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A Story of God, Humanity and Animals

This story was presented by Philip Sampson at the WYSOCS Colloquium of Reformationals October 2006, and is reproduced by his kind permission. Scripture references below.

Let me tell you a story of over-consumption based on Creation - Fall - Redemption:

When God created the world he said to human beings, you are to rule my creation on my behalf. I have given you seeds and fruits to eat, but you may not consume the fruit of that fine tree over there. This will remind you that the earth and everything in it is mine, not yours. You may rule over it, but you may not consume it as you wish. There are limits to your dominion. So the humans and animals lived at peace in the garden. But the humans declared UDI, saying `that tree looks pretty tasty to me. It's ours, so why shouldn't we get our teeth into it?' And in the originating act of over-consumption, they destroyed the harmony which had been theirs.

Gradually, their consumption ran riot. `Muesli's boring', they said. `Didn't God make animals as ingredients?' Now when God saw that his creation had filled up with such terrible violence, he said `Let's start again with Noah and his family'. And God said to Noah, `previously, I gave you the seeds and fruit to eat, but you didn't like Muesli, so now I give you the animals also, but you must eat them in repentance not lust'. And so the animals came to fear the people who ate them.

But lust prevailed. Skilful Nimrod started hunting animals for pleasure, and Esau followed suit. Isaac revelled in tasty venison casserole and disaster followed. In the wilderness, Israel hankered after the fleshpots of Egypt (that's butcher's shops not brothels), and grumbled against God. They even made an idol of the desire of their belly. But Moses cooked it into golden-calf soup which proved to be bitter meat. Then God gave them the law through Moses to restrict their destructiveness and cruelty, and promised them a land rich in vegetarian food. The prophets reminded them that to kill an animal without a spirit of repentance was as if they had killed a man, and that, at the restoration of all things, the lion would again lie down with the lamb. The wise king Solomon, told the people `If you are cruel to animals you are wicked'. Some people such as Rebekah had responded, but many said `What does cruelty matter, we will consume what we wish'. Eli's sons declared `Crackling tastes good, let's eat that too'. `Surely the world was created for us, to consume without pity or limit. Let's eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we can go to the butcher's round the corner'.

Finally, God sent his son to inaugurate the restoration of the world. Jesus the carpenter made easy yokes which did not chafe the oxen's necks, and opened his ministry with the wild animals in the desert. As the Word became flesh in fashion as a man, so the Holy Spirit took on the bodily appearance of a dove, and this humblest of creatures became food for reflection, not the belly. Entering Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus kept the colt with its mother to avoid their distress at separation. As a memorial, he revolutionised the feast, replacing lamb with bread.

At first his church took the point, and did much good for consumer justice. But soon the world found ways of consuming animals by the billion, and despoiling creation. The church joined the industrial dining club, and the planet was on the menu. But the church needed an excuse to eat at this table, so it moved the sins of the belly down six inches. Eating the apple in Eden was not an act of over consumption after all, but something to do with sex - though no-one was quite sure what. The fleshpots of Egypt were transformed from saucepans into brothels. Now that the lust of the flesh meant only sexual impurity, the world was free to consume creation without limit. Starvation, animal abuse, desertification, pollution, global warming.

`Time's up' says God.' Today we will destroy the destroyers of the earth'. `Oh dear' say the people, `why did nobody warn us?'

Scripture citations or allusions

Paragraph 1: Gen 1-3, 4.10-12; Lev 25.23; Ps 24.1-2; Hos 4.1-3

Paragraph 2: Gen 6-10; Is 1.11; Jer 7.22-23; Prov 12.10; Amos 5.21-4; Habak 2.17; Zech 9

Paragraph 3: Gen 24.19-32; Ex 23.10-19, 34.26; Lev 11, 17.1-14, 22.24-28, 25.6-7; Num 22.28-30; Deut 5.12-15, 12.20f, 14, 20.19-20, 22.6-10, 25.4; Is 2.15, 11.6-9, Is 65; Ezek 34; Hos 2.18-21; Luke 12.19; John 10.11

Paragraph 4: Lev 22.27-28; Ps 102.25f; Is 66.22, 35.1f, 32.15f, 11.6f; Matt 11.28f, 19.28, 26.26; Mark 1.13, 14.22, 16.15; John 3.16; Acts 3.19-21; Rom 8; 1Cor 11.24; Eph 1.10; Col 1.20; Heb 12.26f; 2Pet 3.13; Rev 21, 22

Paragraph 5: Deut 6.1-3; Josh 5.6; Neh 9.25f; Joel 2.18f; James 5.5

Paragraph 6: Mark 16.15; John 3.16; Col 1.23; Rev 11.18

Copyright (c) Philip Sampson, 2006.

This story is reproduced here, with kind permission of Philip Sampson, as illustrating aspects of a New View in Theology.

Created: 3 December 2006. Last updated: