Since BioLogos is changing it’s focus somewhat, towards creation care, I would like to start a discussion on the historical and scriptural hurdles which Christians environmentalists have to face.
I feel as though the Hebrew Bible is unfairly scapegoated for our western view of total dominion (indeed, it is rather cheaply scapegoated on many issues, “Old Testament” is synonymous with cruelty and wrath, possibly due to residual anti-semitism), when in fact, some passages in the OT, such as Isaiah 40:15 seem to reject the notion that the universe revolves around us, and the law of Moses includes what is likely the earliest legislation for animal welfare (Exodus 23:12, Deuteronomy 25:4). Indeed, Judaism has always prohibited unnecessary cruelty towards animals, going back as far as Philo of Alexandria, who interpreted the milk and meat prohibition as a prohibition against cruelty. The later Rabbis developed the principles of Tsa’ar Baalei Chaim (relieving animal pain) and Bal Tashhit (against waste), showing that concern for the non-human world is not a new development in Judaism.
So I feel as though the Christian New Testament is probably more to blame. The New Testament, especially the story of the Gadarene Demoniacs, and 1 Corinthians 9:9, seem to demonstrate a lack of concern for animals. Indeed, this is how virtually all Christians (with exceptions) saw things until the modern era. Augustine said that humans have no duties towards animals, whilst Aquinas thought we only had indirect duties to prevent cruelty to humans. Unlike in other religions, concern for animals seems to be a novel idea in Christendom.
It is true however, that when concern for animals did arise in the west, it arose primarily among the devout, particularly amongst English Puritans, who banned bear baiting, and later Evangelicals, who founded the RSPCA in the 19th century. This is a positive contribution of Christianity, but Christianity was still late to the stage compared to Judaism, and other religions.
I consider this to be a major shortcoming of Christianity, and one of the main reasons why I am not a Christian. How do ecologically minded Christians deal with these parts of the NT?