by Richard L. Burguet •
I am a hunter. I am also a Christian and a pastor. People often look at me and think to themselves, if they do not ask outright: “How can those things be consistent? Can a Christian (and a pastor, no less) kill God’s animals?” I want to take a few paragraphs to show you why I believe that hunting and the outdoors sports are not only consistent, but actually part of, who we are and what Christians are supposed to do. I know some will think that I am just another gun-toting nutcase attempting to support his activities. I will leave that judgment to you.
Let me take you back to the beginning. I mean the very beginning of creation itself.
“And God said, ‘Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens’ 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:20-22).
After all, we are talking about the world that God created and into which he placed Adam and Eve, the world that God created by the very power of His word and then pronounced “good”. According to the creation account of Genesis 1, after the cosmos was created God populated the world with a fruitful, multiplying, and varied plant, fish, and bird life. The Garden of Eden was an amazing place, reflecting the glory and wisdom of its creator; it must have been beautiful to the eye and in the balance of life.
But that was not all; God was not finished yet. Genesis carries on in the next few words describing the continuing acts of creation:
24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Indeed, it was truly paradise on earth! Notice that God actually saw that it was good. That phrase is repeated throughout the creation accounts.
Now moving along through the description of the first days of creation, we come to the sixth day in the very next verse:
26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Slow down your reading, go back and reread the italicized words in this paragraph. (Genesis 1:26). Made in the image of God, man is supposed to have what over the fish, birds, livestock, creeping things, over all the earth? The word here is dominion. It means to rule, to have control over as a ruler. We don’t use the word dominion a lot in our common vocabularies, unless we are talking about a sporting event. Here is how we use it: “My team the xxxxx is going to dominate the competition!” In the sense the Bible uses the word in reference to creation the connotation is that of being a good ruler over all creation, as in terms of a good manager, to use the fish and animal life of creation for the benefit of man, and to the glory of God. This idea of man’s purpose in creation, to rule over the entire created world in a prevailing manner, speaks to our activities as hunters.
Like all the “infomercials” on television say as they expand their offers, “But wait! There is more.” As God finishes up the work of creation, read again the words he said in summation: Genesis 1:29 And God said,
“Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.”
And it was so. All creation was given to man to rule and to use for food. All of it!
That is all well and good you say, but how does that give you the “license to kill?” Isn’t killing wrong? Let me suggest that God himself is the one who killed the first animal in creation. Think back to what you may remember about the events of the opening days of creation. The world and Adam and Eve were created good. But the first man and his wife rebelled against God and brought the very punishment that God promised would come upon all creation: Death. From that very moment on everything in creation changed. Cataclysmic change. No longer did the plants and life of creation just multiply in balance and provision for ma;, now the ground was cursed. Raising plants for food became sweaty labor and toil, and creation began to produce thorns and thistles. Adam and Eve realized they were naked and tried in vain to hide their disobedience from God, as does the rest of mankind even still. Then after God pronounced the curse on creation, and just before he put our first parents out of the Garden of Eden, he did something very gracious for Adam and Eve which we often read right over.
Genesis 3:21 – And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
Their nakedness was covered over by the shedding of blood and the death of the first animals in creation, their hides turned into clothing for Adam and Eve by God Himself. The killing of these first animals was to provide for the new needs of mankind because of sin. That is not to mention the entire sacrificial system of the Old Testament, and the countless animals and birds sacrificed to atone for man’s sin.
I would place before you the idea that there are implications from the Genesis account that touch on my hunting activities, and that hunting is actually an activity the Bible teaches – that having dominion over creation obliges me to be a good manager of the world around me. That means not only that as a Christian, I have to be a Biblical environmentalist, but that I have a responsibility for the way I hunt. It speaks to ethical kill practices, to killing what I will use, and to managing creation in such a way as to protect the balance of the environment.
