Who invented veterinary medicine? What should a Christian think about animals? Are people better than animals? Do animals have souls?
We have a brand new book out to answer all these questions and more! In an age of confusion about how we should relate to animals, this little book offers refreshing clarity. Whether you’re a future veterinarian or just want to know more about the theology of human-animal relations, this book is for you! Explore the history of veterinary medicine and how it was influenced by Christians, as well as into what the Bible says about animals and what Christian philosophers mused about the subject. (For a more complete description see here.)
Following is the introduction to A Theology of Beasts. Enjoy!
And until the first weekend in June, buy both veterinary books (Fuzzy Logic and A Theology of Beasts) and get $2 off with the coupon vetsandbeasts. (You will need to order both books at the same time for the coupon to work.)
Hordes of people want to be veterinarians, enough that veterinary schools have difficulty accommodating them. But few consider the full extent of the cost involved.
Counting Up the Costs
I’m not talking about the mere money it takes, though that is a much bigger roadblock than most potential veterinary students understand. The expense of a veterinary education today is so high that the investment for most has to be a lifelong one. Few veterinary graduates can afford the luxury of changing careers.
The academic cost is also high. I found veterinary school to be deceptively difficult. The semester would invariably start with me saying, “Wow! This is simple stuff” and then would end with me pulling out my hair in a frenzy, trying to comprehend the bewildering details of the coagulation cascade, and moaning over the sheer mountains of things I had to memorize.
The emotional cost is likewise high, both during vet school and even more so out of school. When I went to school, the suicide rate among vet students had become alarming enough to justify a permanent counselor on staff. This has only become worse. Recently NBC News reported, “Research has consistently shown for more than 30 years that veterinarians are at significantly higher risk of suicide than is the general population, owing to a combination of factors that include occupational stress, depression and burnout.”[i] The article cites a study reporting that 11,620 veterinarians killed themselves from 1979 to 2015.
Part of the reason for this book, however, is to address the even higher spiritual cost of veterinary medicine—a subject certainly not spoken about in veterinary school.
This book is written mainly to Christian veterinarians and potential Christian veterinarians. Some of the topics I hope to cover are the spiritual and deeply-rooted philosophical struggles we face in this field. Modern, materialistic thinking about animal-kind and their relationship to humankind is antagonistic to the Christian viewpoint. And (though it may come as a surprise to some) non-Christian ways of thinking about animals raise an array of practical problems for the practitioner striving to navigate a confusing philosophic landscape.
The Most Important Question
In light of all the costs, is work in the field of animal medicine worth the effort, expense, and risk?
That’s a complex question, with a complex answer that varies based on an individual’s life circumstances. But for a Christian, the most important part of weighing a costly decision like this is asking whether or not this is a profession he or she can glorify God in. Is this a career that pleases God, and that a Christian can work in honorably?
Even from an early age, we are trained to think of our job on one hand and our Christian life on the other, as if serving God were an after-thought or a hobby we do on our days off from real life at the job. We don’t ask, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” as often as, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But Scripture teaches something different. It tells us every part of our lives is supposed to be a means to glorify God. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”(1 Corinthians 10:31). We should be all about the kingdom of Christ. Shouldn’t that also include the career we spend so many hours at?
Everyone: Read This Book
You may be a parent of a potential vet student or a friend of a veterinarian. I’d urge you to read this book to become more informed in your discussions with them. Whether the profession of veterinary medicine is God-honoring is a question seldom asked, though is vitally important for many people.
Even if you have no interest in becoming a veterinarian, you probably have a pet or two. That makes this an important topic. You need to know that “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast” (Proverbs 12:10a), and you need to know why. God cares about animal disease and suffering and wants his people to care too. This is the most important reason we should consider the question as Christians. Animal welfare and health is something the Bible speaks to, and so it becomes a theological
question that should shape Christian orthopraxy (how we live in light of doctrine). That’s a surprisingly difficult thing for some Christians to understand, and so the question “Is veterinary medicine a noble profession?” is important to every Christian pet owner, agriculture worker, animal caretaker, or human who comes into contact with an animal during their lifetime.
And it’s a question that many Christians over the centuries have already answered with their lives’ work. The history of veterinary medicine as a professional career, especially at its inception, is an account made up largely of the stories of Christian men and women convinced that the domain of animal health is a calling God cares about. We’ll spend the first part of this book learning some of their fascinating stories.
So dive in with me! Come ponder the field of veterinary medicine from the light of the Christian faith. Come learn how Christians have influenced veterinary medicine since its foundation and discover why they thought it an honorable vocation of a follower of Christ.
[i] Johnson, Alex. “Veterinarians far more likely to die by suicide than other Americans, research shows.” Web. December 20, 2018. NBC News. www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/veterinarians-far-more-likely-die-suicide-other-americans-research-confirms-n950671