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  • Steve Sorensen

#4, of 7 Theological Truths about Hunting

Theological Truth #4 – God's compassion is primarily toward man.

The God Christians worship has compassion. Compassion means different things to different people, and compassion comes in many forms. Some of those who say they have compassion for animals do very little for animals. They are sometimes walking contradictions – they have emotional feelings for animals, while they engage in practical behaviors that harm animals and participate unknowingly in activities that cause the suffering of animals. For example, the animals that once lived where you now live are gone now because someone built a house, which converted wildlife habitat to human habitat. Wildlife can no longer live there. We can't escape the fact that man's so-called "progress" has come at the expense of animals, so a view that animal life is somehow sacred and deserves protection is impossible to carry out.

When "compassion" is the rule for our attitude toward wildlife, some people will express their compassion more toward animals that are furry and cute than they do toward animals that are slippery and look menacing. A bear cub receives more compassion than a rattlesnake. A homeowner might have more compassion toward the woodchuck in the corner of the back yard than he does toward the mouse that invades the cupboard. Suppose you live next to a dairy farm. The dairy farmer would appreciate you killing the woodchuck because it digs holes in his pasture and those holes can ruin expensive farm equipment or break the leg of a dairy cow worth more than $1,000. And while you hate the feral cat because it does his #2 under your porch, the farmer appreciates the same cat because it kills the mice that invade his grainery. It should be easy to see that compassion toward individual animals is not an adequate principle for managing wildlife.

Contrary to what many think, hunters do have compassion for wildlife. Hunters will often protect or rescue individual animals that are suffering, but they don't view the value of the individual animal as greater than the whole population. For the sake of the whole population, hunters willingly become a tool of wildlife managers, cooperating with the state game management agency by killing animals to keep them in balance with their habitat. That also helps other species thrive. Wildlife management is a complex science which cannot use compassion toward individual animals as a management method. It seeks to keep animal populations viable, which is especially important when they're in close proximity to man. That is why a devout Roman Catholic nun can be a hunter. That is why a priest or a preacher can be a hunter. That is why no career choice in a Christian field disqualifies a person from being a hunter.

God loves animals. They are part of his creation. But God's compassion is shown in the Bible primarily toward those he made in his own image – toward mankind and toward individual humans. In the Old Testament God's judgment of sin cost the sacrifice of innocent animals man was charged to care for, which illustrated the seriousness of sin and the cost of sin to man himself. It's not that suffering animals do not matter. They matter greatly, but the suffering of the creature made in God's image matters more. It mattered so much that God sent a Savior, his own Son, to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind through his death on the Cross. Animal sacrifices were only a shadow of the coming sacrifice of Christ to be made once, for all. The suffering of individual animals for the sins of individual men was only an illustration of how wrong, how devastating, how consequential sin is.

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