated to avoid meat.

Another area where the authors abuse Scriptural evidence is their failure to read the passage in its historical context. Isa 11 and 65 are classic examples of this error. The authors want to understand these passages as envisioning a world where predation, including meat consumption by humans, no longer exists. But that isn’t what the passages say. Isaiah, in a pastoral world, was looking for a day when shepherds wouldn’t have to watch their flocks at night because the wolf ate grass. Children wouldn’t have to worry about the asp when they played amongst the rocks because nothing would harm in God’s holy mountain. The passages says nothing directly or implied that God’s futuristic vision for mankind would be filled with vegetarians.

I found it particularly troubling that many of the authors sought to diminish humanity’s standing vis à vis the animal kingdom. A few authors designated humans with the moniker “other animals” thereby reducing our ontological superiority. Others were more subtle, choosing to argue that humans were just creatures like the animals and therefore suggesting that humans really don’t have any right to make life and death decisions over the animal kingdom. I would direct reader attention to the testimony of Scripture which portrays humans as special and in the God-placed position of authority over the animal kingdom (Gen 1-2; Psa 8). I suggest that we are all suffering because Adam and Eve failed to take dominion over the serpent. Furthermore, God thinks humans are so special that his Holy Spirit can indwell us, something that is never promised for animals (Joel 2:28ff; Acts 2).

Likewise, the authors ignore the arguments of contemporary theologians that uphold the traditional interpretation of human-animal relations. Unlike Martin Luther and Jon Hus, who loved their critics enough to engage them, these authors choose to avoid living theologians in favor of criticizing dead ones (like Aquinas) who are unable to defend themselves.

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Category: Fall 2013, Living the Faith

About the Author: Stephen M. Vantassel, Ph.D. theology (Trinity Theological Seminary), M.A.T.S. Old Testament (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), B.S. Biblical Studies (Gordon College), is a Tutor of Theology at King’s Evangelical Divinity School in Broadstairs, U.K. and Assistant Editor for the Evangelical Review of Theology and Politics. His dissertation was published in expanded form in Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock, 2009), explains how biblical teaching on the use of animals provides a rubric for how God wants humanity to use the earth. He lives in Montana with his wife Donna. He regularly posts articles at

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