David Lipscomb and the Treatment of Animals

David Lipscomb endorses a society–that is a rare event. In this case, he endorses the creation of the Humane Society in 1887 Nashville.

“Some of the best citizens of Nashville are engaged in a good work in the organization of the Humane Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals.  The Lord has given the animal to us and we are his protectors.  We have no right to cruelly use them. Many a man will be punished for his inhumanity to the dumb brute. The genuine Christian will treat the animal humanely. It is a sad commentary on our people that there exists the necessity for the organization of such a society. Many people in our own beloved land need to become civilized” (Gospel Advocate, June 15, 1887, 379).

Lipscomb displays, on occasion, ecological concerns though we shold not expect that he would have the heightened sense that we have today. I think this is directly related to his understanding of the “new heaven and new earth” which is a renewed earth analogous to a return to Eden. Animals were present in Eden; indeed, they were named by Adam.

In the context of Genesis 1-2, animals were not created as food. They were created as companions though they were inadequate for the kind of intimacy God desired for humanity that would mirror the intimacy of God’s own life. Nevertheless, animals shared Eden with the original couple. They will share the eschaton with humanity as well where the lion and the lamb will lie down together and the child will play among them.

The new heaven and new earth will be like an eschatological petting-zoo. Except the animals will roam free rather than caged.

Animals are not throw-aways. They were created for the joy of the Creator–God has the biggest aquarium in the history!  In the new heaven and new earth, God will still enjoy the creation, including the creatures that fill the sea, walk the land and fly in the air. And these creatures will continue to praise God–“let everything that breathes praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6).

So, yes, dogs do “go to heaven.”

15 Responses to “David Lipscomb and the Treatment of Animals”

  1.   jim burkhalter Says:

    Even a dog in a Christian home has a better life than the dog of a non Christian.
    Pr 12:10 A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast:

  2.   Jeff McVey Says:

    Interesting that you interpret the phrase “new heavens and new earth” literally…

    •   A. W. Says:

      A “literal” interpretation of the new earth seems to fit very neatly into the semetic undersatnding of eschatology (such as it was) which formed the context for the writing of the New Testament. The modern tendency toward spiritualization is hard to anachronistically read back onto Micah 4, for example, a passage from which Christian eschatological vision draw so heavily.

      •   Jeff McVey Says:

        Obviously, the most important task for a Christian is to be right with Jesus. Then, whatever form the “new heavens and new earth” take, when they arrive you can enjoy them.

        But we all know too many people who will say that if you don’t interpret every eschatological phrase exactly right, you will be condemned, cast out from the community of believers, and banished from enjoying the blessings of the “new heavens and new earth”…

        Legalism still flourishes…

      •   A. W. Says:

        Of course legalism still flourishes, but we cannot let the specter of legalism prevent us from continuing to engage in constructive discussion about contentious issues. Because eschatology has never really been about what happens “when we get there” but about how the telos of creation should influence the way we interact with it and with its Creator now, the eschatological questions–no matter how speculative or how prone to legalism–deserve our consideration. In other words, the suggestion that we can just “be right with Jesus” and eschatology will take care of itself fundamentally misunderstands the focus of eschatology, both biblically and in our contemporary discussions. Eschatology is an essential component of, among other thing, our continually developing ethics.

        As an illustration, the question of eschatology came up in this context not because David Lipscomb was sitting around wondering what “there” would be like when we “get there” but because he was thinking about what it meant to be “be right with Jesus” as it pertains to the ethical treatment of animals.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      A renewed literal cosmos but what exactly that entails I confess that I don’t know.

      •   rich constant Says:

        i gotta add to that,
        what ever it is,it will be so good, words won’t be able to express the wonderment of the fulfillment.

      •   Jeff McVey Says:

        To a Christian, Jesus is the ticket that gets you to the “new heavens and new earth”, whatever form they may take…

        So buy a ticket on the Jesus-train, and ride it to wherever it takes you…

        And don’t listen to those people who disfellowhip each other because they disagree on the type of silverware that will be used at the heavenly banquet; just anticipate the feast… ; – )

  3.   A. W. Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this quote. I am always delighted to find new and unexpected ways in which David Lipscomb’s thought translates easily into our modern problems.

  4.   KK Says:

    What about the dinosaurs?

  5.   Stan Says:

    A good verse that supports proper treatment of animals is Proverbs 12:10.

  6.   williamdeem Says:

    As always, thank you for the interesting post. God bless!


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