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  • Writer's pictureChapman Chen

"Animals Exist for Man's Enjoyment and Use!" Says Billy Graham. By Dr. Chapman Chen


1. Introduction


Pastor Billy Graham (1918-2018) apparently had no respect whatsoever for God's creation other than the human species. In 2004, he asserted that the role of animals is solely to please and satisfy humans, as humans have been given "dominion"  over them. However, examining the Hebrew roots of "dominion" in its context, and considering Jesus' spirit of service, we must conclude that "dominion" here implies servanthood rather than lordship. Graham's perspective on animals is typically un-Christ-like, disrespectful, arrogant, and anthropocentric. His exact statement, in response to the question "Will There Be Animals in Heaven?", is as follows:


Man, as the highest order of creation, has been given dominion over the animal kingdom (Genesis 1:26-28). We believe that animals were intended for man’s enjoyment and use. The Bible itself does not indicate that there is life after death for animals. It may be that God’s purpose for animals is fulfilled on this earth. However, if animals would make us happier in heaven, surely there will be a place for them there. (Graham 2004)     


2. Billy Graham's Humanocentricity


To Graham, animals exist purely for satisfying humans' need for food, for labor, for clothing, for entertainment, etc. Humans, in his opinion, are entitled to exploit other animals to the bone. While he isn't sure whether animals will end up in heaven, he's adamant that if they could make humans merrier in heaven, there will be a place for them there. So even after animals' death, they are still supposed to serve the human species, should they have an afterlife! This is typically what Rev. Prof. Linzey calls humanocentricity (Linzey 1995:24, 33, 179), or what Prof. Peter Singer calls speciesism (1975), or what Prof. David Clough calls anthropocentrism (Clough 2012:9-19, 22-4).


3. Dominion as Domination over the Animal Kingdom


The ground provided by Graham for this kind of supercilious attitude towards animals is that Man, as the highest order of creation, has been given dominion over the animal kingdom (Genesis 1:28):-


Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 NKJV)


4. Dominion as Servanthood


However, there is good reason to believe that "dominion" in Genesis 1:28 actually means servanthood to, rather than absolute domination over, animals. ירדו (yirdu), the ancient biblical Hebrew word in consonantal form for "dominion" in Genesis 1:28 connotes both רָדָה (radah) (to tread down, subjugate, rule) and יָרַד (yarad) (to lower oneself, to descend) (cf. Chaim & Laura 2015). Judging from its context, namely, Genesis 1:29, where humans are prescribed a vegan diet by Yahweh, and Genesis 2:15, where humans are particularly commissioned to tend (עָבַד/abad) and keep (שָׁמַר/shamar) the garden, as noted in the NKJV—i.e., to exercise great care over it (cf. Ritenbaugh 1999), "dominion" should imply yarad (to lower oneself) more than radah (to tread upon). 


5. Jesus Came to Serve!


Rev. Prof. Andrew Linzey also argues that "dominion" in Genesis 1:28 means stewardship instead of despotism (Linzey 1995:34), that humans, are the species uniquely assigned by God to be "the servant species", similar to Jesus' mode, "capable of co-operating with God in the healing and liberation of creatures" (Linzey 1995:44). Here, I would like to add:- "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve," emphasized Jesus in Luke 22:24-27 ESV. From a Christly perspective, "dominion" is not only stewardship but "servanthood" (cf. Linzey 1995:45, 57).


6. Questions of Conscience


Thus, "have dominion over animals" signifies that God commands humankind to lower themselves and serve other animals as a caretaker. Unfortunately, many church leaders over the last 2000 years, e.g. St. Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Billy Graham, under the disingenuous influence of Paul the anti-vegan apostate, have misinterpreted "dominion" as dictatorship/lordship so that the majority of Christians enslave, exploit, rape (as in the diary industry), murder and eat animals "without questions of conscience" (I Corinthians 10:25) (cf. Chen 2024).






Chen, Chapman (2024). "Dominion Means Servanthood to Animals. Go Vegan!" HKBNews, Apr. 14.


Clough, David L. (2012). On Animals: Volume 1, Systematic Theology. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark.


Graham, Billy. "Will There be Animals in Heaven?" Evangelistic Association Website, Jun. 1.


Linzey, Andrew (1995). Animal Theology. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.


Ritenbaugh, Richard T. (1999). "The Bible and the Environment." Forerunner, "Prophecy Watch," February.


Singer, Peter (1975). Animal Liberation. New York: Harpercollins.


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