On another front there have been those who have tried to redefine hunting as the murder of animals. I think this is a subtle distinction that redefines murder to include animals. Previously, the word murder and the concept behind the word have not been defined in that manner. Until the animal rights activist and anti-hunting groups began to attempt to eliminate hunting sports, there has been a distinction between killing animals and the murder of a human. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary and Wikipedia, and all the dictionaries I consulted make the distinction that murder relates to one human killing another. More importantly than a dictionary understanding of the word murder, however, is how the Scriptures define murder. In the very passages I referenced above (Genesis 1:26) regarding dominion and creation, the Bible teaches that man was created in the image of God, whereas the rest of creation is created with less dignity. That man reflects the image of His creator is an important distinction from the rest of the world. To kill man is to destroy the image of God; to kill an animal, fish, reptile or plant is not. The taking of the life of an animal in a hunting situation, or even euthanizing a pet, is not murder. I believe that often the way society attempts to redefine acceptable ethics is to change terminology to support a position that opposes the standing norm.
One other Biblical text of importance in the discussion of the sport I enjoy, is the passage from the New Testament book of Acts that is sometimes referred to in support of hunting. After Jesus death and resurrection God sent out the Apostles to declare the message of salvation and the Kingdom of God. In the early days of their efforts to be faithful to their task there were times when the Apostles struggled to understand all that they were to do. One circumstance like that was a struggle Peter had with taking the Gospel to non-Jewish people. Peter was reluctant to take the message of salvation outside the Jewish world until the vision of Acts 10. In this passage Peter sees:
…. the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven. Acts 10:11-16
Admittedly, the context is regarding the inclusion of non-Jewish people into the Kingdom of Heaven. But the Lord chose to use this illustration from creation to communicate to Peter that includes the killing and eating of animals, reptiles and birds, and says that it is permissible. At least by inference I would submit that hunting and killing animals, birds, and even reptiles is permissible.
Then the argument is raised regarding the shooting of an animal as a cruel death. Hunting is not cruelty when hunting is done ethically and Biblically. Cruelty may be closer to what we do with livestock and fowl that are raised for food production. I think the taking of the life of an animal from the wild is actually far more “humane” than what happens in a slaughterhouse or chicken plant. That is not to say that I am opposed to commercial food production, just that I believe that the killing of a deer, a turkey, a duck, or even an alligator in the wild is not cruel – but rather can be an expression of dominion over creation for the glory of God.
Why don’t you give this some thought?
Rev. Richard L. Burguet*
* Richard is an avid hunter, and loves the Lord Jesus Christ, the Church, and the outdoors. Richard hunts with a compound bow, modern and primitive muzzle-loaders, shotgun, or rifle. He loves to turkey hunt best of all because of the great challenge. If you would like to interact in a respectful and serious manner, you may email him here.
רָדָה, רָדָה [radah /raw·daw/] v. A primitive root; TWOT 2121, 2122; GK 8097 and 8098; 27 occurrences; AV translates as “rule” 13 times, “dominion” nine times, “take” twice, “prevaileth” once, “reign” once, and “ruler” once. 1 to rule, have dominion, dominate, tread down. 1a (Qal) to have dominion, rule, subjugate. 1b (Hiphil) to cause to dominate. 2 to scrape out. 2a (Qal) to scrape, scrape out. (Strong’s Hebrew Concordance)
The provision of animal skins for Adam and Eve, and the whole of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament all pre-figure the greatest sacrifice of all for the sin of mankind in general and individual sinners in particular. Jesus was the perfect God/man who was without sin, yet died a substitutionary death for sinful man to pay the debt of sin created by Adam and Eve, and everyman after them.
 Merriam Webster: the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought. Wikipedia: Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide (such as manslaughter). As the loss of a human being inflicts enormous grief upon the individuals close to the victim, as well as the fact that the commission of a murder is highly detrimental to the good order within society, most societies both present and in antiquity have considered it a most serious crime worthy of the harshest of punishment. In most countries, a person convicted of murder is typically given a long prison sentence, possibly a life sentence where permitted, and in some countries, the death penalty may be imposed for such an act — though this practice is becoming less common. In most countries, there is no statute of limitations for murder (no time limit for prosecuting someone for murder). A person who commits murder is called a murderer.