A Gorilla, a Boy, and God’s Created Order

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Published on: June 1, 2016

The nation has been mesmerized and polarized by the story of the young three-year-old boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati zoo, an incident which resulted in the shooting death of the gorilla.

How should clear thinking Americans process this event, and should they come down on the side of the gorilla or the zoo?

The United States was formed as a Christian nation, built on the truth claims of the Judeo-Christian tradition and the laws of nature and nature’s God. The only way to see this circumstance clearly is to view it through the lens of Scripture.

The Bible is quite clear that both man and animals have been created by God. Neither men nor animals are evolved beings. The Founders understood this clearly, and grounded our nation’s entire political experiment on the truth that man is a created being who has been endowed by his Creator – “Creator” with a capital C – with certain unalienable rights.

This has enormous significance for how we view this event, because if evolutionists are right (they aren’t) then all life is on a continuum in which one life form gradually shades into the next and higher life form. For the Darwinian, the difference between a higher order primate, say a gorilla, and a child is merely a matter of degree, a matter of small percentages. We’ve all heard the stories about how we share 99% of DNA patterns with more complex members of the animal kingdom.

But if there is a Creator, the creator of both man and animal, then what he says about what he has made determines how we look at things. What we find in Scripture is the clear declaration that man and man only is made in the image of God. Animals are not. While animals have a soul, only man has a spirit. Only man is capable of entering into a relationship with God, only man is capable of rational thought, communication, and moral choice, and only man lives forever.

As Genesis 1:26 puts it (emphasis mine), “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him” (Genesis 1:26,27).

In other words, the difference between man and animal is not one of degree but of kind. They belong to entirely different orders of being altogether. The life of a human being is of infinite worth, while the life of an animal is not. There is an unbridgeable chasm in worth, value, and significance between even the smallest human being and the most majestic animal.

In God’s created economy, man is given dominion over every living thing. “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” (Genesis 1:26). The dominion that God has given to man over animals means that zoos are morally permissible, despite the bleatings of animal rights activists, for they give people an opportunity to observe the beauty, majesty, and complexity of God’s creatures.

And the dominion that God has given to man over animals certainly means that it is altogether right and proper to dispatch a member of the animal kingdom the moment it poses a threat to human life.

Some claim they know for certain how gorillas think and insist that the animal had nothing but tenderness in mind for the child. But there are any number of instances where zoo gorillas have attacked human beings, including one incident in which a gorilla gnawed on the face and chest of a child before being taken down by a SWAT team. It would have been inhumane to gamble a child’s life on the supposed ability of a human to read a gorilla’s mind.

Tranquilizing the gorilla was likewise out of the question. It would have taken several minutes for the tranquilizer to take effect, and the jolt of the dart may have agitated the gorilla and dramatically increased the danger to the child.

While secular fundamentalists continue to elevate animal life to the point where it takes precedence over human life – witness the vigils for Harambe and the death threats directed against the parents of the child – God never makes that mistake.

Thus, from a biblical perspective, the choice between gorilla and child may have been painful, but it was not, and should not have been, tough. No one ever takes delight in the death of a majestic animal, but there is simply no comparison between the death of animal and the death of a child.

The outpouring of anger and outrage directed at zoo officials and at this boy’s parents is beneath the dignity of a Christian nation. The predominant national emotional reaction should be relief and gratitude that a young boy’s life was spared, and happiness for his parents. The fact that the national mood is something much different is sobering and telling.

(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)

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